"No experiment can be more interesting than that we are now trying, and which we trust will end in establishing the fact, that man may be governed by reason and truth. Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues to truth. The most effectual hitherto found, is the freedom of the press. It is, therefore, the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions." --Thomas Jefferson to John Tyler, 1804.

Maybe the criticisms last year of a growing trend toward Thanksgiving shopping actually had an effect. The likelihood now is that fewer retailers will be open a week from today, and more employees will get a day off.

The San Francisco Business Times is reporting an extended list of retailers that plan to stay dark on Thanksgiving and reopen the day after, the (more) traditional Black Friday. It cited Staples specifically as an example of a retailer open last year and closed this, but indicated more would be doing the same.

The report said that “Many large retailers are closing down shop for Thanksgiving this year, and while they may also have employees’ best interests in mind, it has become more clear that having brick-and-mortar stores open during a holiday isn’t very helpful for the retailers’ bottom line anyway, especially with the rise of online shopping. Staying open on a major American holiday may be more trouble — and bad marketing — than it’s worth.”

Surely the Friday after Thanksgiving is early enough. – rs (photo)

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First Take


A friend sent a note recently recounting a discussion he had with an employee of Idaho’s Department of Fish and Game. My friend is more of a fly fisherman than a hunter. Nonetheless, they talked hunting. He said the Fish & Game employee stated the department is developing data which could show two out of three elk killed in Idaho annually are poached.

That number seemed high so I called my neigbhor, Brad Corkill, who lives a few miles down the road near Rose Lake, and is the north Idaho representative on the Fish & Game Commission.

Corkill said he too thought the number was high, but to a Fish & Game commissioner any number above that of tags sold is too high. He added the figure of two out of three would be hard to prove. It presumes a degree of hard, factual data the department does not yet possess.

If one includes in the “illegal take” the number for “party hunting” (The number shot by one member of a hunting party but someone other than the shooter puts their tag on the game) Corkill conceded the two of three number might be getting close to the real answer.

It should also be pointed out that the number for “road kill” is not utilized though it is an “untagged” taking. As long as one calls the department to report their taking the kill with them, it is legal to do so.

Nonetheless there is ample evidence Idaho has a serious poaching problem. Corkill referred me to Chip Corsi in the regional office. He was informative and helpful in digging into this issue.

Corsi said the number of illegally taken elk was thought to be high by many in the agency, but no one really knew how high. He thought their agency was getting increasingly better at drilling down on the real number and was doing more “focused research” to get at the actual total take. Still there was not enough evidence to warrant significant changes in the length of elk hunting season.

Both Corsi and Corkill praised the work of Citizens Against Poaching, an independent group made up largely of hunters who keep their eyes and ears open for people who brag about illegal takes or, as is often the case in poaching, multiple takes. They report sightings, rumors and suspicions to the agency for follow up.

Both were asked if they thought poaching was ingrained in north Idaho’s “culture?” The argument is the poaching that does occur is often necessity driven—-a hunter has little income, has to feed his family and keep the larder full, so he spotlights and shoots game from the road at night even though against the law. The second aspect of this argument is many north Idahoans living up the various creeks, draws and canyons feel any game on their property is fair game and their game. It is viewed as an extension of their right to the benefits of their land ownership.

It would appear also that many hunters do not view “party hunting” as illegal conduct and still view themselves as law-abiding citizens.

Both Corsi and Corkill firmly reject the “in the culture”view. Corsi said there may be some families who hold these views but indicated that at many of the poaching sites Fish & Game discover there are multiple kills perpetrated by hardened criminals—individuals who have committed or are commiting other crimes.

They acknowledge that when one hears a series of rifle shots after dark and a few days before a season opens, it is a poacher at work. Corkill pointed to the obvious: a person doesn’t sight –in his rifle after dark.

Both, though, believe the vast majority of north Idaho hunters are law-abiding citizens who recognize the Fish & Game department is a trustee who manages for the long-term, and whose goal is to create ample opportunities for Idahoans to enjoy hunting for years to come.

Corkill speaks eloquently about the evolution of game management philosophy and the great difference between the European approach and the American. He points out to anyone who will listen that in Europe the landowner does own the game. In the classic tale of Robin Hood one should recall his worst offence for which he was sentenced to die is that of killing the Duke’s deer.

