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Assorted Letters to the editor, Commercial Appeal, Memphis, TN
(Some by Edward, some by Eunice)

Memphis Commercial appeal Dec 7, 2013

Nuances may be missing in cost debate

Edward T. Ordman       Memphis

A chart that accompanied your Dec. 3 online article “University of Memphis provost: Budget cuts won’t hit health service programs” purported to show the costs of various degree programs at the university. Such charts are so prone to misunderstanding that I must comment.

I am a retired faculty member at the university (a professor emeritus of mathematical sciences) and reasonably well acquainted with both the program in mathematics, which the chart shows as an exceptionally high-cost program, and the University College, which the chart shows as an exceptionally low-cost program.

I do not know the basis on which this particular chart was composed. But often they are made simply by dividing the payroll and other costs of a department by the number of graduating majors. At any university, this will make mathematics a very high-cost major. One reason is simple: Few students major in mathematics, but almost all students take at least one or two mathematics courses. If all the costs of teaching mathematics to students majoring in other subjects are divided by the small number of mathematics majors, mathematics looks expensive indeed.

Let’s turn to the reported low cost of University College degrees. I am a strong supporter of this innovative program for interdisciplinary and specialized studies. I’ve served on its committees, and advised and taught students in its programs. But University College has essentially no money for these things: The work I did there was part of my job as a faculty member of the Department of Mathematical Sciences, and any costs came out of the mathematics budget, not the University College budget. University College does wonderful things because there are excellent faculty members who believe in it and other departments willing to allow them the time to work with it.

I have personal experience with these two areas, but I’m sure there are equally compelling stories in others. At other schools, I have seen newcomers to a campus, or administrators at the state level, make decisions on the basis of such overly simplified statistics. Some of these decisions have been disastrous to the reputation of the schools involved. I sincerely hope errors of this sort will not be made at the University of Memphis. The Commercial Appeal does a disservice to the university by publishing such a chart without asking questions about what it means.

October 19, 2013

Interfaith Activists speak

Eunice and Edward Ordman       Memphis

We deeply appreciated David Waters’ Faith in Memphis column on our interfaith work (Oct.12, “Meet the Ordmans”). Of course, Memphis is a wonderful place to be interfaith activists. It provides opportunities to interact with people such as Nabil Bayakly, Barbara Frankle, Henry Littleton, Linda Marks, Md. Moinuddin, Rachel Shankman, Janice Vanderhaar and others too numerous to mention.

Such interfaith initiatives as the Calvary Lenten Preaching Series, the annual Muslim Iftar Dinner, Muslim participation in the Kosher Barbeque Championship and the cooperation between the Memphis Islamic Center and Heartsong Church are only a few of the headline-worthy things going on in the city. And of course the value of help we all get from Waters is beyond measure.

Sept 29, 2012

Consistency counts

In a presidential campaign which seems to consist mainly of slinging mud from both sides rather than concrete proposals, it is nice to see that Mitt Romney has remained very constant on two of his stated goals: ensuring that those dying with estates exceeding $5 million will pay no estate tax, and ensuring that there will be no income tax on the first $65,000 of common stock dividends.

Those with over $5 million in assets and common stocks not held in a retirement account yielding $65,000 in dividends might well consider voting for Mitt Romney.

Edward Ordman     Memphis

Sept 10, 2010

Jesus in the Quran

The Florida preacher Terry Jones, who proposed to burn Qurans on 9/11, seems not to realize that the Quran honors Jesus. For example, it says, "The Messiah Jesus son of Mary was (no more than) a Messenger of Allah, and His Word, which He bestowed on Mary, and a Spirit proceeding from Him: so believe in Allah and his messengers."

Was the preacher trying to reduce the number of people who believe in Jesus' message?

Eunice Ordman

Sept 19, 2009
Scriptures guide policy on aliens

It has recently come to my attention that in the story of the Good Samaritan, Luke 10:25-37, the Good Samaritan inexplicably cared for the injured man without first carefully checking the man's citizenship papers. In Matthew 8:5-7, Jesus appears to heal the servant of a Roman centurion, clearly a foreigner and an enemy.

Perhaps our legislators who are working so hard to guarantee that our hospitals will not be paid for treating aliens should arrange to have these passages expunged from our Bibles, so that no one will mistakenly form the impression that those following the values of Jesus believe in caring for our neighbors, or in healing the sick of all nations.

Edward Ordman       Memphis

May 28, 2010
Policy weakens the military

The military "don't ask, don't tell" policy has important consequences. (1) It reduces enlistments by people otherwise willing to serve, weakening the military. (2) It encourages homosexuality. A soldier tired of repeated overseas deployment can get out by declaring himself or herself homosexual, weakening the military. (3) Officers with less than 20 years of service can easily be blackmailed, since their pension can be lost if they are discharged after someone claims they are homosexual. This weakens the military.

All those who believe that a weak American military is a good idea should fight to maintain the "don't ask, don't tell" policy. I personally prefer to support U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, who prefers a strong U.S. military.

Edward Ordman

May 13, 2009
Creating enemies in Afghanistan

 The replacement of the top U.S. general in Afghanistan (May 12 article) shows a recognition that the war there is rapidly going downhill.

