Readers comments 6-26-20
Burying the lede?
I believe the headline for your June 19th story on the city council budget would have been more accurately titled, “City Council Ignores National Trend of Defunding the Police.” Let’s set the record straight: our city council voted to increase funding to the police by 7.33 percent while decreasing funding for Human Services by 8.66 percent.
The council’s decision stands in sharp relief to the voice of the people as evidenced by the more than 1,500 who showed up for the “Walk a Mile in Our Shoes” march on June 6. It contradicts the wishes of the vast majority of public comment in recent city council meetings. That is the headline.
As a member of the newly formed group, Claremont Change, I urge you and the staff of the COURIER to more thoughtfully and accurately frame our local news in a context that is relevant to one of the biggest issues of our lifetime.
California Botanic Garden
As staff of California Botanic Garden (formerly Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden), we write to express our thanks to the COURIER for publishing the letter written by Jean Collinsworth on June 5. We also draw your attention to other efforts that are underway here to serve our community during the pandemic emergency.
In her letter, Ms. Collinsworth commends the Garden for recent programming including podcasts and short videos, all of which are freely available at calbg.org (the squirrel podcast is a major hit!).
We have also developed a novel approach that combines the value of real, tangible experiences with the reality of our pandemic times which demands online delivery of content.
Taste Wild provided desserts (and recipes) made with native plants, and Arrange Wild provided everything that participants needed to create a gorgeous arrangement using native plants harvested sustainably at CalBG. Watch for more of this kind of programming going forward.
We are contemplating Freeze Wild (native plant infused ice creams) and Brew Wild (needs no explanation!), among others. A common theme in all of these programs will continue to be partnering with local businesses and nonprofits in ways that yield win-wins for our community.
We are also supporting parents by providing novel and hands-on educational content for children. For example, we are sadly not able to open our popular Butterfly Pavilion this summer. To continue to nurture learning about native butterflies and plants, we are happy to offer My Butterfly Garden.
This fun-filled box includes an entirely original butterfly activity booklet (and crayons!) and some small plants of native species that are important food sources for our native butterflies. Gardening tips will help families establish and care for butterfly-friendly plants in their yard or on their patio (a large pot is fine), and to instill in their children an appreciation for the natural world.
Looking farther ahead, we want to be ready to support teachers who normally bring their K-6 classes to the Garden for our curriculum consistent, hands-on lessons (experienced by about 6,000 children each year). We know that these experiences are incredibly valuable and memorable for children, and we know that it is a resource on which teachers rely to meet curricular requirements. Thus, we are interacting now with teachers about how we can best continue to provide these resources even if distance learning is in store for some of our region’s school districts come fall.
Meanwhile, as Ms. Collinsworth notes, we are open for members and the public, the latter with advance online ticket purchases for safety reasons, and guidelines in place for all visitors regarding distancing and masks. We thank the city of Claremont and the Claremont Police Department for their support as we have navigated the process of reopening safely.
Garden regulars will immediately notice some changes: signs! A new welcome sign lets visitors know that the Garden is dedicated to California native plants and the other creatures—people included—who love them.
Shady welcome portals with explanatory signage introduce guests to the three distinct areas. “Little plant stories” are placed at intervals to introduce visitors to some of our most iconic plants.
Location signage will help visitors find special places that are marked on the all new Garden map. We are working hard to do an ever better job of conveying knowledge about the remarkable plants of California to our visitors.
We hope that, in these challenging times, California Botanic Garden can provide connection to the remarkable world of California native plants and bring serenity, discovery and joy to residents of Claremont—this vibrant community that we are so proud to call home.
Director of Visitor Experience
California Botanic Garden
Jon Vavrus, in his letter about antibody testing in the June 19 issue, objects to the “incorrect logic” of a previous letter explaining how probabilities are calculated.
I suggest he look up “Bayes’ Theorem” on Wikipedia, where he will find an explanation of the 250-years-old principle used in that previous letter. (If he still believes he is right, he can always try to correct the Wikipedia article.)
Testing for antibodies redux
I think it’s important to correct Jon Vavrus’ understanding of antibody test results (COURIER, June 19) because this misinterpretation makes him too confident in what a positive result means.
He claims that if you test positive when using a test that has a false positive rate of 5 percent (a 95 percent accurate test), then there is a 95 percent chance you had the virus. That’s not right.
To see why, suppose you lived in a place where there was no virus at all but you took Mr. Vavrus’ test and tested positive. With his test, this would happen 5 percent of the time. What would you conclude if you tested positive? Mr. Vavrus would say that there’s a 95 percent chance you had the virus. But no. There is a zero percent chance you had the virus, even though you tested positive. Because there’s no virus, all the positive tests are false positives.
