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Creation question, Chimpsky correction,
cities railroaded, surgical strike.

 

SO, WHEN EXACTLY DID
DINOSAURS ROAM THE EARTH?

After reading the dinosaur article in the July/August issue of The Pennsylvania Gazette [“Dinosaurs Lost and Found”], I wondered if you truly believe all that religion dressed up as “science” which quoted “the Sahara 100 million years ago.” Since no one was here to observe it, and scientific methods of dating have proven unreliable at best, I was curious as to why you quote your beliefs as facts.
    The biblical record would seem to indicate the earth and everything in it to exist for thousands—not millions—of years.
    Many of your readers believe in creation over evolution. At least give us a fair shake.
    Thank you.

John Shirk C’83
Ocean City, N.J.

WOULD IT BE CHOMPSKY, THEN?

On page 43 of the July/August 2001 issue, in the article about Noam Chomsky [“Speech!”], you refer to a chimp named Nim Chimsky. I believe his name was Nim Chimpsky.

Josh Pober EE’59
Cherry Hill, N.J.

 

CITIES’ DECLINE FOLLOWED
LOSS OF RAILROAD REVENUES

I read with interest the opinions of the so-called experts about the decline of cities and the growth of suburbs [“Sprawl and the City,” July/August]. I was dismayed that none of them understood the real cause of decay and, therefore, the ability to find solutions to the problems. The collapse of the cities is directly traced to the bankruptcy of U.S. railroads in the late forties and early fifties. The loss of revenue was staggering for the cities—50-80 percent of their income was from property taxes levied on the railroads. In addition, it adversely affected county and state governments, who also received tremendous income from railroad property taxes.
    The income from railroad property taxes could not be replaced by individual homeowners and businesses located in the city. As a result, first businesses relocated and then their employees followed. Properties deteriorated and became fodder for the racial strife of the 1950s and 1960s. The result was more flight to the suburbs. Exacerbating the problem was the flight from Northern states to Southern states. Unfortunately, the tax policies of the states and federal government subsidized the growth of the suburbs and fostered more decay of the cities during this time.
    Not until Richard Nixon was elected President in 1972 did we have a president who understood the relationship between funding for the states and the federal government. His revenue-sharing program would allow prosperous states to share their revenues with less prosperous states—resulting in adequate funding to all states for their needs.
    Unfortunately, Ronald Reagan and both Bush presidents have had absolutely no concept of how the Nixon program worked and how dramatically it could control the rise of property taxes across the nation. Now even the states themselves have turned to broader-base taxation—income tax, sales tax—at the same time taking over school systems, as well as giving more aid to cities.
    I have no solution to this humongous problem, yet one has to understand the nature of the problem in order to begin to solve the crisis.

Maxwell Lazarus W’50
Fort Lee, N.J.

 

AN IMPRESSIVE OPERATION

My journey in medicine has been similar to the one Dr. Kenneth Rose C’82 recounts in “Replant” [“Alumni Voices,” July/August]. I, too, am a Penn alumnus (C’80), New York Medical College (MD, 1984) and hand-surgery fellow in New York (1990).
    Surgically replanting an amputated digit presents a challenge at any level of expertise. Rejoining two-millimeter-wide nerves, arteries, and veins requires patience and a deft touch. One of the hardest skills to master is the ability to suture this frail tissue without watching your hands. Most activities that are performed in daily life require the continual feedback between hand and eye. (A skilled athlete or carpenter, for example, is said to have good hand-eye coordination.) The feedback loop in microscopic surgery is between the eye and the micro-motion of the fine needle. The surgeon’s hand, and for that matter his/her fingers, are never in view.
    The essay was honest in its portrayal of the occasional frustration and tedium of this kind of surgery. I recall an incident of replanting a digit during my early years in practice. It was about 4 a.m., and an inexperienced and very tired surgical intern was assisting me. She kept falling asleep during the procedure, and her head would gently tap against the assistant binocular lenses of the microscope. Needless to say, the gentle tap against the scope looked like a large earthquake tremor. I excused her and told her to get some rest, and the scrub nurse was capable of filling in as my assistant. I couldn’t ask the intern to take a break and get coffee because the caffeine would likely cause her just enough digital tremors to see shaking through the microscope.
    Dr. Rose also “came clean” regarding his apprehension about this procedure. We’ve all had that queasy feeling at some point in our careers. I’m impressed that this surgeon expressed his feelings honestly.

