A review of postings about scientific integrity and intellectual honesty, with observations regarding elite centrism – Part 2: a tale of peace and anti-war politics

(Continued from Part 1)

In my very first blog article, in two parts dated January 29, 2009, I delved into some interesting facts related to Chicago, Illinois, in the context of two contrasting, but distinguished, academic personalities in political activism.

One was the young, brash and condescending, but brilliant elite mathematician John Nash in around 1958-1959, who easily ‘turned down’ Chicago:

“The 1998 book “A Beautiful Mind” by The New York Times correspondent Sylvia Nasar about the mysterious but often sad life stories of the mathematician John Forbes Nash, Jr., told of the tremendous interest on the part of the University of Chicago’s mathematics department including the mathematician Shiing-shen Chern, a patriarch figure in mathematics, toward an up-and-coming, flamboyant but abrasive John Nash in 1958-1959, who at the time was on the faculty of MIT but was fancying himself as the “the prince of peace”, the leader of a great movement for world peace, and “the left foot of God”; when Prof. Adrian Albert of the University of Chicago made an offer of a “prestigious chair” to John Nash, Nash responded that he had to decline because he was “scheduled to become Emperor of Antarctica”. Such undiplomatic response and related uttering prompted then MIT president Julius Stratton to call John Nash “a very sick man”. Nash, however, confidently told others that he was receiving encrypted, important political “messages” communicating to him through The New York Times.

So in early 1959 the very promising mathematician John Nash chose not to go to Chicago, staying at MIT in Boston and talking out loud about forming a world peace movement, but soon (on or around April 8, 1959), he was involuntarily sent to McLean Hospital, committed and diagnosed as suffering from ‘paranoid schizophrenia’.”

(“Greeting the New Millennium – nearly a decade late (Part 2)”, January 29, 2009, Feng Gao’s Space: Analysis of Current Affairs, Politics and History)

The other was an also young, outspoken but thoughtful, humbly achieving mathematician whom I referred to as “Steve”, about 10 years later in 1968, who had enjoyed and would again enjoy the Windy City:

“Seeing how great times and endless talents have been consumed in politics by nasty quarrels, harsh retributions and even violence sometimes makes me nostalgic, feeling fortunate that I did my Ph.D. studies under an academic thesis adviser who was always easy going, though sometimes absent-minded and lost in his thoughts. Even though we only communicated on mathematics and science, he who I knew, “Steve” as others affectionately call him whether they agree or disagree with his views, was genuinely peaceful, and sincerely for peace. Not surprisingly, he had had no problem teaching at the University of Chicago during the 1950s fresh with his Ph.D. in mathematics, had no worry going to the Windy City in 1968 though neither as part of the Democratic National Convention nor with the likes of Jerry Rubin and the Chicago Eight (or with William Ayers for that matter), and today still has no qualms returning to work on the campus of the University of Chicago, even if this time in a technological institute of a foreign automaker – for someone his ivory-tower pedigree.”

(Part 2, January 29, 2009, Feng Gao’s Space: Analysis of Current Affairs, Politics and History)

As summarized in the first quote above, in 1958-1959 the University of Chicago’s mathematicians would very much like to have John Nash join them and offered him a “prestigious chair”, but Nash, then at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was fancying himself as “the prince of peace” and the leader of a great movement for world peace, and Chicago did not figure in his plan. However, to put it the way Nash did, that he was “scheduled to become Emperor of Antarctica”, was condescending, and so I elaborated in comparison:

“… if John Nash was to be the “Emperor of Antarctica” as he claimed in 1959 when declining to take up a prestigious academic position at the University of Chicago, then how should the modern-time, outspoken Oprah Winfrey be referred to as, whose media empire is based in Chicago? Queen of the Arctic who happened to have been born exactly 55 years before the day of this blog article? What about President Barack Obama, who from 1992 till becoming United States Senator in 2004 was on the faculty of the University of Chicago?

(Part 2, January 29, 2009, Feng Gao’s Space: Analysis of Current Affairs, Politics and History)

Chicago’s Oprah Winfrey would be “Queen of the Arctic”, and Chicago’s Barack Obama could be, though I did not explicitly state, ‘Crown Prince of the Arctic’.

Honestly, though, back in 1958-59 not many would have thought of Chicago, or any place in the United States, becoming known for great African-American success stories such as Oprah’s and Barack’s, when the American civil rights movement had barely begun.

Antarctica lies on the Earth’s opposite end from the Arctic. Perhaps not coincidental to his notion of “Emperor of Antarctica”, Nash had married Alicia Larde, a women with deep European-South American aristocratic roots, including a possible link to a 19th-century Austrian Crown Prince as I noted:

“John Nash’s wife Alicia Larde came from a background of European-South American blueblood; her father Carlos had worked for the International Red Cross and the League of Nations, and her uncle Enrique, an interpreter at the United Nations in New York, claimed to be the bastard son of the Archduke Rudolf of Austria and published a book about it, The Crown Prince Rudolf: His Mysterious Life After Mayerling…”

(Part 2, January 29, 2009, Feng Gao’s Space: Analysis of Current Affairs, Politics and History)

But prior to his marriage into “European-South American blueblood”, John Nash had attained social pedigrees of his own through academic achievements, such as his education at Princeton University:

“… John Foster Dulles and John Forbes Nash, Jr., both of whose first names and middle initials were ‘John F.’ (as were former U.S. president John Fitzgerald Kennedy’s), were both distinguished alumni of Princeton University in New Jersey (the Dulles collections at Princeton’s Seeley G. Mudd Library are in fact more extensive than the Dulles Papers at the Eisenhower Library), and when Nash was first diagnosed with “paranoid schizophrenia” and committed at a psychiatric ward, in April-May 1959, it would happen to be the period of time when then Secretary of State Dulles in the Eisenhower administration abruptly resigned from the job due to ill health and then died – of cancer – before Nash would be out of McLean Hospital.”

(Part 2, January 29, 2009, Feng Gao’s Space: Analysis of Current Affairs, Politics and History)

As quoted above, John F. Nash was a distinguished alumnus of Princeton like John F. Dulles, in 1958-1959 the U.S. secretary of state, who died of cancer in May 1959 while Nash was committed in McLean Hospital in Boston for “paranoid schizophrenia”.

So compared to the successes of Winfrey and Obama, possible decades later, Nash could have achieved broader fame at that early time but his ambitions were aborted by psychiatric interventions.

But even as early as in 1959 when Nash was in psychiatric committal, the big political tables were turned somewhat, by a ‘new kid in the neighborhood’ named Fidel Castro, as I noted:

“Dulles in fact resigned on the same day, April 15, 1959, that new Cuban leader Fidel Castro arrived in Washington, D.C. to visit the United States at the invitation of the American Society of Newspaper Editors, whose  itinerary would include meetings with acting secretary of state Christian Herter and vice president Richard Nixon and, rather ironically, touring Princeton University and a meeting there with former secretary of state Dean Acheson.”

(Part 2, January 29, 2009, Feng Gao’s Space: Analysis of Current Affairs, Politics and History)

The new Cuban leader was a guest of the U.S. press but was diplomatically received by U.S. vice president Richard Nixon, John F. Dulles’s acting replacement Christian Herter, and at Princeton by former secretary of state Dean Acheson, all while Dulles was in hospital dying of cancer.

From this limited, incidental perspective, it is interesting that today it is under President Obama that the United States is normalizing diplomatic relations with Cuba, where Fidel Castro has retired from day-to-day politics but his younger brother Raul is firmly at the helm of a ruling Communist system.

(“Barack Obama and Raul Castro meet, launch new era of U.S.-Cuba ties”, by Kevin Liptak and Jim Acosta, April 12, 2015, CNN Politics; and “U.S.-Cuba Relations: From Obama to Castro, Here Are the Key Players”, by Eric Ortiz, July 1, 2015, NBC News)

But again, like I have commented near the start of Part 1 of the current blog article, that is “politics and foreign relations, not science or education”.

As in Part 1, Princeton is a highly prestigious U.S. university where Maria Klawe, my former boss at the University of British Columbia in 1988-1992, with whom I had a political dispute over her academic management style, served as dean of engineering and applied science from 2003 on for 3 and 1/2 years, before becoming president of Harvey Mudd College in California.

In one of my above quotes about John Nash there was the mention that “Princeton’s Seeley G. Mudd Library” houses an extensive collection of archival papers related to John Foster Dulles. Seeley G. Mudd, or Seeley Greenleaf Mudd, whose name endows this Princeton library, is in fact in the same Mudd family as Harvey Mudd, or Harvey Seeley Mudd, whose name endows the college.

(“First Families of the American West: The Mudd Family”, June 30, 2014, The Webb Schools)

The best known of John Nash’s work, one that led to his receiving the 1994 Nobel Prize in Economics, traced back to his Ph.D. research at Princeton. The Princeton mathematician John von Neumann who had laid the groundwork for that field, game theory, was a much more dominating figure than Nash; in a February 2013 blog post I quoted an anecdote from Sylvia Nasar’s book, the most credible and detailed public account on John Nash’s life, A Beautiful Mind:

“John von Neumann’s job was giving advice to the American military leaders, even when on his deathbed!

After his intimate participations in advanced military researches during World War II and afterwards, including in the development of the nuclear bomb, John von Neumann died of cancer in 1957 at only 53, and there has been a question whether his premature death had been work-related:

In the anecdotes of mathematics, von Neumann was known not only for his brilliance but also for his uptight personality. In my first blog article dated January 29, 2009, I have referred to the life story of the mathematician and Nobel laureate John F. Nash, whose name was made famous by the 2001 Oscar-winning movie “A Beautiful Mind”. The book of the same title, from which the movie was adapted, had recorded the following impression of John von Neumann by John Nash as a young graduate student:

“Nash went to see von Neumann a few days after he passed his generals. He wanted, he had told the secretary cockily, to discuss an idea that might be of interest to Professor von Neumann. It was a rather audacious thing for a graduate student to do. Von Neumann was a public figure, had very little contact with Princeton graduate students outside of occasional lectures, and generally discouraged them from seeking him out with their research problems. But it was typical of Nash, who had gone to see Einstein the year before with the germ of an idea.

Von Neumann was sitting at an enormous desk, looking more like a prosperous bank president than an academic in his expensive three-piece suit, silk tie, and jaunty pocket handkerchief. He had the preoccupied air of a busy executive. At the time, he was holding a dozen consultancies, “arguing the ear off Robert Oppenheimer” over the development of the H-bomb, and overseeing the construction and programming of two prototype computers. …

… Nash started to describe the proof he had in mind for an equilibrium in games of more than two players. But before he had gotten out more than a few disjointed sentences, von Neumann interrupted, jumped ahead to the yet unstated conclusion of Nash’s argument, and said abruptly, “That’s trivial, you know. That’s just a fixed point theorem.””

Like some say, a great mind is a terrible thing to waste.”

(“Guinevere and Lancelot – a metaphor of comedy or tragedy, without Shakespeare but with shocking ends to wonderful lives (Part 2)”, February 28, 2013, Feng Gao’s Posts – Rites of Spring)

Nash’s graduate study idea was rejected outright by the famous von Neumann, who was involved in hydrogen bomb development and in advising U.S. military leaders.

But Nash got the attention of junior faculty member David Gale, who encouraged Nash to develop his Ph.D. thesis from it:

“A few days after the disastrous meeting with von Neumann, Nash accosted David Gale. “I think I’ve found a way to generalize von Neumann’s min-max theorem,” he blurted out. “…” Gale recalls Nash’s saying, “I’d call this an equilibrium point.” … Unlike von Neumann, Gale saw Nash’s point. “Hmm,” he said, “that’s quite a thesis.” Gale realized that Nash’s idea applied to a far broader class of of real-world situations than von Neumann’s notion of zero-sum games. “He had a concept that generalized to disarmament,” Gale said later. But Gale was less entranced by the possible applications of Nash’s idea than its elegance and generality. “The mathematics was so beautiful. It was so right mathematically.”

… Gale suggested asking a member of the National Academy of Sciences to submit the proof to the academy’s monthly proceedings. … Gale said recently, “so he gave me his proof and I drafted the NAS note.” … Gale added later, “I certainly knew right away that it was a thesis. I didn’t know it was a Nobel.”

(Sylvia Nasar, A Beautiful Mind, 1998, Simon & Schuster)

David Gale was later a mathematics professor at the University of California, Berkeley, where I did teaching assistant work for him and enjoyed the pizzas he ordered for all of us marking final exams.

Maria Klawe and Princeton president Shirley Tilghman who hired her, as in Part 1, were not the only Canadian Princetonians in the context of this blog article: John Nash’s Ph.D. adviser Albert Tucker was “the straitlaced son of a Canadian Methodist minister”, as Nasar put it in her book.

“Steve”, my UC Berkeley Ph.D. adviser Stephen Smale, the politically active academic personality contrasting Nash, also did his Ph.D. study under a one-time Canadian. But Steve, from Flint, Michigan, and educated at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, had family links to Canada through his mother Helen and through his wife Clara’s parents – the former a story of family difficulty and the latter a story of economic loss – all departed for the U.S.:

“Helen’s Canadian parents, Archibald and Pauline Diesfeld Morrow, were married in 1889. They settled in Gault, Ontario, where Archibald was a high school classics teacher. Helen … remembers her father as a “horrible man” who expelled both of her brothers from high school. When Helen was 11, her parents separated …

Remaining with her mother, Helen completed high school and one year of business college. Helen’s brother-in-law was an engineer who worked in a Gault boiler factory. Expecting to lose his job after the War, he and Helen’s sister moved to Flint seeking new opportunities. … In 1925 Helen and her mother followed. …

Shortly after returning to Ann Arbor he [Steve Smale] met Clara Davis (unrelated to Chandler Davis), a friend of Ed Shaffer. Smale was attracted to the library science graduate student and acted on his feelings. Clara responded, and they were married a few months later.

Clara’s parents, Harry and Marion Hill Davis, were both born in Ontario. Her father’s ancestors were American Tories who emigrated to Canada during the Revolution. Harry and Marion moved to Alberta and began a wheat farm as homesteaders. In the midtwenties they lost the farm and moved their family to the Detroit suburb of Dearborn, where they had a relative. There Harry made a career change into the insurance business. …”

(Steve Batterson, Stephen Smale: The Mathematician Who Broke the Dimension Barrier, January 2000, American Mathematical Society)

Interestingly enough, the parents of Steve Smale’s wife Clara Davis, descendants of British loyalists who had moved to Ontario in Canada due to the American Revolution, moved farther to the Canadian rural heartland of Alberta and lost their farm, before moving to Dearborn near Detroit, Michigan, an industrializing region of the U.S.

The more intriguing context here is that, as in Part 1, Alberta is the home base of Maria Klawe where her family have been deeply entrenched, she received her mathematics Ph.D. and her parents were professors at her alma mater, the University of Alberta.

The University of Michigan at Ann Arbor was where Smale received all his academic degrees, and his first faculty position was at the University of Chicago.

(“Biography: Steve Smale”, Department of Mathematics, University of California, Berkeley)

Michigan was a top public university, but not of the calibre of a top private school like Princeton; the distinguished private University of Chicago was doubtlessly an upward first step for Smale.

For John Nash it was the opposite. Even after he had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and left MIT, without a job in March-April 1963 he rejected an offer for him to do statistical work at Michigan for 2 years while receiving treatment:

“… That Nash desperately needed treatment was not a subject of controversy this time. Once again, Donald Spencer and Albert Tucker approached Robert Winters. James Miller, a friend of Winters from Harvard, was in the psychiatry department at the University of Michigan and was connected with a university-sponsored clinic run by Ray Waggoner. Through Miller, Winters succeeded in making a unique arrangement whereby Nash would be treated at the clinic and also have an opportunity to work as a statistician in the clinic’s research program.

Tucker at Princeton and [math department chair Ted] Martin at MIT decided to set up a fund to make the plan feasible. Anatole Rappaport and Merrill Flood at the University of Michigan… and others committed themselves to raise funds …

The Ann Arbor group felt that a stay of two years was necessary. The cost for out-of-state patient was $9,000 a year or $18,000 for the entire stay. [Nash’s mother] Virginia Nash offered to guarantee $10,000 and the group of mathematicians arranged, through the American Mathematical Society, to set-up a fund-raising drive for the remaining $8,000. …

Albert E. Meder, Jr., the society’s treasurer, was enthusiastic …

It was Donald Spencer… who was elected to try to convince Nash to accept the Michigan offer and enter the clinic voluntarily. Spencer chose, as he usually did, a bar as his venue. He invited Nash for some beers in Nassau Tavern, where Nash had once celebrated passing his generals. … Spencer talked and talked, Nash appeared to be listening but said very little except to remark, at various intervals, that he wasn’t interested in doing statistical work. It was no use. Nash didn’t believe that he was ill, and he wasn’t prepared to enter another hospital.

Meanwhile, Alicia, Virginia, and [Nash’s sister] Martha had agreed among themselves that Nash would have to be committed involuntarily. This time they chose a private clinic near Princeton.”

(Sylvia Nasar, 1998, Simon & Schuster)

More than a decade earlier Nash had passed his Princeton general exams, celebrated at Nassau Tavern, and gone to see John von Neumann about an original math idea but was shot down, before David Gale helped him pursue it. Now after a promising MIT career cut short by paranoid schizophrenia, he was back hanging around Princeton.

The way I see it, Nash’s life was so immersed in the environments of a few select elite private schools like MIT and Princeton, that he just wasn’t going elsewhere.

But had Nash agreed to move to the University of Michigan in April 1963, his life could have changed dramatically at the end of the two years, not by the psychiatric treatment but by emerging anti-war political activism – given Nash’s once self-anointed “prince of peace” status.

In March 1965, faculty members at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor started the first U.S. university teach-in events as a part of anti-Vietnam War protests. It involved over 220 teachers and 3,000 participants, and would soon be followed by similar events at Columbia University in the City of New York, UCLA, University of Wisconsin, UC Berkeley and dozens of other universities:

“What began as a group of fewer than 10 educators, soon swelled to a group of more than 220 professors who led discussions and speak-outs against the war. And what was expected to be a modest turnout for the 12-hour event, wound up being more than any of the organizers could have anticipated.

In total, there were about 3,000 participants. …

From the steps of a U-M library, the movement quickly spread. Two days after the teach-in in Ann Arbor, there was another teach-in at Columbia University. Two weeks later, there was one at the University of California, Los Angeles. Subsequent teach-ins were held at Wisconsin, Berkeley, Michigan State, and dozens of other campuses.

On April 17, 1965, SDS [Students for a Democratic Society] and some of the U-M professors involved in organizing the teach-in called for a March in Washington, D.C., to protest the war. It turned out to be the largest anti-war demonstration in U.S. history to date, drawing roughly 25,000 people for the march that started at the Capitol and went down the Mall to the Washington Monument.”

(“U-M professors’ first teach-in 50 years ago launched a national movement”, by Jeremy Allen, March 22 (updated March 23), 2015, MLive)

Still, “emperor” and “prince” being the powers of the private state, John Nash might not have been drawn into such public mass events had he been there.

On the day of the first Ann Arbor teach-in event, Steve Smale was among a few Berkeley faculty members speaking at a campus anti-war rally of 1,000 participants in support of the Michigan event.

(Steve Batterson, January 2000, American Mathematical Society)

In the fall of 1983 when I went into Smale’s UC Berkeley office for the first time, having just been accepted to be his Ph.D. student, the first thing he drew my attention to was a letter in a picture frame on the wall, signed by Ho Chi Minh, the legendary Communist leader of North Vietnam, thanking Smale for helping the people of Vietnam in their struggle against American imperialist aggression – I can only paraphrase but not recall the contents of the formal thank-you note – and I said that I was from mainland China and knew about the North Vietnamese leader.

That was about the only time Smale and I discussed politics unrelated to the academia. On that occasion Smale also said that I was his first Ph.D. student from the People’s Republic of China.

Due to the lingering effect of McCarthyism, many American intellectuals on the political left tended not to openly discuss politics in depth. But in a sign that the slogan, “Mathematics for the New Century”, I was impressed with in 1989 as discussed in Part 1, was real, in January 2000 the American Mathematical Society published a biography book on Stephen Smale, “Steven Smale: The Mathematician Who Broke the Dimension Barrier” by Steve Batterson, in which Smale’s U.S. Communist Party experience while a student at Ann Arbor was discussed:

“… During Steve’s first years at Michigan his political activity was inconspicuous, limited to occasional events such as a meeting in support of Henry Wallace. When the Korean War began, Smale became more engaged in seeking out forums to demonstrate his opposition. The sincerity of Steve’s beliefs became apparent, and he was assimilated into the LYL [Labor Youth League] community.

Smale became an reliable participant, willing to undertake occasional initiatives and accept the risk of exposure. While Steve was not among the most prominent two or three Marxists on campus, he rose to the next group, “outing” himself as an LYL member in letters to the student newspaper. Steve enjoyed the notoriety associated with having his name in the paper. Eventually he joined the student CP cell. To reveal his membership offered the trade-off between the benefit of further recognition and the risk of the devastating repercussions associated with the McCarthy era. With his CP credential, Steve exercised discretion. He did not even tell his wife about his previous membership until sometime after their marriage. For many years he was cautious in this regard. Despite numerous subsequent investigations by the Michigan State Police, FBI, and HUAC [the House Un-American Activities Committee], Smale’s CP membership remained a secret until he revealed it in the eighties.”

(Steve Batterson, January 2000, American Mathematical Society)

According to the above quote, Smale likely revealed his Communist Party membership during the time I was his student; but I was unaware of it, not even of him attending any political rally by this time. But the AMS’s 2000 publication of a biography book on a current mathematician was uncommon, as was its 1963 fundraising for John Nash to work and receive treatment at Michigan.

It was perhaps no coincidence Smale’s political activities had begun with opposition to the Korean War while a Michigan student, and peaked at leading the anti-Vietnam War movement as a Berkeley professor. The 1950s’ political activities Smale was a part of also demonstrated why it was logical over 10 years later the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor became the birthplace of the anti-war movement:

“In his first semester as a graduate student, Steve was involved in a contentious civil liberties case at Michigan. He was an active member of the Young Progressives which attempted to bring two controversial speakers to campus, Arthur McPhaul and Abner Green. McPhaul and Green held positions in the Civil Rights Congress and the American Committee for Protection of the Foreign Born. Both organizations had been listed as communist fronts by the attorney general. A university regulation required that advance approval of speakers be obtained from a committee consisting of five professors. …

The University Lecture Committee considered the request in March 1952. Green had just completed a six month jail term for contempt of court. … During the previous week McPhaul had appeared in Detroit at a HUAC subcommittee investigation of alleged communist involvement. …

Rejecting the petitions for speeches by Green and McPhaul, the University Lecture Committee stated that they required evidence that the talks would not be subversive, placing the burden on the applicants. The decision did not close the issue. After an unsuccessful attempt to obtain an off-campus venue for his speech, Green dined at a co-op and spent the night at the campus center building known as the Union. On March 6, the Michigan Daily contained an article reporting that McPhaul would be on campus for the day, visiting residences and attending a private dinner.

Steve was among the 30 dinner guests who heard McPhaul speak at the Union. Did the evening with the banned speaker involve violations of university regulations? …”

(Steve Batterson, January 2000, American Mathematical Society)

As quoted, in 1952 of the Korean War era there were U.S. political organizations, the Civil Rights Congress and the American Committee for Protection of the Foreign Born, devoted to causes that sounded like precursors of the 1960s’ civil rights movement and anti-Vietnam War movement; leftist Michigan students planned for on-campus speeches by these organizations’ Arthur McPhaul and Abner Green, and the rejection by a university committee of professors was based on concern for communist subversion – not for the campus activities themselves.

Smale’s attending an informal speech by McPhaul led to repercussions:

“Finally on May 3, verdicts and punishment were announced. All students were cleared of attending the dinner two months earlier. However, Steve and four others were placed on probation for “failure to give the Judiciary the cooperation students should reasonably be expected to give a student disciplinary body.” Appeals were unsuccessful and Smale were obliged to resign offices as secretary-treasurer of the Chess Club and treasurer of the Society For Peaceful Alternatives. …

While the two months of university investigations seemed a long ordeal for the students, it paled in comparison to McPhaul’s struggle with the HUAC. The Committee contended that the Fifth Amendment did not shield McPhaul from producing certain documents that they were seeking. After Congress approved a contempt citation, McPhaul was convicted and received a nine month prison sentence. In 1960 the case finally reached the Supreme Court which affirmed the verdict in a 5-4 decision with Douglas, Black, Brennan, and Warren dissenting.”

(Steve Batterson, January 2000, American Mathematical Society)

Smale was forced to resign his secretary and treasurer positions at the academically inclined Chess Club and the politically active Society For Peaceful Alternatives – the latter apparently related to his anti-Korean War stand.

But the perceived communist facet in the invited speaker Arthur McPhaul’s general political activities carried the serious consequence of jail – despite the closeness of a U.S. Supreme Court decision.

More than a decade later in 1965, Smale became a high-profile leader of the anti-war movement at Berkeley started by graduate student Jerry Rubin, who had visited Cuba in 1964, and whose politically active girlfriend was more Stanford than Berkeley based. They sought out Smale to partner with:

“The idea of a Berkeley teach-in originated with a young couple, Barbara Gullahorn and Jerry Rubin. For Rubin, later one of the most prominent radicals and characters of the sixties, the teach-in provided his first opportunity for leadership and notoriety. …

Gullahorn had arrived in Berkeley in 1960 as an undergraduate at the University. Politically she was a liberal who became inspired by John Kennedy’s vision of the Peace Corps. …

Rubin moved to Berkeley in January 1964, ostensibly to begin graduate study in sociology. He was 26 years old. Full of energy and seeking his niche, Rubin was intrigued by political and social issues. Naturally he was drawn to the Berkeley civil rights protest culture, and quickly transferred from academe to activism, becoming a regular on the picket lines.

… As Gullahorn began to examine her perspectives in a new light, Rubin seized an opportunity to visit Cuba. With her boyfriend’s influence limited to an occasional phone call, Gullahorn reverted back to her liberal mode, returning home to her mother in Palo Alto.

Inspired by Fidel Castro and Che Guevara, Rubin returned to California late in the summer. … Rubin followed her to Palo Alto. … Meanwhile the FSM [Free Speech Movement] began in Berkeley without Rubin. …

The Vietnam teach-in provided a new opportunity. …

The upcoming teach-in would provide a real test of the new campus free speech policy, and a professor could be a valuable ally in obtaining use of university facilities. At an early stage of the planning, Rubin and Gullahorn solicited Steve Smale in his office. …”

(Steve Batterson, January 2000, American Mathematical Society)

As a Michigan student, Smale had been at the mercy of a committee of professors when it came to campus political activity. Now Smale was a Berkeley professor in charge of faculty political policies, he helped Rubin, and they became co-chairs of UC Berkeley Vietnam Day Committee:

“Smale way approaching a major juncture in his life. At 34 he appeared to have it made. A highly paid professor at a first rate university in the idyllic Bay Area setting, he had already achieved an enviable standing among mathematicians. … However, just as Smale had previously reacted to the Korean War and Cuban Missile Crisis, Rolling Thunder provided a new outrage. He was especially concerned that Vietnam might lead to a war involving the United States and Soviet Union. As chair of the Political Affairs Committee of the Berkeley Faculty Union, Steve had some standing to push the protest.

A Rubin-Smale symbiosis quickly formed. Despite their contrasting backgrounds and personalities, Steve and Jerry developed a strong rapport … They became co-chairs of the Vietnam Day Committee (VDC), organizer for the Vietnam Day teach-in beginning on May 21. Following Steve into the VDC were his wife Clara, colleague Moe Hirsch, and graduate student Mike Shub.”

(Steve Batterson, January 2000, American Mathematical Society)

Following the teach-in events, in August 1965 the VDC escalated their actions to troop train protests, which were controversial and unsuccessful but garnered media attention:

“On August 4, the VDC [UC Berkeley Vietnam Day Committee] learned that a train would pass through Berkeley on the following day, transporting soldiers to Oakland. …

The subsequent front page article in the San Francisco Chronicle estimated that there were 150 demonstrators. The pictures portrayed several of the protesters blocking the tracks as the train approached at 10 mph. If the tactic succeeded and the train stopped, then the VDC would board and lobby the soldiers. However, when the train maintained its speed, each demonstrator was confronted with a decision. It was a tense moment as the protestors withdrew at the last moment…

On the next day there were two trains and twice as many demonstrators. … When the train arrived, it slowed to a walking space, as a wedge of police formed in front. The police led the engine for several blocks… The VDC was unprepared for the tactic …

Next the VDC moved into the mainstream political arena, petitioning the Berkeley City Council to stop the troop trains. At a Council meeting, Smale urged passage, drawing an analogy to Germans who ignored Nazi atrocities during the Second World War. …

… During this period Steve received a number of death threats, both by mail and phone.”

(Steve Batterson, January 2000, American Mathematical Society)

As quoted, there were death threats against Smale. But as courageous as he was, Smale’s leadership role lasted only 6 months, and then the Berkeley anti-war movement went in a direction he disagreed with, after their marches on October 15-16, 1965, failed to enter the neighboring city of Oakland:

“When 10,000 people appeared on campus for the evening march, Smale was gratified by the fruition of his past several months of effort. … A teach-in, however, is a passive act. By marching to Oakland, all of these people were making an active statement of opposition against the War. …

Smale wanted “to go up to the Oakland border. Not cross it where police were on the other side. … stay there as long as it took, months.” …

Weinberg operated from a different perspective. … there were problems with the sit-in concept. The crowd was beyond the control of the leaders and some were likely to confront the police rather than sit-in. …

Milligan and Rubin sided with Smale. Bardacke and the dazed Weissman deferred to Weinberg whose position prevailed on a 5-4 vote. With the rejection of the sit-in, the marchers were directed on a course parallel to the border. … the crowd headed for a park in downtown Berkeley where festivities continued through the night.

On Saturday afternoon, the VDC made another attempt to reach Oakland. Smale joined a few thousand marchers who, again, were met by police at the Oakland-Berkeley border. This time the impasse was broken by a third party. Several members of the Hell’s Angels motorcycle gang charged through the Oakland police lines, attempting to intimidate the marchers. When the Berkeley police intervened, a few injuries occurred. It was a stunning spectacle that altered the mood of the antiwar demonstration. A short time after the incident, the crowd dispersed.

The International Days of Protest reached a large number of cities including Los Angeles, Chicago, Brussels, and Tokyo as well as the college towns of Boulder, Madison, and Ann Arbor. In New York, over 10,000 protesters marched down Fifth Avenue, while 500 people filled London’s Trafalgar Square. In late May, Smale and Rubin had initiated an effort to establish an international campaign to stop the War. The movement was off the ground.

Despite the success of Smale’s foray into political action, he was demoralized by the turning back of the march. … Smale had lost faith in the VDC’s future. No contract bound Smale to the VDC. Unlike some others in the movement, he had an attractive alternative. Smale was still a Berkeley mathematics professor with prodigious research ability. As abruptly as he had left mathematics for the VDC, Smale switched back after the march.”

(Steve Batterson, January 2000, American Mathematical Society)

A year later in August 1966 it would be Smale’s turn to face the potentially more serious consequences, when the U.S. House Un-American Activities Committee issued a subpoena for him.

