Letters to the Editor

ENERGY ISSUES

A Crude Awakening” (November/December) makes the point that a U.S. goal of energy independence is somehow xenophobic and leads to less global cooperation. It is not xenophobic for the United States to want to obtain an ever-increasing share of its energy from clean, renewable domestic energy sources. A focus on sustainable energy not only benefits the environment but also significantly reduces our dependence on increasingly unstable and unfriendly oil-producing nations. The true worst-case scenario is a world embroiled in multiple conflicts over increasingly scarce petroleum reserves. Far from fostering xenophobia, development and exchange of renewable energy technologies should stimulate significant international trade and cooperation as all nations seek to build a more sustainable energy future.

Erik Layman, ’76, MS ’78
San Luis Obispo, California

I think professors May, McFaul, Sagan, Victor and Weyant missed two important points, both related to the need to reduce our collective carbon footprint. First, the idea of cooperative arrangements among major players in the energy market around the world makes sense, but I am surprised that the panelists did not extend this argument to the development of alternative energy technologies. Aggressively pursuing a cooperative worldwide agenda of research and development of solar, wind, hydro, hydrogen and other renewables could have the effect of forcing the oil industry into the competitive position that these scholars argue would be beneficial. More importantly, though, it would make renewable energy sources that much more available and affordable, and (hopefully) would help reduce the worldwide dependence on fossil fuels.

Second, one of the reasons for our energy vulnerability is our reliance on a few large-scale purveyors of energy, such as oil companies and electric utilities. A more robust arrangement would be distributed generation, whereby many small, local producers each contribute a small amount of energy (electricity or biofuels) to the overall “grid.” Thus, while a global R&D effort in renewables may make sense to make oil compete with these sources, “going local” may ultimately make more sense in terms of energy production.

Bob Clemen, ’73
Durham, North Carolina

I’d like to pose a question to the five professors. Do you believe each of you could reduce your daily energy consumption by one pint of gasoline per day? If you drive a vehicle that gets 30 miles per gallon, that’s about four miles per day. If you drive one that gets 10 miles per gallon, that’s about 1.25 miles per day. On average, say, over a year’s time, 400 to 1,200 miles out of a yearly total of 12,000 to 14,000 miles. If your answer is yes, then we can advance much farther along the path to “lower energy dependence” in a matter of weeks instead of the 40- to 50-year time frame several of you suggest. If you don’t drive a vehicle, then the equivalent in electricity is about five kilowatt-hours per day. You and Stanford, I suspect, could do this in the blink of an eye. If all 300 million of us in the United States participated, it would save 40 million gallons of gasoline per day, or the energy needed to support 60 million homes, even more apartments. Think about it for a few seconds at least. I was very disappointed to not see any emphasis on reducing consumption in your article or in the magazine.

Gary Ferguson, MS ’70
El Prado, New Mexico

Thank you for addressing America’s oil anemia. It is apparent that David Victor chooses to follow the GM line and claim that the “all-electric vehicle has been kind of a disaster.” Disasters are upsetting, which is just what battery electric vehicles (BEVs) are to the perpetuators of internal combustion engines (ICEs). Stanford has chosen to partner with General Motors and study the ICE, a 100-year-old technology that has proven to be unsustainable.

In 2002, we installed a five-kilowatt photovoltaic array on the roof of our home in California. Soon, we purchased two 2002 Toyota RAV4 EVs, 100 percent BEVs, and like 40 percent of EV owners in California, we charge our cars at home with domestically generated power. Visiting Stanford’s three campus SPI chargers over time, [we found] the Welch Road and Track House Lot chargers are always available, while the well-positioned Tresidder lot [charger] is always blocked by an ICE vehicle.

In the past year, sales of 2002 and 2003 RAV4 EVs have ranged from $50,000 to $75,000, some $7,000 to $27,000 more than sticker, and $15,000 to $40,000 more than the real cost of the vehicle after Air Quality Management District and federal rebates. How many ICEs gain value over time? In our 100,000 miles of EV driving, we’ve saved, among myriad other well-to-wheel elements, over $20,000 on gasoline in under five years, which is more than the net cost of the solar panel array.