This example is extreme, but in general, the likelihood you had the virus given a positive test depends both on the rate of false positives (the “accuracy”) and the prevalence of the disease in the first place. The lower the prevalence, the lower the likelihood you had the virus given a positive test.
In Claremont, using the numbers from my viewpoint, where the test was assumed to be 99.5 percent accurate and the prevalence was 2 percent, that likelihood was a little above 75 percent. If instead, I used Mr. Vavrus’ 95 percent test, the likelihood would be less than 30 percent.
A for courage F for cogency
One has to admire the guts of Kris M Meyer. To state in writing in the paper of the City of Trees and PhDs that he did vote for Trump and that he wants him to continue four more years is gutsy to the nth degree. He surely knows his opinion is on the minority side given the intellectual acumen of the majority of the people in this lovely town and gown and crown (seniors) city.
But when it comes to cogency of argument he failed miserably and Mr. Weinberger already pointed out the glaring problems in his thinking.
Mr. Meyer concludes that he did not vote for Trump to be his pastor, but Trump exploited the uninformed faith of people who claim allegiance to the Gospel. The gathering in Phoenix took place in a mega church and he ordered the clearing of the streets to make sure he appeared as “Pastor in Chief” brandishing a Bible in front of a church he desecrated with his exploitative move.
The majority of white evangelicals did vote for Trump because they felt he provided them with pastoral assurances. John Fea, a white evangelical history professor at Messiah College, dedicated his book Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump to the 18.9 percent of white evangelicals that didn’t vote for Trump. The book shows clearly how Trump exploited the naïveté of white evangelicals and his latest stunt with a Bible held in the most awkward way proves Mr. Fea right.
When asked by a member of the media “Is that your Bible?” Trump responded, “It’s a Bible.” Had the interlocutor pursued the issue he should have asked: “What version of the Bible is it?” Trump was holding a revised standard version of the Bible, a version despised by those evangelicals that voted for him. The revised standard version (RSV) scandalized many in the 1950’s because it had access to texts in Hebrew, which had not been available to the scholars who put together the King James version.
The greatest scandal was caused by the correction of the text in Isaiah which “predicts” that a virgin would give birth to Emmanuel. The older and more reliable text reads “a young woman” not a virgin.
Consequently the RSV would not be found in the mega church where Trump spoke in Phoenix nor in the homes and churches of those who blindly vote for him. Whether they want to or not, Trump is more than their president, he is their pastor in chief. In Tulsa a young adult was wearing a T-shirt with the words, “Jesus is my Saviour, Trump is my President,” an unholy alliance if there ever was one.
Rev. Dr. Ignacio Castuera
Success and wealth
I could not read past the beginning of Kris Meyers’ long letter. That was because in those first lines he offered a view of American social and economic life that is both common and massively mistaken. A book could (and should) be written on those issues; that being impossible here I shall only pick out one piece of the view for criticism.
Mr. Meyers says that he voted for Trump in 2016 in reaction to Obama’s “penalizing economic success and rewarding economic failure.” However, it is not just the Obama administration he is objecting to: it is the Democratic Party’s program since FDR.
What he really has in mind is that the Democrats aim at some redistribution of wealth; that it is a Robin Hood program of taking from the rich and giving to the poor. What Mr. Meyers does is to identify economic success with being rich and economic failure with being poor. Both are mistaken identifications although I shall restrict myself here to talking only about the success side of the picture.
The rich, from whom wealth is taken by Democratic policies, may or may not have become rich through their economic success. Republicans object to inheritance taxes; however, those who inherit much money become rich without economic success. Or take Donald Trump, who is very rich, yet his business career has been one failure after another. He is rich because his father gave him a great deal of money (more than he wants to admit), because he gamed the system to take money from the public trough and because he continually stiffed those with whom he did business.
Conversely, people are frequently economically successful—that is they deal in a good or service that is valuable, used by others and is done with some degree of excellence—without making much money, and they may even need public assistance to get by. Think, for instance, of public school teachers or of shop owners whose successful businesses crashed because of COVID-19.
In short, it is not economic success that Democratic policies target for Robin Hood purposes—it is income and wealth.
Let me shift slightly to a connected assumption behind Mr. Meyers’ view. Suppose someone is economically successful. His assumption is that the success is due to their own virtues (and that economic failure is completely the result of the individual person’s shortcomings).
One important response to that was made by Elizabeth Warren years ago. “There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own—nobody. You built a factory out there? Good for you. But I want to be clear. You move your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory…because of the work the rest of us did. Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea. God bless—keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is, you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.”
To take money from the economic successful via taxes and give it to those less well-off is not penalizing success—it is paying your fair share of what the rest of us have contributed to your success. It is more than that of course. It is living up to the fundamental value of this country, equality.
However, at a minimum, the policy aim is for those who are wealthy from their economic success to accept that the rest of us have contributed to that success and that those who have become wealthy must repay their debt to all of us.