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Eero Saarinen’s St. Louis Inversion

Thank you for the article on Eero Saarinen (“Eero Saarinen’s Turn” September/October). As an undergraduate in the Department of Architecture at MIT, I always admired the work Saarinen did on that campus.

With respect for the master, I am disappointed that your magazine elected to publish his sketches of the St. Louis arch upside down. Saarinen's arch is an inverted catenary arch, defined by the equation y = c cosh (x/c). It can be demonstrated by hanging a string from two fixed points in a plane, as his predecessor Antonio Gaudi did so often while working on his masterpiece, the Sagrada Familia, almost 100 years earlier. It is clear from the notes on the sketch (page 47) that Saarinen was working on the nature of his arch in the true un-inverted form. Please have a look.

The photo on page 47, described in the caption on page 46, shows the hoisting of the final “keystone” section, which was the topping out of the project. There are some good photos of Saarinen and the arch’s construction at stltoday.com/stltoday/news/

By the way, I thoroughly enjoyed the article—thanks!

It would have been wonderful if the photo of the St. Louis arch was taken in 1955 … ten or eleven years before it was actually completed.

Eero Saarinen would have loved to see it before he died in September 1961. Surely, this is simply a typo.



The arch photo was indeed taken in 1965. We regret the error. As for the sketches of the arch, we turned them deliberately, to correspond to the photo and the completed monument. But Mr. Devoe’s point is well taken. Here's another look, the way Saarinen drew it.—Eds.


Tribunals justified

I know, like, and respect Neal Katyal '95JD (Where They Are Now, September/October). That is why I was surprised and dismayed to see him suggest that the Bush administration adopted legally flawed military commissions “because they thought they could get away with it, and they wanted to do whatever they could get away with.”

I served as associate counsel to President Bush from 2001 to 2003 and was involved in preparing the Military Order of November 13, 2001, by which the president authorized the secretary of defense to establish military tribunals to try suspected terrorists. The administration did exhaustive research on the history and legality of such tribunals, which included input from lawyers at the State Department, the Justice Department, and the Department of Defense. There was nothing novel or radical in the administration’s approach: military commissions were and are a traditional and accepted means of dispensing justice to enemy war criminals. They had been used by numerous American presidents, dating back as far as General George Washington during the Revolutionary War, and including Presidents Andrew Jackson, Lincoln, and Franklin D. Roosevelt. President Bush’s Military Order was modeled closely on FDR’s Order, which had been appealed by lawyers all the way to a Supreme Court that, in Ex parte Quirin, upheld its lawfulness unanimously.

Whatever one thinks of the Bush administration, the war against Islamic militants, or the idea of trying suspected terrorists in military tribunals, the president and his team were on solid ground in believing that the order was lawful. To suggest otherwise is to do a disservice to enlightened public debate and to feed often unwarranted cynicism about our government.


Card catalogs past

Your story, with picture, of selling off the Sterling Library cabinets (Light and Verity, September/October) brings on a few moments of nostalgia. Consulting that card catalog was part of my enculturation as a Yalie. Like sacking out in Linonia and Brothers or taking in Ecstasy (with Hedy Lamarr) at the Linc on Trumbull Street.

I wish I had been there with cash in hand.


Gold, yes; record, no

I loved the Sporting Life article in the September/October issue remembering the Olympic champion '56ers. A determined but decidedly non-Olympian athlete like me will take his vicarious thrills of victory where he can get them, and if they come from other Yalies, so much the better. However, the article raised a question: if the Yale crew set a world record before the Olympics, when they were used to rowing at no more than 33 strokes per minute, how did it happen that winning gold apparently did not lower that record (since the article is silent on that point), despite the Herculean effort of more than 36 strokes per minute?

Peter Mallory, the article’s author, explains: Record times are problematic in the sport of rowing because winds and currents have such a significant impact on boats. The 1956 Yale crew achieved their world records under ideal conditions. However, Lake Wendouree in Australia had shallow water, waves, and a chronic problem with wild reeds, all of which tend to slow boats down. As a result, 1956 Olympic times across the board were several seconds slower than might have been expected.—Eds.


Of names and trees

In your September/October photo essay on the elms (“The Elm City, Then and Now”), you mention Stephen Kellert '71PhD, the Tweedy/Ordway Professor of Social Ecology, as being from the “environment school.” For all of us who went to the Yale School of Forestry, now the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Sciences, that reference is a blatant outrage. This school has been around for over 100 years and deserves a better, more formal reference. Those of us who are long-time alumni still think of it as the Forestry School and we have been proud to have worked in the conservation field for decades. If you can refer to a much newer school as the SOM, at least give us the acronym of FES. Every school at Yale deserves to be mentioned in a manner that shows an appropriate level of recognition and respect.