Our 30,000-mile check-up consists of rotating the tires and checking the brakes. Because of the regenerative braking feature, our brakes last many times over ICE vehicle brakes. We receive free car pool passage on all nine Bay Area bridges during car pool hours, and 24/7 diamond lane access. Is the color of California diamond lane stickers a subtle joke? Hybrid diamond lane stickers are yellow, and zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) stickers are white.

The film Who Killed the Electric Car? lays the responsibility of the failure of the electric car fairly at the feet of Alan Lloyd, Pete Wilson, Detroit, the Bush administration and California citizens. Today, GM is working 24/7 to prepare the sequel to the EV1. GM North America chairman Bob Lutz declares GM will not be responsible for killing the EV. When will Professor Victor and the Stanford community embrace zero well-to-wheel automobile emissions, rather than dis-miss viable, current technology?

Gregory Simon, ’87
Mill Valley, California

I was extremely disappointed in what should have been an important article. It is quite apparent that Michael May, Michael McFaul, Scott Sagan, David Victor and John Weyant had not agreed on the subject to be discussed. The article was stated to be about “the implications of U.S. dependency on foreign oil.” But their explanation of “why the debate about energy security is missing the point” misses the point.

First, the major portion of the oil we consume comes to us from Muslim countries populated by Islamic terrorists who have promised to kill Americans and other infidels wherever the opportunity occurs, and who are doing so.

Second, as clearly stated [in the article’s introduction], our “known (oil) reserves, about 21 billion barrels, would supply only enough to keep the country running at full speed for about three years.” That is more than a serious implication, considering that most Americans today depend on individual mobility—self-driven vehicles, with oil as the prime energy source to operate them. Our widespread metropolitan areas require that individual mobility in order to function, more so than any other country of our geographic size.

The third [point] that is being missed in this discussion relates to greenhouse gases caused by burning petroleum. If that is a threat to civilization in the next hundred years or so, it is long past time to begin serious development of alternative fuels.

Fourth, our Western-style individual mobility will be demanded by the millions in India and the billions in China over the next century as they move beyond animals and rivers as their major energy sources. It is unlikely that petroleum can meet the coming worldwide increase in demand for individual mobility. We must develop alternative energy sources to meet the present and future demand for individual mobility, and we certainly do not have to be concerned about hurt feelings of petroleum sources.  

Among many other things, David Victor says, “One of the big challenges for policy makers today is how to get India and China to think about the operation of this world market in the same market-based way we think about it, and to get them to build up those stockpiles and coordinate them with our own. There’s some evidence that that kind of coordination can reduce our vulnerability.” How? I have difficulty understanding how coordination of our oil supply with China and India has anything to do with satisfying our (or their) energy needs.

Walt Selover, ’48
San Francisco, California

I was very disappointed with your article. It spent 90 percent of its space setting up a straw man (energy independence) and then knocking it down. What a waste of time on a very serious subject.

The problem is strategic and economic. At the strategic level, we are paying for oil with our cash and our blood. Do we want this to continue? At the economic level, oil is priced to take advantage of the difference between the short-term and long-term price elasticity of oil. In the short term, we pay high prices because we have no alternatives. In the long term, oil prices are kept just below the cost of substitutes: a strategy that makes sense to the oil producers, but not to us.

The key question in front of us is simple: what should we do about it? Instead of wasting our time with silly arguments, we should be engaged in finding solutions.

Doug Finlay, ’77
Emerald Hills, California

I was an attorney for Saudi Aramco and its U.S. joint venture for 20 years. The article “Crude Awakening” is the most intelligent analysis of the energy positions of the United States and other net importers of crude oil that I have ever seen. This contribution to the dialogue on our vulnerability gives credence to Stanford’s cross-disciplinary initiatives to address international peace, security and the environment. Further, this article is a perfect follow-on to last year’s articles on global warming, “Danger Ahead” and “Too Hot to Handle.” You can be sure that my U.S. senator, who is a member of the Energy Committee, will have a copy of this article before the end of the year.

