STRANGER: In a great example of "think locally, ignore globally," Sean Nelson, while exploring legitimate issues of independent businesses and community development on Capitol Hill's 15th Avenue, dismisses Caffe Ladro's switch to Fair Trade-certified coffee as a PR stunt. He would do well to give a little more attention to the well-being of the people who produce the stuff we drink in those competing cafes. As a college professor who studies coffee producers in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca, I can assure you that Fair Trade certification matters: The reported crisis in coffee-growing communities is very real, and Fair Trade arrangements dramatically improve the circumstances of coffee farmers. And while nearly all coffee roasters claim their coffee is fairly traded, only independent Fair Trade certification provides fully credible evidence that the farmers got a fair deal.

My brief conversations in the past with Victrola owners Jen Strongin and Chris Sharp have convinced me that they are sincerely concerned about the welfare of the people who produce the product at the center of their business. I think encouragement from customers would make it much easier for Victrola to make the switch to Fair Trade-certified coffee.

Caffe Ladro should be lauded for switching to Fair Trade-certified coffee. Victrola should be supported in making the shift.

Matt Warning, via e-mail


STRANGER: Regarding your recent articles about the businesses on 15th Avenue: The beefs with the soon-to-be-opened Walgreens are valid, but I suspect the real reason behind the flap is simply because a bland corporate chain outlet will seemingly spoil the neighborhood ["Coffee Capitalism," Sean Nelson, Dec 5].

However, along a half-mile stretch on 15th, there's already a Safeway, Subway, QFC, 7-Eleven, and two Starbucks, all long-standing businesses in this largely upscale neighborhood. A friend remarked that there probably wouldn't be such a stink if the Walgreens would instead be a Pottery Barn.

Yet 15th still retains its charm, thanks to small, independent businesses like Victrola and Caffe Ladro. So what's wrong with a little healthy competition between the two? Both stores appear to be thriving, which only adds to the neighborhood's vitality.

Finally, considering your articles' apparent support for small businesses, why the unwarranted dig at "the place with the crappy bagels"? Without the condescending attitude, I guess it just wouldn't be The Stranger.

Steve, via e-mail


STRANGER: Sean Nelson's article "Coffee Capitalism" sums up just how naive and stupid liberals are. Caffe Ladro and Starbucks are free to open shop anywhere they want. Caffe Ladro is an independent coffee shop. Starbucks was one too. After [Starbucks] became successful and expanded, they are automatically evil sellouts? If the nearby Starbucks has a talented barista, I am going to buy my coffee there. If Barnes & Noble offers better selections and prices, I am going to buy my books there. It is not about independent vs. corporate. It is about convenience, price, product, and service. If the likes of Starbucks and Caffe Ladro win out on 15th Ave or any of your precious "neighborhood" spots, congratulate them. The business world is tough. Capitalism is not supposed to be friendly. Not everyone can win. Liberals need to get their heads out of their asses and figure out a way to compete effectively.

Shane Mora, via e-mail


STRANGER: I love Victrola's assertion that Ladro can't be an independent coffee house because they have seven stores (that's a monopoly!) and moved into the same block as their own cafe. This article should consider that (contrary to popular belief) a small majority of us simply enjoy quality and friendly service when selecting our daily fix. As a longtime coffee snob of the 15th Avenue crowd, my experience has been that Caffe Ladro hires genuinely friendly folks serving a consistently satisfying espresso (minus the pretension). That, along with the comfort that comes from understanding that I am supporting an independent small business that just so happens to serve Fair Trade coffee, will keep me coming back. Before Ladro stole the scene, I was accustomed to enduring Victrola coffee, which I find to be nearly as bitter as the cafe's pompous, pseudo-liberal hipster attitude. Anyone who has lived in Seattle long enough can see that there is no shortage of patrons who will continue to gravitate toward this particular scene. I'm just thankful that all of those Starbucks, Tully's, and SBC types haven't started mucking up the line at my local coffee house.

Larry Holman, via e-mail


STRANGER: It made me glad to read the article "We Are What We Eat" by Min Liao [Dec 5]. More specifically, it made me glad I left Seattle!

Ms. Liao, your attempts to "be real" with your readers were in fact lip service to fit in. Trying to be "progressive" enough to stay in the scene, while still riding the American gravy train like some Republican yuppie. Yeah, real hip.

I commend you on your writing, Ms. Liao. Your attempts to make the reader empathize with you were so effective they could even be placed in other contexts and still come across the same. Let's see... an example: "Mommeeeee, I wanna get Gap pants. I don't care that they were made by children in the Third World working 18-hour days, they come PRE-WORN IN!" Do you consider your writing style ironic? I call it fucking tired.

Sean Gillis, via e-mail


STRANGER: Charles Mudede is riled by police officers who quote blacks verbatim. He wants them to whiten up the language so the blacks don't sound like ignorant thugs. But he dismisses crimes and discrimination against women as if these are insignificant--e.g., "A drug addict, abusive husband, and frail human being who suffered from all manner of illnesses throughout his life (sickle cell disease, diabetes, and recrudescent hip complications), Miles Davis was one of the greatest musicians of the last century." [Stranger Suggests, Dec 5.]

Now, would Charles be so willing to point out the "good qualities" of a "racist" like Strom Thurmond? I doubt it.

I'm tired of the immature and anti-white misogynist attitude displayed by your paper. It's just more knee-jerk liberal nonsense. It's why the Republicans are gaining more and more support. It's impossible, so far as I can tell, to find a mature, informed Democratic liberal these days. The Democratic Party seems to be made up of mainly former hippies and misogynist homophobic hypocritical whining "ethnic minorities."

Anonymous, via e-mail


STRANGER: Next week please run a multi-page story about the senior citizen that Nathan Hughes beat, kicked, and strangled... I'd like to know what he's doing these days ["Gladiator Academy," Phil Campbell, Dec 12]. Oh, wait, he's not doing anything because HE'S FUCKING DEAD! I hope we can say the same for little underweight Nathan, but not before his ass is pounded furiously by a gang of 300-pound bull-sistahs. May every cock he eats be dipped in shit.

John Vinesky, via e-mail


STRANGER: I found myself doing the old school-days exercise of "compare and contrast" last Thursday. Both Josh Feit for The Stranger and Joni Balter for the Seattle Times addressed the current dysfunctionality of Seattle's city council [Five to Four, Dec 12]. Feit: "There's a slew of other things that need reform around here, but the biggest no-brainer is passing an ordinance that would create city council district elections." This is good. It recognizes a problem and suggests a remedy. Balter: "Want to bet the real effect of district elections will be to bring in more lefty flakes than we already have?" Not so good. Balter has shown she has little faith in democracy and less faith in the judgment of Seattle voters. Moreover, she fails to realize that the problems with the council are symptoms of how the at-large system has failed.

Basically, the city council is out of touch with the voters of Seattle, and so is Joni Balter.

Zander Batchelder, via e-mail