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Posts published in “Schmidt”

Information

schmidt

I’ve written before about “thinking like a virus” but I admitted in that piece, viruses don’t think. They are just information and a vector for transmission of that information. Without a host to build more of them, they are inert. The information is crucial.

We are hearing now of Covid mutations. They carry different information. It doesn’t sound like the virus is more or less deadly; it just spreads easier. Further, it seems the immunization is still effective against these mutants. Isn’t it amazing that such an organism can change, adapt so quickly?

But we humans are struggling with information and its transmission right now. Just like Covid, some of us can get infected with information and it does us little harm. Others get pretty sick. Think of the guy who drove a couple hundred miles to a pizza place in Washington DC to save the trapped, abused kids in the basement he had read about on the internet. He walked in with his AR, only to find there was no basement for that building. As he was getting booked he said, “I guess the intel on this was weak.”

Consider how information affects you. There’s so much out there these days, we are awash in it. But some can change your life; some washes past you like river water. I always thought of this when giving a patient a diagnosis. That information can change your life, either way.

We have all heard the phrase about something on the internet “going viral”. Why are we humans so quick to spread things? Is it because the platforms (big business, maybe the biggest nowadays) the vectors for this information make it so easy? “Share”, click, it’s done. There is no doubt these big businesses think about this more than you or I do. But we get their products for free, don’t we? They are so nice. ;)

Information by itself, not acted upon, much like a virus, floating in the air, is inert. But if that virus finds a warm body that can build more of it, it replicates, multiplies, spreads.

If information on the internet finds a host (you or me) and we dismiss it, it dies. But if we take it in, think about it, act on it, even if only to “share” it, we have propagated, replicated it. It spreads.

Our immune systems are in charge of identifying harmful viral infections and getting rid of them. Most times they succeed. Other times not.

Sometimes viruses don’t cause us much harm. Think of the lowly wart on your finger or toe. It’s a viral infection your body just hasn’t identified. And it’s not causing much harm, is it? But cervical warts cause cancer in women, and they die from it, or they used to. Nowadays we have an immunization. Cervical cancer is disappearing as a killer of women.

Our brains are supposed to protect us from harmful information. But just like our immune systems, our brains can ignore small insults, weak signals. It takes a healthy immune system to deal with viruses and a healthy intellect to manage the sea of information we are swimming in.

The most important question in all of this has to do with how, each of us, will deal with the information infections we get daily. Is our intellectual immune system healthy enough to limit the spread of toxic information? Or are we at risk to become infected, not show symptoms, and spread the illness to others?

Viruses and information can both be toxic, though neither is always so. As we struggle with managing our current Covid pandemic, the parallels with our struggles in this information age are evident. I predict neither the virus, nor the information plague will wipe us out. But both could make us pretty miserable if we aren’t up to the test.
 

Demonstration

schmidt

We had two powerful demonstrations in our nation last week. One was lawful, orderly, tedious and impressive. The other was destructive, unlawful, with no clear purpose.

The first was the US Senate runoff election in Georgia. In case you missed it, two Democrats got elected to the Senate in a state that has only elected Republican Senators for the last twenty years.

How did this happen? Pretty simple, really, but awfully hard to accomplish: turnout. Almost as many Georgians voted in the runoff as in the general election in November. Twice as many voted as in the last runoff election in 2008. Georgians showed up at the polls, cast their ballots, actively participated in this representative government.

The state of Georgia ran this runoff election according to their rules; they followed their laws. About half the people’s candidates lost; about half had their guy win. I’m sure there’s disappointment and elation. But the outcome should be seen as a win for us all, if we have any hope for our Republic.

I don’t find this encouraging because “my side” won. It’s really not about whose side wins, it’s about this Republic working for our citizens.

The effort was incredible. Getting people interested in voting, aware of the choice before them, then getting them to the polls or to fill in their absentee ballot is hard work. It takes a lot of organizing, a lot of effort. The effort was made, and the results rewarded the effort.

Yes, the margins were slim, but the outcome was clear.

Doesn’t a turnout like that just thrill you? Doesn’t such voter engagement restore your faith in our Republic?

If not, then maybe you found the second demonstration more meaningful.

For weeks right wing Trump supporters have talked about “occupy the Capitol” on unregulated, fringe social media sites. President Trump even set the date, January 6th in a tweet he sent out December 6th calling for a “big demonstration” in the Capitol. He knew then, and his followers figured out soon enough, that this date would be when the Electoral College Votes would be certified by Congress.

