ON CHINA (AGAIN)

JULY 1, 2020

ON

CHINA

 

Anyone who has had the pleasure of teaching young Chinese will tell you that the experience gives one the impression that these youngsters are exceedingly bright, stunningly hard working, lovely people, and that they like each other.  The more one teaches them here or in China, the more one is convinced that the students are fond of the West and gently (and mostly in a silent way) unhappy with their government’s efforts to stifle the “liberating” efforts of these charming young people.

“China is a sleeping dog.  Let sleeping dogs lie,” – said Napoleon (or someone else).  China remains asleep.  Were China to awake, perhaps we should fear not.  True, nothing could stop an awakened China, but facing it might make us all better off.  Well, an awakening might not make the ruling Chinese class of today better off, but some of us would not find that reason to object to it.

HUMANISM

JULY 4, 2020

ON

HUMANISM

 

It may serve all of us well if we know that “humanism” originated not as a religion of its own but as a brake on religious zealotry.

In the 16th and 17th centuries, when most of the European population accepted one religious creed or another, European intellectuals (Humanists) fashioned limits on religion that intelligent religious leaders eventually accepted, i.e., that religious claims are subject to limits, and the “limits” are the “Natural Law.”  The Humanists, many of them religiously observant themselves, argued that religious excesses (witch burnings, torture, pogroms, forced conversions and the like) were inimical to a serious sense of justice and humanity, that all religious claims are subject to them, and that activity that violates them is illicit.

Not all Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, and others accepted those limits.  Some refuse to accept them today, but most believers of the three great world religions do accept them.

For a legion of reasons that this random comment cannot explain or even grasp, 21 First Century Americans are not nearly as religiously committed as their European forebears.  In fact, among today’s intellectuals (the Moderns and those aligned with them) serious religious commitment is anti-intellectual and suspect.  Yet, Modernism has its catechism of beliefs (economic fairness, global warming, race consciousness being three).

One sees, moreover, among these Moderns, especially when they support those who take to the streets with varying measures of violence, an unwillingness to allow natural law to limit their claims.  In fact, contrary to the Humanist tradition, Moderns see Natural Law itself as a religious device to limit efforts to achieve human freedom.

Today, sadly, many see the Humanists’ efforts to impose the Natural Law on religions, as a product of religious beliefs and, therefore, a matter of private ordering and not a matter for limiting social behavior.  This might be a good time to see more folks committing them selves to Humanism

UNCHARITABLE CHARITIES

SEPTEMBER 20, 2020

ON

UNCHARITABLE CHARITIES

 

Why might a wealthy taxpayer start a section 501(c)(3) foundation?

Reason #1  He can donate some of his wealth to the foundation and take a tax donation for the transfer and still have some control over the funds.  If he donates to the Cancer Drive, the cancer society decides how to spend the money, but his Foundation can hire his grandson, a college student facing high tuition costs, and pay him a generous salary to “work” for the Foundation.  The donor can also hire his daughter to be “President and CEO” of the Foundation at a handsome, though limited by reasonableness, salary – just something fitting for the president and CEO of a large enterprise.  Finally, nothing, one supposes, prevents the foundation from buying a large tract of land creating a nature preserve adjacent to the donor’s vacation home.

The law governing 501(c)(3) charities limits this behavior, but the limits tend to be generous, and their enforcement minimal.

CRITICIZING CHINA

DECEMBER 23, 2020

ON

CRITICIZING CHINA

 

We have arrived at a time when every contact with the Chinese is suspect.  Recent abuses by the government of that country have attracted justifiable laments, especially when the Mainland government arrests Christian leaders in Hong Kong.

It is easy and often self-aggrandizing for a westerner to criticize such religious oppression, but is it sometimes or ever justified to remain silent?  Might silence be the resort of some who feel that adding their voices to the criticism might increase persecutions?

Happily, most of us can criticize without fear of that consequence.

HUMBUG!

DECEMBER 25, 2020

ON

HUMBUG!

 

It must be fun, to do this, else there is not much motivation, so this is not the first Christmas season that witnesses an article in local or national media claiming that Charles Dickens was an economic critic who did not understand free enterprise and that in Britain at the time Dickens published “Scrooge”, things were on track to increase the nation’s wealth and would accelerate the economic well-being of the country’s working class.

