After checking the calendar, I see that it's time for my annual "rant against the death penalty" letter. Since my last letter on this topic Georgie W. has gone Federal, and call it coincidental if you will, but already two people have been offed this year; this despite a lapse of decades of executions by the Feds.
Some call this the Texas syndrome, which is probably a fair assessment because the new Texas governor has a dozen or so "half-and-half" clients lined up. In Tex talk this means half of them retarded and the other half innocent.
Death penalty nuts always go in big for ceremony. They don't want the guy to put himself to sleep in his cell during the night. So they leave the lights on and pay a guard overtime to watch him. All this to make sure he dies on time and certainly not when there's no audience. Especially now when it's rumored that Attorney General Ashcroft is making arrangements with HBO to get it all on pay-per-view. Like, "Come on over and watch and yeah, bring the wife and kids."
Another part of state-assisted murder that the fry 'em high crowd loves is the details of "The Last Meal." It's common knowledge that a victim with the IQ of a preemie always asks for a Kraft Dinner with a side of lemon Jell-O and "I'll save the pudding for tomorrow."
Most of the others are like me and mutter, "I'm not hungry." However, this quote is never quoted. Instead, a paid-off guard will leak that the unrepentant perp requested: "Steak, fries, apple pie, a good cigar and a double seven and seven." It would be further reported that the two latter requests were denied as unhealthy and soft on crime.
Even though the rest of the more civilized world has dumped the death penalty, most Americans cling to it claiming it's a deterrent, or it's moral closure, or it's something somewhere in the Bible. A few of us say racism is the main reason death-penalty mania is big in America. This upsets the white majority who insist racism was wiped out by federal civil rights laws 35 years ago.
Yeah, right. Just like speeding was wiped out by municipal speeding laws in 1900.
Guffin Bay, N.Y.
I have just finished reading another "sob sister" invective against capital punishment by Hank Kalet ["A Penalty for All of Us," 7/15/01 PP]. In the piece Kalet says, in effect, that executing murderers "makes us like them." Since the story involved convicted killer Juan Raul Garza, but was in fact centered on Timothy McVeigh, I find it curious that Kalet would make allowances for a crime of this magnitude.
In addition to murdering 168 people, two of whom were pregnant, 12 of whom were toddlers, McVeigh maimed and disfigured scores more, and left a chain of relatives and loved ones who will forever catch sight of empty places at the dinner table and undergo unfulfilled dreams of what their children might have been.
Execution may be taking of a life, but so is a just war and self-defense. There comes a point where a crime is so staggering, so monstrous, that there is no justice short of taking the offender's life. As McVeigh went to his death, he showed no remorse, there was no flicker of contrition, not even a twinge of regret. What McVeigh did feel sorry about, in his own words, is that he "failed to bring the whole building down," killing all 400 inside, and that the deaths of the children in the nursery school was "bad public relations" in that it diverted attention away from his "message."
As for the "deterrent" effect of capital punishment, which Kalet disavows, there is no way of know how many potential bomb planters had second thoughts after McVeigh's execution. We do know that McVeigh won't be planting any more bombs. And, again in his all-knowing stance, Kalet assures us that "closure" wasn't necessarily achieved by the families of the victims. I wonder what astonishing capacity Kalet has to enter the minds of other people and determine whether or not finality has been achieved.
Kalet is one of a strident throng alienated from the American system and thus lacking any concern or interest about increasing threats to our safety. Capital punishment is the redemption of a contract that society owes to all human beings: to protect them and to guard posthumously their dignity by taking the life of those who took their lives. It is not Kalet's place to cancel that contract and deny these victims justice when we have failed them in every other way.
FRANK V. KLEINMER
Lyndon Johnson, like everyone else who lived through it, was scarred by the big depression of the '30s. He much admired Roosevelt with his New Deal programs to help get our economy back on track. When Lyndon got in the Oval he announced his War on Poverty. The first thing you thought of was that Jesus told us that the poor will always be with us so that an effort to eliminate poverty would have about as much success as an effort to eliminate sex.
Communist countries operate under a socialist system which means that the state owns everything and the state is the only employer. During Communist Poland the workers made the observation that "they" pretend to pay us and we pretend to work. In America today the poor are not the problem. The danger is in the millions who work and live in sub-poverty conditions -- they may turn Polish on us and start pretending to work.
It is morally wrong for a person to work hard all day long, do good work, then at the end of the day discover that they have not earned enough to pay for the basics of food, clothing and television. The reason that this happens is that the Congress has kept the minimum wage suppressed far too long. Out of a student body of 17,000 there are a hundred Harvard students who are beating the bushes for everybody to be paid a living wage which is about $14 per hour. If our minimum wage would have been on a COLA since 1980 it would be about $9 per hour now.
As a minimum the 14 bucks may be a little much but the 9 sounds about right. Still to go from our present $5.15 to $9 overnight would be revolutionary whereas a more evolutionary program might be better. One suggestion would be to raise the minimum wage 65 cents per hour on Jan. 1 and an additional 65 cents each subsequent Jan. 1 for a period of 20 years. This will be inadequate money but it would have an enormous beneficial effect on poor people and it would establish the principle that the minimum wage needs to be increased every year.
In July 1991 I became 65 years old, retired, and started drawing social security benefits. Today my benefits are 30% higher than they were a decade ago. If it is fair for old people to be on a COLA then why shouldn't minimum wage people be also on a COLA? Within the last year or so several states have started putting their state minimum wage on a COLA. Must be some thinking people in those states.
