Views in brief

July 4, 2008

Why are the real criminals free?

THE U.S. ranks as the world's number one jailer. One percent of the adult population in the U.S. is now imprisoned.

Apparently, the biggest reason why people are imprisoned is because of "drug offenses," and the third biggest reason is "illegal immigration." Why does the tobacco industry reap billions in obscene profits while merely growing a plant without additives result in long prison sentences?

What kind of democracy is this? Black males are locked up at a rate 5.8 times higher than white men. Is it mere coincidence? We all know the disparaging statistics of the death penalty.

Why is it then that the governments that lie to their people and invade defenseless countries, ruin the economy and then get bailed out--while millions suffer and millions are displaced--go free? I guess it is called "capitalism."
Greg Morse, Providence, R.I.

Privilege at the Columbia Secondary School

I AM a huge fan of both Socialist Worker and Brian Jones' work. However, I noticed that in Jones' "Still separate and unequal," he mentions that Columbia Secondary School's population is predominately white.

When I first read this, I was outraged, and researched the school in question. Fortunately for ambitious Black and Latino youngsters (but unfortunately for Jones' argument), the school reports that its student population is "60 percent Hispanic, 20 percent African-American, and 20 percent white and Asian."

However, the school's Web site does not report the income levels of its students' families, so this may be a classic case of class privilege rather than racial discrimination. In addition, the school required standardized testing scores and an essay for admission, meaning that the students must already possess the skills the school purports to teach them, and presumably come from elementary schools that are funded and staffed well enough to produce satisfactory scores on onerous standardized tests.

While I have no quarrel with the racial makeup of Columbia's pet school, I am chilled by their principal's reasoning for making well-rounded Latino students. Says the Village Voice: "If they do become scientists, [Principal José] Maldonado-Rivera says their fluency in Spanish will make them very attractive to Big Pharma and bioengineering, which are moving offshore to Puerto Rico, Latin America and Spain."

I do agree with the main thrust of the article, and find it disgraceful that because of the backing of Columbia University, a few privileged students (whatever their ethnicity) are granted a fuller education while truly public New York City schools are given the short shrift every year.
Robert, Austin, Texas

UTLA dues vote a good thing

I AM a little bit puzzled as to why Socialist Worker sees the vote to deny an increase in dues in the United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) as a negative thing ("Why did the UTLA dues increase fail?").

If anything, it is members of UTLA making sure that their union doesn't dump even more millions of dollars into the electoral campaigns of the Democratic Party, where an overwhelming majority of the dues go.

There should be a fight for UTLA to be able to have more control over their finances from the California Teachers Association, which as even the Socialist Worker says, does not represent union members well. When these dues increases are proposed, there needs to be a guarantee that the funds of the union go towards fighting, and not electing politicians who will ultimately sell them out.

Socialist Worker needs to be fighting for workers to have more control of their union, and not being enablers of the union bureaucracy.
Tristan Taylor, Detroit

Democrats' record on Indonesia

IN YOUR article about the prospects that a Democratic Obama administration will finally end U.S. imperialism's endless war in Iraq and Afghanistan ("Will Obama stop the war?"), you apparently forgot to mention that it was under the Democratic Johnson Administration that the U.S. embassy in Indonesia supported a right-wing military coup that led to the slaughter and imprisonment of between 500,000 and 1 million Indonesian civilians during the 1960s.

Coincidentally, Obama's now-deceased mother, Ann Dunham, was hired to work at the U.S. embassy in Jakarta when the totalitarian Suharto regime was being vigorously supported by this same U.S. embassy--under a Democratic administration.
Bob Feldman, from the Internet

Making sense of "voter apathy"

Joe Allen's great article "The Bobby Kennedy myth" points out the inherent dangers that occur when a so-called "cult of personality" forms around a U.S. political figure (*cough* Obama *cough*).

We all want to change the world, but from a young age, we are forcibly convinced that the only way to do so is by voting and, for the "radicals," maybe petitioning. Slightly unnerved, we then invest all our hope for change and improvement into these politicians.

But whatever backing we may give them is nothing compared to that of the vested economic interests of the capitalist class. Sure, the people's vote may put them in office, but business lobbyists are the ones who make the politicians that stay in office truly opulent.

Taking all of this all in stride, we blind ourselves to our chosen politician's inadequacies and inconsistencies, raising their image up on 20-foot pedestals, telling ourselves over and over like some kind of deranged mantra that "You have to be realistic, this is as good as it will get--you have to be reasonable, it could be worse."

So the election comes and goes and, in quick succession, the newly elected whatever breaks all of its campaign promises and our hopes. Disenfranchised, with nobody in the Capitol looking out for us, we leave the political scene with our noses to the ground.

What is commonly misconstrued as mere apathy seen in low voting rates is really a logical causality--you don't give us anyone worth voting for, we won't vote.

But there is solution. As long as we tie ourselves to a party or politician we are doomed to be disappointed and disenfranchised. But when we take political action into our hands through grassroots activism, we gain both our emancipation and the best chance to get things done.
Benjamin Silverman, from the Internet