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Letters to the editor

January 21, 2005 | Page 6

Medical needs of poor ignored
What should the left do?
Is it possible to support Islam and gay rights?
Caterpillar's complicity

Not-so-friendly skies for us

Dear Socialist Worker,
Thanks for your excellent article on the crisis in the airline industry ("Crunch time at airlines", January 7). Your analysis of the unions' failed strategy of givebacks and lack of solidarity is particularly apt; the pressing need is to defend working conditions and fight for some immediate pro-worker state intervention in the industry.

I would add that unions and the left need to seriously consider nationalization of the air transportation system as well.

Air transportation cannot be organized rationally by the so-called "free market." Scheduling flights efficiently is hard enough as a pure engineering problem without capitalists trying to rip off and kill each other at the same time. Perennial fare wars have created massive, chronic overcapacity (e.g., three third-full planes going to the same place at the same time) which is confusing, expensive and environmentally unsound.

Nationalization could rationalize the system, thereby maintaining decent conditions for workers and affordable fares for consumers.

The latter point is important, since deregulation did in fact lower fares; the old system, while regulated, was after all still designed to ensure juicy profits for private carriers.

The corporations--who certainly want public money, just no public control--will pose as defenders of cheap, democratic air travel to win consumers to their side. By raising the slogan of nationalization, our side can show how the corporations are both anti-worker and anti-consumer.

As a final thought, it is interesting to note that the author of American airline deregulation is none other than that "great" liberal, Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts.
Shaun Joseph, Providence, R.I.

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Medical needs of poor ignored

Dear Socialist Worker,
While Michigan's food pantries remain understocked and school-age poverty levels remain high, an additional aspect to this reality for hundreds of thousands living in Michigan was the subject of an article in the Muskegon Chronicle: "Agencies struggle to meet medical needs of the poor."

While the number of those living in poverty with medical needs has risen throughout 2004, a federal funding freeze for those living in extreme poverty went into effect July 1, 2004. At the time of the freeze, state aid was budgeted for 63,000 people. The numbers now exceed 89,000, leaving the state's various charities scrambling to meet the medical needs of the poor.

Many, no doubt, are left in crisis situations when considering cancer and AIDS patients. Diana Stubbs, director of one of Muskegon's aid agencies, said that they remain "in dire need of donations if they are to continue." Diabetes and heart disease, both of which require medication, are common among the poor being helped in Michigan.

But the delays in the paperwork that the charities are forced to do under a capitalist health care system can be life-threatening.

Cheryl Schneider, of Muskegon Care, says "Many are homeless, living friend to friend. Thirty dollars for a prescription may not seem like much, but when you have no income it may as well be $300."

The poorest of the poor, some seriously ill, also often homeless, living through the winter months in Michigan, are in urgent need of a common sense, humane solution to their problems.
Brian McAfee, Muskegon Heights, Mich.

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What should the left do?

Dear Socialist Worker,
The progressive forces in America have retreated into backing the Democratic Party. They thought that this was the best way to advance the social democratic reform agenda. But backing the Democrats also means all-out support for American imperialism.

Kerry and his fellow Democrats voted for the Iraq war. He even said that he would continue the occupation until the job was finished--meaning when the oil was flowing. Are we progressives prepared for that?

History is clear. The Democrats have started even more imperialist wars than the Republicans. Truman brought us the Cold War, McCarthyism and Korea. Kennedy and Johnson brought us the Bay of Pigs and Vietnam. Carter--Iran. Clinton--Yugoslavia and East Africa.

When Howard Dean's peace movement was rising high, the Democratic National Committee moved in with John Kerry to cut off Dean and keep up support for the war. Really, is it worth supporting all this horror in the vague hope of getting a few small domestic reforms?

American politics works like this: The Republicans own the upper middle class and the culturally backward. The Democrats have been carefully constructed by the ruling class to co-opt the disadvantaged--labor, ethnic minorities and women. They are awfully good at that job, awfully rich and strong, and totally incapable of being changed.

What then are we progressives supposed to do? We must start again on the laborious task of building an alternative political force--a new party, down the road. Not right away, but when objective conditions (depression or losing war) send the people to the left. That will come, maybe sooner than we think. Meanwhile, let's keep away from the donkey's hind feet--unless we like getting kicked.

Our natural base continues to be workers, women, minorities and environmentalists. Somehow blending them into a new movement--that is the only way to go. Forget about the Daley machines, the Zell Millers, the Libermans and the Kerrys. They are the enemy.

All the above advice comes from the left. Now, let me grasp the third rail of political "correctness" and take note of two things from the right.

First, we on the left must, of course, offer gays and lesbians all the benefits that heterosexual couples have in health, welfare and inheritance. But call it "civil union" or something--not "marriage." Recent referendums in 11 states against gay marriage passed by margins of over 80 percent.

Second, face up to the reality of what degradation in the ghettos is doing to race relations. Join with Jesse Jackson, Barack Obama and Kwame Mfume in urging the Black population to pull itself up in the areas of crime, family stability and education.

I regret that a lot of the above is going to annoy my long-time progressive friends. But let me ask you to calmly assess whether any of it is untrue.
Perry Cartwright, Woodbridge, Ill.

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Is it possible to support Islam and gay rights?

Dear Socialist Worker,
I JUST became aware of your publication and am interested in the issues for which you advocate. I am, however, a bit confused how a group can both support gay liberation and at the same time defend the Islamic revolutionaries who oppose it. I very much look forward to hearing your thoughts on this matter.
Craig Young, From the Internet

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Caterpillar's complicity

Dear Socialist Worker,
Human Rights Watch has said that Caterpillar Inc. should suspend sales of its D9 bulldozer to Israel's army.

Caterpillar makes the D9 to military specifications and sells the bulldozers to Israel as weapons under the U.S. Foreign Military Sales Program. Once exported, the bulldozers are armored by the state-owned Israel Military Industries Ltd. The D9 is then used by the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) to demolish Palestinian homes, destroy agriculture and shred roads in violation of the laws of war.

In the last four years, in the Gaza Strip alone, more than 2,500 Palestinian homes have been demolished by the IDF.

The company's code of conduct states that "Caterpillar accepts the responsibilities of global citizenship," and it "must take into account social, economic, political and environmental" factors throughout its business operations. Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, is quoted as saying, "Caterpillar betrays its stated values when it sells bulldozers to Israel knowing that they are being used to illegally destroy Palestinian homes."

It's about time global corporations are called to account for their complicity in war crimes.
Dave Edwards, Doncaster, England

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