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Posts published in March 2022

The toaster


In my twenties, I was part of a group of friends who were united by shared tastes and interests, you know, the usual things that make people like each other But one characteristic probably tied us together more than anything: humor. We were a bunch who spent most of our time together laughing. And it wasn’t just timid giggles. These were often those great belly laughs, the sort where we couldn’t stop and we literally had tears streaming from our eyes.

United like we were, in history and humor, it was unsettling when two of our number threw their long-term friendship away over a stupid toaster. You might say, well, that wasn’t a very good friendship in the first place if that’s all it was worth. If you said that, you’d be wrong. The problem was one of principle where each of them believed with religious fervor that they held the moral high ground, thereby giving them license to practice a ridiculous stubbornness the crankiest mule would envy.

Over a stupid five-dollar toaster.

My two bull-headed chums had been good friends forever when they decided to be roommates. It was a platonic friendship and, like I already described, it was a solid relationship, built with a lot of humor and not given to drama or hyperbole. That’s why it was a surprise when they fought over the toaster after one of them eventually decided to move out. There was no issue, circumstances had presented him with an opportunity — the friendship was as good as ever. As good, that is, until each claimed ownership of that sad, crumb-filled, kitchen countertop appliance.

As neither of them was willing to budge, the issue of the toaster became a lofty matter of principle on which they could neither agree nor yield. When the proverbial unstoppable force meets the immovable object, friendships fail and, if I remember correctly, toasters get thrown off high-rise balconies. The toaster no longer mattered — now it was strictly principle.

Ah, yes, principle.

The county in which I live is currently experiencing the second of two bitter recall elections, characterized by abundant animus and vitriol.

In the first, two conservative members of the Newberg School District Board were subject to an aggressive recall campaign by progressives. Look across the country and you’ll see dozens of school districts and school boards wrestling with the same issues as Newberg. None of them are pretty fights.

In the second recall, a Yamhill County commissioner is waiting out the final week of what is arguably the most determined and disciplined recall campaign I have ever witnessed. Again, the issues separating the conservative commissioner from the progressive recall campaigners against her are many of the same issues causing screaming matches and fistfights across the U.S.: masks, vaccines, guns, feel free to add your own.

The issues separating Americans from one another are the same issues at play here in my county. Sadly, I know an alarming number of people who have “lost friends” over these recall elections. And that’s where the toaster comes in.

Is it really worth it to cut friends loose over a school board member? Or a county commissioner? Are we getting so uptight that we now require our friends to support the same school board members? Or county commissioners?

Sure, I get it that larger issues loom behind singular board members, whether they be school boards or boards of commissioners. Toasters, too. When it comes to matters of principle, we’re increasingly making them deal-breakers.

In the climate of polarization permeating American discourse today, it’s more important than ever that we preserve our ability to talk civilly with “them.” In other words, it’s crucial we remain able to have a polite conversation with people who don’t see things exactly as we do.

Make no mistake, we’re losing this ability.

As I’ve declared before and will declare again, some of the best friends of my life have been the people with whom i disagreed the most. Does this mean either of us sacrificed our morals in order to be friends with the other? Of course not. Our friendships were based on everything we had in common, not the few things on which we disagreed.

But, I’ll tell you, as someone who enjoys lively debate, having friends who disagree can make for very entertaining discussions. If you don’t like that sort of thing, there’s no reason you can’t simply do the “we’ll agree to disagree” thing, where you both simply agree to avoid discussing whatever separate you. See? That’s a matter of agreement right there!

It’s not worth throwing friendships away over school boards or county commissioners.

Or toasters.

Matthew Meador is a former food and wine writer, senior editor and a rare moderate Republican who now writes political commentary. Previously, Matt was an award-winning graphic artist who often put his skills to use during election seasons. Matt has served in various capacities on political campaigns, for pollsters and for elected officials. Contact him at

Photograph © 2022 Sara Julie via Unsplash



It’s always something when Idaho makes the national news. But these pinko slanted reporters just seem to cherry pick the awards we get. So, when I read about our Lieutenant Governor getting the coveted “Black Hole” award, I had to look further beyond just the Fake News.

