Dealing with Ecopunks
When writing about right-wing thugs and conservative government policies, Geov Parrish is usually in full attack mode. However, in his column "Arson as Political Speech" [Jan. 25], he is not nearly as aggressive when defining left-wing thugs, arsonists, punks, and ecoterrorists. While Parrish concedes arson and destroying property deserve jail time, he defines their actions as nothing more than "a sustained, destructive tantrum." Would he describe right-wing thugs, arsonists, and bullies as nothing more than tantrum-throwers? I doubt it.
Years ago, a group of self-righteous right-wing locals burned out some "long-hairs" and supposed hippies working and living in an Idaho cave. These "hippies" and "long-hairs" were university students and scientists. The hysterical mob destroyed irreplaceable research. During the 1960s and 1970s, left-wing mobs burned and trashed university buildings around the country to make their political statements. In the process, they not only destroyed buildings, they destroyed years of work and research.
As a society, we should be firm but reasonably flexible when dealing with tantrum-throwing children and young adolescents. But when adults act like punks, destroy property, and endanger lives because they are oh so sure about how perfect their political perspectives are, throw the keys away.
Clean Air For All
Some homeless advocates have their politically correct shorts in a knot over Washington's strict new law banning smoking in and around public places ["Smoking Out the Homeless," Jan. 25]. Since the law covers homeless shelters, including Seattle's Downtown Emergency Service Center, these "advocates" are shocked, shocked, to discover that the public thinks smoking is harmful to the homeless (apologies to Casablanca's Capt. Renault).
Philip Dawdy's article asks whether Washington voters wanted such a result, contending it conflicts with "urban reality." As one who voted for the ban, my answer is simply this: absodamnlutely!
Voters made a policy decision that smoking in public places is an unacceptable public health risk. The majesty of the law is that it applies to rich and poor alike, without regard to station in life, since the health of each is important. Equal justice under law!
But like the recent stink in Bellevue over hot water, showers, and toilets for Tent City 4, we're told that the homeless must be exempted from a health or safety standard applicable to everyone else. Whether it's smoking or sanitation, we're lectured, it's too difficult to afford them protections the rest of us demand as a necessary component of civilized living. Inherent health issues among the homeless and the fragile state of health of many of them individually render this thinking stupid . . . or worse.
Is it an "urban reality" or a soft but nasty bigotry of low expectations that says the homeless aren't worth the effort?
Scott St. Clair
After Philip Dawdy's illogical, addiction-fueled blather of two weeks ago, he's off on a different tack: portray the new smoking restriction law as anti–homeless people ["Smoking Out the Homeless," Jan. 25]! He suggests that homelessness and smoking go together like a horse and carriage, yet said himself that the health officials visited the shelter in question on a complaint from someone in the shelter. Homeless shelters restrict drinking, even though alcohol consumption is legal, so why should they not also restrict smoking? After all, the drinking doesn't even affect other people unless the drinker behaves badly. The same can't be said of smoking. Does Dawdy think that homeless people are less entitled than the rest of us to unpolluted air?
Philip Dawdy responds: King County does not release information about who filed smoking complaints, so it's not possible to say whether a resident, a visitor, an employee, or someone with an ax to grind filed the complaint against the Downtown Emergency Service Center and if they were ever inside the shelter.
Smoking goes together with homelessness? That's the opinion of DESC staff, who are frankly more worried about the homeless shooting heroin on the streets than smoking in a room in the shelter.
Philip Dawdy's "Big Nanny Is Watching You" [ Jan. 18] is a much-needed commentary in these factious times. It should by now be obvious to a great many people that so-called progressives and modern conservatives are at bottom the same animal. They are statists through and through, and have no compunction about using coercion—the old gun in the ribs—to achieve their particular vision or pet cause. While the right fields calls from Jesus, the left's religion is collectivism, their god the majoritarian broker state that allows them to indulge every authoritarian impulse from the safety of the voting booth. Press them on it and you'll hear all the usual incantations: "we the people," "the common good," etc. The salve of democracy works wonders on the tender psyche of the mob.
Sadly, individual rights have no place in the mix when the mob begins to whinny. Rent-seeking bureaucrats like Roger Valdez and Greg Nickels scramble to get a hand on the saber and, having accomplished this, proceed to rattle it with righteous glee, never troubling their pragmatic minds with the constraining discipline of principles. Government has become not only nanny but schoolmarm, too, taking it upon itself to "educate" the citizenry via high-priced ad campaigns that will have us all sitting up straight and reciting the alphabet in no time (and if not, well, there's always the gun in the ribs). Ad campaigns! Can there be any clearer signal that it's time once more to starve the beast?
Try the Patch
When the people passed Initiative 901, they chose protecting workers and the public over a proven killer: secondhand smoke. As the local health department for King County, our responsibility is to carry out the will of the people. As we near the second full month of the ban in effect, it is a good time to review our progress and correct some misperceptions about our approach ["Big Nanny Is Watching You," Jan. 18].
Our staff has found overwhelming support in our community to make the law work. Where there has been confusion or lack of compliance reported to us, we have taken an education-first approach that has yielded results. We have yet to issue a fine, and in almost every instance, establishments we have visited have come into compliance.
The public and businesses understand what the law is about: preventing a known carcinogen from entering the lungs of workers and patrons inside establishments. I-901 does not prohibit smoking in private residences, and contrary to the impression given in the story, we are not trying to extend the reach of the law.
We have compassion for smokers battling a powerful addiction and are providing education and support for them. Affordable treatment is key: We offer a free nicotine patch program, and we are advocating for important changes in the law to mandate smoking cessation treatment on demand for those with health insurance and offer support for those with no coverage.
The ban and its implementation is a success story written by our community. Every day, thousands of our family, friends, and colleagues will breathe the benefits.
Tobacco Prevention Program Manager, Public Health– Seattle & King County
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