Press "Enter" to skip to content

Posts published in August 2020

Not an outlier


Let’s be very, very certain about this. The organized, window- smashing break-in to the gallery of the Idaho House of Representatives last week by Idaho “citizens” portends more violence. Possibly in the streets. Bet on it!

I started covering the Idaho Legislature in late 1966 and did so - off and on - until 1985. During that time, I watched people protesting this-that-and-the-other politely escorted from both chambers and committee hearings for being nuisances. Politely. But, never in all that time, did I see an angry bunch of “citizens,” following a guy with a rifle, break through a Statehouse gallery door and refuse to act in accordance with House rules when asked by the Speaker of the House to be orderly or leave. Never even close!

Then, the next day in a hearing room, more shouting and refusal to leave a seating area specifically reserved for the press. More shouting, profanities, more chants of “This is our house,” more continued disruption.

As far back as the ‘60's, we’ve watched what was, at first, a fringe “conservative” branch of Republicans in North Idaho, twist and shout their looney conspiracies and back political candidates who espoused the same craziness. Even split the GOP-North into several “real” Republican Committees. Folk in the South didn’t pay much attention.

In recent years, from Lewiston North, citizen “militias” formed. Armed groups of citizen “militias.” They play “war games” in the forests and cling to their automatic weapons while they chant many of those same old conspiracy theories.

Still, most Idahoans haven’t paid a lot of attention to the evolution in another time zone. Things in South Idaho have been a lot more “city-fied” and quiet when it’s come to saber-rattling. East Idaho - quiet but with some rural conservatism though, as far as we know, unarmed.

But, last week’s Statehouse outburst - with professional trouble-maker Ammon Bundy in the crowd - has shown it’s time to pay attention. Bundy, who’s had many run-ins with the law in Idaho, Oregon and Nevada, had to be carried out off the premises by State troopers - not once but twice. He’s since been banned from entering the Statehouse for a year.

Something else to note. The law-breakers were not just from the North. There were some Treasure Valley faces in that crowd. Quite a few. How many and how close an attachment to the armed folks up North we don’t know. But, the more militant spirit seems to have spread.

For many, many years - and not just in Idaho - most of us have just ignored the Limbaugh-loving folk. We left them alone. They left us alone. But, during those same years, Limbaugh’s voice was joined by others: Hannity, Beck, Carlson, Dobbs, Malkin, Ingraham and a dozen more. Each with a handful of “vocal” matches lighting little rightwing fires here and there. And over there.

Still, we’ve let ‘em alone. We’ve treated ‘em as a “minority” and turned our collective backs on the yammering. “Sooner or later,” we thought, “they’ll get tired of their minority status and join the rest of us.”

Well, the Idaho Statehouse rabble and the “soldier wannabees” in the North Idaho bushes aren’t going to re-adjust and join the rest of us down by the river singing “Kum-Ba-yah.” Ain’t gonna happen.

At the risk of being labeled a rabble-rouser, it seems adding Idaho’s increasingly upscale violent activities to the continued and escalating violence across the country, it’s beginning to look like we’re headed to some confrontations. Maybe many confrontations. Armed confrontations.

We’ve got growing political violence in the streets. We’ve got increasingly dangerous protests of cop-killings. Cop-killings all too common. We’ve got death threats being made against peaceful, law-abiding groups who’ve had to cancel their own community public rights out of fear. We’ve got I-net web sites, many of ‘em
linking these “militias” and threatening more armed violence against the rest of us.

The peace and enjoyment of community we used to have are being threatened by armed, vocal and dangerous people. Their numbers are growing and becoming more publically active. Their basic belief seems to be get a gun - or many guns - for self-protection and to fend off people who don’t think their way or who represent what they see as threats to the Republic. Now, they’re in our streets. Pushing against us and against authority. Seemingly anyone’s authority.

The unexpected incursion at the Idaho Statehouse last week was small on its face. But, throw in a guy at the front with a rifle, busting through a locked House door, a professional trouble-maker like Bundy in the crowd, refusal to obey decorum and orders from elected authority, the added raucous disruption of a legitimately-held legislative hearing, state police having to eject people and you’ve got a precursor of more trouble. Not less.

“See ya next year?” Quite possibly.

