Archive for October, 2015

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 embarrassment 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.

Midst all the media coverage of the student massacre at Oregon’s Umpqua Community College in the last month – some good – some over-the-top – some just plain wrong – there was a short interview you may have missed. Too bad, because it offered some very good support for those of us who argue against concealed carry weapons. On campus or anywhere else.

In the first hours of reporting, when accurate information was hard to come by, one young Oregon reporter got hold of a 30-something student who’d been in the building while the shooter was doing his killing. The interviewee didn’t see the shooting but heard it and it was close. Like most on campus, when he realized what was happening, he thought for a moment – then took off running away.

The 30-something interviewee was an average fella – baseball cap, windbreaker, some facial hair and a quiet manner of speaking. An average looking guy. What set him apart – and what the interviewer never quite figured out how to handle – was the fact that the guy had a loaded pistol in his belt. Along with his carry permit. Took ‘em when he got out of his truck to go to his first class.

So, here’s the scene. A 20-something with four weapons is killing students in one part of the building and a 30-something with a pistol in his belt is hearing the shots fired and – after thinking for a minute – he splits without going toward the classroom where the murders are being committed. At that very minute. If what it takes to stop bad guys is “a good guy with a gun,” why did the “good guy” leave?

The pistol-packing guy’s answer was spot on!

“If I had opened fire,” he said, “when the cops got there, they might have thought I was the shooter and killed me.” In all the gun debate, no truer words were ever spoken.

In my younger days, I did a lot of “ride alongs” with cops. Some authorized. Some not. Here are some of things I picked up that make me a believer in the words spoken by that young Roseburg fella. Police patrolling is most often lots of quiet, punctuated at times by a sudden emergency. Might be a wreck, a break-in, a domestic battle, a bank alarm. Or a “shooting in progress.” When the dispatcher says “Code Three,” that means “get there now” with lights and siren. The quiet ends immediately.

The flashing lights and the noise begin. Immediately. Study after study has shown an officer’s adrenaline goes straight up. Doesn’t make any difference if it’s a veteran or a rookie. The body’s response to that call to immediate action is the same. And that’s not a bad thing because that’s when the training is supposed to kick in and cops – and other emergency responders – do what they’re supposed to do.

That adrenaline rush continues at the scene. It will likely be above normal until whatever prompted the emergency is resolved. Which is why you see lots of firemen and police officers sitting or leaning against their equipment after things are settled. The adrenaline has stopped pumping and the body is returning to normal. It’s “coming down.”

But go back to what the 30-something said. An armed officer – possibly a heavily-armed SWAT team member – enters a classroom full of people where he’s been told to expect a civilian shooter who’s firing shots in all directions and who’s known to have already killed one or more. The cop comes through the door ready to fire. Certain he must fire.

But, before he pulls the trigger, he has to determine – in a split second – who’s “the bad guy with a gun.” And “who’s the good guy with a gun.” He has that split second to decide and take a shot. Just that fast! And suppose what he sees is the “good guy” taking a shot at the “bad guy.” But how does the officer know? Which one appears – in that split second – to be the bad guy? Maybe the “good guy?”

And that’s what stopped the 30-something with a gun from getting involved in an “active shooter” situation hat day on the UCC campus. You might say – in very long hindsight – he should have tried anyhow. He might have saved one or more lives. I say – he did the right thing. And, truth be known, I’d bet those armed officers would say the same.

Despite what the loonies at the NRA and their gun-hugging followers say, teachers, frightened school children, movie goers huddled under seats and people in department store aisles don’t wear tags saying “GOOD GUY.” In split seconds, lawmen have to read a situation, make a shooting decision and take action. Shoot! Don’t shoot! Often, they have no idea which civilian may be a shooter. Or, which may be an innocent trying to run away.

Arming people – allowing concealed carry in bars, stores and campuses large and small – is not the answer. We already have guns going off at the check stands killing people (Idaho) and bar arguments ending in sudden death (Arizona and Texas).

For my money, the armed 30-something on the Oregon campus that day made the right decision. Took his concealed gun and got out of the way of officers with shooting of their own to do.

For my money, he had better presence of mind than the whole NRA.

A bullet for Jesus

Author: admin

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?

A sheriff scofflaw

Author: admin

Some time ago, I wrote in this space of Oregon’s Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin and his 2013 temper-tantrum letter to Vice President Biden.

Hanlin was putting the VP on notice that he – and now more than 20 other Oregon lawmen – would not be enforcing any new federal gun laws. Further, Hanlin bluntly told VP Biden, his officers would arrest any federal types that came into “his” county to enforce such laws. So there!