But it happened in a good timing for Smale, as he was already in Europe, on his way to Moscow, the Soviet Union, to attend the 1966 International Congress of Mathematicians held once every 4 years at an international location:

“Unbeknownst to Smale, his whereabouts were a hot topic in the Bay Area. In early August the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) sought to subpoena Steve for testimony later in the month. Some members of Congress were disturbed by the troop train demonstrations and other activities, which they construed as aiding military opponents. …

In the fifties, the prospect of subpoenas provoked dread among members of the Old Left. Recipients, such as Chandler Davis, suffered blacklisting and jail. At that time Steve’s leftist activities narrowly escaped the public scrutiny of the HUAC. Now, as the former cochair of the VDC and leader of the troop train protests, he was too prominent. Moreover, the HUAC always had a thing for college professors. Subpoenas were issued for Smale, Jerry Rubin, and several others. …

Serving Smale was problematic. At the time he was somewhere in Yugoslavia, on a roundabout course to the ICM in Moscow. … the San Francisco Examiner … story ran under the headline “UC Prof Dodges Subpoena. Skips U.S. for Moscow:”

Dr. Stephen Smale. University of California professor and leader of the Vietnam Day Committee and old Free Speech Movement, is either on his way or is in Moscow. The Examiner learned today.

In leaving the country, he had dodged a subpoena directing him to appear before the House Committee on Un-American Activities in Washington.”

(Steve Batterson, January 2000, American Mathematical Society)

Smale arrived late in Moscow, just missing the awarding of the Fields Medal, the highest award of mathematics, to him, but catching a tribute speech about him:

“… Smale was prohibited from boarding the only Athens-Moscow flight of the day. … A last moment technicality was depriving him of the greatest moment of Fields acclaim. Eventually, Steve obtained the assistance of an American embassy official who successfully intervened on his behalf. Smale was on a plane the following day, and the timing was tight:

“I arrived late in Moscow and rushed from the airport to the Kremlin where I was to receive the Fields Medal at the opening ceremonies of the International Congress. Without a registration badge the guards at the gate refused me admission to the palace. Finally, through the efforts of a Soviet mathematician who knew me, I obtained entrance and found a rear seat. René Thom was speaking about me and my work:

Steve had just missed the opportunity to formally receive the award, but he did hear Thom’s tribute to his risk taking. An anonymous gift permitted the award of four Fields Medals in 1966. The other winners were:

Michael Atiyah, 37, England, Oxford University

Paul Cohen, 32, USA, Stanford University

Alexander Grothendieck, 38, Germany, University of Paris”

(Steve Batterson, January 2000, American Mathematical Society)

What an irony in the above story, that an American under Congressional subpoena related to un-American activities got the assistance of an American diplomat to go to Moscow’s Kremlin Palace – of all the places on Earth.

Smale was awarded the Fields Medal for his innovative approach to the Poincare Conjecture, solving a generalized version that “broke the dimension barrier”.

While in Moscow, the North Vietnamese Press Agency’s Moscow correspondent Hoang Thinh wanted to interview Smale. Smale agonized over his sense of obligation versus the risk to his career, as he later recalled:

“I felt a great debt and obligation to the Vietnamese. After all it was my country that was causing them so much pain. … On the other hand, I was a mathematician, with compelling geometric ideas to be translated into theorems. There was a limit to my ability to survive as a scientist and weather further political storms. … I knew that what I said might come out quite differently in the North Vietnamese newspaper, and even more so when translated back into the U.S. press.”

(Steve Batterson, January 2000, American Mathematical Society)

Smale decided to hold an open news conference, inviting the North Vietnamese reporter, the American press and the Soviet press. Now the North Vietnamese reporter decided not to attend but Smale went ahead, voicing condemnation of both the United States and the Soviet Union on military intervention and on oppression of political freedom:

“I believe the American military intervention in Vietnam is horrible and becomes more horrible every day. I have great sympathy for the victims of this intervention, the Vietnamese people. However, in Moscow today, one cannot help but remember that it was only 10 years ago that Russian troops were brutally intervening in Hungary and that many courageous Hungarians died fighting for their independence. Never could I see justification for military intervention. …

There is a real danger of a new McCarthyism in America, as evidenced in the actions of the House Un-American Activities Committee. These actions are a serious threat to the right of protest, both in the hearings and in the legislation they are proposing. Again saying this in the Soviet Union, I feel I must add that what I have seen here in the discontent of the intellectuals on the Sinyavsky-Daniel trial and their lack of means of expressing this discontent, shows indeed a sad state of affairs. Even the most basic means of protest are lacking here. …”

(Steve Batterson, January 2000, American Mathematical Society)

The fine line might be harder to walk than it appeared, given that Smale had been a Communist Party member in the closet.

But Smale would be okay, as the HUAC hearings in Washington, D.C. were filled with hostile anti-war demonstrators cheering their hero Jerry Rubin, who appeared in a Revolutionary War uniform:

“The hearing room and halls were filled with antiwar demonstrators. The HUAC was going to have an overtly hostile audience. … Rubin entered, dressed in a Revolutionary War uniform, passing out pamphlets explaining the symbolism.

… Throughout the first day, the hearings were interrupted by belligerent demonstrations. There were 17 arrests, including two of the witnesses. Spectators painted slogans on the wall. Rubin became a hero of the radical youth culture, inspiring a new left style that would set a standard for courageous courtroom contempt.”

(Steve Batterson, January 2000, American Mathematical Society)

Nonetheless, the deputy district attorney of Alameda County, 30-year-old Edwin Meese III, politely reminded the HUAC of Smale’s leadership role in the troop train demonstrations:

“Mr. Nittle.     Mr. Meese, would you describe the incident or incidents concerning the troop trains?

Mr. Meese.     The troop train demonstrations, which is probably the best known of the activities, took place on the 5th of August 1965, the 6th of August 1965, and the 12th of August. On the 5th of August, the demonstrations were led by Stephen Smale, who is one of the witnesses that I believe the committee is familiar with. I believe he was to be subpoenaed as a witness, but was not able to be served, if I understand correctly. …”

(Steve Batterson, January 2000, American Mathematical Society)

As Edwin Meese said, Smale was a person the HUAC was “familiar with”.

Smale did not want to endanger his mathematical career, but some damages were already done. For some years afterwards, Smale had difficulty getting National Science Foundation research grants due to objections raised by a number of U.S. Congressmen; appeals for Smale came from the academic community, including from his former Michigan Ph.D. adviser, Raoul Bott of Harvard University:

“Raoul Bott, professor of Mathematics who, incidentally, directed Smale’s doctoral dissertation at the University of Michigan some fifteen years ago, and five others whose names were withheld from the press, sent a letter yesterday to the director of the NSF, Leland J. Haworth. In it, Bott referred to what he called “political pressures” which affected the NFS’s decision to reject Smale’s request for a continuation of his present grant.

On The Steps

Smale’s problems began in the summer of 1966, when he traveled to Russia under his grant to accept the Fields Award, often referred to as the Nobel Prize of mathematics. Once in Moscow, Smale climed the steps of the University there and denounced the American position in Vietnam, Soviet maltreatment of intellectuals, and Soviet foreign policy, paticularly in respect to the Hungarian uprising.

Several congressmen, led by Rep. Richard L. Roudebush (R.-Ind.) quickly attacked Smale and threatened the NSF for financing a trip used for what they called “anti-American purposes.””

(“Math Professors Question Denial Of Smale Grant”, by Andrew Jamison, October 5, 1967, The Harvard Crimson)

The academic community’s support for Smale swayed the NSF. A decision was made to split the proposed large grant Smale was the lead principal investigator of, with 7 other US. mathematicians, into two smaller grants of 4 persons each:

“… The actual split of grants between global analysis with Smale and differential geometry with [Shoshichi] Kobayashi was, in itself, a perfectly reasonable scientific division. So why was everyone unhappy?

Roudebush believed that Smale’s “disloyalty” made him unworthy of any government support. …

…”

(Steve Batterson, January 2000, American Mathematical Society)

Rep. Richard Roudebush then upped the ante, venting his frustration on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives:

“Smale is the college instructor who used Federal funds to visit Moscow and
call a press conference to denounce his native land.

Smale is the person who led leftist attack on troop trains in California.

Smale is the one who belonged to the Fair Play for Cuba Committee—the same pro-Castro group which claimed Lee Harvey Oswald, the assassin of President Kennedy, as a member.

Smale is the person quoted in California as hoping for a Vietcong victory as
an important step in revolutionary success in America.

Smale is the close associate of the notorious Jerry Rubin who was a key
figure in the recent siege on the Pentagon which has been established as a
Communist-organized and Communist-led assault.

Despite all of these actions and associations the National Science Foundation has designated Smale, a math Instructor, as the recipient of $87,500.

Since last spring, when I announced the National Science Foundation was
getting set to underwrite with taxpayer funds another huge grant for Smale. the NSF has been stalling.

At one point they indicated Smale would get no money, and found that he
had mishandled his former grant on a number of counts.

But, at this first slight stiffening of the backbone, the full fury of the academic community fell in one swoop upon the NSF.

…”

(“CONGRESSIONAL RECORD — HOUSE”, November 28, 1967, Mocavo)

Regarding the counts in Rep. Roudebush’s accusations, the Moscow press conference and troop train demonstrations have been discussed, and association with Jerry Rubin was obvious in the context of the VDC as discussed earlier, while Smale’s opinion that a Vietcong victory could be an important step in revolutionary success in America no doubt reflected his hidden Communist affiliation.

The remaining issue raised by Roudebush, to be addressed here, is Smale’s membership in the Fair Play for Cuba Committee which “Lee Harvey Oswald, the assassin of President Kennedy”, was a member of.

Smale had probably joined the Fair Play for Cuba committee at an early time of the Cuban revolution:

“After his militancy at university, Smale – as we have seen – returned to his mathematical studies in earnest. His political sympathies were, however, still decidedly leftist. This is why he didn’t hesitate to side with Castro’s revolution (even getting in touch with an organization named “Fair Play for Cuba”, with which Lee Harvey Oswald, Kennedy’s assassin, was also involved for a period of time).”

(Claudio Bartocci, Renato Betti, Angelo Guerraggio, Roberto Lucchetti and Kim Williams, eds., Mathematical Lives: Protagonists of the Twentieth Century From Hilbert to Wiles, October 2010, Springer Science & Business Media)

The Lee Harvey Oswald facet became like an urban myth about Smale, but there was no evidence of anything. Smale was only the Berkeley local faculty adviser for the Fair Play for Cuba Committee:

“Although Berkeley radicals lacked an ideology, they shared a worldview. Throughout the sixties they were hostile to industrial capitalism, to liberals, and especially to the anticommunist crusade. Many, like Jerry Rubin, became fascinated by the rise of the Third World and, especially, the triumph of Fidel Castro; Rubin visited Cuba in 1964. The leftist Fair Play for Cuba Committee had been active in Berkeley in the early sixties. Its members included Mike Miller, the former chairman of SLATE; Barbara Carson of the Young Socialist Alliance; and Robert Scheer. The group’s faculty adviser was Stephen Smale, a professor of mathematics with Left sympathies. …”

(W. J. Rorabaugh, Berkeley at War : The 1960s, May 1989, Oxford University Press)

Moreover, the U.S. government commission headed by Chief Justice Earl Warren, a former California Governor, concluded in 1964 that Lee Harvey Oswald, a former U.S. marine and defector to the Soviet Union who returned to the U.S. in June 1962, made contacts with various U.S. political organizations but his associations with them were less than genuine:

“… During the period following his discharge from the Marines in 1959, Oswald engaged in several activities which demand close scrutiny to determine whether, through these pursuits, he developed any associations which were connected with the planning or execution of the assassination. Oswald professed commitment to Marxist ideology; he defected to the Soviet Union in 1959; he attempted to expatriate himself and acquire Soviet citizenship; and he resided in the Soviet Union until June of 1962. After his return to the United States he sought to maintain contacts with the Communist Party, Socialist Workers Party, and the Fair Play for Cuba Committee; he associated with various Russian-speaking citizens in the Dallas-Fort Worth area–some of whom had resided in Russia; he traveled to Mexico City where he visited both the Cuban and Soviet Embassies 7 weeks before the assassination; and he corresponded with the Soviet Embassy in Washington, D.C. In view of these activities, the Commission has instituted a thorough investigation … The Commission has also considered whether any connections existed between Oswald and certain right-wing activity in Dallas which, shortly before the assassination, led to the publication of hostile criticism of President Kennedy.

Fair Play for Cuba Committee.—During the period Oswald was in New Orleans, from the end of April to late September 1963, he was engaged in activity purportedly on behalf of the now defunct Fair Play for Cuba Committee (FPCC), an organization centered in New York which was highly critical of U.S. policy toward the Cuban Government under Fidel Castro. …

With his membership card, Oswald apparently received a copy of the constitution and bylaws for FPCC chapters, and a letter, dated May 29, which read in part as follows (with spelling as in original):

It would be hard to conceive of a chapter with as few members as seem to exist in the New Orleans area. I have just gone through our files and find that Louisiana seams somewhat restricted for Fair Play activities. …

We certainly are not at all adverse to a very small Chapter but certainly would expect that there would be at least twice the amount needed to conduct a legal executive board for the Chapter. …

You must realize that you will come under tremendous pressures with any attempt to do FPCC work in that area and that you will not be able to operate in the manner which is conventional here in the north-east. … Most Chapters have discovered that it is easier to operate semi-privately out of a home and maintain a P.O. Box for all mailings and public notices. … We do have a serious and often violent opposition and this procedure helps prevent many unnecessary incidents which frighten away prospective supporters. I definitely would not recommend an office, at least not one that will be easily identifiable to the lunatic fringe in your community. …

… the FPCC chapter which Oswald purportedly formed in New Orleans was entirely fictitious. Vincent T. Lee, formerly national director of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, has testified that the New York office did not authorize the creation of a New Orleans chapter, nor did it provide Oswald with funds to support his activities there. The national office did not write Oswald again after its letter of May 29. …”

(“Report of the President’s Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy, Chapter 6: Investigation of Possible Conspiracy”, 1964, The U.S. National Archives)

The advice to Lee Harvey Oswald, from the Fair Play for Cuba Committee headquarters in New York City, concerned self-protective operational tactics; in any case the Warren Commission report concluded Oswald did not do real work.

But I do note the coincidences that the FPCC New York headquarters letter’s date was May 29, 1963 – what turned out to be JFK’s last birthday – and that Smale was a professor at Columbia University in the City of New York from 1961 on until returning to UC Berkeley in 1964.

On a side note, Smale was so angry at President Kennedy during the October 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, and fearful of an imminent nuclear war, that he abandoned his Columbia teaching duty and took his family south toward Mexico – an episode described in Steve Batterson’s biography of Smale:

“… What was Steve’s initial response to the Cuban Missile Crisis?

I reacted strongly to the growing threat that atomic war could start any day. I became intensely angry at Kennedy, being aware that the United States already had missiles located on the Soviet border in Turkey. When I became convinced that Soviet missiles were en route to Cuba, I became angry at Khrushchev as well. …

So, Clara and I with Nat and Laura packed a few of our belongings and started driving to Mexico!

… He saw a “reasonably good chance that there would be an atom bombing of America by Russia. To stay was to risk his life and to leave was to risk his job. … Prior to leaving, Steve informed Abraham and Lang of his plans. The two colleagues were supportive, and undertook to cover Smale’s class. As the Smale family approached the Mexican border, the missile crisis abated. When Steve phoned Columbia and learned that he was still a member of the faculty, he decided to fly back and resume his teaching, leaving Clara to drive the children. …”

(Steve Batterson, January 2000, American Mathematical Society)

Holy smoke! I personally have never seen Steve panic, who was capable of taking a sailboat around Pacific Ocean with a few mathematician friends – something I once mentioned in a fictionalized story in a blog post.

(“Flintstones, candles, fires, and tea parties”, May 27, 2010, Feng Gao’s Posts – Rites of Spring)

Smale’s connection to Jerry Rubin was the most publicly known and real, but lasted only a short period – Smale then returned to his academic career while Rubin continued to push the anti-war movement wider and towards militancy.

In August 1968 in Chicago protesting at the Democratic National Convention, Rubin was a militant leader of thousands of protesters, while Smale headed a peaceful small group from the American Mathematical Society:

“A Washington antiwar protest in October 1967 had elements of deja vu from Berkeley two years earlier. Jerry Rubin was the project director, though Abbie Hoffman replaced Steve Smale as his partner. Original plans involved a march to the Capitol. Rubin decided that the Pentagon was a better destination. Years later he acknowledged that his choice of the Pentagon was influenced by his collaboration with Smale on the Oakland Army Terminal. …

The next domestic battleground was in Chicago at the August 1968 Democratic convention. Thousands of protesters arrived, many looking for action. Jerry Rubin was among the leaders promoting militancy. Again he got it. Television dramatically covered a series of violent confrontations between police and demonstrators. It was as big a story as the politics. Not all of the Chicago protests led to bloodshed. The Democratic Convention coincided with an American Mathematical Society conference in Wisconsin that Smale attended. About 50 to 100 mathematicians went to Chicago to make their statement. Smale directed them on a protest march. They passed the police without incident. With some pride, Smale recalls they were the only group that got close to the convention center.”

(Steve Batterson, January 2000, American Mathematical Society)

As National Public Radio recalled, the Chicago police and military presence to face the anti-war protests resembled in the Vietnam War:

“The 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago is remembered more for the violent riots on the streets that took place than it is for political events inside the hall.

Protesters who opposed the Vietnam War clashed with Mayor Richard Daley’s police in numbers that rivaled some of the smaller battles of the conflict in Southeast Asia. Daley put nearly 12,000 cops on the street. They attacked demonstrators with tear gas and billy clubs, assisted by 7,500 Army troops, 7,500 National Guardsmen and 1,000 agents of the U.S. Secret Service.

The Chicago riots led to nearly 600 arrests, and a handful of those made U.S. courtroom history. The “Chicago 8” — including YIPPIE leaders Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin and Black Panther founder Bobby Seale — were charged under the 1968 Civil Rights act, which made it a federal crime to cross state lines to incite a riot. …”

(“Conventions Past, 1968: Antiwar Riots Engulf Democrats”, Election 2000, NPR Online)

Eight protest leaders, including Jerry Rubin, were put on a conspiracy trial. Due to his disruptive courtroom antics Black Panther leader bobby Seale was separately dealt with by the judge, and the Chicago 8 became the Chicago 7:

“… Judge Hoffman refused Seale’s subsequent request to represent himself, and Seale responded with a barrage of courtroom denunciations of the judge as a “pig,” a “fascist,” and a “racist.” When the prosecuting attorney accused Seale of encouraging Black Panthers in the courtroom to defend him, the proceedings degenerated into worse shouting matches. Seale condemned the judge for keeping a picture of the slave owner George Washington above the bench, and Hoffman then followed through on his repeated warning to restrain Seale. In what provided for many the indelible image of the trial, Judge Hoffman ordered U.S. marshals to bind and gag Seale before his appearances in the courtroom. Hoffman allowed Seale in court without restraints the following week, but when Seale argued for his right to cross-examine a witness, Judge Hoffman sentenced him to four years in prison for contempt of court and declared a mistrial in the prosecution of Seale. The Chicago Eight were now the Chicago Seven.”

(“The Chicago Seven Conspiracy Trial”, History of the Federal Judiciary, U.S. Federal Judiciary Center)

The 5 convicted from the Chicago 7 were from disparate anti-war groups:

“In the fall of 1967, members of the National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam proposed a massive anti-war demonstration to coincide with the expected renomination of President Johnson in Chicago. The National Mobilization Committee was directed by David Dellinger, a long-time pacifist, who had organized the march on the Pentagon in October 1967. In early 1968, the National Mobilization opened a Chicago office directed by Rennie Davis and Tom Hayden, who were leading political organizers and former leaders of Students for a Democratic Society.

A small group of cultural radicals, including Jerry Rubin, who helped Dellinger organize the march on the Pentagon, and Abbie Hoffman, an organizer of political theater events, planned a “Festival of Life” to counter the Democratic “Convention of Death.” Rubin and Hoffman dubbed themselves the Yippie movement, later explained as an acronym for the Youth International Party. They planned outdoor concerts, nonviolent self-defense classes, guerrilla theater, and a “nude-in” on a Chicago beach.”

(History of the Federal Judiciary, U.S. Federal Judiciary Center)

Eventually on November 21, 1972, all convictions for the 5 leaders were overturned on appeal:

“On November 21, 1972, an appeals court panel of Judges Thomas E. Fairchild, Wilbur J. Pell, and Walter J. Cummings unanimously overturned the defendants’ criminal convictions.”

(History of the Federal Judiciary, Federal Judiciary Center)

The street protest clashes led by Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman of the Yippies and leaders of the other national anti-war groups, such as at the 1968 Democratic National Convention, were not yet militant terror. But by the time of their criminal verdicts’ overturn in 1972, violence carried out by the organization Weather Underground overshadowed the anti-war movement:

“… The killings at Kent State University in May 1970 had changed forever the youth protest movement, which lost much of its political focus. Left-wing political groups like the Students for a Democratic Society had since splintered, leaving older leaders like Tom Hayden permanently alienated from the increasingly violent agenda of groups like the Weather Underground.”

(History of the Federal Judiciary, Federal Judiciary Center)

The most prominent former leader of the Weather Underground is William Ayers who, like Steve Smale, had come out the student movement at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. Ayers eventually settled back to his hometown of Chicago.

A The New York Times article on Ayers was published on September 11, 2001 – intriguingly the day of the 9/11 Al Qaeda terrorist attacks in the U.S.:

““I don’t regret setting bombs,” Bill Ayers said. “I feel we didn’t do enough.” Mr. Ayers, who spent the 1970’s as a fugitive in the Weather Underground, was sitting in the kitchen of his big turn-of-the-19th-century stone house in the Hyde Park district of Chicago. …

Now he has written a book, “Fugitive Days” (Beacon Press, September). Mr. Ayers, who is 56, calls it a memoir, somewhat coyly perhaps, since he also says some of it is fiction. He writes that he participated in the bombings of New York City Police Headquarters in 1970, of the Capitol building in 1971, the Pentagon in 1972. …

Mr. Ayers is probably safe from prosecution anyway. A spokeswoman for the Justice Department said there was a five-year statute of limitations on Federal crimes except in cases of murder or when a person has been indicted.

Mr. Ayers, who in 1970 was said to have summed up the Weatherman philosophy as: “Kill all the rich people. Break up their cars and apartments. Bring the revolution home, kill your parents, that’s where it’s really at,” is today distinguished professor of education at the University of Illinois at Chicago. And he says he doesn’t actually remember suggesting that rich people be killed or that people kill their parents, but “it’s been quoted so many times I’m beginning to think I did,” he said. “It was a joke about the distribution of wealth.”

He went underground in 1970, after his girlfriend, Diana Oughton, and two other people were killed when bombs they were making exploded in a Greenwich Village town house. With him in the Weather Underground was Bernardine Dohrn, who was put on the F.B.I.’s 10 Most Wanted List. J. Edgar Hoover called her “the most dangerous woman in America” and “la Pasionara of the Lunatic Left.” Mr. Ayers and Ms. Dohrn later married.

Between 1970 and 1974 the Weathermen took responsibility for 12 bombings…

… Mr. Ayers pointed to Bob Kerrey, former Democratic Senator from Nebraska, who has admitted leading a raid in 1969 in which Vietnamese women and children were killed. “He committed an act of terrorism,” Mr. Ayers said. “I didn’t kill innocent people.”

Mr. Ayers has always been known as a “rich kid radical.” His father, Thomas, now 86, was chairman and chief executive officer of Commonwealth Edison of Chicago, chairman of Northwestern University and of the Chicago Symphony. When someone mentions his father’s prominence, Mr. Ayers is quick to say that his father did not become wealthy until the son was a teenager. He says that he got some of his interest in social activism from his father. …

He attended Lake Forest Academy in Lake Forest, Ill., then the University of Michigan but dropped out to join Students for a Democratic Society.

In 1967 he met Ms. Dohrn in Ann Arbor, Mich. She had a law degree from the University of Chicago and was a magnetic speaker …

Ms. Dohrn, Mr. Ayers and others eventually broke with S.D.S. to form the more radical Weathermen…”

(“No Regrets for a Love Of Explosives; In a Memoir of Sorts, a War Protester Talks of Life With the Weathermen”, by Dinitia Smith, September 11, 2001, The New York Times)

As in the above story, Weather Underground engaged in terrorist bombings causing damages to important government buildings but – presumably due to careful selection of location and time – little human casualty; three bomb makers were however killed in an accidental explosion.

Sylvia Nasar’s book told of a story when a teenaged John Nash, in his hometown of Bluefield, West Virginia, was linked to a similar incident that killed his friend Herman Kirchner:

“When he was fifteen, Nash and a couple of boys from across the street, Donald Reynolds and Herman Kirchner, began fooling around with homemade explosives. They gathered in Kirchner’s basement, which they called their “laboratory,” where they made pipe bombs and manufactured their own gunpowder. … The bombmaking came to a horrible end one afternoon in January 1944. Herman Kirchner, who was alone at the time, was building yet another pipe bomb when it exploded in his lap, severing an artery. He bled to death in the ambulance that came for him. …”

(Sylvia Nasar, 1998, Simon & Schuster)

Bill Ayers and President Barack Obama had some Chicago connections, I wrote in my first blog post:

“… being a Democratic politician from the state of Illinois, Senator Barack Obama was very careful during his recent 2008 presidential campaign, avoiding controversies by distancing himself from some of his old acquaintances on the political left such as his (former) pastor, the flamboyant Rev. Jeremiah Wright, and his former Chicago Annenberg Challenge colleague, the defiant Prof. William Ayers, each step of the way.

(“Greeting the New Millennium – nearly a decade late (Part 1)”, January 29, 2009, Feng Gao’s Space: Analysis of Current Affairs, Politics and History)

Completely absent from any stage of this gradual escalation of grassroots anti-war activities, from university teach-ins to street marches, to violent clashes with police and to terrorist bombings, was the elite mathematician John Nash.

Nash had tried to start a peace movement in 1958-1959 when the conflict in Vietnam was only simmering, but was soon diagnosed with “paranoid schizophrenia”; otherwise Nash could have been a “borderline, nonviolent precursor” to these later movements, I noted in my first blog article:

“Now there could indeed be something there in 1959, meaning that the talented young mathematician might have in fact been capable of figuring out some crucial politics ahead of time – his credibility bolstered by his prior background of doing research at RAND. One can look at it this way: in January 1959 Fidel Castro’s revolution was winning in Cuba, an island just a stone’s throw across the water from the United States, and North Vietnamese communists were also adopting a path of “armed struggle” to unify with the South against the backdrop of increasing U.S. military assistance to South Vietnam; it was not like signs of warning did not exist for the turbulent decade ahead, and ten years later by 1969 when the Vietnam War was in full force and the St. Stephen’s Day-born American leftist William Ayers was founding the militant-resistance organization Weather Underground to engage in a series of high-profile, violent bombings in the United States for radical causes, John Nash’s thoughts by then could have been viewed as a borderline, nonviolent precursor to these later actions of Ayers and his associates; but by then Nash’s expressions had already been concluded as thoughts of “madness” by some (but not all) psychiatrists, and by the authorities.”

(Part 2, January 29, 2009, Feng Gao’s Space: Analysis of Current Affairs, Politics and History)

But what did Nash actually do in this respect in 1958-1959?

I have reconstructed a credible picture from the convoluted accounting in Sylvia Nasar’s A Beautiful Mind.

From the start, seriousness and bizarreness were so mixed that people around Nash could not quite believe him.

Around Thanksgiving 1958, two of Nash’s students, Ramesh Cangolli and Alberto Galmarino, thought he might be out of his mind:

“… Just before Thanksgiving, Nash had invited his TA from the game theory course, Ramesh Cangolli, and Alberto Galmarino, a student from the course whom he was helping to choose a dissertation topic, to accompany him on a walk. As they walked over the Harvard Bridge on the Charles River late one afternoon, Nash embarked on a lengthy monologue that was difficult to follow for the two, who had just come to the United States. It concerned threats to world peace and calls for world government. Nash seemed to be confiding in the two young men, hinting that he had been asked to play some extraordinary role. Cangolli recalled that he and Galmarino were quite disturbed and that they wondered briefly if they should inform Martin that something was not quite right. Awed as they were by Nash, and new as they were to America – and so reluctant to form any judgments – they decided to say nothing.”

(Sylvia Nasar, 1998, Simon & Schuster)

Imagine if it had been Bill Ayers at Ann Arbor, or Steve Smale at Berkeley, speaking with others about starting a political action group, no one would have found it strange. But MIT was an elite private school with technical focuses, and John Nash had not been a political activist and so it was odd – especially for new foreign students concerned with adjusting to the environment and excelling in academics.

In January 1959, Nash used The New York Times to impress his colleagues, who found it hard to believe him:

“… Nash slouched into the common room. Nobody bothered to stop talking. Nash was holding a copy of The New York Times. Without addressing anyone in particular, he walked up to Hartley Rogers and some others and pointed to the story on the upper lefthand corner of the Times front page, the off-lede, as Times staffers call it. Nash said that abstract powers from outer space, or perhaps it was foreign governments, were communicating with him through The New York Times. The messages, which were meant only for him, were encrypted and required close analysis. Others couldn’t decode the messages. He was being allowed to share the secrets of the world. Rogers and the others looked at each other. Was he joking?

Emma Duchane recalled driving with Nash and Alicia. She recalled that “he kept changing from station to station. We thought he was just being pesky. But he thought that they were broadcasting messages to him. The things he did were mad, but we didn’t really know it.”

(Sylvia Nasar, 1998, Simon & Schuster)

As the saying goes, “read between the lines”; experienced communicators, including writers and broadcasters, are good at conveying meanings beyond the direct content and intent of the words. But some psychiatrists could view it as psychosis when a person interpreted hidden meanings as personal messages. In my own experience of political activism in 1992-1994 in Vancouver, Canada, some psychiatrists accused me of being delusional, thinking of TV broadcast as sending me messages, and I clarified that I was merely interpreting the meanings “between the lines”.

(“Team Canada female athletes disqualified from Commonwealth silver medal, jailed Chinese democracy activist awarded with Nobel peace prize, and others in between (Part 9) — when individual activism ranks at oblivion”, October 26, 2012, Feng Gao’s Blog – Reflections on Events of Interest)

John Nash was a highly intelligent and intellectual man, or he would not have been awarded the Nobel Prize later; likewise, if he had really become ludicrous, the Nobel committee probably would not have taken his earlier work as seriously.

Sylvia Nasar, who earned fame with her book on Nash, was a The New York Times correspondent and would know what the newspaper’s writers liked to put into “the off-lede”, or other, articles.

What disturbed others to wonder if Nash was “joking”, I think, was his sense of elite self-importance, that in The New York Times were messages “only for him” that “others couldn’t decode”.

The ‘coded messages’ mindset may have come from Nash’s prior background as a consultant with “a top-secret security clearance” at RAND Corporation, a U.S. Cold War policy think tank, from which he had been fired in 1954 due to a homosexual scandal:

“… Nash had a top-secret security clearance. He’d been picked up in a “police trap.” …

Nash was not the first RAND employee to be caught in one of the Santa Monica police traps. Muscle Beach… was a magnet for bodybuilders and the biggest homosexual pickup scene in the Malibu Bay area. …

… [RAND’s manager of security Richard] Best and his boss, Steve Jeffries, went around to Nash’s office and confronted him with the bad news themselves. … Best’s manner was unthreatening but direct and he proceeded calmly. RAND would be forced immediately to suspend Nash’s Air Force clearance. The Air Force would be notified. And – this was the bottom line – Nash’s consulting arrangement with RAND was over for good.

“You’re too rich for our blood, John,” he concluded.”

(Sylvia Nasar, 1998, Simon & Schuster)

Mailing out letters to foreign ambassadors about “forming a world government” was another instance of Nash’s sense of elite self-importance:

“Strange letters began turning up in the department mail. Ruth Goodwin, the department secretary, would put them aside and show them to Martin. They were addressed to ambassadors of various countries. And they were from John Nash. …

What was in the letters? None have survived, but various people recalled hearing from Martin that Nash was forming a world government. There was a committee that consisted of Nash and various students and colleagues in the department. The letters were addressed to all the embassies in Washington, D.C. The letter said he was forming a world government. He wanted to talk to the ambassadors. Later he would talk to the heads of state.”

