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  Buy the Book

I was shocked to discover that the totally innocent excerpt, “Private Shetznitz,” [“Elsewhere,” March|April] from Joel Chasnoff’s hilarious book, The 188th Crybaby Brigade, elicited such off-the-wall ridiculous and even hateful responses [“Letters,” May|June].

Self-deprecating cracks that every Jew makes about himself, and that Chasnoff clearly intends to be tongue-in-cheek, are twisted into anti-Semitism. An American Jew who risks his life defending the Jewish state is denounced as a self-hating Jew by a reader lounging in the security of upper-middle-class American suburbia. An anti-Zionist spews true anti-Semitism by accusing Israel of every evil under the sun without so much as a syllable of support for his contentions. The same writer goes on to attack Chasnoff with the classic anti-Semitic canard of dual loyalty by intimating he should have served in Iraq instead of defending innocent Israeli citizens from terrorists.

What’s with these people? For my part, my response was to immediately order the book from Amazon as soon as I finished the Gazette piece. It’s terrific.

Rabbi Samuel Fraint C’72 Deerfield, IL



Essay was Great, But (Just to be Clear)
Israeli Soldiers Don’t Hate Arabs


In the excerpt from his book, The 188th Crybaby Brigade, about his service in the Israeli military, Joel Chasnoff mentions—presumably in jest—how ironic it is for him to be in the Israeli army when he “doesn’t hate Arabs.” Lest readers miss the joke and take Chasnoff’s comment as a serious one, I would like to state the following:

I am Israeli soldier 2301994. I commanded Platoon 3, Company H, Battalion 184 of the 14th Armored Brigade (back in the late Seventies). Excepting the years I spent at Penn, I’ve done several weeks reserve duty per year for over 25 years. I’ve come in contact with many soldiers and officers, from private to colonel, “lefties” to “righties” (on the Israeli political spectrum), but haven’t met one who said or implied that he or she hates Arabs. It’s also my impression that almost no one actually does. The Israeli military does not encourage or educate to hate Arabs, and it’s certainly not policy, spoken or unspoken. I think most commanders will agree that such hatred would not make a better soldier.

Anyway, the essay was great, and I look forward to reading the book.

Jonathan Lipsky EE’84 Bet-Shemesh, Israel



Community Treatment:
Not Failed, Never Funded


I have a different take on the former state mental-hospital system than C. Brooks Henderson M’50 [“Letters,” May|June, referring to the article, “Architecture of Madness,” in March|April]. While he paints a picture of a rather benign supportive, albeit institutional system where patients were known by their names and received adequate room and board, in all too many state institutions there was rampant neglect, very often physical and sexual abuse, and a custodial approach to individuals who needed active treatment and rehabilitation.

For those reasons, class-action lawsuits were implemented during the 1960s and 1970s. Locally in Pennsylvania, Judge Raymond Broderick, a federal judge, presided in the lawsuit against Pennhurst State School and Hospital, and around the nation similar class-action lawsuits were instituted. Eventually the United States Supreme Court was involved.

These lawsuits resulted in policies that stated that unless a person received active treatment or was a danger to themselves or others, they had the right to leave the state institutions. My wife and I worked closely during those years with individuals who lived in state institutions for persons with mental illnesses and developmental disabilities. We don’t recall that any of them wanted to stay in the institutions once they learned they were free to leave.

The fact that all too many people with mental disabilities are in the prison system or are homeless is not an indication that the concepts of community treatment, rehabilitation, and care have failed, but that adequate funding is lacking. This then becomes a moral and civil-rights issue for society and for governments.

S. Reid Warren III SW’61 Elverson, PA



Is Anyone Listening?

It is puzzling that Penn’s highly touted faculty and administration are seldom sought out or volunteer to verify the truth or accuracy of a great deal of what circulates on campus these days as politically correct dogma and academic scholarship.

Instead, as reported in two stories in the May|June “Gazetteer,” we get campus visitors like [philosopher] Martha Nussbaum declaring that, “Nothing short of a primitive idea of stigma and taint can explain the widespread feeling that same-sex marriage defiles or contaminates straight marriage while marriages of immoral and sinful heterosexuals do not,” and a Saturday Night Live writer [Seth Meyers] assailing Penn undergrads with tales about Sarah Palin, offering an obscene slur on U.S. troops who died storming the beaches of Normandy, and making an unexplained reference to a woman with two vaginas (perhaps the Wistar Institute can throw some light on that one).