Sooner or later - sooner is my thought - these people and many, many others breaking our laws, making streets unsafe, challenging legal authority, destroying public property and threatening our peace and tranquility have to be stopped. Either that or we face a dangerous world of increasing lawlessness and disorder.

Was the vandalism, the incursion, the refusal to follow rules or requests of duly elected officials at your Statehouse just a one-time event? Was it a warning of louder, more violent things to come?

Or was it just an outlier?

Time for a one-termer?


Is it about time for another one-term president?

Put aside for a moment very recent history and the names on this year's presidential election ballot. Let's look at the longer range.

Here are the presidents who were elected to a term, then defeated in a bid for re-election (with the years they were defeated): John Adams (1800); John Quincy Adams (1828); Martin Van Bureau (1840); Franklin Pierce (1856, sort of); Grover Cleveland (1888); Benjamin Harrison (1892); William Howard Taft (1912); Herbert Hoover (1932); Jimmy Carter (1980) and George H.W. Bush (1992).

The Pierce instance was an oddity, where he expected to be renominated by the Democratic Party but didn't organize very well, and lost the renomination at the convention.

All the others were losses at the polls. In general terms at least, the voters decided to reverse their earlier judgment.

The circumstances were widely various. Some presidents (Pierce for one) ran into the problem of a lot of people understanding they were not competent for, not up to, the job. Some (Van Buren, Hoover for two) were swamped by bad economic conditions for which they took some of the blame. There's no one specific reason all these people lost, but those two factors seem to weight in most often.

That's nine or 10 occurrences out of 45 presidencies, so you can't consider it a great rarity. True, it's happened only three times in the last century, and true, they don't happen on a regular schedule. But it's not uncommon.

In fact, there's a loose cycle consideration to it. Generally, you start to see that one-term incumbents tend to be bounced from office every quarter- to a third of a century.

We're now at 28 years since the last time it happened, in 1992. That was 60 years since the Hoover, and one incumbent loss (Carter in 1980) happened along the way.

Americans are willing, it seems, to reconsider their decisions.

Why is the senator lying


Senator Jim Risch is lying to you and it’s not one of those slippery, half-true deceptions that almost all politicians engage in from time to time.

The junior senator from Idaho, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, has long been slippery about issues like tax cuts for the wealthy paying for themselves. They don’t.

When Risch brought the Senate to a standstill in 2018 over a proposal to name an Idaho wilderness area after Cecil Andrus, his one-time, but deceased political rival, he said the fuss was over procedure, and not about furthering a long-time grudge. It was a grudge.

When Risch said the massive property tax shift he engineered in 2006 wouldn’t hurt the state’s schools – a shift vastly benefiting wealthy landowners like Risch – he was fibbing.

But what Risch is lying about now is in an entirely different category from his previous mendacity and deals directly with national security and foreign policy, the very areas Risch has decided to focus on in the Senate.

When the Senate Intelligence Committee – Risch is the third ranking Republican on the committee – released its fifth and final report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election last week – the bipartisan report is truly exhausting, totaling 966 pages – Risch was the only member of the 15-member committee to vote “no.”

His vote, he said, was based on the assertion that the report “found no evidence” that candidate Donald Trump “colluded or attempted to collude with Russia.”

But that is not what the report says. Not at all. (Other committee Republicans also adopted the “no collusion claim, but still endorsed the report.) Democrats on the committee said evidence in the report amounted to “the very definition of collusion.”

Here is just some of what the report says in the actual language of the Intelligence Committee:

About Paul Manafort, the one-time lobbyist for pro-Putin oligarchs in Ukraine, who ended up chairing Trump’s 2016 campaign and was later was convicted of tax and bank fraud.

“Manafort had direct access to Trump and his Campaign’s senior officials, strategies, and information,” the committee notes, as did [Rick] Gates, the deputy campaign chair, and “Manafort, often with the assistance of Gates, engaged with individuals inside Russia and Ukraine on matters pertaining both to his personal business prospects and the 2016 U.S. election.”

Manafort had a long-time business relationship with a guy named Konstantin Kilimnik, who was flagged in special counsel Robert Mueller’s report as a likely Russian intelligence officer. The Senate report flat out states that “Kilimnik is a Russian intelligence officer” and that Manafort certainly knew that he was a Russian agent.