As a consequence hunting in Europe is largely confined to the wealthy, which Corkill sees as tragic.

He also believes the public gets the nexus between future sustainability of big game and the need to be diligent in protecting the resource so the many may enjoy.

Still, when all is said and done, Fish & Game recognizes its responsibility to come up with a valid number on illegal take and to factor that into its calculation of what it takes to protect a resource in order to manage successfully in perpetuity. And while today they may not have a hard number before long they will. The result indeed may be shortening of seasons which can be laid at the feet of the poacher. If you see someone poaching, call Fish & Game. The elk they might be about to kill just could be the one meant for you.

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Buried in the news last Friday, behind the dreadful stories streaming from Paris, was word that a drone attack in Raqqa, a desolate town in northern Syria, had probably killed Mohammed Emwazi, notoriously known as Jihadi John, the brutal Islamic States’ terrorist of the horrendous beheading videos.

An Army press officer explained that Emwazi was the target of the attack, and confirmed that the drone missiles hit the target and that personnel – that’s plural – were killed. An unofficial report says there were three vehicles blown up, another says that at least three other individuals were in the targeted vehicles.

Although the drone can zoom a video in on a selected target close enough to read a license plate, this is all that has been released thus far. But this just begs more questions. In particular, who besides Emwazi were killed? Other members of Islamic States? Innocent civilians? Maybe women or children? Not clear.

There is an elaborate command structure for authorizing drone strikes, running from the lowest field commander up through the complete chain of command to the White House. Everybody up the ladder has to approve. One veto anywhere up the line, and the proposal is scrapped. Once it makes it to the White House, the President signs off on every concept plan — who the target is, why it is thought that the target is where it is said to be, where it will take place, etc., and what the collateral damage estimate is. The approval up the chain of command to this point is of the operation in concept or a CONOP. The actual go-ahead for a given shoot must be based upon a fully approved CONOP, and is by a smaller designated committee within the military; again, it has to be unanimous, but the President is not involved in the actual operations decisions.

For the targeting window to be considered suitable, whether for the operations concept or the specific shoot, there must be current, reliable intelligence reports that indicate a “low CDE,” meaning a low estimate of “collateral damage.” This is the military term for the women, children and other incidental civilians that might be in the path of the military operations. There is an actual international law compact on the issue of collateral damage that says, in effect, it is permissible for the military to conduct an attack that knowingly includes civilians within the target operations area where the expected loss of civilian life is not “clearly excessive” to the anticipated military gain. The compact does not quantify the term – it does not say exactly how disproportionate the mix has to be before it is permissible to intentionally include women and children in the attack zone.

Although John Brennan, current CIA director, says drone strikes are only used to apply “targeted, surgical pressure to the groups that threaten us,” Leon Panetta, a previous director of the CIA, explained it this way: “If you can isolate the individual and take the shot without impacting on women or children, then do it. But if you have no alternative and it looks like he might get away, then take the shot.” In other words, notwithstanding Brennan’s doubletalk, it is okay to take out a few women and children if the bad guy is about to get away.

All of this is shrouded in secrecy, and exact numbers are difficult to find and very hard to verify. From the reports available online, some from admittedly biased groups, it appears that when we target a specific individual, we kill far more additional people, including uninvolved civilians and even children, than we do in more generic attacks. The worst example may be our attempts to kill al Qaeda leader Ayman Zawahiri in 2006. Then, in two targeted drone strikes, we managed to kill 76 children and 29 adults, but not Zawahiri. In Pakistan several years later, we fired six separate drone attacks over a two year period in an attempt to kill one man – Qari Hussain, an al Qaeda Taliban leader – before bringing him down in October of 2010. In the effort, 128 people were killed, including 13 children. In a more recent compilation published in November of 2014, The Guardian reported that attempts to kill 41 designated targets to date resulted the deaths of an estimated 1,147 people as of November of 2014. This meant we were killing an average of 128 people in drone attacks for every targeted individual we went after. Serious questions are raised over just exactly how we define terms like “clearly excessive,” “surgical accuracy,” and “precise.”

None of this takes even one iota away from how horrible the terrorist attack on Paris was, nor justifies nor explains the atrocities it has brought to the French and the unbelievable grief suffered by the innocent victims’ loved ones there. But as we ponder the circumstances in Paris, answer this:

What do you suppose the going rate in collateral damage is today for a drone strike on a terrorist leader of the caliber of Emwazi – maybe two kids and a pregnant woman?

