Now from the folks who brought you Agent Orange, global warming, polluted oceans, tainted food supplies, and mass extinctions comes Frankendrones. Those poor misunderstood creatures are really here to help.
Oh please, you must be kidding!
“Drone’s Day Scenarios” [Nov|Dec] sent an icy chill up my spine. It was supposed to be a nice little reassuring story about how drones are our friends, but it screamed of corporate-friendly propaganda. In a world now controlled by powerful international cartels, and threatened with extinction by a runaway climate catastrophe, Penn is now, more than ever, just another corporate shill.
These research scientists sadly believe something good will come from their efforts, while the brutal reality of our corporate-driven war machine is they will devastate whoever they damn well please by remote control with zero oversight! Their research will just make the criminally irresponsible more deadly.
It’s painfully clear Penn’s in bed with the corporations and this kind of whoring has become standard practice in academia. In a battle between David and Goliath, Penn is a mercenary for Goliath.
Rich Sette SW’82 Jackson, NJ
Weir Mitchell, Role Model
I found “The Case of S. Weir Mitchell” [Nov|Dec] particularly interesting because Weir Mitchell was an influential colleague of my great great grandfather William Alexander Hammond, who was US Army Surgeon General in the Civil War, a medical reformer, and, like Mitchell, a successful writer of novels and prominent neurologist.
As described in Bonnie Ellen Blustein’s biography of Hammond, Preserve Your Love of Science, he and Mitchell crossed paths many times. They and a few other young physicians loved to talk about science and formed a Biological Society in Philadelphia where they frequently met to discuss their ideas late into the night “with the aid of cigars and pipes.” After reading Dennis Drabelle’s interesting article, I can’t avoid the feeling that Hammond’s interest in medicine, science, fiction, and neurology were strongly influenced by Weir Mitchell.
James Raymond C’68 Las Vegas
Weir Mitchell, Club Founder
Nice article on S. Weir Mitchell. I look forward to taking a look at his novel, Constance Trescott.
Mitchell also founded the Franklin Inn Club in Philadelphia in 1902. It’s on Camac Street. It used be a requirement that you had to be an author in order to join.
It’s a wonderful little club filled with books from all the members and drawings of many of the members. Some of the drawings I love were done by the noted illustrator Wyncie King (1884-1961). Many Penn alumni are members.
I had the pleasure of speaking at the Franklin Club after my book, Philadelphia Originals, was published. For more on the history of the club and S. Weir Mitchell’s involvement you can look here: http://thefranklininn.com/history/
Joseph Glantz C’74 Levittown, PA
More Information Needed On US-China Trade
What I learned from “Not Made in China” [“Expert Opinion,” Nov|Dec] is that the bilateral trade balance between the US and China is overstated. What I did not learn is how large the overstatement is. The author cites the example of the Apple iPhone as containing an unambiguously Chinese contribution (its assembly) of $6.50 out of a wholesale price of $178.96. Yet he also states “the components are manufactured either inside or outside China by companies from several countries.” He acknowledges that the complexity of global supply chains makes it difficult to ascertain how much value China really adds.
This difficulty leaves me informed that China’s contribution to each iPhone’s value is more than $6.50 and less than $178.96. I wish he had narrowed this—for example, by asking Apple for a percentage of the Chinese contribution to its iPhone. He also calls on American lawmakers to consider the overstatement of China’s trade balance with the US, but they too would need additional information.
Tony Moss SW’77 Philadelphia
Price Too High for Lower Costs
There is a simple, one-word answer to Zheng Mingxun’s question about why a Westerner would want to boycott Chinese products: Foxconn. I get that his point was to elucidate our understanding of the positive impact of trade with China on American business, not about corporate social responsibility and ensuring basic human rights for employees. However, not mentioning this factor seems a glaring omission that may have really helped us see the light, particularly since he used Apple’s iPhone as an example (Foxconn assembles the iPhone).
Lower costs and higher yields for American business in China and other countries are often “earned” at very substantial human costs of safety, health, and dignity, which are unacceptable to me. For my part, I’ll pay the few extra bucks.