(Sylvia Nasar, 1998, Simon & Schuster)

Nash’s senior colleague Norman Levinson told their boss, mathematics department chair Ted Martin, that Nash was “very paranoid”; Martin agreed, tried to stop Nash’s political activity, and apparently informed MIT president about it:

“… When Martin returned, Levinson took him aside and told him that Nash was having a nervous breakdown. … Martin recalled, “Levinson said, ‘He’s very paranoid. If you go down to his office, he won’t want you between him and the door.’ Sure enough, when I went down to his office that Sunday night, Nash edged himself over between me and the door.”

… Martin panicked. He tried to retrieve the letters, not all of which were addressed and most of which weren’t stamped, from mailboxes around the campus.

Martin was in a most awkward position. The faculty, after some internal dissension, had just voted on Nash’s promotion, and it was now before the president of the university. He dithered and delayed.”

(Sylvia Nasar, 1998, Simon & Schuster)

On this count, Nash’s MIT colleagues Levinson and Martin, both with power influence over the more junior Nash, could be biased and in a conflict of interest. Both were known former Communist Party members – previously investigated by the FBI and the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1953 – and so could have a motive against Nash’s kind of political activism:

“… FBI investigators were fanning out around Cambridge … Their targets, as Nash and everyone else at MIT would learn in early 1953, included the chairman and the deputy chairman of the MIT mathematics department, as well as a tenured full professor of mathematics, Dirk Struik – all three one-time members, indeed, leading members, of the Cambridge cell of the Communist Party. All three were subpoenaed by the House Un-American Activities Committee. …

… Martin and Levinson were certain that they were about to lose their jobs …

Martin and several others named their former associates. Norman Levinson refused to name anyone who had not been previously named. …

Thanks to MIT’s support and the compromises they struck, Levinson and the others kept their jobs. …”

(Sylvia Nasar, 1998, Simon & Schuster)

In comparison to Ted Martin’s recollection that Nash had tried to form a “world government”, Nash’s wife Alicia recalled Nash wanting to start “an international organization”:

“… He complained that he “knew something was going on” and that he was being “bugged.” And he was staying up nights writing strange letters to the United Nations. …

He started to threaten to take all of his savings out of the bank and move to Europe. He had some idea, it seemed, of forming an international organization. And he began to stay up, night after night, long after she had gone to bed, writing. In the morning, his desk would be covered with sheets of paper covered in blue, green, red, and black ink. They were addressed not just to the U.N. but to various foreign ambassadors, the pope, even the FBI.”

(Sylvia Nasar, 1998, Simon & Schuster)

Given his choices of the U.N., the pope and the FBI to write to, Nash may have suspected he was being “bugged” by the U.S. government.

The U.N. choice was probably also influenced by Alicia’s family background, including her father Carlos Larde previously with the League of Nations – the U.N.’s predecessor – and her uncle Enrique, the self-proclaimed “bastard son” of a 19th-century Austrian Crown Prince, with the U.N. in New York:

“… Alicia’s uncle Enrique believed himself to be the bastard son of one of the Austrian Hapsburgs, Archduke Rudolf. Family legend also included a link with an aristocratic French family, the Bourbons. … The Lardes, mostly doctors, professors, lawyers, and writers, … mingled with presidents and generals …

Carlos Larde got his medical training in El Salvador but spent several years studying abroad, in America and France, among other places. … He held a number of public posts, including that of head of El Salvador’s Red Cross and, before World War II, was chairman of a League of Nations committee. Once he served as El Salvador’s consul in San Francisco. …

… Less than a year after the war ended, they followed Enrique’s family to New York, where Enrique took a job as an interpreter at the United Nations. …”

(Sylvia Nasar, 1998, Simon & Schuster)

His marriage into European-South American blueblood greatly influenced Nash’s outlook, whose father, John, Sr., had been an engineer in his career and Nash the son had grown up in Bluefield, West Virginia, a “remote little city” according to Sylvia Nasar. Not long after his father’s death, the wedding of Nash, Jr. and Alicia Larde took place in a church across from the White House in Washington, D.C.:

“In early September [1956], John Sr. suffered a massive heart attack. Virginia had a difficult time reaching Nash, who had no telephone. By the time she got a message to him, his father was already dead. …

The wedding took place on an unexpectedly mild, gray February [1957] morning in Washington, D.C., at St. John’s, the yellow-and-white Episcopal church across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House. Nash, by then an atheist, balked at a Catholic ceremony. He would have been happy to get married in city hall. Alicia wanted an elegant, formal affair. It was a small wedding. There were no mathematicians or old school friends present, only immediate family. …

In April, two months later, Alicia and Nash threw a party to celebrate their marriage. They were living in a sublet apartment on the Upper East Side [of Manhattan in New York City], around the corner from Bloomingdale’s. About twenty people came, mostly mathematicians from Courant [Institute of Mathematical Sciences] and the Institute for Advanced Study and several of Alicia’s cousins, including Odette and Enrique. “They seemed very happy,” Enrique Larde later recalled. “It was a great apartment. …””

(Sylvia Nasar, 1998, Simon & Schuster)

A wedding across from the White House, without mathematicians, and a new apartment around the corner from the upscale department store Bloomingdale’s – these were among the signs indicating, in my view, that Nash’s marriage to Alicia inspired his notion of “Emperor of Antarctica”.

Here is Nasar’s description of Nash’s “Emperor of Antarctica” expression in early 1959:

“Meanwhile, Adrian Albert, the chairman of the mathematics department at the University of Chicago, called Norman Levinson. What was Nash’s state of mind? he asked Levinson. Chicago had made an offer of a prestigious chair to Nash. Nash was scheduled to give a talk, and now he had received a very odd letter from Nash. It was a refusal of the Chicago offer. Nash had thanked Albert for his kind offer but said he would have to decline because he was scheduled to become Emperor of Antarctica. The letter, [Yale and Chicago mathematician Felix] Browder recalled in 1996, also contained references to Ted Martin’s stealing Nash’s ideas. The affair came to the attention of MIT president Julius Stratton, who, upon seeing a copy of Nash’s letter, is supposed to have said, “This is a very sick man.””

(Sylvia Nasar, 1998, Simon & Schuster)

But I can see a logical scenario for this episode: rather than being “paranoid”, Nash felt Levinson and Martin were blocking his political activism, and so in this letter declining Chicago’s offer he also made an accusation about Martin, his boss, stealing his ideas; but Nash’s “Emperor of Antarctica” analogy offended the Chicago mathematicians who had made such a “kind offer” to him, so as a tit-for-tat response Chicago’s mathematics department chair, Adrian Albert, phoned Levinson to ask about Nash’s mental state, thus further inflaming the psychiatric machinations at MIT against Nash.

As I have pointed out, “Emperor of Antarctica” would have a meaning opposite that of queen and crown prince of the Arctic, sensible metaphors for future Chicagoans Oprah Winfrey and Barack Obama – decades ago Nash quite possibly perceived Chicago’s incompatibility with his political outlook.

Very interestingly, my Ph.D. adviser Steve Smale’s Ph.D. adviser, Raoul Bott, a long-time John Nash acquaintance, pointed out that Nash liked to speak in mythical terms – such were not symptoms of mental illness:

“But none of this [Nash’s bizarre talks in late 1958, prior to advocating world peace] was especially alarming or suggested outright illness, just another stage in the evolution of Nash’s eccentricity. His conversation, as Raoul Bott put it, had “always mixed mathematics and myth.” His conversational style had always been a bit odd. He never seemed to know when to speak up or shut up or take part in ordinary give and take.”

(Sylvia Nasar, 1998, Simon & Schuster)

Perhaps Nash’s lack of interest in “ordinary give and take” preconditioned him for his interest in world peace. But from my reading of the situation, when Nash got into his political activism he found himself increasingly at odds with the political orientation of some of the others around him.

Back in 1953 Nash was already at MIT when Levinson and Martin were investigated for their communist history, but at the time Nash did not have as much interest in politics:

“… The graduate students and junior faculty in the department stood on the sidelines … Mrs. Levinson recalled. “The younger people – Nash’s group – didn’t want to be too friendly. They were scared. They distanced themselves.””

(Sylvia Nasar, 1998, Simon & Schuster)

Now in 1958-1959, Nash felt agitated by “men in red neckties”:

“… He began, he recalled in 1996, to notice men in red neckties around the MIT campus. The men seemed to be signaling to him. “I got the impression that other people at MIT were wearing red neckties so I would notice them. As I became more and more delusional, not only persons at MIT but people in Boston wearing red neckties [would seem significant to me]. At some point, Nash concluded that the men in red ties were part of a definite pattern. “Also [there was some relation to] a crypto-communist party,” he said in 1996.”

(Sylvia Nasar, 1998, Simon & Schuster)

Nash’s metaphor was about “men in red neckties” appearing in a pattern and related to a crypto-communist party, that he began to notice around MIT and in Boston, that he likely had not noticed as much previously.

MIT’s mathematics program had traditionally had close connections to the Communist Party, such as to the Communist leader Earl Browder’s family who were investigated in 1953:

“The investigators had their eye on the three Browder boys – sons of former Communist Party head Earl Browder, who had all studied or were studying mathematics at MIT …”

(Sylvia Nasar, 1998, Simon & Schuster)

Also, as evidenced by what Rep. Richard Roudebush said in 1967, quoted earlier, that when he tried to get the National Science Foundation to stop research funding to Smale, “the full fury of the academic community fell in one swoop upon the NSF” – it was a sign the academia was sympathetic to Smale’s Communist-connected political activism.

With Nash’s link to his wife’s European-South American elite background and his type of pro-European world-peace activism, his political color would be “blue” as in blueblood, at odds with “red”. Nash was like a bull, fighting the Big Government while also goring at “red”.

When he was psychiatrically committed at McLean Hospital in Boston, Nash called himself “the prince of peace” and used the metaphor, “the left foot of God”, to describe his politics:

“The resident on duty that evening urged Nash to sign a “voluntary paper.” Nash refused. There was a great movement for world peace, he said, and he was its leader. He called himself “the prince of peace.” …

He told Arthur Mattuck that he believed that there was a conspiracy among military leaders to take over the world, that he was in charge of the takeover. Mattuck recalled, “He was very hostile. When I arrived, he said, ‘Have you come to spring me?’ He told me with guilty smile on his face that he secretly felt that he was the left foot of God and that God was walking on the earth. He was obsessed with secret numbers. ‘Do you know the secret number?’ he asked. He wanted to know if I was one of the the initiated.”

(Sylvia Nasar, 1998, Simon & Schuster)

I would interpret what Nash said as differentiating his politics from the “red”: Communists were atheists who did not believe in God’s existence; in contrast “the left foot of God”, while also on the political left, was a part of God’s body and instrument for “walking on the earth”.

Perhaps a tell-tale sign that Nash’s mental illness might be only borderline was his ability to stop his bizarreness and behave and talk very normally, when he wanted to get out the hospital in May 1959:

“Perhaps it was the Thorazine, perhaps the confinement, perhaps the overwhelming desire to regain his liberty, but Nash’s acute psychosis disappeared within a matter of weeks. On the ward, he behaved like a model patient … In his therapy sessions, he stopped talking about going to Europe to form a world government and no longer referred to himself as the leader of the peace movement. He made no threats of any kind, except divorce. He readily agreed, if asked, that he had written a great many crazy letters, had made a nuisance of himself to the university authorities, had otherwise behaved in bizarre ways. He denied emphatically that he was experiencing any hallucinations. The two young residents who were assigned to him – Egbert Mueller, a highly regarded German psychoanalyst, and Jacqueline Gauthier, a more junior French-Canadian – noted that his symptoms had all but “disappeared,” although privately they agreed that he was likely merely concealing them.

This was so. In his heart, Nash felt that he was a political prisoner and he was determined to escape his jailers as quickly as possible. …”

(Sylvia Nasar, 1998, Simon & Schuster)

Nash threatened to divorce his wife, and did so in the 1960s though Alicia continued to help him afterwards, and the two eventually remarried. In 1959 Nash was upset because Alicia Larde, while assisting his political activism, contacted the MIT psychiatrist and initiated his psychiatric committal:

“… The episode that convinced Alicia that she had no choice but to seek treatment for Nash occurred around Easter. Nash took off for Washington, D.C., in his Mercedes. He was, it appeared, trying to deliver letters to foreign governments by dropping them into the mail slots of embassies. This time Alicia went with him. Before they left, she telephoned her friend Emma and asked her to contact the university psychiatrist if they did not return within a week or so. Emma recalled in 1997 that Alicia was afraid Nash might harm her. Curiously, her concern, at least in Emma’s recollection, was less for herself than for Nash: “She wanted the world to know that Nash was mad. She was worried about Nash. She worried that if she came to harm that he’d be treated like a common criminal, so she wanted to be sure that everyone knew that he was insane.”

(Sylvia Nasar, 1998, Simon & Schuster)

Nasar’s book did not report any threat by Nash to physically harm his wife, but to leave her. The trouble at that point, in my view, was Nash’s physically going to various government and diplomatic places to distribute his political letters –  it could land him in criminal troubles.

Something similar happened to my political activism in 1992-1994.

(“Team Canada female athletes disqualified from Commonwealth silver medal, jailed Chinese democracy activist awarded with Nobel peace prize, and others in between (Part 6) — when law and justice reinforce the authorities”, March 25, 2012, Feng Gao’s Blog – Reflections on Events of Interest)

Nash’s colleague Paul Cohen – later in 1966 a co-recipient of the Fields Medal with Steve Smale – however, played up the physical danger:

“… Paul Cohen, however, recalled that “she was afraid of him.” …”

(Sylvia Nasar, 1998, Simon & Schuster)

Cohen was probably also involved in Nash’s psychiatric committal:

“When a stranger in a suit knocked on Paul Cohen’s office door to inquire whether he had seen Dr. Nash that afternoon, the man’s slightly unctuous, self-important manner made Cohen wonder whether this was the psychiatrist who was going to have Nash “locked up.” …

So when Nash showed up at Cohen’s door not very long afterward, seemingly oblivious to whatever machinations were underway, Cohen was more than a little surprised. Nash wanted to know if Cohen would like to go for a walk with him. Cohen agreed, and the two wandered around the MIT campus for an hour or more. As they walked, Nash spoke in a fitful monologue while Cohen listened, perplexed and uncomfortable. Occasionally Nash would stop, point at something, and whisper conspiratorially: “Look at that dog over there. He’s following us.” He frightened Cohen a bit by talking about Alicia in a way that made the younger man feel she might be in danger. After they parted, Cohen learned later, Nash was picked up and taken to McLean Hospital.”

(Sylvia Nasar, 1998, Simon & Schuster)

As described by Sylvia Nasar, Nash’s political activism at MIT started with a walk he invited graduate students Ramesh Cangolli and Alberto Galmarino to take with him, and ended right after a walk he invited colleague Paul Cohen to.

Psychologically, Nash’s failed claim in 1958 on solving a famed mathematical problem, the Riemann Hypothesis, and Cohen’s criticism of it may have given Nash additional stress:

“Sometime during the spring of 1958, Nash had confided to Eli Stein that he had “an idea of an idea” about how to solve the Riemann Hypothesis. That summer, he wrote letters to Albert E. Ingham, Atle Selberg, and other experts in number theory sketching his idea and asking their opinion. …

Even when a genius makes such an announcement, the rational response is skepticism. The Riemann Hypothesis is the holy grail of pure mathematics. …

… Stein’s impression of Nash during their conversations about the Riemann problem is interesting. “He was a little . . . on the wild side. There was something exaggerated about his actions. There was a flamboyance in the way he talked. Mathematicians are usually more careful about what they will assert to be true.” …

Cohen was flattered, even fascinated, by Nash’s interest, but he took special delight in rubbing Nash’s face in the disparity between the grandiose claims and reality. He was critical, to the point of viciousness, of Nash’s hubris. Later, Cohen would say, “Mathematically I didn’t interact with him. I didn’t feel I could talk to him about mathematics.”

But they did talk a good deal about Nash’s ideas on the Riemann Hypothesis. “Nash thought he could work on any problem he wanted,” said Cohen in a tone of mild outrage. “… What he was trying to do, you couldn’t do. I would have been very unsympathetic to Nash’s notion. The Riemann Hypothesis can’t be solved as stated. He came by with this letter. But any expert would have said these ideas are naive. What I admired is the enormous self-confidence to even conjecture. If he’s right, this guy’s intuition is in the stratosphere. But it turned out to be just another wrong idea.

A year later, after he had been hospitalized, some blamed disappointed love and the intense rivalry with a younger man for Nash’s breakdown. Ironically, Cohen’s career wound up mirroring Nash’s. After his great success, he turned to the Riemann Hypothesis and physics. …”

(Sylvia Nasar, 1998, Simon & Schuster)

In 1959 MIT’s psychiatric measures ended John Nash’s dream of starting a world-peace movement there.

Then in March-April 1963, already a “paranoid schizophrenic” and hanging around Princeton, Nash refused an initiative by mathematicians in the American Mathematical Society to get him to Michigan for 2 years of treatment and work, and thus missed the March 1965 start of the anti-Vietnam War movement there – as quoted earlier, Nash’s former MIT boss Ted Martin played an active role in trying to get Nash to Michigan in this manner.

What did Nash do then, politically, if anything, during the later exciting times of anti-war protest actions on university campuses across the U.S.?

There were other psychiatric committals, intermittently. Then from mid-1965 to mid-1967 Nash was back in Boston, continuing to read the messages The New York Times supposedly coded for him, taking part in politics that way:

“Weekdays, when he commuted to Waltham in a ratty old Nash Rambler convertible purchased on his arrival in Boston, were better. He was almost enjoying being at Brandeis. …

… He had seen Norman Levinson, who… had let Nash know that he would be paying Nash’s salary with National Science Foundation and Navy grants, and that he hoped Nash would be able to pursue his own research ideas, as before. …

He started to see a thirty-three-year-old psychiatrist, Pattison Esmiol. An affable Coloradan with a medical degree from Harvard, Esmiol had just left the Navy to open a private practice in Brookline. …

Nash was seeing [former girlfriend] Eleanor [Stier] and [son] John David …

[Former MIT math student Al] Vasquez, who had an apartment near Nash’s, was running into Nash wandering around Harvard Square the way he later wandered around Princeton:

He was concerned with the politics of Mao Tse-tung, that sort of thing. In Harvard Square, he was talking about a committee that was communicating with foreign governments who manipulated the news in The New York Times in order to send messages to him. He had this idea that with this information he could find out how negotiations between various powers were going.

Nash was still attending the Harvard colloquium on Thursdays. “He was very peculiar,” Vasquez recalled. “He believed that there were magic numbers, dangerous numbers. He was saving the world.””

(Sylvia Nasar, 1998, Simon & Schuster)

So while anti-war protesters in the U.S. and around the world believed they were out there saving the world from the deadly Vietnam War and other dangers, John Nash believed he was saving the world in his peculiar, secretive way.

I note that Nash’s former MIT senior colleague Norman Levinson, despite a Communist past, held both NSF and Navy grants in this Vietnam War era, and that in contrast, divorced and his Mercedes no more, Nash received a research salary from Levinson while taking counselling by a former Navy psychiatrist.

What really troubles me, in reviewing this history of peace and anti-war politics, is that before a war’s occurrence peace activism like Nash’s was sabotaged and aborted, presumably due to its association with the old social order, and yet peaceful fundamental changes were not an option, but war and anti-war politics to counterbalance the war. This was a course of history fraught with destruction, mass deaths, misery and, at the end, a fortified and re-enforced gulag standing tall over the ruins.

But that would be a discourse into the realm of war and politics, not just peace and education.

The career stages of John Nash and Steve Smale’s Ph.D. adviser Raoul Bott were closely matched, offering a glimpse into how much Nash’s lack of participation in the Michigan-affiliated grassroots political activities may have been a serious handicap for his attempts to launch his political activism.

In the mid-late 1940s both Nash and Bott were at Carnegie Institute of Technology, today’s Carnegie Mellon University:

“… Among the scholarship recipients who entered Carnegie in 1945 were talented youngsters like Andy Warhol, the artist, as well as a group of young men who would eventually, like Nash, shun engineering for science and mathematics.

Even as he struggled in the laboratory, Nash was already discovering a brilliant group of newcomers to Carnegie. By his sophomore year, [Robert] Doherty’s program of upgrading the theoretical sciences had brought to Carnegie John Synge, nephew of the Irish playwright John Millington Synge, who became head of the mathematics department. … he was a man of great charm who attracted younger scholars like Richard Duffin, Raoul Bott, and Alexander Weinstein, a European émigré whom Einstein had once invited to become a collaborator. When Albert Tucker, a Princeton topologist who did pathbreaking work in operations research, came to Carnegie to lecture that year, he was so impressed with the depth of mathematical talent at Carnegie that he confessed that he felt as if he were “bringing coals to Newcastle.”

From the start, Nash dazzled his mathematics professors, one of them called him “a young Gauss”. …”

(Sylvia Nasar, 1998, Simon & Schuster)

Nash was a Carnegie undergraduate when Bott, a Canadian originally from Hungary and Slovakia in Europe, was a Carnegie Ph.D. student. Then from 1948 to 1951 Nash was a Princeton Ph.D. student, while from 1949 to 1951 Bott was a scholar at Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Study, where Albert Einstein and John von Neumann were professors.

(Sylvia Nasar, 1998, Simon & Schuster; and, “Raoul Bott 1923-2005”, by Sir Michael Atiyah, U.S. National Academy of Sciences)

Then the Michigan factor came in.

In 1951, Bott became a faculty member at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, where his teaching and research produced Steve Smale, a future Fields Medalist; also in 1951, Nash became an MIT faculty member.

In 1959, after his failed political-activism attempt and psychiatric committal, Nash resigned from MIT; a year later in 1960, Bott became a professor at Harvard University, permanently until his death in 2005.

(Sylvia Nasar, 1998, Simon & Schuster; and, Sir Michael Atiyah, U.S. National Academy of Sciences)

Harvard, Bott’s permanent home after Nash lost one, was always Nash’s aspiration, whereas Michigan was low on Nash’s list:

“By the spring of 1948 – in what would have been his junior year at Carnegie – Nash had been accepted to Harvard, Princeton, Chicago, and Michigan, the four top graduate mathematics programs in the country. Getting into one of these was virtually a prerequisite for eventually landing a good academic appointment.

Harvard was his first choice. Nash told everyone that he believed that Harvard had the best mathematics faculty. Harvard’s cachet and social status appealed to him. As a university, Harvard had a national reputation, while Chicago and Princeton, with its largely European faculty, did not. Harvard was, to his mind, simply number one, and the prospect of becoming a Harvard man seemed terribly attractive.

The trouble was that Harvard was offering slightly less money than Princeton. Certain that Harvard’s comparative stinginess was the consequence of his less-than-stellar performance in the Putnam competition, Nash decided that Harvard didn’t really want him. He responded to the rebuff by refusing to go there. Fifty years later, in his Nobel autobiography Harvard’s lukewarm attitude toward him seems still to have stung: “I had been offered fellowships to enter as a graduate student at either Harvard or Princeton. But the Princeton fellowship was somewhat more generous since I had not actually won the Putnam competition.”

(Sylvia Nasar, 1998, Simon & Schuster)

So Nash’s lifelong interest in Harvard has been unfulfilled, whereas his Princeton experience has been largely satisfactory because, even though he didn’t get a permanent professorship there, his Princeton Ph.D. thesis eventually led to the greatest award, the Nobel Prize.

In comparison, Chicago got some passing thought while Michigan, the only public university among the four that had accepted him for graduate study, was barely mentioned when Nash didn’t have to.

The irony is that Raoul Bott who had spent 9 years at the University of Michigan became an Harvard professor for some 45 years, whereas Nash who refused to go to Chicago or Michigan never got anything permanent after the MIT fallout, instead working at various research or visiting positions. Even after he became a Nobel Prize winner Nash’s title at Princeton has been “senior research mathematician”.

(“A ‘long awaited recognition’: Nash receives Abel Prize for revered work in mathematics”, by Morgan Kelly, March 26, 2015, News at Princeton)

At a political level of comparison, Bott’s Michigan Ph.D. student Steve Smale went on to become both a leading mathematician and an anti-war movement leader, whereas Nash’s political activism went into oblivion and presently has not been acknowledged as anything but eccentricity and mental illness.

So I must wonder if, at a hidden level, Nash’s lack of grassroots “red”-association and his refusal to cultivate such via the University of Michigan, or even via the University of Chicago, meant not only lack of support for his political activism but also hidden blockage against it.

While Raoul Bott as a link highlighted the Nash-Smale contrast in political activism, another mathematician, Shiing-shen Chern, was also an important, albeit more subtle, link between Nash and others.

As in this Part’s first quote, from my first blog article, in 1958-1959 when the University of Chicago’s mathematics department made a “prestigious chair” offer to Nash, Shiing-shen Chern was a professor there.

Among the early generation of modern mathematicians in China, in the 1930s  Chern studied in Hamburg, Germany, and Paris, France, and was a scholar at Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Study in 1943-1945, before returning to China to lead the build-up of mathematical research there. Then, Chern and his family left China in 1948 prior to the Communist takeover:

“Chern returned to China in the spring of 1946. The Chinese government had just decided to set up an Institute of Mathematics as part of Academia Sinica. Lifu Jiang was designated chairman of the organizing committee, and he in turn appointed Chern as one of the committee members. … In 1948 the Institute moved to Nanjing, and Academia Sinica elected eighty-one charter members, Chern being the youngest of these.

Chern was so involved in his research and with the training of students that he paid scant attention to the civil war that was engulfing China. One day however, he received a telegram from J. Robert Oppenheimer, then Director of the Institute for Advanced Study, saying “If there is anything we can do to facilitate your coming to this country please let us know.” Chern went to read the English language newspapers and, realizing that Nanjing would soon become embroiled in the turmoil that was rapidly overtaking the country, he decided to move the whole family to America. Shortly before leaving China he was also offered a position at the Tata Institute in Bombay. The Cherns left from Shanghai on December 31, 1948, and spent the Spring Semester at the Institute in Princeton.”

(“The Life and Mathematics of Shiing-Shen Chern”, by Richard S. Palais and Chuu-Lian Terng, in S. Y. Cheng, G. Tian and Peter Li, eds., A Mathematician and His Mathematical Work: Selected Papers of S.S. Chern, 1996, World Scientific)

From 1949 on Chern was a professor at the University of Chicago. In 1958, he was a strong backer of the “prestigious chair” offer to Nash:

“… Chicago had gone a long time without making any senior hires, even after Andre Weil had left for the Institute for Advanced Study. Now the math department had a new chairman, Adrian Albert, and some cash. Albert was looking at a young Harvard professor, John Thompson, who had done brilliant work in group theory, and also at Nash, who had a number of strong supporters in the department, including Shiing-shen Chern.”

(Sylvia Nasar, 1998, Simon & Schuster)

But Nash was “scheduled to become Emperor of Antarctica” and in early 1959 declined the Chicago offer.

In 1960, Chern moved to UC Berkeley. When I was Steve Smale’s Ph.D. student in the 1980s, Chern liked to say that it was he who had recruited Smale to Berkeley. Smale’s UC Berkeley website biography indicates he was an instructor at Chicago from 1956 to 1958, was at IAS in Princeton 1958-1960, and became a UC Berkeley associate professor in 1960. They had some collaborations, including organizing research activities in geometry.

(Richard S. Palais and Chuu-Lian Terng, in S. Y. Cheng, G. Tian and Peter Li, eds., 1996, World Scientific; Department of Mathematics, University of California, Berkeley; and, Shiing-Shen Chern and Stephen Smale, eds., Global Analysis, 1970, American Mathematical Society)

Before moving to Berkeley, Chern was in Paris during the winter of1959-1960, where he would attend a St. Etienne’s Day party given by Nash and Alicia.

Nash and Alicia had gone to Europe not long after his discharge from McLean Hospital in Boston:

“On May 20, when Alicia’s labor began, Nash was still in McLean …

Alicia gave birth to a baby boy that night. …

… They left their Mercedes, its trunk full of old issues of The New York Times, in the Institute parking lot in Princeton. Nash wished to bequeath both car and newspapers to Hassler Whitney, the mathematician whom he most admired. They left their baby – not yet named and therefore referred to as Baby Epsilon, a little mathematical joke – behind as well. Alicia’s mother had already taken the infant home with her to Washington. Mrs. Lardes, they had agreed, would join them in Paris with the baby as soon as they were settled.

Shortly after Independence Day, Nash and Alicia left from New York harbor on the Queen Mary… They watched the pier, then the skyline, then the Statue of Liberty move away from them as they sailed slowly toward the open sea. …”

(Sylvia Nasar, 1998, Simon & Schuster)

Nash intended to renounce his American citizenship in Europe and become a “world citizen”.

He went to Paris, tried to turn in his U.S. passport in Luxemburg, and finally decided to do it in Geneva, Switzerland, former site of the League of Nations, because of its reputation as “the city of refugees”:

“Ideas of world government, and the related concept of world citizenship, were at their heyday during Nash’s Princeton graduate school days … Founded after the collapse of the League of Nations in the 1930s, the one-world movement exploded into the national consciousness within a few years of the end of World War II. Princeton was a center of that movement, largely because of the presence of physicists and mathematicians – notably Albert Einstein and John von Neumann – who acted as midwives to the nuclear age. …

However, the one-worlder who fired Nash’s imagination was a loner like himself, the Abbie Hoffman of the one-world movement. In 1948, Garry Davis, a leather-jacketed World War II bomber pilot, Broadway actor, and son of society band leader Meyer Davis, had walked into the American embassy in Paris, turned in his U.S. passport, and renounced his American citizenship. He then tried to get the United Nations to declare him “the first citizen of the world.” Davis, “sick and tired of war and rumors of war,” wished to start a world government. …

Nash intended to follow in Davis’s footsteps. …

Nash’s desire to go to Geneva was based, he later said, on his having heard that Geneva was “the city of refugees.” … Geneva had become the site of the ill-fated League of Nations and was a major international banking center. …”

(Sylvia Nasar, 1998, Simon & Schuster)

But Nash failed his attempt to renounce his U.S. citizenship or to become a refugee in Switzerland, and was deported to Paris in December 1959:

“Nash appealed to many authorities. Yet he seemed unable to make much progress. The American consulate, he discovered, was not prepared to accept his passport or to allow him to take the oath of renunciation. …

The U.N. High Commission for Refugees, on which he pinned his hopes, sent him away. It appeared that the commission, the promising name notwithstanding, had rules that precluded cases like this. One could claim refugee status only in connection with “events occurring in Europe before 1 January 1951” and “owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion…” The officials of the commission suggested he contact the Swiss police.

