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Originally published September 14, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified September 14, 2007 at 9:58 AM

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Ethiopia welcomes new millennium

. . . but continues to dwell in the past

Editor, The Times:

As I was reading "Ethiopia welcomes new millennium -- finally" [Times, News, Sept. 12], I wanted to feel the sense of hope that Prime Minister Meles Zenawi was trying to tout as the reason for all the celebration and expense, but I couldn't get past the reality that the article also mentions the many problems that the country still faces.

What was especially troubling was the mention of the government "sprucing up" the capital by moving the homeless to the countryside and poisoning stray dogs.

Is this how they end their dark ages and usher in the new millennium? By continuing their trend of inhumane, shortsighted solutions for ongoing problems? Problems that could be solved if they would spend some of their readily available money on their citizenship (human and nonhuman) and stop treating them as if they're in the way?

I'm afraid if this trend continues in Ethiopia and the many other African governments that spend more time and money on their power struggles and images than the good of their citizenry, then their dark ages will continue into every millennium.

Maybe we can move their government to the countryside or, better yet, we can poison them in order to spruce up the entire country.

-- Adam Schmidt, Kirkland

Government mishaps

Misspending money

OK, let me get this straight. We have $15 million for 12 blocks of HOV lanes in Federal Way, but we do not have the money to properly dispose of toxic waste? [ "Plan to dump PCB-tainted soil raises concerns" Local News, Sept. 11.]

And then we're going to dictate to everyone else on this planet to do the right thing?

-- Michael Kranjcevich

Bad roads

Our "leaders" in Olympia and Sound Transit demonstrate that we should expect as little as possible from our elected leaders when it comes to solving our problems ["Record-setting tax plan wraps roads, rail in 1 fragile package" Local News, Sept. 9].

Our leaders continue to not solve our problems with the same thinking that caused them -- the mediocre roads-and-transit package will do very little and leave a legacy of debt that our children will have to pay, along with an even more decrepit infrastructure than what exists today. I'm glad that we continue to expect so little from our elected leaders and accept whatever crumbs we get.

-- Bryan Weinstein, Issaquah

Too proud to admit errors

Why is it that when we plead with our political leaders to restore the constitutional rights taken from us the past few years, that it falls on deaf ears?

Don't they understand that our rights are their rights too? Don't they understand that they can be victims of this spiral of loss as well as we can?

Don't they understand that the war they are asking us to support, and our sons and daughters to die for or live with, is said to provide the same rights they concede here to those in Iraq and Afghanistan?

Why is it that they don't see?

Maybe, because they do, and they are too proud to admit the error of their recent past ways.

-- Douglas Orton, Des Moines

Creating chaos

Two recent news stories are quite telling. In "Reconstituted al-Qaida proves an elusive foe" [News, Sept. 9], we learn that al-Qaida is reinvigorated. In "Petraeus suggests partial troop withdrawal by next summer" [News, Sept. 10], we learn that Bush's military advisers are going to recommend that we continue with current troop levels until next year. And, as the article states, this is to keep the region from falling "into further chaos." Get that? Further chaos. Someone in the media finally reported it accurately.

So, tell us, President Bush -- who created the chaos in Iraq?

-- David McKenzie, Federal Way

Making faulty declarations

Hillary Clinton's questioning of Gen. David Petraeus was particularly infuriating [ "Senators want answers on Iraq strategy" News, Sept. 13].

She actually said one had to be willing to "suspend disbelief" in order to believe Gen. Petraeus.

If Hillary's contention is accurate, then Petraeus needs to be called before a Court Martial for lying. Too bad there isn't a similar place we can call Clinton if her declaration is flawed.

-- Norm Noble, Redmond

Ignoring reality

John Hielprin's "GAO criticizes Interior Department for brushing off global warming" [News, Sept. 7] reminds me of a recent trip we took to Mount Hood. The Forest Service naturalist was describing the melting glacier on the mountain, omitting any mention of climate change. I asked the guide if agency supervisors allowed guides to mention global warming.

The guide admitted that they were told not to mention anything about climate change or global warming.

Our government is too wedded to corporate profits and not watching out for the world that our grandchildren will inherit.

