Letters to the Editor

September/October 2009

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Letters to the Editor


Cynthia Haven quotes René Girard as saying man is creating "more and more violence in a world that is practically without God, if you look at the way nations behave with each other and the way people behave with each other" ("History Is a Test. Mankind Is Failing It", July/August). Girard's conclusion: "We must face our neighbors and declare unconditional peace. Even if we are provoked, challenged, we must give up violence once and for all."

Telling us what we must do, without showing us how, is a major defect of the article, unlike some of the works of Krishnamurti.

Girard does, however, suggest some interesting possibilities. Perhaps a blend of ideas from Girard, Malcolm Gladwell's book The Tipping Point and social psychology could provide an alternative to an apocalyptic vision of the future.

Gladwell talks about social epidemics that start small and build to a crescendo. He posits that, "in a social epidemic, mavens are data banks. They provide the message. Connectors are social glue: they spread it. But there is also a select group of people—salesmen—with the skills to persuade us when we are unconvinced of what we are hearing . . . as critical to the tipping of word-of-mouth epidemics as the other two groups."

Perhaps Girard's notion that "we can no longer blame scapegoats" means that we have to accept full responsibility for our actions and behaviors. History is full of religious and political movements, all expressing a universal desire for peace on Earth, goodwill toward men. Unfortunately, far too often, these social movements operate by being exclusionary, "us versus them," in nature. Perhaps the problem that Girard notes, that man is creating "more and more violence in a world that is practically without God," has it backward. Perhaps there are too many gods, all vying for adherence and claiming to be the one true religion.

Perhaps there are some fundamental, universal laws of human behavior, like the laws of physics, that people can easily learn and that can transform personal norms, then societal norms, and finally create a social epidemic. That might blend mimesis into a tipping point for tolerance and peace.

As a psychologist in private practice for over 30 years, I have found a few ideas, easily taught, that allow people to regain control over their personal and interpersonal lives. I see no reason that these ideas, universal laws of human behavior, if you will, could not be easily exported into other media, and I am looking forward to doing so.

Girard provides some interesting juxtapositions between history, theology, anthropology and politics. Perhaps the field of psychology may add to the richness and usefulness of his ideas.

James E. Barrick, PhD '73
Los Gatos, California

Stanford was one of four higher education magazines to receive a gold medal for general excellence in a competition sponsored by the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE). Other gold medal winners included alumni magazines from Princeton, Kenyon College and King's College London. Stanford also earned a gold medal for editorial design.


In the story "Card Stock" (July/August), the Class of 2013 recruits to the Stanford football team sound like rookie signers of contracts with professional sports organizations. Of the nine young men featured, only two have anything at all to say about academic life: Jamal-Rashad Patterson mentions an interest in political science and psychology, and Zach Ertz alludes to the quality of a Stanford education and a "degree to fall back on." What about the rest? They must have had reasons other than football for choosing Stanford—or at least I hope so. I fault writer Mike Antonucci and the editors for contributing to the demise of a concept the University was once proud of: the scholar-athlete.

Anne Jacobson Schutte, MA '63, PhD '69
Venice, Italy


Although I applaud the San Francisco Stanford Women's Club for sponsoring the April panel on World War II, I must correct a disturbing quote by one of the speakers ("War and Remembrance," Planet Cardinal, July/August). Merlon Albrecht Williamson, '46, said, "I don't think any of us knew what the Nazis were doing to the Jews in Europe. I don't think that was common knowledge." I don't doubt that Williamson was telling the truth, but readers must know that the Holocaust was public knowledge while it was going on.

As early as 1941, U.S. intelligence forces were intercepting Nazi-encoded messages regarding the early stages of the Holocaust. The well-known journalist Edward R. Murrow broadcast a radio news report on December 13, 1942, that said, "Millions of human beings, most of them Jews, are being gathered up with ruthless efficiency and murdered. . . . The Jews are being systematically exterminated throughout all Poland. . . . There are no longer 'concentration camps'—we must speak now only of 'extermination camps.'" On June 19, 1944, the New York Times reported that escaped prisoners verified the existence of gas chambers being used at Birkenau and Auschwitz.