In November, the Geneva authorities were informed that Nash was, for all practical purposes, far beyond the American draft age and that he was in no way obliged to do defense-related research. Moreover, Nash had committed none of the acts that would provoke the American government to strip him of his citizenship. …

… in September or October, in a fit of desperation, Nash destroyed or threw away his passport. …

… According to a telegram, dated December 16, from the American consul in Geneva, Henry S. Villard, to Secretary of State Christian A. Herter, the Swiss authorities had issued a deportation order naming Nash as an “undesirable alien” on December 11. …

Even in jail, Nash refused to return to the United States…

At this point, Alicia agreed to take Nash back to Paris with her where they had, after all, an apartment. The consul general agreed to issue Alicia a new passport that included Nash. … The police escorted Nash to the train station. …”

(Sylvia Nasar, 1998, Simon & Schuster)

A few months later in March 1960, Nash also went to East Germany and probably also tried to apply for asylum in the Soviet Union:

“Nash then managed a rather extraordinary feat. In early March, he traveled, alone and without passport, to East Germany. Hard as it is to believe that an American without documents could get into the DDR in 1960, Nash confirmed in 1995 that he had indeed traveled there, explaining that in his “time of irrational thinking” he had gone “places where you didn’t heed an American passport.” What actually must have happened, given the tremendously tight security at the border at the time, was that Nash applied to the DDR for asylum and was then permitted by the authorities to enter the country until the request was decided. … According to a card he sent Martha and Virginia, he was able … to attend a famous propaganda event … the Leipzig industrial world fair, which was the Iron Curtain’s answer to the Brussels world fair. Later, mathematicians in America would hear from [U.S. State Department deputy science adviser Larkin] Farinholt that “Nash tried to defect to the Russians” but that the Russians had refused to have anything to do with him. …”

(Sylvia Nasar, 1998, Simon & Schuster)

It was in-between his Western Europe and Eastern Europe asylum attempts when Nash and Alicia celebrated Christmas 1959 in their Paris apartment and held a St. Etienne’s Day party for a few mathematicians including Shiing-shen Chern, and Alexander Grothendieck:

“Nash and Alicia celebrated Christmas at 49 Avenue de la Republique. It was, as Nash was to write to Virginia, “interesting.” Alicia’s mother was there and so was the eight-month-old [son] John Charles. There was a Christmas tree, perhaps the first one that the Nashes had ever had, decorated in the German manner with tiny lady apples and red wax candles. …

On St. Etienne’s Day, the day after Christmas, Alicia gave a party attended by several mathematicians, American as well as French. Shiing-shen Chern, a mathematician who had met Nash at the University of Chicago and was in Paris for the semester, came. He recalled “an interesting idea” that Nash had then, namely that four cities in Europe constituted the vertices of a square. The most striking visitor at 49 Avenue de la Republique, however, was Alexandre Grothendieck, a brilliant, charismatic, highly eccentric young algebraic geometer who wore his head shaved, affected traditional Russian peasant dress, and held strong pacifist views. Grothendieck had just taken a chair at the new French mathematics center, the Institut des Hautes Études Scientifiques. and would win a Fields Medal in 1966. In the early 1970s, he founded a survivalist organization, dropped out of academia altogether, and became a virtual recluse … Grothendieck was a frequent visitor at the Nashes’ apartment …”

(Sylvia Nasar, 1998, Simon & Schuster)

I wonder which European cities form the 4 corners of a square as Nash had noticed and Chern later recalled. Some of the other numbers, perhaps like “magic numbers” Nash was interested in, were intriguing.

Chern who had escaped Communist takeover of China was a guest. Nash’s Paris apartment was at 49 Avenue de la Republique; the Chinese communists had established the People’s Republic of China in 1949 but what it replaced had already been the Republic of China – so perhaps it wasn’t too unusual.

The party was held on St. Etienne’s Day, a very appropriate day to invite friends over after Christmas, in memory of the first Christian martyr in history, St. Etienne, or St. Stephen. In North America it is called the Boxing Day.

But there was something else about St. Etienne’s Day I have noted, quoted earlier:

“… ten years later by 1969 when the Vietnam War was in full force and the St. Stephen’s Day-born American leftist William Ayers was founding the militant-resistance organization Weather Underground to engage in a series of high-profile, violent bombings in the United States for radical causes, John Nash’s thoughts by then could have been viewed as a borderline, nonviolent precursor to these later actions of Ayers and his associates…”

(Part 2, January 29, 2009, Feng Gao’s Space: Analysis of Current Affairs, Politics and History)

In fact, both William Ayers, 10 years later the leader of Weather Underground, the most violent organization of the anti-Vietnam War movement, and Mao Zedong (Mao Tse-tung), the founding leader of Communist China, had their birthdays on St. Etienne’s Day.

Moreover, both Ayers and Mao showed the character of advocating socialist redistribution of wealth but not applying it to their well-to-do families – something about Mao as a young revolutionary I discussed in earlier blog posts.

(“Power, avengement, ideological cementation — Mao Zedong’s class politics in great forward leaps, tactical concessions”, April 6, 2015, Feng Gao’s Posts – Rites of Spring)

Later in 1962, Nash likely made an attempt to approach Communist China like he had done in 1960 with East Germany and the Soviet Union:

“Nash, meanwhile, went back to London. What drew him to London is not clear, since his original plan had been, presumably, to spend the summer, except for the [1962 international] congress [of mathematicians] in Stockholm, as well as the following academic year, in Paris. …

[Mathematician John] Danskin recalled that someone went looking for Nash and finally found him hanging around the Chinese embassy in London. …

Nash, who felt that he should have been one of those honored, did not, however, go to Stockholm. He went to Geneva instead, returning to the Hotel Alba where he had spent his final week in December 1959 and writing in French to Martha … He drew an identity card with Chinese characters labeled “Des Secrets.” …

When Nash returned to Princeton at the end of summer 1962, he was extremely ill. A postcard addressed to Mao Tse-tung c/o Fine Hall, Princeton, New Jersey, arrived in the mathematics department. Nash had written only a cryptic remark in French about triple tangent planes.”

(Sylvia Nasar, 1998, Simon & Schuster)

The great international lengths to which John Nash went to register his anger about the abortion, by forced psychiatric measures in the United States, of his world-peace and world-government activism were simply amazing.

Nash’s French friend Alexander Grothendieck, Smale’s 1966 Fields Medal co-recipient as was Nash’s former MIT colleague Paul Cohen, was one of the most brilliant mathematicians of the 20th century:

“He is widely credited for advances that made possible long-sought proofs for befuddling problems, including Fermat’s Last Theorem…

… He was instrumental in proving an especially thorny set of hypotheses known as the Weil conjectures. But characteristically he did not attack the problem directly. Instead, he built a superstructure of theory around the problem. The solution then emerged easily and naturally, in a way that made mathematicians see how the conjectures had to be true.”

(“Alexander Grothendieck, Math Enigma, Dies at 86”, by Bruce Weber and Julie Rehmeyer, November 14, 2014, The New York Times)

Nash was apparently intrigued by Grothendieck in Europe in 1959-1960 while trying unsuccessfully to renounce his U.S. citizenship and seek asylum. In 1964, Nash took another trip on the Queen Mary to Europe after Grothendieck offered him a one-year position in Paris, skipping a one-year position Princeton had offered him; but when Nash got to Paris, Grothendieck was nowhere to be seen; Nash visited Rome and Paris, and eventually returned to the U.S. on the Queen Mary:

“[Princeton mathematics department chair John] Milnor decided to offer Nash a one-year post as research mathematician and lecturer. …

Nash had apparently been in touch with Grothendieck once more. Grothendieck evidently responded with an invitation to the IHES for the following year. …

… He sailed on the Queen Mary, stopped briefly in London, and went to Paris. There he tried to get in touch with Grothendieck, who evidently wasn’t in town. … Nash flew to Rome. He was, as he later said, thinking of himself as a “great but secret religious figure.” … as he later said, he visited “the Forum and the catacombs but avoided the Vatican.” …

… Finally, on September 15, Tucker sent a terse note to Dean Brown, canceling the appointment and saying that Nash had gone to the University of Paris.

Nash hung around Paris a few more weeks until he finally gave up. In mid-September, he wrote to Virginia from Paris that he would be returning on the Queen Mary on the twenty-fourth, adding a postscript: “Situation looks dismal.””

(Sylvia Nasar, 1998, Simon & Schuster)

A “great but secret religious figure” who visited the Forum and the catacombs in Rome but not the Vatican – could that not be related to “the left foot of God”?

From December 1964 to mid-July 1965 Nash was in another psychiatric committal at the Carrier Clinic near Princeton – where he was committed when the anti-war movement began in Michigan in March 1965.

Grothendieck, son of a Russian Jew who had perished in the Auschwitz concentration camp in 1942, was a “pacifist” with his own political activism. He went farther than Smale in opposing both the Soviet Union’s mistreatment of intellectuals and the U.S.’s role in the Vietnam War, and later resigned his prestigious chair at Institut des Hautes Études Scientifiques to protest military funding:

“His background and early life were tangled and harrowing. His father, whose name is usually reported as Alexander Schapiro, was a Jewish anarchist who fought against the Russian czarist government. He was captured by the Bolsheviks during the Russian Revolution and eventually escaped to Western Europe. Along the way he lost an arm.

Young Alexander’s parents left Germany as the Nazis took power — they participated in the Spanish Civil War — leaving him in the care of foster parents in Hamburg, where he first went to school. In 1939, he reunited with his mother and father in France, but his father was arrested, sent to an internment camp at Le Vernet and eventually moved to Auschwitz, where he died in 1942.

……

Mr. Grothendieck had long held pacifist views, and by the late 1960s he had also become consumed by environmentalism. In 1966, he refused to travel to Moscow to receive the Fields Medal as a protest against the imprisonment of Soviet writers. He traveled to Hanoi at the height of the Vietnam War and lectured in Paris about the trip. He resigned from IHES, at least in part because some of its funding came from the French Defense Ministry, though he was also feuding with the institute’s founder. And he helped found an organization, Survivre, that promoted environmental activism and opposed the proliferation of nuclear weapons. He studied Buddhism and mysticism.”

(Bruce Weber and Julie Rehmeyer, November 14, 2014, The New York Times)

Grothendieck recorded two interesting coincidences in his 1967 visit to the North Vietnamese capital Hanoi to give mathematical lectures there: the Minister of Higher Education and Technology, Ta Quang Buu, a former Defense Minister and signer of the 1954 Geneva Accord, was a mathematician and attended his lectures; and a U.S. warplane dropped a “delayed-action cluster bomb” in the courtyard of the Hanoi Polytechnic Institute, resulting in the first two U.S. air-raid fatalities of math instructors in higher or technical education:

“… The first serious bombardments had been anticipated; they took place on Friday 17 November, two days before we left for the countryside. Three times my talk was interrupted by alarms, during which we took refuge in shelters. Each alert lasted about ten minutes. …

During one of the air raids that Friday morning a delayed-action cluster bomb fell right in the courtyard of the Hanoi Polytechnic Institute, and (after the alert was over) it killed two mathematics instructors at the Institute. Ta Quang Buu, who is a mathematician as well as the Minister of Higher Education and Technology (and who attended the lectures that I gave while in Hanoi), was discreetly informed of this during the lecture. He left at once; the rest of the audience continued to follow the lecture while waiting for the next alert. … This seems to have been the first time since the escalation that mathematics instructors in higher or technical education were killed.”

(“Mathematical Life in the Democratic Republic of Vietnam”, by A. Grothendieck, December 20, 1967, University of Paris, website of Neal Koblitz, Department of Mathematics, University of Washington)

In a March 2011 blog post I mentioned my first UC Berkeley roommate “Li”, a senior mathematics graduate student whose help was considerable to me, that he once delivered a book to a Chinese writer near Stanford not long before the latter was assassinated:

“At Berkeley I became the latest roommate of a senior Math graduate student, “Li”, one of the most active Chinese graduate students on campus, who would give me a considerable amount of help getting my studies on track.

… I mentioned an episode in 1984 when a Taiwanese visiting professor of Philosophy was about to go to teach at Beijing University, had “Li” deliver his new book to a Taiwanese author living across the San Francisco Bay not far from Stanford, and then not long after that the other author, Henry Liu … who had recently written an unauthorized biography of Chiang Ching-kuo, president of the government in Taiwan and son of Chiang Kai-shek, was murdered at his home.”

(“Team Canada female athletes disqualified from Commonwealth silver medal, jailed Chinese democracy activist awarded with Nobel peace prize, and others in between (Part 3) – when violence and motive are subtle and pervasive”, March 29, 2011, Feng Gao’s Blog – Reflections on Events of Interest)

Kezheng Li specialized in algebraic geometry, and Grothendieck was revered by him and by his former Chinese graduate school roommate Xiao Gang (Gang XIAO) – respectively the second and the first graduate student admitted in China after the Cultural Revolution, by the University of Science and Technology of China in 1977, among a small elite selection ahead of the first national graduate school entrance exam in 1978.

Kezheng liked to talk about Grothendieck’s quitting mathematics to live in rural communes:

“… In more than one rural commune, he practiced an eccentric Buddhism. … Yet Grothendieck’s alternative lifestyle, which became increasingly hermit-like, managed to shock many mathematicians…”

(“The Shock Tactics of Alexander Grothendieck”, by Karen Karin Rosenberg, June 7, 2015, Jewish Currents)

In reality, after quitting his professorship at IHES in protest of military funding the institute received, Grothendieck tried but failed to get a permanent position at another top research institution, before turning his back on the high-level mathematical research community:

“After leaving the IHES, Grothendieck tried but failed to get a post at the Collège de France in Paris. Instead, in 1973, he accepted a professorship at Montpellier University, where he mainly taught elementary subjects such as linear algebra and calculus. He became estranged from the high-level mathematical community.”

(“Alexander Grothendieck – obituary”, November 14, 2014, The Telegraph)

But unlike Nash who tried to get asylum in East Germany and the Soviet Union, and possibly China, Grothendieck practiced Buddhism and mysticism in his communes – not the kind as in the Communist Eastern Bloc countries.

It was 36 years since his failed foray into political activism before Nash was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics. In his 1994 Nobel autobiography Nash made only one mention of politics, describing it as “a hopeless waste of intellectual effort”:

“Thus further time passed. Then gradually I began to intellectually reject some of the delusionally influenced lines of thinking which had been characteristic of my orientation. This began, most recognizably, with the rejection of politically-oriented thinking as essentially a hopeless waste of intellectual effort.

So at the present time I seem to be thinking rationally again in the style that is characteristic of scientists. …”

(“John F. Nash Jr. – Biographical”, 1994, Nobelprize.org)

“Politically-oriented thinking” is not “rationally” “in the style that is characteristic of scientists” – such a sad conclusion!

Not long before that, in 1990 Steve Smale also re-examined his “brief membership” in the Communist Party, in a speech in Smalefest, a conference celebrating his 60th birthday, to which I also contributed an article – by the arrangement of Lenore Blum, a research collaborator of Steve’s, I was visiting International Computer Science Institute in Berkeley at the time.

That day, or the day before, was when I first learned that Smale had been a Communist Party member and was going to address the issue in his speech.

Smale said:

“Although there were some strains and some signs of my independence, I had accepted the basic doctrines of the Communist Party and defended them. Today, when I ask myself how I could have acted so foolishly, it is not difficult to find an answer.

Consider my frame of reference at that time. I was sufficiently skeptical of the country’s institutions to the point that I couldn’t accept the negative newspaper reports about the Soviet Union. I so believed in the goal of a utopian society that brutal means to achieve it could be justified. I was unsure of myself on social grounds, and the developing social network of leftists around me gave me security. Then, these were the times of McCarthyism, the Rosenberg executions, the Korean War hysteria; the CP was the main group giving unqualified resistance to these forces.”

(“Some Autobiographical Notes”, by Steve Smale, in Morris W. Hirsch, Jerrold E. Marsden and Michael Shub, eds., From Topology to Computation: Proceedings of the Smalefest, 1993, Springer-Verlag)

So to Steve Smale, it had been more a matter of the availability of a political and social group meeting his particular senses of disillusionment, idealism and activism, than belief in Communism. He came to criticise his past ‘foolishness’ in accepting the Communist Party doctrines, but unlike John Nash he did not reject “politically-oriented thinking”.

Jerry Rubin, the former Berkeley graduate student co-chairing the Vietnam Day Committee with Smale in 1965 after visiting Cuba in 1964, also made a huge turn in political direction by the 1980s – not to reject his past but to embrace capitalism as a way of making social changes.

Instead of leading the Yippies, the anti-war Youth International Party founded by him and Abbie Hoffman, Rubin inspired the popular 1980s’ name Yuppies:

““Perhaps you remember me from the ’60s,” he said sarcastically to the audience which was mostly students who were too young during his heyday to understand what he was doing. “I was known and not wanted in many states.”

Today, however, Rubin said he never goes “anywhere without my American Express card.”

Rubin took credit for being an unwitting founder of the so-called yuppie society.

“In the ’60s,” he said, “we thought everything was easy. But in the ’80s, we realize life is hard work. You may not like it . . . but we’re in the decade of the Young Urban Professional.”

The yuppie generation, which he defined as the 75 million Americans born between 1945-65, is unique because it is the post-World War II, television-age, information-society generation. And it will use its unique characteristics to lead an entrepreneurial revolution, Rubin said.

Rubin said it was yuppie entrepreneurial spirit that led him to found his own business networking service in New York. Rubin was featured in a Bob Greene column a few years ago in which Greene coined the term “yuppie,” he said.

Rubin now unabashedly says he seeks to make money, because “the people with money control this country.”

He said he used to think commuism was the way to solve the world’s problems, by eliminating social classes. Now, Rubin said capitalism will lead to a new world.

That also was Rubin’s reasoning for criticizing the Reagan administration’s trade embargo of Nicaragua, officially imposed yesterday. He suggested that rather than subduing Nicaragua, and, for that matter, Cuba and other “enemies,” through militarism, the United States should open relations, exchange representatives and bring American culture to those countries.

“Can a democracy be an occupying army?” he asked. “I don’t think so.”

Speaking rapidly and animatedly, he asserted that America’s closer ties with the People’s Republic of China is the reason for greater support for America in Southeast Asia than the support the country had at any time during the Vietnam conflict.

“The removal of military power,” Rubin said, “makes you stronger.”

He also ventured a prediction that the United States and the Soviet Union will be friendly toward each other in 10 years as yuppies take power here and a new generation grows up in the Soviet Union.

Yuppies also will maintain a spirit of anti-nuclear war, anti-intervention, pro-economic growth and pro-cultural pluralism.

He also offered these opinions:

– “I’m a disappointed ex-Communist.”

– The day he was served with an FBI subpoena to testify before a subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives, at which he appeared in a Colonial-style costume, representing the early American revolutionary spirit, “was one of the happiest days of my life.””

(“From Chicago 7 To Fortune 500 Jerry Rubin Embraces Capitalism As The Way To A New World”, by Tim Darragh, May 2, 1095, The Morning Call)

Rubin’s business networking events in New York, mentioned in his Lehigh University lecture quoted above, were like his anti-war protests, i.e., they were big and they broke traditions – the largest private network in the City of New York, with a list of 67,000 people, and weekly parties of 5,000 at the Palladium nightclub:

““NETWORKING” is not new, but for generations it has been confined to the exclusive enclaves of private men’s clubs and golf courses. Recently, however, groups that would never have fit into the old-boy network – young men and women who are on their way up, or hope to be – have begun setting up their own networks to swap cards and information. …

These days the place is the Palladium, the splashy new club on East 14th Street, and the occasion, every Tuesday evening, is a networking party organized by Jerry Rubin, the 1960’s Yippie turned 1980’s Yuppie and entrepreneur. Five years ago Mr. Rubin began holding networking salons in his home. Later he shifted to Studio 54. Then Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager, Studio 54’s creators, opened the Palladium, and Jerry and Mimi Rubin’s weekly networking party followed.

… “I don’t like to use the word, but every Yuppie in New York comes,” he added. So have a number of media celebrities, as special guests – they have included the film producer David Brown; the Good Housekeeping editor, John Mack Carter; the publisher Malcolm Forbes – as well as a handful of corporations that want to sell their services to a ready-made market.

The Palladium holds 3,500 people but, by Mr. Rubin’s tally, upward of 5,000 guests come and go in the course of a networking evening. He has a business card for each of them. “We have 67,000 people on computer, and no duplicates,” said Barry Segal, who helps run the networking evenings. “It’s the largest private club in New York.””

(“NEW YORKERS & CO.; BUSY NIGHT OUT, FOR ‘NETWORKING’”, by Sandra Salmans, September 17, 1985, The New York Times)

Rubin had parted with his anti-war partner and co-leader of the Yippies, Abbie Hoffman. Hoffman had gone underground in the 1970s due to a cocaine possession charge, disguised himself through plastic surgery and continued with other protest activities; after reappearing and settling his criminal-law problem, Hoffman resumed high-profile protest activity and was once arrested in 1986 with Amy Carter, former U.S. president Jimmy Carter’s daughter, for protesting against the CIA:

“As a fugitive, Hoffman said he had disguised himself as “Barry Freed,” a freelance TV writer and had become an environmental activist in the successful Save the River Campaign to keep the St. Lawrence River from being dredged. He also said he testified before a congressional panel headed by Sen. Daniel P. Moynihan in that role. In 1979, as Barry Freed, he was appointed to a federal commission.

In recent years he still showed flashes of his old activism. He led environmentalist protests against plans to divert water from the Delaware river to cool a nuclear power plant and in the fall of 1986, he and 60 other demonstrators, including Amy Carter, the former president’s daughter, were arrested for a protest of CIA recruitment at the University of Massachusetts. He was later acquitted on the charge.

He received a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass., in 1959 and got his master’s degree in graduate school at University of California at Berkeley in 1960.”

(“Abbie Hoffman, 1960’s Radical, Discovered Dead”, by Ray Lynch, April 13, 1989, Sun Sentinel)

Over their opposite directions, Rubin and Hoffman engaged in a series of “Yippie-versus-Yuppie” debates:

“In the 1980s much of the radical counterculture … was either forced underground or forced to assimilate into Ronald Reagan’s America. There is no greater symbol of the insanity of that period than the “Yippie vs. Yuppie” debate tour of Yippie co-founders Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman.

Rubin became enchanted with Reaganomics and the idea of Yuppie. Hoffman called him a “sellout,” but Rubin rebuffed him, claiming he had “joined America rather than fighting against it” and that, “in order to be a part of the solution, rather than part of the problem, we have to work from within.” Rubin believed activism was dead, that it had become negative and cynical and fraught with letdowns. He charged that “abuse of drugs, sex, and private property” had made the counterculture “a scary society in itself.” …”

(Charles Shaw, Exile Nation: Drugs, Prisons, Politics, and Spirituality, May 2012, Soft Skull Press)

In April 1989, Hoffman suddenly died at only 52, in what was ruled a drug overdose suicide:

““’He was really uncomfortable with becoming middle aged and facing old age without seeing significant social change,” Mr. Hayden said in a telephone interview last night.

“He was a perennial youth, a juvenile delinquent with gray hair,” Mr. Hayden added. “I have to think that perturbed him a lot. He was always trying to re-create the 60’s and was deeply dismayed he was becoming a prophet in the wilderness of the 80’s.”

But a brother, Jack Hoffman, said he believed Mr. Hoffman had not stopped fighting and had not committed suicide.

“Abbie, as many of you know, was somewhat careless with pills, and we always warned him about this kind of thing,” the brother said, according to The Associated Press.

The coroner, though, reported finding the residue of about 150 pills and alcohol in Mr. Hoffman’s system.

He said in a telephone interview later in the day: “There is no way to take that amount of phenobarbital without intent. It was intentional and self-inflicted.”

Mr. Hoffman’s body was discovered last Wednesday night by his friend and landlord, Michael Waldron. …

Mr. Waldron said Mr. Hoffman had spent the past year and a half writing and giving speeches. He often practiced the speeches by shouting out the window to the pair of llamas,” Mr. Waldron recalled.

“He’d be chanting and screaming, and the llamas were spellbound,” he said. “They’d follow him anywhere.””

(“Abbie Hoffman Committed Suicide Using Barbiturates, Autopsy Shows”, by Wayne King, April 19, 1989, The New York Times)

It was a misnomer for his former Chicago 8 comrade Tom Hayden to call Abbie Hoffman a “prophet” – Jerry Rubin had been in correctly stating that the drug abuse counterculture was “a scary society in itself”.

After Hoffman’s death, in 1991 Rubin relocated to Los Angeles, marketing a nutritional drink, WOW!, for a Texas company, making $60,000 a month. Nonetheless, his enthusiastic conversion to capitalism, and even his embrace of Ronald Reagan’s part of America, only managed to let Rubin live to 56 when he died in 1994– a paltry improvement over Hoffman’s struggling 52:

“Jerry Rubin, the flamboyant 1960’s radical who once preached distrust of “anyone over 30,” died on Monday night in a Los Angeles hospital where he was being treated after having been struck by a car two weeks earlier. He was 56 and lived in the Brentwood section of Los Angeles.

A hospital spokesman said the cause was cardiac arrest, but Mr. Rubin had been unconscious and in critical condition since he was hit on the night of Nov. 14 while jaywalking across Wilshire Boulevard in the Westwood section of Los Angeles. His former wife, Mimi Leonard Fleischman, said that he had suffered multiple injuries.

In 1978, Mr. Rubin, a son of a Cincinnati truck driver who became an official in the teamsters’ union, married Mimi Leonard, a former debutante who worked for ABC-TV in New York. They lived in a posh apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

In 1991 he moved to Los Angeles, where his business activities included marketing a nutritional drink named Wow! Forbes magazine reported in 1992 that Mr. Rubin said he was making $60,000 a month as a distributor for Omnitrition International, a Texas company that sold powdered mixes for Wow! and other beverages.”

(“Jerry Rubin, 56, Flashy 60’s Radical, Dies; ‘Yippies’ Founder and Chicago 7 Defendant”, by Eric Pace, November 30, 1994, The New York Times)

In 1989 Rubin had been the only one of the Chicago 8 to attend Hoffman’s funeral. Ironically in Los Angeles, Bobby Seale, the Black Panther leader criminally convicted separately from the other 7, became a salesman under Rubin for the Dallas-based company’s WOW! drink containing kelp, ginseng and bee pollen.

(“Jerry Rubin Dead At 56; ’60S Yippie — Radical Later Turned Yuppie Businessman”, by Jeff Wilson, November 29, 1994, The Seattle Times)

Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman each died like they lived – Rubin jaywalking across Wilshire Blvd. versus Hoffman overdosing on drug:

“Publicist Michael Sands, whose friendship with Rubin dated back to the 1960s, said Tuesday that when the two of them walked somewhere, Rubin almost always jaywalked.

Sands said that he, Rubin and Michael Ochs, brother of ’60s singer Phil Ochs, had tea together at the Regent Beverly Wilshire in Beverly Hills one night and then began scampering back and forth across Wilshire Boulevard in front of the hotel.

“We were like three little kids, running across the street,” Sands said. “We would wait until it looked clear, and then we would yell, ‘Let’s go! Let’s go!’ Then we would scoot across the street.””

(“Rubin Recalled as a Rebel of Many Causes: Remembrance: Long after shedding ’60s activist image, he enjoyed defying authority”, by Eric Malnic, November 30, 1994, The Los Angeles Times)

Rubin’s trendy LA friends were such juvenile delinquents, spellbound in jaywalking with him.

Rubin’s old Chicago 8 friends sighed, expressing sadness:

““He started as a straight political activist, but he (later) chose a path that I do not believe in,” David Dellinger said from his home in northern Vermont. “I’m not agreeing with what he did, but I still respect what he has done, and I love him.”

Rubin “was a great life force, full of spunk, courage and wit,” [California State Senator Tom] Hayden said late Monday. “I think his willingness to defy authority for constructive purposes will be missed. Up to the end, he was defying authority.””

(Eric Malnic, November 30, 1994, The Los Angeles Times)

In contrast, the pacifist, anti-war French mathematician Alexander Grothendieck lived a long life, and when he died at the age of 86 on November 13, 2014 – one day short of the 10-year mark of Jerry Rubin’s jaywalking accident – in the rural region of France where he had lived like a hermit, he was widely praised in France:

“Alexander Grothendieck, whose gift for deep abstraction excavated new ground in the field known as algebraic geometry and supplied a theoretical foundation for the solving of some of the most vexing conundrums of modern mathematics, died on Thursday in Ariège, in the French Pyrenees. He was 86.

A vexing character himself, Mr. Grothendieck … turned away from mathematics at the height of his powers in the early 1970s and had lived in seclusion since the early 1990s. His death was widely reported in France, where the newspaper Le Monde described him as “the greatest mathematician of the 20th century.” In a statement on Friday, President François Hollande praised him as “one of our greatest mathematicians” and “an out-of-the-ordinary personality in the philosophy of life.””

(Bruce Weber and Julie Rehmeyer, November 14, 2014, The New York Times)

Grothendieck was preceded in June, in France, by a much younger algebraic geometer and admirer, Xiao Gang, aged 62, mathematics professor at the University of Nice and creator of the online mathematical software WIMS.

(“Le professeur Xiao Gang, créateur du logiciel WIMS s’est éteint le vendredi 27 juin 2014”, by Université Nice Sophia Antipolis, Department of Mathematics, East China Normal University)

Five months after the passing of John Nash’s old friend Alexander Grothendieck at 86, the Norwegian government announced the recipients of the 2015 Abel Prize for mathematics: John Nash of Princeton University, and Louis Nirenberg of Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences, New York University.

A relatively new but generously endowed prize in honor of the 19th-century Norwegian mathematician Niels Henrik Abel, the prize is considered one of the highest honors in mathematics. It’s awarding to Nash was significant because it recognized Nash’s later work in pure mathematics, beyond his Nobel-winning work in economic game theory:

“… “The Abel Prize is top-level among mathematics prizes,” the 86-year-old Nash said in his soft voice. “There’s really nothing better.”

It is Nash’s work in geometry and partial differential equations that “the mathematical community regards as his most important and deepest work,” according to the academy. The prize citation recognized Nash and Nirenberg for “striking and seminal contributions to the theory of nonlinear partial differential equations and its applications to geometric analysis.”

Nash’s name is attached to a range of influential work in mathematics, including the Nash-Moser inverse function theorem, the Nash-De Giorgi theorem (which stemmed from a problem Nash undertook at the suggestion of Nirenberg), and the Nash embedding theorems, which the academy described as “among the most original results in geometric analysis of the twentieth century.”

“The prize has redressed a historical anomaly in the public,” he [Princeton mathematician Sergiu Klainerman] said in reference to the popularity of Nash’s game-theory work. “We mathematicians know very well that [Nash] did far deeper work much later. These are the works for which he is finally recognized today by the most prestigious mathematics prize.””

(Morgan Kelly, March 26, 2015, News at Princeton)

As Princeton mathematician Sergiu Klainerman stated, in recognizing Nash for “far deeper work much later” the Abel Prize’s awarding addressed a historical anomaly.

Some of Nash’s later mathematical work was achieved under the diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia. For example, among his work on nonlinear partial differential equations was a paper published in 1962 on Navier-Stokes equations for fluid dynamics:

“Nash was able to work again, something he had not been able to do for nearly three years. He turned once more to the mathematical analysis of the motion of fluids and certain types of nonlinear partial differential equations that can be used as models for such flows. He finished his paper on fluid dynamics, begun while he was in Trenton State Hospital [in 1961]. It was … published in 1962 in a French mathematical journal. …

“After Nash’s hospitalization he came out and seemed OK,” Atle Selberg recalled. “It was good for him to be at the IAS. Not everybody on the Princeton faculty was very friendly. It’s true that he didn’t speak. He wrote everything on blackboards. He was perfectly articulate in writing. He gave a lecture on Navier-Stokes equations …””

(Sylvia Nasar, 1998, Simon & Schuster)

In my first blog article I made a similar point that Nash’s political thinking may have been credible, i.e., not “mentally ill” thinking:

“What else would be a better explanation than the above – beside Nash’s own brash behavior and his habit of convoluted language – that a mathematician of original thinking and prolific production who has now been recognized as having made fundamental contributions to the mathematical economic theory, and who has been called “the greatest numerologist the world has ever seen” (i.e., someone better than anyone else at the use of numbers in astrology and other human affairs) by the Princeton mathematician William Browder, was “mentally ill” when it came to his thinking about politics? Recognizing credibility in Nash’s political thoughts is like accepting his mathematical brilliance without automatically overriding any legitimate medical issue there might have been.”

(Part 2, January 29, 2009, Feng Gao’s Space: Analysis of Current Affairs, Politics and History)

The week of May 19 saw Abel festivities in Oslo, Norway, where Nash and Nirenberg were formally awarded the Abel Prize by King Harald V of Norway: the formal ceremony, with the showing of two short films made by filmmaker Ekaterina Eremenko for the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, featuring Nash and Nirenberg, respectively; wreath laying at the Abel Monument in Oslo; Abel lectures at the University of Oslo, including the Science Lecture by the mathematician Frank Morgan, titled “Soap Bubbles and Mathematics”; and the awardees’ visit to the University of Bergen to meet schoolchildren at a math circus and attend lectures.