I’m sure the crowd was encouraged by the actions of many, our President in particular. I can’t help but think that the wave of Republican elected officials who tried to support one state (Texas) suing other states about how they ran their elections also egged the crowd on.

For elected Republicans to abandon one of their fundamental beliefs, state’s rights, to support a demagogue surely signaled that the crowd was correct in their adulation. Heck, even Idaho elected officials jumped on board: Governor Little, both Congressmen, many legislators suddenly needed to follow the roar of a crowd.

State Attorney General Lawrence Wasden was a man with integrity in the face of this furor. He refused to add Idaho’s official imprimatur to this blasphemous document. Boy, did he catch it. But if you’re not making somebody mad, you’re not really standing for something, are you?
Can you imagine Idaho being sued by Oregon on how we run our elections?

As the crowd formed on Pennsylvania Avenue, our President, Donald Trump, called for them to march up to the Capitol. “I’ll be with you”, he promised.

You’ve all seen the videos of the Trump, Confederate, Gadsden (even Idaho) flag waving crowd .as they pushed into the US Capitol building. You’ve seen the pictures of the posturing, pissing and selfie-taking mob.

So, you need to be thinking right now how these two demonstrations touched your heart. If the boring slog of talking to neighbors, or strangers about the importance of their vote doesn’t touch you, then I must say, I fear for our Republic. If instead you were roused and supportive of the riot trying to disrupt our legal processes, maybe this Constitutional form of government just doesn’t suit you. We need to be deciding, each of us.
 

Phone call

schmidt

The recent report of our President calling the Georgia Secretary of State and threatening him to “find me some votes” made me wonder if I’d messed up some years ago when I lost my last election.

It was a close race. The local paper even called me at midnight to get a quote. They said they were going to call me the winner. I was watching the returns real close. “I don’t think you ought to do that,” I warned them. “I actually think I’m going to lose.”

“C’mon, you’re way ahead. We’re going to call it for you.”

“Well, I think that would be a mistake, but you write what you write, I guess.” They went ahead and put the wrong report out in the morning paper.

I said something like, “Win or lose I’m glad to have served this district.”

I knew I had lost by the time I went to bed.

In the morning I called and left a message on my opponents answering machine, congratulating him and went for a dog walk. A neighbor I passed (who didn’t vote for me) congratulated me on winning. I had to correct her. Her guy won.

Maybe I should have called the county clerk. Maybe she had a bin of votes under a table somewhere. Was I just a wimpy loser Idaho Democrat? Maybe real winners know how to “find votes” even after they are tallied.

Instead of looking over the fall fields and calling the dog back, maybe I should have made that call. I knew the county clerk pretty well. But I didn’t. I trusted that the voters had spoken. And asking someone to cheat is worse than cheating yourself. The thought, honestly, never occurred to me then.

The three times before when I had prevailed, I had never won by much. It was always about 1-2% difference between me and the other guy. But I always thought my job, when elected was to serve and represent all the folks in my district, not just the ones who voted for me. Maybe that’s stupid. After all: “Elections have consequences”.

Nowadays, elections for our representative government are treated more like a team sports event; we just want “our side” to win. It’s less about what the candidate actually stands for, their integrity, or character than what color jersey they have on. And the color of the jersey determines what you think of their character.

I thought local elections would be more about the individual, but I learned quickly otherwise. The color of your jersey really matters.

The Republican loyalty for our President is strong. It’s like he can do no wrong. If he makes a phone call to a foreign leader trying to get dirt on a political opponent, or tries to “find votes” in an election he lost, justification will be found. This jersey loyalty, whether a red one or a blue one, is not healthy.

Four years ago, after losing, I could not have imagined making such a call. I guess I can now. I can imagine it. But I can’t imagine actually doing it. It’s just not the right thing to do.

We have such a poisoned attitude about the public servants we elect, no wonder we distrust them. We should be electing people we respect, not granting loyalty to their jersey color. When we elect a representative, we are saying something about ourselves.

Serving in the Idaho Statehouse for 6 years I came to know some very honorable, even noble people. I was inspired by their work, their character. I tried to learn from them and let them know when I found them inspirational.

Winning an election doesn’t change your character. Losing one doesn’t really either. The people we elect are probably just a reflection of the character of us, the people they represent. It can be a painful mirror to look in.
 