Janice McGeachin did indeed get this ignominious press award for hiding public information from the us, the public, and then losing her lawsuit, and trying to get us taxpayers to pay for her shenanigans. But I was sure there was more going on in this backwater state, so I Googled my hind end off and tried to find what else might be going on.

It turns out there’s more awards you should know about.

The Sheepherders Association has a small offshoot that deals with domestic feline custodial practices, and it turns out our Governor, Brad Little, got awarded the Cat Herder of the Year award for 2021. He was recognized for his ability to deal with craziness, crapitude, and criticism in public office.

Brad was well known to the Sheepherders Association, so I wondered if this award was kind of an inside joke, but he didn’t miss an opportunity for public pleas. His acceptance speech was brief at the Elko, Nevada convention. “Thank you for this.” He said. “Now I need to get you all to register for the Republican Primary in Idaho.”

Why didn’t this make the news? It’s just another example of the “Fake News” we all have to deal with.

I had to get to the third page of Google searching for “Idaho Awards” to find the Anadromous Award. It’s pretty obscure. They say they want to acknowledge the efforts of individuals who exemplify the upstream work of salmon and steelhead, battling against predators and dams, current and gill nets, fishermen and waterfalls, to return to their spawning grounds to lay their eggs, have them fertilized to create offspring who can then face such obstacles. Can you imagine the award ceremony? Tears were dropping from the ten people in the room before the winner was announced.

No wonder the Fake News didn’t cover this. Representative Mike Simpson got the award last year, so they had to look elsewhere. Their glance didn’t stray far.

They awarded the 2021 Anadromous Award to Lawrence Wasden, Idaho Attorney General. They recognized that he hadn’t specifically done anything for steelhead or salmon in this land-locked state, but that he had exemplified the nature of their struggle. He had tried, unceasingly to tell the truth to people who did not want to hear it. How more upstream can you fight? The applause was strong, though he was not present to accept the award. It seems he had other engagements.

A corollary to the Black Hole Award came from the Conservative Political Action Convention. They acknowledge folks who successfully hide their funding but accomplish significant change. This was the coveted Dark Money Award, given in the past to such notables as Paul Manafort. He got it while serving his foreshortened federal sentence, right before he was pardoned by our former President. They recognized the Idaho Freedom Foundation this year for their unprecedented success here in Idaho. Kudos to the Freedom Index.

But lest you think only Republicans win awards in Idaho, the National Association for Dramatic Public Mistakes found an Idaho Democrat (well, maybe) to recognize in our small state. They gave their Bonehead Award to Idaho Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate, Shelby Rognstad. When he announced and started raising money to run against whoever the Republicans chose, he didn’t realize he was a registered Republican. The Idaho Secretary of State pointed this faux pas out to him, but since he had waited to the last minute to file, he had no time to change his registration. He now will run as a write-in. The last Democrat in Idaho has to learn to spell “Rognstad”.

Fake news be damned.

A pox on ‘em


When I was just a “pup,” I got my first admonition about lying from my Mother - pussy willow switch in hand just to make her point. “Don’t lie!”

Then on to several careers - always with that willow switch in mind - in which being truthful was absolutely necessary for continued employment. Think radio/TV reporter, editor, lobbyist, opinion writer, business owner. Truth was dictated in every instance. Trust and believeability. Not lies.

Which is why I have such a difficult time watching “leaders” and rank-in-file members in Congress stare straight into the camera and L-I-E! They know the truth of various issues. But, they L-I-E with seeming impunity!

One current lie among Republicans, despite thousands of feet of video as exhibit one - is the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol. We’ve all seen it. We all know what happened. We may still have questions and may be viewing the action with different lenses. B ut, it happened! Several thousand belligerent and phony “patriots” did what they did! The truth is overwhelming!

Yet Republicans like Rep. Paul Gosar and a dozen of his close “friends”, our own home-grown political terrorists, will tell you “it was just a group of rowdy tourists having a good time.” There are some of us who believe Gosar had a hand in the free-for-all, as did some other elected nutcases.

The hard facts of the attack are known. People. Weapons. Destruction. Death. You can form any words you like around those facts. Those are still the facts.

But, House Minority Leader McCarthy has twisted those four words - those four facts - in interview after interview. On the floor of the House as well. And, he’s the most prominent single person who made a fast phone call to Trump to “call off his dogs” as some of those “dogs” were rampaging outside McCarthy’s office door.