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The old world war – war as we’ve known it – is over. The new world war – as we’re learning in France, India, the Philippines, South Africa, England, Nigeria and elsewhere – has begun.

What we used to call “world war” really wasn’t. Many countries weren’t involved. Whole parts of the world remained peaceful during “world wars.” But, we called it “world war” as in WWI and WWII. Now, as the massacre of 130 or so civilians in France has joined massacres of thousands of others in dozens of countries, all of us are involved. We’re truly engaged in a first-ever, real “world war.”

War has evolved from a relative few on the battle field to the entirety of the world’s population. War has gone from the geographic isolation of army facing army to the new war – terrorist killings striking anyone, anywhere at anytime. The battlefront is now our world, our nation, our state, our street.

With the powerful exception of 9/11, America has been pretty much unscathed in this war thing. Oh, we’ve made our contributions of material, treasure and the lives of hundreds of thousands of young people over the years – all considerable contributions. Each, of course, affected many in our country. But, the nation as a whole – the entirety of our population – has never experienced the reality of being on the front lines – of being under fire – of participating in the battle. Of being the next casualty. Now, we are.

When I was eight or nine, I used to lie in front of my granddad’s old Sears Silvertone console radio and soak up news of where our various military services were fighting. I made little cardboard maps to keep track of where some of our naval fleets were involved – where the Sixth Army or the Eighth Air Force or other units were in Europe or North Africa or the Pacific- and their daily progress. Or the beatings they took. Looking back, it was probably that prolonged activity that led to my own military service and a long career in broadcast news.

But, one of the things I learned then – without really thinking about it – was that “world wars” were always fought “over there.” Somewhere else. Never within our nation’s borders. Never near me. So there was always this sense of detachment – a sense that, if I didn’t enlist or get drafted to go to battle, I wouldn’t be involved. I wouldn’t be harmed. Life would go on peacefully. I’d go to school tomorrow and never feel the horrors of war.

That sense of being a third party – of being only an observer and never a participant – that detachment and that false sense of security are over. For all of us.

Watching events unfold in France, several very personal thoughts came to mind. Like how many concerts I’d attended over the last 50 years or so – how many restaurants I’d been in for a fine meal or just pizza and a beer – how many large crowds I’d mingled with in various countries. All of those experiences uninterrupted by gunfire, hand grenades or a suicide bomber.

Then, like the settling fog blanket outside our living room windows here on Oregon’s central coast, something more realistic – more personally terrifying – filled my thoughts. The terrorists have won this new world war.

Saying something like that in a bar in one of the Northwest’s timber towns could get a guy killed. Some burly boozer would immediately be in your face to tell you “America has NEVER lost a war and NEVER will!” He’d be wrong, of course, but that happens a lot these days when it comes to people talking U.S. history with all the factual “education” of Limbaugh, Beck, O’Reilly, Coulter or Faux Neus.

What’s made terrorism such an effective tool for thousands of years is this: terrorists almost always succeed. Some guy tried to set his socks afire on a commercial jet in Michigan about 10 years ago but failed to get a flame. Still, for those last 10 years, millions of us have had to stand in our stocking feet in airport terminals all around the world. He won. Terrorists crashed three commercial jetliners on 9/11, killed nearly 3,000 people and millions of us haven’t set foot in an aircraft since then while our government immediately spent hundreds of millions of our tax dollars to revamp airline security which will never stop the attacks. Terrorism won.

Shopping centers have been the target of terrorists. Public buildings, big box stores, office towers, parking lots, churches and public schools, too. All have been struck and all have changed how they deal with the public. Ever notice those cement posts in front of the doors at Staples or Best Buy? Ever look at the cement planters and concrete-and-steel barriers around statehouses, in front of court houses or your city hall? How about the hydraulic barriers designed to flatten tires that surround the U.S. Capitol building? Tried to walk unchallenged into a college football game lately?

All a few terrorists have to do is set off some explosions in unsuspecting public places or use automatic weapons to kill a few dozen people at laundromats, drug stores, a bank, a car dealership or in an expensive bistro. Preferably in some little burg in middle America. Maybe blow a San Francisco cable car off its tracks or bomb a cruise ship. A little murder – a little devastation – goes a long way. Terrorists – really committed folk not afraid to die – have changed our world completely.