Will Colglazier, MA '06
Burlingame, California


I am extremely disappointed in the slim coverage of the women's crew team's first national championship. I know Stanford has a long history of winning national championships and they have become the norm for Stanford athletics, but a first national championship is still something to be enthusiastically celebrated. As a women's crew alum (2004-2007) and team captain ('06-'07), I can say that much of the hard work the crew team endures is lost on the general population, seeing that we do much of our work before 8 a.m. and it is off campus. The article also failed to mention that Yasmin Farooq was in her third year of coaching the team, and the progress made has been exponential since that first year in '06-'07. This is an incredible victory for the women's crew team and for Stanford athletics. Although national championships are expected from Stanford athletes, the hard work should not be taken for granted and I will expect better coverage next time.

Carly York, '07
Laramie, Wyoming


Former Secretary of State Warren Christopher, JD '49, disingenuously claims that he, and the "bipartisan commission" on war powers on which he served, did not seek to "resolve" what he calls the "debate" between Congress and the president over the constitutional balance of power regarding war ("Lessons of War," May/June). But Christopher in fact comes down on the side of those who advocate extra-constitutional and unilateral presidential power over war making, and he should have the candor to say so.

This is evident, first, in the false equivalency in his very presentation of the so-called debate. He describes the proposition that Congress has sole power "to declare and fund war" as merely an "argument" by "one school of thought." But the Constitution itself explicitly and unambiguously grants only to Congress—not the president—the "power . . . to declare war." Furthermore, even the most extremist advocates of presidential power concede that Congress undoubtedly has sole power over war funding.

"The other line of argument," Christopher says, is that because the Constitution makes the president "Commander-in-Chief" of the armed forces, the president may have "the dominant, ultimate authority." But this alleged counterposing "argument" is preposterous. The C-in-C clause gives the president no power whatsoever over funding or declaring war. It merely ensures exactly what that clause says and implies: the president's power, as a democratically elected civilian, to maintain control over the military.

Likewise the Constitution grants only to Congress the "power . . . to make rules for the government and regulation" of the armed forces. Thus, even while the president exercises his undoubted power to "command" the military, he must do so in accordance with the rules and regulations decreed, as a policy matter, by Congress. Congress may, of course, choose to delegate to the president some discretion in implementing such rules, just as it may grant the president some discretion in whether or when to go to war. Indeed, the 1973 War Powers Act that Christopher denounces as "flawed" (apparently because presidents routinely violate it) is an example of such a delegation of some of Congress's power. There is no plausible argument that the War Powers Act (at least its key provisions, the ones Christopher advocates repealing) improperly limits presidential power. The only serious question is whether it gives up to the president too much of Congress's constitutionally conferred war-making power.

No one disputes that when and if Congress exercises its constitutional "power . . . to declare war" (or authorizes a war using other terminology, such as in the Gulf War Resolution of 1991 or the Iraq War Resolution of 2003), the president will then command the military in executing that war. And if Congress refuses to declare war, no one disputes that the president continues to command the military in its peacetime posture. There is, in reality, no conflict or tension whatsoever between the two constitutional clauses and principles at stake. Thus, there is no proper "debate" between them.

Christopher's effective endorsement of extra-constitutional and unilateral presidential war-making powers is made clear when he discusses past incidents. He refers to the time in 1995, during his service as secretary of state under President Bill Clinton, when the president desired to intervene militarily in the Balkans in order to resolve the conflict in Bosnia. Christopher notes: "The two houses [of Congress] passed various resolutions supporting or constraining the president's deployment of troops, but no consensus was reached on a single measure. Frustrated by the congressional dithering, President Clinton, relying on his commander-in-chief authority, deployed troops to carry out the Bosnian peace agreement reached at Dayton."