McCarthy didn’t call Speaker Pelosi. He didn’t call Senate Majority Leader Schumer. He didn’t call the police. He didn’t call the military. He called the one person he knew who could get the terrorists out of the Capitol. He called Trump! The same terrorist who sent ‘em in.

As a result of what he did that day – of who he called that day - McCarthy has set himself up for a subpoena by the house committee investigating the attack. His fellow “hit man,” Jim Jordan, also called Trump that day.

Lying. By voice or vote. There are many liars in the Congress. Look at Idaho’s two Trumpian Senators - Crapo and Risch. Both attorneys. Both very familiar with the law. Both watched what Trump did to get himself officially impeached - not once but twice. With the facts before them, they - and nearly all other Republican Senators - lied. They voted not to convict. Facts be damned. Overwhelming evidence be damned. Firsthand knowledge of what Trump did be damned. Their votes were simply lies.

Think of their predecessors: Church, McClure, Hatfield, Boxer, Dole, Goldwater, Humphrey, Udall and dozens more who’ve served in that Chamber. You may not have agreed with some of them on this or that issue. But, lying? By vote or voice? I don’t think so.

If we can find a way to stop the flow of misinformation and outright lying, keeping some 340-million Americans prisoner in a manmade world of distortions, that’s a first step. Stopping the source of the verbal onslaught of lies could bring an awakening to facts - not distortions and disbelief.

We often speak of divisions extant in our nation. Especially in our political nation. Divisions many think can’t be overcome. Divisions many believe will eventually bring this country to it’s knees. I don’t think so.

There’s one thing that could immediately end nearly all our divisions: truth. If the lying stopped today - if those telling lies spoke truth instead - if truth were the first by-word of politics, commerce, business - if liars would just stop their lying - we’d be a much better nation - a less divided nation.

Without trying to sound Pollyanish, if truth became the watchword of all we say and do, trust could be restored. Reason could bring many arguments to an end. Honesty could help people regain trust in government. Just truth. Simple truth.

If McCarthy, Jordan, Gosar, Risch, Crapo, Biggs, Trump and their ilk can be removed from office - from the public sphere of influence - that’s a start. It’s not impossible. But, it’s a start. Holding the feet of people in public life to the fire of honesty could cure many of our ills.

Drought times?


Earlier this month Governor Kate Brown, on request of local officials, declared a drought emergency for Klamath County when snowpack in the area fell to 60 percent of normal.

That news didn’t make the top headlines on the county government’s website last week, but another water emergency did: A serious drying of residential wells. An information sheet from the county said, “Temperatures have been warmer than normal; precipitation has been significantly lower than normal; soil moisture has been at or near historic lows as have streamflows. As a result of these drought conditions, aquifers that support many domestic wells in the Klamath Project area have received less recharge than normal resulting in an unprecedented number of domestic wells going dry or producing less water than is needed.”

Some help is coming. The state Department of Human Services is making water deliveries to owners of dry wells through this month, at the county’s request. How long that will last is uncertain.

Of course, if you expect a water supply problem to hit first anywhere in Oregon, the Klamath Basin - based on all the struggles it has had over many years - would be a good first bet.

But it won't be the last.

Improved precipitation in the last three months has brought snowpack levels at least closer to normal - but not all the way yet. At the end of last year Mount Hood webcams showed hardly any snow on Oregon’s highest mountain. The snowpack’s measure there near the end of 2021 stood at .3 inches, about two percent of the historic median. Historic snowpack levels by decade (going back a half-century) were highest in the 80s, nearly as solid in the 90s, dropped a little in the 00s and collapsed in the 10s.

The snow pack affects farmers, homeowners, businesses - directly or indirectly, everyone in Oregon.

Some of the best hard numbers for figuring where we are on water supply can be found in the Snotel reports, a water data bank run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, measuring levels down to checkpoints in small streams.

One of the key stats is the snow water equivalent, a quick read on the snowpack, which supplies a lot of the runoff water used through the year; a “percent of median” shows how that number compares to the past years.

The oldest such Snotel chart online, from 1978, shows (from early December that year) a median for the Malheur at 175, the John Day at 191, the Willamette at 81 and the Rogue at 68. Those are not unusual numbers for most years since then. This month, just three water basins - the coast (considered a single basin), the Willamette River and the Owyhee River - are above normal. Most of the rest are well below normal.