Well now, our nation’s latest gun massacre of innocent Americans has taken place in Hanlin’s county, about seven miles from his desk. We’ve got nine grieving families, hundreds of saddened friends and relatives, the cold body of a deranged killer and a national media trying to get Hanlin to say the blood-letting has given him reason to re-evaluate his position.

I know Hanlin. And I’ll give ol’ Wolf Blitzer the Sheriff’s ultimate response. “NO! There will NOT be a change.” Wolfie can take that to the bank.

In my own Oregon county, we’ve got another badge-toter saying he has better things to do. Oregon’s scofflaw lawmen aren’t alone. Many hundreds of these artless dodgers across the country are taking a similar defiant and dangerous stance on gun laws. While all have sworn various oaths to uphold state and federal constitutions, the plain fact is – they aren’t.

Like that crazy, in-it-for-the-money Kentucky county clerk who won’t issue marriage licenses to gay couples, these guys have set themselves apart from the rest of us by openly flouting both their oaths and the law. That clerk, by the way, has signed a book deal and has an agent talking to movie and TV producers. I’m waiting for one of these sheriff guys to follow suit.

There are probably lots of excuses for these “tough” law enforcement guys to hide behind. You’re certain to hear Hanlin’s choice before this is all put to bed and we’re “shocked” by another mass killing spree elsewhere. I’ll give you one scenario I’ve thought about for awhile.

Most sheriffs I know are elected to office. They have to become politicians and openly compete. They have to solicit endorsements from other local political heavyweights, recruit volunteers and raise money. Just like others who want to be on the city council, the county commission or the legislature. Those “talents” are not in the official job descriptions we have for our local law enforcement chiefs. But they’re real.

Playing into that is the fact most people who run for sheriff – and in some communities chief of police – have many years of experience behind them. That’s their prime requirement to compete for the job. In that regard, their concern about future retirement at the public trough is no different from any other civil servant working for any other level of government. Like the rest of us, they’re looking for future monetary security.

Now, given those two factors – personal future job concerns based on all the years of employment already served and having to be a politician who doesn’t want to make enemies among the voters needed to keep you in office – you’ve got a toxic mixture. If the sheriff goes around willy-nilly enforcing all those pesky laws, that could mean stepping on a voter’s toes – or even worse, on those dollar donor’s pinkies. So, well, you can just see longevity in the job would be sorely threatened.

Over the years, I’ve known many, many lawmen at all levels of government. Private, too. The vast majority have been honorable and carried their responsibilities with courage and respectability. Until you mix politics – money and votes – into the mix. Then, my respect factors have taken hits.

I’m not saying the best course would be to appoint or hire sheriffs from the open market. Lots of problems there, too. But we can’t have effective enforcement of our laws – ALL our laws – if fear of losing votes or political support or campaign funding factors into how and which laws are effectively enforced.

Sheriffs know their constituents. They get a feeling for how much enforcement is going to be tolerated and when there will be resistance – even armed resistance- as we’re seeing across the country right now. The easy way out is to not provoke that pushback by aggressive sheriffing. In Oregon and other Western states, gun laws create pushbacks. And while that means public safety is often compromised – and it really is – by looking the other way and letting gun laws slide, some of these guys think that’s important to their political and economic futures.

That’s not the kind of sheriff I want in the job. The guy who blasted nine people off the face of the earth in Roseburg, Oregon, had no concern for the political future of his victims. Or, the economic future of Sheriff Hanlin. If Hanlin and these other guys want to choose which laws they’ll enforce for the good of their retention in office, it’s time voters who need and expect full lawful protection in all instances choose someone else to do the job.

One other thing about Hanlin’s performance bears noting. He told reporters they would never hear him say the name of the shooter. Since Hanlin made himself the chief spokesman between the sheriff’s office and the public, where should news people go to get that name?

Turns out a Los Angeles news bureau came up with it. Hanlin has yet to confirm – or deny – the information.

One of the prime duties of law enforcement, when acting as the lead agency in an emergency or crime, is to get as much information to the public as possible in the shortest time. Hanlin personally put himself in that spot, yet wouldn’t disclose important information his staff had developed and confirmed. And which the public had a right to know.

Seems Sheriff Hanlin won’t enforce laws he doesn’t like and won’t fulfill his public obligation when faced with a situation he finds personally objectionable. Could be he should consider another line of work where the duties he swears to uphold aren’t so personally distasteful.