Letters to the Editor

Our readers respond

On faith and Tony Blair

It is curious that Tony Blair has become an apologist for religion
("God and Tony Blair," January/February). One wonders how he has come to this position. Perhaps it is some kind of atonement for the deaths (collateral damage, I guess he would call it) of all those innocent Iraqis.

But whatever guilt Blair feels for his role in the destruction of Iraq cannot be assuaged by his turning to religion. This silliness that we label religion has been a destructive force in human history for millennia. It is time we grew up. And it is time Blair grew up too. This devotion to the fantasies of ancient holy men no longer has a role in society, and attempts to justify or rationalize them merely perpetuate injustice, inequality, and inhumanity.
Donald J. Sherrard '56
Believue, WA

I suppose it is only appropriate that Yale honor Tony Blair
after having done the same a while back for George W. Bush. Did Yale, its faculty, its students, its administration, care that two dishonest and hypocritical leaders who caused so much death, pain, and destruction in the world think this the profitable thing to do? How depressing, how disgusting, how callous! How to alienate so many!
Morton K. Brussel '51
Urbana, IL

While your feature on Tony Blair was balanced and thought-provoking,
I was dismayed by the following sentence: "For some, the arrangement [for Blair's classes at Yale] begs the question, don't discussions about good and evil come free at a place like Yale?"

It appears that the magazine has capitulated to the current usage of "beg the question" to mean "raise or bring up the question." But as almost any elementary logic book will point out, the term has traditionally referred to a logical fallacy in which the truth of what one is trying to prove is presupposed as a reason to accept it. This form of circular reasoning, also known by the Latin name petitio principii, is unfortunately all too common. The recent widespread misuse of "beg the question" to refer to asking a question rather than evading a question obscures the term's original and useful meaning.
Peter Limper '61,'75PhD
Memphis, TN

Don't spend, save

I was disappointed to read the recommendations to President Barack Obama made by five economists and businesspeople in "What Now?" (January/February). In the article there was a sense that some tweaking of our economic policies along with a stimulus package would ultimately right the economic ship of state. This approach, however, would simply get us back to where we were before the subprime mortgage fiasco upset the house of cards that is the global financial system.

In order for investors to be willing to plunk down their hard-earned money, they need confidence that it will be returned, along with an additional amount to justify the risk. That confidence has been lost because the people, the financial institutions, and the governments have all been sucked into the vortex of buying goodies they don't need with money they don't have.

We must throttle back our expectations that stimulus packages will be anything but a burden to our grandchildren and instead, hunker down for the long haul that includes the encouragement of saving instead of spending so that capital will be available from friendly sources.
Stephen Altschuler ’55MEng
Torrington, CT

Drama and the f-word

How wonderful to see Hunter Spence featured in the magazine ("By Hand," January/February). My first production assignment upon entering the Yale School of Drama was building props for Tales from the Vienna Woods under Hunter. I learned so much from him, and I was astonished by the beautiful results I realized under his guidance. Among excellent teachers, he was one of the best.

And I was there for the creation of that latex male organ for Curse of the Starving Class. What a feat! Not only was it perfectly crafted, it had to perform a common daily function on cue, performance after performance. Hunter's right to be proud of it.
Melissa Rick Cochran '81MFA
San Diego, CA

I recently scanned my son's Yale Alumni Magazine,
and the article about Hunter Spence shocked and greatly disappointed me. I quit reading what might have been a fine article after the fifth paragraph, when the f-word was used. Perhaps this was indeed a direct and honest quotation, but this is wholly inappropriate for a publication of high standing. This use of language may be tolerated, and even excused, at beer-fueled fraternity parties where sophomoric and boorish behavior is evident, but to be printed in a Yale magazine - how disappointing!
Tracie B. Moore
Cleveland Heights, OH

Repatriate now

One thing is certain. Sooner or later, Yale will return to Peru the artifacts that are essential parts of that country's national heritage ("Peru v. Yale, " Light & Verity, January/February).

The new postcolonial relationship among nations colonizing and colonized dictates this return as a gesture of respect and goodwill. It is a stain on Yale's good name for the university to maintain that "Peru is wrong about its interpretation of the laws applicable in Bingham's time" and that the "claims asserted by Peru are barred by the statute of limitations."

