Spoiled by nostalgia
Regarding “Now What?” [Winter 2009]: How old were these people? Did they actually experience the 1960s? The “heady days of the 1960s,” indeed; filled with optimistic visions of “progress,” to be sure. In the movies, we enjoyed that sanguine future in Dr. Strangelove (1964). In books, we read the cheerful fictional visions of Fail-Safe (1962) and Stand on Zanzibar (1968). For readers of nonfiction, there was the equally uplifting Unsafe at Any Speed (1965), followed by Paul Ehrlich’s The Population Bomb (1968). And was there ever a more optimistic view of the environment than Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (1962)? Musically, we were treated to the happy-future lyrics of Bob Dylan’s “Masters of War,” in which he noted that “you’ve thrown the worst fear that can ever be hurled, fear to bring children into the world”; two years later Barry McGuire engaged the country with P.F. Sloan’s “Eve of Destruction” (1965). And let’s not forget the uplifting reality of the daily news: the assassinations of JFK, RFK, and MLK. And who can forget the confidence-inspiring actions of Robert McNamara, LBJ, J. Edgar Hoover, and Richard Nixon, who set in motion the distrust of government that still exists today?
Your rose-colored nostalgic assessment of the 1960s (using the Jetsons as your primary example) was incomprehensibly biased in an ill-advised attempt to contrast that decade with the books, movies, and music of the current decade. In fact, the vision of the future in the ’60s was probably far more pessimistic than it is today. You spoiled a perfectly good interview by creating a false premise about our past that only a limited number of your readers might notice.
Stan Katz, A&S ’66
Ham cooked in Coke
I read the cover title of the story on Hopkins professors predicting the future and laughed [“Now What?”]. This from the institution whose School of Advanced International Studies brought us the Bush wars?
Please fawn somewhere else—where is the article “Ooops! SAIS geniuses’ strategy now even repudiated by U.S.”? Or, if it was such a brilliant strategy, where is the article fawning over it? Your journalistic silence is deafening and does not reflect well on the magazine.
Is there any journalism, or only articles praising the emperor’s new clothes?
Perhaps in your next issue you would like to publish my recipe for ham cooked in Coke? It would fit in nicely.
Henry Kerfoot, A&S ’75
Green, but good for us?
Thank you for sharing [George] Dimopoulos’ eco-friendly principle [Wholly Hopkins: “The Paperless Professor’s Crusade to Save Trees and Time,” Winter 2009]. What disturbs me in the ongoing process of digitizing anything and everything is that no one has addressed the health effects. Not long ago, children were encouraged to protect their eyesight by minimizing their exposure to LCD screens. Not only have video games and computer screens become ubiquitous, it is now known that carpel tunnel results from excess use of the keyboards. While there may be legitimate economic or environmental benefits, I really wonder if anyone has tried to incorporate vision loss and chronic wrist irritation as a result of overreliance on modern technology.
Shin Shoji, A&S ’04, SAIS ’08
Israel’s “balance” of terror
Ray Gordon’s letter must not go unanswered [“Terrorist Nation,” Winter 2009]. In it he regurgitates numerous fictions while denying Israel the right to defend itself. If Israel is guilty of anything it is that its governments, past and present, have opted for a policy of appeasement and “land for peace” at the expense of its security. Israel has supported, through irrational policies, the growth of extremist nationalism and jihadism. Unlike any other nation faced with existential challenges, Israel has refused to destroy its enemies on the battlefield, accepting a “balance” of terror. In every military confrontation since the founding of the State of Israel its military has not been permitted to complete its objectives. As a direct result of this policy the conflict continues, progressively worsening, with otherwise avoidable losses of life on both sides.
In contrast, Iran denies basic rights to its citizens, actively supports anti-Western terrorism throughout the world, and threatens to annihilate Israel—as only a first stage in the establishment of a global caliphate.
Chaim Forer, A&S ’70
Hopelessly naive about Iran
Is [Ray Gordon] so blind that he really believes Iran poses no threat and has no nuclear weapons program? This is the same government whose president frequently talks of wiping Israel off the map and who refuses to submit to any program to limit its nuclear ambitions.
Israel is a democracy that endures not only the ceaseless criticism of the rest of the world but also of its citizens, yet they have full right to criticize the government without persecution. Can the writer honestly believe this of Iran? They brutally put down election protests by their own people, murdering the young heroine Neda, amongst unknown numbers of others.
The writer is hopelessly naive if he truly believes that America abandoning Israel will cause the relentless violence of radical Muslims to cease. These people do not believe in tolerance for even a relatively minor disagreement in interpretation of Islam, let alone tolerance for infidels. Now more than ever is the time for America and other democracies to band with Israel against hatred and totalitarianism. Now is the time to take the Iranian threat seriously and do something to avert their nuclear ambitions, not just ridiculously believe that those ambitions do not exist.
Michelle Kravitz, MD, A&S ’87
Johns Hopkins Magazine readers pointed out two items in “Now What?” [Winter 2009] that require correction or clarification. Nathan Connolly incorrectly stated that General Motors has long been working on a car that runs on water. GM is, in fact, developing an automobile that uses hydrogen cells for fuel and emits water.
Also, Michael Vlahos used the phrase “negative feedback loops” to describe the effects of climate change. Although the direction of the loop would, as a letter writer pointed out, actually be positive, Vlahos says he used the term to explain the harmful effects such loops would have on the environment.