Every outside effort to control Afghanistan has failed badly, the British and Russian efforts most conspicuously. As sorry as we may feel for the Afghan and Iraqi people, trying to maintain U.S.-supportive governments there will not succeed at the price Americans are willing or able to pay.

Our military efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan are extremely expensive in money and lives and appear to create far more enemies than friends for us. We need to withdraw as soon as possible.

While a few criminal fanatics in the world are prepared to attack the United States, attempting to occupy entire countries is not an effective way to combat them. Talking with those with whom we differ and redeveloping friendships for America around the world through aid and cooperation would be far less expensive and far more effective.

Edward Ordman  and    Eunice Ordman     Memphis

March 10, 2009
U.S. policy promotes arms sales

Your March 1 article "While drugs go north, guns are going south / Narco-gangs obtain firepower in lax U.S." reported on the heavy sales of powerful U.S. handguns and assault rifles to Mexican drug cartels. It failed to note that this is an emblem of one of the great successes of U.S. government policy.

In recent years we have, partly through the government's energetic efforts, more than quadrupled shipments of U.S. weapons to other countries. The billions of dollars in military aid we give to Israel and other countries is a major subsidy to the United States armaments industry. The Palestinian press praises the United States for giving the Palestinians money to buy U.S. armaments through Saudi middlemen, and providing U.S. military personnel to train them in their use. I suppose that this helps give the Israelis enough targets for the weapons we provide to Israel, so that they will buy more ammunition. Our laws encourage arms sales and don't worry much about where the arms wind up or how they are used.

Our Tennessee legislators of both parties have been strong supporters of foreign wars, military aid and promoting military exports. As a result, our military industry has high employment and high profits. Those who feel that we could have found better ways to benefit our economy or address our national goals might want to suggest that to our legislators.

Edward T. Ordman

Jan 3 2009
Enemies can become allies

My husband and I are members of Temple Israel who visited the Israeli group New Profile when we were in Israel/Palestine with Interfaith Peace Builders. We visited both Israeli and Palestinian groups working nonviolently for peace.

The New Profile group said militarism is in the minds of all Israeli people because, with very few exceptions, all Israelis, male and female, serve in the Israeli army at the formative age of 18. The Israeli army does what it pleases, not necessarily what the courts or its parliament tells it to. New Profile members write in e-mail messages of the unfairness this produces.

Most people don't know that Hamas spent 90 to 95 percent of its budget on humanitarian projects such as building schools and hospitals. Many people voted for Hamas on the basis that Fatah was riddled with corruption and diverted funds for the Palestinians to its own Swiss bank accounts. Once they won, all funds to Hamas were cut off, thus turning them to Iran and Hezbollah for funds.

Israel wanted Hamas to recognize the right of Israel to exist. If only the Israeli government had been willing to recognize the Palestinians' right to a country of their own, things would be very different today.

For years Israel has prevented the people of Gaza from fishing in the waters off their own coast. They have prevented them from importing or exporting anything. Among the results of this policy is that Gazans had to feed flowers, grown for export, to their animals. They have not received what is necessary for clean water or sewage disposal. People have died waiting to go to Israeli hospitals because their own hospitals have no drugs or even light for operations. Funds cut off from Gaza have meant that their teachers and police were not paid.

Then Israel insisted that no rockets come from Gaza to Israel. Is there anywhere on Earth where police can prevent all crime? It is even harder if your police are bombed and killed, as they are now.

Jewish values include justice and good works. Unfortunately the world is being treated to a different view of Jews by Israel. Inevitably, this will vastly increase anti-Semitism throughout the world.

We hope Israel and the Palestinians work nonviolently for peace. We hope the United States will stop giving vast armaments to Israel that provide for more war.

After World War II, the United States occupied Germany and Japan, our enemies. Five years later they were our staunchest allies, and have remained ever since. How did we do it? We found a win-win solution. We gave our former enemies credit in the United States to buy machine tools and factories. This provided Germany and Japan with improving economies and hope. It also provided our returning GIs with jobs and pulled us out of the end of the Great Depression.

We wish Israel would follow our example and convert its enemies into its allies. It can be done.

Eunice Ordman      Memphis

July 27, 2007
Working toward a peaceful solution

While I am happy to see President Bush addressing the issues of Israel and Palestine, I wonder if he is going about it in the right way (July 17 article, "Bush calls Mideast talks / 'Moment of choice' for Israel, Arabs").

In June my wife and I visited Israel and the West Bank as part of a delegation organized by Interfaith Peace Builders. We visited West Bank settlements, refugee camps, Palestinian villages and contested areas. We spoke with organizations, both Israeli and Palestinian, that are trying to find peaceful solutions.

There are organizations with important ideas and programs. They get little press coverage. Violence seems to be of more interest to the press. Many, probably a large majority, of people on both sides would like to see a peaceful solution, one respecting the human rights of both populations and their need for economic and political independence and security. A solution based on building up the Palestinian economy and recognizing the needs of the Palestinians may well lead to peace.

Seeing Hamas as the biggest problem, and postponing economic and political progress until Hamas is voted out of office and all violence stops, is a way to ensure that the fighting continues and that the United States can continue to sell arms to Israel until the last Israeli is dead.

Edward Ordman        Memphis

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