Santo D. Marabella GrS’91 Fleetwood, PA
Others in the OSS
I enjoyed “Trowel, Cloak, and Dagger,” by Melissa Jacobs, about the wartime service of Rodney Young [“Gazetteer,” Nov|Dec].
I spent most my time for two years in the Museum and had met Dr. Young. Had no classes with him.
What is interesting is that other members of the anthropology faculty and museum staff were also members of the OSS, in particular Dr. Carleton Coon and Dr. Froelich Rainey. Coon had a spectacular career but at that time we did not know what he had done. He was complaining one day about things and said he was probably the oldest major in the service. No one asked what he did.
A follow-on story could probably turn up other faculty that had great wartime service.
Mark Gleeson G’51 Oakmont, PA
Heroic Deeds Remembered
When I was a student at Wharton (1956-60) there was a course called “Strategic Intelligence,” taught by Drs. George and Charlotte Dyer. The class was available to a restricted group of people, primarily military with a few senior ROTC cadets. The course was an overview looking at the industrial capability of foreign nations and the combating of such might.
George and Charlotte Dyer had been in the OSS during WWII. In fact they met while stationed at OSS headquarters in England.
The Dyers lived in Bucks County on Dyerbase Farm. During the year they would invite five or six class members to come to the farm for dinner. One of the pleasures there was the firing of sub-machine guns, including both the Thompson and tanker’s grease guns. After dinner the small group would sit around the library or, outside, around a fire and listen to chats about the OSS and its activities during WWII. One of the speakers who attended these dinners was Rodney Young. He was stimulating and fascinating.
I’ve long remembered the Dyers and their many heroic deeds, starting with infiltrating occupied France. Heroes like them are sorely needed in America today!
Robert M. Rosenthal W’60 Burbank, CA
Spy Material Should Have Stayed Classified
Susan Heuck Allen’s book on American archaeologists serving as spies [the basis for the Gazette story on Rodney Young] may have tragic unintended consequences, if not for the personal safety of modern American archaeologists then perhaps for their access to many of the parts of the world where they most want or need to go.
Egypt has recently changed its political and religious face towards the world and towards America, (although these attitudes were present and ongoing but without backing from the Mubarak government). We must also consider countries like Libya, where a new government, whose friendliness towards America I am not questioning, is still unable to control hostile action by non-governmental forces. Turkey is showing increased ties with the new Egyptian regime and this may have effects under the table long before government officials state new policies.
America has enemies. They will be just as industrious in subverting the attitude of their own and other countries towards Americans whom they allege to be CIA operatives as was Rodney Young in assisting the Greeks against the Italian Fascists. With less noble motives in our eyes, perhaps, but noble indeed to themselves. Allen’s book is very likely to become required reading in the security bureaus of archeologically important nations.
This is not something I am trying to lay at the Gazette’s door for publishing its article. The Penn community needs to know about such things. The University of Michigan Press, which published the book, has obviously conducted its own promotions for it. The mistake may have been for the National Archives to declassify any of this in the first place. If Turkey starts glowering at the Penn Museum’s staff in Gordion, be warned.
Ken Rumbarger C’78 Trooper, PA
How About a Public Policy School?
I read with excitement the announcement of the new Wharton Public Policy Initiative, designed to bring “practical, timely, non-partisan research and resources to government policymakers and key decision-makers” [“Gazetteer,” Nov|Dec]. Surely this is an idea whose time has come.
I am concerned, however, that housing the program in Wharton may make it hard to focus on public-sector problems in a way that is credible and helpful to the public sector.
Perhaps it would be better if the program had its own school. It would need a name—something like the School of Public and Urban Policy*. The leadership would need to have the same stature and experience as past pillars of the field like Julius Margolis and Edward Banfield. There could be both master’s and doctoral programs in public-policy analysis, rather than traditional public administration.
Students could take a rigorous set of core courses in economics, econometrics, organizations theory, sociology, political science, and operations research, and then apply those analytic tools to the public-policy problem of their choosing. I imagine that graduates of such a program could have a real impact on their respective fields.
Bryan Dowd Gr’82 Minneapolis
*For readers who may not recognize the allusion, Penn’s School of Public and Urban Policy awarded degrees from 1979 to 1983.—Ed.
