Human rights resonate with the invisible, the voiceless behind the concertina wire. (And, by definition, the voiceless are not a powerful interest.) When human rights reel forward, most casualties of injustice can only rattle their ankle chains in appreciation. As a political consultant would observe, safeguarding the rights of the accused doesn't exactly poll well.
Washington U.S. Rep. Adam Smith therefore merits some political courage points and a chain rattle or two for laboring to bring back the rule of law to a justice system frayed by post-9/11 overreach.
"Smith and Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., have rolled out companion bills requiring that anyone, U.S. citizen or not, picked up domestically on suspicion of terrorism be tried in state or federal courts. The legislation, they say, would ensure the accused their constitutional rights, including the right to hear the charges and to a fair and speedy trial," the Seattle Times' Kyung M. Song writes. "Smith, the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, said he does not know if he will succeed this time."
The Smith-Udall legislation advances the status quo ante and (gasp) the primacy of the U.S. Constitution. It also involves the treatment of terror suspects, a politically radioactive subject. Members of Congress who swiftly yield to the political winds will hightail it. Still, Smith's bill is the most significant human rights legislation introduced by a Northwest lawmaker in four decades.
Political language matters. It could also be decisive in the passage or failure of Referendum 74 regarding same-sex marriage. Would the term "re-define marriage" sway those still-ruminating undecideds? A judge believes it might, and the debate could spillover and inform this fall's gubernatorial race as well.
"A Thurston County judge has thrown out what proponents argued was prejudicial and hostile ballot language proposed for a statewide referendum on same-sex marriage in the fall election," the Seattlepi.com's Joel Connelly writes. "The language for Referendum 74, proposed by the Attorney General’s office, said that a landmark bill approved by the Legislature last month would 'redefine marriage' to accommodate unions between those of the same sex."
The language issue is already a political football. As Connelly notes, "On Tuesday, both Inslee and state Democratic Chairman Dwight Pelz cranked out the press release boilerplate, blaming McKenna for the proposed ballot language changed by Judge McPhee."
We fall in love in the spring, the sun sets in the West, and every few years lawmakers angle to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil drilling. It's as predictable as a metronome. What is different this time is it's no longer much of a nail biter.
"The vote was the first time in four years the Senate has voted on a measure including ANWR drilling, and it failed miserably. The proposal needed 60 votes to pass and avoid a filibuster. It received only 41 votes in favor, with 57 senators against," the Anchorage Daily News' Sean Cockerham writes.
"Kansas Republican Sen. Pat Roberts pushed the measure as an amendment to the bill that funds transportation projects across the nation. His amendment was packed with so many controversial items it was bound to fail in the Democratic-controlled Senate. It was as much a jab at President Obama by Republican leaders during a time of high gas prices and election politics as anything else."
Does the Senate's ANWR vote signal an evolution in the nation's conservation ethic? Maybe. An expression of the environmental movement of the 1960s and 70s is manifested in recovered species, most notably the bald eagle. How much tangible progress has been made?
"Bald eagles are no longer considered threatened by the state of Oregon. The state’s Fish and Wildlife Commission has voted to remove the iconic bird from the state list of endangered species," EarthFix reports. "The federal government removed bald eagles from the threatened and endangered species list about five years ago. But some states, including Oregon, chose to keep the raptors on their own list of at-risk animals."
Lastly, the Seattle Times' Danny Westneat joins the Joel Connelly (and Midday Scan) chorus that Rep. Jay Inslee did a disservice to his constituents by bolting Congress just in time to bypass a special election. As Westneat writes, "I know how strongly Inslee feels about ending the war. He may yet be governor. But when he's not there for the upcoming war votes — and because of his maneuverings, the district doesn't get any say on the war at all — I bet he's going to feel about 3 inches tall."
Seattlepi.com, "Same-sex marriage: Backers win ballot battle"
Anchorage Daily News, "Senate rejects drilling for oil in Arctic Refuge"
Seattle Times, "Rep. Jay Inslee, the quitter who would be governor"