"I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions. But laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors." - Thomas Jefferson (appears in the Jefferson Memorial)

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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.

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Rainey

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The extended coverage of the Umpqua Community College massacre – much of it wrong or unnecessarily overwrought – has inundated about everyone with a communications device. Lots of real and deserved anguish from and for many folk. But also a lot of fully expected “duck-and-run“ by politicians, strained voices on both sides of the gun debate with nothing helpful to add – also fully expected – with no new answers to keep these killings from continuing. Again.

When reviewing reports of some of the 294 multiple gun murders in the country as of the first of the month – and throwing in Sandy Hook Elementary, Aurora’s movie massacre, the Clackamas shopping center and the rest we’ve become so familiar with – there’s not much new in this one.

They all seem to follow the same script i.e. unsuspecting victims, public areas where we’ve always assumed our safety, a depressed/suicidal/angry or otherwise deranged young male, multiple weapons, a shooter’s decision to die (most of the time), massive law enforcement response, demands for gun control, demands for less gun control, excuses, blame-casting and denial. That about covers it.

But the UCC shooting near Roseburg, Oregon, did have one new wrinkle. A shooter, with no apparent particular religious faith, is said by survivors to have tried to determine which of his targets would die immediately or more slowly for their faith. Which impending victim would say he/she was a Christian – or believed in God – and which wouldn’t. And that got me thinking. Would I take a bullet for my faith? Would I take a bullet for Jesus? Would you? Would anyone? Especially when you’ve just seen fellow classmates killed after answering?

Each person to be murdered or wounded was reportedly asked beforehand about a religious belief? If the answer was “Yes” or “I’m a Christian” or “I believe in God,” the shooter put a bullet in the respondent’s head. In the case of other answers, there was a body shot which might – or might not – kill but would certainly inflict huge pain. It can be surmised most victims – dead or alive – answered one way or the other. What’s not clear is what would’ve been the case if someone responded with “Hebrew,” “Muslim” or “Atheist.” A wound or dead on the classroom floor?

Taking a bullet for Jesus. Not something you can give a quick answer to.

History is full of instances of Christians being killed for no other reason than professing their faith. Or denying it so as not to be killed. One of the first such recorded was when Salome danced and got the head of John the Baptist as payment for services. Or, maybe when Jesus was being tried and sentenced to death. All of his followers – the ones closest to him on this earth – fled. Peter – the “Rock” – even denied him three times in a span of a few hours. No “bullet for Jesus” among even his closest companions. Of the 12, only his brother, John, came to the crucifixion. But, eventually, all of them died violent deaths for being Christians.

We’re told the UCC shooter had expressed an interest in the Irish Republican Army or Irish Catholicism or some such. But he wasn’t known to be affiliated with any religious grouping personally. So why was the questioning of a certain victim’s faith important during what he believed were his own final hours? The answers to that – if answers there be – died with him. Just as well.

Still, there’s that other question. Would you – would I – tell someone with a rifle aimed at us that we were practicing Christians? Would we do that after seeing classmates and friends just murdered for their answer? What would our responses be?

To my deep personal shame – as a self-professed “Christian” – I have to say I don’t know my answer. Believing a statement affirming my “faith” could get me killed on-the-spot, makes the stakes as high as any I’ll face in this life. Opening my mouth – much less coming up with a truthful answer – seems impossible.

But, if I could speak, what words would come tumbling out? A plea for my life made to someone intent on killing? Some sort of effort to get this mad, irrational person to stop in the middle of a mad, irrational act to which he seemed committed? Words of prayer for him and the victims he’d just created? Would I say loudly and firmly, “Yes, I AM a Christian?” Or – nothing. How would I respond?

What would be YOUR answer?

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Rainey

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Remember when a teacher/professor once gave you a low grade you didn’t think you deserved? As you dealt with the shock of the perceived injustice, you probably said something like “I’ll get him” or “I could just kill!” Well, now a days, friends, you can actually do that.