Pursuit

schmidt

Maybe it’s the dark and cold, or some recent book I read, but I have found myself reflecting on the aspirational phrase of one of our countries founding documents: “the pursuit of happiness”.

Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence and used the inalienable rights of man to justify the colonies rebellion against the sovereign king.

“Pursuit” didn’t mean chasing after, but rather “living as.” Much like my wife pursues gardening; she grows plants, she has me dig up and move plants, occasionally she allows me to prune the plants. She’s not chasing gardening, she’s doing it. And it brings her great happiness.

So, I wonder if we as a nation have given up on the pursuit of happiness. From what I can see nowadays, most folks, congress and our President included, seem to be pursuing rancor. Bitterness is the flavor of our national drink. Let’s change that.

Jefferson’s other inalienables, life and liberty, were not placed in this short list as contrast, but rather as a cohort. Without life, pursuit is moot. Without liberty, the pursuit is limited. I believe he chose these three rights because they support one another; or they should.

A friend recently mentioned that the Constitution defined the pursuit of happiness as an inalienable right. I had to correct him that the phrase was in our Declaration of Independence. Nowhere does the Constitution define such a right. It was just too general, not specific enough. But I believe the founders had such a phrase in mind as they drafted the constitutional mechanics of government. Indeed, the Preamble references the purpose of the “Common Good” for the following document. Let us take such to heart.

Government cannot make one pursue happiness, but it definitely can get in the way of such a pursuit. The founders and subsequent amenders placed specific limits on government, so we would be free to pursue happiness.

But that doesn’t mean any act of government reduces my liberty or blocks my pursuit of happiness. I greatly appreciate that I don’t have to stop and pay tolls. I would much rather pay a tax at the filling station. I accept that we need money for roads. The gas tax supports the common good. But toll roads work for many states. The states are the incubators for this balancing of life, liberty and the pursuit.

I also felt liberated when, after a recent doctor visit, I was told I didn’t owe anything. I hadn’t had to spend time shopping for insurance, I hadn’t had a copay. I am now a Medicare recipient. Some might describe this as an infringement on their liberty, a universal health insurance for the elderly. But the elderly don’t. Survey after survey has shown Medicare enrollees are satisfied with their health insurance. No surprise, since we Medicare beneficiaries get about 15% of the annual Federal budget to support our liberty.

If your sense of liberty demands that everybody just gets out what they pay in, then we should make a law against insurance. But most people agree to pool their risks on a home fire. They pay the premium, and don’t wish their house will burn down. Most people agree to share risks with their neighbor when they buy car insurance. But as a country, we just have not concluded that we are all in the health care risk pool together.

And I believe our citizens pursuit of happiness has been stifled by the lack of universal health care coverage.

But we have solved these problems as a country before. We have built roads, we have sewer systems, we have schools and stadiums, all with community, state or sometimes federal support. We all need to keep our eyes open about who gets what benefits.

We need to pursue the common good. Vote for people who will.
 

Christmas gifts

schmidt

I don’t give gifts easily. My wife does. I’ve asked her how to do better.

She says it’s simple: just pay attention to those around you, think of what they want or need, and chose something that might please them. Oh, and it’s best if you know their size and what colors they like.

I haven’t wrapped these up yet. I’m going to ask you all if I’ve missed the mark.

For Idaho Republicans I bought some canvas and a Speedy-Stitcher so they can make modifications to their Party tent. I’m not sure whether they want to keep making it bigger, or split that circus tent into smaller sections.

I figure they can vote on that.

Idaho Democrats were harder to buy for. They are so rare, it’s hard to really know what they might want or need. I found some old Cecil Andrus and Frank Church political buttons on Ebay but the shipping cost more than the buttons so I passed. I have a whole pile of voter registration forms in an old backpack, I was thinking of giving these, but then I remembered, that’s where I got them, from the Idaho Democratic Party. It’s really bad form to re-gift, my wife says. Then, I thought of the old stand-by: a bottle of Idaho Whiskey. So, I got some at the liquor store, but I hadn’t tasted it before, so I opened it before wrapping it to just have a sip. Do you think they’d mind getting a half bottle? It’s not bad.

Brad, our Governor could stand a heartfelt gift this dark season. I’ve been trying to think about what he might want or need. It seems like everybody has an opinion about that. Some seem to think he needs a backbone, while others would send him a muzzle and handcuffs. I got him a bottle of that Idaho Whiskey and I didn’t sip but a little out of that one. It’s mostly full. I better get it wrapped up soon.

