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Views in brief

March 18, 2005 | Page 8

OTHER LETTERS BELOW:
Million-dollar bigotry?
City retirees fight back
U.S. hypocrisy over the hijab
When profits mean job cuts

Summers' racist record

IT IS good that Phil Gasper wrote an article exposing the sexist pseudo-science behind Harvard University President Lawrence Summers' remarks on the lack of ability of women for math ("Sexism disguised as science," February 18).

It should be noted also that Summers has also previously made racist comments in his role as self-proclaimed "provocateur" (oddly, always provoking from the right). Summers had previously issued a notorious memo that "Africa is vastly underpolluted," in which he argued that the U.S. should dump its toxic waste in Africa--as not only is Africa less polluted, but the lives of Africans are worth less than the lives of Americans, because Africans make less money and have shorter life expectancies.

Thus, on cost-benefit grounds, their lives are cheaper and their deaths are less of a loss than those of U.S. citizens.

Earlier, as Harvard University president, Summers called an African American philosopher on the carpet for spending time in political campaigns (such as that of Democratic candidate Bill Bradley) rather than in class. However, numerous Harvard professors have been away for political reasons--but campaigning for imperialism rather than anti-imperialism, and hence "respectable."

Summers also objected to Professor Cornel West producing a rap record encouraging African American youth to stay in school. One wonders if Summers would have objected equally to a professor who wrote a military march, a string quartet or even a white country and western song.

Part of Summers' "research" for his recent sexist remarks came from sociobiological Chicago School economist Gary Becker. But part apparently came from talk over a beer with evolutionary psychologist Steven Pinker, whose denunciations of academic feminists and antiwar hippies (as well as his appreciation of racist and homophobic remarks of Tom Wolfe) pepper the pages of his How the Mind Works and Blank Slate.

Indeed, Harvard recently hired Pinker to keep up their sociobiological tradition of E. O Wilson and the deceased Richard Hernnstein of Bell Curve fame.
Val Dusek, Scarborough, Maine

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Million-dollar bigotry?

BRIAN JONES rightly reviewed Clint Eastwood's current film Million Dollar Baby as being unremarkable in most key ways ("Hollywood plays it safe," February 25). But he failed to discuss the most important and dangerous element of the film--its advocacy of the idea that it is better to be dead than disabled.

This is not Eastwood's first attack against people with disabilities. In 2000, Eastwood went on a tirade, testifying before Congress and speaking on right-wing talk shows against the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

His indignation arose from a lawsuit that was brought against him because he failed to make a hotel he purchased and renovated accessible, as mandated by the ADA. Congress wrote into Title 3 of the 1992 law that enforcement of the accessibility provision could only be by lawsuit, rather than by inspection or other form of oversight. Instead of complying with the law, Eastwood chose to attack it, covering his disdain for people with disabilities by claiming that they were all being duped by greedy lawyers who "end up driving off in a big Mercedes, and the disabled person ends up driving off in a wheelchair."

Thousands upon thousands of people with disabilities--even major ones like quadriplegia--live extraordinarily rich, full lives. Eastwood omits issues in Million Dollar Baby such as the transition from sudden disability through depression to acceptance, rehabilitation, adaptive technologies that can make living with disabilities easier, etc.--to say nothing about critiquing an economy that refuses to meet people's needs if profits are not to be made.

The danger in posing such an unquestioning assumption that it is "obvious" or "natural" to prefer death over disability, especially in a mainstream Hollywood movie, is that it helps shape mass consciousness.

We do not need our society to accept that assisted suicide and euthanasia are simply matters of individual choice or liberty, when the reality for people with disabilities is that they face roughly 70 percent unemployment; are routinely cut off from Medicaid or Social Security benefits if they do find a job; face health insurance rules that require institutionalization in nursing homes rather than the less expensive use of assistants at home; and must deal with a society that provides little help to families, who must do all or most care-giving themselves, which can leave them feeling burned out and the person with a disability feeling like a burden.

Diane Coleman, founder of the Chicago-based disability rights group Not Dead Yet, has written an article from the viewpoint of someone with a disability watching Million Dollar Baby. She provides a crucial counterpoint both to the film and to the mainstream critical reception of the film. Not Dead Yet works to oppose physician-assisted suicide within the vastly oppressive context of an economy that marginalizes people with disabilities.
Peter Spitzform, Burlington, Vt.

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City retirees fight back

A HEATED battle has developed here in Cincinnati over a proposal put forth by the city retirement board. The proposal seeks to solve a projected shortfall in funding through major increases in out-of-pocket health care costs for those who retired after July1, 1999. This proposal would also "tie future benefits to those of current employees who could negotiate these benefits away without participation by affected retirees." This could also open the door to future cuts.

A general meeting was held March 3 at City Hall to discuss the issue. The event drew a large and vocal crowd, with arguments focused around legal and ethical aspects of the proposal--which would in effect violate the contracts signed between city and retirees.

The evening ended in a temporary victory for the retirees when a councilman addressed the crowd stating that he had been swayed by our arguments and that "there is no way I can take this proposal to council" and "we need to go back to the drawing board."

It's not a done deal, of course, but we did win the first round! It shows what we can do when we stick together.
Marcy, Cincinnati

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U.S. hypocrisy over the hijab

I AGREE with Sharon Smith that the rhetoric behind the "liberation" of Muslim women is but a tool to justify Washington's "crusade" or "war on terror," which in essence, is a global war against Muslims--especially those who choose to preserve their dignity and who refuse to be exploited by multinational conglomerates, imperial masters and puppet dictators. ("Their hypocrisy about Islam," March 4)

Muslims, both men and women, have for more than 1,400 years been modest in how they dress. It is, before all, a religious duty to be modest in many practices of life, not just clothing practices. I grew up in Egypt, a Muslim country, and I can attest that Egyptian women wear the veil (hijab) for different reasons, mostly related to identity, class, culture, religiosity, political activism and historical practice.

Suggesting that Muslim women veil to protect themselves from the evils of the "inherently oppressive and sexually aggravated" Muslim man falls short of embracing Washington's imperial "moral values" behind the war against Muslims.
Amir Salem, New York City

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When profits mean job cuts

FROM THE February 14, 2005 issue of BtoB, the Magazine for Marketing Strategists: "D&B (Dun and Bradstreet) this month posted double-digit revenue and profit gains for 2004. It also announced it expects to cut 400 jobs this year through efforts to improve operating efficiency and find savings through technology outsourcing."

Re-read the above--there is simply no logic. The second sentence is seemingly disconnected from the first!

Allow me to paraphrase: huge profit and revenue increases....and 400 people will lose their jobs, 400 people will have to tell their families they are out of work. As someone in the industry, I can tell you this is commonplace. Naivety suggests that business-people would be ecstatic with double-digit revenue and profit gains, but seemingly this is not the case.
S.C. Cross, From the Internet

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