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Letters to the editor

May 16, 2003 | Page 4

OTHER LETTERS BELOW:
Getting shafted at Taco Bell
The insanity of the death penalty
There's no free speech at CBS
The war on Iraq isn't over
Slap in the face to Native Americans

Media misinformation

Dear Socialist Worker,

The coverage of the Iraq war was touted as the best since the Vietnam War, with reporters "embedded" in military exercises and riding along in tanks. This close-up view is presented as evidence that the media was doing an excellent job.

Many of the journalists had a front-row seat to the devastation of war and the mixed emotions towards the war felt by soldiers, but these experiences rarely made the news and will certainly never be focused on and investigated. This is because the access these journalists have--access that is key to running a cheap, profitable media enterprise--is wholly dependent on the military granting the access. And what is granted can be taken away.

During the 1991 Gulf War the media was enamored with the war and covered it intensely. The result was a misinformed public. In 1991 the University of Massachusetts' Center for Studies in Communication found that the more people watched TV during the war, the less was actually known about the war and the more they supported the war.

The study found most people could identify weapon systems, but had difficulty answering questions about U.S. policies. It concluded that "that the public are not generally ignorant--rather, they are selectively misinformed." This is why it is important to seek out news from independent sources like Socialist Worker--sources that can tell the truth about the war.

Eric Rehder, Providence, R.I.

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Getting shafted at Taco Bell

Dear Socialist Worker,

I am currently employed by Taco Bell in Linton, Ind. I was a shift manager until just recently, when I was demoted to a crew member. Taco Bell is breaking federal and state laws with their payment of overtime and adjusting of hours and inventory. I was afraid to tell anybody this information in fear of losing my job.

Well, I don't care anymore, I'm going to tell the truth.

Taco Bell in Linton refuses to pay their staff overtime. Every time someone gets overtime, the manager adjusts that employees' hours so that they do not get it. They carry your hours over until the next week so it appears that a staff member doesn't run into overtime.

Both myself and my wife work at Taco Bell. At one stage, I was owed 35 hours overtime and my wife about 40. We received personal checks from the manager for our overtime, but were only paid the normal rate, not time-and-a-half.

Also, all of the staff at Taco Bell in Linton knows that this happens. In fact, the area coach and district manager also know about it. I do not know if other stores are the same but suspect so.

Any help would be greatly appreciated. It's about time us workers were paid an honest day's pay for the work we do.

Mark, Linton, Ind.

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The insanity of the death penalty

Dear Socialist Worker,

Just to prove how barbaric the U.S. death penalty system is, a federal appeals court ruled recently that an inmate on Arkansas' death row can be forced to take medication--in order to make him sane enough to be executed.

A U.S. Supreme Court ruling prohibits executing the mentally ill, so Arkansas prosecutors decided to ask the court to force Charles Singleton to take anti-psychotic medication in order to make him eligible for killing. "Singleton presents the court with a choice between involuntary medication followed by an execution and no medication followed by psychosis and imprisonment," Judge Roger L. Wollman wrote for the majority. In a disgusting 6-to-3 decision, the court said that the first choice was the better one--because the drugs were "generally beneficial" to the prisoner.

Singleton was convicted of killing a grocery store clerk in Arkansas and sentenced to death in 1979. In 1987, he began suffering from psychotic episodes. He said he believed his prison cell was possessed by demons and that a prison doctor had implanted a device in his ear. In December 2001, he wrote to the appeals court, saying that he did not believe his victim was dead and that she was "somewhere on earth waiting for me --her groom."

A three-judge panel of the appeals court had earlier commuted Singleton's death sentence because he could not understand his punishment without being medicated. This is the first time an appeals court has allowed such an execution.

If Singleton weren't on death row, the state wouldn't give a damn about providing him with medication to make him well. The fact that the state only cares about providing a mentally ill man with medical help so that it can then turn around and execute him lays bare the utter brutality of the death penalty in the U.S. for all to see.

Nicole Colson, Chicago

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There's no free speech at CBS

Dear Socialist Worker,

CBS, which is owned by Viacom, recently canned Ed Gernon for producing "Hitler: The Rise of Evil" because it apparently insinuates that the fear in the United States since September 11 is similar to the fears that were prevalent in Hitler's time--and that therefore we in the U.S. are doing things we might not otherwise do because of our fears. Bush is playing on those fears and getting away with murder.

I called CBS in Los Angeles and New York to tell them that the decision to fire Gernon smacked of McCarthyism and fascism, and that I would no longer be watching CBS or any programs owned by Viacom. I also told them that I would spread the boycott message to anyone and everyone I could find.

Money is a language that Bush understands. If his friends lose some of it because of the fascist state he has created, then perhaps they will see the sense in retaining some free speech for the people who are supposedly in a democracy.

Mary Jacobs, Los Angeles

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The war on Iraq isn't over

Dear Socialist Worker,

After returning from the April 12 antiwar protest in Washington, D.C., I have to let you know that people are still as angry as ever and want to be on the streets letting their voices be heard. I was amazed at the show of people, as were the organizers of the march, International ANSWER.

Now is the time for our contacts and periphery to realize that the war on Iraq is not over, and neither is the war on the working class. People are still making the connections that occupation is not liberation, and we can show them the place of a socialist alternative.

I wish everyone could have been at the demonstration, as energies were high. None of the disillusionment running through the rest of the antiwar movement could be seen. It made me realize that people are not through being fed up with a war that is not in their interests and is perpetrated by a government that cares nothing for the sake of innocents, only profits.

We need to know that the "embedded" media does not report the state of the movement right now. I saw on April 12 that it isn't over.

Peter LoRe, West Orange, N.J.

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Slap in the face to Native Americans

Dear Socialist Worker,

I was outraged to read recently that tank crews from the Alpha Company 4th Battalion 64 Armor Regiment performed (according to the Associated Press) a "Seminole Indian war dance" before convoying to a position near the Iraqi border. For U.S. troops to perform a "Seminole Indian war dance" as they marched toward Iraq is a slap in the face of Seminole Native Americans--who have a rich history of standing strong in the face of oppression and domination.

As early as 1510, the Seminole Native American tribes were confronted by Spanish explorers, who brought disease and oppression that killed thousands of natives. By the end of the American Revolutionary War, the new U.S. began a policy of taking or buying land from the Native tribes in the Atlantic seaboard states.

By 1813, native tribes in Alabama rose up against the white settlers and against other tribes that supported white settlement. From 1814 to 1858, the Seminole Native Americans stood in resistance to the aggressive actions of the U.S. military.

The Natives were aided in their resistance by runaway slaves, who received protection from their Seminole allies. In the end, the U.S. military had to withdraw with no treaty or victory.

Over 3,000 Natives had been forcibly removed from Florida to the Western territories of Arkansas and Oklahoma. As few as 300 remained in Florida. It is in their tradition that we stand in opposition to the U.S. war against Iraq and stand in support of those who demand justice in the world.

Ann Coleman, Seattle

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