Mar|Apr 2010 contents
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  Water Wins
With regard to the “Brewing Battle” between beer and tea described in the articles “Man, the Drinker” and “Steeped in Tea” [Jan|Feb], as John Prendergast writes in his editor’s column, referring to a story told in a 10th century Chinese manuscript, “both Tea and Beer’s bids for primacy are trumped by Water.”  As a lifelong teetotaler, and after reading both very informative articles, it seems to me to simply be a matter of how one wants his or her water flavored.

Ed Harler WEv’55 Levittown, PA

Don’t Glorify “Grisly” Practice
I found the article pertaining to the taxidermy industry, “Crouching Tiger; Blow-Dried Snow Leopard” [“Elsewhere,” Jan|Feb] to be most repugnant, if not, for want of a better word, disgusting. That one would glorify those individuals who are compelled to destroy exotic wildlife in order to hang a head on a wall is pathetic. How ironic that the title contains two highly endangered animals on the planet, tiger and snow leopard, not to mention the panda that someone cavalierly quipped about having “shot bigger” ones.

In order to satisfy the obsession to kill the rare snow leopard one would have to trek to remote mountainous areas of central Asia (unless one happened to be available in Texas).  Perhaps upon reflection, the writer, Melissa Milgrom (from the wilds of Brooklyn), may come to appreciate that there are better industries to glorify than the grisly practice that taxidermy represents.

Daniel Samuels EE’54 Armonk, NY

The writer was North American District Representative of the East African Wild Life Society, Nairobi, Kenya, from 1962 to 1970.

In response to David Jones’ essay, “Pinstripe Generals,” [“Expert Opinion,” Jan|Feb]: For the sake of the republic, keep the State Department away from anything serious. Issuing passports is about their speed, and they don’t do a very good job of that.

It seems their idea of diplomacy is to give away everything fought for by the military. They never realize that they are negotiating with people who are lying to them. The Japanese were attacking Pearl Harbor while diplomacy was in full swing. The North Vietnamese attacked the South after we removed our military, in violation of the “Treaty.”  The State Department role in China going Communist is a murky chapter in our diplomatic history. Who knows what happened or whose side our diplomats were on. How about that State Department guy who was in charge in Iraq for the two years after we went in? He almost gave back everything the military gained.

These POLADS (policy advisors) described in the essay seem to give the diplomats the opportunity to thwart the military before it achieves anything, saving them the trouble of giving it back later.

How many are under despotism right now because of our “diplomats?” God save us from the well-intentioned incompetents of the diplomatic service!

Joe Deegan C’67 Philadelphia

Hardwood Diet
Ripping up the Palestra floor may stir nostalgic juices in basketball fans [“Gazetteer,” Nov|Dec], but there are many alumni whose gastric juices may show a Pavlovian response. From early 1943 until early 1946 hundreds of uniformed members of the Army Specialized Training Program—medical, dental, veterinary, and engineering students—were marched to the Palestra where they shared, at tables bolted to that sacred floor, sumptuous meals catered, as I recall, by Horn and Hardart.

Robert Jaffe M’46 Washington Depot, CT

Better Late than Never
Unlike “Dr. Chop” [“Alumni Profiles,” Jan|Feb] I began my study of the Korean martial art of taekwondo at age 40. Ours was a family affair, since both my wife and two daughters practiced taekwondo as well. I am proud to say that we all earned our first-degree black belts after three years of tough training. I earned my second-degree black belt two years later, and I still practice today.

However when I wrote to the Gazette (1988) and asked that our achievement be noted in the Alumni section, my request was ignored. Perhaps other alumni will be encouraged to begin their own martial-arts training given that a willingness to learn and persistence are all that are required of any student of martial arts, regardless of age or physical condition.

Barry B. Schweig G’73 Gr’77 Surprise, AZ

Intelligent Design Is Not Science
In his response to my article from the Nov|Dec 2009 issue, “Darwinism Comes to Penn” Paul G. Humber questions my statement that “genes provide an indelible record of the long evolution of life on earth.” This is based on findings through genomic (DNA) sequencing of organisms ranging from bacteria to fungi, plants, and animals that show there is a continuous record of similar sequences throughout the living world. Prior to the molecular era, biologists determined the relatedness of both living and extinct species through comparative anatomy. Today, we are able to see and usually confirm this relatedness by similarities in their DNA sequences. For example we share about 98 percent of our DNA with our closest relatives, the great apes.

