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Posts published in August 2023


I find myself stifling a smirk when I hear a new term for a group. The homeless have become the “Unhoused”. I stifle the smirk because such a response is disrespectful. And the intent of the renaming is to offer respect and dignity to the renamed group. And the smirk may also be because I see such renaming as paltry effort, though, indeed well intentioned.

We cannot address the despair and dysfunction of the people living under tarps, near underpasses and in our metropolitan alleys with a softer new name. It may reflect our kind intent, but I’m sorry, there’s work to do. Creating a kinder, gentler name isn’t enough.

Other countries have addressed this complex problem. The solutions are complex and require significant investment. The price of housing, the availability of healthcare, the livability of cities are complex, swirling issues that some countries have addressed. And indeed, their solutions may not suit our problem. But we have the resources. I suspect we don’t have the will.

And now I smirk at my own last comment regarding “the will,” because such a criticism would probably be leveled at the unhoused/homeless by those not willing to address a solution. Dismissing our shared responsibilities on this planet by pointing to others’ bootstraps is quite the style. Always has been.

I have come to realize my smirking reaction is not healthy. Not for me, or those I care for. I must do better. But it’s an old habit. It doesn’t dignify.

I found myself brought up short in mid smirk by a daughter a while back. I was bemoaning the low unemployment/ work force shortage we are experiencing. “People just don’t want to work anymore.” Was my smirking phrase.

She lit into me. She detailed the position our generation has saddled theirs with.

If they are a two-parent household, both making a bit above average income, and they pay for childcare, health insurance, taxes, and try to buy a home, they are just above water. Make that a single parent household and the drowning starts. Add a special needs child, or big student loan debt, or some other burden and it becomes evident the rising tide did not float all boats.

And we maintain the illusion of our 1960’s financial model for Social Security and Medicare. The demographics have inverted, yet we still cling to the Ponzi miracle of sustained economic and population growth that was true in 1960 but is no longer. These two great dignifying social programs that progressives point to as accomplishments need some major work if they are to live up to their founding ideals.

My generation has kicked this down the road. No wonder we witness disengagement. We have not been true to the founding principle that these dignifying programs deserved to be sustained. We have shirked; and maybe smirked, gesturing to their bootstraps. Like ours were what got us where we are.

And this is just the economic indignity which we have dropped on the sidewalk and pretended we did not leave. No baggie, we just walked away.

The environmental injustice of melting glaciers was not mentioned. But she could have.

I came away from my daughter’s admonishment knowing her response had more dignity than my whine. And I could see there was work still for our generation to do. It is not as simple as giving them bright shiny new bootstraps.

So, if you catch me stifling a smirk, raise a warning finger at me and smile. I will take the hint, I hope, with dignity.


Those far-right extremists

When Republican Sen. Tammy Nichols of Middleton reads the words, “far-right extremists,” in a political commentary, she knows that the side she generally represents won the debate.

“They have already lost the argument, so it’s not worth my time to try to bring any kind of logical conversation into the discussion,” she told me. “(The writers) are going from trying to have a conversation to getting personal about it.”

She has a point. Influence peddlers who employ labels essentially are speaking to the choir – those who agree that those far-right extremists are a menace to society. But name-calling mostly does nothing to sway people on the right.

“I call it label lynching. It’s when they disagree with you, but don’t have a solid argument, so they label you. It was a tactic used during the times of Karl Marx, or Nazi Germany when they attacked the Jews. When I hear that (far-right extremist), and it’s directed at me, it reinforces to me that I’m on the right track,” Nichols said.

“What we’ve learned is that the name-calling and bullying we heard on the school playground has not ended. People grow up, but they bring some of the names with them.”

I remember those rough days on the playgrounds in Osburn. Here was one of the stoppers: “Oh, yeah. Well, your mother wears Army boots.” Fast forward some 60 years and it’s “right-wing extremists,” or “fake news” media.

There’s nothing new about name-calling in politics. From the conservative side of the fence, any Republican that doesn’t score high on the Idaho Freedom Foundation index is labeled a “RINO.” Former President Donald Trump, the pride of the GOP, has turned name-calling into an art form.

During my early days of political reporting in Idaho, writers often used the term “ultra-conservative” to arbitrarily describe those who were perceived to be to the right (or far right) of center. Of course, that term applied only to Republicans; Democrats were never branded as “ultra-liberals” or “liberals” in general.

