Letters to the Editor

A guest stoops to get a better look at a painting during the openinga gala of the new Barnes Foundation on the Parkway on May 17. MICHAEL S. WIRTZ / Staff Photographer
A guest stoops to get a better look at a painting during the openinga gala of the new Barnes Foundation on the Parkway on May 17. MICHAEL S. WIRTZ / Staff Photographer
Posted: May 31, 2012

Barnes’ quirky restrictions

Art critic Edward Sozanski faults the Barnes museum for failing to display the best of what it owns to maximum effectiveness ("Disdainful Albert Barnes and his daunting collection," Sunday). Other art critics concur in more insistent terms.

As an illustration, Matisse’s "The Red Madras Headdress" is confined warehouse-fashion among a wall of miscellaneous canvases. Years ago, when the court permitted selected paintings to travel to earn money for the bankrupt Barnes Foundation, that dramatic masterpiece was featured and captured world attention. Other paintings then freed for the first time from the Barnes allowed viewers to see the art in all its glory. Why did it take 61 years since Barnes died to state the obvious?

Had Barnes left sufficient money to perpetuate his quirky display of art under bizarre restrictions, he surely had the right to do so. But to allow the dead hand to perpetuate it at public expense is intolerable.

Burton Caine, Bala Cynwyd

Don’t forget the arboretum

As a student in the horticulture program at the Barnes Foundation, I always experienced "the Barnes" as a marvelous totality — art, architecture, and horticulture. Naturally I was very disappointed when the decision was made to move the art collection to the Parkway, although, as a Philadelphia resident, I knew it would be an important boost to the city.

I visited the "new Barnes" last week for the graduation ceremonies of the horticulture class of 2012 and was truly delighted with the building and the art. I am sorry to say, however, that the landscape plantings — with a few notable exceptions such as the fastigiate ginkgos and liquidambars in the inner garden — are sadly prosaic. Money, I suppose, is the reason. For those of us who love the Barnes Arboretum, it is especially saddening because of the contrast with the planting on the grounds, which are astonishingly varied and carefully collected over many years, just as the art was.

I implore the Barnes board of directors to gain an appreciation of the other great jewel that they have under their fiduciary care and to turn their attention to the restoration and promotion of the arboretum in Merion.

Miriam Fisher Schaefer, Philadelphia

What the budget-cutters miss

Maria Panaritis makes an excellent case for ways in which spending cuts will deprive future generations of the chance to achieve ("Where dreams began," Sunday). The teaching of fundamental knowledge is essential, but each student has his or her own niche; not everyone is equipped to be a businessman, lawyer, or engineer. Many people have a natural proclivity for the arts, but without any exposure in school they may never have the opportunity to discover their calling. A good educational system produces well-rounded individuals, and that is something the zealous budget-cutters seem to miss.

Panaritis also recounts the long-lasting positive impact that teachers have on the lives of their students. That should be remembered by those who wish to denigrate teachers, to scapegoat them for all the ills of society, and to claim that they are somehow overpaid.

Bill Fanshel, Bryn Mawr, wfanshel@hotmail.com

PSA conclusions incorrect

The conclusions of the U.S. Preventive Task Force regarding the use of prostate-specific antigen, or PSA, blood test are incorrect and unsupported by the facts ("Cancer test is harmful on balance," May 23).

The mortality rate for prostate cancer has fallen by 40 percent, and the number of men presenting with osseous (bone) metastases has declined from 20 percent to 4 percent. These fantastic improvements correspond exactly to the period of time during which PSA has been utilized.

The task force also failed to consider the cost of not treating prostate cancer. Waiting until the disease presents with signs and symptoms of spread can be catastrophic. In the pre-PSA era, patients would present with fractures, obstructed kidneys, and occasionally spinal cord compression. These problems are not seen at this time with anywhere near the frequency as in the past.

Clearly PSA is not a prostate cancer test — it is a prostate "activity" test. Its limitations are well known and can be taken into account. We need to determine which cancers are aggressive, and this technology is just becoming available. The answer is not to put your head in the sand and proceed in ignorance.

The task force’s recommendations are untenable. Patients will present later in the disease process with more complications, and will be more expensive to treat; others will die. It is unfortunate that this committee has the platform to make pronouncements that are clearly incorrect.

Harry M. Baer, M.D. chief of urology, Chestnut Hill Hospital, hmbaer@gmail.com

Responding to poor service

Like most people who read Murray Dubin’s story, I have been through this infuriating experience ("Trapped in customer-service vortex," Sunday). The only solution to these abuses is to refuse to do business with the likes of Comcast and Verizon. I took that measure myself some years ago, and as difficult as it makes it for me to stay connected to the world, it spares me these abuses. The top administration at Comcast and Verizon understand only one language: money. Nothing will change until we speak that language to them.

Patty Quinn, Elkins Park

Changes for routine primary care

Although I have been retired from clinical practice for several years, I spent most of my medical career as an emergency physician and was also very involved with training and credentialing in medicine in general. During those years I was privileged to work with and train a large number of physician assistants, so I could not be in stronger agreement with Daniel Akst ("We don’t need doctors as often as we think," Monday). I have less experience with nurse practitioners, but believe they are equally qualified to provide a major portion of the routine primary care that patients really need.

No successful service industry has each customer cared for exclusively by managers and supervisors. It is time we accept that well-trained providers other than physicians can care for most patients, allowing physicians to focus on the more complex or resistant cases that their PA or NP colleagues refer to them. This would not only alleviate the anticipated physician shortage, but make physicians’ practices more rewarding and challenging.

Gerald Whelan, M.D., Philadelphia

Misinformed on Act 13

The op-ed "Fracking spurs a municipal mutiny in Pennsylvania" was sadly misinformed (May 23).

Act 13 explicitly protects the rights of townships and boroughs to pass local land development and zoning ordinances, with some limitations. It leaves the job of regulating the operations of the natural-gas industry to the state Department of Environmental Protection, which employs scientists, engineers, hydrogeologists, and other trained professionals that most municipal governments cannot afford. Similarly, the operations of quarries and mines are regulated by a state agency, not the local township where they are located.

Act 13 also provides funding (paid for by the industry) for state and local impacts from the drilling and to provide more DEP "boots on the ground" to monitor the drilling.

State Rep. Kate Harper, represents Montgomery County’s 61st District, Blue Bell, kharper@pahousegop.com

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