President Clinton had no "commander-in-chief authority" whatsoever to commit the United States to military intervention in a Balkan civil war. It is true that did not stop him from twice doing so (again in 1999, in Kosovo), not to mention his intervention in Haiti. The issue is not the merits of those interventions. It is a question of constitutional power. The House of Representatives in 1999 specifically refused to support going to war in Kosovo, arriving at a tie vote on a resolution to disapprove President Clinton's intervention.

It is somewhat ironic that both the presidents Bush, supporters of the Vietnam War and strong critics of the 1973 War Powers Act, went to Congress to seek and obtain proper constitutional authority to wage the two main wars of choice during their presidencies.

Yet President Clinton, who opposed the Vietnam War, chose several times to flout the 1973 War Powers Act, enacted precisely in response to the presidential abuses of the Vietnam era. This is one of several ways in which President Clinton laid the groundwork for, and presaged, the far more horrific breaches of the law and Constitution that took place under President George W. Bush. As bitter as that is for a Democrat like me to state, it is the unfortunate truth. Christopher touts the "bipartisan" nature of his commission, but the fact is, the Constitution has been a "bipartisan" victim of presidential hubris and abuse throughout many periods of American history.

Christopher's proposal would repeal the key provision at the heart of the War Powers Act and effectively allow the president to authorize going to war unless vetoed by a two-thirds vote in Congress.

This hopefully will not "resolve" the debate, as Christopher states. But his proposed legislation takes one side in that debate and would dangerously undermine the structure of our Constitution.

Bryan H. Wildenthal, '86, JD '89
San Diego, California

The writer is a professor of constitutional law at Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego.

At the danger of sounding too simplistic, the question "What is it we're missing about how conflicts begin and end?" does indeed have a relatively simple answer. What we are missing in the prevention of wars and world conflict is the lack of accountability for people who abuse the position of power they find themselves in, and this includes politicians as well as scholars. What we are missing about conflicts being ended is, again, the lack of accountability and a well-established, internationally enforced system where the bully gets sanctioned and the advisee gets advised and re-educated in the fundamentals of respect, conflict resolution, consideration, human rights and peace.

The prominence of Stanford's Center for International Security and Cooperation over its Center on International Conflict and Negotiation is very telling about the American culture. A culture of war and a bellicose mentality prevails in our nation, and the riches of the industry of war permeate and influence policy makers and even the best universities in this country.

As politicians seek and surround themselves with knowledgeable scholars, it is up to those scholars to provide sound advice. The advice from scholars should be a more enlightened opinion, full of compassion and with a clearer understanding that the scholar derives from the basic (and scientific) understanding that all people are equal human beings in spite of the sociocultural differences that exist. In many instances the problem is not that the politicians do not listen to scholars—in fact often they do listen—but often such scholarly opinions turn out to be more divisive, thus reassuring the patriotic and bellicose mentality that war might be the only choice.

Former Defense Secretary William Perry puts it well in his commentary for this article. He advises aspiring policy shapers to "build up all the intellectual capital they can at a place like Stanford, spend it liberally in Washington—then return to the academy and stock up again." This might be precisely what Condoleezza Rice is doing here at Stanford right now, stocking up to then go back and do it again. Accountability: This is precisely what we are missing about how conflicts begin and end.

Ever Rodriguez
Redwood City, California

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


I must be getting old because I don’t remember the brick Track House you mention as the site of the new visitor center ("A Warmer Welcome," Farm Report, July/August). For the sake of alums with rusty memories, or those of us who’ve fallen behind all the changes on campus, it would be helpful to include a small map showing the location of new buildings featured in Stanford. That will help us feel like we’re right at home, and not just tourists, when we go back to campus. And in case we get lost and need to flag down a student for directions, should we ask for the Vis Cen?

Carol Hoffman, ’72
Menlo Park, California


I wonder what professional people who deal with the sort of thing expressed in "A Marriage of True Beliefs" will have to say about the subject of [politically] mixed marriages (Shelf Life, July/August). The author [of Love in Condition Yellow] is new to life and may have a different opinion after she is into the marriage a few more years. Time will tell, but the track record is not good.

