"The Politics of Cyberphobia" (3/4) makes the ridiculous claim that the ACLU is abandoning its principled defense of free speech because we fear the power



ACLU on the defense

"The Politics of Cyberphobia" (3/4) makes the ridiculous claim that the ACLU is abandoning its principled defense of free speech because we fear the power of the Internet. That's nonsense. The ACLU has stood up for freedom of expression in cyberspace in more cases and contexts than any other organization, and continues to do so.

From reading the Weekly's misleading take on the "Nuremberg Files" anti-abortion Web site case, one would never know that the ACLU actually filed a brief in the case. We articulated a clear position that both protects the right to freedom of speech and holds people accountable for intentional threats of violence.

The ACLU—and the courts—believe that the right to express even the most offensive ideas does not include the right to make threats of serious bodily harm. In the anti-abortion Web site case, the ACLU argued that threats of violence intended to put people in fear of serious injury or death are not protected by the First Amendment.

In a world where anti-choice extremists advocate justifiable homicide and doctors who perform abortions are being murdered, a Web site that applauds the killings and publishes addresses, photos, license-plate numbers, and names of children is no academic matter. As syndicated free-speech columnist Nat Hentoff, who is himself anti-abortion, recently wrote, "When a doctor targeted on a Web site has to wear a bulletproof vest, a true threat has been made."

The claim in the article that the ACLU doesn't vigorously defend free speech when abortion is the issue is belied by our actions. Just ask our pro-choice allies, some of whom were not terribly happy with the ACLU's successful defense of state Supreme Court Justice Richard Sanders' right to speak at an anti-abortion rally in Olympia. Or talk to our friends at Planned Parenthood, who strongly argued against our position in the "Nuremberg Files" case.

Interested people should check out our brief on the ACLU of Oregon's Web site (www.aclu-or.org) and make up their own minds.

Kathleen Taylor

Executive Director, ACLU of Washington

Bird's-eye view

Not an issue of the Weekly passes that doesn't inspire me to remind you folks what a treasure we all possess in the environmentally aware and independent-minded Eric Scigliano. His willingness to consider house sparrows—or any other bird, for that matter—to be newsworthy in our humancentric world (The Wildside, "Sparrows and Supertramps," 2/18) is an example.

I do have one quibble: Scigliano's undue pessimism regarding this invader species. Crows (a domestic invader), starlings, house sparrows, and Canada geese (another domestic invader) are all superabundant now for one simple reason: our cultural addiction to grass lawns. All four are especially adapted to working lawns, the house sparrow playing the gazelle to the starling's wildebeest on this American Serengeti, all courtesy of the Toro and subsidized water. Nancy would know what we have to do: Just say no to lawns!

Ed Newbold


Deal d骠 vu

I've just read Eric Scigliano's "Tracks of Their Fears" (3/4) and realize that, yes, a tunnel can be built under Rainier Valley, and yes, the $400 million can be obtained to "get the same shiver of d骠 vu all over again." Here's the deal:

First, we get the Democratic King County executive to borrow a well-known aerospace firm's helicopter and its famous lobbyist. Then, these two collect the necessary political powers of Seattle and fly down here to Olympia to meet with the Democratic governor. Next, he calls for a one-day special session of the Legislature to consider one bill and one bill alone. This bill being a package of user fees and sales tax withholding to raise the funds to pay for the Rainier Valley tunnel bonds. The bill is also conveniently labeled "Emergency Legislation" to fulfill the "public peace, health, and safety" that a tunnel would provide the valley. Actually, the Emergency Legislation part is a cool cover in case of a legal challenge. The bill is passed, the bonds are sold, and the tunnel gets built even if a majority in Seattle don't want it.

Sound familiar? It should. If it was good enough for the Mariners and their "fans," then it is most certainly good enough for Rainier Valley and its "fans," unless of course Locke, Schell, Sims, and the Sound Transit say otherwise. Then obviously the "ism" here, as has been suggested, isn't racism, it's cronyism.

