Angela Gunn provided a valuable service ("You lost!", 7/8), by describing the seemingly innumerable ways that technology is being used to violate people's privacy. There is some good news on this front, though. When citizens and their advocacy groups have raised enough of a fuss, the antiprivacy juggernaut has been forced to retreat.
For example: Under pressure by the local ACLU and others, the city council of Oakland, CA, this June voted down a scheme to install police surveillance cameras in public places. In our own state, the Northshore (Bothell area) School District shelved a proposal to test students' urine after the idea was trashed by parents and teens at public hearings. And civil libertarians teamed up with talk radio hosts to ignite citizen opposition that torpedoed legislation to fingerprint Washingtonians as a condition of receiving a driver's license.
To get a better handle on how our government deals with privacy concerns, the ACLU has drafted a bill calling for an inventory of all state-run electronic databases containing personally identifiable information about Washington residents. People who want to do something about protecting their personal information should check out the "Defend Your Data" campaign (available online at www.aclu.org). It provides information on proprivacy legislation, advice and a Privacy Pocket Card, and a chance to chat with others sharing your concerns.
Public Education Director
ACLU of Washington
Big Brother no pal
It's about time someone got up the courage to write an article like this ("You lost!", 7/8); although I don't think it goes far enough, it gives a great glimpse into the reality of the world in which we live. The world is only free if you are ignorant or just naive enough to think that the government is your friend and that they have your best interests at heart. That the government is merely a functionary for corporate America is a good point, and this also extends into international sectors, where the government pushes policies it knows will be damaging to developing nations so that American businesses can have a cheaper place to manufacture their goods or just another cheap service sector.
The fight for our freedom is not something that should be taken lightly, and it is also not something that one can just forget about when the government isn't currently oppressing one individually. We need to take steps to control information about ourselves and who we release it to. As for security on the Net, I think the fact that the Australians admitted to the Echelon system makes an even more impressive argument for using encryption on everything possible. To protect your privacy, you now must actively engage in measures that would have gotten you called a paranoid maniac just a few years ago. No government has the right to know everything about me unless I specifically give them permission, and that is not something I plan on doing in the near future.
Regarding Angela Gunn's article ("You lost!", 7/8): I think the author needs to find some professional help—fast. Talk about paranoia!
It's our fault
You guys are leftist Democrats—you want big powerful government to attack your bad guys (cold-hearted rich people, big scary corporations). And the right wants to use government to attack their enemies (terrorists, drugs). Activists on the right and left make demands on the government. What we get: a very powerful federal government and a public that feels powerless. Solution: Everyone stop looking for the kind of simple, idealistic analyses and solutions like the Seattle Weekly (left) [see "You lost!", 7/8] and the P-I (right) indulge in. Right—like that's going to happen. Besides, self-righteous finger-pointing is just more fun.
When Rick Anderson contacted the Millionair Club regarding the settlement of the discrimination suit filed against us (see "'Limping for sympathy,'" 7/8), we declined to comment because we did not want to violate the confidentiality clause we signed in the settlement of this case. However, due to the gross inaccuracies contained in the July 8th story and the potential harm it could bring to the Millionair Club and the homeless we serve, I feel I must respond.
I have never discriminated against anyone in regard to age, race, gender, disability, religion, national origin, marital status, sexual orientation, or any other protected class. As an African-American male who has had to face and overcome prejudice repeatedly in my 31-year career, I am especially committed to seeing that those I work with are not discriminated against. Furthermore, as the Director of Human Development for the City of Tacoma, a position I held for 17 years, I was instrumental in developing policies for those with disabilities and for supervising the senior services division, so I am especially sensitive to the issues of age and disability discrimination. I never made the comments, nor can I fathom anyone making the comments, I was accused of. In fact, I am so alarmed by the comments made by the plaintiffs that I and members of my staff are investigating the possibility of filing defamation claims.
This suit was not about age or disability discrimination, but about performance issues. Betty Johnson, Donna Westergaard, and Kay Greer were counseled repeatedly for poor job performance. Johnson and Greer resigned of their own accord; they were not forced out. Johnson's position remains unfilled; she was not replaced by a younger woman. Greer—who was not an office manager, as claimed in the article, but a receptionist at our Women & Family Center, a separate facility—never made an appeal to our board of trustees nor was our employee manual altered to eliminated employee recourse against the director. Westergaard (who was the development assistant, not the development director) was terminated in August 1998 for repeated poor job performance, and Joan Vallery has been on long-term disability since July 1997. None of them were "career human-services workers."
I am proud of the current staff of the Millionair Club; it is more diverse now than when I assumed the directorship in 1996, and also more professional. Most staff are college educated and have considerable work experience in their career field. The comments from the homeless client you quoted in your article sum it up best: "You can always get a job and the people are great here."
I am proud of what we have been able to accomplish at the Millionair Club in the three years that I have been director. We are serving more clients than ever before, and serving them more cost-effectively. I invite anyone to tour our facilities, to meet our clients and staff members, and see first-hand the difference we are making in the lives of Seattle's homeless.
My hope is that we can all move forward and the public can look past this lawsuit. We must continue to focus on the homeless clients we serve and on our mission of changing lives through jobs. The only people who will be hurt by the bad publicity of this suit are, I fear, the very people we're trying to help.
Mel S. Jackson
Millionair Club Charity
It is not surprising that former employees bash their former workplace, in this case the Millionair Club. What is surprising is the sloppy one-sided report we got from Rick Anderson ("'Limping for sympathy,'" 7/8) concerning the charitable work that continues there.
A year ago Operation Nightwatch lost its lease in Belltown, another casualty of development. The Millionair Club took us in so we could continue to get people off the street. The 100 to 175 homeless men, women, and children we help every night should thank the Millionair Club and Mel Jackson. And during April, when Winter Response shelters shut down across the city, the Millionair Club provided shelter in their dining room, an act of compassion initiated by Mr. Jackson. That same dining room is full of people every meal.
It is too bad that the giving public may be wrongly influenced in their charitable giving by an ungracious few.
Rev. Rick Reynolds
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