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Wednesday, May 31, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Letters to the editor

Credibility gap

What part of "with us or with them" don't you understand?

Editor, The Times:

George Bush said he regrets his cowboy rhetoric after the Sept. 11 attacks, such as his "wanted dead or alive" description of Osama bin Laden and his taunting "bring 'em on" challenge to Iraqi insurgents. "In certain parts of the world, it was misinterpreted" ["Bush, Blair acknowledge mistakes in handling of Iraq war," Times page one, May 26].

In what part of the world wouldn't that be "misinterpreted"?

If I get in your face and tell you I might kill you, or just beat you to a pulp, and I want you to give me your best shot because I will knock you senseless, is there somewhere in the world that might be interpreted differently? Perhaps in Pakistan or Mongolia that translation would mean we should plant flowers together? Maybe do lunch sometime? I don't think so.

No, that cowboy said it pretty clear. A couple of years after he said the war was over. A couple of thousand dead U.S. citizens ago, plus another 20,000 or 50,000-plus Iraqis, plus another several hundred thousand wounded.

What part didn't they understand? Didn't they know he was just kidding?

— Dan Hagen, Seattle

An ear for hypocrisy

Recently the FBI, having ample reason to do so, got a warrant to investigate the office of Rep. William Jefferson, D-La. ["Jefferson probe expands: FBI investigating 8 alleged schemes," News, May 28]. This raised a firestorm of outraged, if laughable, high-mindedness in the House.

At the same time, the collection of the records of several million phone calls by the NSA produced nothing in the way of congressional outrage, despite its being clearly intended, inter alia, to put whistle-blowers and members of the press on notice that their conversations can easily be documented by the NSA. (I cannot imagine a more effective means to shut down investigative reporting of government wrongdoing.)

The collection of phone numbers clearly constitutes one of the most flagrant and dangerous government infractions of our constitutional right to privacy in recent memory. And yet, when the FBI finds $90,000 in graft in Jefferson's freezer, it is debarred from doing what it would be encouraged by Congress to do in the case of any ordinary (unelected) citizen, i.e., get a warrant and search his house, office, etc.

This Congress, as venal as any since the era of the Teapot Dome, is drowning in funny money.

A recent poll reveals that Americans are convinced that government is just another corporate racket, an especially greedy version of the free-enterprise system, with congressmen and senators lining their pockets at the expense of their constituencies.

We cannot have one law for the public and another for elected officials.

We are fortunate here in Washington to have honest elected officials. I encourage them to hold their colleagues to the standard they observe in their own lives.

— Matt Holdreith, North Seattle

Jaw bane of the ass

As the Seattle area has metastasized into a lefty lala-land, I've become nearly immune to the daily blather on newspaper opinion pages blaming George Bush for everything wrong with the world. Occasionally, though, I have this urge to have the tables turned so I could be the one doing all the mindless belly-aching.

Then I imagine Sen. Hillary Clinton as president and remember the days of the dot-com bubble, when we were all conned into thinking we were well off, and I recall the prior administration that was oblivious to CEO shenanigans, illegal immigration and the fact that the country was at war, and I concede that another few years of blather is a small price to pay.

Certainly George Bush has made mistakes, but it's usually conservatives who point them out.

As long as ultra-liberals stay in feeding-frenzy mode, they'll never have any credibility with the average American.

— Gary McGavran, Bellevue

The extra largesse is the message

"Google makes some missteps as it finds its way in corridors of power" [Business & Technology, May 29], on Google's poor efforts working with D.C. lobbyists, reveals more about the corrupt culture in D.C. than about the high-tech giant.

The article describes public policymaking as a "game," and shows the Republicans more concerned with the flow of money and the choices of hired-gun lobbyists than with the effects or merits of policy on the average voter. Apparently, it matters more to elected officials who pays for and delivers the message, than the message itself.

Yet, important public-policy decisions affect the lives and pocketbooks of every American.

If technology companies like Google are playing the game so poorly, perhaps the problem is with the game itself more than the players?

— Aaron Belenky, Renton

Sincerely whose?

A letter published May 29 ["The domestic bond is strengthened by traditional beliefs," Northwest Voices], urging passage of a constitutional amendment against gay marriage, was not the work of the woman who signed it, Elisa Baggenstos, of Renton. It actually emanated from Focus on the Family, a far-right-wing political organization purporting to espouse "Christian values" in America.

Baggenstos assembled "her" letter from a form that she accessed over the Internet. Then she changed a few words and sent it to The Seattle Times. It is an example of "astroturf," the faking of grass-roots political sentiment by special-interest groups across the political spectrum.

In recent years, newspapers have been deluged with this sort of fakery and propaganda. "We've made it easy for you to compose a letter advocating for the Marriage Protection Amendment — by pulling together some talking points you can assemble into a completed whole," says the Focus on the Family Web site. "Just use the tool below to select one paragraph from each of four sections — be sure to select the one that reflects your own views. No matter which paragraphs you select, the result will be a letter of fewer than 200 words."

It is especially ironic that so-called "conservative Christians" who spend so much of their time parading their devotion to eternal truth would engage in willful deception. It would seem that, in their world, the Commandment against bearing false witness was intended to apply to everyone but themselves.

It wasn't your letter, Ms. Baggenstos. Why did you tell us it was?

— Charles Pluckhahn, Seattle

Selling the sizzle

So Enron founder Ken Lay and Chief Executive Jeffery Skilling have been found guilty ["Enron execs going away, but fraud is here to stay," page one, May 26].

Instead of white-collar prison, what I would like to see is both of them stripped of every last asset and penny they own and both of them live the rest of their days working a register at a McDonald's in Compton, Calif., for 10 hours a day. Now that would be true justice.

— Christopher Loseth, Sumner

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