About a year ago, a grad student at the University of Maryland just picked up the old .45, made a beeline for the prof’s office and BANG! No more undeserved, low grades from that S-O-B. You showed him!

Sorry to say, that educational tragedy was not a first. No, not by a – pardon the phrase – long shot. Universities, colleges and even public schools have been the locales of low grade avengers, fraternity haters, slighted sorority pledges, disgruntled athletes and even a jilted staff member or academic or two. This week it was an apparent love triangle at Mississippi’s Delta University. The Smith & Wesson solution has been all too apparent.

Which got me thinking. Aside from the ivy-clad walls of higher education, where else have we innocents been used as clay pigeons by the unhinged. Let’s see, now. Theaters, bars, gymnasiums, school lunchrooms, banks, classrooms, grocery stores, shopping malls, car dealerships, doctors and dentists’s offices, beauty salons, barbershops, interstate highways, airports and airplanes, cruise ships, marinas, football, basketball or baseball seating areas, sidewalks, a plethora of stores in shopping malls, mobile home parks, funeral homes, churches, synagogues, museums, art galleries, military bases, hospitals, nursing homes, city halls, county courthouses, state capitol buildings, under the U.S. Capitol dome, the White House, backyards, living rooms, bedrooms and – as in the Pistorius case – the ever lovin’ bathroom.
In case I missed a few, go ahead and add your own.

The American public has been worried for years about “right to privacy” and being under surveillance by cameras here, there and everywhere. Not me. I gave up stressing about strange folks watching and listening to my comings and goings long ago. The damned devices are everywhere with more coming. Including those nearly silent drones we can’t hear and don’t see whirring over our heads. Can’t be stopped. No, Sir! I’ve just made up my mind to dress better and pay more attention to my personal appearance with so many agencies and governments watching and listening.

I’m far more stressed by going to a movie. Or, shopping for new clothes. Or, wandering a used car lot. Or, sitting in a prayerful mood at church. Or, jogging the nearest greenbelt – driving the interstate – sitting at a stoplight – stopping for a latte. I get nervous now in my dentist or doctor’s waiting room. Noises I used to think were cars backfiring or blasting from a movie soundtrack now send me behind a tree or under the seat in front.

We used to be the good ol’ U.S. of A. But now, U.S. of A means “United State of the Armed.” Thanks to the N-R-A – and all the political cowards that won’t tell ‘em to take their money and “shove it” – we’ve traded our “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness” for becoming shooting targets at any moment we try to reach for those lofty guarantees.

The same bastards who wrap themselves in a “Constitution” they’ve likely never read – and which far too many don’t understand – are in danger of taking away the rights assured by that document for the rest of us. Including those who HAVE read the damned thing. And DO understand it.

How did we get to be a nation that witnesses Americans of all ages being blown away because of a idiotic gun culture instead of living under our recognized system of laws and of enforcement of those laws?

When the boys in Philly signed off on the Constitution in 1776, they realized a lot of the new American communities needed to be protected when the men of those communities were out fighting in the Continental Army. So they provided for a “well-armed militia” to protect the home front. Good idea then. Before creation of the National Guard as an instrument of “protecting the home front.”

Second Amendment rights have been twisted into a contorted definition meaning any breathing soul has a “right” to be able to kill anyone he/she pleases regardless of competence or mental state. That has to stop!

The N-R-A uses a scoring system to determine which member of Congress will receive an uncontested primary or access to outsized political handouts. The higher the score, the more loved/rewarded you are by its old PAC. Well, here’s a “breaking news” flash for Wayne LaP. I’ve checked on your rankings for every politicians on my ballot in 2016. Any of them scoring higher than zero will not get my vote. Makes no difference the political party or where that person is on any other issue.

I used to loudly condemn “single issue” voting. But this issue – an Americans’ right to live life without being in someone’s cross hairs – is just too damned important.

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Rainey

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Happily watching a public falling out among political thieves is one of my more harmless diversions – particularly when it’s the right wing where such events are regular and always predictable. It’s happening again. This time, it’s the big guys. The really big guys. And a whole political party. And I don’t mean that jerk Trump. And it’s been a really big insider secret.