Peter Frusetta, ’54
Tres Pinos, California


Perhaps Maj. John J. Lodato, ’41, MA ’59, has not noticed that World War II, in which we both served, was the last constitutional war fought by our country ("Thoughts on War," Letters, July/August). Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, Bosnia, Desert Storm, Afghanistan, Iraq and Af-Pak were all conflicts that our presidents and Congress lacked the spines to declare.

Bill Hay, ’47, MBA ’50
Pfc. U.S. Marine Corps Reserve; Lt. j.g. U.S. Naval Reserve
Soquel, California


The letter of Barton J. Bernstein ("A Rebuttal to Lyman," Letters, July/August, 2009) stood out to me because he was a professor rather than a student, with some apparent role in the ’60s and early ’70s demonstrations at Stanford. His self-defense and case against the accuracy of President Lyman’s memoirs made me want to highlight a bright spot by acknowledging my appreciation of those professors who continued to hold class during the chaos of those days, when they were inspiring and training me for a fulfilling career in engineering. I commuted from industry to attend Stanford as a graduate student in engineering in the honors co-op program. My professors understood the physical world so well that they could teach with a passion! None of them raved with emotions that I saw on display at White Plaza on my way to class, or witnessed when demonstrators tried to prevent students from attending class, or when their protests turned violent. My professors demonstrated creative thinking, model formulation, and how to solve problems. They convinced us that engineering had a purpose bigger than ourselves: making life better for all others through technology! I did not get that sense of purpose from the White Plaza noise, or from the demonstrators.

White Plaza demonstrations seemed out of place to me for a teaching institution. I left the classroom each day with something I could use. What would the demonstrators take home from a rally, unless it was a "feel good about myself" reaction? I think the administration should not have caved to student demands regarding SRI and government classified work and ROTC. I would have supported the position, "Debate is welcome! Orderly discussion is encouraged. Feel free to disagree—lawfully! But if you cannot accept what we do at Stanford, you can hop in your sports car and go somewhere else. If you throw something, or shut down a building, or damage an office, we’ll throw you out, even if Mom and Dad are big donors. If you want change, go to your classes, graduate, get elected to the Trustees, and then you can work on changing Stanford."

As a co-op student, I took only one or two classes each quarter, and my company paid double tuition. They did not pay for me to sit in an empty classroom while the professor was attending an antiwar rally, which reportedly happened in other departments. My engineering professors could always be found in the classroom, in the lab, keeping office hours, writing papers and books, and acting as role models and mentors for students. They, too, had strong feelings about Vietnam, but made it known that they would not let antiwar protests and related chaos distract them from their mission of replicating their commitment to engineering excellence in their students. I am sorry that Professor Bernstein had to weary himself in defending his honor.

Perhaps he could have been spared this pain if he had done like my engineering professors and stayed in the classroom, or in his office writing his own memoirs, or planning class sessions that could have inspired students to use history instead of demonstrations and riots to change the world. Possibly he could have invested the time meeting with small groups of students to maximize his influence, or he might have worked in other creative ways to exert a lasting influence. Instead, his [alleged] presence at some rally, sometime, superimposed with information from a forgotten source, and President Lyman’s piecing together his own recollection, has led to new wounds and frustration—which are hardly related to the war!

What do participants have to show today from the White Plaza rallies and demonstrations except 40-year-old memories and bad feelings? If I were to speak for the engineers in my classes, I would say that we still have the basic principles that are the same as the day we learned them, and the engineering know-how that committed professors taught us, which still are being applied to make life better for others. In that sense, my professors continue to write history. Professor Bernstein also made history 40 years ago, maybe by being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Right or wrong, as a small consolation, at least today his name has made another notch in the historical record.