This is the regional piece of a larger picture.

A recent large-scale study of the changing snowpack by a group of federal and university researchers found, “Future mountain snowpacks are further projected to decline, and even disappear, but at unknown rates. While the complete loss of snow is the worst-case scenario, a plausible situation … [would involve] a shift from rare or short-term to more persistent low-to-no snow occurrences.”

The report added, “Low-to-no snow will impose a series of cascading hydrologic changes to the water – energy balance, including vegetation processes, surface and subsurface water storage and, ultimately, streamflow that directly impacts water management.”

The national snowpack problem is not new. The Forest Service is among the organizations that has been looking into this for some years.

What’s gotten less attention is that many approaches to dealing with it are likely to be local and regional. Many answers to Oregon’s drought will have to come from Oregon.

What can Oregon do?

Conservation, of course, and some proposals at the Statehouse and elsewhere to curb climate change could help, long-term. More surgical approaches could accomplish a lot locally and sooner.

That list of Forest Service options suggests some of them: “Increase in-stream flows with dry-season water conservation to reduce withdrawals ... Increase upland water storage ... Develop mitigation measures and strategies to compensate for loss of snowpack location and duration ... Restore and enhance water resource function and distribution at the appropriate watershed level. Prioritize watersheds based on condition and a variety of resource values, including wildlife ... Reduce riparian impacts by storing more water on the landscape.”

Along with this: Increase research into our water management options so they’re as thoroughgoing as our research into the size of the problem.

With this message: We need to do more than just fret.

Why wreck judge selection system?


During his 12 years as Idaho Governor, Butch Otter tells me he appointed 56 judges for Idaho’s judicial system–5 Justices of the Supreme Court, all of the current judges on the Court of Appeals and over 45 District Court judges. He regularly received praise from other governors for the high quality of Idaho’s judiciary, which Otter attributed to the selection process through the Idaho Judicial Council.

Idaho established the Judicial Council in 1967 to ensure a non-partisan selection process for trial and appellate judges. It has been remarkably successful in producing highly-qualified, impartial jurists. Why, then, is there an effort in the final hectic throes of the legislative session to make material changes to the time-tested and proven appointment process? It should be mentioned at the outset that this opinion piece does not in any way speak for the Idaho court system and reflects just my own personal views.

Senate Bill 1382 first saw the light of day on March 7. It was thrown together without input from those who have long been involved in the judicial selection process and know how it works. The bill was sent to the Senate’s amending order on March 15, despite concerns raised by the Supreme Court. SB 1382 would have infused a measure of politics into the judge-selecting process, while slowing it down and discouraging interested lawyers from applying. No need to discuss the specifics because an even worse replacement materialized out of nowhere on March 16 and received approval of the House Judiciary, Rules and Administration Committee the very next day.

Under current law, the State Bar (Idaho’s attorney licensing agency) appoints two lawyers and a district judge to the Council and the Governor appoints three non-attorney members, all six of which are subject to Senate confirmation. The Chief Justice serves as a seventh member.

Under the new bill, House Bill 782, the Council would be increased from 7 members to 11. The State Bar could no longer make appointments, but would recommend to the Governor 3 different attorneys from 4 different practice areas–civil defense, civil plaintiff, criminal defense and criminal prosecution. The Governor would appoint one lawyer from each of the 4 practice areas. Those behind this legislation envision a Council consisting solely of litigators. The hundreds of Idaho lawyers doing anything else, including general practitioners in small towns across the State, could not serve. I would never have been eligible to serve on the Council in my 55 years as an Idaho lawyer.

House Bill 782 makes a number of other unwise changes in the selection process, but they pale in comparison to the wide leap the bill then takes into potentially unconstitutional territory. It jumps from amending the Judicial Council statutes to raising salaries of judges, a matter generally handled in a separate bill pertaining to the workings and compensation of judges. HB 782 may well violate the single subject matter provision of Article III, section 16 of the Idaho Constitution, but that would be a matter for court determination if the Legislature approves this rashly conceived bill.