“When somebody calls me a far-right extremist, I throw back the question. ‘What does that mean?’ And they can’t define it,” Nichols says. “Is a far-right extremist someone who upholds the constitution, believes in limited government, or stands up for people’s rights? Those are the things I stand for. So, I don’t accept the label.”

In the Idaho Statesman recently, an editorial suggested that far-right extremists ran off a Post Falls educator, Karen Lauritzen, who was selected as Idaho’s teacher of the year. The teacher apparently had friendly views toward the LGBTQ community, Black Lives Matter, transgender rights and the United Nations agenda.

Not surprisingly, Nichols had a different view than the Statesman’s editorial board. “They used the term far-right extremists, but they didn’t label the teacher as anything for pushing a radical agenda. She wasn’t labeled as a far-left extremist. But they tell you about these right-wing extremists without telling you who they are or why they are extremists. If the teacher doesn’t fit in with Idaho, then I say good riddance. But those concerns are not just in Idaho. There are plenty of parents everywhere who are riled up with the LGBTQ and transgender agenda pushes that are happening in education.”

The Statesman apparently has its own idea about what’s “radical” in the political world. But it’s probably closer to “mainstream” within the Idaho Republican Party, which largely has been taken over by conservatives. That transformation has been by design. In Nichols’ view, conservatives worked hard on the grassroots levels of the GOP, while the so-called establishment was “asleep at the wheel.” The efforts resulted in former Rep. Dorothy Moon taking over as the party chair and former congressional candidate Bryan Smith of Idaho Falls moving in as national committeeman.

“The establishment wants to maintain the status quo, but that’s what has been causing the demise in some states,” Nichols says. “Colorado is an example of what can happen in a few short years. People were not engaged and not on the ground educating voters, getting people to run for office, taking stances and being vocal. Those that are doing this are being labeled as right-wing extremists.”

Those “extremists” might be an election or two from being the undisputed “mainstream” in Idaho. Editorial and column writers might think about visiting some school playgrounds for fresh name-calling material.

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


Change is in the wind

If you're open minded, and a bit skeptical about the howling coming from our immediate past-President, I have a suggestion.

Step out on your front porch, face the direction of the prevailing breezes, let out all your breath, hold it, then breathe in deeply.

Aw, come on.  DEEPLY.  Just once.  That's it.

There seems to be small changes wafting on the Republican breezes.  Small.  But, change nonetheless.

Take what happened in Ohio a couple of months ago.  A proposal was floated.  A proposal to require a 60-40 approval on all statewide ballot issues, rather than 51-49 as cited in Ohio's state constitution.

Nearly everyone knew - with even a smattering of political upbringing - just knew this was a precursor to block any future measure to liberalize abortion rights.  Change the threshold for approval of any change in the law from 51-49 to 60-40.  That would make it harder for any abortion-rights sponsored legislation to get on the ballot.

But, Ohioans weren't having it.  The pro-life forces were silenced by a sizeable margin.  Even some GOP voters joined the winning side.

And, that's the small change.  In state after state, local election after local election, there seems to be a growing moderate  - yes, Virginia - moderate Republican contingent.  Ohio was one example.  But, there are other GOP voices being heard.  Softly.  But, they're out there.

The breeze of change that wafted my way came as I talked with some Republican friends.  Yes, I do have some Republican friends.

In local conversations, more moderate folks have been lamenting far-right GOP'ers get all the media attention while more middle-of-the-road Republicans have been largely ignored.  Ignored by media and even other Republicans.  As if they didn't exist.

But, they do.  In a number of recent local and statewide votes, their presence has been felt.  Like Ohio.

I'd like to think these more middle-of-the road folks are starting to speak up.  Maybe the local conversations in other places are expressing similar displeasure with the antics of their edge-of-the-earth brethren.

Like "Enough is ENOUGH!"

The moderate portion of the GOP has not had much to say for the last 40-years or so.  Emboldened by right-wing "hate-radio," Fox, Newsmax and others, the far-right has gathered unto itself a loud, vocal constituency.  Moderate Republicans have not had such a media presence to rally around.  But, they're out there.

Recent voting on referendums and reliable polling, indicate that maybe - just maybe - the middle-of-the-road crew is using the ballot box to show some strength.

Politics running from the far right side of the road - or left - are not in our nation's best interests.  Neither voice represents the much larger middle constituency.

