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Friday, December 30th

Letter On "Targeted Assassination" of American Citizens


To the Editor:

The Administration of President Obama has acknowledged a policy of "targeted assassination" of persons the government asserts are involved with terrorism, and is reported to have a secret “kill list." The killing of targeted people, and often innocent bystanders, by missiles from unmanned drones in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen has increased during the current Administration. We are assured that the use of drones in a sovereign foreign country, without charge, and without due process, conforms to both United States and international law. However, the details of the policies are secret. Many legal experts dispute the legality of targeted assassination, as does the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). No matter the reasons, we reject that that the end justifies this means.

Two American citizens were killed in Yemen on September 30, 2011, the Muslim cleric, Mr. Anwar al-Awlaki, and the Muslim magazine writer, Mr. Samir Khan, by a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) missle. Although stated that they supported al-Queda, the information to substantiate the claim is secret. Subsequently, on October 15, 2011, a missile killed two additional American citizens, Mr. al-Awlaki's teenage son, 16 year-old Abdul Rahman Anwar al-Awlawki, and his 17 year-old cousin Abdul Rahman Anwar al-Alwaki. The two apparently were at a dinner with 7 Yemeni friends, all of whom also were killed by the missile.

The use of drones by the CIA to carry out a military mission are violations of accepted "laws of war" and the U.S. Constitution. First, the United States is not at war with Yemen. Second, the CIA's civilian employees and civilian contractors are not lawful combatants and are not entitled to the combatant immunity that shields killing by the military. Third, American citizens remain protected by the U.S. Constitution when outside the United States. Fourth, the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution states that no person shall be ”deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of the law”. Western countries have recognized due process since the British signing of the Magna Carta in 1215.

The ACLU’s deputy legal director Jameel Jaffer stated, “The government's authority to use lethal force against its own citizens should be limited to circumstances in which the threat to life is concrete, specific, and imminent.”

Roger deRoos,
San Juan Island Chapter, ACLU of Washington
Friday Harbor, Washington


[link]


Friday, December 23rd

Letter On Cuts To Prosecuting Attorney's Budget


---------------------------------------
Shoplifters Not Prosecuted?


(10-27-11)
To the Editor:

One must seriously question the judgment and professionalism of a Prosecuting Attorney who openly tells potential shoplifters that they are free to steal from local merchants without any fear of legal consequence. A prosecuting attorney who openly advises would-be thieves that if caught the only penalty they will suffer is the possibility of having to pay for the goods they stole, but who promises them no prosecution, no criminal record, no fine, no probation, no community service, no jail time. (Related Story)

This is Mr. Gaylord’s idea of how to serve and protect the public.

Being a merchant in San Juan County is hard enough without having to deal with thieves who know that there will be no penalty for stealing from them.

It’s not as though Mr. Gaylord doesn’t have alternatives. He could re-assign prosecutors who normally work on less vital civil issues to assist in District Court prosecutions. He could drop some but not all shoplifting cases, so that thieves would at least face some risk of criminal penalties for their crimes. He could spend some time of his own time prosecuting District Court cases. He could take a temporary cut in his very generous salary and use the money to restore the lower paid half-time position he claims to need.

But he prefers to give aid and comfort to criminals who may choose to prey on hardworking local merchants. This may be his version of responsible public service. It certainly isn’t mine, and I don’t think it’s the view of very many local residents.

Since Mr. Gaylord publicly admits that he can’t fulfill his responsibilities as Prosecuting Attorney on the budget allocated to him, it’s time for him to resign and let the voters elect somebody who can.

Christopher Hodgkin
San Juan Island



[link]


Wednesday, December 7th

Response To Sallan Column


To the Editor:

I certainly have no issue with the main theme of Mr. Sallan's recent column [The Value of Money and Occupy Wall Street]. The occasional homily to the values of hard work, thrift, and respect for each is useful. Although it is perhaps instructive to remember that every generation, as it gets older, seems to think that the generations younger than they lack these virtues. I have no doubt that Mr. Sallan's grandparents thought their grandchildren's generation lacking the same virtues that he now sees lacking. Mine certainly did.

I write simply to point out that Mr. Sallan has erected a nasty and pernicious "straw man" in his characterization of the Occupy Wall Street protestors. In repeatedly characterizing the protestors as "lazy, spoiled kids," Mr. Sallan repeats an idea which has become widespread in the mainstream media, and, I dare say, among those who are inclined to see protest as ineffective, useless, or illegitimate.

It turns out, when one checks the facts (which I would usually expect from a writer of Mr. Sallan's caliber and professionalism), that the average age of Occupy Wall Street protestors in early November was 33. This was determined by political scientists from Fordham University, who sampled the protestors at Zucotti Park and gathered data on demographics and the protestor's intent, ideas, and ideological associations. Since standard statistical theory assures that a sample (of the size gathered in the study) is symmetrical and "bell-shaped" around that average, and since we know there are plenty of young people participating in #OWS, we can conclude that there are also a large number of people older than 33.

Enough people older than 33, in fact, that Mr. Sallan's characterization of the Occupy protestors as "lazy" kids is not simply incorrect on a factual level, it's blatantly misleading. This would be a simple enough matter, if repeated assertions of the protestor's obvious failures at "hard work" and looking after their own lives and finances were not such a central aspect of his argument. I wonder if, confronted by examples from the upper half of the age distribution among the protestors, Mr. Sallan would be so quick to judge their track record of hard work and thrift?

I want to reiterate that I have no problem with Mr. Sallan's main points about hard work and the value of money. I do find his characterization of the Occupy protestors to be offensive and inaccurate. I have often enjoyed his columns in the past, but I will read them with a much more critical eye in the future, given the casual disregard for facts displayed in his most recent.

Mark Madsen
San Juan Island
[link]


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