Another letter-writer, N. Bruce Rogers, suggests that I made a distinction between creationism and intelligent design. I regret that I did not make it clear that I do not believe there is a difference. As noted by Jerry A. Coyne in his book Why Evolution is True, the book Of Pandas and People, which defends intelligent design, was “shown in the recent case Kitzmiller et al. vs. Dover Area School District et al. to be a put-up job, a creationist book in which the word ‘creation’ had simply been replaced by the words ‘intelligent design.’” Adjudicating in the case, John Jones III ruled against the school board’s introduction of intelligent design into the curriculum and characterized it as “a religious alternative masquerading as a scientific theory.” Intelligent design is not science because it presents no hypotheses that can be disproved. Darwin’s theory of common descent has been subjected to numerous tests and has never failed.

Howard Goldfine, faculty Philadelphia

Not What I Learned
I noted in the Jan|Feb 2010 issue of the Gazette a letter to the editor from Lawrence A. Post Res’53 in which he states “This [climate change] is the biggest hoax in human history … I expected more from an institution of higher learning.”
I checked your list of Penn school abbreviations on page 93 and did not find Res listed. In the years that I attended Penn I know of no school where one was taught that if you politically do not agree with a statement, that made the statement scientifically untrue. I hope the letter was a “hoax,” or please tell me where at Penn anyone could have learned to be so closed-minded and dogmatic.

Lawrence Heimowitz W’53 New York

Res stands for a residency at the School of Medicine.—Ed.

Roberts Rules
Your Nov|Dec 2009 issue was outstanding. Among the several excellent articles I particularly appreciated Dennis Drabelle’s illuminating piece on U.S. Supreme Court Justice Owen Roberts [“The Justice Who Was of Two Minds”].

By coincidence, on the day I belatedly picked up my copy of the Gazette, my class in constitutional law was discussing Justice Roberts’s famous change of heart that Mr. Drabelle described so well. I immediately added the article to my class’s assigned reading.

A related pleasure was remembering Justice Roberts’s extensive Penn pedigree, which had largely slipped my mind.

Keep up the good work.

Stewart Harris L’86 Grundy, VA

Wind Power Facilities Harm the Environment
The goals of the University’s Climate Action Plan [“Red and Blue Makes Green,” Nov|Dec 2009] are generally commendable, but thoughtful consideration indicates that the University’s purchases to finance windmills at Bear Creek, Pennsylvania, and other wind-power projects across the country destroy the ever decreasing unspoiled natural landscapes and thus should be discontinued.

Large areas with natural, unspoiled landscapes become ever scarcer as population and economic development increase. Almost all of the wind-power projects in Pennsylvania, both existing and proposed, are sited on mountain ridge tops in otherwise unspoiled settings. Placing a wind-power facility there destroys what is as close to a wilderness as exists in Pennsylvania because it sets a gigantic industrial complex in an otherwise natural-appearing area. Typical wind turbines stand over 400 feet high (taller than a 40-story building), have blade widths of nearly 300 feet (longer than the length of a typical Philadelphia block on a north-south street), and are required by Federal Aviation Administration regulations to be lit at night as aircraft warning. Commonly, as many as 40 or 50 stretch over several miles of mountain ridge tops. As wind power complexes proliferate, much of the natural beauty of the Appalachian Mountains is irrevocably destroyed. In particular, those natural areas within a half-day’s drive from heavily populated metropolitan areas on the East Coast are being destroyed. Are the supposed benefits of generating enough electricity from wind to light parking lots and used-car lots through the middle of the night really worth the loss of Pennsylvania’s vast unspoiled natural beauty?

Wind-power projects do not reduce the need for conventional electricity generation facilities. The demand for electricity is highest on hot, sultry summer days due to air-conditioning demands. Little or no wind blows then. Laws require electric power companies to provide capacity to meet peak demands. Wind-power projects do not enable them to meet peak demand. Furthermore there are serious problems caused to the electrical grid by the variable output of wind turbines.

One of the fastest-growing elements of tourism today is eco-tourism, that of people who want to experience unspoiled territories with the vast panoramic vistas in their natural state. Thoughtless development squanders this resource. It is an insignificant economic value to the community in terms of employment, both now and in the future.

A Lycoming County, Pennsylvania Common Pleas court judge has already ruled that the opponents of a wind-energy project proposed by a subsidiary of Duke Energy proved that it is generally detrimental to the public health, safety, and welfare. Wind energy would not even be considered without gigantic federal subsidies and state mandates that primarily benefit a handful of huge corporations.

Wind energy is fashionable. Advertisements show pictures of wind turbines as a supposed evidence of how “green” major corporations are. But shouldn’t whether more wind-power projects are desirable be decided by science rather than fashion or the interests of huge corporations?

Arthur Plaxton Gr’73 Philadelphia

Our last issue misstated Patrick McGovern’s title at the Penn Museum [“Man, The Drinker,” Jan|Feb 2010]. He is scientific director of the Biomolecular Archaeology Laboratory for Cuisine, Fermented Beverages, and Health.


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