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Sun., Feb. 10, 2013

Fix fly-by-night policy

I can’t help but get the feeling that the U.S. policy on drones goes something like this: “It sure is hard to figure out who the bad guys are and what they’re up to, so let’s deploy this handy technology and move on.”

Even the most heinous villains holed up somewhere are given the option of coming out with their hands up. And if law enforcement does end up blowing them away, the public will eventually become privy to the details. Yes, I know it’s more complicated in the war on terror, but that doesn’t mean we should surrender the principle of accountability.

The U.S. Justice Department “white paper” on the Obama administration’s drone policy reveals that justifications can be easily shifted to fit the guidelines. The red flag is the administration’s peculiar definition of “imminent threat,” which does not require clear evidence that anything will be happening soon.

Forgive me if I’m clinging too tightly to the standard definition of “imminent,” because it wasn’t that long ago that President George W. Bush said of Iraq: “Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof, the smoking gun that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud.”

As it turned, out, it was the evidence of a nuclear threat that went “poof!” – along with the alleged weapons of mass destruction.

I don’t have a foolproof remedy for heading off misguided missions, because I understand the need for secrecy in battling dark forces. But that doesn’t preclude the establishment of an after-the-fact accountability system.

What were the justifications? Did they turn out to be correct?

Answering those questions won’t be as easy as pushing a button, but skipping past them diminishes us as a nation.

Rational rejection. If that requirement to read Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” in high school were to gain traction in the Idaho Legislature, the education community need only follow the teachings of the author to fight it.

Sen. John Goedde, R-Coeur d’Alene, introduced the bill to tweak the Idaho Board of Education, which is blocking his wish for the state to adopt portions of the “Luna laws,” which were rejected by the voters. He isn’t seriously pushing the book mandate, but it compelled me to learn more about the libertarian author’s philosophy of objectivism, which states that it’s rational for people to act in their self-interest.

At the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights website, I found this statement on education: “Only a full separation of education and state allows for parents to choose how best to equip their children to function in the world. Anything less is a violation of the parents’ and child’s rights.”

Not exactly a ringing endorsement of public schools.

If students were to be indoctrinated by this book, it wouldn’t be long before public education was doomed. So it’s not in the rational self-interest of education officials to mandate such instruction. As a former school board trustee and current chairman of the Senate Education Committee, I wouldn’t think it would be of interest to Goedde either.

Word’s worth. Women in combat, gay marriage, legalized marijuana, immigration and health care reform, gun control legislation … boy, the “Don’t Tread on Me” troops must feel like the underside of an extra wide boot. And now Fox News has decided to squelch one of the main buglers for the tea party brigade, Sarah Palin. The network is reportedly in talks with the more moderate Scott Brown, the former Republican senator from Massachusetts.

The particulars of the Palin parting haven’t been reported, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Fox News wanted more work in exchange for that $1 million annual salary. Eric Ostermeier, a University of Minnesota political science professor with an enviable amount of free time, conducted a count of all the words Palin uttered during her three-year pundit stretch and concluded that she was paid $15.85 per word, popping up to comment about once every seven days. In a week’s time, I write three editorials and a column, totaling about 2,100 words. At the Palin rate, it would cost the newspaper $33,285 per week.

Hey, Mr. Murdoch! Need a Papa Grizzly?

Associate Editor Gary Crooks can be reached at or (509) 459-5026. Follow him on Twitter @GaryCrooks.

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