In some of the larger media markets, there are new talk shows.  Not right.  Not left.  But, middle.  With participation swinging both ways.  Lively?  Yes.  Good conversations?  Yes.  But, it takes a strong hand of the host wielding the microphone not to let things swing too far.  One way or the other.  It's a tough task.  I know.  I used to have a microphone on a 50-thousand watt station doing talk.  It ain't easy.

Wouldn't it be great to have two major political parties advancing their differing outlooks from the middle, rather than trying to talk over each other?  As they used to say in our first Constitutional Congress, "I vote yea!"

But, we need to be careful about reading too much into the perceived voices of moderate Republicans.  Their presence - based on recent elections - is out there.  But, it's still too early to determine if they'll become stronger in future voting.  Like Ohio.  Or, if the far-right talkers of the GOP eventually drown them out.

But, just knowing of their presence is refreshing.  May their tribe increase!



Fair warning to the patrons

The Idaho Freedom Foundation (IFF) may be coming to your school district to carry out its publicly-proclaimed goal of getting the government out of the business of educating our kids. Just witness the disintegration of the West Bonner County School District (WBCSD) in Priest River at the hands of an extremist-controlled school board.

Keith Rutledge and Susan Brown were elected to the school board in 2021 with IFF’s support. Along with a third IFF-supported trustee, they have had WBCSD in turmoil ever since. They refused to support a school levy in May that was intended to cover about a third of the district’s operating budget. That put the district in a real financial bind.

The trio then voted in June to hire an unqualified individual, IFF employee Branden Durst, as school superintendent. For inexplicable reasons, they have failed to pursue an emergency certification that might allow Durst to legally act as superintendent until he can become qualified for the position. On August 16, the State Board of Education notified Rutledge that the “board’s decision to allow an uncertified individual to serve as superintendent violates Idaho law.” The notice outlined four other board deficiencies.

WBCSD has reportedly lost 33 employees in recent months because of the board’s actions. Not to worry, though, because Durst is hiring right-wing zealots to replace some of them. They include Melissa Reilly, who appears to share the bigoted view of her white nationalist husband Dave Reilly, and Brandy Pardee, a leader with “Stop Idaho RINOs.” As far as the failed levy goes, Durst is glad it failed. The board majority seems to be fine with all of the upheaval Durst has visited upon WBCSD, which may account for the fact that school patrons were able to get a recall vote scheduled for Rutledge and Brown for August 31. It would obviously have been better if more school patrons had gotten out to vote in 2021 to keep the IFF candidates from seizing control.

School board elections are coming up soon in many school districts across the state and it is almost a certainty that the IFF or some like-minded folks will try to get disruptive candidates like Rutledge and Brown elected. How better to accomplish the goal of deconstructing public education in Idaho?

More than ever, Idahoans will need to check out the credentials of those running to control their local school board, so as to ensure that only candidates who are dedicated to making schools and kids successful are entrusted with these important positions. Some of those Idahoans can help their local schools by becoming candidates themselves.

The best way for citizens of good faith to protect our schools is to step forward to serve or urge others to do so. A candidate needs to be an elector of his or her school district and a resident of the trustee zone in question. Candidates may file, starting August 28, but must file no later than 5:00 pm on September 8. Additional information on how to file can be obtained from the clerk of their local school district board.

School elections are not the only important elections to be held on November 7. Cities and some independent districts will be holding elections and, given the desire of organizations like IFF to stack such positions with extreme-right candidates, it is important that reasonable, pragmatic candidates step forward for those positions. Also, conscientious voters must inform themselves to ensure that disruptive individuals like those who seized control of WBCSD do not obtain the reins of power.


Trump’s mafia

It was news in South Dakota this week, a state that has become as red as Donald Trump’s neckties, that the state’s two Republican United States senators won’t be attending an upcoming Trump rally scheduled in the Black Hills.

Among those RSVPing regrets is John Thune, the number two Republican leader in the Senate. Thune and South Dakota’s other GOP senator, Mike Rounds, have done what few other high profile Republicans have done – think Idaho’s Senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch or Wyoming’s John Barasso, for example – and finally put distance between themselves and the party’s cult leader.

The South Dakota senators, about as conservative as they come, have endorsed South Carolina Senator Tim Scott for president. Hardly worth a profile in courage award, but better than the vast majority of Republican officeholders who act like backing the party’s leading presidential candidate – or carefully avoiding any comment on his many indictments and proven criminality – is totally normal.