The Senate report continues: “On numerous occasions over the course of his time on the Trump campaign, Manafort sought to secretly share internal Campaign information with Kilimnik.” Specifically, Manafort shared with the Russian intelligence agent the most sensitive information any campaign possesses – its internal public opinion polling. This information almost certainly included how the Trump campaign thought Democrat Hillary Clinton could be most successfully attacked and which states, even which precincts, had the most persuadable voters.

Risch’s committee then writes that “Kilimnik was capable of comprehending the complex polling data,” because of his “significant knowledge of, and experience with” such information.

In other words, as writers at the Lawfare blog of the Brookings Institution say, “throughout his work on the Trump campaign, Manafort maintained an ongoing business relationship with a Russian intelligence officer, to whom he passed nonpublic campaign material and analysis.”

So, what did the Russian agent do with the sensitive polling information? The committee wasn’t able to determine that, primarily because Manafort refused to cooperate and much of his communication with Kilimnik and other Russian actors was done on encrypted devices. But there is a tantalizing hint with the report saying, “the Committee did … obtain a single piece of information that could plausibly be a reflection of Kilimnik’s actions” but the next paragraph of the report is entirely redacted.

“Manafort’s obfuscation of the truth surrounding Kilimnik was particularly damaging to the Committee’s investigation,” according to the report, “because it effectively foreclosed direct insight into a series of interactions and communications which represent the single most direct tie between senior Trump Campaign officials and the Russian intelligence services.”

The Senate report also documents the role of Roger Stone, the guy whose sentence for lying to Congress was commuted by Trump, in the release of stolen Democratic emails. Stone helped coordinate the release of the emails – stolen by Russian intelligence and funneled through Wikileaks – and informed Trump of the fact and the timing.

[Reminder: Utah Republican Senator Mitt Romney called the Stone commutation “unprecedented, historic corruption.”]

“The Committee’s bipartisan Report found that Russia’s goal in its unprecedented hack-and-leak operation against the United States in 2016, among other motives, was to assist the Trump Campaign,” the Senate report states. “Candidate Trump and his Campaign responded to that threat by embracing, encouraging, and exploiting the Russian effort.”

Stop and read that sentence again – “embracing, encouraging and exploiting.”

The report also confirms what many have long suspected, that the infamous Trump Tower meeting in June 2016 between Trump campaign officials, including the president’s oldest son, was known to the campaign as being a Russian government sponsored activity. The meeting involved, the report says, “a Russian lawyer known to have ties to the Russian government, with the understanding that the information [she provided]” was part of the Russian government’s support for Mr. Trump.”

The Senate Committee went even further. It’s referred the issue of whether Trump Jr., Steve Bannon and others had lied to Congress about the Trump Tower meeting to the Justice Department for possible prosecution. That matter, it appears, is still pending.

No collusion, or better yet coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia? No nice way to say it: that is a lie.

You can read the report yourself.

All this begs a large and truly ominous question: why would the senator go to such lengths to deceive his constituents about the content of a report that bipartisan members of his own committee endorsed?

Risch’s only statement on the report makes no mention of Manafort, Stone, Kilimnik, Don Jr. and their clear connections to Russian agents. It is a curious and damning omission given that the Senate report says in black and white: “Taken as a whole, Manafort’s high-level access and willingness to share information with individuals closely affiliated with the Russian intelligence services … represented a grave counterintelligence threat.”

Risch, as he loves to remind his constituents, is a former prosecutor. He must know the evidence produced by his own committee is, if not an absolute crime, a collection of the most unethical and democracy threatening actions in American history.

You have to ask yourself why Risch has continued to cover it up, going so far as to lie repeatedly about it, for the last four years?

If, as the report says, Paul Manafort “represented a grave counterintelligence threat,” what does it say about the Idaho senator who ignores, and in fact lies, about that threat?

[A footnote: Oregon Democratic Senator Ron Wyden, a senior member of the Intelligence Committee, has complained that the report released by the committee contains too many redactions. Wyden further said the “report includes redacted information that is directly relevant to Russia’s interference in the 2020 election.”]

Kinds of protest


The people of Idaho (well, it says “men,” but presumably women were meant too) are “free and equal,” the state constitution says in its opening article. Let’s test that equality principle.