It seems that many liberals and progressives are proclaiming that the only possible way to end the right wing's destruction of what little is left of this nation's dignity is to desert their deeply held beliefs and to begin the Sisyphus-like task of persuading the Democratic Party to return to its roots with the American people.
While that sounds wonderful and, in a perfect world, might even be possible, in this world there is no hope of ever seeing a Democratic politician truly represent the American worker or children or senior citizen or much of anyone else who can't afford the Gucci shoes and big time contributions. There are no Democrats on the current scene from who I have any great expectations of magically turning their backs on their corporate owners and, instead, to finally defend those of us who aren't in the top 5% in income.
Instead, I believe that the only possible way to ever again be represented in our government is to turn, en masse, to the third party candidates. Only when our Congress and, someday, our White House, is occupied by a large enough coalition of independent minds and votes will anyone take the citizens of this nation seriously. Only when we, the people, have true democratic representation will the government again become ours.
I realize that there will be many who proclaim that it was the votes for a honestly progressive candidate that allowed Bush to become president. I can only answer that nonsense as I have always have; Gore won the vote but allowed Bush to steal the office and the only role Ralph Nader had was to force at least some small cracks in the conservative media's mantra of "Greed Is Good and Unions are Bad and Global Warming is a Myth".
I deeply hope that Nader will once again run for the presidency. I will happily work for him and vote for him if he does. If not, I will undoubtedly cast my vote for the candidate that most closely represents my progressive and hopeful beliefs rather than just another vote for the lesser of two great and nearly equal evils.
I consider Robert Parnell a friend even though he is wrong-thinking about 98% of the time as is demonstrated in his letter to the editor in your August 1-15 issue when he stated that "Last year the United Supreme Court decided that America was better off having the Republicans in charge than they would be having Americans in charge."
It will no doubt come as a shock to the 50% of the voters in the last election that they are no longer Americans. They may have been born here, always paid their taxes, never convicted of a felony, served their country in the armed forces or in several of many other ways ... but they are no longer Americans because they don't agree with Robert's muddled thinking.
Okay, according to Parnell, Republicans are clearly now non-American. How about Green Peacers, or Peroites, or independents, or Libertarians?
Editor's Reply: The fact is that more Americans voted for Al Gore than for George W. Bush. Bush got the votes of approximately 48% of the national electorate, some 540,000 fewer than Gore received, but the US Supreme Court, fearing that a recount of Florida ballots might harm Bush's electoral chances, stopped the state from counting its own votes in the presidential election. That handed the election to Bush. Independent recounts conducted by news media have demonstrated that the Florida election could have been thrown in either direction, depending on how ballots were counted and which absentee ballots were allowed to be counted. So the Supreme Court disregarded the actual votes and threw the election to Bush.
I happen to be of the World War 2 generation, having experienced it on the other side (as a child in Germany). In the aftermath the only viable entities were those of the United States, who waged war abroad, but came away totally unscathed on its own territory. The others were Sweden and Switzerland. The latter was mostly ignored by the US, but the former (albeit small) was a target for severe criticism. The fact that the alcohol consumption exceeded those of other countries was attributed to the fact that people there had lost their incentive, because they were living under socialism. Three decades later the US and its citizens are laboring and agonizing over the drug craze, which is unexcelled in all other industrialized nations. Might it be that people here have lost their incentive, because they are living under an unbridled capitalist system?
You be the judge.
Red Bluff, Calif.
I am writing to ask you to pay attention to lung cancer. As a lung cancer survivor, I am limited in what I can do alone need all the help I can get to change the course of this devastating disease. You can call, write and fax your Congress members asking for more funding for research dollars for early detection and new treatment options. You can ask that November be designated National Lung Cancer Awareness Month and ask for a congressional hearing. Consider that lung cancer is the number one cancer killer, claiming more lives than breast, prostate and colorectal cancers combined. That is about 157,000 men and women this year alone. There will be about 170,000 lung cancer diagnoses this year, Many of there will be at advanced stages. There is less than $1000 spent on lung cancer research [per lung cancer death]. Far less than is spent on breast cancer and other diseases.
Perhaps we could get a semi-postal stamp such as the one for breast cancer; at the very least we need more funding for early detection so we can increase detection at earlier, more curable stages. It has happened with breast cancer, cervical cancer and prostate cancers -- so why not lung cancer as well?
MARY LYNN THOMPSON
There is an article in the August 2001 Scientific American (www.sciam.com), page 30, Profile with Peter H. Duseberg concerning a "radical theory about cancer." German biologist Theodor Boveri noted this so-called aneuploidy of tumor cells almost a century ago and suggested that it could be the "CAUSE of CANCER"!
"Surely 5 percent of the funds for science could be set aside for work on fringe theories that could be revolutionary."
Surely cancer research is as important as a missing intern. How many people have died from cancer since Chandra disappeared? My cousin, Lori, for one. Surely cancer research is as important as a missile defense system. How many Americans have suffered and died from nuclear bombs, HOW MANY FROM CANCER?
What do you fear most? Being nuked by a Rogue Nation, or cancer? Which is most likely to GET YOU?
CHRIS LANE GRAY
Reference the editorial on page 2 of the 7/15/00 [PP]. The quoted interview with Paul O'Neill in the Financial Times certainly does expose the true thinking of the Bush administration. As such, it ought to be on billboards all over the country. How can I get a copy of the entire interview? I am not on the internet but have a friend who is.
George A. Tompkins, Jr.
Editor's Note: As of press time, the interview from the 5/18/01 Financial Times was available online by searching archives at the Financial Times web site (news.ft.com) for "Paul O'Neill" and "Social Security." If your friend can't find it there, try searching google.com, which often carries articles after they are deleted from their original web site.
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