It is not totally normal. Nothing about American politics at the moment is remotely normal. Nothing about the Republican Party’s embrace of a much indicted sociopathic serial liar is normal. Nothing is normal, as the Morning Consult poll found this week, in the fact that three of five Republican voters say they’d vote for a convicted sexual abuser even if he’s behind bars on Election Day next year.

Nothing. Normal. About. Any. Of. This.

As The Bulwark’s Jonathan Lash wrote recently:

Pretend we could go back in time, to January 2017, and tell people that in six years:

  • Trump will have been impeached twice.
  • He will have been found guilty of rape by a jury of his peers.
  • He will have been soundly defeated for re-election, but refused to concede the loss.
  • In an effort to remain in power he will put in motion a vast conspiracy to overturn the result through extralegal methods.
  • When this conspiracy fails he will incite a violent insurrection in which he directs his armed supporters to invade the Capitol and prevent the certification of Electoral College votes.
  • He will be indicted in four separate criminal cases.
  • He will seek a return to the White House explicitly for the stated purpose of ‘retribution.’
  • And he will be leading the Republican field by >30 points.

The party of Lincoln, and TR and Eisenhower is now a stewing cesspool of grievance and denial willingly embracing neo-Nazis and a wide array of conspiracists. The party leader’s legal team – many of them indicted in Atlanta this week – are a mockery of Republican appeals to law and order.

The degradation and destruction of the once Grand Old Party is both stunning and frightening, but mostly frightening.

Frightening in that Trump’s mesmerized supporters believe in him, and his avalanche of demonstrable lies more than they believe their own friends, family and religious leaders. As the CBS News-YouGov poll recently discovered these folks cling to the lies and rabid misinformation more than ever in the face of Trump’s grand jury indictment for attempting to overturn the presidential election in Georgia. Making off with the nation’s secrets for whatever reason and defying not only the law but common sense in refusing to return them deepens their regard for this shallow, foul man.

Trump’s Big Lie that the 2020 election was stolen from him continues to metastasize in the conservative body politic. The devotion to that enormous lie is the single biggest reason more Republican officeholders refuse to do what the senators from South Dakota have done, namely move on from the fabulist-in-chief. The Crapo’s and Risch’s of American politics know it’s all bull, but they won’t really confront it because they are afraid … of their own voters.

There have been so many turning points in this American melodrama – the Access Hollywood tape, Trump’s persistent praise of the murderous Russian thug, the grifting of the presidency through a gaudy Washington hotel, the Unite the Right neo-Nazi spectacle in Charlottesville, the serial departures of Cabinet secretaries who thought they could contain the fabulist and discovered they couldn’t, the name calling, the threats, the incitement of insurrection.

And It will only get worse, while the GOP elected elite works to delist grizzly bears or neuter the IRS.

Amid all this crazy, outrageous and full on dangerous behavior, history is likely to record as one of the most egregious acts in presidential history, Trump’s mafia-inspired efforts to shakedown Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy in order to manufacture dirt on his political opponent.

All of Trump’s venality and disdain for American – and European – democracy was on clear display in his telephone call to the man who now tries to save the independence of his country against the brutal aggression of The Donald’s pal, Vlad. Simply put, Trump was eager to intimidate another democracy to help destroy one at home. Meanwhile, the GOP edges closer to Putin, while most of the rest of the world shuns him as never before.

There is a perverse symmetry that on the same day Rudy Giuliani was indicted in Georgia the leader of the Russian militia that provided Putin’s only effective fighting force against Ukraine died, likely on orders from Donald’s pal. Rudy with the light brown hair dye was, of course, Trump’s Ukrainian bagman charged with assembling dirt on Joe Biden. Meanwhile, the fabulist says he could end the brutal aggression against Ukraine with one phone call. Right.

This farce become tragedy is as if the script for The Godfather or GoodFellas had been substituted for the shredded ruminants of the rule of law, or any sense of decency in the GOP. Trump is the Vito Corleone of our politics, keeping it all in the family, fronted by corrupt lawyers and evil politicians willing to do anything to protect his own skin and the family business. Just don’t get caught.

Forget the pundits who tell you there is future salvation for the Republican crime family and all of its enablers. There isn’t. Won’t happen. The only way to banish this level of corruption is to take them to trial, convict them in front of a jury of their peers and vote the enablers into the inglorious history they so richly deserve.

Imagine your political legacy being that you couldn’t bring yourself to call bull on this BS.

