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Wed., June 17, 2009

Washington state officials’ exercise maps out discrimination

Sometimes you have to abuse an intern to make a point.

The Washington secretary of state’s office wondered how long it would take to read the Referendum 71 petition. The state says petitions must address all areas of law they would overturn. The “everything but marriage” bill ran 114 pages. To get all of that on a single page, backers had to shrink the size of the type, supersize the paper and print on the front and back. When unfolded, it looks like the world’s wordiest highway map.

Anyway, it took the office’s intern – armed with a magnifying glass – nearly 2 hours and 25 minutes to read the petition. Now, you certainly wouldn’t want to sign something before reading it, right? So feel free to just say no.

While the office was having fun demonstrating the stamina needed to read the petition, it unwittingly proved a vital point. We confer myriad rights and privileges upon people based on their marital status. So many, in fact, that it takes a 114-page bill to address them all. Referendum 71 supporters say the issue is a simple matter of protecting marriage. But go back and read that last sentence. Took me seconds to type it. So why does it take so much longer to read the petition?

Just goes to show that gay-rights opponents will go to any lengths – in this case 3 feet – to protect the status quo.

Good unemployment news. You hate to see people lose their jobs, especially in this economy, but I’m willing to make an exception for Spokane’s Bruce Jessen and James Mitchell. The two former Spokane military psychologists were fired by the CIA in April, along with all of the agency’s contract interrogators, according to the New Yorker. The two men, who ran the consulting firm Mitchell, Jessen & Associates, had apparently devised some of the most brutal interrogation techniques used under the Bush administration. The firm employed as many as 120 people in 2007, but has since closed its Spokane office, which was housed in the – irony alert! – American Legion Building.

As reported by The Spokesman-Review, the firm was accused in a U.S. Senate report of perverting the military survival training taught at the White Bluff facility near Airway Heights. The idea was to protect American soldiers by showing them the techniques they might face if captured, not to hone torture for our interrogators. Jessen and Mitchell have never responded to specific reporter inquiries, but they did say they were proud of their involvement.

I’m proud to say they were fired.

Late to hate. The case of James von Brunn, the 88-year-old racist accused of slaying a Holocaust museum guard, is not funny, but I have to confess to laughing at this line by comedian Bill Maher: “You can’t be calling yourself a neo-Nazi if you’re older than the Nazi Nazis.”

Smart Bombs is written by Associate Editor Gary Crooks and appears Wednesdays and Sundays on the Opinion page. Crooks can be reached at or at (509) 459-5026

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