Perhaps worse than the possible constitutional infraction is the appearance of strong-arming the courts with the threat of refusing to raise judicial pay this year. Tying the two issues together in one piece of legislation conveys the impression of trying to silence the Supreme Court from voicing legitimate concerns regarding the effect of HB 782 on judicial recruitment. Certainly, the Court is entitled to express its concerns about legislation that seemingly came out of nowhere from sponsors who did not consult with the Judicial Council or seek input from the court system. The message to the courts seems to be to shut up and take your lumps or your pay raise is out the window. Not exactly extortion, but…

The basic fact is that Idaho has been nationally recognized for the excellence of its judicial system, which is a function of the manner in which judges are selected. If the system is working well and producing great results, why in the world would we want to “fix” it? House Bill 782 is a serious threat to our outstanding court system.

A falling tsar


The Ukraine situation, fifth observation

“...a shattered visage lies, whose frown, and wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command...” —Ozymandius, Percy Shelley

It was a colossal bet. Really, as wagers go, it was the bet of a lifetime. The stakes were high: an empire and a legacy or disgrace. Vladimir Putin had apparently been working up to this gamble for the better part of 40 years. If I was staking my career and my legacy — everything I’d worked for in my adult life — on anything less than an odds-on favorite, I’d spend decades preparing, too.

The problem is Putin didn’t hedge. Like Ozymandius, he dared those who would oppose him to look on his works and despair.

For now, Putin retains his office. But I am convinced his days are numbered — it’s fitting that this month marks the 105th anniversary of the fall of the last tsar. Even if I’m wrong, what Putin has lost already is staggering.

Russia spent decades working to attain a measure of respect in the eyes of the world, particularly the West. Post perestroika, Russia realized strength could be measured in terms other than martial. It soon turned out the stoic communists weren’t immune from neighbor-envy after all as ordinary Russians raced to keep up with the Joneses. The Motherland, itself, felt it needed the luxury car, nice clothes, membership in the country club, all the perks enjoyed in Europe and North America. International respectability lay in economic leverage, most-favored nation trading status, membership in respectable organizations like the Council of Europe.

Russians took to their Big Macs, iPhones, Levis and Pepsi-Cola like they’d never been without. Longtime managers of state-run factories were allowed to privatize their enterprises, giving birth to the infamous Russian oligarchy, often marked by gaudy excess.

Although a level of government oversight remained in place that Americans would find oppressive, the new Russia was never locked down as tight as China. Younger Russians got comfortable surfing the internet, engaging in social media, exploring Europe. This was problematic when Putin clamped down at the onset of his invasion, only too late realizing a good portion of the younger population was aware of events in Ukraine at odds with the government’s version. Putin controlled the television news but he seemed to forget about pervasive social media.

The most powerful monarch remains enthroned only at the pleasure of his people. If the emperor loses favor with his subjects, only a loyal army willing to attack its own people will let his majesty keep his crown.

In the Western mind, we know the people can overthrow the king and we don’t see why the Russians don’t just rise up and oust Putin. But the Russian mind doesn’t see the issue through a Western lens. Russians born in the 1970s and earlier were raised under the Soviet fugue, a totalitarian all-or-nothing system that had the proletariat cowed and obedient, convinced their government wouldn’t hesitate to banish them to the Lubyanka, Siberian hard labor or worse. Before perestroika and glasnost, the militia, the secret police and the Red Army loomed, all-powerful and terrifying. The people would never act en masse against their government.

The other half of the Soviet equation was one we find familiar: the threat of nuclear war. When you live under the atomic cloud, you’re keenly aware of your enemies. Russians could imagine these enemies — the U.S. or NATO — removing their government. But from 100 years of post-revolution mandatory good behavior, Russians do not rise up against their leaders.

The megalomaniacal whims of one man have brought down unspeakable suffering and destruction on Ukraine. When Russian armed forces demonstrated a lackluster willingness and ability to invade this neighboring country, an embarrassed Putin shifted the plan from a blitzkrieg that badly overestimated the army’s readiness, to incessant and widespread artillery attacks, targeting civilian areas. Too late, Putin knows he can’t win this war he started — but he can cause so much destruction and death that he hopes Ukraine will say enough.

The Russian people have it in their power to stop this travesty by rising up in massive numbers, condemning the evil being committed in their name.