Michael Corleone, to play out the mafia analogy, eventually tried to go legit, but the stink of the family crimes never left him.

There is simply no washing or wishing away these crimes.


Some focus on fentanyl and meth

While some mass indictments on the other side of the country have attracted more attention, one large-scale indictment of 25 defendants in Idaho (and another associated in Oregon) in another large and complex criminal case deserves some regional review.

The details of this Northwest case - including some indictments from several months ago - throw shards of light on sometimes obscure activities that are a matter of clear concern: Trafficking in deadly fentanyl and methamphetamines.

The indictments were released August 21 through the federal U.S. Attorney’s office, though the work leading to them comes from the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force which includes several federal agencies, state agencies (including the Idaho State Police) and local law enforcement around southern Idaho. Here’s what the agencies concluded:

“... the defendants distributed large amounts of methamphetamine and fentanyl throughout Southwestern Idaho and Eastern Oregon.  Many of the individuals are alleged to have been in possession of firearms at the time they distributed the narcotics.  During the course of these investigations and arrests, law enforcement seized approximately 98 pounds of methamphetamine, approximately 21,000 fentanyl pills, 531 grams of fentanyl powder, 38 firearms, 3 bullet-proof vests, and $121,615 in U.S. currency.”

That still accounts only for a small slice of the full traffic in these substances. This overall case may, however, generate a broad enough picture to draw a few loose conclusions about the shape of meth and fentanyl trafficking in the area.

For example: Of the defendants, 21 were specifically named as being involved with methamphetamine, and just five were cited for fentanyl; three of those latter five were reported to be involved with both. (The remaining defendants, and some of those accused of trafficking, were charged with firearm offenses.) Some of them were charged months ago, and some already have been convicted.

Note here too that firearms possession violations were a key part of making this sweeping prosecution work.

The defendants hail from around the region, but Canyon County seems especially prominent: nine were listed with a Nampa or Caldwell home base. Four others were based only a few miles away, at Ontario, Oregon.

There was also a specific link to a specific drug cartel in Mexico, and to gang activity on this side of the border.

“The Jalisco Cartel is one of the main cartels responsible for the influx of methamphetamine and fentanyl into our communities,” said DEA Assistant Special Agent in Charge Matthew Gomm, who oversees operations in Idaho.  “The relationships these cartels have with our local street gangs allow deadly and dangerous drugs to reach their last mile of distribution

One of the defendants, Isaac Bright, last February pleaded guilty to unlawful possession of a firearm.  Bright, the U.S. attorney’s office said, was a documented member of Latin Kings gang “with an extensive criminal history.”

A fair amount of information about the situation has been released, but for those trying to piece together how the meth and fentanyl network in the area works - something we should understand better if we’re going to understand how to combat it - some additional questions might usefully be addressed.

For example: Is there a reason fentanyl is harder than meth to go after? The amounts of fentanyl seized were not small, but there was relatively less prosecution for them compared with the meth. Why was that? Are the networks different? Is the small physical size of the fentanyl product tougher to deal with? And why was it that the amount of money seized for such a substantial operation seemed relatively small; was it larger than it seems in context, was the money (in a digital age) simply hard to grab, or were other factors at play?

In the end, the larger success of law enforcement efforts in public health threats like these depend a great deal on help from the public. And the public can best help when it has a good understanding of how all those pieces fit together, and where their weak links may be.


That jobless report

An unemployment rate of anything under 3 percent is like music to a politician’s ear, especially to those lucky enough to sit in the Oval Office or a governor’s chair.

So, strike up the band with Happy Days are Here Again, and there will be no shortage of politicians lining up to take credit for a rate that’s in the range of 2.7 percent. Let’s celebrate with a statewide hoedown, and bring along some Tennessee cloggers to add to the flavor.

Now for the buzzkill … you knew that was coming. There’s always someone in the crowd who will put a reality check on any kind of good news. This comes from a longtime friend, Suzanne Budge, the state director of the National Federation of Independent Business. For certain, an unemployment rate that’s under 3 percent is the definition of full employment in any economics book. But Budge tells me that’s no comfort to Main Street business owners who are struggling to find workers at all skill levels.

In other words, people don’t want to work anymore. And this is not through lack of effort by employers who have raised wages significantly and have practically begged people to work.

“It’s very gloomy,” she said. “The struggle is that the workforce has not come back since the pandemic. We have the lowest workforce participation rate in decades.”