Cyrus J. Sharer W’44 St. Davids, PA



Wrong About Marriage

Martha Nussbaum is wrong about marriage. Every culture and legal system has developed an institution of marriage, and most features (marriage is between a man and a woman, there are barriers to divorce, etc.) are common to all, although the details differ.

The purpose and function of marriage is to protect mothers and their children during the years when the children are helpless and need support by their fathers. It is not, as she thinks, a reward for being virtuous (not being a “convicted felon … [or] … bigot,” the people she despises).

The common restrictions on marriage (minimum age, exclusion of consanguinity, not infected with syphilis, etc.) are in the interest of the health of any children.

Same-sex “marriage” is excluded because it cannot bear biological children. This limitation is not discriminatory; it applies whether the motive is homosexual attraction or the desire of heterosexuals (perhaps relatives) for the tax, inheritance, or insurance benefits available to married couples.

Jonathan Katz, Parent Clayton, MO



Welcome, but Not New

Stephen Fried’s refreshing approach to history in his biography of Fred Harvey, Appetite for America, is welcome but not new [“The History Buffer,” May|June]. In the 1930s through the 1950s, Stewart Holbrook, a journalist, used the same approach to chronicle the history of railroads and logging, and a number of tycoons as well. He even did a piece on Harvey.

Holbrook was a well-regarded and popular writer at the time who, now largely forgotten, lives on at eBay in deaccessioned library books.

G. Webster C’77 Gr’81 M’85 GM’86 Hockessin, DE



Why Not Ties With Cuba?

Amy Gutmann’s article [“From College Hall,” May|June] concerning the growing ties between Penn and China reinforces for me a legacy begun at Penn which has developed over the past 60 years; a legacy that continues to this day. As a Wharton School junior in 1950, I had the good fortune to join, from College Hall, three liberal-arts students and our language professor, Dr. Rafael Suarez, for an exhilarating experience in Cuba as we matriculated at the University of Havana for the summer session.

As a young Ivy League student, I believed it was proper to receive and thoroughly enjoy all of the pleasures provided by gambling, prostitution, and rum. Prio Socarras was president, lottery tickets were sold on every street corner, poverty and wealth seeming to tolerate each other in peaceful coexistence. We had guest memberships to several of the finest beach clubs for our daily afternoon libations; the mornings were spent in class studying Spanish.

At the same time, university hallways were filled with small gatherings of students discussing politics. We were told that we must avoid these people talking “socialism and communism”, which we did. It was preferable to ride in and talk about “a cola de pato” or “Cadillac,” a vehicle driven by a chauffeur and owned by nearly everyone with whom we had contact.

My major at Wharton was Foreign Commerce. In 1952, my four years at Penn were nearing an end. At that time many Penn students customarily planned to spend Spring Break on the beaches of Fort Lauderdale; I, however, chose to return to Havana. Battista had taken control through a coup d’etat. There was some unrest in the streets; it didn’t involve or compromise the safety of Americans. As the debauchery continued, daily shootings were becoming more commonplace; the wrestling for government control between the military, the wealthy Cubans and the (US supported) Mafia, plus the growing influence from the left-wing ideologues soon became glaringly apparent.

The seeds of revolution were firmly planted in Cuba in the early 1950s. While the attention of many Americans was reluctantly diverted to the enigmatic “Korean Conflict,” my focus remained on the developing events in the Sierra Maestra Mountains of Cuba’s Oriente Province. Here was this guy, this intellectual, a lawyer from a good family, sitting on a rock, expounding in good English, sensitive to the plight of the populace, saying all the right things pertaining to the sad lot of the impoverished multitude. I watched on TV as NBC and CBS newsmen were led through hidden trails to interview this upstart, this controversial revolutionist, Fidel Castro.

The US supported Castro in the beginning, which he accepted, until it became clear to him that this support was contingent upon following the dictates of the US, which was not acceptable to Fidel. The political history of Cuba for the most recent half-century has been a consistent emphasis on education, health care, and zero tolerance for illegal drugs and, except for one brief, regretful excursion into Angola, warfare. Great strides have been made in all these humanitarian areas, despite opposition from the US, including, since 1962, a trade blockade. If we can buy oil from Venezuela, trade and accept money from China—especially money—why must we remain so uncivil toward Cuba?

