Your August 20 issue slays me. Everything is a problem. Skybridges are problem, Paul Allen is getting away with all our money, getting the Olympics to Seattle means the City Council is selling us down the river, Val Stevens is a ultra-extreme right-wing militant, Barbara Bush is just a housewife. Give me a break, will ya. If I didn't know better your writers were the creators of the movie Conspiracy Theory. I suggest you do some self-analysis and take a hard look at your paper. It borders on the ridiculous. Quite frankly, I like living in this area and I think the community as a whole is doing a pretty good job. Not everything is a problem.
White in the right
Mike Romano's recent article "Congressman's 'Privates,'" (8/6) may have left your readers with the misimpression that the American Civil Liberties Union supports the latest Internet censorship bill in Congress. The bill—S. 1482, which was introduced by Indiana Republican Sen. Dan Coats—is modeled on the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which the Supreme Court unanimously found unconstitutional last year in Reno v. ACLU. While the ACLU has participated in discussions about Internet censorship bills with members of Congress, we have certainly never endorsed the current "Son of CDA," or a so-called "harmful to minors" standard that Romano endorses.
Contrary to what Romano says, Congressman Rick White is well-advised to oppose this misguided effort to suppress speech in cyberspace. Coats' bill would punish commercial online distributors of material deemed "harmful to minors" with up to six months in jail and a $50,000 fine. While there is a governmental interest in protecting children from harmful materials, that interest does not justify the broad suppression of adult speech found in the measure Rep. White voted against.
The broad definition of "distributor" under S. 1482 could include Seattle's virtual bookstore Amazon.com or a promotional site for a Hollywood movie, as well as individual sites with advertisements for products such as Netscape. Any business merely displaying material without first requiring a credit card or other proof of purchase could be found liable under the bill, even if no actual sale is involved.
Contrary to Romano's assertion, "Son of CDA" does not "avoid[ ] the constitutional pitfalls of the 1996" legislation. The court in Reno v. ACLU found that the credit card or other age verification requirement imposed a severe financial and logistical burden on speakers who have a constitutional right to disseminate such material, including commercial distributors. While a distributor such as Time Inc. may be able to absorb the financial burden of such a requirement, an independent online "e-zine" such as Salon may be forced to shut down.
Speech that is potentially "harmful to minors" is unquestionably protected by the Constitution when communicated among adults. The Coats bill fails to make any distinction between material that may be harmful to a 6-year-old but valuable for a 16-year-old, such as safer-sex information.
Rick White is doing the right thing by standing up against the legislation and those who would censor cyberspace.
Gerard John Sheehan
ACLU of washington
Mike Romano replies: It frustrates me when a great institution like the ACLU demeans its laudable mission by stooping to hysterics in arguing constitutional matters. Allegations that Sen. Coats' "harmful to minors" cybersmut restrictions (S. 1482) would apply to Amazon.com, Netscape, Time Inc., or the Web zine Salon are baseless and lower the ACLU to disingenuous political pandering.
Sen. Coats' law is straightforward, making sure to define "harmful to minors" content as that which "lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value." This is not a new concept, nor has it been interpreted narrowly by the courts. In this regard, Amazon, Netscape, and Time have nothing to worry about.
"Down and out in Seattle" by Nina Shapiro (8/6) pissed me off. Or rather, Seattle employers pissed me off, the mass of them with their heads up fiscally strict asses. Why the hell can't employers provide subsidies for the bus? Why couldn't they at least take a little of it out of the paychecks to come?
Jack Skiles and Ernst Morrel are a wake-up call to those of us dozing in the smug theory that all vagrants are "crazies or drug-addicted bums," or worse, professional panhandlers. On the vague outskirts of my subconscious, I was aware that these "honest, hard-working citizens struggling to survive on this city's homeless margins" do exist—the divorced mother of four, a blind elderly man with diabetes, couples who move here hoping to do well and end up on welfare because the cost of living in this town has skyrocketed and shows no signs of ceasing.
Life here is a catch-22. Jobs may be plentiful, but they don't promise much else beyond a few hundred bucks to barely survive. Salaries must be augmented by transportation subsidies, housing assistance, and in-company showers. Or else what's the point? More homeless? That's not acceptable.
I hope Skiles and Morrel surpass the statistics and make it.
Thank you for highlighting a problem that goes beyond surface appearance.
Carol Banks Weber
A fetal position
"Fetal Stealth," Nina Shapiro's August 13 article about I-694, partial-birth abortion and abortion in general, raises the question: Why spend so much energy focusing on attacking a problem when it would be better spent preventing the problem? I would like to see a program that aggressively advertises and provides for free, easy-to-get birth control, as well as implementing widespread education on birth control and issues of planning a family. We would thereby drastically reduce the number of people considering abortion in the first place.
Such a program would prove far more cost-efficient to our society as a whole than the way things are currently done: people not getting birth control because they are broke or embarrassed or forget until they're in a passionate moment; unwanted pregnancies resulting in abortions or unwanted children; people using huge amounts of energy to fight abortion, but not its cause; unwanted children often growing up on public funds, and/or being improperly provided for emotionally or physically—often becoming pregnant or causing pregnancy without intent as well.
Perhaps now that the governor has revealed whom he serves and his heartless condition, voters can select a representative who won't let profits get in the way of his conscience (Quick & Dirty, "Multiple Sensitivities," 7/30). What everyone seems to forget in this denial of suffering are the children who are disabled by this unnecessary injury. The children who face ridicule and isolation. The children who must go without proper remedial education because school systems too conveniently believe these lies. Children for whom there are no summer camps, no special schools, and frequently no friends, no church, and certainly no shopping malls or dances. We cannot deny the very existence of chemical disability and not further injure these children as well.
Thanks a lot, Guv!
Director, Protect All Children's Environment
Doctor knows best
I am not a doctor. But, I trust my doctor to make the best decisions for my health and safety. "Fetal Stealth" (8/13) failed to pay enough attention to the fact that doctors are the only people who should be discussing abortion procedures, in terms of what is safe, legal, and when alternative procedures should and can be practiced. It is ludicrous to think that average citizens and/or politicians have any kind of educated understanding of when certain procedures are necessary or how deceptive the jargon is that anti-choicers have been throwing around lately. After reading the article, I looked into I-694, the initiative on the November ballot that threatens choice for women. In addition to being an outrageous insult to the capability of myself and my doctor to make appropriate health decisions, the law that they are claiming to seek already exists. RCW 120 is the law that makes it a felony to terminate a fetus that would be able to sustain life outside the woman, unless the life or health of the mother is in serious danger. If that law already exists, then just what is this initiative trying to accomplish anyway?
The current law protects viable fetuses as well as women. Therefore the right law already exists and as far as I am concerned, there is no reason why choice needs to be voted on yet again in Washington.
Nina Shapiro replies: Like the campaigners against I-694, Slaughter is sticking with the line that this initiative is redundant because state law currently restricts post-viability abortions. This strategy seems foolish, not least because it gives the mistaken impression that the "partial-birth" method is commonly performed on third-trimester, viable fetuses—an impression that anti-abortion activists are also eager to convey to bolster their labeling of the procedure as "infanticide." In fact, the method is most often used in the latter stages of the second trimester, prior to viability, and is arguably no more gruesome than other abortion procedures. Regardless, I-694 makes no mention of viability or of stage of pregnancy. So, barring an almost certain court challenge, it might apply to first- and second-trimester abortions of all sorts, not just the procedure it supposedly targets.
As for Slaughter's assertion that only doctors should discuss abortion procedures, I would argue that censorship never aids any cause. Even a society that ultimately accepts abortion must come to terms with what it really means.
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