Forum: January-February 2006

January 31, 2006

Faculty members from the Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences explode in protest against the publicizing of dangerous problems in the environment through the common media [Under the Gargoyle, "Science Reality Show," November-December 2005]. Certainly, it was just a small number of the fifty or so faculty members of the Nicholas School, but they managed to crop the tail feathers of their fellows to act as a whole in such public releases. The concession they won was to have future releases under the imprimatur of the new Nicholas Policy Institute, not the school.

Trivial, you say? I think not. Fearfulness and timidity have won the day again. How many of our nonscientist fellow citizens do the same: "Don't make a fuss; don't speak up in public; hush, child, somebody might get mad at you, to the extreme--they might burn you out." I have heard this from Florida to New Brunswick, Canada, in public meetings, in social situations, in families.

The people of the Nicholas School and those like them around the world know what hideous insults the Life Support System of the Earth is trying to heal, and it is losing ground. They know on the microscopic level, they know on the macroscopic level. They are working their hearts and minds out to come to the aid of the Life Support System. The sense of urgency is palpable in their books, papers, and occasional public utterances.

They should be silent? They should be careful and measured in what they say and in what forums they speak? We're talking about all life here, not just human life.

I submit that our duty as citizens in a participatory democracy trumps all other roles we play in our lives. This duty compels all of us to inform ourselves and to educate others about what's going on, to develop critical thinking, to speak our truths in public, to take part. The scientist having special knowledge about the Life Support System of the Earth--the foundation on which our multiple, rickety, human culture rests--must assert himself in all forums, or we are cooked (or, if you prefer, dead meat).

Betsy Buck Duncan '49, Monroe, Maine


There are two articles in the November-December issue with which I strongly disagree: "Nicholas Institute Holds Summit for the Environment" in Gazette and "Science Reality Show" by William Schlesinger in Under the Gargoyle. In the first one, a statement is made that "President George W. Bush does not see the environment as an important political issue." In the second article, a statement is made, stating, "The contrarians of evolution and global warming do not muster science to support their views."

I agonized over whether there was globing warming. Several years ago, I tuned in to a television show put on by the Weather Channel wherein global warming was discussed by three meteorologists. Their conclusions were that there is global warming but that almost all of it is brought about by natural causes, and probably less than 5 percent is caused by man. These natural causes are: sunspots, which happen about every eleven years; volcano eruptions, during which the ash is spread throughout the world; and melting of the polar ice caps. Although the environmentalists like to say that CO2 from burning of fossil fuels, etc., has caused holes in the ozone layer causing the melting, there is much disagreement.

So, the reason that George Bush does not consider this subject "earthshaking," if you will, is because we can do very little to stop it. The scientific proof as far as it goes, I have stated. However, we should do what we can such as drive hybrid cars and clean up toxic waste dumps. I rest my case!

Charles Shlimbaum M.D. '41, Stuart, Florida


Roomies

I enjoyed "Make Me a Match" [Campus Observer] in the September-October 2005 issue of Duke Magazine. As a freshman twenty-two years ago, I shared Room 104 of Wannamaker with Cynthia Baker '87, A.M. '94 and Suzanne Gregory B.S.E. '87. It is amazing to consider that answering five basic questions similarly resulted in two lifelong friendships.

I cannot think of Duke without also remembering all of the laughs and memories I shared with Cynthia and Sue.

Although many years have passed, I know we will always remain friends. Cynthia and I meet for coffee nearly every Friday morning, and, although we don't see Sue as often (she lives in Philadelphia, we live in D.C.), the three of us were together this summer to celebrate our fortieth birthdays. To whoever was in charge of the roommate pairings the summer of 1983, thank you!

Holly Saas Rhodes B.S.E. '87, Chevy Chase, Maryland


Thank you for featuring my beautiful wife in the top photo on page 25 ["Make Me a Match"] of the magazine. Seven years after the photo, standing with her father and oldest brother, Virginia "Ginger" Schackford entered Duke--behind both parents, all three brothers, and numerous aunts, uncles, and cousins.

She enjoyed her Duke education, and I enjoyed meeting her. We both have treasured our Duke careers working with troubled children from the local community. Thanks for reminding us that Ginger was just as cute at age eleven as she is today.

Dave Friedlein '63, Durham, North Carolina


Chile Reception

Let me see if I can get this straight ["Deadly Politics," September-October 2005]. Ariel Dorfman has made a career out of telling Chile's story of Pinochet's deadly 1973 coup. In 1970, Salvador Allende became the first democratically elected Marxist head-of-state in the world. In August of 1973, Chile's economy was in a shambles. Dorfman was making a name for himself as a rising leftwing intellectual and media adviser to Allende's chief of staff, which made him a marked man.

