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Letters: Jan. 13, 1986

9 minute read

Merger Wave

To the Editors: You did a public service by publishing the story on merger madness [ECONOMY & BUSINESS, Dec. 23]. There is nothing inherently wrong with mergers. Our corporation has often taken a stroll down acquisition avenue. But when we take over a company, we do it because we want to run it. People who issue junk bonds are different, as Felix Rohatyn points out. They are not interested in companies as institutions, but want to break up the business they are after. Takeovers using junk bonds rob stockholders of the value of their investment, throw employees out of work and make the American economy less competitive with the rest of the world. Nothing less than federal legislation is needed to stop this abuse. Raymond D’Argenio Senior Vice President, Communications United Technologies Corp. Hartford

Your article says “takeover strategy is taking up vast amounts of management’s energy and attention.” Of course. But would these corporate chiefs have had to fight for their jobs and perks if they had been building the balance sheets for the benefit of stockholders instead of concentrating on short-term operating statements for their own benefit? Earl D. Brodie San Francisco

You ask, “Is the current rush of mergers good for American business? For stockholders? For the country?” You should also have questioned their impact on the work force. Research conducted by Philip Mirvis of Boston University and me shows that even “friendly” mergers and acquisitions are extremely stressful for employees. Top managers and key performers fear that the careers they have developed will matter little when a new owner takes over. Worst-case rumors run rampant, and the most talented staffers spend their work hours lining up interviews with other firms. It is not surprising that this decreased morale and productivity contribute to the finding that half of all mergers yield disappointing financial results. Fortunately, firms can take steps to minimize the human costs of acquisition through comprehensive human-resources planning, effective communication programs and carefully chosen techniques to facilitate a smooth postmerger integration. Mitchell Lee Marks Los Angeles

What astonishes me is that Ted Turner and Boone Pickens and their ilk got free rein to pursue their nonproductive activities, while the antitrust zealots hounded American Telephone & Telegraph and broke up the best telephone system in the world. Emily Exner Chi Chapel Hill, N.C.

Deficit Cure

The Gramm-Rudman Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Reduction Control Act is the best thing to happen in America since the Democrats started spending their way into office [NATION, Dec. 23]. There is no sane alternative. The country was headed for total bankruptcy. In five years, when the budget is balanced, the free-enterprise machine will take off like a rocket. James A. Worrell Oklahoma City

On the grounds of conflict of interest, all legislators should be disqualified from submitting or voting on money-spending plans that primarily affect their home districts. Huge amounts of money could be saved by eliminating the many wasteful projects that are put forth solely to enhance a lawmaker’s image at home. Issues could then be settled on their merit rather than for re-election purposes. Neal Rohrer Kingsburg, Calif.

It is disgusting that in our worsening deficit crisis we are still hearing only of proposals for revenue-neutral tax reforms. Worse yet, proponents of the current House Ways and Means tax-reform bill are selling it primarily on the basis of how much it will cut taxes. The appeal is to greed rather than to our nobler instincts of common sacrifice for the common good. Robert D. King Kennebunk, Me.

Gander Crash

We spend so much of our tax money on defense yet put our servicemen on planes that are unfit to fly [NATION, Dec. 23]. Our 248 young men and women should not have died in Newfoundland. We must do something to avert further tragic waste of life. Cheri Hansen Yorba Linda, Calif.

There has been money for the infamous ashtrays and hammers. There is money for investigations and even for Air Force transports to fly home the remains. But the charter flight entrusted with 256 lives went to the lowest bidder. Kenneth L. Crowell Canton, N.Y.

Death on the Farm

A distraught farmer was not able to cope with his financial situation, and as a result four people are dead [NATION, Dec. 23]. In itself, this tragedy is enough to mourn, but the mourning must go beyond Hills, Iowa, and turn to action. Measures must be enacted to afford immediate aid to our farmers. They are hurting physically, emotionally and mentally. The nation cannot ignore them. Carole L. Waterman Mediapolis, Iowa

I feel sympathy not for Dale Burr but for his victims. Many Americans experience financial disaster without going on a rampage of murderous retribution. Burr was not a victim of the current farmers’ plight. He was homicidal and vengeful. The real tragedy is that Burr chose himself as his final rather than his first victim. John F. Doran Jr. Lawrenceville, Ga.

I live in the area where the Dale Burr murders occurred. Within a 100-mile radius, I know of three similar fatalities. It is sad that it took this tragedy to make national news. Thank you for making the world realize how bad the farming situation is. Diana Olgier Lewis Muscatine, Iowa

Where is it written that farmers are to be spared life’s injustices? To even suggest there may be justification for murderous acts is unthinkable and wrong. Cecelia A. Welsh Northport, N. Y.

