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Originally published October 18, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified October 18, 2007 at 2:40 PM

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"Does anybody actually think giving politicians taxpayer money to run their campaigns will make them more honest?"

A sampling of readers' letters, faxes and e-mail.

More pork?

Meanwhile, in Iraq, what's not force-fed goes wanting

Editor, The Times:

Your well-researched special report, "The favor factory" [Times page one, Oct. 14], regarding the wasteful earmarking of flawed military projects, is proof that true investigative journalism still lives.

Washington Democratic Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, Reps. Brian Baird, D-Vancouver, Norm Dicks, D-Bremerton, and others should be remembered for this during our next elections. They put a higher value on increasing their own campaign funding than on the safety of our front-line troops by forcing our military to spend its budget dollars (our tax money) on projects the military did not want or need.

This money could have been spent on the purchase of improved vehicular and body armor to reduce the number of our boys killed and maimed while fighting for America.

I suggest that, in future elections, your readers support candidates who work for what is best for America rather than what is best for their campaign funds.

One would hope that eye-opening reports such as this will get more widespread coverage.

Keep up the good work.

— Norman Christie (lt. col., U.S. Army [ret.]), Port Hadlock

We must watch their weight

I was heartened a bit to see "The favor factory: $4.5 million for a boat that nobody wanted." Even our esteemed national senators have their fingers in this particular pie.

And while it's easy to point fingers at the various participants in this and the many other similar bridges-to-nowhere stories that abound, if you look at the larger picture, it seems to me that the only conclusion you can draw here is that true campaign-finance reform is a must. And the only viable form must include some kind of publicly financed campaigns, such as that which has been in effect in Arizona and Maine through several election cycles and is working well.

Public-financing bills introduced into the Washington Legislature consistently die in committee, never seeing the light of open debate. Granted, this is understandable: Those in power have a workable system that affords them the money they need to stay in power. To revert to this unfamiliar process is seen as a threat to their own positions.

But as democracy as we have traditionally known it continues to sink under the weight of big money (and if you think it is not, do I have a bridge to sell you), we must find a more tenable answer to funding our elections.

Contact your representatives, local and national, urging them to support legislation allowing public financing of campaigns.

— Gary Carver, board member, Washington Public Campaigns [washclean.org], Marshall

Fat-free substitute

After reading "The favor factory," I was disgusted with our democratic representatives, the earmark process, and the solutions proposed. I was particularly frustrated with Seattle Democratic Rep. Jim McDermott's support of government-funded congressional campaigns and his statement, "This is a country that worships at the altar of the free-enterprise system, and so the Congress is reflective of that culture."

How do earmarks have anything to do with the free-enterprise system? This is the opposite of free enterprise: companies getting large government contracts without having to compete in the free market.

This is a case of politicians blaming systematic failure in an attempt to cover their own dishonest practices. Does anybody actually think giving politicians taxpayer money to run their campaigns will make them more honest?

The solution is not government-funded congressional campaigns and definitely not shunning the "free-enterprise system." The solution is simple: Vote for new candidates who will take a stand against dishonestly giving no-bid contracts to companies that support their campaigns.

— Matthew McCleary, Seattle

Final say

Here lies buried

Regarding "Last day of life all planned out, down to the polka" [page one, Oct. 2], about the death of a little-known woman in Oregon: Among those who could be expected to be delighted to see such coverage are those who plan to launch a physician-assisted-suicide initiative of this type in this state next year.

Voters of Washington rejected such an initiative in 1991. Physician-assisted suicide is illegal in all states except Oregon.

What such legislation would legalize is sometimes obscured by labeling it "death with dignity" or "compassion in dying," in order to avoid using the unpleasant word, "suicide." But such semantic gymnastics will mislead only the ill-informed regarding what actually takes place.

— Paul Simons, Seattle

You get the last word

Regarding "A hug before dying" [Northwest Voices, Oct. 10]: The patient is the one to decide when the hugs will stop, not the loved ones. The patient owns her life.

If anyone tries to force you to do something against your will while you are dying, there are many of us to fight for you.

— Kathleen J. Paris, M.D., Redmond

Kids are the future

Too late for sorry

I read "Boy, 13, shot after officer mistakes cell for weapon" [Local News, Oct. 13], about the boy who got shot by a Seattle police officer, and noticed the child's parents are "understandably angry about the situation" [according to John Diaz, deputy chief of operations for the Seattle police]. The article did not specify which part of the situation the parents were angry about.

Let me tell you, if I catch my 13-year-old son out tagging the streets at 3 o'clock in the morning, and he then acts insolent and defiant toward me, he's going to wish a cop with bad aim found him first.

As a responsible parent, that's how "understandably angry" I would be.

— Roger Harrison, Redmond

The buck stops here

In "Does going to college pay? Answer isn't simple" [Business & Technology, Oct. 7], Scott Burns takes the apparent position that the decision is a matter of economics. I couldn't disagree more. I was brought up to believe that the reason to go to college was to get an education, not to be hirable by IBM.

I grew up in Seattle and graduated from the University of Washington with a bachelor's degree in philosophy. What did that qualify me for? Nothing, except a job driving a cab.

College graduates tend to read more than high-school graduates, are better-informed, are much more apt to question the status quo and are generally more interesting people. There are people who think there is more to life than what somebody's salary is, what kind of car somebody drives and how many square feet somebody's house has.

But my philosophy degree did get me into law school, which led to a 20-year career as a public defender in Atlanta, Ga., a most demanding and satisfying career.

If I had to do it all over again, would I major in philosophy again? In a New York minute.

— Doug Willix, Atlanta

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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