As for the elms, Yale was no different from Cornell, where I was an undergraduate and where some of us who knew what was coming urged the administration to quickly interplant other species of large size to get ready for the Dutch elm disease onslaught. Our urging fell on deaf ears in the Cornell administration, so by my 25th college reunion in 1981, large areas of the Ithaca campus were devoid of nice shade trees.

Several years ago, James Gustave Speth '64, '69LLB, dean of what is still formally called the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, endorsed “environment school” as the shorthand designation. The magazine also uses the acronym FES. The school’s website address is environment.yale.edu.—Eds.


Scholar or extremist?

Your editorial (From the Editor, September/October) described Juan Cole as an “outstanding scholar” whose career may have suffered because he is “an unrelenting critic of the war in Iraq and the Bush Administration.” The real story is more interesting than that.

First, Cole is more a polemicist than a scholar. His reputation is based primarily on his personal weblog, Informed Comment, and on his scores of opinion columns about current events in the Middle East. Second, Cole's opinions—the primary basis of his reputation—are those of an extremist. Cole’s views are feverishly anti-Israel, bordering on anti-Semitic. For example, on January 2, 2004, he wrote: “We don’t need any more U.S. buildings blown up because our government is coddling cuckoo [Israeli] settlers who are stealing other people’s land to fulfill some weird religious power fantasy.” Finally, Cole strains to portray Islamic society as tolerant and peaceful, a culture where Christians and Jews are respected and violence is used only in self-defense.

If only it were so, Professor Cole.

As noted in the editorial, Juan Cole is also the author or editor of 14 scholarly books and numerous articles in academic journals, mostly about nineteenth-century Islamic culture.—Eds.


Accounting overhaul

Regarding your interview with President Levin in the September/October issue (“Yale Under Investigation”): I am pleased to see the steps Yale has taken to examine and overhaul its policies and procedures regarding federal grants.

Obviously, Yale is not alone when it comes to dealing with the Department of Health and Human Services and its multiple regulations; even back in the 1970s there was much disagreement between academia and other funding agencies. However, they are the “goose with the golden egg.” Without federal funding most of the basic biomedical research done here would never have happened. So, work with them to keep the monies coming.


Coffin and the Bushes

A fellow alumnus, commenting about the late William Sloane Coffin Jr. '49, '56BDiv, in the July/August issue (Letters), refers to the “notorious … statement which Coffin reportedly made to young George W. Bush” about his father’s 1964 United States Senate loss to Ralph Yarborough: “Frankly, the better man won.”

I knew Bill Coffin and doubt he said that. According to Marc D. Charney's April 13 obituary article in the New York Times, Coffin himself “disputed the anecdote." Nevertheless the letter writer jumps from “reportedly” to assuming that Coffin actually made the remark and “failed to see the injury he was creating.”

The same letter also laments that Coffin “in important ways, misread the tides of history.” If being there and speaking out—in the thick of the civil rights movement, opposition to the Vietnam war, SANE/Freeze's anti-nuke campaign, and (in his terms) the “morally and politically disastrous" invasion of Iraq—misread the tides of history, who read the tides right?


Free Ed Sacks!

I was quite interested to read Paul Bass and Doug Rae’s magisterial account of the May Day rally of 1970 (“The Panther and the Bulldog," July/August). As a footnote to their article, I wanted to mention that I believe that I was the only Yalie arrested in connection with that event. On May 2, a friend from Morse College convinced a few of the demonstrators and me (a classics major, also from Morse) to spend the second afternoon of the demonstration swimming at a quarry.

One of the participants in this swimming expedition, a 14-year-old boy from Brooklyn, happened to have brought a toy water-pistol that he thoughtlessly dangled outside the car window from time to time. I imagine that the boy’s absent-minded act was seen by National Guardsmen, who were stationed on some rooftops along the route of our return. (If so, we were very lucky that the Guardsmen were restrained in their reaction!)

Just after we parked the car at the Yale Co-op upon our return, we were surrounded by police, who asked us if the gun was ours. When we said yes, we were hauled off to the New Haven prison. (Well, not exactly all of us—two of the occupants of the car, including my friend from Morse, just walked away scot-free!) My obligatory one free call to the Morse College dean’s office went unanswered, but coincidentally a criminal defense attorney who had spoken at Morse about the Bobby Seale case shortly before the demonstration (the attorney was married to a Fellow of Morse) passed by my jail cell on his way to visiting another client. Somehow, despite the fact that my glasses had been removed, I recognized the attorney, who agreed to represent us and post bail.

When I returned to Morse later that night, I was greeted with a huge banner reading “Free Ed Sacks!”—my 15 minutes of fame. We were charged with disturbing the peace, a charge that was eventually dropped. In the May 3 New Haven Register, I read that I had been arrested for “carrying a concealed deadly weapon.” The only accurate word in that statement was the word “a"!

Doug Rae and Paul Bass are right on the fundamental point that violence was averted because Yale and the rest of New Haven’s establishment managed, to their great credit, to work collaboratively with the Black Panthers to keep the peace. But why were the Panthers themselves determined to keep the protest peaceful? Surely not because they shared the university’s devotion to the

Actually, in a way they did. The Panthers made the judgment that their best chance to free Bobby Seale was to have a peaceful and orderly trial that embodied the principles of due process of law—and to win it. That strategy certainly gave an ironic twist to the Panthers' menacing slogan—“by any means necessary”—because in this particular case the chosen means consisted of having lawyers file legal motions and cross-examine witnesses.

But it worked: the jury voted 11 to 1 for acquittal and the trial judge then dismissed all the charges. None of that could have happened had the community been inflamed by riots and violence, and the Panthers were shrewd and pragmatic enough to recognize that the smart bet was to put their faith in, of all things, the legal system.

It is also true that the defense at the trial was in large measure a Yale Law School production. Two of the three defense attorneys were Law School grads—the great Catherine Roraback '48LLB, fresh from winning recognition of the right of privacy in Griswold v. Connecticut, and myself. And much of the legal research and drafting was done by a team of Yale law students (no, not including Hillary Rodham) working nights and weekends for no credit and no pay. So Yale can take some credit not only for keeping chaos at bay on May Day but also for winning the fair trial for a Black revolutionary that a peaceful May Day made possible.

While this piece is focused largely on the university’s and President Brewster’s role and response, missing is any account of the important activities of communities of faith in and around New Haven long before, during, and long after May Day 1970. I remember particularly the New Haven Council of Churches' Task Force on Law and Justice, led by the redoubtable Vivian Noble. Under Mrs. Noble’s leadership, this body not only provided forums for discussion and exchange among New Haveners and members of the radical community, but worked with various elements to help assure the safety of residents of the city’s poorer, mostly black, neighborhoods.

I wonder whether President Brewster would have taken some of the bold, effective, and admirable stances the article cites had it not been for his having been challenged in his sometimes contentious relationship with Chaplain Coffin, which antedated the Panther trial by years.

Kowtowing to “guests” during the May Day 1970 demonstrations in New Haven represented a pure and simple buyout of louts and gangsters by President Brewster, and by those who supported his pandering to the rabble’s leadership in order to avoid disorder and danger to Yale buildings. The feeding of unwanted persons, and the entertainment of their spokespersons, was a ransom paid to avert a takeover or a destruction of Yale property.

Sooner or later, Americans will have to face up to rabble who imply dire results and ignominy if we fail to pay obeisance; or pain, suffering, and eventual prevailing of justified force over evil attacks if we stand up to the threateners. Americans who submit to the excesses of gangs which depend upon huge numbers running roughshod over those with whom they disagree will sooner or later have to stand erect and resist with all necessary force the excessive demands of those who call themselves “liberals,” or quietly submit to being roughly pushed aside by tyrannical leaders of “reform” groups who seek to rule by force, not reason. Their demonstrations, sit-ins, civil disobedience, and utter disregard for law will ultimately require their containment, or the collapse of the civilization we have known.

Thomas W. Brunner’s letter in the September/October issue questions whether there were tanks in New Haven in May 1970. There were. I was a senior in Calhoun, and I saw them. Incidentally, my singular contribution to peace and understanding that week was successfully negotiating with a National Guard sergeant on College Street to shift his soldiers so as to permit a non-student to drive her VW, legally parked on the street, out from behind the lines. Only once since then have I done anything that scared me as much at the time. The


Brek-ek-ek-ex, redux

Nearly every introduction to Aristophanes' Frogs includes a reference to the fact that the anthem of the frogs (“Brek-ek-ek-ex, ko-ax, ko-ax”) once served Yalies as a cheer during football games. I was even taught this in a grade school Latin class. Imagine my surprise upon reaching New Haven and finding that, while other undergraduates had heard something of the sort, no one knew exactly how the cheer was executed. I count on the Yale Alumni Magazine to teach me about the history of Yale. I turn to you and to your readership’s expertise in the traditions of Old Blue. Was this cheer used by Yalies, and if so, in what context?

I would also like to note that the “I agree with Jintao” posters that appeared after the Chinese politician spoke were not merely noting Yale’s historic involvement in China (Light and Verity, July/August). They followed on the heels of a high-profile campaign organized by many Christians on campus that centered around a column written by a student named Adam. The campaign saw shirts across campus reading, “I agree with Adam.” The posters, then, were another example of Yalies being clever when they want to be funny.

In our December 2002 Letters section, Frank Gibson ’49 noted that “a half century ago, frogs were a great part of Yale’s tradition, and the frogs’ voices were heard loud and clear in the Yale Bowl. ‘Brek-ek-ek-ex ko-ax, ko-ax,’ reverberated happily in the stands as the Big Blue performed mightily on the field. Back then, the frogs were ‘the twelfth man’ on the team.” For more information on the “long call,” see Judith Ann Schiff’s article “The Greatest College Cheer” in our May 1998 issue).—Eds.



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