Forum: March-April 2006

March 31, 2006

Southern Exposure

I enjoy the mini-profiles very much, but Greg Veis did make one remark about the distinguished South Carolinian that rankled ["Herb Kirsh '49, fourteen years in office," November-December 2005]. (He must be very young, with no roots of any kind in the South.)

Referring to Representative Kirsh as a "Democrat in an archly conservative district who also happens to be the only Jew in the House," and suggesting that such a distinction would be "fantastical" grist for a sitcom, shows an abysmal ignorance of South Carolina history. Jewish Carolinians, and Jewish Southerners generally, found themselves so welcome as they settled in the South that they not only participated in civic service, but produced some outstanding statesmen over the last 200 years. Southern Jews, as did most Americans living south of the Mason Dixon Line, set aside their concern with the issue of slavery and passionately embraced the Secessionist cause as they fought fiercely in defense of states' rights and the homeland they loved.

For a very readable history of Jews in the South, please have a look at The Jewish Confederates by Robert Rosen. You will see that our fellow alum Herb Kirsch is part of a distinguished tradition, an excellent representative of his constituents, and quite likely to feel a body, mind, and soul connectedness to South Carolina that only a native-born Israeli living in Jerusalem might completely understand.

Conway Lucas Winkler '59, Missouri City, Texas


Border Conflict

Letter-writer Manfred Rothstein ["Forum," November-December 2005] states that Israel is always right and good, while the Palestinians are guilty of causing "civilian victims of suicide bombings and plane hijackings." He then equates the Palestinians with mass murderers and finally refers to the Duke University Palestinian Seminar as "an exercise in academic futility." He also managed to take some cheap, vicious, and mostly false shots at the Catholic Church.

Mr. Rothstein conveniently fails to mention that for forty years Israel has maintained its brutal and inhumane occupation and oppression of the Palestinians. In addition, Israel kills nearly four times as many Palestinians as Palestinians kill Israelis. Also, Israel continues to defy both international law and the U.S. "road map to peace" by building thousands of permanent homes in the occupied territories every year, by building a monstrous, apartheid wall that runs miles into existing Palestinian territory, and by refusing to enter negotiations for a just, two-state peace settlement with the Palestinians.

While the U.S. should be an honest broker for peace in the Middle East, unfortunately we continue our one-sided, pro-Israel foreign policy, which ensures that there will not be a fair and necessary solution to this conflict.

Ray Gordon, Baltimore, Maryland


Kudos

Just wanted to comment on the article by Jacob Dagger in the January-February 2006 issue ["Top of the Crop"]. I very much enjoyed the article, but was even more impressed by the quality of the writing. Not only do I wish that I could write as well as Jacob, but I wish this article had been written several years earlier so that I could have used it while my daughter was looking at schools.

Keep up the good work!

Jay Harris, (Parent of Jillian Harris '08) Lafayette Hill, Pennsylvania


Poverty Pictures

David Brady, in his "Under the Gargoyle" piece ["Lies, Damned Lies, Poverty Statistics," January-February 2006], denounces the "profoundly dishonest official poverty statistics." I wish he could get his discouraging words out to a much broader audience, noting in particular that "the richest country in the world has the most poverty of any industrialized democracy." Perhaps that would help discourage future millions who would come here illegally from seeking opportunities that they lack in their native lands. To their credit, though, most are legitimately seeking work, not welfare.

Whether they are illegal immigrants or U.S. citizens,†many of our poor have little education, few skills, and little or no facility in the English language. They are adding to our poverty rolls, if not the statistics, but not necessarily because they are†simply victims of inadequate government programs.

Wallace Kaufmann made an excellent point in his Forum letter (same issue): "[W]ithout illegals forced to work for minimum or below-minimum wages and benefits, affluent Americans would have to pay living wages to blue-collar Americans." Sure, there would be an economic impact if illegals weren't here, but that wouldn't be altogether a bad thing.†Perhaps it would help reduce the poverty level while relieving the burden on the taxpayers who pay the education, medical, and law-enforcement bills associated with illegal immigration.

Sure, we have our problems, but I think Professor Brady paints an unrealistically gloomy picture of the land of the free.

Phil Clutts '61, Charlotte, North Carolina


Rather than concede the tremendous success this great, capitalist nation has achieved in reducing poverty, it appears liberals and socialists must now resort to new definitions of poverty to make the U.S. look bad compared to European and other more socialist countries. Dr. Brady considers U.S. Census Bureau poverty rates to be dishonest. Rather than focus on the absolute standard of living of the poor, where the U.S. leads the world, he prefers to define poverty as living in a household with less than 50 percent of the median household income after taxes and assistance.

Three simple examples illustrate the absurdity of his preferred measure of poverty: 1) If the U.S. pursued policies which resulted in a doubling of every household's real income (i.e., inflation-adjusted, after tax, due to productivity gains), his "poverty rate" would remain the same, even though each household's standard of living would have doubled. 2) If the U.S. pursued a policy that resulted in a huge reduction in the incomes of those above the current median with no benefit to those currently below the median income, his "poverty rate" would drop accordingly, despite no increase to the standard of living for the poor. 3) If the U.S. pursued policies which resulted in 55 percent, including the median family, of the population existing on three bowls of rice per day while the other 45 percent lived like Paris Hilton, Dr. Brady's "poverty rate" would be 0 percent!

As a country, we have a lot to do in our continued fight against poverty. However, emulating the economic policies of countries like Canada, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Poland, and Spain, all of which have lower "poverty rates" as defined by Dr. Brady, probably won't help.

Alfred W. Mordecai B.S.E. '90, San Marino, California