And get this … a staggering 42 percent of business owners have reported job openings they could not fill – and it’s not because wages are low. According to the NFIB, 36 percent of employers have raised wages and another 22 percent intend to do so.

“In fact, it’s been reported that the average wage for all occupations in Idaho reached just under $25 an hour last year,” she says.

Budge can only speculate why employers can’t find workers. “This is not an NFIB position, but I think you have a generational shift. There has been so much money put into the economy through the federal stimulus that has far outstripped the demand. Owners can’t get people to work, or apply for jobs, and that will have an impact on small business and the ability to carry on. Second and third generation businesses are selling out, because either you grow or you die. It’s hard to be a small business person right now.”

The problem is not confined to Idaho. “It’s the same situation everywhere,” says Budge, who travels extensively with her job.

So, how are people paying the skyrocketing housing costs, or keeping up with inflation?

“That’s a good question,” she says. “Developers seem to be banking on Idaho being an open state with recreational opportunities – and people are coming to Idaho. Look at McCall. And the demographics of downtown Boise are much different than, say, 28 years ago. Outsiders are moving to Idaho.”

But they are not filling the plethora of job openings, and you know where that leads.

“How often do you hear about lack of service? Lack of help? Owners apologizing for lack of service and inability to deliver? Changing hours, and automating because they have to? It’s a confounding problem. I don’t think we know why, but it doesn’t look like it’s really changing,” she says.

Call it the “new normal” in today’s society.

The NFIB issues a jobs report monthly, which includes a wide range of facts and figures – and a news release for media outlets and interested parties. The lead to July’s news release summed up the sorry situation well.

“Another monthly small-business jobs report, another dismal reading for the Main Street enterprises of America.”

There’s not much optimism between those lines, but it’s something you should keep in mind when politicians talk glowingly about our low unemployment rate.

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


Where do we go from here?

Sick as we all are of hearing of the "trials and tribulations" of one Donald John Trump on a daily basis, it appears there'll be no end to it for the foreseeable future.

Even after convictions and, yes, there will be convictions, the raft of appeals he'll file in various courts will keep his name atop the daily news for years to come.

DJT has changed this nation in so many fundamental ways. He's given voice to the "voice-less" who've been searching for recognition for more than 40 years.

Fed by the Limbaughs - and the Limbaugh-wannabees - for decades, their followers have been like "tribes" wandering in the desert, leaderless and disorganized. Trump gave them a deeply flawed leader who bullied his way to the top of the right-wing dung heap.

Trump will be convicted in one jurisdiction or another. You can "bet the farm." He'll likely go to jail. Somewhere. If convicted on state charges of fraud and/or other felonies, that's almost a certainty. Especially in Georgia, which appears at the moment, to be in the lead in the race to the courtroom. And, under Georgia law, there's no such thing as a gubernatorial pardon to bail him out.

Trump's vocal band of support is already hollering. But, that's all they can do. In the years-long saga, neither they nor Trump have offered any solid, legally-acceptable evidence of his innocence. None! None! All they can do is rage.

The last thing Trump's lawyers want is for him to be sitting in the witness chair in any court. For at least two reasons.

First, he'd lie about one thing or another. That's a near-certainty. That's what gotten him into such trouble. Second, he'd be subject to a stringent cross-examination by prosecutors. That's the last thing his legal team wants because that would almost surely wind up with Trump committing another felony. Lying under oath. It's what he does. He's been doing it so long he probably can't help himself.

Trump has also changed how the media reports national stories. He's become the permanent "lead" in national news. We used to hear of the war in Ukraine, a hurricane or some political development. Now, in broadcast news, he's nearly always the first story reported. In print, it's front page. Above the fold. Daily.

Trump has also changed more than a few family dynamics. Marriages have been dissolved. Some divorces have cited loud, divisive arguments over Trump as the basis for being in court. Relationships have been changed over him. Some relatives have stopped talking to other branches of a family.

And, there's this. Those delving into his legal problems have got to stop dealing with Trump as an "ex-President." Under the law, and in the courtroom, he's just another American citizen charged with several felonious crimes. No more. No less. His convictions - if convictions there be - will be as a citizen. Not as an ex-President. It may take some time for the media to grasp that concept. But, it's real.

These are difficult times for the nation. None of this has ever happened before. Nixon came close. He was cooked, yes. But, his crimes and willful breaking of national laws never rose to the level of what we're living with today.

Within the legal system there's always the presumption of innocence. But, Trump's actions on the national stage over the past six years have been so notorious, so widely reported and analyzed, that innocence is not an easy concept to hold.

Some 25-million Americans would likely "go off a cliff" for the guy. That's about 14% of the country. It's not conceivable many of them will fall away, no matter the legal outcomes. That's going to be an intractable - and sizeable - group for future American political leaders to deal with. Like driving the car with one foot on the brake.

Though we will be bombarded with Trump "news" for years to come, we need to develop a national equilibrium to keep our focus. Whatever happens to him in the swirl of litigations, happens to him.

We 350-million other souls in this country have got to keep our eyes on the horizon - not some daily courtroom drama of a deeply flawed ex-President. It's up to the legal system to deal with him and his actions. The rest of us need to leave his future there.

It's our futures that are the most important. As they should be.


Sarah Palin and ranked choice

The Dorothy Moon faction of the Republican Party has enlisted Sarah Palin to speak in Idaho Falls on August 19 about the supposed evils of ranked-choice voting. Palin’s 2022 loss of her statewide race for Congress should provide a ray of hope to the vast number of reasonable, pragmatic Idaho Republicans who feel they have been pushed out of their party by Moon’s narrow, super-committed extremist branch of the GOP. Palin did not lose because of ranked-choice. Rather, she simply fell out of favor with Alaska voters.

The reliably-conservative CATO Institute points out that, while Palin was losing her election bid, Alaska Republicans were “having one of their best statehouse showings ever.” The state’s GOP governor and senator were re-elected and Republican candidates did just fine in legislative races. Palin was viewed as having neglected Alaska and its important concerns, while her opponent had a record of working across the aisle to advance Alaska’s natural resource interests. Alaska races became more civil, competitive and issue-oriented with ranked-choice because candidates had to campaign to a wider audience of voters, instead of just the ones farthest to the right.

In contrast, since the Idaho GOP closed its primary in 2012, right-wing extremists have seized control of most of the party structure. Primaries have become divisive, focusing mainly on made-up culture war issues that do nothing to address serious problems facing the state. With the heavy-handed support of the so-called Idaho Freedom Foundation and out-of-state dark money, extremist candidates have been able to make elective office almost unattainable for responsible, pragmatic Republicans. I believe that traditional Republicans outnumber the extremists, but the extremist branch is much louder, adept at weaponizing non-issues and continually grasping for more power.

Centralization of party control amongst a small group of party bosses is the hallmark of Moon’s agenda. Purging a variety of loyal Republicans is a step toward Moon’s self-proclaimed goal of turning the GOP into a “private club” that most Idahoans can only observe from the sidelines.

Now, the Latah County party bosses are subjecting Representative Lori McCann, an exemplary legislator, to a grilling to see if she measures up to their extreme-right view of the world. She will undoubtedly be censured or reprimanded if it turns out that she uses her brain. Nothing like that would happen to Senator Dan Foreman, who is a disgrace to his legislative office. Incidentally,  ranked-choice voting could weed out extremists  like Foreman. Indeed, a far-right group, Action Idaho, has described how ranked-choice “would have sunk conservatives,” like extremists Chris Trakel, Elaine Price and Joe Alfieri in the 2022 primary.

The closed GOP primary resulted in Idaho’s 2022 loss of responsible Republican legislators like Senators Jim Patrick, Carl Crabtree, Jim Woodward and Jeff Agenbroad, as well as Representatives Greg Chaney, Paul Amador, Scott Syme and Jim Addis. Other reasonable Republicans could fall to the extremists in future elections unless the Open Primaries Initiative is enacted by the people.

Some have said they would prefer a top-two primary like those in Washington and California, or an open primary like Idaho had from 1930 until 2010. However, it does not make sense to hope that someday one of those options will magically materialize. The extremist-controlled Legislature will never enact an election reform measure that will break the grip of the extremists on Idaho elections. Reform can only come by way of a voter initiative.

There are only two ways forward in the foreseeable future. Either we continue with the dysfunctional closed GOP primary that has turned the Idaho political arena into a pointless gladiator spectacle, or we opt for real reform via the Open Primaries Initiative. The initiative may not be perfect in everyone’s eyes but it will be a major victory for the many thousands of traditional Republicans and independent voters who yearn for a return to reasonable, responsible governmental leadership in the Gem State.