In 2014 and 2015 the group Add the Words, which was seeking to add anti-discriminatory language to Idaho law, held a series of sit-in protests at the Idaho Statehouse during legislative sessions. The events were peaceful, without violence or property damage. On several occasions protesters were situated where they blocked access, in at least one case to legislative rooms. Mainly on the basis of that, over the course of those protests more than 100 people were arrested, including one former legislator. One protester recalled, “we were shackled in belly chains, linked together via wrists and ankles and sent up to Ada County Jail.”

The Idaho Legislature just wrapped a special session, this one too marked by arrests. It took more this time to get to that point.

The session was called by Governor Brad Little to consider expanding voting places and safety for the November general election, and limiting legal liability for organizations that expose people to the Covid-19 pandemic.

But the real action, not in the call and therefore surely invalid, concerned an effort to overturn the governor’s health safety orders relating to the pandemic.

Support for that idea roared forward. Robert Jones of Nampa expressed the sensibility: “We are allowed to get sick if we want. We are allowed to do whatever we want as long as we’re not harming anybody else, but you guys have forgotten that.” He seems to have forgotten that he has no right to harm other people by making them sick, in the process of doing “whatever we want”; and that Idaho is a Covid-19 hotspot with more than 30,000 cases reported, and still growing fast.

A crowd of pro-Covid protesters, led by celebrity provocateur Ammon Bundy, poured into the Statehouse, pushed their way past guards and law enforcement and smashed a glass door to get into the Idaho House, as one of them brandished an assault-style rifle as legislators looked on. Some social distancing had been required; that was abandoned. The legislature originally required social distancing in the galleries; that was done away with to accommodate the protesters. The protesters packed committee meetings and shouted and yelled there, too.

They shouted and yelled during the proceedings. Representative Linda Wright Hartgen, R-Twin Falls, whose husband is in fragile health - as she pointed out - said she was concerned that people there wear masks and behave to help keep people healthy. You might not have thought this would be a controversial statement, but no: She was booed.

Judiciary Committee Chair Greg Chaney remarked, “I'm not sure precisely what their goal is, but I'm absolutely sure that the two individuals whom I asked to leave were intending to create a scene. At times in the last 24 to 36 hours, this building has descended into complete chaos, and the only way to make sure that all citizens feel comfortable coming here to be heard is to make sure that we don't allow rule deviations in general.”

A tweet from Representative Ilana Rubel, D-Boise: “This special session may be the worst super-spreader event since COVID hit Idaho. Hundreds packing into closed spaces with no masks. How will we ever get our kids back to school if our government actively makes community spread worse?”

It took a while. The chaos continued through the first day. Finally, on the second chaotic day, Bundy and a few others were arrested. He had returned to the Statehouse after arrest 1 and again, breaking the rules of the place, was arrested and this time ordered not to return for a year.

Do you think that will stop him from returning next session?

It’s hard to see why it would. He successfully turned the place upside down for a couple of days before being thrown out. His crew delivered far more disruption and damage than any outside group probably ever has at the Idaho Statehouse, vastly more than the protesters of 2014 and 2015, and paid little price for it.

Simply, the standards were different for them than for the protesters of a half-dozen years ago. Were they helped by showing up armed? (Did they succeed in intimidating the Idaho state government?) Or were their politics of the preferred sort? Any other reasons for different treatment come to mind?



As we were having lunch at the park in Kamiah I noticed the voicemail. “Your vehicle has been tagged as abandoned and will be towed at your expense in 48 hours if you don’t move it.”

The polite lady answered when I called back. “Jeez, I took three loads to the dump in her this week. She’s not abandoned.”

“Well, we received a complaint that it was abandoned so you’re going to have to move it.”

“She’s licensed, registered. I use her every couple a weeks.”

“It has to move.”

“So just pull it up a bit? Should I park it on the other side of the street?” Don’t get me started about all the traffic racing by our house this summer due to road construction. “And I won’t be back from the Selway ‘til Friday. I’m going fishing.”

She paused. “OK, we can give you until Monday, I’ll put that in the system.”
I love that old truck. I will admit I was a bit offended to hear her called abandoned. I found her abandoned in chest high grass next to a wheat field on Paradise Ridge. A bit of tinkering and she hauls tons to the dump. Dumps real nice too.