(“Abel celebration in Oslo and Bergen”, and, “Nash and Nirenberg received the Abel Prize from the King of Norway”, 2015, Abelprize.no)

Frank Morgan, the 2015 Abel Science Lecturer, had earned a Princeton Ph.D. like Nash and been an MIT mathematics faculty member for 10 years – longer than Nash – and is a former vice president of the American Mathematical Society.

(“NIFTY FIFTY – BRING A TOP SCIENTIST TO YOUR MIDDLE OR HIGH SCHOOL: Dr. Frank Morgan”, U.S. Science and Engineering Festival)

In the ceremony film featuring John F. Nash, Nash departed his home for a walking tour of the Princeton campus, where the most personal part of the tour was his going first to his 1948 Ph.D. student office on the top floor of a majestic old building, an office currently occupied by a woman, furnished spartanly but decorated with many paintings, which touched off Nash’s comment that “in mathematics you don’t need so many resources”.

In this film, Nash said that he likes to think of himself as “a sort of enlightened philosopher” and thinks of himself as an “exceptional mind”, that he used to play the “Go” game, and that his work was “always original”. Nash also reaffirmed the sentiment in his 1994 Nobel autobiography, namely that politically-oriented thinking was a waste of effort, by saying, “Trying too hard to lead into thinking can lead into the wrong area.”

In the ceremony film featuring Louis Nirenberg, Nirenberg modestly insisted that he is not a top mathematician, that he can think of 50 mathematicians better than he is, and that he considers himself “very lucky”, “incredibly lucky”.

Going everywhere in a wheelchair on his own in this film, Nirenberg cut a confident figure wheeling through the aisles of a men’s formalwear store, and hailing a yellow taxicab for himself on a major New York City street, while professing his love for the “beautiful subject” of “inequalities”.

(“Shortfilms about John F. Nash and Louis Nirenberg”, by Ekaterina Eremenko, 2015, Abelprize.no)

Louis Nirenberg is originally Canadian; and he and Raoul Bott were both 1945 graduates of McGill University in Montreal, Quebec.

(“Louis Nirenberg”, 2015, Abelprize.no; and, Sir Michael Atiyah, U.S. National Academy of Sciences)

Several important Canadian links in the context of this Part’s stories have been discussed: Nash’s Ph.D. adviser Albert Tucker, and Nirenberg who shared the Abel Prize with Nash; Steve Smale’s Ph.D. adviser Raoul Bott, and Smale’s mother Helen and especially wife Clara’s parents.

Then the hard-to-imagine tragedy occurred.

On May 23, Nash, Alicia, Nirenberg and his wife arrived at the Newark Airport in New Jersey after the week of Abel festivities, 5 hours ahead of their schedule and the scheduled limousine service to pick up the Nashes. Nirenberg’s daughter Lisa Macbride, who came to pick up her parents, suggested that the Nashes took a taxi instead of waiting; so Nash and Alicia got into a yellow taxicab and headed home, when in the New Jersey Turnpike attempting to pass another car their taxi driver lost control and both cars hit the guard rail, killing Nash and Alicia:

“Nash, 86, and wife Alicia, 82, were supposed to have been met by a limo at Newark Airport on Saturday after arriving home from Norway, where the Princeton professor and his NYU colleague Louis Nirenberg were awarded the prestigious Abel Prize.

But the Nashes hailed a yellow cab back to Princeton after they switched their flight at the last minute and arrived in New Jersey five hours early, Nirenberg said.

The cab later crashed into a guardrail on the southbound New Jersey Turnpike in Monroe Township. Both Nash and his wife were thrown from the car, authorities said.

John and Alicia were pronounced dead at the scene at around 5:15 p.m. It was unclear whether they were wearing seat belts, cops said.

Nirenberg’s daughter, Lisa Macbride, said John Nash borrowed her cellphone to call for his limo when she arrived at Newark Airport to pick up her father.

Both couples had planned to arrive at 7 p.m., but their flight was changed and they got in at 2 p.m., she said.

“The car service said, ‘We thought you were getting in five hours later.’ They didn’t really offer a solution,” Macbride recalled.

“I said [to the Nashes], ‘You could take a taxi’ — which now I feel sick about.””

(“‘A Beautiful Mind’ mathematician John Nash killed in cab crash”, by Amber Sutherland, Kevin Sheehan and Bruce Golding, May 24, 2015, New York Post)

Had Lisa Macbride, whose father Louis Nirenberg has taken yellow taxis around New York City, not suggested the Nashes take a cab home!

Multiple callers to New Jersey state police’s 911 emergency number reported the crash scene at Mile 72.4 of the NJ Turnpike, where the Nashes lay motionless under the yellow taxicab:

“No, there’s two people under the car, we think they might be dead”.

(“911 recording reveals tragic moments after John and Alicia Nash’s fatal crash (AUDIO)”, by Anthony G. Attrino, July 9, 2015, NJ.com)

It was an unlucky highway location, where an accident in June 2014 had seriously injured actor Tracy Morgan:

“The crash happened in the same general area as the June 2014 crash that injured comedian Tracy Morgan, near Interchange 8A.”

(“DASHCAM VIDEO RELEASED FROM NJ TURNPIKE CRASH THAT KILLED ‘A BEAUTIFUL MIND’ MATHEMATICIAN JOHN NASH”, July 18, 2015, ABC Action News)

Morgan was in a limousine – the Nashes would have been transported by one had they waited at the airport for another 5 hours – one of Morgan’s companions, James McNair, was killed and several others also suffered serious injuries:

“Wal-Mart took “full responsibility” for the June 2014 wreck that claimed the life of 63-year-old comedian James McNair and seriously injured Morgan on June 7, the comedian’s attorneys said in a statement released by his attorneys.

Kevin Roper, a 35-year-old Georgia man who was driving a Wal-Mart tractor-trailer, was speeding and had been awake for more than 24 hours when the trailer collided with Morgan’s limousine…

Morgan suffered multiple fractures in the crash on the New Jersey Turnpike, and required multiple surgeries and rehabilitation. …

Comedian Ardie Fuqua, Morgan’s assistant Jeffrey Millea, and Millea’s wife Krista were also injured in the wreck. Morgan was returning from a performance in Delaware at the time of the crash.”

(“Tracy Morgan, Wal-Mart reach settlement in deadly New Jersey Turnpike crash”, by James Queally, May 27, 2015, Los Angeles Times)

John and Alicia Nash lived in West Windsor, NJ, where mayor Shing-Fu Hsueh had recently told Nash the city wanted to name a park after him but Nash replied he was still alive – now there will be a park named for John Nash:

“During Monday’s Memorial Day service, West Windsor mayor Shing-Fu Hsueh announced that a park will be named after the Nobel Prize winning mathematician.

“We are very proud of him and his accomplishments,” the mayor said, adding that he had approached John several months ago with the idea.

“He said ‘Mayor, I appreciate that, but I am still alive,” recalled Hsueh, who told him that you can still be honored while alive.”

(“Nash’s cab driver had only been driving for two weeks – report says”, by Dan Alexander, May 26, 2015, Jersey 101.5)

The yellow taxi the Nashes died in was a Ford Crown Victoria, driven by Tark (or Tarek) Girgis of Elizabeth, NJ, who had started his new taxi company and driven the cab for only 2 weeks; the other car that also crashed was a Chrysler:

“The cabby in the New Jersey Turnpike crash had been on the job only two weeks, after tooling around in an ice cream truck, the hack’s son told The Post.

The cabby, Tark Girgis of Elizabeth, NJ, remained hospitalized Sunday.

He had no idea he had been driving the famed math genius, said the driver’s son, Kerolos Girgis.

Tark Girgis began driving the taxi only two weeks ago, his son said.

“He started a new company . . . I drive the ice cream truck now,” said Kerolos Girgis, 19.

The New Jersey State Police said their crash occurred around 4:30 p.m., when Girgis lost control of his Ford Crown Victoria while trying to pass another car and smashed into the guardrail near Interchange 8A.

The other car, a Chrysler, also hit the rail, and a passenger was treated for neck pain, cops said.

No charges were filed against Girgis, who had to be cut from the wreckage, but an investigation was continuing, said State Police Sgt. Gregory Williams.

Girgis has “many stitches” in both arms and “hasn’t said anything about the accident” since getting airlifted to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, NJ, his son said.

Tydyn Limousine of Trenton, NJ — the service scheduled to pick up the Nashes — didn’t return a call for comment.”

(Amber Sutherland, Kevin Sheehan and Bruce Golding, May 24, 2015, New York Post)

Alicia Nash had recently feared they might suddenly die and left their son John Charles, who had the same mental illness as his father, without support; now her worst fear has realized:

“The wife of famed math genius John Nash Jr. recently worried that she and her Nobel Prize-winning husband might suddenly die, leaving their mentally ill son without their support, a close pal said Monday.

“There was always a premonition . . . that Alicia had,” said Debra Wentz, a longtime friend of Alicia Nash, who was killed with her husband Saturday in a New Jersey Turnpike taxi crash.

“She was worried, because they were aging, that at some point, they wouldn’t be around forever, and they were worried about the well-being of their son,” Wentz said.

The couple’s child, John “Johnny” Charles Nash, 56, suffers from schizophrenia, the same mental disorder that plagued his father. Professor Nash’s struggle with the disease was chronicled in the Oscar-winning movie “A Beautiful Mind,” in which he was played by Russell Crowe.

Johnny, who lives in his parents’ West Windsor, NJ, home, and Nash’s other son, John Stier of Lynn, Mass., are still shocked by their famous father’s sudden death, Wentz said.”

(“Worst fear realized: John Nash’s mentally ill son now alone”, by Priscilla DeGregory, Lorena Mongelli and Emily Saul, May 26, 2015, New York Post)

Receiving the Abel Prize in Norway, the Nashes had just missed their last May 20 birthday for John Charles. Recall that back in July 1959, “Johnny” was an unnamed baby when the Nashes sailed on the Queen Mary, without him onboard, for Europe where Nash intended to renounce his U.S. citizenship, and by St. Etienne’s Day John Charles was an “eight-month old” when Shiing-shen Chern and Alexander Grothendieck attended the Nashes’ party at 49 Avenue de la Republique in Paris.

Then in the summer of 1964 Nash sailed again on the Queen Mary to Europe for a one-year position at IHES that Grothendieck had offered him, but Grothendieck was nowhere to be found in Paris, and after visiting Rome and hanging around Paris Nash sailed back on the Queen Mary.

John Forbes Nash, Jr., died 3 weeks short of his June 13 birthday, still 86 years of age – like his old friend Grothendieck who had died 6 months earlier.

Nash and Grothendieck each died like they had lived – Nash with Alicia in the glory of elite accomplishment, now being chauffeured instead of driving a Mercedes, versus Grothendieck in hermit seclusion, missing the Abel Prize:

“When the Abel Prize was announced in 2001, I got very excited and started wondering who would be the first person to get it. I asked my friends and colleagues who they thought was the greatest mathematician alive. I got the same answer from every person I asked: Alexander Grothendieck. Well, Alexander Grothendieck is not the easiest kind of person to give a prize to, since he rejected the mathematical community and lives in seclusion.

Years later I told this story to my friend Ingrid Daubechies. She pointed out to me that my spontaneous poll was extremely biased. Indeed, I was asking only Russian mathematicians living abroad who belonged to “Gelfand’s school.” Even so, the unanimity of those responses continues to amaze me.

Now several years have passed and it does not seem that Alexander Grothendieck will be awarded the Prize. Sadly, my advisor Israel Gelfand died without getting the Prize either. I am sure I am biased with respect to Gelfand. He was extremely famous in Soviet Russia, although less well-known outside, which may have affected the decision of the Abel’s committee.”

(“The Greatest Mathematician Alive”, by Tanya Khovanova, March 20, 2010, Tanya Khovanova’s Math Blog)

As the mathematician Tanya Khovanova recalled, her mathematical friends in Israel Gelfand’s school of mathematical thought unanimously rated Grothendieck the greatest living mathematician when asked in 2001.

The clearest signal that the Abel Prize was going to bypass Grothendieck came in 2013 when it was awarded to Pierre Deligne, alone, Grothendieck’s former student and co-awardee of the Crafoord Prize in 1988, which Grothendieck rejected:

“The letters page of Le Monde contained a copy of the letter that had been sent by Alexandre Grothendieck, one of the world’s great mathematicians, to the Swedish Academy of Science. …

The Crafoord Prize had recently been established by the Swedish Academy to honor achievements in mathematics, astronomy, the geosciences and biology (with an emphasis on the cure of polyarthritis). The first 3 fields were not included in Alfred Nobel’s will. An apocryphal story has it that Nobel held a grudge against mathematicians because his wife was having an affair with the mathematician Mittag-Loeffler. Another theory is that Nobel believed that mathematics was a science with few practical applications.

… The introductory paragraph to the letter published in Le Monde reads:

French Mathematician Alexander Grothendieck Rejects Crafoord Prize

“The French mathematician Alexandre Grothendieck, who won the Fields Medal in 1986 [1966], the equivalent to the Nobel Prize in mathematics has just rejected the Crafoord Prize awarded him by the Swedish Academy of Sciences. (Le Monde, April 17-18) . This prize, worth 1.5 million French francs ( Note: $250,000 at the current rate of exchange ) which he was expected to share with one of his former students, the Belgian Pierre Deligne has, since 1982 been rewarding research scientists working in the disciplines of mathematics, earth sciences, astronomy and biology. The French geophysicist Claude Allegre figured among its laureates in 1986. …”

(“Visiting Alexandre Grothendieck”, by Roy Lisker, June 1988, Ferment Magazine)

I imagine if you rejected a prize from the King of Sweden you would not be offered another by the King of Norway.

On the other hand, a scientific mind may disagree: the Crafoord Prize was to fill the Nobel Prize’s void but Alfred Nobel had scorned mathematics, whereas Niels Henrik Abel had been a forefather of modern algebraic geometry for which Alexander Grothendieck was a grand architect.

Oh well, Grothendieck is already dead.

The confident hermit had told his visitor Roy Lisker in June 1988 that his own death would come in 2009:

“I’ve got exactly 21 more years to live; it’s all been revealed to me. But the Millenium will come before my death.”

(Roy Lisker, June 1988, Ferment Magazine)

French hermitage would give you 5 more years, Dr. Grothendieck, as it had given Napoleon Bonaparte.

John Nash at least survived Grothendieck, as well as most of the mathematicians mentioned in this blog article surrounding the issue of his mental health stemming from his 1958-1959 political activism.

Adrian Albert, the University of Chicago mathematics department chair who made the offer of a “prestigious chair” to Nash in 1958, died in 1972 at only 66. Albert later served as American Mathematical Society president in 1965-1966.

(“Abraham Adrian Albert 1905—1972”, by Irving Kaplansky, 1980, U.S. National Academy of Sciences; and, “AMS Presidents: A Timeline, 38. Abraham Adrian Albert (1905-1972)”, American Mathematical Society)

Norman Levinson, former Communist and Nash’s senior colleague at MIT, to whom Albert inquired about Nash’s “Emperor of Antarctica” frame of mind in 1959, and who told Ted Martin that Nash was “very paranoid”, died in 1975 at only 63. Levinson later succeeded Martin as MIT math department chair, serving for 3 years.

(“Norman Levinson 1912-1975”, by D. G. Aronson, 2013, U.S. National Academy of Sciences)

Alberto Galmarino, one of the two MIT graduate students Nash invited to a walk with around Thanksgiving 1958, when Nash talked to them about world peace and world government, died in 2004 at 75. Galmarino named his daughter Alicia.

(“Obituaries: Mary K. Walls, homemaker; at 76”, March 28, 2004, The Boston Globe)

Ted Martin, former Communist and MIT math department chair, who tried to stop Nash’s political activism and also affected the university’s decision about Nash in 1959, died in 2004 at 92. Martin held the MIT mathematics department chair position from 1947 to 1968, was a former American Mathematical Society vice president, an AMS trustee and later AMS treasurer from 1965 to 1973.

(“Longtime math department head Ted Martin dies at 92”, June 4, 2004, MIT News; and, “Inside the AMS: William Ted Martin (1911–2004)”, September 2004, Notices of the American Mathematical Society)

Paul Cohen, Nash’s MIT colleague involved in the circumstance of Nash’s 1959 psychiatric committal, later a Stanford professor and a 1966 Fields Medal recipient like Smale and Grothendieck, died in 2007 at only 72. Cohen taught at MIT for only one academic year, 1958-1959 – the year of John Nash’s short-lived political activism and fall into hell.

(“Paul Cohen, winner of world’s top mathematics prize, dies at 72”, by Dawn Levy, March 28, 2007, Stanford News; and, “Paul J. Cohen, Mathematics Trailblazer, Dies at 72”, by Jeremy Pearce, April 2, 2007, The New York Times)

Nash also survived Raoul Bott, who was more senior than him at Carnegie Tech and Princeton, and who then went to teach at Michigan, produced the mathematician Steve Smale, before moving permanently to Harvard in 1960. Bott died at 82 in 2005.

(Sir Michael Atiyah, U.S. National Academy of Sciences)

Nash also survived two mathematicians who moved to Berkeley: David Gale, who helped him develop his Princeton Ph.D. work that decades later won him the Nobel Prize, who died in 2008 at 86; and Shiing-shen Chern, who partied with him and Grothendieck on St. Etienne’s Day 1959, at 49 Avenue de la Republique in Paris – like MIT’s Ted Martin, Chern was born in 1911 and died in 2004 but after his 93rd birthday.

(“Mathematician, puzzle lover David Gale has died”, by Robert Sanders, March 18, 2008, and, “Renowned mathematician Shiing-Shen Chern, who revitalized the study of geometry, has died at 93 in Tianjin, China”, by Robert Sanders, December 6, 2004, UC Berkeley News)

After that St. Etienne’s Day, the road Chern travelled was in a sense opposite Grothendieck’s. Having left China to escape Communist takeover, Chern stayed clear of UC Berkeley’s 1960s anti-war activities and, rather than leaving mathematical research, after his 1979 retirement went on to become founder and leader of two premier international mathematical institutions, the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute at Berkeley, and the Nankai Institute of Mathematics at Nankai University, Tianjin, China:

“Chern, who became a U.S. citizen in 1961, joined UC Berkeley’s mathematics department in 1960 and retired in 1979, only to return as cofounder and first director of the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI), the largest and most prominent math institute in the world. The building on the UC Berkeley campus housing the institute, which he directed from 1981 until 1984, will be named Chern Hall upon the completion of a new addition in late 2005.

MSRI was one of three mathematics institutes he founded during his 70-year career. In China, he established the Institute of Mathematics of the Academia Sinica, building it from the ground up in the 1940s and ’50s as a training ground for a “glorious generation of Chinese mathematicians,” [UC Berkeley math professor Hung-Hsi] Wu said. Chern also founded in 1984 the Nankai Institute of Mathematics at Nankai University in Tianjin, which built a home on the campus a short distance away so that Chern, by then in a wheelchair, could come to work every day. Still active in mathematics at the time of this death, Chern was honorary director of the institute.”

(Robert Sanders, December 6, 2004, UC Berkeley News)

As quoted earlier, the Institute of Mathematics of the Academia Sinica in China was founded by Lifu Jiang with help from Chern, who and whose family then left China in 1948. Lifu Jiang was Chern’s first mathematics professor, at Chern’s alma mater of Nankai University, as Chern recalled:

“The Mathematics Department at Nankai was a one-man department whose Professor, Dr. Li-Fu Chiang, received his Ph.D. from Harvard with Julian Coolidge. Mathematics was at a primitive state in China in the late 1920s. …”

(“A Summary of My Scientific Life and Works”, by Shiing-shen Chern, in S. Y. Cheng, G. Tian and Peter Li, eds., A Mathematician and His Mathematical Work: Selected Papers of S.S. Chern, 1996, World Scientific)

These historical credits of Chern’s were personally significant for me in the late 1960s, late 1970s and late 1980s: Lifu Jiang was later the most senior professor at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, China, my future alma mater, and for a couple of years in the late 1960s my family lived in a house across from Professor Jiang’s, my father at the time a lecturer in philosophy; Jiang passed away in February 1978 around the time I entered his former Sun Yat-sen University math department as a freshman; later in 1986 at what is now Chern Hall at MSRI in Berkeley I gave my first seminar presentation on the research results to become my Ph.D. thesis, and my 1989 published paper on these results carried an affiliation with the Nankai Institute, courtesy of Professor Chern.

That the MSRI has had its share of fanfares in the San Francisco Bay Area can be seen from the following 2003 news story:

“THE SMART SET: The Mathematical Sciences Research Institute — the group that brought Steve Martin to the stage of Herbst to romp with Robin Williams recently — is celebrating plans for a new library with a reception April 24. Institute chairman is William R. Hearst III, whose B.A. was in mathematics, who is the son of Austine McDonnell Hearst for whom the library will be named, and whose family’s company owns this newspaper.

The entertainment for the celebration is Stanford University statistics and mathematics Professor Persi Diaconis, who’s a professional magician and winner of a MacArthur fellowship, and who figured out that a deck of cards needs to be shuffled seven times to be randomized, which means mixed up, which is just what he isn’t.”

(“A star orbits a sun / Leonardo had a great serve”, by Leah Garchik, April 18, 2003, SFGate.com)

William Randolph Hearst III of the Hearst family was the chairman of Berkeley’s MSRI!

Not exactly, Hearst was a MSRI trustee and chairman of MSRI Archimedes Society, while the MSRI mathematicians were interested in the Riemann Hypothesis, something John Nash had thought he could solve:

“Museion is named for the legendary institute at Ancient Alexandria, the hall of the Muses and the place of study of Archimedes, Eratosthenes, Hypatia, and Euclid. Museion recognizes donors at the Museion level to the Archimedes Society at Mathematical Sciences Research Institute.

The first Museion convened in Berkeley on the evening of October 25, 2001, hosted by Archimedes Society chairman and MSRI trustee William R. Hearst, III. Nobel Laureate Donald A. Glaser gave a talk on “Mathematical Attempts to Understand the Brain” and Professor Robert Osserman gave a talk on “A Million Dollar Problem: Riemann and His Hypothesis.” A duo violin concerto was performed by Bill Barbini and Kineko Okumura.”

(“Museion, an evening of dining, music, lecture, discussion”, Mathematical Sciences Research Institute)

The California billionaire had a Harvard mathematics degree – something John Nash wished – and has been involved with several prominent science organizations, according to his profile at the Silicon Valley venture capital firm, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers:

“William R. Hearst III joined KPCB in January, 1995, and currently serves on the boards of Akimbo, Applied Minds, Juniper Networks, Oblix, OnFiber, and RGB Networks. In addition to his portfolio company boards, he is also a director of the Hearst Corporation and Hearst-Argyle Television. Hearst is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and a trustee of: The Hearst Foundation, Carnegie Institution of Washington, Mathematical Sciences Research Institute, California Academy of Sciences, and Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. Will Hearst was Editor and Publisher of the San Francisco Examiner from 1984 until 1995. He is a 1972 graduate of Harvard University, holding an AB degree in Mathematics.”

(“William Hearst III”, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers)

William Hearst as a Berkeley MRSI trustee was also relevant in the context of the colorful history of his cousin, former UC Berkeley student Patty Hearst, who was kidnaped by the Symbionese Liberation Army in 1974 and turned into a gun-toting revolutionary:

“Long before the 1974 kidnapping, the Hearst name was well-known. Her grandfather, publishing tycoon William Randolph Hearst, practically invented tabloid journalism. His story inspired Orson Welles to make the 1941 movie classic “Citizen Kane.”

Patricia Campbell Hearst was born February 20, 1954, in San Francisco, California. …

Her father, Randolph A. Hearst, was chairman of the board of the Hearst Corp., which owns a chain of newspapers, magazines and radio and TV stations. Her mother, Catherine Hearst, was a University of California regent.

Patty Hearst, who prefers to be called Patricia, attended a series of Catholic schools, earning As and Bs. A young teacher, Steven Weed, tutored her in math at one high school, and eventually the two became lovers.

After Weed received a graduate fellowship and teaching grant at the University of California, the two moved into an apartment in Berkeley. Hearst enrolled at Berkeley for her sophomore year, majoring in art history. The 19-year-old became engaged to Weed with plans to marry in summer 1974.

Hearst’s life changed irrevocably on the evening of February 4, 1974. Members of the Berkeley-based group SLA dragged the young heiress screaming at gunpoint from her apartment, threw her into the trunk of a car and drove her to a hideaway south of San Francisco.

The group then demanded that Hearst’s parents give millions of dollars to feed California’s poor. The Hearst family and Hearst Foundation responded with about $2 million in food for the Bay area needy, but negotiations broke down when the SLA sought an additional $4 million. Randolph Hearst said he couldn’t meet that amount, but the Hearst Corp. did offer to put the money in escrow, dependent on Patty Hearst’s release.

Eventually Hearst said she was given an option — she could become part of the SLA or be killed. She agreed to join and was christened with a new name — Tania.

To show off its newest recruit, the SLA targeted a Hibernia Bank branch in San Francisco. The April 15, 1974, heist netted more than $10,000 for the group, which was short on funds. Bank surveillance cameras showed Hearst holding a rifle. Two bystanders were shot.

On May 16, 1974, Hearst sprayed a barrage of gunfire outside a Los Angeles sporting goods store to help free SLA member Bill Harris, detained for shoplifting, and his wife, Emily, who had come to his aid.

The FBI finally caught up with Hearst more than 18 months after her kidnapping. She was arrested in San Francisco on September 18, 1975.”

(“Patty Hearst Profile: Radically different”, CNN.com)

When she was kidnaped in 1974, art history student Patty Hearst was living with her former math-teacher fiancé Steven Weed, who was a philosophy graduate student at Berkeley.

(“The Kidnapping That Gripped the Nation / Heiress Patty Hearst’s abduction 25 years ago took the entire country on a wild ride”, by William Carlsen, February 4, 1999, SFGate.com)

The day Patty Hearst was born in 1954 my father, then a Sun Yat-sen University Chinese Literature student, turned 21; but that coincidence had no apparent link to her kidnapping nearly 20 years later.

(“The myth of political vendetta in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police’s Airbus Affair investigation, the politics of Brian Mulroney and Jean Chretien, and some social undercurrents in Canada (Part 1)”, February 20, 2009, Feng Gao’s Space: Analysis of Current Affairs, Politics and History)

In 2004 Maria Klawe, then dean of engineering and applied science at Princeton University as in Part 1, became an MSRI trustee.

(“Board of Trustees (all)”, Mathematical Sciences Research Institute)

As in Part 1, back in 1991 I, then a computer science faculty member at the University of British Columbia, spoke to her about issues regarding her UBC computer science headship, she emphasized her trusteeship at the American Mathematical Society, and I responded that I had voted for her for that but it was a different matter.

After I left UBC, in 1995 Klawe was promoted to UBC vice president, and in 1995-1996 she was chair of AMS board of trustees.

(“CURRICULUM VITAE: MARIA M. KLAWE”, February 7, 2014, Harvey Mudd College)

MSRI is a much smaller but more prestigious organization than the AMS. In fact, the current AMS president, Robert Bryant, is a former chair of MSRI’s board of trustees, and the MSRI director from 2007 to 2013.

(“AMS Presidents: A Timeline, 63. Robert L. Bryant (1953 – )”, American Mathematical Society)

William Randolph Hearst III retired in 2011 and now there isn’t a business tycoon of that calibre on the MSRI board of trustees, but Klawe’s new Fortune magazine accolade in 2014 is impressive in her own right:

“Klawe is one of the ten members of the board of Microsoft Corporation, a board member of Broadcom Corporation and the nonprofit Math for America, a fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, a trustee for the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute in Berkeley and a member of the Stanford Engineering Advisory Council, the Advisory Council for the Computer Science Teachers Association, and the Canada Excellence Research Chairs Selection Board. She is co-chair of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Simons Institute at UC Berkeley. She is the recipient of the 2014 Women of Vision ABIE Award for Leadership and was ranked 17 on Fortune’s 2014 list of the World’s 50 Greatest Leaders.”

(“Personal Profile of Dr. Maria M. Klawe”, Mathematical Sciences Research Institute)

She was “ranked 17 on Fortune’s 2014 list of the World’s 50 Greatest Leaders” – I doubt William R. Hearst III has that.

As discussed in Part 1, Klawe attained it on the basis of her Harvey Mudd College presidency, “leading the charge to bring more women into science, technology, and engineering”.

(“The World’s 50 Greatest Leaders”, March 20, 2014, Fortune)

But I am not aware of anything politically rebellious in Klawe’s family history that had the kind of radical Berkeley political color Patty Hearst had, even if involuntary. As in Part 1, Klawe’s parents were former professors and her father also a former chief cartographer of Thomas Nelson & Sons, one of the oldest publishers of Sherlock Holmes stories. It was a past Klawe has been proud of.

Bu as in Part 1, Klawe did have a period of dropping out of school and living with her Yale-dropout boyfriend in India, a kind of non-hostile nonconformity to have for someone her corporate and management career ambitions; in addition, before transitioning to computer science after earning her University of Alberta Ph.D., she did teach mathematics for a year in 1977-1978 at Michigan’s Oakland university – the state Smale came from with a student movement background, and the namesake of Berkeley’s neighboring city which the 1965 Vietnam Day Committee marches failed to enter in 1965.

(February 7, 2014, Harvey Mudd College)

Klawe’s previous dean position at Princeton was important in her career advance as it positioned her to interact with a broader elite circle than at UBC: as a Princeton dean she appeared at a Microsoft Research Summit alongside Bill Gates, several years before becoming a board director of Microsoft Corporation.

Her Princeton stint is an interesting coincidence to John Nash’s remark, quoted earlier, made in his Abel Prize film at his old Princeton office now occupied by a woman and decorated with many paintings; Klawe is an amateur painter, and one of her paintings hung in Princeton president Shirley Tilghman’s office as Klawe described:

“Moving to Princeton as Dean of Engineering in 2003 brought another quantum leap in my confidence as an artist. Upon leaving UBC we held an online auction of fifty of my paintings as a fund-raiser for an endowed scholarship fund that I’d started in memory of my father. Princeton’s president, Shirley Tilghman, purchased a painting to hang in her office (one of those first fourteen that I had framed), and routinely introduced me as the new dean of engineering and talented artist. I found that everyone at Princeton loved the fact that I paint (Princeton revels in well-rounded students and faculty).”

(“Art and Computer Science: A Double Life”. Maria Klawe, March 26, 2006, National Center for Women & Information Technology)

Princeton was a quantum leap for Klawe, not just for her confidence as an artist or for her fundraising in memory of her late father.

In a similar sense, Klawe’s Fortune magazine feature as one of the world’s 50 greatest leaders in 2014 was like the takeover of a success symbol once prominently to be John Nash’s – alongside two retiring patriarch figures in mathematics, Oswald Veblen and Richard Courant – featured in the summer of 1958 in a Fortune article, “The new uses of the abstract”, shortly before Nash’s start of political activism that would end in psychiatric committal:

The new uses of the abstract,”

Pioneers in new fields of applied mathematics

John Nash

John Nash just turned thirty. Nash has already made a reputation as a brilliant mathematician who is eager to tackle the most difficult problems. He is one of the few young mathematicians who have done important work in both pure and applied mathematics. While an undergraduate at Carnegie Tech, he formulated some of the basic concepts of modern game theory. Shortly after, he made original contributions to the highly abstract field of algebraic geometry. Later he developed some new theorems about certain non-linear differential equations that are important in pure and applied mathematics. He is now an associate professor at M.I.T. and is looking into quantum theory. He also applies mathematics to one of his hobbies: stock-market predictions.