The entire world knew what kind of man they had in Putin but Russia had come so far from its grim and grimy Soviet days, the world relaxed and began to welcome the New Russia as one of its own. Putin was treated like a statesman, given the respectful deference shown the head of state of a major player

In just a week, Putin has lost everything he had except his office. He has set his country back decades and put it on the path to a catastrophic recession or worse. Russia will default on its debt, making the 1998 “Russian Flu” crisis look like a little sneeze. Russia’s Most Favored Nation (MFN) trading status is being revoked. The country is being labeled a terrorist state and Putin a war criminal.

Putin lost his gamble.

Like Ozymandius, Putin does not yet understand the transitory nature of hubris.

“...round the decay of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare, the lone and level sands stretch far away.” —Ozymandius, Percy Shelley

Matthew Meador is a former food and wine writer, senior editor and a rare moderate Republican who now writes political commentary. Previously, Matt was an award-winning graphic artist who often put his skills to use during election seasons. Matt has served in various capacities on political campaigns, for pollsters and for elected officials. Contact him at

Photograph © 2022 Don Fontijn via Unsplash

The GOP goes back in time


On September 5, 1922, a very conservative Republican from Utah, George Sutherland, was nominated by Republican President Warren Harding to the U.S. Supreme Court. In many ways, Sutherland was a natural choice: a former state legislator, congressman, senator and a diplomat.

Sutherland’s family eventually left the LDS Church, but he attended what was then Brigham Young Academy and made a reputation as a lawyer defending members of the faith indicted under federal anti-polygamy statutes.

On the afternoon his appointment was submitted to the Senate, Sutherland was confirmed to a lifetime appointment on the nation’s highest court. Quickest confirmation in history. No hearing. No FBI background check. No questions. Harding wanted it. It happened.

Say this much for George Sutherland: he looked the part of a judge. Trimmed white beard. Regal bearing. And a resume seemingly ideal for a Republican president wanting to maintain a conservative court. Sutherland served as a justice for 18 years, came to be known as one of the “four horsemen,” the ultra conservatives who made the Supreme Court in the 1920’s and 1930’s the most conservative Court since, well, since now. As one legal scholar has noted, Justice Sutherland’s “predominant tendency was to cleave to the past when assessing issues before him.”

I thought about George Sutherland, a Supreme Court justice largely assigned to the judicial history dustbin this week, as a host of Republican senators took turns trying to denigrate the nomination of the first African American woman to the nation’s highest court. Those conservatives had a field day, or at least they tried to have a field day, at the expense of an obviously supremely qualified, supremely patient, supremely measured judge.

The larger context here is the rollback of American jurisprudence, “to cleave to the past.” The ghost of Justice Sutherland stalks the modern Republican Party.

And you ain’t seen nothing yet.

Missouri Senator Josh Hawley, getting a jump on hearings for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, actually previewed his line of attack days ago on social media. Hawley, most famous for his show of support for Capitol insurrectionists on January 6, sought to paint the judge as “soft on child pornography.”

Hawley, a Stanford and Yale trained lawyer, broadly distorted the judge’s sentencing record, so misrepresenting the facts as to be accused of “a smear” campaign. The conservative National Review called Hawley “a demagogue,” a charge that has the benefit of being true.

Predictably others – Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, Tom Cotton and Marsha Blackburn – helped advance the smear, causing CNN White House correspondent John Harwood to remark that “GOP senators shaped their attacks on a Supreme Court pick [with a] sterling resume to appeal to the kinds of people who fantasize about Democrats running a child sex trafficking ring out of a Washington pizzeria because loons like that play such an important role in GOP politics.”

And there was more. Cruz, channeling his inner Joe McCarthy, tried to make Judge Jackson responsible for every book used at the Washington, D.C. private school where she serves on the board. It’s just the kind of school Cruz’s children attend. The judge patiently explained her board doesn’t deal with curriculum, but the attack allowed Cruz to slime the nominee as an advocate of Critical Race Theory (CRT). Right on cue the Republican National Committee distributed a photo of Judge Jackson with her initials replaced with CRT.

As dog whistles go, this level of demagoguery and race baiting makes the tactics of the Senate’s southern segregationist’s of the 50’s and 60’s seem downright mild.