On September 11, 1973, Pinochet led a coup and installed himself as dictator. Pinochet ruled Chile until 1990.Under his reign, thousands of political activists and supporters of Allende were killed. Thousands more fled the country. Dorfman, now Distinguished Professor of literature and Latin American studies at Duke, was among them.

Since 1990, Chile has had a democratic government and Ricardo Lagos A.M. '63, Ph.D. '66 is now its president. Present-day Chile is a hypercapitalist state, its economy has grown faster than any other South American country, halving poverty and becoming an island of calm among its neighbors, chronically mired in debt and social unrest.

In other words, Chile is a success! Now, let's look at another scenario. Suppose Allende had put down Pinochet's coup and established an even more Marxist state, a dictatorship, like Castro's Cuba. Undoubtedly, he would have had to kill Pinochet and thousands of his followers, just as Castro, Lenin, Stalin, and Mao did. Then, because the economy was in shambles, he would have had to imprison, drive out, or kill thousands more of the dissidents, the intelligencia, perhaps even Dorfman!

The history of communism is one of violence, diminution of freedom, and a lowered standard of living. I submit that Chile, under an Allende dictatorship, would have taken the same road to serfdom as Cuba has done.

Why did Dorfman migrate to the U.S. rather than Cuba or Russia, where he could have experienced a "worker's paradise" first hand? Was it because the U.S. is the only place where he could enjoy the fruits of our capitalist economy with the freedom to espouse a failed Marxist philosophy?

Duke University should repudiate professors that teach Socialist nonsense and honor professors that teach capitalist philosophy!

Charles F. Morton '56, Union City, Michigan


Immigration Foibles

In September-October's "Q&A" interview with professor Kathy Rudy ["A Whole New World"], it's clear she has promoted an admirable and necessary program of observing the Latino immigrant community, but it's also equally clear that she prefers to obscure the real issues and has little understanding of economics. I have worked on and off for years with immigrant families as a sponsor, a teacher, a court translator, an asylum witness, and a liaison between immigrants and community groups. I've also spent a lot of time in Latin America, and I understand that any of us, if our lives had been blighted and our ambitions blocked by unbearably corrupt kleptocracies, would want to come to the U.S., even if we had to break U.S. law. The difference between legal and illegal immigrants, however, is the heart of the social and economic debate, a fact Rudy and her interviewer entirely ignore.

She caricatures opponents to illegal immigration as know-nothings who say, "We have enough, you're draining our system, we don't want you here." Those of us who want change are not critics of immigrants but of illegal immigration, of a system that favors law-breaking Latinos over law-abiding, would-be immigrants from other countries. For instance, my stepdaughter and son-in-law and granddaughter from Kazakhstan have no way to legally immigrate to the U.S. except the annual attempt to win one rare slot in the "green card lottery" sponsored each year by the U.S. (Of 15 million Kazakhstanis, 242 won last year.) Why shouldn't they have an equal shot at living and working here?

The U.S. consul even turns down my stepdaughter for a one-month visitor's visa. Reason? Section 214b of the Immigration and Nationality Act requires the consul to decide that she will become illegal unless she can prove otherwise. While turning down a legal request by a university-educated, quadrilingual relative of a U.S. citizen who guarantees her return, our bureaucracies virtually welcome and offer drivers' licenses, education, and Medicaid to Latinos who break the law to come here.

Ms. Rudy also drags out the old myth used by both business and pro-illegal immigrant groups that the Latinos are doing jobs no Americans would do. Without them, she says, "Our infrastructure would shut down, from nannies to domestic workers to road workers to construction." No, without illegals forced to work for minimum or below-minimum wages and benefits, affluent Americans would have to pay living wages to blue-collar Americans. Businesses would also have to pay higher wages to legal residents. Outside Rudy's classroom, the laws of supply and demand have not been revoked. Without illegals, the demand for these services would continue, the supply would be less, and the wages would go up.

By all means, let us create a fair system for rejuvenating our society with immigrants from around the world. That might be a system of guest-worker permits or something else. In doing this, let's not insult would-be immigrants from other countries, condone criminal activity, or nurture cultural ghettoes where people are isolated by language and subject to cultures that condone domestic violence. And let us not sacrifice the livelihoods of America's blue-collar workers on the altar of political correctness that says borders signify little and all cultures are equal.

Wallace V. Kaufman '61, Jacksonville, Oregon