Similar arguments could have been used in the 1960s to justify segregation and the denial to blacks of the right to vote in the United States.
Steve Sewall '66MAT
Glenview, IL

Define "Yalie"

I very much enjoyed your perceptive and sympathetic editorial column (From the Editor, January/February) on the "Yalie." Although a youthful and demure Elizabeth Taylor swoons over her "Yale man" in the 1947 film Life With Father, a "Yale man" might best remain encased in celluloid. "Sons and daughters of Eli" sounds abstruse and Gregorian. But the diminutive "Yalie" has friendly connotations. Preppy and elitist? WASP? Hardly. Yalies in the twenty-first century constitute a diverse, multi-ethnic, worldwide group remarkable in their talent, energy, and service to our society. I am very proud to be a Yalie.
Lanin A. Gyurko '64
Tucson, AZ

Re: "Yalie." I don't remember the term in the late 1940s,
but I've heard it a lot since. I completely disagree with those who think of it as pejorative. I'm proud to be a Yalie. I regularly interview potential Yalies, and though I don't always use the term in the interview, I make it very clear that being a Yalie is something to be proud of. (In spite of our former president.)
George Mead '50
Wisconsin Rapids, WI

I was a grad student in chemistry from 1982 to 1987.
To my ear, "Yalie" only ever referred to the current students of Yale College, and the college's alumni. We in the grad school certainly never referred to ourselves with that term; in fact, we'd likely have rebuked anyone who might have called us "Yalies."
David J. Gibboni '87PhD
Havertown, PA

Points, lights, and Narnia

Here's one thought in response to the discussion of the phrase "a thousand points of light" in the You Can Quote Them column for January/February. For the last several months, I have been reading the Chronicles of Narnia, by C. S. Lewis, aloud to my younger son. While progressing through Chapter 8 of The Magician's Nephew, I noticed the following sentence: "One moment there had been nothing but darkness; next moment a thousand, thousand points of light leapt out - single stars, constellations, and planets, brighter and bigger than any in our world."

While Thomas Wolfe used the phrase first, Peggy Noonan may have been reading Narnia as inspiration for George H. W. Bush's inauguration speech.
Frederick A. Brodie '87JD
Cranford, NJ

In defense of W

On behalf of those who are not cheering the departure of President Bush (Letters, January/February), I would like to thank and defend him for his honorable service to America.

There are legions of us who recognize his decency, his many accomplishments (bipartisan No Child left Behind, CAFTA, Medicare reform, tax cuts, democracy in Iraq, liberation of women in Afghanistan, growth in the agricultural department, missile defense, unprecedented aid to Africa and Asia, denuclearizing of Libya, and taking the lessons learned from Katrina to reform the emergency response system), and his unwavering commitment to keep America safe.

I and those like me respect and honor President Bush because after America was brutally attacked on 9/11, he never lost his will and sense of urgency to keep Americans safe. Despite nauseating teeth-clacking from the left, President Bush put policies and programs in place that have protected America for the past seven and one-half years.

We honor Bush for sending a strong signal to the enemies of peace and freedom that he believes in peace through strength and that he understands that talk-therapy is out of the question when dealing with the pathological hatred felt by those who want to destroy the infidels - and that would be us. He had the leadership to ignore the antiwar agitators, hand-wringers, and naysayers. He and our brave heroes have kept us safe. Although he has been cruelly, dangerously, and unjustly maligned, George Bush will be judged an extremely consequential president.
Alison J. Nichols '88MDiv
Essex, CT

Educational hazard

As a drama school student, I often visited my fiance in the A&A Building ("Love It? Hate It? Or Both?" November/December). I remember seeing what we were told was asbestos hanging from the workplace ceiling panels. Hundreds of students were exposed to this flaking asbestos over the years.
Jean Richards '63CDR
New York, NY

Paul Rudolph, the building's architect, may well have been one of its victims. He died of mesothelioma, an asbestos-related form of cancer. - Eds.

Modern witchhunts?