But this episode with our city government got me to thinking about our seniors in their assisted living or skilled care facilities in this Covid pandemic situation. I wonder if some of them feel abandoned. Lord knows the toll has been high on them, the sickness kills but so can the isolation.

I have heard many propose a strategy for dealing with this deadly infection that focuses on isolating the most vulnerable and turning the rest of us loose to save our economy, our freedoms. Of course, how we select the most vulnerable might be a problem, but heh, at least we’ll get back to full employment.

Covid death tolls are highest in the elderly. And we have all heard about how the disease has ripped through some facilities, even here in Idaho. While deaths and serious illness may affect the elderly residents, the staff is not immune; they get sick too.

A recent analysis showed 78% of Idaho’s 82 nursing homes have had either staff or residents test positive. Over half of Idaho’s Covid death toll can be attributed to folks in care facilities.

It took some doing to get the state to compile and release this information. There was data on the CDC website that suggested Idaho had outbreaks, but Idaho Department of Health and Welfare only agreed to release weekly reports under threat of lawsuit. Still, the state’s numbers and CDC don’t fully add up. I guess we all struggle to know what to count.

So please, think about it. When you pass that young mom in the grocery store, she may have a shift that night at a skilled facility. You might feel fine, but your cousin you went boating with at the lake might have had something. He was coughing; but he does smoke. How can you know? Now that young woman buying groceries will need to get to her low wage job taking care of folks who can’t go see their family, their friends, or their weekly shopping outing. She’s doing her best to make her charges not feel abandoned. We could do our best for her.

So, we got back from the Selway and I moved the truck off the street. She’s parked down at my work site. I’ve torn down an old garage that was about to fall over. Some things you do have to let go. But I saved every stick of lumber I could. I’ll use them to rebuild.

The role of the SUPI


Next year’s race for superintendent of public instruction, sarcastically speaking, should be highly entertaining … if key legislators are correct with their analysis.

Forget about any compelling discussions about “vision” and “leadership” for public schools, legislators say, because a superintendent has none of those responsibilities. The function of a superintendent includes serving as a secretary to the State Board of Education, carrying out board policies and having a seat on the Land Board.

It’s mundane stuff, for sure. But Sen. Carl Crabtree of Grangeville and Wendy Horman of Idaho Falls, both members of the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee, say that’s what the Idaho Constitution prescribes. Nothing is stated about a state superintendent being a leader for public schools, let alone managing a state agency with a $40-million budget.

So, as they see it, the unquestioned leader for public schools is State Board President Debbie Critchfield – who sits on a board appointed by the governor – and not Superintendent Sherri Ybarra, an elected constitutional officer.

The pecking order was defined, or reaffirmed, this summer by the high court’s dismissal of a lawsuit filed by Ybarra, contesting the Legislature’s decision during this year’s session to yank 18 full-time IT and data management jobs from Ybarra’s department and transferred those positions to the State Board. Lawmakers also shifted $2.7 million from the education department to the State Board.

Ybarra, feeling “blindsided” by the action, contended that the Legislature usurped her constitutional authority. She filed a lawsuit, hired former Attorney General David Leroy to represent her, and off to the Supreme Court they went. The Legislature, which overall has a dismal track record in the courts, ended up winning this one.

But Leroy says legislators are off base with their interpretation of the Supreme Court ruling. He says the implied constitutional powers, which cannot be taken away by legislative action, remains in place.

“They (the justices) just said that managing this technology group was not one of those strong implied powers. We have a superintendent empowered by the constitution to lead and deal with the public schools, period. Where that interfaces with the State Board of Education, I guess, is to be determined on a case-by-case basis,” Leroy said. “The decision was not a blow to the constitutional base of the office, but it continues the confusion of what the line of demarcation is as far as the public schools are concerned between the superintendent, State Board and the governor’s office.”

And the confusion is running rampant. If Critchfield is in charge of the public schools, then Ybarra is little more than a glorified secretary who sits takes marching orders from the State Board and runs for election every four years. It may take a few more lawsuits to clear everything up, but for now legislators think they are on solid ground with their views – which do not align with Leroy’s.

“Clearly, we have a Supreme Court decision that repeats what the Constitution already says – that the State Board is charged with the general oversight of public education,” says Horman.

Crabtree, while agreeing with Horman, says Idaho’s “business model” for public schools is flawed.