Clydia J. Cuykendall, ’71
Olympia, Washington


TO BAN OR NOT TO BAN

Banning alumni from performing with the Band—just another small rise in temperature for boiling the frog. In my Band years (1986-1991), the ‘old farts’ often went on and on about how things were really tame and regulated compared to when they were in the Band. By the time I moved on, I knew what they were saying. It was inappropriate enough barring the group from games this fall based on the alleged actions of a few members (“’We Do Not Want to Kill the Band,’” Farm Report, November/December). (I rather pointedly recall that the football team was not disciplined when a quarterback defaced a gay-pride sculpture on campus.) These alumni fill in gaps in the sections, cover for rallies, and, by the way, raised a ton of money for a new band building. Can’t imagine I’d have ever come to say this, but can we have Andy Geiger back? He, at least, had the character to come talk through the issues in person and even buy a ‘Marching Banned’ T-shirt during one of the other classic ready-fire-aim University overreactions back in the fall of ’86.

Controversy may arise having a lively group like the LSJUMB on campus. On the other hand, it’s a group that enthusiastically shows up and cheers at every game, even during years when the win-loss has people staying away in droves. The Band, students and alumni, have been and remain some of the strongest, most loyal supporters of the University, in spite of decades of disrespect and abuse by the University administration.

Hey Stanford—you’re not accomplishing anything with this. Admit the mistake and move on.

M. Duff Howell, MS ’88, PhD ’93
Felton, California

Editor’s note: The Band remains on provisional status as the Band Reinstatement Committee undertakes its review, during which only student members of the Band have been permitted to perform at athletic events. An exception was made for the Reunion Homecoming football game when alumni performed with the Band. The Reinstatement Committee is expected to deliver its recommendations by the end of winter quarter.

I am the proud parent of a Stanford freshman student. Before she decided to accept admission, she expressed her disappointment about the fact that the Band presented such a negative image of Stanford.

My daughter was one of the top high school saxophone and piano players in Texas and took top awards in band and solo/ensemble competitions. She also enjoys the college football spirit. But she and I were so disappointed by the fact that the university that she really wanted to go to did not have a band that stood up to the standards she was used to. She accepted admission because her academic priorities came first.

Maybe if the University decides to make it a part of the academic system and not simply a volunteer student organization it will come close to being as impressive as some of the other bands across the country. I truly hope that the Stanford Band is restructured to become as classy as the University it represents.

Mario Salazar
Cypress, Texas

My participation in the Band was by far the best part of my Stanford experience, and I am very upset that the University no longer will allow alumni to participate in all Band activities. Other campus music groups permit alumni, and even community members with no ties to Stanford, to perform. The LSJUMB should be no different. The Band’s valuable institutional memory is threatened by this misguided decision. Stanford gains a great deal of positive publicity from the Band because of its notoriety. The athletics department and the University’s administration should reconsider its position regarding alumni participation.

Russell Crawford, ’92
Irving, Texas

As far as I’m concerned, the Band should have been killed a long time ago. They are a total embarrassment to the University, and as long as they exist, I for one have vowed not to contribute to the University. I don’t think I’m alone.

Richard Kurkowski, ’62
Sunnyvale, California

After watching the amazing construction of the new football stadium on the Stanford stadium website, I was eager to check it out at our home opener, the Navy game. John Arrillaga’s incredible effort resulted in what has become synonymous with what Stanford is about these days: excellence. Other than the fact that we played poorly, though, several times during the evening I was very aware that something was wrong. No Band. Oh sure, the small Navy band was playing down in the corner, but I got tired of “Anchors Aweigh” early on.

Personally, I like the Band. Those “zanies” run around in their screwy outfits and settle into a formation that works, and then play their moving rendition of our national anthem. And, of course, they play other great stuff, too, including old and new fight songs and, of course, our alma mater. (Navy’s version of our alma mater after the game, with our players huddled around them, made me a little ill. It just somehow missed.) Otherwise, these fine musicians (and they are fine musicians) for years have been poking fun at the stiff uniforms and precision moves of other university marching bands with the apparent blessing of the University hierarchy.