Actually, a partial answer may be very simple. Castro has prevented the US from making any profit from Cuba. Basically, sad to say, in most cases our nation doesn’t give a damn about humanity unless profit is involved. What does the average American reading this passage know about this island nation of 12 million people situated 90 miles off our coast? Very little! For Americans, travel to Cuba is banned—not by Cuban authority, but by our own restrictions. Conversely, Cubans welcome Americans to their country … where the streets and neighborhoods are safe, there is no terrorist threat, and very little crime.

Two of our country’s most outstanding women, Hillary Clinton and Amy Gutmann, have recently visited China bringing various overtures through which to embrace other people in an attempt to better understand cultural differences and strengthen ties. This is all very commendable, but something seems to be missing. I see no overtures toward Cuba or Fidel Castro. Wouldn’t you think that some of our leaders would be visionary enough to attempt to break the stranglehold of the powerful and be eager to meet and converse with this leader who has survived eight US presidencies and who at the present time speaks favorably of and is complimentary toward our president, Barack Obama!

The University of Havana has in past decades trained thousands of Chinese students, while student exchanges have provided Cuban students with academic training abroad. Recently Cuba has provided nations in need of medical attention with over 5,000 physicians as a form of “export” to earn income for the Cuban government. Cuba was in the forefront in giving aid to Haiti when it was ravaged by earthquakes.

May I suggest a few ways in which we could act immediately to strengthen our ties:

[1] Include the University of Havana as a partner with Penn and Beida (Peking University) as part of an international conference to be held at Penn to foster better understanding between nations.

[2] Organize an exchange-student program very soon to include Cuba’s youth for the enrichment of all.

[3] Recognize and prepare for the consequences of the BP oil spill in Caribbean waters that we all share. We must encourage full cooperation and assistance where needed.

Education and exposure to reality is necessary to help erase some of our preconceived notions as to what’s best concerning our relations with other countries. Before the trade embargo and unrestricted travel can be restored, we Americans must recognize what the Cuban people have accomplished despite all the impediments in their path.

My advice to my fellow Pennsylvanians is to visit Cuba now and be part of a political rapprochement, traveling freely as an independent visitor not confined to a structured itinerary. You’ll soon discover you’re not “dealing with the enemy” but instead enjoying the history, music, and cultural treasures of people who should be recognized as our friends!

Kenyon S. Cardoza W’52 Honolulu



The Other (Accurate) Side of Vivisection

Thank you for publishing a review of Dr. Adrian Morrison’s An Odyssey With Animals: A Veterinarian’s Reflections on the Animal Rights and Welfare Debate [“Arts,” May|June]. Dr. Morrison’s book is riddled with sickeningly humorous statements such as, “Sometimes the pain experienced by animals might not be as bad as it seems”; such a sentiment curdles one’s stomach when she considers Morrison’s historical defense of the torture and abuse of animals (see Morrison’s defense of Dr. Edward Taub in the Silver Spring Monkeys case or Morrison’s own experiments on cats without using proper anesthesia).

As an animal activist, I was pleased that you decided to review Dr. Morrison’s deeply flawed book because this can only mean one thing: that, as a fair and balanced publication, you will now publish an article, book review, or cover piece on the other (read: accurate) side of vivisection. One that discusses the frightening failure rate that results from using animal models: As I am sure you are aware, scientists across the country agree that non-human animals are not reliable predictors of the human response to drugs and other disease treatments (see various HIV, cancer, stroke, and heart disease clinical trials). Perhaps the piece will discuss how, despite vivisectors’ promises that animals are treated humanely in experiments, undercover video-footage and, indeed, sometimes even research universities themselves, dispute that claim (see the case of Dr. Michele Basso, whose Parkinson’s Disease “research” on animals led to her suspension for violating animal-welfare standards; this, after she testified in front of Congress that “working on animals is a privilege and one that we don’t take lightly” {hearing on Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act Before the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security, 109th Cong., 2nd Sess., 23 May 2006}). And, most importantly, I look forward to reading the piece’s explanation of the ethical concerns regarding the exploitation, use, and abuse of sentient creatures; such practice having yet to be effectively justified on moral grounds.

Dara Lovitz C’00 Philadelphia

The writer is the author of Muzzling a Movement: the Effects of Anti-Terrorism Law, Money, & Politics on Animal Activism.



Money Over Medicine?

“Under [Arthur] Rubenstein’s subsequent leadership, the hospitals and physician practices became key moneymakers” [“Gazetteer,” May|June].

Hmmm.