The night of the Paris massacre, President Obama said “this country will stand with all other countries to bring terrorists to justice.” Sounds good. Sounds proper. Sounds like what you’d expect the head of a country to say. But it’s absolutely impossible. All but one of the murderers in Paris blew themselves up with suicide belts. Cops killed one.

When people wrap themselves in explosives and are fanatically dedicated to their mission, life, as we know it, means nothing to them. They want to die. They’re dedicated to their own deaths. Their sense of justice is death for a cause greater than themselves. Even if caught, death – to them – is nothing to fear. We are powerless to administer “justice.” That’s why terrorism is so effective. Historically, it always has been.

War as we’ve known it – war “over there” – has ended. The war we face now – world war – is as close as your nearest WalMart.

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What’s indisputable about the shooting incident north of Council is the assessment by Lieutenant Governor Brad Little, that, “It’s an absolute tragedy.”

Try to get a lot more specific than that, and you rapidly find questions outnumbering answers – and that is a problem. We only know part of what happened that night.

Little told the Idaho Statesman, “The issue is the attorneys for the Yantis family are going out and painting a picture, and the sheriff’s deputies, the sheriff, the Attorney General’s Office, the State Police have got protocols that they’ve got to follow. And nature abhors a vacuum.”

The clear part of the case is that in the evening of November 1 a motorist collided on Highway 95 north of Council with a large bull. Neither emerged well; the humans were taken to a hospital, and the bull’s leg was shattered. Two Adams County Sheriff’s deputies arrived at the scene, and the bull’s owner, Jack Yantis, was asked to come by to put the bull down. Not long after he and family members arrived, he was shot to death. His wife had a heart attack and also was hospitalized.

The Yantis family, through an attorney, has as Little noted provided a description of the missing pieces of the story.

On Tuesday night Adams County Sheriff Ryan Zollman spoke to a crowd of about 300 (that’s more than a third of Council’s population), but said he himself lacked answers to many of the questions, since the investigation is being run mainly through the Idaho State Police.

He didn’t name the two deputies involved (figuring out who they are probably wouldn’t be hard in such a small county anyway) but did say both were experienced, one with five years in law enforcement, the other with 15. So much for the “couple of wet-behind-the-ears rookies” theory.

Body cameras have been issued to officers in the county, which raises the hope that the incident may have been fully captured – exactly the kind of incident where cameras could help establish just what did happen. But Zollman said he didn’t know if the officers were wearing them.

They keynote comment, though, the one explaining why 300 people in such a small town showed up and felt the way they did, may have come from the member of the audience who said this:

“If you’re so committed to the safety of the community, then why am I so scared?”

The tragic nature of what happened is obvious, and there are good reasons for questioning what the deputies did and why they did it. That’s one argument for the Idaho State Police and others investigating to share with the public as much information as they can, as soon as they can.

Because there’s also this: The news media has been full of reports in recent months about law enforcement shootings and violence around the country, and Council is one of those places where the message goes forth on a very regular basis, from media, organizations and politicians, that government isn’t to be trusted.

The Council shooting probably is more an aberration of some kind than part of a pattern. If that’s the case, and state officials want to make that point, they should waste no time releasing the results of their investigation.

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Idaho Idaho column Stapilus

Probably this is what most people (us included) suspected last night as word about the violence in Paris broke: That ISIS was responsible. This morning, ISIS claimed responsibility. Goes further to show how sick that organization is, that it would take responsibility for something like this.

The violence in Paris obviously calls for blowback – you can hardly leave it unanswered – but it also calls for intelligent blowback, a considered response. ISIS presumably wanted to get something, a specific response, out of what it did: It wants the west to respond, and in a particular way. We might want to consider carefully what that response would be, and if we’d be wise to give it to them.

Panic is not a good response on our part. Neither is flailing. ISIS should be targeted; but we ought to think about how, and how to do it in such a way that it cannot benefit from what we do. – rs

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First Take

The race is a long way from over, but this Donald Trump speech in Fort Dodge, Iowa, may be one of the most referenced candidate speeches down the road. Appalling and strange, sometimes effective, sometimes weird, it’s a real moment. What will Fort Dodge mean down the road? – rs

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First Take