Oswald Veblen Veblen

Oswald Veblen Veblen, still a first-rate mathematician at seventy-eight, picked the original faculty, including Albert Einstein and John von Neumann, for the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. Unlike his uncle Thor-stein, the cantankerous sociologist, Oswald Veblen is mild-mannered. But when he wants his way, colleagues say, he manages to get it.

Richard Courant

A genius for raising funds has helped Courant, seventy, build up New York University’s Institute of Mathematical Sciences into the nation’s outstanding center of applied mathematical analysis. Until 1933 he headed the then world-famous applied-mathematics department of the University of Göttingen, and he has modeled the N.Y.U. center on it.”

(“This 1958 Fortune article introduced the world to John Nash and his math”, by Stephen Gandel, May 30, 2015, Fortune)

Nash was featured as a pioneer of “new mathematics” along with Oswald Veblen, the founding mathematician of Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Study, and Richard Courant, the founding mathematician of New York University’s Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences and former head of the world-famous applied mathematics program at the University of  Göttingen – prior to the rise of Nazi Germany.

The American Mathematical Society has had a Oswald Veblen Prize since 1964, awarded once every few years: C. D. Papakyriakopoulos and Raoul Bott were the first two recipients, in 1964, and Steve Smale was the third recipient, in 1966, the year of his Fields Medal.

(“Prize: Oswald Veblen Prize in Geometry”, American Mathematical Society)

In 1958 it was obvious to Fortune magazine who the future leader of mathematics was going to be!

I can certainly imagine John Nash emboldened by this Fortune feature, striving to become a leader of mathematicians with broader appeals than in their math fields: world-peace activism, given the prior profiles of persons like Einstein, and the devastation wrought by World War II to world-famous mathematical sciences in Germany, seemed a logical choice.

But within months Nash’s fortune was no more. Now Maria Klawe, originally from Alberta, Canada, has taken over the Fortune mantle of recognition for a mathematician.

Klawe’s claim to fame is on bringing more women into science, technology and engineering. In today’s liberal political environment of equality, it can’t go wrong, can it? As in Part 1,  it has given Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella goose bumps.

The University of British Columbia persons, especially computer scientists, may be familiar with a Maria Klawe painting consisting of portraits of the late Alain Fournier, founding faculty member of the UBC computer graphics group, that is publicly available on the website of Pierre Poulin, one of Fournier’s former Ph.D. students who came to UBC with him in 1989.

(“Alain Fournier, a life in pictures”, and, “Painting by Maria Klawe”, Pierre Poulin, Département d’informatique et de recherche opérationnelle, Université de Montréal)

Though not a famous scientist like John Nash, Alain Fournier, recipient of the 1994 Achievement Award of the Canadian Human-Computer Communications Society, has been a name familiar to those in the computer graphics field.

(“Alain Fournier: 1994 Achievement Award”, Graphics Interface)

During the 1990s, computer graphics was the trendiest and highest-priority field at UBC computer science department. In a May 2011 blog post, I recalled that in 1990 I applied to convert my fixed-term faculty position to a tenure-track one, but the tenure-track position was later offered to a new Stanford Ph.D., Jack Snoeyink, who had research connection to computer graphics:

“Kelly Booth, a leader of the Computer Graphics group, had received his Berkeley Ph.D. under “Dick” Karp years before, thus apparently the offer to Jack Snoeyink had to do with Jack’s research connection to Computer Graphics as well as lack of a key affirmation for me. Alain Fournier, the other leader of the group, unfortunately died of cancer in year 2000.”

(“Team Canada female athletes disqualified from Commonwealth silver medal, jailed Chinese democracy activist awarded with Nobel peace prize, and others in between (Part 4) — when power and control are the agenda”, May 24, 2011)

Fournier and research associate Peter Cahoon, along with students like Poulin, founded UBC’s first computer graphics laboratory, Imager, in 1989:

“The Imager Laboratory was established in 1989 by Dr. Alain Fournier and his students, and research associate Dr. Peter Cahoon. Over the next few years they were joined by faculty members Dr. Kellogg Booth, Dr. David Forsey, Dr. Dinesh Pai, and Dr. Jack Snoeyink, and by a number of new graduate students.”

(“History”, Imager Laboratory, University of British Columbia)

So it was rather surprising that both the founding faculty member and the founding researcher of UBC’s computer graphics field in 1989, died in 2000:

Forever Missed…

Dr. Alain Fournier

Founding Professor and Member of Imager 1989-2000

In memoriam

Dr. Peter Cahoon

Research Associate and Member of Imager 1989-2000

In memoriam”

(“Imager Alumni”, Imager Laboratory, University of British Columbia)

It was odd coincidence, wasn’t it? Fournier died of cancer, I later heard that he had already had a bout coming to UBC in 1989, and that Cahoon died of a mysterious brain disease.

Peter Cahoon had written a book of poetry. Since both Fournier and Cahoon died in 2000, Cahoon possibly early in the year as I seem to recall, a Cahoon poem reminded me of the Millennium Bug as the New Year arrived in 2000, discussed in Part 1; here are some of the lines in that poem reminding me of the ‘Y2K bug’:

“At five a.m.
A sleep sullen soul
Stares blankly into
Empty space.
A knife edge darts
Along a crooked smile
Its dark converging lines concede
The adrenal grip of treason.”

“Your limp mind’s
Crippled fingers
Long to pull,
To grapple with intent
But its tired arms are bent
From falling stones.
Its future is held forth
In mawkish leaps.”

“All new realities come
As sprawling notes
At the end of
A longer page.”

(“Dr. Peter Cahoon”, Imager Laboratory, University of British Columbia; and, Peter G. Cahoon, Travels on a Listening Dark : Poems, 1993)

So in my very first blog post, “Greeting the New Millennium – nearly a decade late”, dated January 29, 2009, the following metaphor of “vampires … taking away … tormented souls” was written with Alain Fournier and Peter Cahoon in mind:

“Fortunately, when the New Year of 2000 finally came nothing of a catastrophic type happened, though among the worldwide euphoria of New Millennium celebrations one wondered if there might not be a few vampires arriving for the occasion and taking away with them some tormented souls.”

(Part 1, January 29, 2009, Feng Gao’s Space: Analysis of Current Affairs, Politics and History)

Unlike the unusual coincidence of the deaths of Alain Fournier and Peter Cahoon, some deaths of two interconnected persons, while unusual in their coincidence, were viewed as part of the normal life: when Alexander Grothendieck was lecturing in Hanoi during the Vietnam War in November 1967, a U.S. warplane dropped a “delayed-action” cluster bomb, and it killed two mathematics instructors –as tricky as the killings were they occurred in the same wartime incident.

Some separate deaths of two interconnected persons were more unsettling due to their political backgrounds: Jerry Rubin, who founded the UC Berkeley Vietnam Day Committee with Steve Smale, went on to found the Youth International Party with Abbie Hoffman; Hoffman died in 1989 and Rubin in 1994 – both UC Berkeley graduates, Yippies founders, and in their 50s.

Some interconnected persons lived to a good age before they died, but the coincidence of two deaths can still be interesting: Ted Martin, John Nash’s MIT math department chair in 1958-1959, and Shiing-shen Chern, at the time a University of Chicago math professor who strongly supported hiring Nash there, were both long-time academic leaders, Martin chairing the MIT department for over 20 years and serving in various management roles at the American Mathematical Society, and Chern founding and leading two premier international mathematical institutions – both were born in 1911 and both died in 2004.

Then there were Alexander Grothendieck and John Nash himself: two old friends, each active in own political activism to the point that the prominent career was adversely affected, Nash due to diagnosis of mental illness and Grothendieck due to withdrawal from mathematical research – both died at 86, Nash a few months after Grothendieck.

At first glance, the Grothendieck-Nash coincidence does not appear as clear as the Martin-Chern comparison with its matches of both birth year and death year numbers. However, the mathematical circumstances offered more links between the deaths of Grothendieck and Nash, beyond both being at 86 (and having been born in the same year).

When Grothendieck died on November 13, 2014, he forever missed the Abel Prize, of which he should have been one of the most rightful awardees – as the Israel Gelfand school of Russian mathematicians have strongly expressed – or at least given his set of mathematical achievements.

Soon in March 2015, Nash was among the first awardees of the Abel Prize following Grothendieck’s death. In this context, Nash’s death on his way back from the award ceremony becomes an additional layer of connection to Grothendieck, shortly before and just after the 2015 Abel Prize – a layer of mathematical relevance in the death timings that do not obviously exist between, e.g., the 2008 death of David Gale also at 86 and Nash’s in 2015.

Why was Nash then given this award?

Princeton University’s news release, quoted earlier, succinctly described Nash’s mathematical achievements that earned him the award, in particular the Nash-De Giorgi theorem:

“Nash’s name is attached to a range of influential work in mathematics, including the Nash-Moser inverse function theorem, the Nash-De Giorgi theorem (which stemmed from a problem Nash undertook at the suggestion of Nirenberg), and the Nash embedding theorems, which the academy described as “among the most original results in geometric analysis of the twentieth century.””

(Morgan Kelly, March 26, 2015, News at Princeton)

So Nash and Louis Nirenberg were awarded the 2015 Abel Prize together due to their relations in research, including the Nash-De Giorgi theorem which Nash had undertaken at Nirenberg’s suggestion.

I wonder if Grothendieck’s death became a factor for awarding to these two as soon as possible: Nash was also 86 and Nirenberg, born February 28, 1925, was already 90!

(“Interview with Louis Nirenberg”, by Allyn Jackson, April 2002, Notices of the American Mathematical Society)

What was the Nash-De Giorgi theorem? The Abel Prize committee has explained it:

“Nash won one of the first Sloan Fellowships in 1956 and chose to take a year’s sabbatical at the Institute of Advanced Study in Princeton. He based himself not in Princeton, but in New York, where he spent much of his time at Richard Courant’s fledgling Institute for Applied Mathematics at NYU. It was here Nash met Louis Nirenberg, who suggested to him that he work on a major open problem in nonlinear theory concerning inequalities associated with elliptic partial differential equations. Within a few months Nash had proved the existence of these inequalities. Unknown to him, the Italian mathematician Ennio De Giorgi had already proved this, using a different method, and the result is known as the Nash-De Giorgi theorem.”

(“John Forbes Nash Jr.”, Abelprize.no)

So Nash was for a time affiliated with Princeton’s IAS founded by Oswald Veblen while spending the actual time at NYU’s Courant Institute founded by Richard Courant – I note it has been located near the Wall Street and Financial District and the 1958 Fortune article, “The new uses of the abstract”, mentioned Nash’s stock-market prediction hobby – where Nirenberg suggested a math problem to him; Nash solved it, however Ennio De Giorgi in Italy had proved it first.

Why doesn’t the Abel Prize committee call it the De Giorgi-Nash theorem, then?

I would presume John Nash is apparently the elite symbol. According to Sylvia Nasar’s book, the Italian mathematician Ennio De Giorgi lived a life of poverty:

“De Giorgi, who died in 1996, came from a very poor family in Lecce in southern Italy. … He had no life outside mathematics, no family of his own or other close relationships, and, even later, literally lived in his office.”

(Sylvia Nasar, 1998, Simon & Schuster)

In my imagination, this background is where my “vampire” metaphor came in surrounding Nash’s death.

On May 23, 2015, after arriving at the Newark Liberty International Airport from the Abel Prize ceremony, Nirenberg’s daughter Lisa Macbride suggested to the Nashes that they take a taxi instead of waiting for 5 hours for their limo service. So the Nashes did, and the driver of the yellow taxicab then gave them what turned out to be their last, deadly ride – Nash died short of his June 13 birthday, so still 86 like Grothendieck, but in the glory of a prize Grothendieck should have been awarded but wasn’t.

How randomly likely is it, when a Nirenberg suggestion had led to Nash’s fame in association with De Giorgi and a top award, that returning from the award ceremony a Nirenberg daughter suggestion brought Nash a driver named Girgis?

If it wasn’t your guardian angel, it was probably a vampire.

(Continuing to Part 3)

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A review of postings about scientific integrity and intellectual honesty, with observations regarding elite centrism – Part 1: behind “publish or perish”

Issues concerning scientific integrity and intellectual honesty have been given much attention in my blogging and social media posting, from the very beginning.

Here is the opening of my first blog post, dated January 29, 2009:

“It was eleven years before the New Millennium, in February 1989 only several months with my Mathematics Ph.D. degree out of the University of California, Berkeley, when the notion “Mathematics for the New Century” circulating in the mathematics community made a strong impression on me. A larger public-relations campaign was soon launched by then President George H. W. Bush and the U.S. state governors, spearheaded by a few including Gov. Bill Clinton of Arkansas, for what would become the first National Education Summit held in September 1989 in Charlottesville, Virginia, where it was declared that, among other objectives, U.S. high school students would be leading the world in mathematics and science by the year 2000. Subsequent efforts would lead to the Goals 2000 project later signed into law in 1994 as a centerpiece of President Bill Clinton’s education reform.

In 1989 I was a computer science faculty member at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, as an educator and researcher generally interested in good news for education and particularly impressed by declaration of lofty goals and projects to achieve them. Education, however, was often trumped by other more ominous or more urgent matters, such as the Gulf War in 1991; or at least that was what I would presume. But press archives indicate that on January 17, 1991, the day of the launch of Operation Desert Storm, or what Iraqi president Saddam Hussein called “Mother of all Battles”, President Bush, Sr. actually met with his education advisory panel to hear about creating national standards for student performance, though he made no commitments on their proposal at the time according to panel member and former U.S. secretary of labor William Brock.

Having grown up a peaceful child and done Ph.D. study under someone who happened to have a past background of vigorous opposition to the Vietnam War, I tended to look into things via more idealistic, less bombastic lenses, and my presumption could sometimes be quite naïve. The peaceful and beautiful British Columbia where I had moved to in 1988 was not all reclusive when it came to U.S. politics: the city of Nelson,B.C. was well-known as a haven for many of the Vietnam-era “draft dodgers”, and U.S. ambassador to Iraq April Catherine Glaspie, who was in the news over the controversy of exactly what the U.S. government told Saddam Hussein in July 1990 just days before his launching invasion of Kuwait, was originally from Vancouver.”

(“Greeting the New Millennium – nearly a decade late (Part 1)”, January 29, 2009, Feng Gao’s Space: Analysis of Current Affairs, Politics and History)

As my very first blog post indicated, in the late 1980s – early 1990s when I was in the academic fields of mathematics and computer science, “Mathematics for the New Century” was a captivating slogan, and both U.S. President George Bush, Sr. and Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton championed math and science education in the first National Education Summit in 1989, that later led to the Goals 2000 project signed into law in 1994 by then U.S. President Clinton.

But as my post also showed, other matters of urgency could trump education, math and science education in particular – matters such as the Gulf War of 1991, which the United States launched to evict the Iraqi army of the Saddam Hussein regime out of Kuwait, even if Bush did not entirely forget education.

My post also pointed out that not everything was back-and-white in the picture of a war against a stereotype bad guy: U.S. ambassador to Iraq April Catherine Glaspie was in the news over the controversy of exactly what the U.S. government told Saddam Hussein in July 1990 just days before the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.

Well, someone may have lacked intellectual honesty and misrepresented something, and it became a part of the context, albeit a largely overlooked part, of the Persian Gulf conflict.

But that was politics and foreign relations, not science or education.

Over a year later in April 2010 I extended from blogging to social media presentation on Facebook. In my first posting on a Facebook community page I created, “Science, Education Progress, and New Millennium Bugs”, I excerpted the above-quoted part of my first blog post, as well as what happened to Goals 2000 by the year 2000:

“When the new century, or rather the New Millennium as it was referred to by then, finally drew close the views on progress towards it were by no means universal. Some in fact were quite critical about perceived lack of progress in education despite the efforts: at the eve of the New Millennium, then The New York Times columnist Richard Rothstein described the movement toward “Goals 2000” as a failure’s shutout victory over the United States.”

(“Tumbling and fumbling toward the New Millennium – a look back”, April 24, 2010, Science, Education Progress, and New Millennium Bugs)

As quoted, The New York Times columnist Richard Rothstein considered Goals 2000 a failure’s victory, that ambitious goals were not accomplished at all by the time the Clinton era was greeting the New Millennium; he described it:

“The goals were these: By 2000, all children will start school ready to learn; 90 percent will graduate from high school; all will demonstrate competency over challenging subject matter in English, math, science, foreign languages, civics, economics, the arts, history and geography; the United States will be first in the world in math and science; all adults will be literate; no school will have drugs, violence, firearms or alcohol; teachers will have needed skills; all schools will get parents involved.

Faced with unmet goals, it’s easy to maintain that sincere effort was all that mattered. That is the approach taken by the National Education Goals Panel, an agency run by governors, members of Congress, state legislators and federal education officials. Ducking accountability, the panel earlier this year proposed changing the name “Goals 2000” to “America’s Education Goals,” dropping any mention of deadlines. Then, in its 1999 report, it stated that its “bold venture” had worked, because the goals had “helped stimulate reforms.””

(“LESSONS; ‘Goals 2000’ Score: Failure 8, U.S. 0”, by Richard Rothstein, December 22, 1999, The New York Times)

Rothstein considered it a political failure as much as an education failure:

“The very leaders who set these national goals now demand accountability from districts and schools: principals and teachers should suffer consequences for not meeting state targets that sprang from the nationwide goals. But when national leaders fall short of goals, why do they not face similar sanctions? Policy makers’ lack of candor about the irresponsible way the goals were set can breed local educators’ contempt for the entire standards movement.”

(Richard Rothstein, December 22, 1999, The New York Times)

In April 2010 my new Facebook community page’s title was fittingly about science and education progress. It was also about “New Millennium Bugs”, but what were “New Millennium Bugs”?

My first blog post and the Facebook excerpt mentioned it:

“Just before the New Millennium began I was joining the Silicon Valley in California (after another stint as an educator at the University of Hawaii, in Honolulu), arriving at the high-tech world among the dot-com and venture-capitalism rushes, which I wasn’t really part of. The ominous notion someone like me read and heard daily about the New Millennium at the time was not failure of education, but fears for Y2K (also called the ‘millennium bug’), and the tremendous amount of government and corporate efforts being made (and of course money being spent) to prevent disasters from materializing out of tiny numerical ‘legacies’ of computer programs. It was reported that one man in Ontario, Canada, had been preparing for the potential doomsday scenario for 20 years, burying 42 school buses deep underground as a home for himself.”

(April 24, 2010, Science, Education Progress, and New Millennium Bugs)

Basically, in old computer programs the year in 4 decimal digits had been represented by only 2, e.g., 1989 as 89 and 1999 as 99, and there were fears that when 2000 came as 00 calculations would go wrong and catastrophes would strike where computers were relied on. It was called “Y2K”.

The U.S. government spent $8.5 billion, upgrading computer systems and software, to avoid potential Y2K disasters.

(“Federal Y2K glitches compiled”, by Brian Friel, January 13, 2000, Government Executive)

As in the above cited article, when year 2000 arrived there were only minor glitches, some described in my post:

“… The U.S. government later reported only a number of small technical glitches at the moment of the arrival of the millennium, such as: on the Naval Observatory web page the date read “19100”, the alarm systems at the John F. Kennedy Federal Building in Boston malfunctioned, a federal facility security access system in Nebraska was stuck in the open position, a Federal Aviation Administration system stopped processing some notices to airmen, an automatic backup system at the Cleveland Air Route Traffic Control Center failed to activate, a fire alarm system at a Financial Management Service office in Kansas was falsely activated, also in Kansas a lock failed at a Food and Drug Administration leased facility, and a Chicago-area bank stopped electronic transfers of Medicare payments to healthcare providers; in the end only oddly behaving malfunctions like the above, without any obvious disaster, yet all the while in Guam the processing of federal food-stamp benefits was being carried out manually because the systems there were not Y2K-compliant.”

(April 24, 2010, Science, Education Progress, and New Millennium Bugs)

Back in 2000 I had the feeling that the Y2K concerns were overblown. But then something else soon happened and was real, as I recalled in a late 2009 blog post, excerpted in my second post on the Facebook page:

“And on New Year’s Eve 2000 when the New Millennium was knocking at humanity’s door, there were few lofty yet well-defined and well-publicized goals for the world community to stride for befitting the euphoria, but instead fears about Y2K which turned out to be over-worrying. Then soon hard-to-believe destructions happened to the World Trade Centers and the Pentagon, and the world saw that at least Al Qaeda was likely real.”

(“Was the New Millennium here? Barack Obama didn’t quite think so”, April 24, 2010, Science, Education Progress, and New Millennium Bugs)

“Al Qaeda was likely real” and so, once again, war trumped things like education – this time under U.S. President George Bush, Jr. as I noted in my first blog post:

“In any case, when it came to the junior president Bush, the facts have appeared solid that he was more willing to let other issues such as education be trumped by his focus on fighting terrorism: another summit in the National Education Summit series first started in 1989 by his father George Bush, Sr., was held on October 10, 2001 and the U.S. president was a no-show, as were a large number of state governors, drawing criticism from a key sponsor of the event, then IBM chairman Louis V. Gerstner, Jr.; many of those who did attend this 2001 summit soon after 9/11, including then Gov. Gary Locke of Washington and then Gov. George E. Pataki of New York, deplored the poor state of minority-student education in the United States and the widening gap in performance between white and minority students.”

(Part 1, January 29, 2009, Feng Gao’s Space: Analysis of Current Affairs, Politics and History)

So that was a rationale for my naming this Facebook community page “Science, Education Progress, and New Millennium Bugs”, namely that science and education need to be on solid grounds and to make good progress, in order to uncover and eliminate “bugs” that otherwise might obstruct, or even ruin, humanity’s progress toward a better future.

In the academia, excellence of scholarly pursue, scientific research included, has traditionally been measured by a scholar’s body of publications in both its quantity and its quality.

The saying, “publish or perish”, reflects what is demanded of an academic as well as the competitiveness of the academic environment. The academia being relatively autonomous in the broader society, there has been a tendency by academics to explain themselves to the outside entirely in this context.

But such explanations could actually be counter-scientific, as philosophical as they may be.

A personal story early in my academic political activism, in 1992 when I had been actively questioning the management style of my boss, Computer Science Head Maria Klawe at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, illustrated this point.

My job there ended at the end of June 1992 amid the dispute and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police was called to evict me from the office on July 2. Then on August 24 in the city of Montreal, Quebec, Concordia University faculty member Valery Fabrikant gunned down several colleagues in an escalating dispute that had involved credits for scholarly publications but now had his job on the line. Two days later, UBC Faculty Association President William Bruneau was quoted in Kitsilano News, blaming the “publish or perish” mentality for both the Fabrikant murders and two local disputes including mine, and calling them “consequences of Reaganism and Thatcherism of the 1980s”:

“The local story in the community newspaper, Kitsilano News, sounded even worse, not because of the local violence the story claimed but as a result of UBC Faculty Association President William Bruneau’s excessive politicizing, who made it sound like the conservative policies of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher caused people to fear losing their jobs and to resort to violence:

“A Montreal professor who shot to death three of his colleagues this week was affected by the same “publish or perish” mentality behind two violent incidents involving University of B.C. professors in the last 18 months, says UBC Faculty Association president Bill Bruneau.

“He had to be dragged from his office,” Bruneau said. “It was related to the level of pressure on the campus.”

Staff Sgt. Bern Jansen of the RCMP’s university detachment confirmed that a former faculty member was held in police custody for a short time in early July after refusing to leave his office…

“Tenure issues are pretty big here,” Jansen said. “But we’ve never had anything anywhere near as big as the Concordia event.”

“There’s a lot of personality issues that takes place here – it’s just like any other community.”

In an interview Tuesday, Bruneau said the Concordia shootings recalled the 1989 Ecole Polytechnique massacre, in which Marc Lepine fatally shot 14 women engineering students. The rising level of violence in society is a concern to academics: “Universities are supposed to be concerned with reason and compassion.”

The university incidents point to a larger social question: “People are terrified they are going to lose their jobs – it’s a consequence of the 1980s, Reaganism and Thatcherism.””

So someone like me trying peaceful academic politics was now bundled – though my name wasn’t released – with Valery Fabrikant as causing “violent incidents” in universities.

…”

(“Team Canada female athletes disqualified from Commonwealth silver medal, jailed Chinese democracy activist awarded with Nobel peace prize, and others in between (Part 5) — when law enforcement considerations reflect entrenched interests”, February 20, 2012, Feng Gao’s Blog – Reflections on Events of Interest)

Bill Bruneau expressed everything in the rightful way from his faculty association president position, that the academia was about “publish or perish”, and when violence occurred Reaganism and Thatcherism were to blame in the views of the politically left-leaning Canadian academics.

This was not limited to his faculty association role, or later his role as president of Canadian Association of University Teachers, but an academic specialty of Bruneau’s, who was also a scholar on Bertrand Russell. In the same February 20, 2012 blog post I also quoted from a scholarly book of Bruneau’s:

“Bill Bruneau’s political hyperbole seemed a righteous grandstand from his position, but it could do more harm to a former member of his faculty association like me. Bruneau would continue to pound on similar issues, including writing a book:

“Performance indicators have a long history. But it is no accident that PIs became the vogue in the Thatcher/Reagan era and beyond—one part of the movement to transform universities into business corporations complete with  CEOs and the top-down structures favoured by the business community. … In the end the result has been the exact opposite—the imposition of costly and highly centralized bureaucracies onto the university system, and the triumph of a right-wing nomenklatura.”

Wasn’t it a little hypocritical when the faculty association president, later president of Canadian Association of University Teachers, and also a Bertrand Russell scholar, effectively denied about a local management flaw while denouncing, in his publications, the wrong management theory for the world according to him?”

(February 20, 2012, Feng Gao’s Blog – Reflections on Events of Interest)

Bruneau’s logic seemed both scholarly solid and politically righteous, that Reaganism and Thatcherism were business oriented and performance focused. But unfortunately as applied to my case it was lacking in the disposition of scientific inquisition, and simply untrue: in the Kitsilano News story, the police at UBC did not confirm any violence; and as in Part 4 of my blog-post series where Part 5 is quoted above, in June 1992 the faculty association had held a hearing on my grievance about Klawe’s management-style problems – so the association president should know that it was not about “publish or perish” mentality on my part.

Almost two decades later in 2009-2010, nothing had changed for the better as UBC and RCMP never acknowledged any mistake on the part of the management, and probably for the worse for me because by then Klawe was a much more powerful figure in the academia and the computer science field: in Part 4 of the quoted blog-post series I noted that after the start of my blogging in 2009, she became a board director of Microsoft Corporation.

It was about 10 years into the New Millennium as in the title of my first blog post, “Greeting the New Millennium – nearly a decade late”; but the academia in its core thinking continued to defer to the established prestige for its sense of judgment.

This was illustrated by an August 1, 2012 article in The Scientist magazine, summarized and shared on “Science, Education Progress, and New Millennium Bugs”, critical of the recent open-access model of scientific publication that has loosened the peer review process:

“… the open-access movement is producing an almost boomtown-like increase in the number of scholarly open-access publishers, fostered by a very low barrier to entrance into the learned publishing industry. To become a scholarly publisher, all you need now is a computer, a website, and the ability to create unique journal titles.

Bolstering this trend is the so-called “gold open-access” model, in which publishing is supported not by subscription fees but by author fees. …

This increase in the number of open-access journals has major implications for scholarly publishing. Authors become the publishers’ customers, an arrangement that creates a conflict of interest: the more papers a publisher accepts, the more revenue it earns.

Not surprisingly, acceptance rates at gold open-access journals are skyrocketing, and article peer review is decreasing. Scholarly communication is now flooded with hundreds of thousands of new, second-rate articles each year, burdening conscientious researchers who have to sort through them all, filtering out the unworthy ones.

Exploiting the trend is an increasing number of what I define as “predatory” publishers—those that unprofessionally exploit the gold open-access model for their own profit. These publishers use deception to appear legitimate, entrapping researchers into submitting their work and then charging them to publish it. Some prey especially on junior faculty and graduate students…

The implications for tenure and promotion are significant. Previously, traditional publishers played a validation role: if an article appeared in a journal of a respected publisher, generally everyone accepted it as quality work worthy of publication. Now, predatory publishers assign lofty titles to their journals, making the task of judging a tenure candidate’s list of publications much more complicated. Sadly, a few academics are gaming the new system, exploiting the scholarly vanity press to buy prestige.”

(“Predatory Publishing”, by Jeffrey Beall, August 1, 2012, The Scientist, shared on Science, Education Progress, and New Millennium Bugs)

While no doubt a “boomtown-like” atmosphere and lesser-quality publications come with an expanded journal publishing landscape, in my view the proper context needs to be understood: traditional publishers did charge author fees but the fees were small, not the main source of revenue; the emergence of the “gold open-access” model is likely partly due to increased availability of research funding that can cover publication costs, besides easier public access to journals without paying for subscriptions.

A journal’s dependence on author fees can be incentive for laxer peer review. But in a similar logic the tenure system, in part intended to protect academic freedom, can mean disincentive to scholarly productivity once a scholar has mustered enough – most reliably with publications in traditionally respected journals as in the above quote – to secure tenure at an academic institution.

Another The Scientist article in late August 2012, also summarized and shared on “Science, Education Progress, and New Millennium Bugs”, proposed an effective remedy to inadequate peer review and inadequate quality in open-access publications, through making peer review open-access:

“The Research Works Act, which made the rounds of the US Congress earlier this year, brought the question of access to the fore and motivated scientists to become activist in their support for open-access publishing. Many universities (for example Harvard University and the University of California, San Francisco) have strongly urged their researchers towards open access, and, in the first nationwide push in the same direction, the British Government announced a couple of weeks ago that all publicly funded research will be published open access by 2014.

There has been a rising tide of blog posts, seminars, and workshops discussing the problems of the peer review system, with numerous proposals being floated for how to fix it, and also much discussion about the need for more openness and transparency, particularly with respect to the data behind research findings. …

At F1000, we believe that if everything is out in the open, then biases will lose their power and errors will quickly be addressed and discussed. Furthermore, the contributions of referees, whose role in improving published science is vital, can be publicly acknowledged and formally recognized as important and valuable outputs.

The F1000 Research publication model works as follows: New submissions go through a rapid internal pre-publication check and are then published immediately, labeled clearly as “Awaiting Peer Review.” Expert referees are then invited to review the submissions and are asked to do two things: first, assign a quick “Approved” … “Not Approved” … or “Approved with Reservations” … status within a matter of days. The paper’s status will be prominently displayed along with the referee’s name. Second, referees are asked to write a more standard referee report that they sign and publish alongside the article (this is optional if the referee status provided in the first step was “Approved”). Authors are then encouraged to revise their articles in response to the referee’s comments and each article version will be separately accessible and citable.”

(“Opinion: Transparency in Science Publishing”, by Rebecca Lawrence, August 28, 2012, The Scientists, shared on Science, Education Progress, and New Millennium Bugs)

I can think of a few minor problems with this open-access peer review system: the quick-response requirement, when referees typically take on peer review as additional work to their scientific activities; the referee’s no-report option if the recommendation is approval, when even experts can act lax; and the open display of all revisions of a paper, intimidating to potential authors who prefer to be known for their satisfactory final product.

Other than the above, this open-access pear review approach preserves the key ingredients of, and with open access does not appear inferior to, the traditional peer review.

The context of these two articles’ appearance is telling of what The Scientist editors favored.

The article on predatory publishing was in the August 2012 issue, which had a panel question-and-answer article on the future of scientific publishing, titled “Wither Science Publishing?” with a negative tone, and two other related articles, “Predatory Publishing” quoted earlier, and “Bring on the Transparency Index”, both choosing to identify open-access publishing with predatory publishing.

(“The Scientist”, August 2012, Volume 26, Issue 8)

In contrast, the August 28, 2012 article quoted above, “Opinion: Transparency in Science Publishing”, favoring open access, was not in the magazine but an opinion piece on the website of The Scientist.