Our Lieutenant Governor, Janice McGeachin seems to have everything she wants right now, so I didn’t think I should give her anything. She’s got a taxpayer funded part-time job, with taxpayer funded staff and a fancy office, and the Governor never asks her to do much. Plus, she gets all the free press coverage she wants. But then I remembered the legislature will be starting up soon and she has to run herd on the Senate. That’s her most taxing obligation. I found an old five-pound maul in my tool shed she can use for a gavel whenever either of the Democrats rise to speak. I might put a bow on it. Would that be sexist?

Attorney General Lawrence Wasden really needs some Christmas cheer, all the griping we hear about him. He wouldn’t sign Idaho up for that Texas election lawsuit to support Trump; boy did some of his Republican tent folks singe him. But I’m getting a little self-conscious about another trip to the liquor store. I keep telling them these are gifts for others I’m getting. They just smile and nod. I have a nice pair of oven mittens that say they can handle hot coals. I’ll wash them up and send them off. What do you think?

If you give a gift to one person, and not the next, feelings might be hurt, so I made a list of all the folks in the Statehouse. By the time I got down to the Treasurer and the Controller, I realized maybe a Christmas card would have to do. We have a bunch of cards we got at an Idaho Democratic Fundraiser. They show a donkey/elk with Christmas lights in the antlers.

They’ll do, I guess.

Next year I’ll ask my wife to do the gifts. This is hard.
 

Deciding

schmidt

I have always been skeptical of new medical developments. So, when I heard about this Covid immunization being rolled out so quickly based on Messenger RNA, my knee jerk reaction was a quiet wince. For some reason, the hottest new treatment often becomes the fastest recalled drug.

But then I did some studying. Not on Facebook, not in chatrooms, but looking for reputable, balanced reports. Most folks aren’t much attracted to balanced information these days. Call me a dinosaur.

It turns out this mRNA technology has been around for a while. I hope you remember your high school biology. DNA was discovered in the 1950’s. Messenger RNA (mRNA) was discovered in the 1960’s. DNA stores the record of what proteins your cell should build. MRNA carries that record to the protein building factories.

Thirty years ago, it was shown you could inject mRNA into mice muscle and the cells would make the protein message. In 1993 they even showed they could immunize mice against influenza with mRNA.

So where has this technology been for the last thirty years? No surprise, they’ve been trying to make a profit. They’ve been trying to match this new technology with a disease; one with a big return on investment. Most licensed drugs that use mRNA are for inherited metabolic diseases. The patients live a long time, will need the drug for their lifetimes, and it works. Demand is predictable.

There’s not much profit in the immunization business. Most flu shots are made in chicken eggs or other cells; there is one that is approved that is recombinant. MRNA medicine developers just haven’t seen much profit in the flu shot market. But now, a pandemic comes along.

It turns out you can make mRNA pretty fast. And that’s what we need: lots of doses, well distributed. Idaho is set to get 14,000 doses in the initial shipment. If Moderna gets their vaccine approved Idaho should get 89,000 doses before Biden’s inauguration. The FDA rushed emergency use approval last week for Pfizer’s shot, reportedly with a White House gun at their head.

That inspires confidence.

First priority for the shots (you need two, weeks apart) are health care workers and nursing home residents. Idaho has about 80,000 heath care eligible, 20,000 nursing homes residents. So, you can see we might be a bit short to start with.

If it keeps snowing like this in North Idaho, we might need a dog sled team to deliver them.

Many questions linger. Will immunity last, will it be protective? Will there be long term side effects? Since we haven’t taken the time to study these questions, we will be finding them out in real time. In our own experiences.

The real question that nobody can answer is, will people be willing to get immunized? In this atmosphere, maybe not. The numbers have bounced around a bit in a running Gallup poll. The most recent numbers show about 60% say YES, but 20% say NO and 20% maybe. Of course, the analysis of these choices makes good speculation.

We have a lot of information at our fingertips. I just looked all this stuff up about mRNA vaccines on my laptop. Remember, I avoided Facebook and chatrooms and hyperbolic sites. But most people don’t make important decisions based on information.

Last month, Covid was the leading cause of death in Idaho. We have been
seeing, week on week, a steady rise in cases, and deaths. Remember, deaths lag cases. December, January, despite the snow and cold will be grim in this state.