A couple of years ago, I noted in a previous column how the then-reclusive Kochsters were gutting the top level staff of the National Republican Committee. Charley and Davy wanted to step up their cancerous growth on the body politic. So, they went looking for talent. They settled on the top GOP staff and proceeded to lure many of ‘em out with big bucks. Really big bucks.

They nearly cleaned out the information technology office at the top. They also took several department folk who knew the ins and outs of mailing lists and operations of GOP field offices. They paid highly – read richly bought – a pollster or two. Poor ol’ Reince Priebus almost wound up alone.

They did one other – at the time – curious thing. Charley and Davy laid out some of their greenbacks to help what was left of the GOP crew develop some new computer software – programming that would identify such things as all state office staffs, workers – paid and unpaid – and a very snazzy voter identification system. Rience apparently agreed if only in an effort to stop the talent raiding and keep at least some of his staff intact. The deal was the GOP would do the development work and the Koch’s would pay the bill. For two years or so. Then they’d talk again.

Some months back, it was time for that talk. But Charley and Davy had other ideas. Apparently, in the original agreement, there was a clause allowing the Kochs to duplicate all that software and all the goodie information it contained. And guess what’s believed to have happened?

The Koch’s – who have more money than the national GOP AND Trump combined – and who can raise more money than the national GOP – now apparently have at least a working copy of all the computer files and all the voter info the national GOP thought it owned exclusively. It appears the stage is set for Charley and Davy to step up and over Reince’s body and what’s left of the NRC and go straight to voters with ad campaigns, direct mail, registration efforts and voter identification. Whoops! Wha’ hoppened?

The plain fact is the Kochs appear now even more in a position to become major and even more viable actors on the American political stage. They’ve got the bucks – they’ve got a new and higher public profile – and they’ve got direct access to millions of voters. Seems to me all this mostly defines what a political party is supposed to be. They now seem to be one!

The Kochs and all their various political fronts have been playing fast and loose with the truth for several years now. So have Priebus and his minions. Rience has dictatorially tried to limit debates, limit media access, pick and choose media “favorites,” stack the cards for who gets the most national GOP support. Hint: those running for office that sign “no tax” pledges, hold the line on abortion, help disenfranchise whole classifications of voters and generally see things his way.

But now, all the GOP office-holders – and would-be GOP office-holders – have a new voice in their ears. Make that “voices.” Trump. And Charley and Davy. Directly. Distinctly. With the background sound of dollars clinking. Dollars they own. Dollars they can give. Dollars they can withhold. More of ‘em than the national GOP.

It would seem the Koch boys have – or will soon possess – a parallel Republican Party. It would also seem the boys have reduced – or are about to reduce – the national GOP to National Republican Party Lite.

Now, some reading this may say “Look, Rainey. The National Republican Party is a recognized national political entity with a long history and lots of resources. These Koch guys may have big bucks but they’re just a couple of guys. And, while they may have some clout, they’re more like the tail on the elephant.”

Oh, yeah, sez I? Consider what a teenager with a bad complexion and an anti-social streak can do with his laptop in his basement in Cincinnati. One such teen can use today’s technology to infiltrate federal computers, bring large banks to their knees with a few keystrokes and tap into national security files. All with just a bit more knowledge about technology than the average bear. And the Koch’s ain’t your “average bears.”

With massive amounts of information they now apparently “own,” Charley and Davy can do a lot more than that Cincinnati kid. With their various front organizations, a heavy hand in the affairs of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) – which has operatives in every state capitol – and with the political propensity of many political candidates to grovel for folks/companies with big bucks, seems to me the Koch’s are more scary now than they’ve ever been. Being “outed” by the media hasn’t reduced their clout. It’s just easier to see what that clout is and how/where they use it.

The public falling out of thieves. But it’s really more than that. It’s about the largest power grab in American politics in the last 80-90 years. And it almost got past us.

This is something that needs watching. Notice I didn’t say “fun to watch.” ‘Cause “fun” it ain’t!

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Rainey