I was fascinated by "Spellbound" (Findings, January/February), the article about the recurring phenomenon of witchhunts. I would be curious to hear how Professor John Demos suggests Christians and Mormons resist the witchhunts targeting them in the protests against the passing of Proposition 8 (the marriage amendment) in California. They are being called hatemongers and bigots.

The media aggravates the situation by providing little or no coverage of the legitimate reasoning behind upholding the unique value of marriage as a commitment between one man and one woman. What can be done before this bigotry and hatred escalates into further violence against those with traditional values?
Angela Weber (wife of Walter Weber '84JD)
Alexandria, VA

Homage to bacteria

Regarding "Insight into Insect Symbiosis Could Help Humans" (School of Public Health School Notes, January/February), it's hopeful that academia should better understand the good, the bad, and the ugly gut bacteria, of which the average human harbors trillions - more than the number of cells in the body. This, coupled with the gut's forming approximately 80 percent of the body's immune system, suggests that it's work well conceived to better understand these bugs' central role in human life, as well as the corollary implications for nutrition (and the lack thereof in most processed foods).

In Life and Habit, Samuel Butler observed, "A hen is only an egg's way of making another egg." We might well ponder whether a human is simply bacteria's way of creating more bacteria. Symbiosis, indeed; recalling a mantra of our youth, we are what we eat.
Steve Bemis '69
Ann Arbor, MI

Frosty reception

Admittedly The Game was a disaster this past November, but I can't believe you published such a negative, stupid article ("Bitter in Boston," January/February). The author acknowledged that he knew nothing about the football season; you might have been better served to have the story written by someone who did know that the Yale and Harvard teams were vying for the number one spot in the Ivy League.

The observation that the teams lacked distinction in the ability to play football and that Ivy League play was a step down from high school level is patently ridiculous. One of my business associates, Chris Wright '07, was the defensive end on the 2006 Yale team that beat Harvard. He came from a championship high school team in Chattanooga and said that playing for Yale was distinctly a step up as the players were faster and the game far more complex than the high school level.

It struck me that the article was jaded and cynical - as if you were trying to be funny; if so, you just missed.
Thomas L. McLane '54
New Canaan, CT

As noted in the article, we publish an annual essay about The Game, but often as a cultural rather than a sporting event. We include sports coverage in sidebars. -- Eds.

Lincoln in New York

"Abraham Lincoln Spoke Here" (Old Yale, January/February) provides interesting information about Lincoln's visit to New Haven on March 6, 1860. Yet the story overlooks a related and more prominent event during Lincoln's campaign for his party's nomination and then the presidency.

No mention was made of Lincoln's prior speech criticizing slavery, only one week earlier, at the Cooper Union in New York City. Having traveled from Springfield, Illinois, for the purpose of enhancing his national reputation, Lincoln's initial oration in downtown Manhattan received unprecedented attention at the time, in both newspapers and other print media. In the 2006 book Lincoln at Cooper Union, historian Harold Holzer used as his subtitle The Speech that Made Abraham Lincoln President. The phrase "Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it," was first spoken by Lincoln in New York, not in New Haven, as readers of the story may have assumed incorrectly.

Lincoln apparently did cause "the wildest scene of enthusiasm and excitement that [had] been seen in New Haven for years." However, according to Holzer, a Yale student would later mention that Lincoln gave "practically a repetition of the . . . famous Cooper [Union] speech."

In addition, the famous portrait photograph of Lincoln, dated February 27, 1860, and reproduced in the magazine, was taken in New York on the day Lincoln spoke at Cooper Union. Years later, on March 27, 2008, candidate Barack Obama would speak in the same hall and refer to Lincoln's speech.
John Concato '91MPH
Professor of Medicine
Yale School of Medicine
Woodbridge, CT


Our September/October 2008 article
"Today Cambridge, Tomorrow the World" noted that the Internet game GoCrossCampus had been inspired by the success of an earlier Internet game, "Old Campus Tree Risk." The Tree Risk game, in which residential colleges competed for territory on a virtual Old Campus, was created by Gabe Smedresman '06. He has founded a computer game company called Kirkland North.

The cover story of the January issue,
"God and Tony Blair," included a classroom photo at the top of page 43 with an incorrect caption. The woman standing at right is Divinity School student Ally Brundige, not Garentina Kraja '11. We regret the error.

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