Not everyone agrees with me about the Band. I know alums who have withheld donations to Stanford, they’ve been so incensed by their antics. Notre Dame has banned them, and there have been a number of tasteless incidents. Yet, every year, here they are, while many of the Stanford gentry in the stands shake their heads. But still, I bet they enjoy the music.

During this investigation, who loses? The band members? Sure. But how about the fans? The fans lose! The music is integral to the entire event and certainly would have ameliorated, to some extent, our poor performance against Navy. More importantly, homage to John Arrillaga that night merited the whole enchilada. Didn’t happen. Stanford implored fans to come to the opening game and make it a sellout and at considerably higher prices than last year. And then to arbitrarily ban the entire Band—isn’t there an incongruity here? Yes, do your investigation and then mete out the punishment at the conclusion of the investigation, where it is warranted.

There is a question that remains, though. Shouldn’t someone else be punished? The vandals, that’s easy. But someone higher up also has to take the hit: the band instructor, the athletic director, somebody. If you’re going to let this Band be what it is, someone has to take responsibility for what it does.

You can’t let these “zanies” be zany and not expect some aberrant behavior. Decide what you want the Band to be and pursue that. This problem perhaps could not have been anticipated, but the resultant suspension was not well thought out. You’re punishing the wrong people—us!

Robert B. Fuller, ’60
Pasadena, California


DOCTORING MEDICINE

It is wonderful to see that the Stanford School of Medicine has started to re-emphasize the doctor-patient relationship by reorganizing the medical curriculum (“Strong Medicine,” September/October). However, developing a good bedside manner and the “phys, path, pharm” of medical intervention are only part of the health care picture. Doctors also need to be trained in preventative medicine as well as noninvasive treatments for chronic illnesses. Consider the fact that the Department of Health and Human Services reports that 70 percent of illness is due to stress, and other research confirms this assessment. Imagine saving billions of dollars in health care costs by shifting the prevailing medical paradigm away from intervention to prevention.

The next step that needs to be taken by the School of Medicine is to provide training in complementary and alternative medicine and therapies to address the shortcomings in Western medical practice. Therapies such as medical qigong, herbal medicine and acupuncture should be familiar to any doctors wanting to provide superior health care for their patients. For example, t’ai chi, a moving form of qigong, has proven especially effective with the aging population. The benefits include improved cardiovascular function, reduction in cholesterol and blood pressure, increased confidence and consequent reduced incidence of falls, and increased capacity of the immune system. It is also safe for rheumatoid arthritis patients and has been shown to be equivalent to moderate aerobic exercise. With regard to chronic illness, studies have shown that the use of qigong with drugs may permit the reduction of the dosage of drugs required for health maintenance and provide greater health benefits than the use of drug therapy alone.

The Stanford Center for Integrative Medicine has started to offer therapies like acupuncture and qigong, but these therapies need to become part of the medical curriculum so that doctors know that there are very effective ways to complement Western medicine to provide the best possible health care.

Tom Rogers, MS ’79
Vice President, Qigong Institute
Los Altos, California

Should not the cover article “How to Make a Doctor” (September/October) have been titled “How to Make a Doctor Smarter”? While there are words such as bedside manner, communication skills, compassion, and humanization of medicine, there is nothing in the article except early patient contact to support the fulfillment of these goals. Does early patient contact assure these outcomes?

To my knowledge, American medicine has never been prodded by the public [for being] too dumb. All inspiration for progress in medicine has come from within the profession. Abraham Flexner, who created a sea change in medical school curricula a century ago, was not a consumer but an educator. It is unlikely that Dean Pizzo is encouraged by patient focus groups to create these truly wonderful and daring changes in study. They most likely come from him and his colleagues. If he were prompted by patients’ unfulfilled wishes and needs, he would find that they are not seeking physicians with high MCAT scores, better grades in anatomy, access to interactive embryology labs, or even seeking to be cared for by physicians who had patient contact early in their education. Rather, what he would hear is that they want their doctors to be nice, above all. Smart is a given. The constituents of niceness are patience, empathy, acceptance, lack of criticism, and a long list of qualities that don’t require enumeration or definition. Doctors are almost never sued for being stupid, but almost always for not being nice.

