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Views in brief

June 8, 2007 | Page 6

VIEWS BELOW:
A health care program that's sick
Unequal justice in Illinois
Denver "cleans up" for the Democrats
Are men to blame for sexism?

A health care program that's sick

THIS MORNING, I went to my mailbox and received a postcard from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts reminding me that I had until July 1 to find health insurance, or else I would be penalized through my tax benefits next year.

This isn't a surprise to me, or to most uninsured residents here in Massachusetts, but more of a reminder of this state's outrageous attempt to give more residents insurance coverage--not for free, not with the vast amounts of money and wealth a small percentage of society holds, and certainly not from the billions that are being spent in Iraq on a daily basis--but on the backs of millions of Massachusetts residents who can't afford to pay for their own insurance plans in the first place, or whose employers just don't offer plans.

So that's the solution? Pay for it ourselves--it's "our problem," not theirs.

If I don't start paying for health insurance (most plans are costly and actually cover very little), I will be penalized by "los[ing] the tax benefit of [my] personal exemption on [my] 2007 Massachusetts income tax return, worth $219 for an individual. Penalties will increase for 2008." Oh great, I can't wait for 2008.

According to the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, almost 12 percent of Massachusetts residents have no insurance coverage--this does not include the unemployed, the disabled or residents under the age of 18. This is just a small cross-section of the nearly 50 million Americans who don't have any health insurance.

It's disgusting and appalling--and highlights the massive contradictions that exist in our society.

Speaking of massive contradictions, this postcard I received is a reminder of the way our society is set up, where the people who have the most to gain from things like health insurance, ending the war in Iraq, democratic control of the workplace, healthy food choices are actually sold back many of these things.

We're sold health insurance coverage when it should be a right, and free. We're sold discounts and different plans and programs for colleges when it should be a right, and free. We're sold the idea of going to wars for "sign-on" bonuses or free education without actually having a say in whether our country should wage war. We're sold organic or fair trade food at high prices, when food is supposed to be grown that way, and people are supposed to be paid a living wage.

These are not reasons to get depressed and lock yourself in your room--quite the contrary. History shows that ordinary people have the power to change society. We are
the ordinary people. We are all leaders. We don't need to wait for politicians or union bureaucrats to make decisions for us, because, quite frankly, it's not in their interest.

We have the power to change society, we are the majority, we create the wealth in society, and we really have nothing to lose by organizing and fighting for things like free education, free health care, ending the war in Iraq and so on. A better world is not only worth fighting for, but more possible than most people realize.
Dustin Ashley Cote, Northampton, Mass.

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Unequal justice in Illinois

RECENTLY, A prominent prosecutor from suburban Chicago, Jane Radostits, was killed in a car accident. The deputy chief of prosecutions for conservative DuPage County, Radostits was hailed as an upstanding prosecutor--skilled, fair and going places. In 2005, she was the Illinois Prosecutor Bar Association's 2005 prosecutor of the year.

In a bizarre irony, Radostits had a blood alcohol level of three times the legal limit when she died. The accident occurred at 3:45 p.m. Prior to the release of the toxicology result, her colleague, Joe Birkett, said she had gone shopping with a co-worker--after the results, he refused to comment.

The proof of her intoxication is ironic, because in June 1998, Radostits prosecuted Randall Visor for a drunk driving accident that caused the death of three people, and won a conviction and 13-year sentence. According to the Chicago Tribune, she stated that "to call this a tragedy is insufficient, because the tragedy is that it could have been avoided."

According to the Tribune, "After the prosecution of Visor, Birkett and the Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists, outraged over Visor's sentence--two years less than the maximum under the law at the time--drafted the 'JAJ' bill, using the first initials of the three girls who died. The law allows a motorist who commits reckless homicide of more than one person while under the influence of drugs or alcohol to receive a sentence of up to 30 years in prison."

If Radostits had lived, would she have faced charges? Doubtful. Birkett said of the incident, "This mistake is human failure in the highest form." So what is a "mistake" and what is a "crime" deserving 13 years in prison?

Just another example of how fairness is an illusion in our criminal justice system.
Marlene Martin, Campaign to End the Death Penalty, Chicago

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Denver "cleans up" for the Democrats

IN A move to sanitize the image of Denver to the Democratic Party's delegates and national and international press, the city of Denver recently announced plans to "persuade the homeless to come inside" during the August 2008 Democratic Convention, which will take place August 25-28, 2008.

According to the city, the reason to "persuade" the homeless to disappear during the convention was born out of "security concerns." In order for this to occur, the city plans to expand its shelter services usually reserved for emergency and harsh winter conditions.

Of course, homeless people are no threat to the convention delegates. What they are is a visual reminder of policies at the local, state and national levels that have failed to serve the essential needs of the homeless population.

In protest of this absurd and dangerous policy, Recreate 68, the progressive alliance organizing against the convention, noted that the $50 million in "security" the city has requested for the convention "should be used to build more shelters that should be open every day, not just in extreme cold or when the elites in our society want to come to Denver for a party and not be distracted by that pesky poverty issue, and to provide other social services."

Of course, treating homeless people as criminals and second-class citizens opens the door to other reactionary tactics by the city. As has been seen in other cities during national and international events, false alarms about security issues have resulted in unnecessary and unconstitutional attacks and restrictions on the First Amendment rights of demonstrators.

"Security concerns," as noted by Recreate 68, "cannot and must not be used as an excuse either to round up homeless people or to prevent demonstrators from voicing their concerns in close proximity to those attending the convention."
Jim Bullington, Denver

For more information about organizing against the convention, visit www.recreate68.org.

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Are men to blame for sexism?

AS A working man, I have been reading your publications (Socialist Worker and the International Socialist Review) and find myself perplexed around the issue of sexism. Are not men the oppressor? I don't mean that they are the root of women's oppression in sexism, but are they not the oppressor?

For example, the police force is not the origin of the state, but they are hated by people of color, activists, progressives, etc. The state came out of a historical material condition and to get rid of the police, we would have to establish a different society where their role would have no material roots.

Could we not say the same thing for men? Men didn't create the family. Historical material conditions created it. However, are men not the ones doing the staring in the streets? Are they not the ones trying to "holler" at a woman they don't even know? Are they not the main consumers of sexism we find in popular culture? Are they not the ones doing the raping? Are they not the one who beat their girlfriends or wives? Are they not the one who force their wives at home?

I understand that working men do not decide what a woman gets paid. I understand they do not decide if a woman gets maternal leave or abortion rights. Women go through the process of dehumanization from the start of their childhood life. Am I missing something?
John D., from the Internet

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