Blackburn asked the witness for a definition of a “woman” before slipping slimily into an attack on transgendered athletes. Lindsey Graham, another attorney, berated Jackson for her role as a defense attorney for detainees at Guantanamo, literally suggesting that some accused of crimes under our system aren’t entitled to representation in court. The subtext of Graham’s sleaze is, of course, the image of a Black woman defending a Muslim terrorist.

Make no mistake, these attacks on Ketanji Brown Jackson are not about her ten-year record as a judge or as a universally praised member of a national commission to review federal sentencing guidelines. No matter her record or what she says to questions based on grievance and the past, Jackson will be lucky to get two Republican votes for confirmation.

The attacks on her are centered squarely on stoking grievance and furthering racial division. This might have been a time for bipartisan celebration of the career of an accomplished woman of color, but that’s not where most in the conservative base live. And while the attacks this week were particularly odious, brutal and fact-free they hardly represent a new page in the conservative playbook. Grievance and culture combat has been and remains the party line.

Graham, who admitted he goes “to church probably three times a year,” pressed Judge Jackson on her faith, even asking her to rank how important her spiritual beliefs are on a scale of 1 to 10. The judge described herself as a non-denominational protestant, and wisely observed that there is no religious test in the Constitution.

Good thing Mr. Justice Sutherland, the lapsed Mormon, never met Lindsey Graham.

Also make no mistake that there is much more at play here than the historic confirmation of one Black woman to the Supreme Court. Indiana Republican Senator Mike Braun spilled those beans when he told an interviewer this week that in his opinion Roe v. Wade had been improperly decided in the 1970’s. Such issues should be left to the states, Braun said. Pressed on whether that kind of judicial philosophy might extend to interracial marriage or state-level bans on the use of contraceptives, Braun opened the alt right kimono.

“You can list a whole host of issues,” Braun said. “When it comes down to whatever they are, I’m going to say that they’re not going to all make you happy within a given state, but that we’re better off having states manifest their points of view rather than homogenizing it across the country, as Roe v. Wade did.”

Braun quickly walked back his comments about interracial marriage saying he misunderstood the question – he clearly did not based on the videotape of his answer – while assuring us, very unconvincingly, that he is all for protecting individual rights.

With this line of thinking – remember Judge Jackson was also questioned about Supreme Court decisions on contraceptives and same sex marriage – when Roe is overturned it follows naturally that other landmark court decisions ensuring individual rights will be ripe for re-assessment. Braun didn’t misspeak, he telegraphed the hard right’s judicial playbook for the next decade.

Roe v. Wade will be just the beginning. A Justice Jackson will make history. The most conservative court since George Sutherland’s day will too.

Veto standards


Idaho Governor Brad Little has not been a “Governor Veto”: He has sent into law the overwhelming majority of everything that has hit his desk from the legislature.

So far this session, he’s vetoed exactly one bill: A measure from earlier this session on Master Educator premium payments, which he indicated should not be sunset right away (as the bill provided), but rather in a couple of years. (Note: After this column was written, Little vetoed a aecond measure, on technology funding. also on narrow grounds.)

It seems a relatively slim difference of opinion to base a veto on, but that’s okay. Many of his earlier vetoes in previous sessions have tended (with a few exceptions) to focus on limited and technical concerns.

Compare those cases with Senate Bill 1309, which as the attorney general’s office said would have the effect of banning nearly all abortions in the state through (as with similar Texas legislation) the device of private enforcement, using fines and lawsuits from private citizens to harass abortion providers. It hit the governor’s office last Thursday.

There’s been time to carefully review the bill (as has been the practice at Little’s office) and absorb public comment on it; the governor was probably aware of just about all of the arguments for and against. And Little, in his letter issued on signing it, made clear he sees many of the concerns critics have offered.

He said that he backs the bill’s anti-abortion stance, but “I fear the novel civil enforcement mechanism will in short order be proven both unconstitutional and unwise. Deputizing private citizens to levy hefty monetary fines on the exercise of a disfavored but judicially recognized constitutional right for the purpose of evading court review undermines our constitutional form of government and weakens our collective liberties. None of the rights we treasure are off limits.”

There’s a slippery-slope argument here: If we can incentivize private citizens to simply start suing each other (for fun and profit) over abortion, why stop there? What else, and who else, would you like to go after? Little did allude to possible eventual challenges over religion and bearing arms.