It appears that little is done to screen medical school applicants or to weed them out later if they are burdened by the very same psychological impediments for which they will be providing care and solace. If such screening is carried out it is a secret well kept, for we never hear about psychological testing, stress interviews, questions about family psychopathology and the like. Being a high school quarterback, student body president, or even having a high IQ are not proper or accurate surrogates for the emotional durability required by modern medical care. These dangers are compounded by the assumption that all the wonderful intellectual and social experiences described are going to create or increase emotional integrity. The assumption that the medical school experience will result in the acquisition or increase of the qualities sought by patients needs to be examined closely and not discounted.

After all, these wonderful study changes are predicated on the premise that folks can be made smarter, for which there is considerable, though not incontrovertible, evidence. But [there is] very little, if any, evidence that they can be made nicer.

There is no guarantee that the emotional ills of our society are not carried into critical settings such as medicine. The problems that dog our youth are not left outside the door on the first day of class. James McNeill Whistler said, “In this world are two classes of people, nurses and invalids.” No curriculum change will predict that both folks in the examining room don’t need nursing. On the other hand, if the goal is to produce researchers and academicians, [will] humanitarianism be trumped by intellect?

The Little Prince said to his creator, St. Exupéry, “It is only with the heart that one can know rightly” and “What is most important is invisible.” Modern medicine has not shirked or refrained from looking for the invisible. Is it [because] the human psyche is assumed to be impenetrable or inviolate that it is given a pass?

Smart doctors are common, nice doctors are rarer. It’s time to look for the gold.

Myron Gananian, ’51, MD ’59
Menlo Park, California


The following letters did not appear in the print edition of Stanford.

TO BAN OR NOT TO BAN

Why not let the Band be the Band? What’s the matter with a little fun? Is Stanford trying to emulate Harvard in political correctness? Isn’t Stanford being a bit too serious here?

My late wife went to Michigan State. She loved that band, but of course it never got on TV. Too boring. Is that what we want?

Franklin Leib, ’66
Naples, Florida

The Band! This is an institution! I agree about their behavior, but come on, they are great musicians and a joy—what’s next with you guys, eliminating the football team?

Antone Ratto, ’52, MBA ’54
Woodland Hills, California


STADIUM SUNSET

Though Stanford Stadium was rarely full for track meets, it was the site of Stanford’s finest athletic event (“Ready for Kickoff,” September/October). In a San Jose State-Stanford-Kansas meet, Stanford’s Larry Questad beat San Jose State’s Tommy Smith, pulling even around the curve and winning the 220-yard dash. A few thousand fans roared their approval. In closing a letter to me, Stanford president Wallace Sterling remarked, “p.s. A shot in the dark, do you like Kipling? Alas, the great Empire of which he wrote is no more.” Perhaps he sensed the Stanford Stadium would be gone as well.

Charles E. Nines, ’68
Honolulu, Hawaii


SIMPLISTIC POLITICS

Beyond Red & Blue” (September/October) could have produced a much richer outlook on our country’s political realities. I strongly disagree with the article’s statement, “We split evenly in elections not because we are bitterly opposed camps, but because we instinctively seek the center while parties and candidates hang out at the extremes.” This only appears to be the case when the starting assumption is a political spectrum defined on a single continuum from left to right, with a center. It is a simplistic political model that obscures and muffles true debate. The political viewpoints of our citizens have much more variety and depth. A two-dimensional political spectrum is gaining broad acceptance and incorporates statist and libertarian viewpoints (see www.theadvocates.org).

The two-party political system is entrenched in our discourse because of legislation restricting ballot access and campaign finance passed by the two political parties who benefit directly and powerfully from them. Especially now, our country could significantly benefit from a full and open discussion of the economic and social problems we face.

Mary Whitley Brophy, MBA ’80
Fort Collins, Colorado


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Correction: Kevin Bleyer (“Seriously Funny,” On the Job, November/December) should have been identified as a writer for Dennis Miller, not as that show’s head writer.