As dismal as I generally find the holiday season to be, I will say one thing for it: During the past three weeks or so of the year, I don't feel obliged to produce any serious stuff to fill this space. For those who think I fritter away an opportunity by writing silly predictions columns or silly advice columns, I say, Oh yeah? Well I think your whole damn holiday season and just about everything you do during it is silly, so don't come bitching to me about being silly when you're out inflating a giant Frosty on your front yard and worrying whether you should say "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays" to total strangers as you're throwing money away on crap that by the end of the month, your spoiled brat kids will either break, lose or forget they ever had!
While most of us would insist there is a time for silly and a time for serious, the realm of politics as often as not proves there is room under the same umbrella for both. Nowhere is that more true than the Idaho Legislature, and we have learned that even those things about Idaho's ruling party we consider the silliest produce consequences of the most serious nature.
Remember, for example, how ridiculous it seemed that leaders of the Idaho GOP felt they needed to restrict the primary process to party members only. They were convinced Democrats were slipping in by the thousands and voting for somewhat less-than-lunatic candidates who didn't live up to the strict ideological standards of the verifiably lunatic. It was a silly gesture insisted on by silly men. But silly or not, they got their way. And as a result of independents and undeclared voters no longer being able to chose between a relatively reasonable Republican and a... let us say... Mark Patterson-level Republican, our Legislature has turned harder and harder right. A serious situation indeed, considering it was already safely under the thumb of the Koch brothers and their surrogate, ALEC.
Surely you know of ALEC, but let me refresh you. The American Legislative Exchange Council is a consortium of some of the biggest corporate interests in the United States and beyond, and its only goal is to gain more and ever more power in state legislatures by flooding local markets with boatloads of politician-buying cash.
And what interest would rich, rich, rich people have in owning a sack full of legislative yokels from a backwater like Idaho?
Well, what else, silly? So they can get richer and richer and richer. Take that arrangement Idaho had with a private prison corporation. You know, that deal that will likely continue to cost us for years to come? You can't image that happened without a lot of inside legislative rigging, can you?
Or Tom Luna's efforts to auction off Idaho education to whomever put the most into his campaign coffers? Do recall, please, that it was legislative overlords who pushed through that parcel of privatization poop and who barely gave the opposition an opportunity to speak.
The point being, if it seems very little good happens in Idaho with such a Republican-dominated Legislature, we can be sure nothing bad happens in Idaho without their help, if not their instigation. And as adults who (presumably) no longer believe in fairy tales, we must recognize that the libertarian ideals so many of these goofy bastards espouse are more often than not just a smokescreen for another massive acquisition of publicly and commonly owned assets by privateers who don't give a shit for either ideals or the public interest.
This year, unless we fight like pissed-off Apaches, we will be watching the most extreme asset grab in our state's history. They want to put our publicly and commonly owned lands--Forest Service and BLM lands--under state control, which in Idaho Republicanese translates as: You blow enough cash my way... maybe set me up with a fat job once I get off this Legislature hayride... and I'll fix it so you can buy the whole damn state and turn it into an amusement park, if that's what you want.
Frankly, I have been avoiding this issue for months--ever since the rumblings for state control reached the surface. It is so utterly depressing and despicable that so few people, possessed as they are by an ethic of greed and a philosophy that describes only their own desires, could propose a change that will, if successful, alter the very nature of Idaho, forever and irrevocably. I have diverted myself with the sillier side of this column, twiddling my thumbs until I could think of the right words to argue against it. But I must admit this movement is almost beyond my ability to take it seriously, and the arguments against it will have to be as powerful and serious as the powers that are lined up behind it.
But it is vital that we resist this. Idaho is what it is for one reason only--the common lands. It has nothing whatsoever to do with some silly-ass illusions that the people here are exceptional, or that the good Old West is still alive here, or that we Idahoans would be better off if a sack of yokels from Canyon County (and points even dumber) were to assume control of those lands.
No, the Idaho that is worthy of love and loyalty is the Idaho of free, open and public lands. Our federal government, representing the interests of the rightful owners of those lands--the American people, all of 'em--is adequately fitted with checks and balances enough that it could never squander the Idaho we love for short-term gain.
But can we say the same for Idaho's leaders and lawmakers--seriously?