I can’t escape my skeptical nature. But I can manage it. Information, study and reflection help me manage. I am in the “health care worker” category, and I’m in the age group most likely to have a serious infection. I will take the shots when they are offered. But I might not be in the front of the line.
 

Forecast

schmidt

As the darkest day of the year approaches, it’s time to consider just what the Idaho legislature will be up to in their coming January congealment in Boise. If this year is anything like the last few, there will be lots of talk, some bluster and hand wringing. Finally they’ll not agree on much and then go home near planting time.

One thing is for sure, there will be lots of grousing about Medicaid; there always is. I have often found the level of Medicaid dyspepsia a legislator burps is inversely proportional to their understanding of the program.

As an example, back when I was campaigning for office and participating in community forums, I always got asked about whether Idaho should expand Medicaid eligibility, since I had served on a governor’s task force to study it. My opponent at the time waxed on how Idaho should not expand Medicare, though his reasons were unclear. The other Republican candidates at the forum also proudly stated they opposed expanding Medicare. Their confusion permeated the audience, and the forum moderator who also repeated the mistake in his comments. Medicare is not Medicaid, though confusion persists.

This was way back in 2014, when the cost would have been zero dollars to the state. We missed that window, but through initiative the measure passed in 2018 (61% supported). The full rollout started January of this year. By October, about 90,000 Idahoans have enrolled.

The expanded Medicaid population is paid for with a 90/10 federal/state match. For every $1 in Idaho taxes spent, we get $9 federal support.
The Department of Health and Welfare gave the legislature a heads-up back in early November that they were spending about $90M more this year than they had expected. Less than half of that was attributed to the expanded Medicaid population. Most of the cost increases were in the other Medicaid programs.

Medicaid covers low income uninsured, pregnant women, children, and the disabled. The vast majority of enrollees are children and pregnant women, with the low-income adults a close third. But over half the costs for Medicaid go for the disabled, less than 20% of the enrollees.

Almost all Medicaid expenses go directly to providers: hospitals, pharmacies, doctors, and mental and rehabilitative health providers. About 2% goes to management and fraud oversight. That, by the way, is a fifth to a tenth of what your health insurance company spends on overhead.

How much providers get paid is a continual battle. If you pay less and less, pretty soon providers stop accepting Medicaid patients.

Why do costs go up? Increased enrollment costs more. We for sure got that with Medicaid expansion. But that only explains half of the bump. Did utilization (more doctor visits, surgeries, prescriptions) increase? Yes, it did. The department budgeted for average utilization in the newly covered population, but many folks had some pent-up demand. Heck, I can get that hernia fixed I’ve had since ‘05.

This is what every state has seen when they adopted Medicaid expansion. After a year or two, utilization normalizes. But realize, utilization went up in the non-expansion population also. This is long war, not a skirmish.
Legislators don’t like departments to spend more money than budgeted. I sure didn’t when I was working their budgets on the Finance Committee. Department budgets were pretty tight back then.

I watched our state government go through some pretty drastic cuts in 2011 when the real estate investors bankrupted Wall Street and Main Street. Back then, Medicaid cut services for dental coverage. Within two years they asked for a reversal of this, because they had found they were paying more in emergency room coverage for severe dental emergencies than they saved not paying for dental visits.

You can save money not changing the oil in your car too. It’s just stupid. I believe we have some smart legislators who understand the role of Medicaid in our economy and are responsible about taxpayer spending. Let’s hope they can convince the uninformed crowd.
 

Rationing health care

schmidt

Earlier this month, as the curve of Covid cases climbed nationally, but specifically, here in Idaho, hospital officials warned of the possibility of rationing health care.

Some hospitals have closed their ICUs and diverted patients, and had significant trouble finding an accepting hospital. While this is tragic, and we should all be asking, just what can we do ourselves to lessen this community burden, I find the shock that health care might have to be rationed in this wealthy country a bit of a sick joke. We have always rationed care. Maybe we are ashamed of it, but we should not be denying it.

There is no denying that when hospitals are overwhelmed with sick and dying patients, it is a tragedy. Many warn that we here in Idaho are approaching this status in many locations. Idaho has been a bit behind other locations in the curve, but we are seeing it now. If you or a loved one needs critical care, and it is unavailable, you might feel some injustice in why someone else got the ICU bed and you didn’t. I can understand such feelings. It can make you feel rage, disappointment. Blatant injustice can do that.