The contrast illustrated that as the governments and the public embraced open access of scientific publications, The Scientist magazine was not so positive, seeing ills in the new trend.

The Scientist isn’t just any scientific publication. It was founded in 1986 as the first ‘trade magazine’ for science in the U.S.:

“Oddly enough, up to now scientists have had no equivalent to the trade papers of other professions. Physicians and attorneys have access to such papers, which keep them up to date on developments that affect their professional lives. Don’t scientists need the same kind of information, in the same kind of format? We think the answer to that question is Yes, and so we are publishing THE SCIENTIST.”

(“A Voice for the Science Professional”, by Eugene Garfield, October 20, 1986, The Scientist)

From the start, this “trade papers” inspired magazine gave plenty of coverage to government policies on science and to science policies internationally, as shown in articles in its first issue with titles such as, “Congress Hikes NIH Budget”, “Report Sees Decline In British Science”, and “Chinese Move Ahead On Science Reforms”.

(“The Scientist”, October 1986, Volume 1, Issue 1)

Another article, “New Ideas Are ‘Guilty Until Proved Innocent’”, in this founding issue strongly stated that traditional ideas should be favored over new ideas in science:

“Acceptance of any new theoretical framework depends on credibility and improvement on existing alternatives. In cases where the choice is not immediately obvious, the burden of proof generally lies with the new idea. Given a choice, the scientific community invariably sticks with the conventional wisdom. Furthermore, the older ideas have usually been around long enough to have accumulated supporting evidence, whereas the new idea rarely has much going for it, at least at first. It is not a fair game.

Despite the lack of “fairness” to new ideas, the traditional practice in science may serve us better than a more democratic mode. History shows that most new ideas fall. Science would be very confused much of the time if all new ideas were given precisely equal treatment. It is clear that the new theory is guilty until proved innocent, and the pre-existing theory is innocent until proved guilty.”

(“New Ideas Are ‘Guilty Until Proved Innocent’”, by David Raup, October 20, 1986, The Scientist)

One can read it, that “traditional practice” is better than what would be “more democratic”, and that the new theory is “guilty until proved innocent” whereas the pre-existing theory is “innocent until proved guilty”.

Not much changed from 1986 to 2012 in the mindset demonstrated by this first ‘trade magazine’ of U.S. science, and it was little wonder in 1992 in Canada a university faculty association president used the “publish or perish” mentality like a ‘veil’ to explain all academic disputes that concerned him – the tradition was it.

So while a magazine like The Scientist has been a good source of reports on scientific ideas and advances, which I frequently shared on “Science, Education Progress, and New Millennium Bugs”, it is by no means the best place to look for open coverage of flaws in science or fair judgment on science politics.

Next to publications, funding is a top issue for scientific research. Here, scientific biases can occur when the funding source has an interest in seeing particular types of conclusions.

On both my personal Facebook page and “Science, Education Progress, and New Millennium Bugs”, I summarized and shared a November 2012 article from The Washington Post on a major case of such bias in the publication of research funded by pharmaceutical companies:

“For drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline, the 17-page article in the New England Journal of Medicine represented a coup.

The 2006 report described a trial that compared three diabetes drugs and concluded that Avandia, the company’s new drug, performed best.

“We now have clear evidence from a large international study that the initial use of [Avandia] is more effective than standard therapies,” a senior vice president of GlaxoSmithKline, Lawson Macartney, said in a news release.

… The trial had been funded by GlaxoSmithKline, and each of the 11 authors had received money from the company. Four were employees and held company stock. The other seven were academic experts who had received grants or consultant fees from the firm.

Whether these ties altered the report on Avandia may be impossible for readers to know. But while sorting through the data from more than 4,000 patients, the investigators missed hints of a danger that, when fully realized four years later, would lead to Avandia’s virtual disappearance from the United States:

The drug raised the risk of heart attacks.

“If you looked closely at the data that was out there, you could see warning signs,” said Steven E. Nissen, a Cleveland Clinic cardiologist who issued one of the earliest warnings about the drug. “But they were overlooked.”

A Food and Drug Administration scientist later estimated that the drug had been associated with 83,000 heart attacks and deaths.”

(“As drug industry’s influence over research grows, so does the potential for bias”, by Peter Whoriskey, November 24, 2012, The Washington Post, shared on Science, Education Progress, and New Millennium Bugs)

Money likely spoke with this piece of scientific research work, beyond “publish or perish”; and The New England Journal of Medicine is more than any respected traditional scholarly journal, but one of the world’s most influential scientific journals – No. 9 in the 2012 Thomson Reuters journal impact factors rankings – and the leading medical journal with “highly rigorous peer-review and editing process”. It was established prestige as ultimate qualification for the Avandia drug maker GlaxoSmithKline.

(“New Impact Factors Released”, by Bob Grant, July 6, 2012, The Scientist; and, “Publication Process”, The New England Journal of Medicine)

It showed that even a preeminent peer-reviewed scientific venue is not immune to serious errors – in this case with an associated human cost of thousands of lives.

As a matter of fact, the sanctums of science and academia have never been so pure as to be separated from human flaws, not with “highly rigorous” peer review as illustrated, and not even in their great glory or established traditions.

A classic example is the popularity of occult studies, including magic and alchemy, in the glory days of the British Royal Society, practiced by prominent scientists the like of Isaac Newton, as told in a September 2012 The New York Times article summarized and shared on “Science, Education Progress, and New Millennium Bugs”:

“Founded in 1660, the Royal Society is the world’s oldest continuous scientific society. Newton, Christopher Wren, Robert Boyle and many more came together in a spirit of revolutionary if at times eccentric inquiry. Magic and alchemy greatly fascinated the society’s founders.

The society no longer occupies that globe-dominating perch. The United States casts a much longer shadow, with billions of dollars spent on research and industrial might; American scientists dominate many disciplines. And other nations, not least China, are gaining.

The society took root in the soil of revolution. More than half of its founding members favored the Parliamentary cause in the 17th-century civil war that cost Charles I his crown and then his head. During that intoxicating century, nearly everything holy, from royal rank to economics to science to the immortality of the soul, was challenged. In the early days of the Royal Society, knights and earls sat shoulder to shoulder with metalsmiths and merchants.

Though rationalists, these scientists viewed God as central to their universe and their work. As Edward Dolnick, author of “The Clockwork Universe,” an entertaining history of the early society, noted, the founders viewed the laws of nature and God as inseparable. They were mapping his universe.

The historian Christopher Hill termed this the “stop in the mind.” The scientists, philosophers and politicians of any era confront limits to their consciousness. How do you imagine a world, or even know what questions to ask, when you lack reference points?

And there is that question of magic. Society members lived in a time shadowed by apocalyptic dread, from plague to fire to war. They were fascinated by alchemy, unicorns’ horns and magic salves, and they often experimented on themselves.

“They researched the phenomena a lot, and they weren’t all wrong,” [Royal Society librarian] Mr. [Keith] Moore noted. “They knew there was an invisible world.”

Critics attacked Newton as an occultist for theorizing about gravity, as it was unseen and not mechanical. (Over his lifetime, he would write far more pages on biblical hermeneutics and occult studies than on math and science.) Still, he dominated the society’s early years.”

(“A Redoubt of Learning Holds Firm”, by Michael Powell, September 3, 2012, The New York Times, shared on Science, Education Progress, and New Millennium Bugs)

In a blog post in a different context, I have mentioned that Newton was deeply influenced by the ancient mystical Rosicrucian Order.

(“Guinevere and Lancelot – a metaphor of comedy or tragedy, without Shakespeare but with shocking ends to wonderful lives (Part 1)”, January 29, 2013, Feng Gao’s Posts – Rites of Spring)

Another case in point is the long dominance of the theory of the “luminiferous aether”, a hypothetical medium carrying light. It has been cited by several scientists advocating greater openness for publishing negative results from research, in a January 2013 The Scientist article summarized and shared on my Facebook personal page:

“Negative data have always been harder to disseminate, yet ostensibly insignificant results can sometimes lead to a paradigm shift. One noteworthy example is that of Albert Michelson and Edward Morley, two 19th-century physicists, who performed a series of experiments to detect the relative motion of matter through the “luminiferous aether”—a theoretical medium thought to carry light waves. Despite the fact that their negative results clearly contradicted the theory of stationary aether, the scientific community initially overlooked them. It was only when they eventually published their findings in the American Journal of Science in 1881 that the prevailing theory was questioned, thereby opening up a line of research that ultimately led to Einstein’s special theory of relativity.”

(“Opinion: Publish Negative Results”, by Gabriella Anderson, Haiko Sprott and Bjorn R. Olsen, January 15, 2013, The Scientist, shared on Feng Gao’s Facebook page)

The notion of the “luminiferous aether” dated back to Isaac Newton’s study of light in the early 18th century.

(Isaac Newton, The Third Book of Opticks, 1718, online at The Newton Project; and, Pietro Giuseppe Frè, Gravity, a Geometrical Course: Volume 1: Development of the Theory and Basic Physical Applications, October 2012, Springer)

The advocates for publishing negative results also pointed out an important link to “a “publish or perish” culture”, that this academic culture may be biased against dissemination of negative results due to the uncertainty they create:

“In an ever more competitive environment, it may be that scientific journals prefer to publish studies with clear and specific conclusions. Indeed, Daniele Fanelli of the University of Edinburgh in the United Kingdom suggests that results may be distorted by a “publish or perish” culture in which the progress of scientific careers depends on the frequency and quality of citations. This leads to a situation in which data that support a hypothesis may be perceived in a more positive light and receive more citations than data that only generate more questions and uncertainty.”

(Gabriella Anderson, Haiko Sprott and Bjorn R. Olsen, January 15, 2013, The Scientist)

Similarly in August 1992 at the University of British Columbia, murders from an academic dispute elsewhere became a pretence by UBC academics collectively, as spoken for by the faculty association president, to condemn Reaganism and Thatcherism in relation to “publish or perish”, and the “distorted” political righteousness served to disregard local cases including mine that could lead to more openness.

But how prevalent are the problems hidden behind the traditional prestige or the contemporary political correctness? GlaxoSmithKline’s Avandia drug case showed that such problems can be potentially very serious, and that publications of questionable research results are not confined to less established venues.

A number of major scandals in the 1980s led to the policy of educating and training researchers about “responsible conduct of research” (RCR), initiated by U.S. policy makers for research funding agencies, as reviewed in a May 2013 The Scientist article summarized and shared on “Science, Education Progress, and New Millennium Bugs”:

“… “Lack of formal discussion about responsible research practice and the ethics of research is a serious flaw in the professional training of young scientists and clinicians,” the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies stated in 1989. The assumption was that formal RCR training would reduce the incidence of fabrication, falsification, and plagiarism in research. Over the next decade, training programs evolved slowly, and by the turn of the century, RCR instruction for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows was firmly established in policies from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and National Science Foundation (NSF).”

(“Opinion: Ethics Training in Science”, by James Hicks, May 14, 2013, The Scientist, shared on Science, Education Progress, and New Millennium Bugs)

But despite the ethics training, problems have remained common. As reported in 2009, 1/3 of the scientists responding to surveys anonymously admitted to “questionable research practices”.

(James Hicks, May 14, 2013, The Scientist; and, “How Many Scientists Fabricate and Falsify Research? A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Survey Data”, by Daniele Fanelli, May 29, 2009, PLOS ONE)

In an April 2015 blog article, excerpted on “Science, Education Progress, and New Millennium Bugs”, I quoted from a The Guardian article by Australian medical scientist John Rasko and researcher Carl Power, who mentioned works by pharmaceutical researchers revealing that a majority of the “landmark” published experiments studied by them could not be independently reproduced – and are thus questionable if not false:

“In its recent comprehensive reporting of the Obokata scandal – a feature article dated February 18, 2015, written by John Rasko and Carl Power – The Guardian has solemnly informed the public that the phenomena of published scientific research results incapable of verification by independent reproduction, i.e., replication, have been widespread and could even be in the majority.

Firstly, scientists would rather produce new results than reproducing others’ work:

Secondly, those who find it important to verify others’ published results, such as some pharmaceutical industry researchers do, may find to their horror that even most of the so-called “landmark experiments” in their field can not be reproduced:

“…

A few years ago, Glenn Begley put this suspicion to the test. As head of cancer research for pharmaceutical giant Amgen, he attempted to repeat 53 landmark experiments in that field, important work published in some of the world’s top science journals. To his horror, he and his team managed to confirm only six of them. That’s a meagre 11%. Researchers at Bayer set up a similar trial and were similarly depressed by the results. Out of 67 published studies into the therapeutic potential of various drugs (mostly for the treatment of cancer), they were able to reproduce less than a quarter.”

And thirdly, if the public haven’t known about it, researchers know “in their heart of hearts” that for various reasons, fraud being one, “reproducibility is the exception rather than the rule”:

“The Amgen and Bayer studies were too small to tell us how bad the problem really is, but they do illustrate something that biomedical researchers already know in their heart of hearts: reproducibility is the exception rather than the rule. There are probably many reasons for this. Apart from outright fraud, there are all those “benevolent mistakes” that scientists make more or less unwittingly: poor experiment design, sloppy data management, bias in the interpretation of facts and inadequate communication of results and methods. Then, of course, there is the devilish complexity of reality itself, which withholds more than it reveals to the prying eyes of science.”

…”

(“Young Japanese researcher’s stardom fraud begs questions about American Science don’s intellectual practice”, April 26, 2015, Feng Gao’s Posts – Rites of Spring, shared on Science, Education Progress, and New Millennium Bugs)

In the Amgen case cited above, 53 “landmark” publications – papers in top journals, from reputable labs – were checked before the pharmaceutical company could use them for cancer drug development, and 47 of the 53 could not be verified:

““It was shocking,” said Begley, now senior vice president of privately held biotechnology company TetraLogic, which develops cancer drugs. “These are the studies the pharmaceutical industry relies on to identify new targets for drug development. But if you’re going to place a $1 million or $2 million or $5 million bet on an observation, you need to be sure it’s true. As we tried to reproduce these papers we became convinced you can’t take anything at face value.”

George Robertson of Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia previously worked at Merck on neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s. While at Merck, he also found many academic studies that did not hold up.

“It drives people in industry crazy. Why are we seeing a collapse of the pharma and biotech industries? One possibility is that academia is not providing accurate findings,” he said.

When the Amgen replication team of about 100 scientists could not confirm reported results, they contacted the authors. Those who cooperated discussed what might account for the inability of Amgen to confirm the results. Some let Amgen borrow antibodies and other materials used in the original study or even repeat experiments under the original authors’ direction.

Some authors required the Amgen scientists sign a confidentiality agreement barring them from disclosing data at odds with the original findings. “The world will never know” which 47 studies — many of them highly cited — are apparently wrong, Begley said.

Part way through his project to reproduce promising studies, Begley met for breakfast at a cancer conference with the lead scientist of one of the problematic studies.

“We went through the paper line by line, figure by figure,” said Begley. “I explained that we re-did their experiment 50 times and never got their result. He said they’d done it six times and got this result once, but put it in the paper because it made the best story. It’s very disillusioning.””

(“In cancer science, many “discoveries” don’t hold up”, by Sharon Begley, March 28, 2012, Reuters)

Amgen’s Glenn Begley concluded that “you can’t take anything at face value”. Likewise with disputes in the academia, a politically correct explanation, such as Reaganism and Thatcherism being the culprit asserted by Bill Bruneau, is only face value that would block others from sorting out the real problems.

The real thinking behind such face value can be complex. It can involve research funding considerations as the earlier discussed RCR training suggested, or it can be due to ambitious drive for “greater fame and power”, as pointed out in an April 2015 blog article by me:

“The reported prevalence of published scientific experiments that are actually irreproducible, and thus suspect in the forms presented, if indeed known in the hearts of researchers can make it more likely for the ambitious among them to take bolder steps, catapulting themselves on the back of falsehood to a higher plateau for greater fame and power.”

(“Young Japanese researcher’s stardom fraud begs questions about American Science don’s intellectual practice”, April 26, 2015, Feng Gao’s Posts – Rites of Spring)

South Korean genetics scientist Hwang Woo Suk is a well-known example of what greater fame and potential power can be achieved by a scientist making a major discovery, as recalled in a October 2014 Bloomberg article summarised and shared on “Science, Education Progress, and New Millennium Bugs”:

“A decade ago, he became one of the most celebrated scientists in the world when he published two studies in the journal Science that announced the first successful cloning of a human embryo. Hwang, then a Seoul National University (SNU) professor, said he’d been able to extract stem cells from the embryo, apparently creating a new and potentially unlimited source for these important cells, which were becoming recognized as a possible treatment for all kinds of diseases. Time named him one of its “People Who Mattered” in 2004, and in June 2005, Korea’s Ministry of Science and Technology declared Hwang the first “Supreme Scientist” in the country’s history. He was honored on a postage stamp.”

(“For $100,000, You Can Clone Your Dog”, by Josh Dean, October 22, 2014, Bloomberg Business, shared on Science, Education Progress, and New Millennium Bugs)

The scientific breakthrough brought Hwang fame beyond the science field, with the recognition by Time magazine as one of the “People Who Mattered” in 2004.

The South Korean government’s honoring Hwang as the first “Supreme Scientist” in the country’s history no doubt would bring him the influence and power to be a great leader of science there.

But Hwang’s invention, published on Science journal – the world’s No. 3 influential scientific journal according to the 2012 Thompson Reuters impact factors rankings cited earlier – was a fraud. Its exposure led to Hwang’s disgrace as a scientist and punishment of criminal conviction:

“Then it all came undone. An American researcher who’d been one of the co-authors on the Science papers disavowed the work later that year. In Korea, a member of Hwang’s team went public, claiming that he’d paid women, including underlings at the university, for their eggs—a major ethical breach. An inquest launched by SNU subsequently determined that Hwang’s group hadn’t actually cloned an embryo, despite harvesting cells from 288 different human eggs. Pictures of the results, investigators learned, were fakes—merely multiples of the same photo—and government funds had been misused. Hwang called a news conference to apologize and announced that he would resign from his numerous posts. “I was blinded by work and my drive for achievement,” he said.

It wasn’t over. The government assigned a prosecutor to the case and eventually convicted Hwang of bioethical violations and embezzlement of $700,000 in public research funds. It also stripped him of his license to practice stem cell research.”

(Josh Dean, October 22, 2014, Bloomberg Business)

Despite his troubles, many South Koreans still believed in Hwang:

“Hwang was, in his own words, “penniless and devastated” after the scandal, but a sizable portion of the Korean public never turned against him and continued to support him and his work. Donors included sympathetic citizens, who mailed in checks for as little as $100 or sent him food and clothes, as well as investors, who still believed in his ability to do important research. “Thanks to all of them, I was able to start Sooam,” he says.”

(Josh Dean, October 22, 2014, Bloomberg Business)

Hwang’s ambition and hard drive continued, and he returned to media attention as the founder of a research company leading the world in commercial dog cloning:

“In 2007, Hwang met an American named Lou Hawthorne who had led the unsuccessful effort to clone a border collie mix named Missy in the late 1990s … Hwang took the samples and cloned Missy on the first attempt, producing four pups. Hawthorne brought all four Missys back to California.

One year later, Sooam sold its first cloned dog to Edgar and Nina Otto, a Florida couple so distraught over the death of Lancelot, their beloved Labrador, that they were willing to pay $155,000 in an auction for the opportunity to receive the world’s first commercially cloned dog. They named him Lancelot Encore. Six years and hundreds of cloned dogs later, Sooam has streamlined the process enough so that anyone with $100,000 and the patience to wait in line for up to six months can have a dog cloned. A team of scientists works under Hwang with the ability to carry out every part of the painstaking process, and the lab has the capacity to produce 150 to 200 commercial clones a year for clients who so far have included celebrities, Middle Eastern royals, and a few proud, non-anonymous buyers such as Dr. Philip Dupont, a veterinarian in Lafayette, La.

What’s most intriguing to Hwang now is the study of clone performance, particularly among what Sooam calls special purpose dogs. He wants to know if a puppy cloned from a truly exceptional working dog will end up performing at that job as well as his genetic twin. …

Recently, Sooam secured a contract to provide 40 cloned special purpose dogs to the South Korean national police, and several are already in service at the Incheon International Airport near Seoul. …”

(Josh Dean, October 22, 2014, Bloomberg Business)

Less than a decade after the South Korean scientist Hwang Woo Suk’s fraudulent work published in the journal Science and his notoriety, fame and then notoriety occurred to a female Japanese scientist, Haruko Obokata, for her work published on Nature – the world’s No. 1 influential scientific journal according to the 2012 Thompson Reuters rankings. My April 2015 blog article reviewed this case in detail:

“Barely 30 years old and already leading her own laboratory at the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology in Kobe, Japan, Haruko Obokata shot to scientific stardom in January 2014 when she and her colleagues published two breakthrough papers in Nature, one of the world’s top science journals, demonstrating a surprisingly simple way of turning ordinary body cells into something very much like embryonic stem cells.

It would be a faster and easier way to reprogram cells, much less likely to damage them or make them cancerous, than the genetic manipulation pioneered in 2006 by another Japanese scientist, Shinya Yamanaka, who was awarded a Nobel Prize for it.

It was Haruko Obokata’s turn to become an instant media sensation. As Britain’s The Guardian newspaper reports, the media wondered when she would be given a Nobel Prize…

But within days of the Nature papers’ publication, disturbing allegations emerged in science blogs and on Twitter: some of the papers’ images looked doctored, and chunks of her text were lifted from other papers.

The RIKEN research institute, of which the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology is a part, conducted an investigation in February and March, confirming there was at least some research misconduct…

RIKEN’s investigation findings of “research misconduct” were announced on April 1. Haruko Obokata’s short-lived scientific stardom was now a scandal, and public shaming of her followed. …

Obokata insisted that her STAP cells exist, that she had created them “over 200 times”, and would be willing to go anywhere to reproduced them with other scientists:

But despite her method’s simplicity, other scientists were unable to reproduce the results. One by one, Obokata’s co-authors expressed doubt and asked to retract the papers, and in June so agreed Obokata. …”

(April 26, 2015, Feng Gao’s Posts – Rites of Spring)

What could have motivated scientists like Hwang Woo Suk and Haruko Obokata to commit research misconduct and/or scientific fraud? Their ambition for fame and power may be one reason.

Taking note of information from Australian researchers John Rasko and Carl Power, quoted earlier, that researchers know “in their heart of hearts” that reproducibility of scientific experiments is “the exception rather than the rule”, I have asserted that the staying fame and power of others in history, achieved partly through fraud, may make ambitious modern researchers eager to do it that way:

“An acquired habit may likely have been peer influenced. The reality that some of the notorious frauds in science history took a long time to be uncovered, or settled, may well have given some of the ambitious researchers of the modern generation a sense of rightfulness, namely that they, too, deserve greater fame and power, based on scientific half-truth at best, than their own solid accomplishments could bring them.”

(April 26, 2015, Feng Gao’s Posts – Rites of Spring)

A famous, and infamous, such case in history discussed in the The Guardian article by Rasko and Power was that of Nobel prize winner Alexis Carrel a century ago:

“… Carrel discovered that, if you remove some cells from the body, sit them in a nutritious broth and handle them correctly, they can not only survive, but thrive and multiply. Also, if you take some cells from one culture, you can start a new one and, with that, a third, and so on. The importance of this technique – know as cell “passaging” – can’t be overstated. With it, Carrel literally opened a new era in cell research. Unfortunately, he did so with an experiment that, while earning him international superstardom, proved to be a complete and utter train wreck.

On 17 January 1912, Carrel removed a chick embryo from its egg and cut out a small fragment of its still-beating heart with the aim of keeping it alive as long as possible. He had hardly begun this experiment when he announced to the world that his chicken heart culture was immortal, that immortality belonged potentially to all cells, and that death was only the consequence of how cells are organised in the body. In other words, the secret of eternal life is within us all, an attribute of our basic biological building blocks. It captured the public’s imagination and was soon accepted by the scientific community.”

(“What pushes scientists to lie? The disturbing but familiar story of Haruko Obokata”, by John Rasko and Carl Power, February 18, 2015, The Guardian)

I compared the grandiose optimism in Carrel’s claim of potential eternal life for a cell culture to that by Haruko Obokata over a century later; and I noted that the Nobel prize was awarded to Carrel – for his earlier work on organs – in the same year after his publication of the cell life discovery, and that he demonstrated a living chicken cell culture for 34 years – science now knows that a chicken cell culture can only live for months – and it was accepted by the scientific community as truth for half a century:

“I note that Alexis Carrel’s grandiosely optimistic claim of potentially eternal life for a cell culture, published in May 1912 a few months after the start of his experiment, bore remarkable resemblance to the kind of claim made by Haruko Obokata and her co-authors in January 2014 that mature cells could be bathed to re-emerge as youthful stem cells. …

I should comment that the world must have been so excited by Alexis Carrel’s good news of eternal life in the horizon, as the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to Carrel, for his earlier work as a pioneer of organ preservation and transplant, by the end of 1912 – exactly a century before its awarding to Shinya Yamanaka:

Carrel’s optimistic claim of potential permanent life seemed to bear out as one of those chicken cell cultures continued to live and grow for 34 years. Other scientists tried in vain, none could reproduce Carrel’s results, but they dared not question his scientific statue:

Long after Carrel and his famous chicken culture had died, scientific research finally proved that his success was scientifically impossible, that the same chicken culture can live no longer than 35 times of multiplying, which would take several months only:

…”

(April 26, 2015, Feng Gao’s Posts – Rites of Spring)

This kind of lifetime scientific glory based on falsehood happened when other researchers dared not contradict a famous and authoritative scientific figure, discarding instead of publishing their own negative results for the scientific community’s attention.

Alexis Carrel is now in the long past, but an article in the 1986 founding issue of The Scientist still asserted, as quoted earlier: “Despite the lack of “fairness” to new ideas, the traditional practice in science may serve us better than a more democratic mode”.

Still not quite open today, the academia and the scientific community are not necessarily fair when it comes to scientific integrity.

Reviewing the recent Obokata scandal, I have compared the investigative and corrective measures taken on Haruko Obokata to the lack of such taken on her co-author and mentor, prominent U.S. scientist Charles Vacanti, and compared this case to other recent major cases of scientific improprieties; my conclusion is that Vacanti has likely benefited from “elite impunity”:

The Scientist magazine in December 2014 named the Haruko Obokata story No. 1 on its list of “The Top 10 Retractions of 2014”.

At No. 2 on the list was an Iowa State University researcher who spiked rabbit blood samples with human blood to make it look like his HIV vaccine was working. The fraud led to serious penalties not only for the researcher, Dong-Pyou Han, who resigned and is facing criminal charges, but also for the institution, Iowa State University…

Given the illumination by John Rasko and Carl Power that the contemporary scientifically disgraced Hwang Woo Suk and the early 20th-century Nobel Prize laureate Alexis Carrel were top examples of scientific fraud in biomedical research history, and given that the ramifications during the two’s respective career and life times were polar opposites – criminal conviction versus lifelong glory – I have to wonder if the inaction on the part of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in the Haruko Obokata/Charles Vacanti case has been due only to the absence of a concrete allegation of intentional fraud, or also to a sense of elite impunity – when compared to the Iowa State University case.

Next down on the No.3 spot of The Scientist’s top-10 retractions of 2014 was Taiwanese researcher Peter Chen and his fraudulent peer-review ring, a connected circle of researchers who peer-reviewed and approved one another’s papers for publication – often relying on false identities.

The unraveling of the Peter Chen case led to the retraction of 60 published papers deemed to have been accepted due to fraud, Chen’s departure from his university professorship, stepping down of a U.S.-based scientific journal’s editor-in-chief, and the resignation of the Taiwanese government’s education minister in 2014. A former president of the National Central University, the Taiwanese education minister Chiang Wei-ling had advised Chen’s twin brother on his Ph.D. thesis 10 years earlier, and was named by his former student as a co-author on 5 of those fraudulent papers. …

In comparison, even if he had not been a party in the fraudulent experiments conducted by Haruko Obokata, Charles Vacanti was a senior author of the now retracted Nature papers, an academic and scientific mentor of Obokata, and the intellectual father and leader of this whole framework of spore-like cells and STAP cells. His acts of posting special recipes online, claiming creation of STAP cells in his laboratory as described but providing no evidence, already were much more involvement in activities of questionable scientific honesty than the former Taiwanese education minister Chiang Wei-ling.”

(April 26, 2015, Feng Gao’s Posts – Rites of Spring)

In short, on The Scientist’s top-10 retraction list of 2014 there were serious investigations that led to corrective and punitive measures in the No 2. case of research at Iowa State University, in the No 3. case of researchers in Taiwan, and in the No. 1 case with respect to Haruko Obokata at Japan’s RIKEN institution; but in the No. 1 case with respect to Charles Vacanti, a scientific research leader who had guided Obokata onto this path of research that eventually led to the fraudulent results and their publication in Nature journal, nothing has been done at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston – a leading U.S. hospital – and the affiliated Harvard Medical School.

Though my academic dispute at UBC in 1992 was about academic management style rather than “publish or perish”, a core issue of it was the lack of intellectual integrity and honesty – beyond UBC Faculty Association president Bill Bruneau’s use of collective political correctness as explanation. Moreover, the substance of the dispute was incorrectly dismissed by Bruneau’s calling it a case of “publish or perish” mentality.

In a May 2011 blog post I recalled how I became involved in the academic dispute:

“In late spring of 1990 with hiring over for the year, David Kirkpatrick described to me the remaining open positions and suggested that I have lunch with Klawe to discuss my situation. It turned out Klawe had no time for lunch with me but quickly laid out her priorities for the remaining tenure-track positions – I noticed she told me one fewer than David did.

Klawe then raised the alternative of a one-year extension to my 3-year job – with her help to convince Dean of Science Barry McBride about it. Intelligently I asked that my ongoing tenure-track application be withdrawn, and a few days later Klawe told me I would be given an additional year 1991-92 – as Lecturer instead of Assistant Professor due to UBC Faculty Association’s objection to a non-tenure-stream position lasting too long.

Soon there was malcontent among some faculty and staff members that every former Computer Science Head had served at most 4 of a 5-year term but Klawe, who thrived at using confrontational pressures and office-politics tricks, showed every intent to break with the tradition. …

In the summer of 1991 I entered my last year at UBC, so without naming anyone I spoke to Head Klawe about some sentiments against continuation of her Headship. She was surprised by my willingness to push her but agreed to include airing of criticisms of her in the new monthly Department meetings starting in the Fall.

The theme I was raising went like this: Klawe was a great fundraiser for the Department in a period of major expansion she had been hired to oversee, and was good at handling relatively difficult situations, but her style of management wasn’t a good fit for an academic department in normal situations where faculty and staff would enjoy a high degree of autonomy. This theme had substantial input from David Kirkpatrick, and some from David Lowe of the Artificial Intelligence group who pointed out Klawe’s management was of a corporate style.

Maria Klawe had in fact moved from IBM Research in California where she had been group and department manager. Moreover, unlike most North American universities UBC’s academic departments were not run by elected chairmen, but appointed heads hired with the advice of departmental head-search committees.”

(“Team Canada female athletes disqualified from Commonwealth silver medal, jailed Chinese democracy activist awarded with Nobel peace prize, and others in between (Part 4) — when power and control are the agenda”, May 24, 2011, Feng Gao’s Blog – Reflections on Events of Interest)

As quoted, the situation was that Klawe had moved from research management in the giant computer industry corporation IBM to become UBC’s Computer Science Head, an appointed position in contrast to most academic department chairs that were elected. There was disgruntlement among some faculty members about her management style and her intent to break the department’s ‘honored’ tradition limiting the length of headship, and I agreed to raise the issue in the hope that there would be a more democratic way for department members to express their opinions.