Tedd L. Weisman C’80
Weston, Conn.

 

BEATING A DEAD ELECTION?

Re “Understanding Election 2000” [“Gazetteer,” May/June]: Get over it. Bush won. Gore lost. How many times have the ballots been counted—three, four, five? Bush won. Let it go.

Francis Kayser W’40
Mechanicsville, Pa.

 

A WHARTON WOODCARVER’S WISH

Dr. Fredrik Hiebert’s underwater-archaeology class stepped into the 17th century during their May 3rd, two-hour sail on Delaware’s tall ship, the Kalmar Nyckel, with an unrecognized Penn connection [“Gazetteer,” July/August].
    After retiring from the DuPont Company, I served for nearly two years as a volunteer woodcarver and member of the Kalmar Nyckel building crew. I carved many of the ship’s decorative and structural carvings, all of which are representative of those found on 17th-century Swedish vessels. Although my Wharton School education didn’t exactly prepare me for what might be described as an “above-water archaeological experience,” it did help me appreciate the significance of the historical, educational, and community-service aspects of the Kalmar Nyckel project.
    In a sense, Dr. Hiebert’s decision to revive an undergraduate course in underwater archaeology after more than 25 years is much like our decision to replicate the Kalmar Nyckel.
    May both the course and the ship experience fair winds and following seas.

Charles E. Ireland, Jr. W’57
Newark, Del.

 

A CONSERVATIVE JUDGMENT

Being of the Old Guard era and (naturally) of a conservative bent, I get annoyed at the slant of some of the articles in the Gazette. However, when I sit down and open up the magazine, I realize that, to borrow the New Yorker slogan, this is “probably the best magazine that ever was.”

Marshall L. Main W’48
Centreville, Va.

 

ISN’T THE U.S. A “SETTLER STATE”?

It ill behooves Americans to turn the word settler›into a pejorative term, as Gary Leiser did in describing Israel as a “settler state” [“Letters,” July/August]. What were the Pilgrim fathers or the pioneers who won the West? Was not our founder, Ben Franklin, as well as Washington and the others, from a family of settlers? As for the statement that Palestinians have recognized Israel’s right to exist—the writer should check into what they teach in Palestinian schools, as reported by NBC and USA Today, among others. When Arabs oppose Jews living among them, they resemble American bigots who oppose blacks living in their neighborhoods.

Marshall Giller G’75
Grand Rapids, Mich.

SHAME ON YOU!

Recently an issue of The Pennsylvania Gazette contained an article of a black student who lived in the Italian section of South Philadelphia and went on to great things [“No Other Life,” March/April]. Because he lived in the Italian section and his friends were of Italian origin, he played baseball with them even when they played the teams from the black area.
    I was appalled and horrified that the headline of this article was, “How come them dagoes like you so much?”
    Being (as my name implies) of Italian origin and from South Philadelphia—and graduating from Penn (Wharton, 1941)—I was shocked at your insensitivity. In the 60 years of reading articles from our distinguished (?) University, I never—never—
remember your using nigger, kike, spic, chink or other awful names to describe a people.

    Why did you do this? Why did you allow it? From where did you inherit this liberty—an apology is not near enough. Your thinking certainly has to be rearranged and changed.
    I wonder if you would have printed—if an Italian were playing with blacks—the question, “Why are you playing with those niggers?”
    It is repulsive to me to have to use those words to write this letter, but it had to be done.
    Shame on you!

Edmund D. Pascucci W’41
Woburn, Mass.

 

While I regret any offense taken by readers, the question of context seems to me critical here—as with any use of ethnic slurs or other vulgar, obscene, or hurtful language. The passage referred to was a quote in an essay by Gerald Early C’74 on his complicated feelings about growing up black in South Philadelphia. It was presented as something said to him, and its use in no way implied approval of the term. I chose to use the quote as our contents page blurb because it seemed to encapsulate many of the issues Early raises in the piece, not least of which is that prejudice cuts both ways.—Ed.


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Copyright 2001 The Pennsylvania Gazette Last modified 8/24/01

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