Pleased with Coursera
I was very pleased by the Coursera course I took—Modern Poetry, with Kelly Professor of English Al Filreis. The format was different from that described by Paul B. Laub [“Letters,” Nov|Dec]. Around a table were Al and seven students who talked about the poems we were reading. I really wanted to go to campus and find these students and ask them if they had taken the course before—they were so insightful and keyed-in to Filreis’s point of view. He made clear what he thought and guided the discussion brilliantly. While it soon became clear that I was not going to be called on to answer questions, it was always interesting.
I took the course because I wanted to update my knowledge of 20th- and 21st-century poetry. It did that remarkably well. After Whitman and Dickinson, the poems chosen were not even included in the books I had from the 1960s to the 1980s, my previous graduate study in American civilization at Brown and Penn. I won’t get a certificate because my November got crazy (a book group that chose The Brothers Karamazov). But I will complete the course, since it’s accessible to enrollees until next spring, which is another advantage that auditing in person as an alum does not provide. And it was free—absolutely worth it!
Regina Bannan G’82 Gr’94 Philadelphia
I appreciated St. John Barned-Smith’s article, “Age of Steam and Turmoil,” on railroads in Paraguay [“Elsewhere,” Nov|Dec]. He did a fine job giving a brief history of Paraguay, about which I knew very little. It drove me to my atlas and the Internet for more information on that country.
As an 88-year-old docent at the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad museum, I especially appreciated the role of the railroad in Paraguay’s history. Interesting that their railroad began in 1861 and ran until 2004 to help open up the country.
Jim Greeley D’59 Catonsville, MD
Another Brinster Honor
“The Man Behind the Mouse Model Gets his Due” describes the high scientific accomplishments of Dr. Ralph Brinster, the Richard King Mellon Professor of Reproductive Physiology at the School of Veterinary Medicine [“Gazetteer,” Nov|Dec].
I am pleased to add to this information the fact that he was a co-recipient of the first annual March of Dimes Prize in Developmental Biology, awarded in 1996, when I was the secretary of the selection committee for this prize. Since then, 28 other scientists were so recognized and six of them went on to receive the Nobel Prize. We are looking forward to Dr. Brinster’s continuing success in his research.
Michael Katz CCC’49 New York
The writer is senior advisor, transdisciplinary research, with the March of Dimes Foundation.—Ed.
Perfect Match on Puzzles
I enjoyed the article about Bernice Gordon [“Profiles,” Nov|Dec]. I always love the puzzles with “tricks,” and the original was by a Penn alumna, even better. Mrs. Gordon has 300 unpublished puzzles. I see a perfect match with the Gazette. At six issues per year, we are set until 2062.
Danny Sprung C’87 Las Vegas
Make Politicians Make Trade-Offs
Amy Gutmann and Dennis Thompson make strong arguments for compromise as a path forward in government and governing [“Making Democracy Safer for Governing,” Sept|Oct]. For most people, compromise means you lost something—you gave something away, and you feel like you’ve lost some of your principles. For an elected official, when you compromise it means you compromised your voters, by giving away something you told them you held in esteem. But what actually happens is a trade.
In all of life, we make trade-offs. By using this mindset we can approach negotiations from a position of power. We willfully and eagerly trade off this for that—money for an experience of river rafting, love for security, and the list goes on. I argue that politicians need to begin use the language of trade-offs, and we, their voting public, need to hold them accountable to trades that promote the common good.
Bruce Anderson G’82 Sierra Madre, CA
Let Party Leaders Pick?
As I read the Sept|Oct edition about politics, I recalled the days when primaries weren’t important. Back in the 1930s and ’40s candidates were selected by party leaders. They knew the people who were possible choices and tried to pick the one who was competent and who had a good chance to win. Thus we got people like Truman and Taft. There were no extremists and the process worked.
It was selection by committee and it worked (sometimes it went through a competitive process in a convention but the candidates were first class). I spent almost all of my career in a large enterprise that used committees to select people at very senior levels where the stakes were extremely high. The process worked.
I suggest that the current process utilizing wide open primaries be changed. Each party should choose two or three candidates who will run in the primaries. The parties will get better candidates and America will be better served.
Paul Kessler G’56 Notre Dame, IN
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