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Originally published September 13, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified September 13, 2007 at 2:04 AM

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

Whale hunt backlash

Shame on us

Editor, The Times:

I would like to add my 2 cents to what I am sure are $1000's worth on the whale hunt by the five members of the Makah Tribe [ "Gray whale shot, killed in rogue tribal hunt" Local News, Sept. 9].

I am outraged, angered, disgusted and ashamed. Not by the Makah hunters however, but rather by the rest of us.

I am outraged that members of conservation groups can go on camera and condemn the hunt, using Michael Vick and dogfighting as an example of why the five hunters should be in jail. You show me proof that Vick fed his family on the carcasses of those dogs he killed, and I may listen to you. Vick killed dogs in the name of sport. The Makah killed a whale to support their tribe, and as a statement of who they are.

I am angered that our leaders -- especially Gov. Christine Gregoire -- can show so much anger over this. Governor, where were you when the Makah Tribe was trying to go through legal means to get their rights back? Where were our leaders to support the Makah Tribe when a century-old treaty was systematically done away with? Oh, and while I'm at it, just how many of our esteemed leaders support and take part in the hunting of "nonmarine" animals, not for survival, but rather for "sport?"

I am disgusted by us as a nation when it comes to the treatment of native tribes overall. Why is it we care more for the inhumane conditions in foreign lands, when some of the most deplorable conditions on Earth exist right here? Next time you spend money to take your visiting friends on a whale watch, stop looking at the whales once and look toward shore. At the very least, take a walk outside of your landscaped trails once.

Finally, I am ashamed. I am ashamed that we condemn the actions of a few brave men who tried to do nothing more than return a little thread of ethnic dignity to themselves and their people. I am most ashamed of our actions on the day the whale was killed. Had the Makah been left alone, they would have taken the whale back to the tribe. They would have said prayers over it, thanking it for its sacrifice so that they may live. Every part of that whale would have been used to sustain the tribe, without relying on outside help. Instead we took the hunters to jail, and the Coast Guard followed the whale until he died a lonely, unproductive death, and slid beneath the waves.

Well done people. Well done.

-- Mark Gregor, Bothell

Tragic endings

For decades, reasonable North Americans, on the defensive about centuries-old events, have refrained from speaking up about modern-day injustices for fear of being called racist. Recent events in our coastal waters may well break through that barrier of silence.

Four years ago, orca Luna became separated from L pod. Strenuous efforts were made by Canadian and U.S. authorities and wildlife personnel to return him to his family -- and away from Nootka Sound marine traffic.

Initial efforts failed. Then they were abandoned entirely, in respect for the Mowachaht/Muchalaht Tribe, which said Luna should be left alone because members believed him to be the spirit of their ancestor, Chief Ambrose Maquinna. As it unfolded, the sad irony of Luna's story was not lost on readers, as Washington's Neah Bay Makah aboriginals protested they had a traditional right to hunt whales for cultural purposes.

The story ended tragically on March 10, 2006, when six-year old Luna died after he swam into the propellers of a tugboat. Predictably, environmentalists blamed those who made the decision, not the Mowachaht who lobbied for it.

Fast-forward to today -- and the heartbreaking news that a California gray whale has died a long, agonizing death after suffering a harpooning and gun shots from the Makah.

With evidence like this, it is hard for people like me to believe aboriginal claims that they are North America's first and most devout environmentalists. Instead, I'm coming to believe that decent people are being played for fools.

All I can do today is ask, "Whose spirit lived in that gray whale?" Because I know for sure that a part of me died when I saw the pictures of how it died.

-- Elizabeth James, Vancouver, B.C.

Changing times call for different rituals

The Makah tribe has sent a delegation to Washington D.C. for "damage control" and to speak in behalf of their whaling rights [ "Makah tribal leaders head to D.C. today" Local News, Sept. 11].

This is a mistake. Their treaty right to kill whales, subject to legal conditions, cannot be denied, but their desire to kill cannot be justified.

They are no longer dependent upon hunting and gathering for sustenance, and they do not need to actually kill a whale to recognize and honor their cultural heritage. All religions and societies use symbolism to honor events from earlier times and to express their beliefs.

Makah leaders should recognize the value of symbolism, and the fact that they live in the 21st century of a changing world. They would best serve their people by strongly advocating that actual whale killing be replaced by a rite or ceremony in which all their people could participate. Had they done so earlier, perhaps five of their tribe would not be facing the possibility of criminal prosecution, their tribe would not be the object of scorn and disgust, and the U.S. position in international wildlife negotiations would not be weakened.

-- Harry Petersen, Bellevue

Wrong all around

Nobody acting responsibly in Craig situation

Idaho's Sen. Larry Craig's story is unconvincing, but mostly just embarrassing [ "Craig files papers to withdraw guilty plea in sex sting" Local News, Sept. 10].