“I don’t blame Sherri for the business structure in Idaho,” says Crabtree. “The problem is that we have an odd business structure – a completely separate politically elected person sitting on an appointed board. It doesn’t make common sense to me, and I don’t think it benefits the kids. If it does, then why aren’t other states stealing our ideas. I think that only one state has this kind of structure. If stealing ideas is a form of flattery, then nobody is doing that.”

Crabtree makes a good point. Changing the business structure won’t be easy, since it involves amending the Constitution, but it’s worth discussing.
When the question is asked about who is in charge of the public schools, it is neither the state superintendent, nor the State Board president. The lead player is the governor, who runs on education platforms and ultimately is judged according to the quality of the public schools.

Since the governor appoints members of the State Board, it only would make sense for him to appoint the state superintendent as well.

Chuck Malloy is a long-time Idaho journalist and columnist. He may be reached at

Supreme Court litmus test


Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) has come up with a keen idea for stacking the deck at the U.S. Supreme Court -- he’ll refuse to vote for a Court nominee who has not taken a firm stand in favor of his specific pet policy position.

In a recent Washington Post interview, Hawley announced that he would “vote only for those Supreme Court nominees who have explicitly acknowledged that Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided.” He continued: “If there is no indication in their record that at any time they have acknowledged that Roe was wrong at the time it was decided, then I’m not going to vote for them -- and I don’t care who nominates them.” He’ll show them!

My first thought was that he ought to check with a lawyer to see how his stance might square with professional ethics constraints applicable to lawyers and judges. I was dismayed to discover that he is a lawyer, a graduate of Yale Law School.

Hawley did say that he was “not looking for forecasts about how they may vote in the future or predictions.” Whew! At least he did not want to extract a blood oath to support his viewpoint on the issue, just to get certainty as to how they would vote.

I’ve been in the legal profession since 1967 -- U.S. Senate staffer (1970-1973), Idaho Attorney General (1983-1991), Idaho Supreme Court Justice (2005-2017), private practitioner for 28 years -- and never once had the need to make a record of whether I thought Roe was right or wrong at the time it was decided. From a practical standpoint, the universe of candidates who meet Hawley’s narrow litmus test is likely to be infinitesimal. Although, if Hawley’s idea catches on, we might see scads of young lawyers penning law review articles and op-eds designed to meet his appointment criteria.

The really troubling aspect of Hawley’s position is how it would further inflame the appointment process and impugn the integrity of the Supreme Court. If Hawley is using Roe as his sole criteria for seating a SCOTUS nominee, I suppose other Senators would be emboldened to impose their own narrow litmus tests -- Citizens United (campaign finance), Heller (gun rights), Brown v. Board (racial discrimination).

The Supreme Court is already considered by most Americans to be a political policy-making body with little accountability. Hawley’s gambit would further erode the Court’s legitimacy and endanger the rule of law in the United States.

As it is, every vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court sets off a political feeding frenzy in Washington and throughout the country. It is as if a new appointee is intended to be a super legislator, rather than an impartial arbiter of disputes between and among citizens and the government. The whole process is infused with political overtones. And it happens regardless of which party is in power.

Presidents nominate people whose political views align with their own on selected hot-button issues, disregarding the fact that the Court is expected to deal with a much broader range of issues. The tendency is to appoint younger people, without an identifiable track record, who can serve into their dotage, disregarding the fact that this excludes a large number of older, experienced lawyers with exemplary legal careers. The Senate confirmation process is a legal travesty that often produces untested ideologues rather than accomplished jurists.

The public increasingly views the Supreme Court as a mere extension of our dysfunctional political system and that is dangerous for our democracy. The last thing we need is a new type of litmus test on steroids like that advocated by Senator Hawley. There must certainly be other, less harmful ways for him to pander for political points with his constituency.

Jim Jones is a Vietnam combat veteran, former Idaho Attorney General and retired Justice of the Idaho Supreme Court.

[This opinion piece originally appeared in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on 8-18-20.]

It ain’t over


So, we’re living with COVID-19.

We’ve had to adjust our lives to it. Learn to live with it. Take precautions we never thought about before. And, no one is even predicting a time when it’ll all be over. Truth be told, it may be with us permanently. In one form or another.