John Marshall


Derailing the monorail

Eric Scigliano and other monorail enthusiasts seem blind to a big in-your-face problem ("Tracks of Their Fears," 3/4): Tourists love it, and people will vote for it in the abstract out of a sense of frustration. But nobody is beating down the doors to bring elevated rail through their neighborhood.

For example, the elevated light rail option for the northern half of M.L.K. through Rainier Valley was dropped last year due to lack of community support. The all-elevated Pacific Highway South line also didn't make it very far. It has only survived in commercial or industrial areas, such as over I-5 to the Duwamish, and through the Sea-Tac Airport area. Even Sound Transit admits to a greater visual impact.

Personally, I hope that Sound Transit does a good job on its elevated sections, so that we do have another viable option.

Meanwhile, we need to recognize that light rail is rapid transit. It will start to get people out of their cars, especially if we demand good feeder bus service. And it is a bargain compared to the many billions and huge disruption that would be caused by more freeways. Also it is public—ours to design and use, not for the benefit of commercial interests as the Elevated Transit Co. proposes.

However, it is just a starter system. We need to be banging on the doors in Olympia and DC to fund the Northgate extension, then to do phase two through Southcenter, around and over Lake Washington, to Tacoma and Everett. Then phase three . . .

Maybe monorail will have a role here, but light rail can act like a monorail, a subway, or a commuter rail. Switching tracks is easy, and the technology has been improving. Monorail can't match this versatility.

Dick Burkhart


Cocaine's the culprit

It's a sad day in the world when drug abusers are referred to as the good guys and police are the bad guys ("Death by Pepper Spray?"2/18). The report seemed to glorify Michael Ealy as a martyr rather than what he really was, a man on cocaine who was endangering the lives of others.

I am not disputing the reports or claims that mixing pepper spray and cocaine led to the death of Ealy, among others, but let's not take the focus away from the fact that pepper spray is not the culprit; cocaine is. I'm not a fan of many police officers, but I sympathize with them in this matter. What are police to do when a man who is high on drugs refuses any attempt at arrest or medical attention other than pepper-spray him? They could use a stun gun, and increase his already supersonic heart rate. They could point a gun at him, which would only upset him more, to the point that they might have to use the weapon. They could beat him with a night stick, which would bring on lawsuits of brutality, or they could use pepper spray and possibly endanger the life of the suspect. Any way they go, something bad is more than likely to occur to the suspect. But don't forget that he's the bad guy, not the police trying to save him and the other people he might have hurt or killed that night.

Jared Brinkman, student


Drug users are victims

I am outraged by the lack of compassion and the animal tactics used by the [Seattle] Police Department ("Death by Pepper Spray?" 2/18). Lt. Kessler ignored the IACP and FBI warnings of the possible fatal results of combining cocaine and pepper spray. It doesn't take a medical report to alert you that there may be a problem with this combination after several deaths across the country.

My problem isn't just Lt. Kessler's attitude regarding pepper spray, it is the entire National Police Association's attitude toward persons who are on drugs, or "suspected" drug users. The medical, scientific, and governmental bodies have agreed that alcohol and drug addicts have a disease. Accepting that this is true, I find the way police treat such "suspects" barbaric and inhumane. I don't think many people believe that drug abuse should be tolerated, but we must find better solutions to how we handle those under the influence of this disease. No police department, I hope, would treat persons afflicted with other diseases with batons, brute force, and certainly not pepper spray. A little understanding, changes in violent policies, and compassion will and does save lives. As a member of this community, my apologies to the Ealy family for the abuse and lack of compassion given to Michael. I can only hope an apology has come from Lt. Kessler and Seattle Police Department as well.

Par Libby

via e-mail

Scatological rave

I could not have put it better. Kruder & Dorfmeister are the shit! ("Fakin' It," 3/4.)

Mike Shank

via e-mail

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