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October 14, 2005 | Page 12

Sold to the highest bidder
Beating back the bigots

Jonah didn't have to die

IT'S ALWAYS a tragedy when a small child dies in a house fire. But what's worse is when the child dies in a fire that would have been unthinkable in a rationally run society.

Jonah Flores, a 10-month-old baby in the District of Columbia, died after a fire broke out in his apartment--started by a candle in his room. The candle was there because his family had their electricity disconnected, and he didn't want to sleep in the dark.

His mother, Fritzie Flores, had recently gotten out of the hospital and was unable to pay almost $500 owed to Pepco, the local utility company. Her landlord suggested she apply for assistance from the D.C. Energy Office, which she did. The paperwork granting her assistance was found, approved and ready for processing--the day after the fire.

It's outrageous to think that an immigrant family, mired in poverty, would have to put themselves at such great risk to provide themselves with light and comfort. A system that puts corporate profits before people's needs is one in which babies like Jonah Flores can burn to death because a bill wasn't paid--and one in which hundreds of thousands of people can lose everything, even their lives, because more resources are thrown into an illegal war half a world away than into measures that could lessen the damage of a hurricane.

The more I read about tragedies like the death of Jonah Flores, the more I realize we need to fight for a socialist alternative.
Jeff Skinner, Washington, D.C.

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AMERICANS GENERALLY believe in fairness at the polls. Almost everyone would agree that all registered voters should be allowed to vote, their votes should be counted, and there must be a paper trail for verification. Or how about this: Both sides of a proposition must be allowed to present their case to the voters.

That's pretty much a no-brainer too, but California's Proposition 75 was put on the November ballot simply to silence some of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's harshest critics: our nurses, teachers, police, and firemen, by cutting their unions' political contributions.

When you slash funding from only one side of a debate, the other side has a distinct, unfair advantage. Money buys votes.

I agree that we need to reduce the big-buck contributions that fuel our politicians, but let's be fair about it. I would fully support a proposition limiting the total dollar amount contributed by any individual, corporation or union to $1,000 per year. With a level playing field, maybe our politicians would start to care more about us, their constituents, than the corporations currently bankrolling their campaigns.

Arizona, New Mexico, North Carolina, Vermont, Maine and Massachusetts have all passed clean money legislation and the difference is astounding: In 1998, before clean money, 79 percent of Arizona's political races were decided simply by the number of dollars raised. In 2002, after clean money legislation, that number was reduced to 2 percent.

While the perennial argument from the rich is that limiting political contributions limits their freedom of speech, I seriously doubt that our founding fathers wanted our First Amendment to be used as an pretext so that their children's children could be subjugated by this aristocracy based on wealth, when they fought so hard to free themselves from an aristocracy based on heredity. I think most Americans--past and present--would agree: Equality is essential for democracy.
Mike Kirchubel, Fairfield, Calif.

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Beating back the bigots

SOMETIMES THE stupidity of right-wing bigots is only surpassed by their arrogance. At the antiwar march in Washington, D.C., on September 24, about 30 people from the disgusting group known as the "Protest Warriors" showed up with the intention of intimidating participants in the antiwar movement.

They set up shop about 20 feet from the Campus Antiwar Network (CAN) table, and started chanting and holding up pro-war signs--some of which had racial slurs against Arabs on them.

They were expecting to be unopposed. They were dead wrong. Myself and a few others alerted members of CAN, and before long about 150 people had gathered round with bullhorns, demanding that they leave our protest.

At first, they only mocked us. But that was before we started pushing. First, we forced them across the street. But that wasn't good enough for us. We chased them down the street, made them turn a corner, and we left them (appropriately) at the Ronald Reagan building, two blocks from the protest. They were clearly demoralized and genuinely shocked that we would put up such a fight.

People are outraged by the war in Iraq, the atrocities in New Orleans and the bullheaded way the right wing is destroying everything in its path. This incident demonstrates that a quickly growing number of us are ready to fight back.

From the Protest Warriors in D.C. to the Minutemen in California, the right wing should know that our side won't stop fighting until every one of them has returned to the sewer they crawled out of!
Alexander Billet, Syracuse, N.Y.

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