Frederick J. Moody, MS ’63, PhD ’71
Murphys, California


Condoleezza Rice, a member of the Stanford faculty, was certainly present when the current wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were being planned and executed. After seeing your May/June cover ("Can Professors Stop Wars?"), I was cruelly disappointed to find her important voice not mentioned in the accompanying piece ("Lessons of War"). It reminded me of the July/August 2005 cover article on William Rehnquist, which carefully described his lifelong advocacy of states’ rights, but did not mention how his court repeatedly overruled the Florida state Supreme Court in the election controversy of 2000. (These seemingly out-of-character actions were monumentally influential, and not unrelated to the aforementioned wars, as they effectively installed the president that prosecuted them.) Why does Stanford put such topics on the cover, and then completely avoid mentioning, much less discussing, the most interesting parts?

Chris Regan, ’92
Los Angeles, California


"Students on the Edge" was both informative and disturbing (Farm Report, May/June). I could not help contrasting it with my own college experiences of many years ago.

I graduated from high school in 1948, in a city of 11,000 in western Pennsylvania. I was in a five-way tie for 32nd place in a class of 289, with no SAT or ACT tests. I filled out my college applications in longhand and wrote my essay with no assistance or adult proofreading. I was accepted at Duke, and the dean of freshmen told us in our first assembly that in four years, only one third of us would graduate. We had no room phones, and I called home only about twice a year, keeping in touch mainly by letter writing. Our main help academically came from our fellow students—what one failed to understand in the classroom, another often did. The same later applied at Stanford. Payment for college came from parents, and inheritance from a great-aunt, and summer job earnings from industrial plant work.

Eleven days after graduating in 1952 at age 22 with a BS in mechanical engineering, I started working at an overseas oil refinery. Three years later, I was drafted and spent 21 months in the Army. After my Army release, I attended Stanford for two quarters before returning to work overseas. Three years later, I returned to Stanford for two more quarters, getting my MS in mechanical engineering in 1961, nine years after the BS. This was not an efficient way to do it—too much forgetting of earlier course material. I had no financial aid and did not qualify for G.I. Bill benefits, paying my own expenses from earnings saved. I was fortunate in having such outstanding teachers as Donovan Young, Elliott Reid, Robert Eustis, John Vennard, Eugene Grant, John Arnold, Clarkson Oglesby, William Kays and Harry Williams.

My parents were supportive but not intrusive. Shielding me from responsibility in ways described in your article would have been inconceivable to them. Stanford seems to be taking positive steps to help students who are too narrowly focused on academic performance at the expense of other important aspects of life. I applaud Stanford’s efforts in doing so but regret the increased present-day need for this.

Malcolm Murray, MS ’61
Baytown, Texas


I read with amusement the letter by Edward R. Jagels  ("Blowing Their Cover," May/June). Rest assured, Mr. Jagels, that no one will ever mistake you for a left-wing demonstrator. With the record and reputation compiled by [Jagels’s] Kern County District Attorney’s Office, no one would be misled. For a sampling of the over-aggressive and often unethical prosecutorial practices of that office under Jagels, people should read Mean Justice, the Pulitzer Prize-winning book by Edward Humes. That book describes the mindless prosecution of a probably innocent man for the murder of his wife, as well as other tales of prosecutorial excess.

No, no one will associate Jagels with those who stood up to an illegal war in Vietnam and corporate control of Stanford University as part of the war machine of the 1960s and early 1970s. Jagels calls the protestors’ activities "illegal." Whatever laws they broke pale in comparison both to the illegal activities of the United States government in those days, as well as the dangerous belief by some prosecutors such as Jagels that the ends justify the means when it comes to prosecuting "crime."

Peter F. Goldscheider, MA ’72, JD ’72
Portola Valley, California


Thank you so much for highlighting Brian Eule’s book Match Day (Shelf Life, Showcase, March/April). This book should be required reading for all parents of medical school students and interns. My son went through Match Day in 2004 and his internship at Johns Hopkins. He is now a chief resident. I now have a much greater insight and appreciation for all he went through in those trying years. Brian Eule’s book is wonderful and a great education.

Vicki Kelly, ’66
Los Angeles, California

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