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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2002 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. 

For the week of August 7 - 13, 2002

Opinion Columns

Silly superstition paralyzes Sept. 11 travelers

Commentary by PAT MURPHY

Americans, by gosh, won’t be cowered by terrorists and will bravely go about their business.

Except on Sept. 11 this year.

On the first anniversary of Al Qaeda’s kamikaze attacks, so many Americans are superstitious about air travel on Sept. 11 that major airlines are cutting back 25 percent of their flights.

This groundless fear of flying plays right into the hands of terrorists. Panicky imaginations are paralyzing tens of thousands.

Even if a few terrorists conceivably were on the loose, just how many of the 13,000 airline flights normally operating on a weekday could they board?

And the chances of them commandeering an airliner is virtually nil: in this new age of hyper alertness, passengers and crew would overwhelm them, while flight deck doors would be impenetrable.

The Washington political class – Democrats and Republicans alike – hasn’t helped with fear mongering about threats to homeland America dams, tunnels, electricity networks, plus undocumented hints of Al Qaeda cells in the United States.

And contributing to public apprehension are none other than Vice President Dick Cheney and Attorney General John Ashcroft: Cheney has vanished into secret hiding places in the name of security since Sept. 11 (except for coming out of hiding for 44 Republican fund-raising appearances) and Ashcroft declines to use commercial flights for security reasons, choosing government aircraft – in contrast to President Bush’s appeal that the rest of us go about our business without fear.

If the worry warts want to really fret about something:

More than 15 times more Americans – well over 45,000 – will die this year on the highways and by hand guns (not to mention drowning and boating accidents) than died on Sept. 11, 2001, at the hand of terrorists.

The Idaho Legislature has the constitutional obligation "to establish and maintain a general, uniform and thorough system of public, free common schools."

But as parents, students, teachers and lawmakers themselves know, the state’s public school system is riddled with buildings that are unsafe or dilapidated.

So, as the result of a 1990 lawsuit, the Legislature was ordered to provide public schools with adequate funds to deal with the mess.

Now, 12 years later, 4th District Judge Deborah Bail is still hearing arguments in the case that also has been kicked around three times by the Idaho Supreme Court and debated by hemming-and-hawing legislators all this time.

Meanwhile, a full generation of students who entered first grade at the outset of the debate will graduate this year, and still there’s no solution.

Judge Bail, who’s molly-coddled the Republican-led Legislature, may finally be running out of patience: she signed an order in which she writes, "There should be no doubt in anyone’s mind – if the Legislature does not act, the court will." She didn’t set a deadline, however.

How long is 12 years to produce a solution to fix shoddy school buildings?

After being attacked at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, the unprepared and under armed United States mobilized and won World War II in less than four years.

And after President John Kennedy ordered the U.S. space program to land a man on the Moon, astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin stepped onto the lunar surface on July 20, 1969, less than 10 years after gearing up humankind’s most prodigious technological feat.

While in a fog about how to fix schools, it was a snap for Idaho lawmakers to dream up a $60 million renovation plan for the state Capitol.

The scandal is that now that legislators and Gov. Dirk Kempthorne have mismanaged state finances into crisis circumstances, they’ll probably plead after 12 years that they don’t have money to give schools a fair shake.

These are the politicians who argue that term limits would deprive the state of their expertise and experience.

Some expertise.



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