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Posts published in “Day: October 27, 2015”

Government by destruction


For the last couple of decades, the Republican Party’s been hellbent on not just changing various levels of government but dedication to deliberately destroying them. The challenge for these zealot absolutists has been not to govern once in office but to dismantle what they see as too much government. In most cases, they don’t know how to govern. And they’re wrong. But they’ve succeeded in making things difficult for millions of us.

Federal budgetary sequestration was their first dubious success. The still operable - but almost never mentioned - spending stranglehold on nearly all things federal has crippled everything from scientific research to public education to military capabilities to food sizes on the school lunch program.

For taxpayers in the West Ada School District in Idaho, the Republican wrecking crew has brought this dismantling of an excellent, working board down to a very, very local level. Largely driven by three school board zealots, the state’s largest - and one of the most successful - districts, has lost the talents of a gifted and supremely dedicated school superintendent.

Linda Clark’s 37-year history is well-documented. She is a respected voice for public education, not just in Idaho, but nationally with leadership roles in many regional and national organizations. She has been a champion for K-12 education, brought about many significant changes and worked in harmony with dozens of previous board members for more than a decade. An exemplary professional with a very public record. Until two of these political destructors were elected to the West Ada Board a few months ago.

Of the two, the most damaging haranguer and loudest voice is that of a guy who used to be a teacher and administrator in the public system. Someone with his own personal school employment problems. He’s been an incessant pain-in-the-ass since his first board meeting and has made no secret he wanted Clark out of her job. He’s redirected the school board’s attention away from it’s primary mission of setting policy and directing management of district educational efforts to a personal, very public attack on Clark’s tenure as superintendent.

As she resigned, Clark said “the Board” - this guy, his hand-maiden acolyte and another member - had spent their recent time “directing” things without once having a conversation with her about details of district management issues, policies or administration. Their primary contacts with her over three month, she said, were to talk about getting her to retire shortly or to pursue details of her contract status as determined by previous boards. They’ve even demanded all of her emails, a la Hillary Clinton.

It’s only a few days since the donkey dung hit the fan in this unnecessary embarrassment. My guess is some of the more rational community and civic leaders in the district will step up to Clark’s side. A recall drive against the two main troublemakers had been previously talked of by Clark’s immediate predecessor in the superintendents’s job. While what’s left of any local adult media goes about reporting from the news releases and other handouts, I hope one or two of the brighter ones does some checking on the backgrounds of the two main antagonists. The public needs to know who these people are, what baggage - personal and professional - they carry and let the public balance their “professionalism” and effectiveness against Linda Clark’s.

Viewed with a broad perspective, this Idaho situation bears close resemblance to the machinations we’ve had in Congress. Again, the one common, over-arching fact in both cases is these Republican zealots are not there to govern. They don’t know how to govern. They’re there to destroy - to tear down - to gut whatever level of government they were chosen by a minority of voters to represent. We’ve watched Congress devolve into an ineffective pile of the aforementioned donkey dung as an intransigent minority has crippled the majority into surrender. Millions of people are being hurt, responsiveness to voters has disappeared, lobbyists have become the ruling class and a handful of billionaires move these GOP place-sitters like so many chess pieces.

The national embarrasment of trying to find someone - anyone - to become Speaker of the House - second in line to be President of the United States - has got to have foreign governments looking at us like we’re a bunch of idiots trying to become a more responsible banana republic. I give Paul Ryan 90 days - make that 60 days - before these cretins stab him where it hurts. He will unify no one. These destructive voices trust no one, will turn on each other for little to no reason at all, and will turn on Ryan the minute he tries to use his authority to accomplish something they don’t like. Which is anything - anything - they disagree with. Politics - governance - the art of compromise - none of these a part of their Captain Destructo worlds.

From the West Ada School District to the banks of the Potomac, we’re being eaten by a cancer of zealotry and unguided hatred of all things governmental. Large doses of voter chemotherapy - accompanied by some surgery at the ballot box - are needed if we are to ever experience again a functional, people-serving system of government.

In Meridian, Idaho, at the moment, the patient is especially sick.

First take/bases

Some weeks ago I posted on Facebook a link to a summary list of U.S. military bases around the world - hundreds of them, more than 600 by that count, leading to my question of why we need so many bases around the world. I got some gentle blowback, the main thrust of which was that the count and the list was too simplistic. Many of the "bases," the response went, were actually just tiny outposts, some maybe unmanned, nothing like what we think of as a military base. Fair enough. Military bases no doubt were a lot more varied than the list or post seemed to allow for, and the reality probably was more complex than I'd allowed for. Happily, I was able to follow up in reading a new book (published in late August) called "Base Nation: How U.S. Military Bases Abroad Harm America and the World" by David Vine. I would recommend those Facebook readers and anyone else interested in the subject (all Americans should be) pick it up and read for the details, which Vine supplies. He gets into the wide variety and nature of U.S, military bases overseas, and points out that while fewer than 70 are really big bases ("Little Americas" like Ramstein in Germany, which look like full-scale U.S. cities transplanted to another country), many others are substantial, and many of the little ones (called "Lily Pads") may carry large costs and implications even when few military personnel are assigned there. Vine also points out that some bases are run by contractors - and a few are even owned by contractors and leased back to us (and used by our military), so we can maintain the fiction we have no formal military base there. This is a subject on which more of us really ought to be more conversant. After reading "Base Nation," I think I am, at least somewhat more than I was. - rs