“I also have significant concerns with the unintended consequences this legislation will have on victims of sexual assault,” Little wrote. “I appreciate the exception provided for victims of rape and incest, but the challenges and delays inherent in obtaining the requisite police report render the exception meaningless for many. I am particularly concerned for those vulnerable women and children who lack the capacity or familial support to report incest and sexual assault,” he wrote. “Ultimately, this legislation risks re-traumatizing victims by affording monetary incentives to wrongdoers and family members of rapists.”

Some ugly incentives are built into this structure. You may see (if the law stands) nauseating news stories coming out of this in the months and years ahead.

Little did ask the legislature to review his concerns.

And other concerns he didn’t address explicitly but doubtless knows about. There was, for example, the attorney general’s office assessment that the measure likely would be found unconstitutional. Why? Well, you can look at the actual finding by a Texas judge that would be applicable in Idaho too: The new law gives legal standing to people not suffering an injury, that it gives enforcement powers to private individuals and the fine imposed is punishment without any due process. And whether or not those things are unconstitutional, they ought to be serious concerns.

Each one of these arguments seems more powerful than any the governor employed in vetoing bills over the last few sessions. But he signed this bill into law anyway.

It is true that the legislature which passed the bill in both chambers by well more than a two-thirds majority very likely would have overridden a veto anyway. That would have made a veto a gesture, nothing more.

But it would have been a gesture worth making. Unless, presumably, you have a Republican primary coming up in a few weeks.



The Idaho legislature wants to make Idaho medical students whose education is supported by taxpayer dollars serve some time in Idaho when they grow up and become practicing physicians. Seems like a win-win, doesn’t it? Idaho needs doctors, the students want to become doctors. Why not require them to spend some time helping out this beautiful state in return for the taxpayer support they receive?

You need to know I have some history here. I was supported in my medical education by Idaho taxpayers some 40 years ago. I was an Idaho WAMI. It had just one “W” back then, before Wyoming joined Washington, Alaska, Montana, and Idaho in the medical school collaboration.

It’s not the first time Idaho has tried to incentivize WWAMI students to return to our dear state. The first attempt was a carrot, not a stick. WWAMI students who returned to Idaho and practiced in an underserved area could be eligible for support to repay medical school loan debt. This was from a fund garnered from assessments on students in the program, and later, taxpayer funds were added.

But the current law is a stick. If you are a WWAMI student and don’t come back to Idaho to practice within a year of finishing your residency or getting a license, and then stay for four years, you owe the state of Idaho the full amount of what the taxpayers doled out to support you: about $160,000.

Alaska, Wyoming, and Montana have all instituted such requirements of their state supported students in the last few years. None of these states has seen a dramatic drop in applicants for their programs.

The University of Washington School of Medicine and the WWAMI multistate collaborative program are recognized for their excellence in training and preparation of medical students to serve both primary care and rural populations.

I’ve watched the UW/ University of Idaho WWAMI faculty try to avoid this for the last ten years and I really haven’t understood their reluctance.
Taxpayers deserve some return for their investment. But carrots and sticks? Why not make Idaho a place doctors want to work and where people want to be well?

One of the most critical decisions a young highly trained professional in any field faces is where to locate and put their services to use. Market forces often focus on the quantifiable salary, but for many, there are greater considerations.

Where can my spouse be happy?

Will my children thrive in this town?

Will I continue to learn and grow in my profession?

Can we find a place to live that will suit us?

Will our family feel welcome?

I know these are their questions because I had them myself, and I addressed them in the colleagues I recruited.

The best way to serve our state in its health care professional needs may not be with carrots or sticks but instead to look at the bigger picture. We need to make our state sustainably desirable to live in, to work in, to serve in.

I moved from Hells Canyon to Council, Idaho to McCall, to Moscow where I started my family. We walked the streets before the Farmers Market and looked at the big old homes. We fell in love with the Palouse.

Each of our little towns, and even the big ones need to be supported as they struggle to serve their needs. Carrots and sticks are the tools of petty tyrants. We need vision and wisdom in the leaders we elect.

I cannot oppose this requirement that medical students return to the state that supported their wonderful education. They should have a deep sense of service to the health of their community. Idaho leaders need to build strong communities for them to serve.