-- Neil Hudson, Oakdale, Calif.

Violating agreements

President Bush states that he's going to get on with life after the White House by giving speeches. That should be automatic material for the late-night comics. His ability to discourse on practically any subject -- except for those few talking points his handlers have taught him -- is not good. He makes Miss Teen South Carolina appear to be a member of the Cambridge debate team by comparison.

Considering his violations of the Kellogg-Briand pact, The U.N. charter and the requirements of some articles the Geneva Conventions, he should be packed and ready to attend war crimes trials as a defendant.

-- A.G.Elliott, Oak Harbor

Misplacing nuclear weapons

Something doesn't smell right about "B-52 carrying nukes mistakenly overflies U.S." [News, Sept. 5]. The press release specifically states that the missiles -- which the warheads were mounted on -- were being decommissioned. The problem, as I see it, is that the United States Air Force, in addition to the Navy, send all decommissioned ALCM's (Air Launched Cruise Missiles) to the Kirtland Underground Maintenance and Munitions Storage Complex at the Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico.

The second problem, as I see it, is that Barksdale Air Force Base, where the decommissioned missiles were consigned to, is one of the Air Force's largest bombing operation bases currently supporting the war effort in the Middle East.

This gives the appearance that not only was the military chain of command apparently not followed -- each and every single war head is tracked separately, and monitored in real time -- but that the American public is being spoon-fed an implausibility as to why the missiles (with, or without the warheads) were being sent to Barksdale to begin with.

It will truly be a sad state of affairs for this country if its citizens turn a blind eye, and/or refuse to speak out and question this most egregious of occurrences in a vigilant manner. We cannot allow this to be swept under the rug of old, forgotten news.

-- Will Riddle, Lynnwood

One for harp music

Let musician continue to play

I am confused, and maybe you can help.

In the past month, David Michael, a longtime musical fixture on the Keystone-Port Townsend ferry run, was told by Washington State Ferries that for security reasons (and because of two complaints) he could no longer leave his harp onboard between ferry sailings [ "Harpist isn't playing on ferry anymore" Local News, Sept. 4]. This effectively ended his 17-year tradition of providing pleasant music for ferry travelers. This is very unfortunate and utterly ludicrous; my research reveals not a single documented incident of a successful attack on a large passenger vessel using a Celtic harp. But it gets better . . .

Subsequent reports say that Michael may leave his harp onboard if he pays a fee of $200 per day, but he cannot offer his CDs for sale to try to recoup some of this exorbitant expense.

So, which is it? Is it a security issue, or merely a money issue? Or, as I suspect, just another example of killjoy bureaucrats running amok trying to appease someone who lodges a complaint, then finding themselves on the wrong side of public opinion and scrambling to find a way out? Please consider this a big complaint from a frequent ferry rider against ferry system policies and in favor of Michael being allowed to continue playing and selling as he has done for so long.

Ferry managers should reconsider and clarify their policies, then make an effort to do the right thing.

-- Scott Linn, Clinton

Felons punished enough

Washington should give them the vote

According to the Sentencing Project, a national criminal-justice-reform organization, 5.3 million Americans, or one in 41 adults, have currently or permanently lost their voting rights because of a felony conviction. After serving a sentence, those having a felony charge on their record are often denied access to employment, housing and public assistance. Even the federal government restricts access to low-income public housing.

Felony disenfranchisement disproportionately impacts and denies political voice to African-American communities, which amounts to institutionalized racism. In states that disenfranchise formerly incarcerated people, 40 percent of black men may permanently lose their right to vote.

Current political use of felony disenfranchisement dates back to the passage of the 15th Amendment, which gave African Americans the right to vote. Southern states began to use supposedly neutral voting qualifications -- literacy tests, property requirements, grandfather clauses and criminal disenfranchisement -- to deny black people (and many poor whites). Felony disenfranchisement today operates much the same way, barring poor people from participating in the democratic system.

Having a felony charge on your record is a significant contributor to recidivism. It is shameful the Washington Supreme Court made the decision to continue to deny the vote to people who have served their time "Court: Felons can't vote until fines paid" Local News, July 27].

-- Alex Becker, Seattle

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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