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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
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
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?
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
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.
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
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
Edward Ordman and Eunice Ordman
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
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
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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