Forgotten Fight

I applaud your reporting on the rarely publicized fighting between the Ethiopian government forces and the Eritrean rebels [WORLD, Dec. 23]. In that strategic area of Africa, it has been more a superpower struggle than anything else. This kind of balanced reporting helps dispel the naive notion that nature is the only cause of the tragic suffering of the people in the region. Aziz L. Issarah Ossining, N. Y.

Academic Freedom

The article on Accuracy in Academia [EDUCATION, Dec. 23] was flawed by inaccuracies and lack of balance.

You quoted Chancellor Joseph Murphy of the City University of New York as saying A.I.A. “was recruiting students ‘as a corps of thought police.'” A.I.A. has recruited no students. Thanks to widespread publicity, it has become known that A.I.A. will investigate student complaints of inaccurate instructional material and unfair practices on campuses.

You quote two other academics who refer to A.I.A.’s activities as “spying” and “ideological espionage.” A.I.A. will obtain information from students regularly enrolled in courses. The lectures they attend are not secret, and the students have every right to tell anyone what has been said.

You say that our criticism of Mark Reader, a political science professor at Arizona State University, was “trivial” and that he “is accused of taking too strong a stance against nuclear war.” A.I.A. never made such a charge against Reader. It issued a lengthy report on Reader, which pointed out that he was spending a great deal of time in a course supposed to be devoted to political ideologies talking about his fears of all things nuclear, including the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. We said that he should either teach the course as advertised in the college catalog or the course description should be changed.

You cited criticisms of A.I.A. by five different people. You suppressed favorable comment by others.

You mislabeled A.I.A. as “a rightwing watchdog” and Reed Irvine as a “militant conservative.” Both A.I.A. and I are strong defenders of freedom. Your labels mislead rather than accurately describe our position. Reed Irvine, Chairman Accuracy in Academia Washington

You report that Accuracy in Academia criticized Professor Mark Reader for taking “too strong a stance against nuclear war.” How can someone take “too strong a stance” against something as horrible as nuclear war? Michael Cavadias Santa Cruz, Calif.

Class “monitors” were created some years ago by those universities that not only instituted student evaluation of professors but actually utilized the data for faculty retention, tenure and promotion decisions. The American Association of University Professors should not be surprised to find groups like Accuracy in Academia putting the same data to use. John E. Baird Professor, Speech Communication California State University Hayward, Calif.

Midge Decter was quoted as saying, “How can a person be qualified to teach without opinions?” But should those opinions be taught as established facts? I tell my students that my personal opinions are irrelevant and will, I hope, remain unknown to them. Although I am more educated than they, I am not necessarily more intelligent. Thus I ought to teach the subject matter and let them form their own opinions. Henry N. Bousquet Clinton, Conn.

Unmanly Tears

I wish to correct President Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines on one of his favorite quotes, “Don’t cry like a woman over the kingdom that you lost because you did not defend it like a man,” which he mistakenly attributed to Cervantes [WORLD, Dec. 16]. The source of that quote was actually Sultana Ayelsha, mother of Boabdil (Abu-Abdallah), the last king of Granada. After surrendering the city to Ferdinand and Isabella in January 1492, Boabdil left Granada. On his way out, he stopped at a mountaintop to look for the last time at the beautiful city he had lost, and wept. His mother reproved him for his tears: “You do well to weep like a woman for what you could not defend as a man.” Carlos Nunez Cleveland

Second Opinions

We were at the Evolution of Psychotherapy Conference in Phoenix and feel your report on it was sensationalistic [BEHAVIOR, Dec. 23]. By focusing on the more extreme views of a few participants, you missed the workshops and working sessions, which offered valuable wisdom, training and hope. Your focus on the controversies gives a totally different impression than we had after a more balanced participation in the conference. Craig Van Tuinen, M.D. Carol Rooke Van Tuinen, R.N. Newton Corner, Mass.

Your article on psychotherapy, which notes that the field is heterogeneous and often discordant, may deter people from seeking help when they need it. Heterogeneity and discord do not mean ineffectiveness. Psychotherapy is a unique interaction between each patient and therapist. Well-trained psychotherapists employ whatever is most useful to a particular patient at a particular time. There will always be new theories about the human mind and personality. There will never, I hope, be uniformity. Charles W. Casella, M.D. Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry Stanford University School of Medicine Palo Alto, Calif.

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