Researchers have already found new strains and new ways Coronavirus causes permanent damage to the human body. Like nearly all viruses, it grows, morphs and takes on new characteristics. Just like the flu bug. Each year, scientists make a best guess to formulate the vaccines most of us get. Maybe they identify two dozen strains from which they have to pick the right combination for our shots. Best guess.

So, if we agree this killer virus will be here long term and, if we agree the virus keeps changing and, if we agree there does not now exist a viable vaccine to deal with it - then why the Hell are we putting kids and teachers and teacher’s aides back into classrooms? How many kids and teachers have to die before some school board of health care amateurs can say “Well now, guess that wasn’t such a good idea after all?”

Every day, we read of some university or college being hit with coronavirus outbreaks after students have returned to campus. University of North Carolina and Duke were especially bad. Presidents of both had to say a big “OOPS” and close campuses, forcing the unaffected to online learning.

People in authority from local school boards to DC politicians are calling the shots. Politically. Yes, politically! They should NOT be. Health professionals of all stripes have been raising red flags all over the place. “Not yet,” they’re saying. “Not yet! Let’s get an effective vaccine first.”

In so many places, the warnings are being overridden by local elected types. Moms, bankers, store clerks and part-time politicians. People, whose only experience with viruses may be that annual flu shot, are committing children and teachers to the confines of a classroom where effective protection is just plain damned impossible. Not to mention office staffs, custodians, food service personnel and anyone who has to visit or do business with schools.

Hospitals, nursing homes and other resident care venues have infection control people working full time. They’re constantly spraying, dusting, mopping, wiping and disinfecting the premises. Full time! Got one or two like that in your elementary or high school buildings? Somebody disinfecting the lavatories every few hours? No. No you don’t.

Coronavirus ain’t over. Idaho has been attempting to reach a lower level on the COVID scale so more businesses can open. And it’s failed. For weeks.

Europe, riding high on several weeks of improved COVID news, is having to revert to closures and making people stay home. It’s BACK! India can’t seem to make progress toward normalcy. Countries in South America saw reductions in reported cases and opened up. Now, they’re closing. More people dead.

Why can’t we learn? Why are politicians and amateurs making healthcare decisions and not the professionals - doctors- researchers - who know what the evidence is? Just because the school calender shows an opening date - a date picked far ahead of the arrival of Coronavirus - why is engraved in stone? Why can’t we learn from the tragic mistakes of others, rather than repeatedly running headlong into “the wall?”

Every nation in the world right now is in flux - working day-to-day on ever-changing information - adjusting and readjusting to the ebb and flow of the latest COVID-19 news. Waiting for that “magic vaccine.”

But, we Americans seem not to learn. The early August higher-ed openings have produced more victims of the disease and they’re shutting down. We’re seeing new reports of many COVID cases coming out of that Harley-Davidson rally in South Dakota. All over the country! Beach parties have sent hundreds to hospitals in California and Florida. Nut cases who thought themselves “invincible” and “It can’t happen to me!” Well, they weren’t. And it did.

If I had a school-age child right now, he/she would NOT be going to a classroom with 20-30 other kids. Putting a mask on an elementary child is one thing. Keeping it on - for a day or many days of classes - is quite another. Restrooms, cafeterias, crowded hallways, sweaty gyms, busses packed with 40-50 kids. Those kids? You’re expecting masks being properly worn? Really?

Next time I’ve got a serious health concern, I’ll check in with my doctor. And not someone on the school board. Mr./ Mrs. so-and-so. Not an unqualified someone who made a decision that killed a dozen kids.

Reopening American schools now is a rush to sacrifice children. And teachers. How many will get sick with life-long health problems? How many will die? In your district?

It ain’t over!

Winning by losing


Donald Trump has finally settled on his re-election message. He tried a number of alternatives before settling on the 2020 rallying cry. He first tried to advance the fantasy that Joe Biden was some how corrupted by Ukraine. Then he suggested that Biden was senile. “Make America Great Again, Again” just doesn’t roll off the tongue, especially since the country is closing in on 175,000 COVID-19 deaths with 30 million Americans collecting unemployment benefits in July.

None of that worked so Trump is going for an all-purpose slogan: “the only way we’re going to lose this election is if the election is rigged.” He actually says that and then repeats it.

At least Trump is consistent. Nearly four years ago – October 17, 2016 to be precise – then candidate Trump tweeted: “Of course there is large scale voter fraud happening on and before election day. Why do Republican leaders deny what is going on? So naive!”