So, each year, we read these unoriginal criticisms of “A Christmas Carol” with business folks claiming that poor old Dickens just missed the point.  Well maybe not.

Especially “not” if Dickens was not writing about the wretched state of the English working class and may not have been writing about class distinctions at all.  What if all that rot from Scrooge about workhouses, excess population, and poor Bob Cratchet picking Scrooge’s pocket has nothing whatsoever to do with the “point” of the story?  What if the point of Mr. Dickens story is not to boast about the economic stresses or lament the state of the working poor at all?  What if he was making a more subtle point.  In that case, what did these economic entrepreneurs miss?

They miss the subtle, or not so subtle point!  They miss the effect of a dream-filled night that turned a mean, stingy, unhappy, warped, but rich old man into a man in the morning who ran to the window wrapped in in his bed clothing, threw open the sash, a happy man with a happy face shouting joy to good old London.  Now that’s the point not to be missed, though the critics of Dickens missed it.

Unless, of course, they are just kidding.

DOCTORATES ?

DECEMBER 26, 2080

ON

DOCTORS OR NOT

 

What does it mean to hold a “doctorate” from a university?

Well, it can mean lots of things.  A doctorate from M.I.T. is an inordinately valuable asset for the person who earned it.  It provides the holder with entrée to employment, acceptance of papers (articles) in non-juried publications, invitations to hold forth on MSNBC, CNN, Fox News, etc., and may even result in invitations to a politician’s gathering with a seat near the head of the table or even an invitation to the White House itself.

M.I.T. and similar universities of high standing and high standards for “doctorates” issue a limited number of doctorate degrees.

Nonetheless the number of doctors with doctorate degrees has mushrumed to number in the thousands, if not more.  A number of universities, small educational enterprises, some of them new and others of the mail-order variety have entered the “doctorate” granting enterprises.

One net effect of the stampede for tuition dollars has had intended or unintended confusion.  In fact, those who know little or nothing about the quality of a “doctorate” might open doors that would (and should) otherwise remain closed.  For today, anyone holding a hard earned doctorate or one earned mail order may both designate the holder “Doctor.”

The list of fields that award such degrees is endless.  Law school graduates, even those at the bottom of the class and who fail the state bar exam, hold J.D (juri doctor” degrees.  They can call themselves “doctor,” though most do not; and the lawyer who does quickly finds himself the object of scorn and ridicule from his knowledgeable contemporaries (bad enough) but also from judges before whom the “juris doctor” must argue cases.

There appears, however, to be insufficient scorn and ridicule in other cases, and now there appears to be no end to the doctorate degrees some educational enterprises will grant.  One “University” awards “doctorates” in (1) business administration,(2) education and education leadership, (3) health administration, and (4) management (all after taking a few courses that are just eight weeks long) and all of which can be taken remotely.  This university’s enchantment with awarding doctorates, might rise to the level of “scam” in the view of some and may be more usual than unusual.

Of course, some doctorate programs are rigorous.  They may require a dissertation, that must be “defended” in front of a panel, usually comprised of scholars in the field.  Some programs, moreover, require the candidate’s thesis to be published by a journal or university with standing in the field.

It is probably fair to say, however, that doctorate degrees awarded without such high standards far outnumber those that do.

Regrettably some institutions “sell” doctorates on the cheap, and academically designated “Doctors,” churn out dissertations no one reads, or receive the designation “doctor” without having written a dissertation.

As a result of all this brouhaha, holding a doctorate may get you an invitation to chat, but most employers are not fooled, just as most university folks are not fooled.  The marginal educational enterprises have cheapened the Ph.D. designation, sort of the way every Tom, Dick, and Harry has cheapened the term “CEO.”

RASCIST TALK

DECEMBER 27, 2020

ON

RACIST TALK OR NOT

 

TFor many years, the Washington NFL team name was not “widely seen as a racial slur.”  That professional football franchise originated in Massachusetts, and the name the franchise owners selected (Red Skins) was part of their effort to woo Boston sport fans who cheered for the American League Boston Red Sox or for the National League Boston Braves.  Thus, the owners fashioned a name that both baseball team fans might like: The Red Skins – a name that drew on both Baseball team names.

Anyway, eventually, the franchise moved to Washington, D.C. and became a major and valuable enterprise, keeping the same name, which was a valuable asset that continued to grow in value to the team franchise and its owners.

When the media and others hunting for racial slurs, saw an opportunity, they claimed that the Washington football team’s name was a racial slur and also claimed that it was widely regarded as such.  In fact, it was not originally seen widely or narrowly as a racial slur, but in virtue of the campaign the media and others promoted, it became so.  Recently, a column from a national newspaper claimed that the name was “widely seen as a racial slur.”  Well, given the efforts of those seeking out racial slurs for whatever purposes, the name did become “widely seen as a racial slur.”

ANOTHER DAY AT THE DOCTOR’S OFFICE

DECEMBER 28, 2020

ON

ANOTHER DAY AT THE DOCTOR’S OFFICE

 

Masters of Business Administration programs have provided universities with healthy tuition dollars and, often, donations from successful MBA graduates.  But, has the growth in MBA numbers benefited society and business?  Has it benefitted the graduate’s sense of worth?  Sometimes, but sometimes not.

For the health care industry, one might conclude not.

Formerly, doctors and dentists ran their businesses without managers with MBA degrees.  They might have asked an accountant to prepare tax returns or keep track of expenses and salary checks, but generally the care givers controlled the business.

For reason that may relate to medical insurance requirements or federal health insurance programs, the small doctor and dentist office is disappearing.  Now, an MBA is more likely in charge of the “business” end of things than one of the doctors.  This change has altered medical and dental practice.

Someone in her late 70’s is surprised when she is asking her internist questions after an annual physical and the internist looks at her watch and announces: “You are two minutes over your seventeen-minute limit.

Surprise!  The MBA who now runs the office knows that doctors can augment profits if they limit the time doctors spend with each patient.  Simple math.  Good medicine?  So, now patients hear from their doctor: “You have three more minutes.”

One feature of medical and dental practice that the MBA manager detests is the frequent number of patients who are late for or cancel appointments on short notice.  That patient behavior affects the bottom line adversely, and the manager will go to great lengths to prevent this appointment abuse.  But how?

Reminders sent by automated reminder phone calls is one and one that serves patients as well as doctors.  “This is a reminder that you have an appointment with Dr. Jones tomorrow at 10:00 a.m.”

Another is to require patients to come to the office one-half hour before the scheduled appointment.  Patients who do not show early serve to warn the office manager that Mr. Smith might be a no-show today, and it may be time to call another patient whom the manager was unable to schedule that time or that day.

But what if the doctor is late?  Well, in that case, the patient had better bring a magazine to the office.

And, what if the doctor is a no show?  What if the patient scheduled a visit with Doctor X who decided that the week of the appointment would be a good week to spend at Cancun?

No problem, just schedule the patient to see Dr. Y.  And when the patient has spent time reading a magazine and Dr. Y is about ready to see the patient, have the nurse bring the patient to the examining room, dress or undress to whatever level is important, take the patient’s blood pressure, and weigh the patient.  Then Dr. Y arrives, and the patient asks for Dr. X.  “I’ll be caring for you today,”  Does the patient get out of the chair and leave, or does the patient acquiesce?  Many will do a slow burn but will stay.  [This practice is more common in a specialist’s office, especially a dental specialist.  Patient knows that Dr. X is world famous but has no advanced knowledge of who Dr. Y is.]

Now, aren’t we glad that young people have gone to college and graduated from business school to learn how to make money for their employers?

OLD FOLKS’ WISDOM

DECEMBER 29, 2020

ON

WISDOM FROM THE “OLD FOLKS”

The younger generations are often exceedingly bright, especially with modern technological advancements, space research, and the like.  But being bright alone does not overcome ignorance.  Are young people often not ignorant of, among other things, Buddhism, Confucianism, Judeo Christianity, and a peaceful brand of Islam?  To them, Socrates and Augustine are just old guys who knew nothing about black holes and evolution.  Surprisingly, all the ancient sages and religions seem to agree that unless government secures “The Mandate of Heaven” (Confucius) they cannot support a just society.  Wonder why?  Who knows, but these learned old folks seem to be on to something.  May it not be that without that “mandate” a government cannot secure the loyalty of the governed but must, instead, resort to the force of governmental power.

BOOKS BY XX WITH YY AND HARRY TRUMAN

DECEMBER  30, 2020

ON

BOOKS  BY “XX” with ”YY”

AND HARRY TRUMAN

            One suspects that much fiction or even history or social science books written today are the product of the named author’s work but with the help in varying degrees of researchers.  Sometimes, authors give their researchers equal billing as “coauthors.”  Sometimes, they acknowledge the researchers work as ‘with” so-and-so, the researcher.

One need not be a complete cynic to assume that at times, these allegations of respective roles in the work are, shall we say, exaggerated or even fictitious.  Could it be that a young mystery writer who cannot induce a publisher to promote his work might have more success with publishers if he designates an accomplished writer as co-author?  And, to round out this exercise in publishing dishonesty, might a recognized author take a less well recognized author’s work and claim it as his own with acknowledgement for the author whose contribution is even greater?

Chris Wallace, a well-respected, and deservedly so, media commentator authored a book “with Mitch Weiss” : Countdown 1945 (Avid Reader Press).  Mitch Weiss has eleven books on Goodreqads with 14091 ratings.  Mr. Weiss’s most popular book is Countdown 1945.

Sounds good.  The book is a telling review of U.S. efforts to develop an atomic weapon and to have it dropped on two Japanese cities in August of 1945.  Those events are widely seen, as the book reports, as incidents that convinced the Japanese to surrender unconditionally to the U.S.  It also makes the less well received, though widely received, notion that the bombing saved the lives of many U.S. servicemen who would have died in a U.S. invasion of the Japanese mainland.  The text, in the opinion of some, however, does not give sufficient attention to the possibility that less murderous actions might have ended the war without an invasion.

But, that failing, if it is a failing, is not the subject of this comment.  The subject here is a minor point, an account of a conversation in President Harry Truman’s vehicle while he was being driven by a military chauffer from a meeting with Churchill and Stalin to the house where he was staying in Potsdam, Germany.

According to the authors of this book, an event occurred in that vehicle that prompts this criticism. During the drive, according to these writers, an Army “public relations officer,” took a seat in the vehicle.  (This is the first of the hard to believe events described on page 178).  Someone apparently unknown or little known to the President was able to sit in the backseat of a vehicle transporting the president in Potsdam during a break in discussions with the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, and the Premier of the U.S.S.R, to the building where the residence where the President was staying.  A much more questionable assertion follows, for the book next claims that this guest told the president of the United States that he, the guest, could arrange female companionship for Harry Truman.  (Really?)  And then there are more incredible revelations.  According to the authors (or one of them) Mr. Truman declined the offered service with “Hold it, don’t say anything more.”  . . . .”I love my wife, my wife is my sweetheart.  I don’t want to do that kind of stuff.  I don’t want you ever to say that again to me.”

Those who live through Truman’s presidency or are students of Truman biographies cannot by any stretch of these authors’ imagination believe that story.

First, no one, absolutely no one such as this “information officer” could enter that vehicle at that time in Potsdam with such an agenda. It stretches belief that such a person on such an errand could have sat in the backseat with the President.  Security must have been tight enough that only one on serious business with the President could have squeezed himself into that backseat.

Second, no “information officer” with an ounce of sense would risk the displeasure of the Commander in Chief with such a vulgar, bold, and stupid, proposal to a man widely regarded as straight-laced.

There follows in the authors’ account, and, as I see it, the most unconvincing part of all in this story, the response the president supposedly made about “loving his wife,” etc.

Had this officer actually made it into the vehicle (questionable point No. 1) and had he been stupid enough to make the proposal (unbelievable point No. 2), HST’s response could not in any case have been what these two authors claim it was (unbelievable point No. 3).

Those who have read anything serious about HST can tell you in unison what Harry Truman would have said in response to what this fictitious(?) information officer idiot suggested.

Here’s what Harry Truman would have said:

“Driver, pull over to the curb at your first opportunity, so that this information officer can get out of the vehicle and walk his ass back to wherever it is that he is supposed to be.”

That’s what Harry Truman would have said.  (Or something just like it.)