Letters to the Editor

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Editor: Math teacher Jeffrey Smith gets the math wrong in his commentary on “The American Dream.” (“Keep the American Dream Alive” Jan. 9). To start with, he extols the significance of a student leaping from a lower quintile of the population to a higher quintile, forgetting that movement within such a relational dataset has little significance for the nation as a whole. For every person who advances, someone else must necessarily drop into a lower quintile to take his or her place. In and of itself, the relational dataset shows no net gain or loss. A better math would be to compare the absolute numbers over time. For example, since 2008 all quintiles except the topmost have fallen in wealth. During other periods, all quintiles have risen. In all economic eras, the important questions have always been: 1) “Where is my next meal coming from?” and 2) “Am I sweating rent?” Few of Smith’s students, or any other students, or for that matter adults, are worried about quintiles. Quoting the “2.5 million STEMs needed by industry” is another common math mistake. In accepted math theory, that figure is not defined as a real number, since nothing has actually been counted to bring it into being. It is a literary construct, a propaganda term used by Silicon Valley mavens to lobby Congress for higher immigration quotas so they can lower wages. The 2.5 million is impressive and sounds like a number, but it’s not. It’s an emotion-loaded symbol posing as a number. The notion that American technologists will save the U.S. economy has been pushed hard in the media for the last 30 years. What always happens is this: When a technology is found to be commercially viable, U.S. banks and investment firms finance factories in China, India, Bangladesh, Mexico, Thailand or some other country that pays wages 10 cents on the dollar. Nowadays great things are only accomplished with cheap labor and other people’s money. The dollars are printed by the U.S. Federal Reserve at taxpayer expense, handed out to their banker buddies, and shipped overseas. America’s greatest export is its dollars. Smith is right that Americans, young and old, must study and master mathematics. Math will help them defend themselves from their numerous enemies: real estate hype agents, loan officers, car dealers (new and used), stock jobbers, investment “consultants,” military recruiters, advertisers, health insurance sales women, corporate and government bureaucrats and politicians, all of whom have been known to use dodgy math in their career paths. And yes, let’s not forget opinion writers in the local newspaper. Hopefully Smith’s “STEM” saviors won’t invent any more cell phone apps; that would just make his task in class more difficult.

— Steve Tabor

Editor: I have followed the letters concerning the Friends of the Alameda Animal Shelter (FAAS) with great interest. Congratulations to this animal shelter for a successful 2013. We need such a facility in Alameda and depend on FAAS to protect and care for all animals. However, the public should be made aware of a grave incident that sparked all the controversy, one that the executive director would like to sweep under the rug: a dog mauling of an experienced volunteer on Oct. 11, 2013. The victim, Susan Solomon, was just as devoted to FAAS, if not more so, as the others writing letters about the shelter. She had personally trained numerous volunteers at the behest of the FAAS administrators and was well liked and respected by the staff. What I don’t understand is the neglect of a human, whereas the animal shelter’s goal is to provide loving care for all animals. There was very little consideration shown for Solomon, who went two months with no word from the executive director to inquire about her health. When asked, the director said simply that she had been “side-tracked”; a hurtful comment to someone who almost needed to have her foot amputated and who still is in physical pain today. FAAS has made numerous improvements in its operations, but sadly last Oct. 11, it failed to implement the very procedures that would have saved Solomon from injury. Before the attack, behavioral evaluations of animals were minimal. On the date of the attack, no evaluation documents were posted on any kennels, warning volunteers of possible danger. Therefore for the volunteers, this dog was categorized as safe. During the attack lasting a full five minutes, Solomon was alone in the kennels and the public adjacent shouted to the staff for help. There was neither provision nor equipment to rescue a volunteer from attack. The rescue itself was predictably chaotic. Solomon has avoided amputation thanks to doctors’ efforts to clean her deep wounds. Her friends and neighbors have stepped forward to re-bandage her foot, take her meals, run her errands, walk her own dog; all normal daily activities being impossible to accomplish. Her work schedule was upended for months. She could not put weight on her foot, so life stopped for her. FAAS owes Solomon an apology for the mismanagement of this sad event. If we treat animals with kindness, why can’t we treat the human volunteers who help them with the same concern?

— Patricia Bowen

Editor. Obviously, the author of the recent nonsensical blurb in the letters to the editor (“Give them three feet, they’ll take a mile,” Jan. 9) is not a cyclist, or he would know the dangers that come with riding in traffic and appreciate the three feet law. Perhaps then he’d even want more bike lanes in town. Imagine that, more bike lanes! What a crazy idea!

— Adolfo Lazo