Key moneymakers sounds like a real Wharton School approach. Funny, though, medicine, which used to be known as a “Profession,” now, sadly, seems to have deteriorated into an “Industry,” with all the caveats (especially emptor) applying. But of course, due to all the opportunity now available with the Baby Boomers and their prospects for illnesses and recoveries, one couldn’t fail to see the path things would take under the American system.

Praised for making the hospital (treating sick people for whom there is virtually no alternative) industry profitable, along with Big Pharma, Big Insurance, Big TV (just watch the evening news, count the medical ads), this leader helps blaze the trail of bankruptcy of the old and sick at the hands of the medical opportunists.

BTW, does the U of P Hospital pay taxes on this moneymaking?

Stay healthy, eat right, exercise. Avoid the medical industry if you can.

H. John Henry W’55 Royersford, PA

The referenced sentence, included in a brief item on Dean Rubenstein’s plans to step down next June after a decade of service, should have been phrased differently. It was intended merely to contrast the current financial stability of Penn’s health system with its substantial operating losses in the late 1990s, not to characterize the approach—Wharton School or otherwise—of the system’s management. In FY2009, Penn Medicine provided $101.4 million in uncompensated care to the community.—Ed.



What He Was Giving

In this issue’s “Alumni Voices” essay, frequent contributor Dave Zeitlin C’03 shares his memories of longtime football assistant coach Dan Staffieri—better known as “Coach Lake”—who passed away in April. We also received this tribute from a former player.—Ed.

Coach Staffieri was always saying something. But it was what he was giving that is his legacy.

Wherever Lake went, smiles bloomed.

Whatever Lake wore drew double-takes.

Whenever Lake was in the room, the room brightened.

And it was always about more than football. It was about life.

Dan Staffieri was so much more than just a coach. He cared more about your spirit and resilience as a person than your strength or finesse on a particular play. He cared just as much about your attitude and outlook for tomorrow as he did about your performance and outcome today. He cared most about your success and winning on the inside.

Coach Lake had a special gift to touch hearts and move minds. To uplift. To infuse. To inspire. And he did it like no other. His way. With all that cosmic spunktacular chutzpah. The time and talent and tenacity he devoted to this passion were remarkable.

Way beyond the colorful outfits, much deeper than the game-day antics, and far wider than his raspy voice could travel, there was love. Unconditional, motivational, my-way love from a friend, mentor, coach, and beacon. From Lake.

And we are all blessed to have received it.

I will never forget his favorite rallying stance—hunkered down with knees bent in a slight crouch, arms extended out wide with both fists clenched as if every muscle in his whole body was flexed; and there he was yelling, hollering, shouting, chanting, and repeating something … one of his multitude of snazzy/sharp/cute/catchy/finicky/funny/infectious/brilliant/old-school/avant-garde cheers, slogans, mantras, or morals. And it was in that moment, when Coach Dan Staffieri was “doing better than his best,” that it almost didn’t matter what he was saying exactly, because it was what he was giving—and what you felt—that screamed through.

Thank you, Lake, for all the love.

We will miss you dearly. And we love you, too.

Sundiata Rush W’93 Philadelphia



Unanswered Questions on “Silence”

“Journey Into Silence” [“Alumni Voices,” March|April] interested me a great deal but left me with many questions unanswered. It was akin to reading the first chapter in a book that did not contain any others. Will there be a sequel?

Some things I wonder about are: what was a day like at Insight Meditation Society? How did the writer—Steven Schwartzberg—adjust on returning to his previous lifestyle after three months of silence and meditation? What lasting effects did the experience have on him? What practices from these three months does he incorporate into his daily life?

Sally Boyle Weigand Nu’63 Punta Gorda, FL



Appetizing Issue

Thank you so much for the great issue on food [March|April]. As the publisher of five cookbooks, and with another one coming along, I really enjoyed reading it.

Katie Barney Moose GEd’69 Easton, MD



Correction

Our May|June feature article, “The (Continuing) Tale of Troy,” neglected to mention that C. Brian Rose is a professor of classical studies in the School of Arts and Sciences, in addition to his affiliations with the Penn Museum. Classical Studies Department Chair Joseph Farrell calls Rose a “mainstay of three graduate programs and of the undergraduate major in classical studies.” He also notes that the department works closely with the museum’s Mediterranean section and more generally, that SAS support helps make the Museum “the dynamic institution it is”—an example of collaborative scholarship and teaching that we should have included in our story. We apologize for the omission.

 

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