It shows the hypocrisy of politicians and lack of morality among elected officials. He not only engaged in misconduct, but then proceeded to lie about it in order to preserve what little of his reputation he could and hold onto his power.

It is not only ironic that a man so strongly against gay rights was accused of homosexual misconduct, but that the American people show heightened interest in government when a sexual scandal is involved. The fact that the media pay more attention to the sexual misdeeds of a senator than what they politically accomplish is just as a comforting as the elected leaders engaging the in illegal conduct itself.

-- Monica White, Seattle

High price of stupidity

Millions could have been spent better

Five toilets for $6.6 million averages out to $1.32 million per toilet [ "Were high-tech toilets worth $6.6 million?" Local News, Sept. 4]. That seems a little high to me, even in Seattle's skyrocketing real-estate market, so I decided to do a little shopping.

I noticed that The Times' classified section currently lists a beautiful 1 bedroom, 1.5 bath condo just five blocks from the current "gleaming, cylindrical public restroom" located on Broadway Avenue. The list price for the condo is $475,000 -- much less than the $1.32 million the city paid -- and offers two toilets instead of one. In addition to the extra toilet, the city would get use of the bedroom and living room as office space for any number of its agencies.

I went to Craigslist and found a number of people offering housecleaning services from $15-20 per hour. Taking the higher figure and multiplying by 24 hours per day/365 days per year comes to $175,200 for 24/7 bathroom cleaning.

Still much less than the $1.32 million figure the city paid -- in addition to its yearly contract with Northwest Cascade to clean the "self-cleaning" toilets.

Next, I thought about security issues. Starting pay for Seattle police officers is $30,849 annually, so lets hire six for a yearly cost of less than $200,000. That's a plethora of police to patrol two potties.

Since the condo comes with a bedroom, I wondered about a little health care. Seattle & King County Public Health is currently listing a position for a registered nurse paying $26.71 to $36.46 an hour. Taking the higher figure and multiplying by 40 hours per week for 52 weeks per year is $75,837.

My total so far for a 1 bed, 1.5 bath condo complete with 24/7 cleaning, a police team, and a nurse for 40 hours a week? A little over $1 million. The remaining $300,000 would by an unthinkable amount of toilet paper at Costco.

If my city leaders don't get a clue soon, I will be forced to start a Common Sense Party and run for public office. One toilet for $1.32 million? Not in my neighborhood.

-- Dakota Williams, Seattle

Ferry riders unite

Ludicrous idea

"Audit says some ferry runs underused, could be cut to save money" illustrates how out of touch the auditor's office is with the people using state services [Local News, Sept. 4].

The ferry system serves a critical link in our infrastructure. While most riders make trips during rush hour, the need for off-hour trips is equally critical. Do we keep boats poised at the Vashon Island dock ready for an ambulance? What about the commuter who needs to return home mid-day for a family emergency?

Ferries are part of a marine highway. If the state thinks reducing ferry service is smart, then it's equally smart to start shutting down little-used roads in the state. Think how much money we'd save not having to resurface those.

You get my drift. We could easily eliminate a few bucks from the budget by reducing the staff of the auditor's office every time they point out the obvious, or make other ludicrous suggestions such as the one you reported.

-- Tom Jesionowski, Port Orchard

No more music

I was saddened to learn that Port Townsend ferry riders will no longer be able to enjoy beautiful harp music during their crossing and appalled to see that this has occurred because some of those same riders complained that the harpist was allowed to stay on board with his instrument when the ferry docked [ "Harpist isn't playing on ferry anymore" Local News, Sept. 4].

Lighten up, people! You are destroying much of what is unique and wonderful about this region with your humorless and slavish devotion to "the rules."

-- Carol Buchter, Seattle

Strong dose of reality

Find another destiny

This bizarre religious story caught my eye "Public romance becomes public nightmare" [News, Sept. 2].

Poor Spelman College sophomore Elizabeth Alexander, worried about a Christian wife like well-known evangelist Juanita Bynam being beaten, choked and stomped on in a hotel parking lot by her angry evangelist-minister husband. Alexander goes to her church pastor for advice. And a reflective Alexander gets it.

To quote the article and paraphrase a perplexed Alexander per her church pastor's reply, "He responded with Scriptures and said nothing of domestic violence being wrong."

One hopes young Alexander is intelligent and enlightened enough to realize that "Global Destiny Church" does not have to be her destiny. Nor does it have to be the global Christian fundamentalist church destiny of any rational person.

-- J. Scott Taylor, Everett

Iraq plan

Three important questions

I have three questions for Gen. David Petraeus [ "Iraq debate: General's plan creates dilemma for both parties"page one, Sept. 11].

1. Do you think the Iraqis will eventually consent to American occupation if we persevere?

2. Do you think that an essentially quisling government in Iraq can achieve a genuine political reconciliation?

3. Since you are the author of a new counterinsurgency manual, do you think it is in our long-term strategic interest to impose our political will on other nations through the use of force?

-- Roman Budzianowski, Seattle

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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