A lot of zeros

I guess I had some free time on my hands today. I was reading the announcement that Bethlehem Steel received the go-ahead to cancel its insurance coverage for retirees and their dependents, effective March 31.

After reading Bethlehem’s statement that health care coverage for retirees costs them $225 million per year, I clicked on the calculator program on my computer. President Bush is asking Congress for $75 billion to cover the cost of the war in Iraq, and humanitarian aid to the people of Iraq. When I punched in 75,000,000,000, I thought I must have made a mistake. That looked like too many zeros.

Unless my figuring is flawed, that $75 billion would cover health care insurance costs for Bethlehem’s retirees for 333 years. I hope these figures are correct because I just finished sending them to my senators, and to the president.

Roy G. Jackson

Via e-mail

Health care is a right

As we gather to observe May as Mental Health Awareness Month, we are both joyful and sad. We are joyful because of the outstanding progress made in the development and use of psychoactive medications that help bring stability and normalization to thousands.

At the beginning of the 20th century “treatment” consisted of crude methods involving being arrested and shackled to walls in dungeons. Unfortunately, for far too many of us it is back to the dungeons and shackles as the cost of quality mental health care is beyond approach as many of these wonder drugs cost from $150-200 a month.

We are saddened because instead of addressing this very real public health problem, our state officials chose to cut an already inadequate mental health budget. We are further saddened that for many mentally ill people, incarceration is the only means that they will have to receive treatment. What is most distressing to us is accessible treatment for children with mental illness is at an all time low.

In 1948, the United Nations declared certain basic needs as universal human rights. One of those rights is the right to healthcare. A half century later we continue to wait for this to become a reality in the U.S.

Frank Valdez

Via e-mail

The author is the vice-president/founder Alliance For Mental Health Consumers Rights

Venezuelan solidarity

Considering the strong solidarity shown by President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela with the people of Iraq, I think it’s part and parcel of the anti-war movement to show solidarity with the Chavez government and with progressive peoples movements such as are emerging in South America.

I think, anti-war activists should urge a boycott of major oil companies. This is not as far-fetched as it sounds. Why? Because there is an alternative: Citgo. Citgo is owned by the Venezuelan government. So, where Citgo gas is available, there is an alternative. Why support oil imperialism, when you can support democracy and progressive government in Venezuela? Buy Citgo.

James Jordan

Tucson AZ

Protest CNN

I just saw a segment on Inside Politics on CNN that I could not believe. In a nasty report on the Democratic candidates the segment ended with the faces of all the Democratic candidates on playing cards – just like the horrible and barbaric use of playing cards by the military in Iraq for wanted posters with Saddam Hussein and his gang. I sent CNN an angry email, but it isn’t enough. This kind of smear is just outrageous and needs to be answered in an organized way.


I think most of us remember the use of playing cards by ‘elite’ death squads in Vietnam.

A reader

Via e-mail

Ducking democracy

President Bush’s promise of a “short sprint” to the 2004 presidential election, to start September 11th, is an obvious ruse to use “patriotic” rhetoric and truncate debate.

Again, the administration, which is yet to find the “smoking gun” in Iraq, follows its penchant for secrecy to avoid answering challenges in open, spontaneous public appearance with adversaries.

This is turning the back on our democratic process and traditions. It mimics the very dictatorships it seeks to destroy, using clever maneuvers to deny protracted opportunity for challenges by recusing from a normal electoral process, just another example of Bush’s secrecy and hiding of information. It is another way of being elected by avoiding a full and open public accounting.

Sidney J. Gluck

New York NY