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Letters to the editor

February 13, 2004 | Page 4

OTHER LETTERS BELOW:
Grocery workers need solidarity
SW is too hard on Kucinich
Making Schwarzenegger back down

Don't let the state of Texas kill Scott Panetti

Dear Socialist Worker,
I was horrified last week to read of the case of Scott Panetti, a Wisconsin native and ex-Navy serviceman who was set to be executed in Texas on February 5--until he received a 60-day stay just hours before his execution. Panetti, who has a long history of mental illness, is being executed for murdering his parents-in-law.

Upon turning himself in to the police after the murders, he told the officers that "Sarge" had told him to do it and that demons were laughing at him while he committed the killings. Panetti was found competent to stand trial and waived his right to an attorney, opting to represent himself.

He appeared in the courtroom dressed as a cowboy and called Jesus Christ and John F. Kennedy to the stand to testify in his defense. Those who witnessed the trial were quoted as saying it was a "farce" and a "circus." One of Panetti's doctors said: "I thought to myself, 'My god. How in the world can our legal system allow an insane man to defend himself? How can this be just?'"

That Panetti was allowed to defend himself despite the evaluations of every psychologist that reviewed his case is irresponsible enough on behalf of the Texas courts, but to sentence him to death when he is obviously unable to understand the consequences of his actions is inhumane and disgusting beyond words.

None of this is surprising coming from Texas, the state with the worst execution record in the country. The Illinois moratorium has set the precedent for a movement to abolish the insane and criminal practice of capital punishment. We have to organize to end this state-sponsored barbarism.

Kevin Prosen, Madison, Wis.

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Grocery workers need solidarity

Dear Socialist Worker,
On January 23, United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 135--the union representing striking and locked out grocery workers in San Diego County--and the San Diego/Imperial Counties Labor Council held their largest rally to date in support of the workers.

About 1,500 people, mostly strikers and supporters from other unions, rallied at the Civic Center downtown, and then marched several blocks to a nearby Ralphs supermarket, chanting, "Stop Corporate Greed!" It was a very inspiring event, especially for the strikers themselves, many of whom are facing serious privation after four months on the picket line and a cut in picket pay. According to the union, the goal of the rally was to expose the lies that support for the strike is waning and that the picketers are getting weary.

I've been going to the picket line at a Vons near where I live every weekend since the strike began. If you look at the situation honestly, it is obvious that more shoppers are crossing, and that strikers are finding other jobs and have little enthusiasm for picketing.

Union leaders who took the podium at the rally should make sure that they are not being deceptive when they lead crowds in chants like "One day longer, one day stronger!" The truth is that this strike needs to be won soon, or it will not be won at all.

Rallies like this one can help mobilize people outside of the union, drawing from the millions without health care and those who are disgusted by corporate greed. They can help create an army of people to do things like sit-ins, disruptive shopping (where you fill up, then abandon, carts of groceries) and blocking stores or distribution centers.

Based on much of the recent writing in SW, San Diego is far behind the Los Angeles region in these respects. I'm not a UFCW member myself, but if I was, I think I would try to use this opportunity to create a voice in the union that calls for the broadening of solidarity actions, and takes on even more difficult questions, like how to keep the scabs out of the stores.

Chuck Stemke, San Diego

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SW is too hard on Kucinich

Dear Socialist Worker,
I've been an avid reader of SW since last summer. In a roundabout way, Dennis Kucinich led me to you. For nearly four decades of active and not-so-active resistance, freedom and human rights were central to me, but I never connected the dots--never actually realized that workers' rights absolutely have to be part of the package.

I followed Dennis Kucinich to a rally of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 23 in Tacoma, Wash., where I stood in the middle of a packed union hall for the most stirring political experience of my life. Dennis Kucinich was right there for the ILWU. They endorsed him. I connected the dots.

Workers' right are human rights. He illuminated this huge blind spot in my awareness. On the way out of the hall, I was passed my first copy of Socialist Worker.

SW has been consistently too harsh on Dennis Kucinich. I have personally looked directly in his eyes on the issue of a woman's right to choose. Believe me, he did "evolve," and he won't go back on that one.

In his presidential campaign and all his congressional campaigns, his major contributors have been labor organizations. He does not accept corporate contributions. He opposes NAFTA and the WTO and always has. He opposed the war with Iraq, and he opposes the occupation. He wants to divert military spending into education.

He favors single-payer health care for everyone. He voted against the USA PATRIOT Act. He calls for repeal of Taft-Hartley. His background is working class, and he is still a proud union member.

You are not going to get anything better from a major party candidate. You really don't have to remind us that he's still a Democrat. The Democrats will manage that quite nicely on their own.

Jerry George, Bainbridge Island, Wash.

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Making Schwarzenegger back down

Dear Socialist Worker,
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and his allies are attempting to strip away the civil rights of the most vulnerable people in our population--people with developmental disabilities such as autism, Down Syndrome and cerebral palsy. Activists with disabilities played an important role in the civil rights movement in California, and in 1969, they won a piece of civil rights legislation called the Lanterman Act.

This act established a system of regional centers and area boards to guarantee access to services and protect against rights violations. In late November 2003, Schwarzenegger announced that he would be suspending the Lanterman Act indefinitely.

People with disabilities and their advocates erupted in anger, staged massive protests (few of which were covered by the media, despite the fact that tens of thousands of people participated) and forced the governor to back down within two weeks! Now that Schwarzenegger knows that he can't get away with wiping the Lanterman Act out completely, he is teaming up with his allies to dismantle it piece by piece.

In their first move, Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Bill Lockyer are trying to take away people's right to sue the government or anyone else who is not in compliance with the Lanterman Act. Can you imagine not having the ability to sue someone who was violating your rights?

It's ridiculous, and it's all in the name of saving money so that our state can continue to provide corporations with tax breaks that only enrich a small minority of people at the top. You can be part of the fightback by participating in a letter-writing campaign to save the integrity of the Lanterman Act. We've made Schwarzenegger back down before, and we can do it again!

Dave Tibbs, Program Manager, Choices-Oakland, Oakland, Calif.
Visit www.peoplefirstca.org/save_laterman_act.htm for information.

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