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Opinion Column
For the week of May 2 through May 8, 2001

Full cost of delay yet to come

Commentary by PAT MURPHY

Penny-wise-pound-foolish Idaho legislators who’ve hemmed and hawed on spending enough to bring public schools up to par should heed the painful lessons of Arizona’s lawmakers.

For years, the Arizona Legislature ¾ Republican-controlled as is Idaho’s and just as penurious about schools ¾ defied a court order to reform school funding that left poor districts with crumbling schools.

Now, 10 years after a lawsuit was filed, Arizona is forced to spend $1 billion ¾ repeat, $1 billion with a big B ¾ to bring schools just up to minimum standards.

The Idaho Legislature’s delay in fully funding school needs will, in the long run, simply cost more. By trying to make frugality a political virtue, Idaho politicians have stuck taxpayers with a far bigger bill that increases every year of delay.


In 1981, Don Paradis was sent to Idaho state prison, including 15 years on Death Row for a murder he didn’t commit. Now, Paradis has been released after sickening disclosures in court that, among other things, prosecutors withheld evidence that could’ve acquitted him 20 years ago.

Paradis is one of dozens of inmates around the country who’ve been ordered released after re-opened cases showed that police, prosecutors, judges and jurors erred.

So, what’s done about prosecutors and judges who failed as guardians of justice?

Judges earn handsome retirement pensions while continuing to deliver life-or-death decisions, and political prosecutors routinely run for reelection on platforms boasting of how many they’ve sent to the slammer or Death Row.

Meanwhile, victims of judicial incompetence lost most of their lives behind bars, which no amount of compensation can restore.

Reasonable people would expect these judges and prosecutors to be publicly reprimanded or, in cases of gross dereliction, stripped of their offices.

But the American justice system is reluctant to punish its own, the way it levies out punishment to some innocents.


Isolated by two oceans from the great wars, Americans enjoy a myth about war ¾ that ground troops in the fury of battle can somehow distinguish between civilians and combatants.

In recent months, stories have emerged from the Korean War and Vietnam that U.S. combat units may have slaughtered women and children. A furor has erupted in some quarters.

To impute criminal behavior to former U.S. Sen. Bob Kerrey, awarded the nation’s highest tribute for heroism, the Medal of Honor, for the death of civilians in a Vietnam hamlet a generation ago is ridiculous, to suggest an investigation is hideous.

Killing of non-combatants has been a matter of implied U.S. military policy if not advertised as such.

In World War II, massive incendiary bombing raids on Japanese and German population centers were routine ¾ raids that destroyed whole cities in infernos and claimed countless lives.

The two atomic bombs dropped on Japan without regard to who would die attests to random death ordered by U.S. policymakers.

Although some demand higher standards for ground troops, massive civilian casualties are routinely accepted and expected when artillery units, air force bombers and naval guns rain death on distant targets.

The sorrowful admission of civilian killings by Bob Kerrey’s Navy SEAL unit is not an indictment of him, but merely new testimony to the utter senselessness of war and the impractical moral demands placed on troops trying to survive in battle.



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Copyright © 2001 Express Publishing Inc. All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited.