Prof. Chapela's tenure struggle
May 7, 2004
Subject: RE: Help protect honest, courageous scientists. Not just an academic matter.
Oaxaca, Friday, May 7, 2004
I got your latest 'right wing wacko rant' responding to my e-mail about the case of Prof. Ignacio Chapela at the Univ of California at Berleley, namely
George George, you know as well as I do that people are routinely denied tenure for a whole variety of reasons. The only reason you have your undies in a bunch over this is because it concerns one of your left wing wacko causes; that is to say anything that is against American business interests. If it had not been for pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizer the late Green Revolution would never have occurred and there would be a lot of dead third world people but did you and your kind ever bother to thank the creators of those materials?.
George, you are a fucking retard. Grow up, get a job, and get a life for
Basically you're correct that I identify myself (not as "a physics faculty member at UMB" but as an "emeritus professor of physics") because it indicates that I've been through formal training rigorous enough to have been a professor (in a very demanding discipline) at UMB. It is my formal "title". I'm the first one to admit that there are plenty of jerks in academia -- and everywhere else, and that titles don't automatically mean that the person who holds them deserves respect. I simply use it to encourage people to read what I write, i.e. to start out by thinking, "Well, maybe it's worth seeing what this guy thinks." Obviously, for some reason, because your daughter is a student at UMB, you read some of my stuff, and you thought (and evidentally still think) I'm just some raving "deranged left wing wacko." So, I acknowledge using my title as a device.
Now, your last note. Yes, we both know denial of tenure is not rare and is routinely done for various reasons (and I would add, for various alleged but false reasons, used to hide the real reasons). You then come to the mistaken conclusion that I only support fair consideration for Prof. Chapela because his firing was done to promote American business interests which I, a raving left wing wacko, oppose. In fact a major biotechnology firm involved in this particular case is Swiss, though of course American agro-industrial interests are also involved. From what I know about the case, based mainly but not entirely on the letter and the knowledgeable people who signed it, I think Prof. Chapela was screwed (mistreated, in fancy language, or fucked, if you prefer) because he is principled and a scientist whose research showed that business interests threaten the integrity of Mexican corn. Do you have any basis for believing that he was simply routinely and legitimately denied tenure? If you have I would like to know what it is.
You probably don't realize that I am somewhat involved in the struggle going on right now, especially here in southern Mexico, to preserve the integrity of the local corn varieties (maize criollo) from transgenic contamination due to U.S. imports. This is the spot where, thousands of years ago, the wild grass teosinte was gradually domesticated and bred into the various so-called 'land races' of corn that still thrive here. Although I did post a couple of items on my website about the struggle here over corn, I did not write about them (until now) in any of my e-mail distributions. One of them is a proud, defiant manifesto by Oaxacan campesinos, primarily indigenous peoples -- Indians -- which I translated into English. It is titled, "Defend our corn, be careful of life", posted at http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/Strate/Salz/2004-03-10.htm. The other is a talk I gave two weeks ago at a monthly meeting of a commission formed by 14 small indigenous communities in the northern part of Oaxaca State for the preservation and restoration of their forests and other natural resources. It is titled, "Threat to traditional corn: one of many threats", posted at http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/Strate/Salz/2004-04-17.htm. My translation of the manifesto is still to be completed. It was thus very natural for me to be interested in the denial of tenure to Prof. Ignacio Chapela. Not being aware of my involvement, you simply said I was jumping into another wacko left wing cause.
In the next part of your wacko right wing rant, you turn to the Green Revolution, for which Norman Borlaug has received much corporate-supported acclaim, in parallel with the scorn heaped on Rachel Carson, whose Silent Spring spoke powerfully of the destruction wrought on natural ecosystems by the use of pesticides (and maybe herbicides, I don't remember). As for fertilizers, you might want to check out Barry Commoner's The Closing Circle: Nature, Man, and Technology, in particular the chapter that discusses the deaths of "blue babies" in the midwest corn belt, eventually traced to runoff of nitrogen fertilizers that leached into wells for drinking water. The fact is that the greatest source of pollution in the U.S. is agriculture, not industry.
You are mistaken in believing that but for the Green Revolution "there would be a lot of dead third world people." Really Allan, you are mistaken about so much that it's difficult to find a place from which to begin. Why do you assume that I don't really want to have a better world, that "all [we leftists] want to do is complain and rant about evil America?" Do you think it's right for the so-called ethical drug manufacturers -- the giant pharmaceutical industry -- to do their utmost to prevent availability of inexpensive drugs to combat HIV and AIDS in Africa, merely so they can profit as much as possible?
It seems to me that in this half year neither one of us has changed his point of view in the slightest. Except for one thing. We each know we're talking to a real person. In my first answer I identified myself. Your supposedly "street-wise" response the next day said in part, "... I don't believe a word of your bio. There are a lot of 45 year old guys on the web posing as 16 year old girls. ... I don't care one way or the other about you and your life story, but anyone who talks about 'cabals' in this country is, as I said before, a 'fucking retard'." In my next note I told you how to check out my identity and ended,
That was my second response to you, on Nov 12, nearly a half year ago. Since then you've written three times: Jan 9, Mar 24, and now, May 5. Each note dumps on me, as though I'm an anti-American crazy left wing fool who wants only to "piss and moan" about evil America. At this point you must know, unless you have been carefully avoiding even most of the mass media, that the government has lied to us again and again, that the supposed "reasons" for attacking Iraq were all contrived. Even in the mass media the idea that the government is run by a cabal is acknowledged, not by everyone of course, but it's clearly not just a wacko notion. Don't you get pissed off when you find out you've been lied to and taken in by the lies?
So why am I writing you? Why don't I just hit the delete key and throw out your notes? Simple. Because I think you're probably (not sure but I guess) a pretty decent human being. If you are, maybe I can 'get through' to you. A short time ago I met a guy, Charlie Tripp, maybe a little older than you, who told me that when the National Guard opened fire on students at Kent State his reaction was, "bunch of communists -- should have shot them all." Charlie's a red neck. He works in construction. When I told him what you'd written me, he said your feelings had been his too, but that he'd changed a lot after learning how much he'd been lied to. Charlie's a good person. It's just that for a long time he was very badly misinformed.
Allan, compared to the "big" issues in my book -- what I see as the suffering inflicted on Haitians, Zapatistas, Palestinians, Iraqis, Afghanis -- Prof. Chapela being denied tenure is "small time." But that's maybe a good reason to look at it as reasonably as we can and see if it's possible for us to begin tackling what seems to be a substantial disagreement between us. Maybe we can get beyond dismissing each other with slurs. So I'll start by reposing the question: Do you have any basis for believing that he was simply routinely and legitimately denied tenure? If you have I would like to know what it is. Also, I'll forward to you the acknowledgement I got after I signed the support letter for Chapela, which has some additional information about the case.
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