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Originally published Friday, July 4, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Celebrate more than our independence this Fourth of July Editor, The Times: Have you heard the good news? The U.S. Marines are handing over...

Iraq War

Celebrate more than our independence this Fourth of July

Editor, The Times:

Have you heard the good news? The U.S. Marines are handing over the security of the al Anbar province to the Iraqis. Two years ago, the province — which stretches to the Syrian border and includes the cities of Fallujah, Karmah and Ramadi — was pronounced lost and destined to dissolve into chaos by those who feared failure and were without hope for Iraq. Why this is important to me is very personal, yet I feel that all of America needs to know and celebrate this, in light of our own Independence Day. Yes, it's costing us a lot of money, and more than that, our blood and treasure; our precious, dedicated, professional military personnel. Try imagining those Iraqi families and how courageous they have been to face al-Qaida and join with us to seek and destroy the enemy — the enemy that wantonly kills and whose only goal is to terrorize.

In November 2004, a young corporal, Jeff Starr, wrote a letter to his girlfriend as he was looking to deploy for the third time to al Anbar in Iraq in February 2005. He had been there in 2003, when we overthrew the despot, Saddam Hussein, and he was there again in April 2004 in Fallujah and again in Ramadi in May 2005, performing security patrols. It was there, in Ramadi, that a sniper took his life.

He wrote: "It may seem confusing why we are in Iraq, it's not to me. I'm here helping these people, so that they can live the way we live ... to do what they want with their lives. Others have died for my freedom, now this is my mark."

Cpl. Starr is my son. I celebrate the success in Ramadi. It brings me to tears to know that my son shares in this victory with these folks from another land. His letter should remind us on this day of fireworks, barbecues and gatherings to remember our freedoms — and that freedom isn't free.

— Shellie Starr, Snohomish

Pride Parade

Times kudos

Thank you for publishing the article about the Seattle Pride Parade ["Marchers soak in the sun, gay pride," Local News, June 30]. The parade was a wonderful fundraiser, as well as a fun event for many nonprofit organizations and GLBT individuals in which to express themselves.

I was wondering why the "Obama Pride" group was not mentioned in the article. I know that they won the People's Choice Award and that the volunteers working to staff the booth and register voters contributed a lot of effort to receive the support that they did. Due to them, more than 50 new voters will be voting for Sen. Barack Obama in November. They really helped to establish the candidate's position on civil rights.

But it was great that the reporter showed the positive side of moving the parade from Capitol Hill to Broadway Street. It truly helped more people become aware of the GLBT community in the state of Washington. Seattle had more people register to march and participate in last Sunday's Pride Parade than San Francisco and New York City.

— Jenn Odell, Bothell

Middle man

Reichert an ideologue

The recent article on Reichert's supposed moderate politics glosses over one very important issue on which he is not moderate at all — birth control ["The middle man: How Republican is Dave Reichert?," page one, June 30]. Reichert can stick his finger in the wind all he wants and play pandering games with his votes, but at the end of the day, he is a staunch conservative Republican.

Why is it that voters in the 8th Congressional District use and support the use of contraception, abortion and stem-cell research but Reichert does not? Why does Reichert support pharmacists who refuse to fulfill valid prescriptions for contraception?

Because Reichert is an ideologue.

The 8th District opposes the occupation of Iraq. Not Reichert. He follows President Bush on ideological issues.

How can anyone who holds such extreme opposition to basic family planning call themselves a moderate?

It's because we're a swing district. Reichert ideologically opposes everything the 8th District believes in, especially women's rights. The 8th District believes in dignity, privacy, respect and a Constitution that stands the test of time. Reichert opposes Roe vs. Wade, gun control and gay marriage. That spells I-D-E-O-L-O-G-U-E.

— Scott Leopold, Everett

Medicare payments

Congress failed to stop cut

Why isn't the mainstream media screaming about this affront to the elderly and the veterans? ["How Your U.S. Lawmaker Voted," News, July 2].

The Times has not even bothered to carry Sen. Patty Murray's excuses for her inactions; Sen. Maria Cantwell is too busy with the polar bears to be bothered about her constituents.

Medicare payments to doctors were cut 10.6 percent starting July 1. Also as of July 1, speech, physical or occupational therapy patients for whom Medicare has already paid at least $1,810 for therapy in 2008 had further Medicare payments for that care stopped.

Congress had months to work out a relatively simple deal to prevent a 10.6 percent cut in Medicare payments from taking effect on July 1 and to prevent cutting off Medicare coverage for hundreds of thousands of Medicare-eligible therapy patients on that date.

But they chose to play political chicken with seniors' and veterans' health care, and the collective hardheadedness of congressional members prevented anything from getting done. Having failed to do something about it in timely action, Congress took a week's vacation for Independence Day and promised to fix things when they return. Right!

This isn't the first time Congress has failed to stop a Medicare payment cut. In 2006, Congress missed the deadline and the proponents of universal health care told everyone to "enjoy" the benefit of these congressional inactions.

— Rick Murphy, Shoreline

Exxon Valdez case

Punitive damages don't do justice

Gary Emard ["Damaging Exxon," Northwest Voices, July 2] said, "Exxon shouldn't have had to pay a single dime in punitive damages" because of its quick response to the spill and how much money the company poured into Alaska.

Lest we forget, punitive damages are levied in order to persuade companies that do bad things to think twice about doing them again. When one considers that the former ExxonMobil Corp. CEO's retirement package will cost the company more than it would to pay off an entire culture for an oil spill that was totally avoidable, perhaps we're missing the point.

Forget the drunken skipper story. The oil tanker hit the reef because its Raycas radar system was broken and had been so for a year before the spill — it was too expensive to operate, let alone fix. The ship that had the rubber containment booms, used to surround a busted tanker, was left behind, also due to cost.

As for Exxon's quick response to the spill, it took a month for the oil to reach the spawning grounds of Nanwalek.

When Humble Oil and ARCO went to the Chugach nation to offer them money for the land needed to build their terminal, the Chugach sold them the land for a dollar, in exchange for highly restrictive laws regarding the possibility of oil spills. They were required to have state-of-the-art radar, oil-spill response teams, frequent water tests to check for oil contamination and some kind of containment system.

All of these restrictions were in place when the transport of oil began through Prince William Sound. But by 1979, most of these restrictions had been ignored or subverted. By 1988 (the year before the spill), none of them were in place. Even now, the natives are mopping up oil that seeps out of the rocks and sand every year when the weather warms up.

If Exxon's actions do not constitute bad behavior, what does? How do we send a message to other companies that might release toxic materials into the environment, if all we do to Exxon is beg for their pocket change 19 years after they destroy the livelihoods of the natives that lived on that land for thousands of years?

How is that justice?

— Sten Ryason, Seattle

I-405 rescue

Our self-important society

The article about the state trooper's pleas for help being ignored is unbelievable ["Resistance — and then a rescue," page one, July 1]. Have we all become so callous that getting to work or leaving for our vacation is more important than helping other people in distress? Are we are so used to seeing carnage and suffering on TV and in movies that actual incidents appear unreal? I think that we, as a society, need to consider this situation seriously.

Perhaps there is a tie between this incident and the rising tide of the importance of the self in our mindset today. It appears that selfishness and self-absorption are growing more common in our society.

We all need to look at the people around us: our children, our parents, our siblings, our friends and the stranger who needs our help today, as someday we may need his.

— Janet Nagel, Bellevue

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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