But Idaho’s legislature didn’t care too much when about a hundred thousand working poor had no health insurance. And not having health coverage is the easiest form of rationing we do as a country. “Get a job” dismisses the injustice of this. No, we have always rationed health care and we have been pretty blatant, sometimes even proud that we have. After all, to quote a prominent Idaho politician, “Nobody dies for lack of healthcare”.

It comes down to the fundamental question: Do we treat people fair? When you can’t get everything you want, or even dearly need, if there is some sense of justice, fairness in the allocation of resources, the outrage is tempered.

I can remember early in my days of office practice, the nurse I worked with asked me if we were going to have “special patients”.

“What’s that?” I asked.

She blushed. “Well, most doctors have some patients they consider special and will do special things for them. Like refill their prescriptions or treat them over the phone, or get them in to be seen whenever they want.”

“I’m comfortable doing that when the situation warrants.”

“For everybody?”

“If the situation fits. I treat everybody special.”

She smiled and sighed. “OK.”

I realized I just made her job harder, and mine. Giving some people what they want whenever they want it (and not others) can be easier than taking the time to understand each problem. There are all forms of rationing schemes.

Early on in this pandemic there was the rush to have as many ventilators as possible, like that might be the limiting factor. And the personal protective equipment was in short supply, rationed for many. But what we now know, is the actual care, the personal attention from nurses, doctors, staff and the time spent knowing the patient, knowing their illness and their lives is what is truly dear.

We are rationing care. And we, those of us not sick, not struggling for breath or feverish, are limiting the care we show for our fellow citizens. We have done it before, and we are doing it now.

If we really are a rich and great country, why would we embrace this lack of care for our fellow citizens? We have done it before, we are doing it now, in our actions, in our votes. Justice should be the value we embrace when we ration our care. Everybody is special.

Even without a pandemic, we can’t all have everything we want, or maybe even desperately need. But we can pursue justice.
 

Give thanks

schmidt

It’s been a while since I’ve driven down to Boise, but that passage along the Salmon River is one of the reasons I love this state. As I head south and the river winds north I think of the big not-so-empty middle it drains. All those little creeks draining draws, rushing down steep canyons, gathering the snowmelt, the runoff to finally head west and meet the sea. We, the lucky few, get to live in this wondrous state. I am thankful.

I think of the remaining native salmon and steelhead who traverse those waters, still heeding their call. They too are a blessing. I am thankful.

It’s hard not to imagine, as you round the turns and see the steep hills above, the people who lived here for the thousands of years before any roads made this trip so comfortable. Their subsistence, their culture, their trade, and their persistence give me pause for gratitude, and humility. We must not forget to give thanks.

To be traveling along in a warm car at a mile a minute where wagons or horses or your own two feet might have carried you a mere hundred and thirty years ago is a reason to be thankful too. But all comfort has some cost, and only with gratitude can the costs be carefully balanced. We pay the price for comfort, but give thanks and show gratitude.

The small towns you pass, the lights on the prairie or in the canyon from farmsteads and homes makes me thankful that folks can call this place home. They are our neighbors, our fellow Idahoans. Though we may not know their names we share this land, this state and we want the best for ourselves and for this place. We can be thankful for each other.

As I climb the narrow Little Salmon River Canyon I think of my own family roots a bit off to the south and west. I am thankful they shared their character, their lives with me. A sense of place doesn’t always have to have family roots, but history, knowing the lives and struggles of those who went before gives depth to one’s place. We all have such depth, though it may be in a foreign land, or a different state; we can all be thankful for our forefathers and mothers.

That steep and twisty Little Salmon canyon is just a hint of the big wilderness to the east of there. Miles and miles of ridges, timber and creeks, hillsides and canyons, mountain meadows and mountaintops are the heart of this state, even if the Treasure Valley is the destination for this drive. It isn’t empty. It’s very full, but just not with people. And for that I too give thanks.

Memories of my own times long ago on this path are a treasure too, for which I am thankful. That trip from McCall to Moscow in my little 1972 Toyota truck, right after our wedding over forty years ago, snow floor and slick; I pulled over just North of Riggins to consider putting on chains. Instead I watched river otters slide down the snowy banks into the Salmon, then pushed on, going slow. It was a gift, as was arriving safe and sound on the Palouse to my new bride.

We have much to be grateful for in this world, and living in this state is just one of many blessings. I’m sure there are potholes and rocks on all of our roads of travel, but what is a trip if not an adventure?

I wish you all the best in this fall season. Be thankful.