A sampling of recent editorials from Colorado newspapers:
The Denver Post, May 5, on how to try Boston Marathon bombing suspect:
Five years ago when President Obama first campaigned for his present job, he was an uncompromising opponent of the Guantanamo Bay prison where enemy combatants and suspected terrorists were being held year after year without trial.
Obama pledged he'd close the prison. And he flatly rejected the Bush administration's claim that the president has the authority to detain someone in perpetuity as an unlawful combatant.
We don't think the president has any such authority, either.
Yet it is now three months into Obama's second term and Guantanamo Bay prison is still open. It has 166 inmates, many of whom have been on a hunger strike to protest their apparently hopeless situation. The problems that candidate Obama identified with the prison, from the perspectives of both civil liberties and national image, still hold true.
So we were pleased to see the president last week revive his goal of dealing with a situation that ought to bother all of us — and that he did so with evident passion.
"It's not sustainable," Obama said of the prison, adding, "The idea that we would still maintain forever a group of individuals who have not been tried, that is contrary to who we are, contrary to our interests, and it needs to stop."
"All of us should reflect on why exactly are we doing this," he declared. "Why are we doing this?"
Don't get us wrong. There are a number of seriously bad actors at Guantanamo that present security risks. And what to do with them, particularly if evidence would be considered tainted in court because of alleged torture, is a terrible dilemma.
But by no means all of the prisoners are high risks. The New York Times reports that 86 of the detainees — slightly more than half — were classified as low risk in 2010, and that 56 are Yemenis. And yet the Obama administration has refused to even try to repatriate Yemenis of late, The Times explained, because al-Qaeda remains active in that country.
The president can't very well complain about Guantanamo as a symbol that spurs recruitment of terrorists if he won't direct his agencies to cut red tape and at least attempt to transfer low-risk prisoners overseas.
Congress' hands aren't clean, either, as it frustrated administration plans to transfer detainees to a Supermax facility in the U.S. But even many members of Congress should be able to agree that not every inmate in Guantanamo deserves equally to be there and that the sooner low-risk prisoners can be transferred overseas, the better.
Even then, of course, the high-risk prisoners will remain a difficult issue. And while it's easy to say they should remain imprisoned until the war on terror is over, it's possible that war could continue for decades. At some point even they must be tried or released.
Loveland Reporter Daily-Herald, May 2, on factor collapse in Bangladesh that killed more than 400 people:
More important than assigning blame in the garment factory building collapse in Bangladesh that killed more than 400 workers and injured more than 2,500 is ensuring that such preventable tragedies don't happen again.
Not that there's not plenty of blame to go around: the owner of the shoddily constructed building; the factory managers who sent workers back into the building after cracks were discovered; a country whose government is accused of having insufficient and rarely enforced safety regulations; and Western companies that have steadily been shifting production from China to Bangladesh in search of the lowest labor and production costs.
Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dipu Moni told Al Jazeera that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed's government, which took over in 2009, has been working to improve labor standards and working conditions, but that the industry's problems couldn't be solved overnight.
The European Union is already putting pressure on European retailers and warning of trade sanctions against Bangladesh.
That might help, but it's also up to clothing companies with suppliers in Bangladesh to ensure that their clothes aren't being made in dangerous sweatshops.
A CNN Money story notes that many large companies whose clothing brands are made in Bangladesh have health and safety guidelines for their suppliers, and they claim they audit those suppliers. But apparently those audits aren't made public, so there's no accountability. Consumers have no way of knowing whether their favorite retailer's low-price clothing is contributing to misery and death for workers in Bangladesh or elsewhere.
Larger retailers and clothing companies can do better and be more transparent. And since they make up such a large part of one of Bangladesh's largest industries, they can wield enormous influence in pushing Bangladesh's government and garment industry to improve working and safety conditions.
Maybe that improvement can't be done "overnight," but it should be done before the next preventable catastrophe happens.
Aurora Sentinel, May 2, on legislation that would change state election laws:
Partisan bickering over a proposal to reform, and vastly improve, state election laws shouldn't distract all Colorado residents from the fact that these are good ideas that need to be implemented.
Republican state lawmakers are having a political tantrum over the proposal being pushed through by Democrats, who hold majorities in the state House and Senate. Republican complaints are suspect and disingenuous at best.
GOP state Sen. Ted Harvey of Highlands Ranch said this week that Democrats are rushing through their proposals in the waning days of the Legislature in order to hoodwink voters.
What he's not saying is that the proposal, already passed by the state House after spending weeks in the headlines, pretty much codifies how elections are already being conducted all over the metro area, simply providing voter conveniences to everyone — from every political party — all over the state.
The bill would standardize what Aurora already does by providing for mail-ballot elections all the time, ending expensive and confusing precinct voting sites and replacing them with regional, well-manned voting centers, and increasing the ways and ease that state residents can exercise their right to vote.
What's new here, and anathema to state Republicans, is the notion of allowing for same-day voter registration. While long ago, advance registration was a way to help prevent voter fraud, technology has changed so drastically that all advance registration does now is keep honest, well-meaning voters from having a voice in government. Millions of potential votes have been thwarted by a system that is too cumbersome and too poorly timed. Why rob U.S. citizens of their most powerful right because they don't pay close enough attention to election issues until it's time for the election?
As proponents of same-day voter registration have pointed out, there is no evidence supporting critics' claims that the convenience leads to any more fraud than any other election procedure. Eight states currently allow for same-day registration with no problems being reported there. The process would allow a resident from any political party, or none, to register and vote on the same day after jumping through hoops to screen them out as potential cheaters. It would prevent fraud but allow for a vote.
Clearly what Republicans object to is their perception that same-day voter registration would somehow benefit Democrats more than it would Republicans. The evidence and logic here is sketchy, but Democrats are being equally disingenuous about the changes given that same perception.
What it does is allow new and usually unmotivated voters a way to make their voices heard right when they're exposed the most to election information and advertising.
The bill affects all political parties and potential voters equally. Just as important, the measure would end confusing and unfair rules that drop voters from the rolls because they miss voting in an election. The so-called "inactive" voter rolls do nothing to prevent voter fraud and only work to keep voters from becoming "active" again. If the argument is that a motivated voter, who knows and is able to navigate cumbersome rules, is a better voter, that's not what our democracy is about. Those same arguments were used to keep women and minorities from voting for many generations.
For a political party that recently wants to contort itself in an attempt to demand unabridged Second Amendment rights, it's surprising to see some of these same lawmakers embrace endless and meaningless restrictions on America's hard-won and invaluable right to vote. Enact these changes sooner, not later.
The Pueblo Chieftain, May 7, on new payment plan for patrons of the Colorado State Fair:
The Colorado State Fair is embarking on a new way for patrons to pay for food and beer during the annual exposition.
The Fair Authority Board has approved a plan to issue smart cards to patrons. These cards would work like bank cards.
Fairgoers would need the smart cards to purchase food and beer. The cards would be available at kiosks and from customer service representatives throughout the Fairgrounds.
Vendors at the Palace of Agriculture still could use cash, as could some other vendors on the Fairgrounds. Customers will be charged $1 to activate their cards, which would be usable throughout the annual expo.
But there could be problems — and a public backlash — because there would be no reimbursement to Fairgoers who do not use all of the money loaded on cards. A great many people don't want to leave extra money behind.
So, while bank cards are ubiquitous in modern America, the idea of paying $1 for the privilege of paying for food and drink may not go over well. Since this will be the first year the cards will be in use, it will be incumbent on Fair management and the Authority Board to keep an open mind as whether to continue the program in the future, modify it or set it aside as an experiment gone awry.