Then, of course, a funny thing happened that obviously not even Donald Trump was expecting. He won the election, drawing an inside straight and winning Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania by a combined 79,464 votes. “Large scale voter fraud” immediately became a mandate to oversee the most corrupt and incompetent presidential administration in American history.

Now, trailing Democrat Biden in every poll and his incompetence in handling the deadly, economy killing, school closing, sports canceling pandemic laid bare for everyone to see, Trump is back on message: the whole thing is rigged against me.

It’s the message of a loser, but even more it is the death rattle of a profoundly damaged and damaging man who, if he has his way, will do his best to torch the single most important foundation of democracy: faith in an election.

It is by now well documented that Trump suffers from “narcissistic personality disorder,” or even more seriously “malignant narcissism,” a condition described by Dr. John Gartner, a 28-year practicing psychologist at Johns Hopkins University Medical School, as “a diagnosis [that is] far more toxic and dangerous than mere narcissism because it combines narcissism with three other severely pathological components: paranoia, sociopathy and sadism.”

Or as journalist Jennifer Senor wrote recently: “The grandiosity of narcissistic personalities belies an extreme fragility, their egos as delicate as foam. They live in terror of being upstaged. They’re too thin skinned to be told they’re wrong.”

Trump will never be able – his world view and narcissism prevent it – from accepting defeat. He’s never wrong, never says he’s sorry, never admits a mistake, so how can he possibly lose? In his mind he can’t, so the election must be rigged.

He began peddling the same line when polls showed him losing to Hillary Clinton in 2016 and now – Trump always repeats his previous tactics – he is salting the ground against a loss to Biden.

Maybe Trump will succeed in drawing the same inside straight that allowed him to lose the popular vote in 2016 by three million ballots, but still win the Electoral College. But let’s assume for a moment that he doesn’t repeat the feat that even he didn’t think possible four years ago.

Donald Trump is not a strategic thinker. But rather he lives to fight another day by fighting today. He has no grand strategy beyond the November 3rd election. The only point is to survive and, of course, to deflect responsibility when, as it inevitably will, his jerry-built house of political cards is blown away.

If the U.S. Postal Service – particularly critical in rural western states – is collateral damage in the Trump effort to delegitimize voting by mail so what? What’s wrong with a little slowdown in grandma getting her diabetes medication if the president can manufacture an excuse for “the election was rigged.”

The American College of Physicians warned this week that, “There are already reports from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which fills 80 percent of its prescriptions by mail, that veterans have experienced significant delays in their mail-order prescription drugs. A delay in receiving a necessary prescription could be life-threatening.”

Political campaigns typically try to devise strategies to increase voter participation, but Trump – and increasingly his Republican Party – aim to narrow the electorate, making it more difficult for African American voters in larger cities to vote, limiting polling places and blocking efforts to expand mail voting. The Trump campaign, for example, has sued three heavily Democratic counties in Iowa in an attempt to thwart greater absentee voting.

Trump will continue to sow chaos and division for the next ten weeks. It’s the only approach he knows and elected Republicans, who long ago decided to ride this garbage truck of dysfunction all the way to the landfill, will raise not a peep of concern.

Trump recently demoted, or more correctly fired, his campaign manager – another reprise from 2016 – and hired a guy who has never run a national campaign. When journalist Olivia Nuzzi went looking for evidence that the shake up had energized Trump efforts in must-win Pennsylvania she found none. Events advertised to recruit volunteers didn’t come off or people didn’t show up.

Instead of mounting a campaign that might claw back the standing of a guy who close to 60% of the electorate disapproves, Trumpian advisors, Nuzzi wrote, “seem to think that if they got lucky the last time, and proved the conventional wisdom wrong, maybe they’ll just happen to get lucky again.”

But if they don’t get lucky again Trump has already created his post-November 3rd narrative. The whole election was a farce. The other side cheats. It’s a crime. It’s not legit. “The only way we’re going to lose this election is if the election is rigged.”

And where will America stand then? Can any Trump partisan really imagine that Joe Biden would claim in losing an election that it was stolen from him?

Can any American imagine that if Donald Trump loses in November that he won’t say the election was stolen from him? Heck, he’ll make the claim before the polls close in California.