In the summer of 1991 when I requested that we went to a lunch so I could discuss with her some concerns I learned of about her management, Klawe accepted – as quoted above she had declined having lunch in the summer of 1990 when I needed to ask about my prospect of getting a job potentially more permanent.

It was our only lunch alone together. Klawe appeared surprised by my willingness to raise the headship issue and to suggest that she use a formal department meeting to listen to criticisms. At one point she said to me, a little portentously and a little incredulously, that she was a trustee of the American Mathematical Society and the president of Western Canada computer science association.

I replied that as an AMS member I had voted for her trustee candidacy as well as for the vice-president candidacy of “Lenore”, but that professionally the two matters – her AMS trusteeship and her UBC computer science headship – were different. As for the Western Canada computer science association, I hadn’t heard of it until then – a sign of how disconnected I might be already.

“Lenore” was a friend of Klawe’s, and a mentor for me when I was a mathematics Ph.D. student at the University of California, Berkeley. I have mentioned her in another blog post about what happened later in 1999 when I spoke with her on the phone:

“Friends with Klawe and Pippenger, this time around in 1999 Lenore responded to me coolly, “If you can program, you don’t need to be in the academia”.”

(January 29, 2013, Feng Gao’s Posts – Rites of Spring)

Maria Klawe and Lenore Blum were among a small number of ambitious female academics and activists in mathematics and computer science. In hindsight, to the ambitious and hard-bargaining Klawe my professionally-oriented attitude that each issue be considered in its proper context must have looked naive and wrongheaded: every power position, be it appointed or elected, added to a portfolio of achievements with which she could aim for more – that would be consistent with the mentality of taking pride in breaking an honored tradition meant to keep the department head from becoming too powerful.

The relevance of intellectual honesty in this decades-old dispute has been, metaphorically, in the saying of “no news is good news”, i.e., for Maria Klawe.

The notion of her management style being corporate suggested that Klawe got her management positions partly because of her willingness and skills to do certain things not so common in academic management. Some of it could be unpleasant as shown in my May 2011 blog post, about the minimal chances she allowed others to air criticisms:

“At the start of the first Fall 1991 faculty meeting, Head Klawe voluntarily expressed that I had brought to her attention existence of dissent about her leadership and she would welcome criticism. I was pleased, but no one aired anything during a few minutes of waiting and the meeting then moved on to other topics.

Typical of Klawe’s trickery, from the next Department meeting on airing of criticism of her was no longer on the agenda – everyone had a chance already. I could see frustrations on the faces of some colleagues…”

(May 24, 2011, Feng Gao’s Blog – Reflections on Events of Interest)

When I pressed on, Klawe used her deceptiveness and ‘dirty trick’-like hardy ways to dodge the issue, and then brought in management suppression:

“So I reluctantly decided to use my case as a ‘lightning rod’ and informed Head Klawe and others that I had a employment grievance. It was scheduled among the February 1992 Department retreat agenda.

My grievance was the last item on the retreat agenda, and Head Klawe had promised beforehand she would not stay for it so others could discuss freely.

But at the prior session’s end Klawe refused to leave, instead insisting on hearing first what I wanted to say.

It was threatening to be a stalemate again.

So I said briefly to the effect that I felt Maria had committed wrongdoing in her handling of my tenure-track application, it was part of a pattern of political tricks possibly interrelated and potentially scandalous, and it reminded me of a former U.S. president of the 1960s and 1970s who had to resign early and unceremoniously.

Some were a little taken aback by it. To the astonishment of everyone, the usually very competitive and assertive Maria Klawe suddenly started the motion of weeping, and said something like Feng I had been nice and helpful to you – it was in a sense not untrue other than her trickery which sometimes could be her way of hard bargaining. Sensing others’ impatience she now got up and left the room – with a rueful but vindictive expression on her face – but stayed outside.

The last session was then led by Kelly Booth, who asked that I provide the facts to support my assertions.

Now I made my second major mistake – the first being starting the dispute with a rather serious personal case instead of general criticism more likely for others to join in. I said that Maria was in tears, that considering the good things she had done for the Department it wouldn’t be a good time to push the details – unbeknown to me this was my only realistic chance as political and administrative counter-measures from her and the Dean would come immediately.”

(May 24, 2011, Feng Gao’s Blog – Reflections on Events of Interest)

Without referring to the name, I compared Klawe to Richard Nixon. As an academic manager, she played tricky and hardy games instead of sitting down to listen to others and promise improvements in order to head off their discontent.

Imagine if an academics was one who, like Amgen’s Glenn Begley found out in disillusion, did an experiment 6 times and published the only good result as the proven result, would that academic be willing to persist in questioning the management? The type of politically correct explanation by Bill Bruneau on academic disputes would only be a facade to hide systemic problems.

UBC management and a small number of faculty and students then took part in schemes to falsely brand me as “violent” so that psychiatric oppression could be brought in to silence me. These schemes involved UBC Dean of Science Barry McBride, as I recalled:

“Dean McBride would have been challenged to produce any real evidence that any UBC Computer Science person I had expressed anger with I had ever complained against – except of course Head Maria Klawe above me in authority – or used my faculty position to do harm to, such as in a grade or a reference.

On the contrary, it was my vulnerability Dean McBride immediately “targeted” in a separate memo to me on the same day, making clear that I had no chance of further employment at UBC, implying also that I wouldn’t win the employment dispute, and suggesting counseling for me instead:

The fact that Barry McBride subsequently forwarded these e-mails to John Leslie, a psychiatrist at Vancouver General Hospital, shows the so-called “counselling” as intended to be psychiatric, and therefore coercive and oppressive in nature.”

(May 24, 2011, Feng Gao’s Blog – Reflections on Events of Interest)

When the long-premeditated psychiatric oppression finally came it was after I had left UBC and filed a lawsuit against the university, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for its role in the incident discussed by Bill Bruneau in the Kitsilano News article quoted earlier.

In November 1992 I sent out press releases to discuss the UBC case and also the leadership conduct of then Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney. Several hours after my faxing the documents to the local Member of Parliament Kim Campbell, a former UBC faculty member and the Mulroney government’s Justice Minister, RCMP Sergeant Brian Cotton and a fellow officer came to my apartment to take me to a psychiatric assessment and committal; Cotton cited a request by B.C. Supreme Court Justice Pamela Kirkpatrick, who was the wife of former UBC colleague David Kirkpatrick involved in the academic politics, as I recalled in a March 2012 blog post:

“After the phone conversation, Cotton turned to me and said that CBC [Canadian Broadcasting Corporation] had asked me not to phone them or I could get a criminal charge. I replied that I understood but there were urgent issues about PM Mulroney’s leadership that needed attention.

Sgt. Cotton then said, “You need to come with us for a psychiatric assessment at UBC Hospital.”

I was taken aback, and responded that I had not been back to UBC, was perfectly normal as assessed by private psychiatrist Dr. Ronald Remick in April while still at UBC – mentioned in Part 4 – and it made no sense for RCMP to interfere with my publicity efforts when Vancouver Police did not intervene.

Sgt. Brian Cotton said he would insist so I asked, “Do I have to?” He replied, “You have to. It’s a request from Justice Pamela Kirkpatrick of the B.C. Supreme Court.”

It’s a shock to me! Justice Pamela Kirkpatrick was just the wife of my former UBC senior colleague David G. Kirkpatrick who had been a mentor during my 4 years there, consulted by me on various issues including in my dispute with Head Klawe for which he contributed insightful clarifications. But as discussed in Part 4, in the end Kirkpatrick, and especially his new associate Jack Snoeyink and former graduate student Andrew Martin, had crucial roles in things sliding toward negative for me.”

(“Team Canada female athletes disqualified from Commonwealth silver medal, jailed Chinese democracy activist awarded with Nobel peace prize, and others in between (Part 6) — when law and justice reinforce the authorities”, March 25, 2012, Feng Gao’s Blog – Reflections on Events of Interest)

So when my political activism expanded, oppression originated from higher authorities.

During my first involuntary psychiatric committal at UBC Hospital in December 1992, I was shown documents revealing that back in early 1990 at UBC when I applied for a faculty job with a more permanent prospect, two UC Berkeley professors who had agreed to write letters of recommendations for me likely did not write them – one was Richard Karp, a friend of Klawe’s – although the number of letters written met the minimum requirement:

“Only in December 1992 when I was committed in a psychiatric ward by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police after they had conferred with David Kirkpatrick’s wife, a former lawyer appointed a Justice in November, that I was given information that only 3 of the 5 letters of reference I had requested in the spring of 1990, namely Kirkpatrick’s, one by my Berkeley Ph.D. adviser and another by a Columbia University professor, were in the Department file. The other two requested from Berkeley professors were no shows, but the Department Head didn’t bother to inform me even if only three were required.

One of the missing reference was to be from Berkeley theoretical computer scientist Richard Karp, who had told me on the phone he would write that my recent research was in Theoretical Computer Science, when my Ph.D. had been in Math.

A meticulously commanding professor, Karp was also a close friend of Maria Klawe and Nicholas Pippenger…

Kelly Booth, a leader of the Computer Graphics group, had received his Berkeley Ph.D. under “Dick” Karp years before…

…”

(May 24, 2011, Feng Gao’s Blog – Reflections on Events of Interest)

Thus, my personal experiences in the academia showed that things can be much less forthcoming, and that hidden behind elite images and smart political correctness academic politics can be deceptive, tough and even nasty. Such politics can revolve around technical or procedural matters, as illustrated by my case, and center on traditional academic points of views, “publish or perish” included.

But if on certain issues of broader societal ramifications academics do not take the challenges and yet the elite facade accord the academia a noble role, then it is not only intellectually dishonest but a disservice to the society; in a collective manner it can also be a treachery toward those academics who would like to do.

There is no question that many academics are passionate about and active on worthwhile social issues. For female academics, increasing the roles of women in various academic fields is one which Maria Klawe, and frankly I would think most female academic administrators, devote time and efforts to when they can.

But if the pursue of some important issues came with the exclusion of other important issues, that would be akin to medicine with both desired effects and undesirable side effects; and if it came with a consequence of undermining other important issues, that could be like targeting civilians when fighting a war viewed as just.

The psychology of Steven Dale Green, a U.S. soldier in the Iraq war who had a major role in the murder of an entire Iraqi civilian family, has been reviewed in a blog post by me.

(“The baffling rise of suicides in the U.S. military — plausible theories and grim reality”, September 9, 2014, Feng Gao’s Posts – Rites of Spring)

The academia is not the hospital or the war zone, which I would agree, that education is a primary objective and, as Bill Bruneau stated, “publish or perish” can be more of the mentality.

On the other hand, if righteous condemnation of Reaganism and Thatcherism as causing social ills was deemed the higher calling, then it would demand a sense of responsibility and a level of care closer to dealing potentially with life and death. In such a circumstance, invoking the academia’s elite pedigree as the rightful qualification would be worse than “disillusioning” – it would be intellectual fraud.

Suppressing an academic dispute such as mine regarding a boss’s management style, to the point that the issue would not become open even within the academia, and that the matter would discredit the complainant due to his lesser pedigree versus the management’s authority, was intellectual fraud in my opinion.

As an academic administrator, Klawe typically aimed for good public relations in the media, with little or no controversy. So the following news story was rare, but revealing of her management tactics, reported long after I had lost the UBC dispute with her and she had served out a full 5-year term headship and been appointed a second term; the story took place shortly after her 1995 promotion to become a UBC vice president:

“Several years later in 1995 Maria Klawe became a UBC Vice President, and on June 20 in the B.C. press was the following story revealing of Klawe’s management style – even when she acted for the university:

“Technically foul.

That’s the mood around parts of the University of B.C. campus following the apparent firing of women’s basketball coach Misty Thomas.

No UBC official could be reached for comment. Athletic director Bob Philip and intercollegiate athletics co-ordinator Kim Gordon were on their way to a conference in P.E.I. Monday.

Dr. Maria Klawe, vice-president of academic services, was also away from the office.

But a source said Klawe told Thomas that “competition has no place in athletics at UBC.

“She (Klawe) said she was doing Misty a favor because Misty would not want to stay in that kind of situation.

The day after the Thunderbirds lost in the Western Canada playoff to the University of Victoria, school officials sent questionnaires to players soliciting their views about Thomas.

Officials then told Thomas that her players wanted her out and that the desire was unanimous.

[Starting point guard Lori] Kemp disagrees that the feeling was unanimous, and says several players have sent letters to university administration expressing disapproval of the move.

“Some players weren’t surveyed and there was no indication that the survey could lead to a firing,” said Kemp.”

(May 24, 2011, Feng Gao’s Blog – Reflections on Events of Interest)

The firing of UBC women’s basketball coach Misty Thomas was carried out deceptively, and presented to different persons differently: a survey was done to get players’ views about their coach, but not all players were asked, and they were not told its purpose; the results were then used as the basis to fire Thomas, deceivingly UBC officials told Thomas the players unanimously wanted her fired, and Klawe even explained to Thomas that it was for her good because UBC athletics – obviously the players included – was not competitive.

So in this Misty Thomas case, Klawe easily handled an unpleasant management task by deftly shifting the expenses of blame to the players and the coach mutually – were it not for a player like Lori Kemp who publicly aired her disagreement with the way it was done.

Perhaps the controversial handling of firing a varsity sports coach was not as much an academic ‘taboo’ as a dispute about the management of an academic department, and it was thus easier for Lori Kemp’s disagreement to get past any hidden ‘censorship’ there might be.

It certainly saved the hassle of having to explain a dispute in one’s academic management record, for an occasion like in 2002 – Klawe was then UBC Dean of Science, a position not as high as her previous vice presidency for student and academic services but more prestigious for a scientist – when the highly prestigious Princeton University in the United States decided to hire her as Dean of Engineering and Applied Science:

““Maria Klawe is a leader in science education, and particularly
in encouraging and increasing women’s participation in information
technology and sciences,” said Princeton President Shirley
M. Tilghman.

“As dean of science at the University of British Columbia,
Maria has been remarkably effective in developing innovative science
programs, and promoting interdisciplinary research to achieve results,
while looking outward to build new relationships with industry. I’m looking forward to working with Maria as she leads the initiatives
that will keep Princeton at the forefront of academic engineering.”

Klawe, 50, has been UBC’s dean of science since November, 1998.
Before that, she was vice-president, Student and Academic Services,
and she headed UBC’s computer science dept. for six and a half years.

“We are truly sad to be losing a scholar of Maria’s rank,” said UBC President Martha Piper, “but we take some consolation in knowing that she will be joining one of the world’s most prestigious research institutions.”

Born in Toronto, Klawe holds bachelor’s and doctoral degrees in
mathematics from the University of Alberta. She has held faculty
positions in mathematics and computer science at Oakland University
in Michigan and the University of Toronto, and worked for eight
years with IBM.

Klawe steps down as science dean on Nov. 1 and takes up her new
position at Princeton Jan. 1, 2003. …”

(“UBC science dean is Princeton’s top pick”, June 26, 2002, UBC News)

Both Klawe and myself had started working at UBC in the summer of 1988. According to this UBC news release, Klawe served her headship for 6 & 1/2 years – breaking the computer science department honored tradition of 4 out a 5-year term – as vice president for about 2 months shy of 4 years, and as dean for exactly 4 years.

Perhaps not coincidentally, Klawe served the shorter lengths of around 4 years only for better trophies, one after another, than a department headship.

Then UBC President Martha Piper had good words for Klawe as quoted, “a scholar of Maria’s rank”.

Klawe had good words for Piper in return:

“Shirley Tilghman, 55, might be different. Elected the first woman president of Princeton University in May last year, Tilghman has since turned more than half the top administrative positions over to women at an institution that has been co-ed only since the 1970s.

Within a week of her own appointment, the Toronto-born Tilghman named Amy Gutmann as provost. This May, she named a woman as dean of the Woodrow Wilson School, and in June, she appointed Maria Klawe as dean of the school of engineering and applied science. She also extended the appointment of Nancy Weiss Malkeil as dean of the undergraduate college for a second five-year term. Out of nine top academic jobs at Princeton, five are now held by women.

Maria Klawe, 51, currently dean of science at the University of British Columbia, thinks being female was “almost something they had to ignore about me.” Klawe herself would never ignore the effect of having a woman at the top of a hierarchy, however. At UBC, Martha Piper has been president since 1997. “Until Martha came along, it was an oddity not dragging your spouse along to university functions. But her husband is a distinguished psychiatrist, and he had a life. Then it became the norm to show up by yourself. It’s like this is how it’s done and it’s OK.”

When Klawe takes over in January as dean of engineering and applied science at Princeton, she will join a small club. There are a handful of female deans of engineering in the United States and one in Canada, Tyseer Aboulnasr, at the University of Ottawa.

Before Shirley Tilghman became president of Princeton, she said the key to getting recognition for women was to appoint more women as administrators. …”

(“Shaking the old boys’ club: Female president of Princeton appoints women to top jobs at university”, by Janet Bagnall, July 12, 2002, The Gazette)

Maria Klawe said that being female was “almost something they had to ignore about me” – this context was clearly important for Princeton president Shirley Tilghman determined to hire female administrators to increase “recognition for women”.

As for Klawe becoming one of only a few female deans of engineering in the U.S. and Canada, that wasn’t too surprising: UBC computer science was in the science faculty but Princeton’s was in the school of engineering and applied science; and as Tilghman said in an earlier quote, Klawe had been effective at “looking outward to build new relationships with industry”.

To me, what was surprising is Klawe’s emphasis on the “distinguished psychiatrist” husband of UBC president Martha Piper, the successor to David Strangway who had handled my grievance about Klawe in 1992 as discussed in my May 2011 blog post cited earlier.

Given my personal experiences with the political use of psychiatry to suppress my activism in academic politics and in Canadian politics, I can be sensitive about such coincidences.

A psychiatrist connection in former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney’s family – his psychiatrist father-in-law – to the Vancouver psychiatrist who sent me to a committal at the B.C. Forensic Psychiatric Institute in January-February 1994, which falsely branded me a “Paranoid Schizophrenic”, was recalled by me in an October 2012 blog post:

“Attending the Forensic Clinic on January 26 as [probation officer Fred] Hitchcock advised, I didn’t get to meet my counselling psychiatrist Dr. Clifford Kerr, who held the opinion … that despite no observed psychotic symptom I had “Paranoid Schizophrenia” as inferred from my persistent behavior.

Instead, I was interviewed by forensic psychiatrist Dr. Mel Dilli, whom I hadn’t met before. Dr. Dilli said he would have to send me to an FPI committal for two reasons: one, since I claimed Haldol didn’t have effect but had bad side effects, FPI would try a new experimental medication; and two, if he didn’t send me to a committal for the experiment to calm me, I might be sent to “Matsqui” – the medium-security Matsqui Institution prison in now Abbotsford, B.C. – where I could be “raped” by other inmates – a scary claim but in any case the committal was involuntary and not up to me.

Months later in May, I read a newspaper article by him and realized Dr. Dilli was the leader of Bosnians in British Columbia:

For years afterwards I didn’t realize that there had been a stream of political news with Dr. Dilli at the center of, that had connections to the psychiatric oppression against me.

On December 7, 1992, as I was sending a second letter to MP Kim Campbell a week into my first psychiatric committal for attempting to publicly challenge the leadership conduct of Prime Minister Brian Mulroney as in Part 6,  Dr. Dilli appeared in his first major political news story, meeting Mulroney whose wife Mila – mentioned in Part 1 – was a Serbian Canadian with a psychiatrist father Dr. Dilli had known, over the plight of Bosnian refugees:

A February 7 forensic psychiatrist’s report to the review panel, based on January 26 & 31 and February 7 interviews, recorded my explanation about TV & radio messages, namely that I “read between the lines”. Despite referring only to the UBC dispute regarding “delusion”and no psychotic symptom, the report concluded that I had “Paranoid Schizophrenia”, and that without medication I might “deteriorate” and be “potentially dangerous”…”

(“Team Canada female athletes disqualified from Commonwealth silver medal, jailed Chinese democracy activist awarded with Nobel peace prize, and others in between (Part 9) — when individual activism ranks at oblivion”, October 26, 2012, Feng Gao’s Blog – Reflections on Events of Interest)

Then the next person to become UBC president had a psychiatrist husband, a fact that even Maria Klawe emphasized.

In my view, when the real facts are not in the open it is justified for those potentially affected, like myself, to maintain a healthy degree of concern about, and attention to, what might be going on behind the scenes.

The UBC news story mentioned Klawe’s academic degrees from the University of Alberta. But her roots were much deeper there, as I noted in an April 2012 blog post that her parents were professors at U of A, and had longer British roots:

“… Maria Klawe didn’t just come from an Edmonton family with her parents University of Alberta professors, but one in which her British mother had been a intelligence officer during World War II and her Polish father the chief cartographer (map maker) for Thomas Nelson & Sons, one of the oldest publishers of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories …”

(“Team Canada female athletes disqualified from Commonwealth silver medal, jailed Chinese democracy activist awarded with Nobel peace prize, and others in between (Part 7) — when legal and judicial prudence means the powerful is right”, April 30, 2012, Feng Gao’s Blog – Reflections on Events of Interest)

When Martha Piper became UBC president in 1997, she came from none other than the University of Alberta, where she had been vice president of research and external affairs:

“Martha Piper, Vice-President (Research and External Affairs), has been appointed the University of British Columbia’s next president.

The UBC Board of Governors made the appointment on the unanimous recommendation of a 19-member presidential search committee, chaired by UBC Chancellor William Sauder, which conducted an extensive search throughout North America.

“I regret seeing her leave,” said the chair of the Board of Governors community and government affairs committee Betty Anne Pearson. “This is a wonderful opportunity for her and the U of A should be proud. …” she told Senate.

Dr Piper has the proven academic and institutional leadership, and management and administrative abilities necessary to successfully head a complex institution such as UBC, said UBC Board of Governors Chair Shirley Chan.

In August 1994, she was appointed by Prime Minister Jean Chretien to the National Advisory Board on Science and Technology and she chaired a sub- committee on Quality of Life. …”

(“Vice-President Martha Piper to be University of British Columbia’s next president”, November 29, 1996, Folio)

The boss of Klawe’s parents at Klawe’s alma mater became Klawe’s boss at UBC; so obviously nothing could go wrong for Klawe.

The two news stories quoted earlier about Klawe’s move to Princeton mentioned that both her and Princeton University President Shirley Tilghman had been born in Toronto, Canada.

Tilghman was a graduate of Queen’s University in Kingston, Canada.

(“Princeton President speaks on gender gap in science and technology”, September 27, 2010, Queen’s Gazette)

A little over a year after moving to Princeton, Klawe received an honorary degree from Queen’s University. I reviewed a few of the interesting co-honorees in my February 2012 blog post:

“… in the next year 2004, both Jean Chretien and Maria Klawe – by now Princeton University’s Dean of Engineering and Applied Science – as well as Brian Mulroney’s in-law Lewis Lapham, the “famously liberal” Harper’s Magazine editor mentioned in Part 1, received honorary degrees from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, with Chretien on May 27, Lapham on June 3, and Klawe on June 4.

The other honorary-degree conferee on June 4 as Klawe was Gordon Wells, Sub-Lieutenant of the Royal Canadian Navy, advisor to the Government of Jamaica and Senior Advisor to the Contractor General, and Chairman of the Jamaica Broadcasting Commission.

I should say it out loud, that June 4, 2004 happened to be the 15th anniversary of what the Western media refers to as the Tiananmen Square Massacre in Beijing, China, when democratic protests were ended by military force.”

(February 20, 2012, Feng Gao’s Blog – Reflections on Events of Interest)

The various coincidences among these 2004 Queen’s University honorees were very unsettling from my perspective: Klawe along with Jean Chretien, for whose government Klawe’s and her parents’ former boss Martha Piper worked as a science and technology advisor, and along with Brian Mulroney’s in-law – though not the psychiatrist father-in-law – and Klawe’s date of receiving it being June 4.

If these were merely ‘coincidental’, what about the other June 4 honoree, Queen’s graduate Gordon Wells, Canadian navy officer who was also a government advisor and official in Jamaica, the capital of which is also named Kingston? Was that merely by chance and not thoughtfully selected?

As my above-quoted blog post and also my March 2012 blog post pointed out, a key UBC person in false profiling of me as violent and mental ill, graduate student Andrew Martin, was a Queen’s graduate.

The official name of greater Kingston, Jamaica, happened to be ‘Kingston and St. Andrew Corporation’.

(“Kingston and St. Andrew Corporation”, Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Foreign Trade, Jamaica)

It did look like a few selected through connections of alma maters, bosses, political bosses and families, by Queen’s University to honor in 2004.

There is no question that being a vocal advocate for women in mathematics and computer science, and in science and engineering, had much to do with Maria Klawe’s steady ascent to become an elite academic administrator. Belatedly in 2012, Klawe herself admitted that being a woman had had a lot to do with the important positions given to her, recalling a conversation with a male Princeton faculty member:

“Shortly after Maria Klawe was named Princeton University’s first female dean of engineering, she met a long-serving male faculty member on a campus walk. “He said, ‘I don’t have to listen to a word you say, because I know you only got the job because you’re female,’” Dr. Klawe, now president of Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, Calif., recalls. “And I said, ‘Actually, this is one of the few times in my life when I know I wasn’t hired because I’m female because President [Shirley] Tilghman told me she was going to receive a lot of flak for hiring me, but I was the best candidate.’ He just walked away. He didn’t say a word.””

(“How some universities are attracting more women to math, science programs”, by James Bradshaw, November 25, 2012, The Globe and Mail)

Klawe admitted her sense that prior to Princeton most of the important jobs she got had to do with her gender: “… this is one of the few times in my life when I know I wasn’t hired because I’m female …”.

As for Princeton, she told this Princeton man that President Tilghman told her she was the best candidate. While that was true, Tilghman had also stated, as quoted earlier from a July 2002 The Gazette article, that the key to getting recognition for women was to appoint more women as administrators; thus the female preference had already been decided by Tilghman.

Klawe must have been aware of Tilghman’s ‘pre-condition’ of appointing more women, but she cited Tilghman’s words of her being “the best candidate” to rebuff this long-time Princeton man, while making a compromise by admitting the female factor in her earlier jobs – enough for the man to walk away rather than escalating the argument.

Maria Klawe has been deviously clever, if not devilishly smart.

But to begin with, this Princeton male professor had decided to keep silent about his dismissive attitude toward the new female Dean – I wonder if this anecdote had resemblance to the lid kept on my dispute with her at UBC?

Tilghman said that Klawe was good at building relationships with the industry. Clearly she should be, given her years of experience as an IBM Research manager, and her corporate style of management as UBC faculty member David Lowe pointed out in 1992, as quoted earlier.

So it’s not surprising that in 1998 Klawe was the keynote speaker at then British Columbia Premier Glen Clark’s business summit in the city of Kamloops; what surprises me is that Clark’s finance ministers played school math kids in front of Klawe:

“Take the premier’s announcement yesterday to finally cut stumpage rates — the fee the government charges forest companies to cut trees on Crown land.

The announcement is welcome — but the damage has already been done.

Clark and the NDP have beaten this proud industry into the ground for six years straight.

As of January 1998, stumpage costs were 285 per cent higher in B.C. than in Alberta.

The forestry CEOs gathered around Clark barely peeped about all this yesterday. Not surprising, since Clark just cut their expenses by $600 million.

“If your landlord promised to cut your rent as long as you smiled for the cameras for a few minutes, wouldn’t you?” asked Liberal forests critic George Abbott.

CLASS CLOWNS

It was a no-brainer question for Finance Minister Joy MacPhail and predecessor Andrew Petter yesterday.

“Who here loved math in school?” asked UBC’s Dr. Maria Klawe in her keynote speech to Clark’s business summit here.

MacPhail and Petter both shot their hands in the air.

You didn’t expect any less, did you?”

(“Premier’s savior act wearing thin”, by Michael Smyth, May 29, 1998, The Province)

The staunchly socialist premier already had smart business brains back then, if no one expected where it would lead; Glen Clark is today the president of Jim Pattison Group, the company of one of Canada’s richest, Vancouver billionaire Jimmy Pattison:

“It’s not the fare normally associated with a God-fearing 84-year-old billionaire whose first job was as a trumpet player in youth gospel camps. But today, Mr. Pattison is the king of the checkout counters, with a distribution network that encompasses at least half the magazine and book racks in North American supermarkets and pharmacies.

No one is closer to the whims, fantasies and economic challenges of ordinary North Americans than Jimmy Pattison, the ordinary titan whose wealth is estimated by Forbes magazine at $4.3-billion (U.S.), amounting to the fifth-largest fortune in Canada and 248th biggest in the world. All this for a compulsive striver who was born on the eve of the Great Depression in Saskatchewan, grew up poor in east-end Vancouver, and started out as the lowest of the low salesman in a downtown car lot.

Twelve years ago, he took a chance on Glen Clark, the former B.C. premier and socialist stalwart who had left his post amid allegations of corruption and was then hired by Mr. Pattison. …

… Mr. Clark, 55, is a big part of that team, having assumed a first-among-equals role as Pattison Group president, while Mr. Pattison remains chief executive officer. A lot – although not all – of the Pattison operating businesses are now under Mr. Clark’s purview.”

(“Lunch with the irreplaceable Canadian billionaire Jimmy Pattison”, by Gordon Pitts, January 18 (updated March 22), 2013, The Globe and Mail)

But in March 2009 I was taken aback, in part because of the timing, when  Microsoft Corporation announced Maria Klawe as a new director of its board; I had started intensive political blogging in January, as I recalled in my May 2011 blog post:

“Years later in early 2009 I began my political blogging, first on Microsoft’s Windows Live Spaces as Hotmail had long been my primary e-mail. …

On March 9, Microsoft Corporation announced the appointment of Maria Klawe to its Board of Directors.

Microsoft was of course influential. When I was teaching at the University of Hawaii in 1997-1999, my teaching assistant “Hu” … did her summer internship at Microsoft in Seattle, and my teaching assistant “Wang Lingwang” … was hired by Microsoft in Seattle after his master’s degree …

Then in the New Millennium working in Silicon Valley in California, I received a phone call from engineering recruiter “Ken Button” on behalf of Microsoft in Seattle …”

(May 24, 2011, Feng Gao’s Blog – Reflections on Events of Interest)

Apparently earlier as a Princeton dean, Klawe and Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates had appeared together in a 2005 Microsoft Research Summit.

(“Media Alert: Bill Gates and Maria Klawe to Address Importance of Collaboration Between Academia and Industry”, July 13, 2005, Microsoft News Center)

So through step-by-step ascent, one as a base for the next, in 2009 Klawe finally re-entered the corporate world – at a top level as a board director of Microsoft, a computer industry giant no smaller than IBM.

Again, Klawe’s high media profile was advocating for women.

After top-level management changes at Microsoft and Satya Nadella became the CEO, in 2014 Klawe persuaded Nadella to appear at the annual Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing conference – as the first-ever male headline speaker:

“Earlier this year, Maria Klawe persuaded Microsoft Corp. Chief Executive Officer Satya Nadella to spend a day at the annual Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing conference in Phoenix this October.

She dangled the prospect of his becoming the first man ever to be a headline speaker at the event. For the 8,000 female technologists and diversity activists planning to attend, Klawe herself may be the bigger draw.

Since she became president of Harvey Mudd College in 2006, the 800-student liberal arts college near Los Angeles has made tangible progress creating a blueprint for encouraging women to become computer scientists. Last year, more than half the school’s engineering majors were female for the first time. Women made up a record 47 percent of its computer science majors.”

(“Harvey Mudd’s Klawe Maps Way to Woo Young Women Into Tech”, by Peter Burrows, August 7, 2014, Bloomberg Business)

But this time, the distinguished guest speaker said something that annoyed all the women present:

““It’s not really about asking for a raise, but knowing and having faith that the system will give you the right raise,” Nadella told a confounded (and predominantly female) audience at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing on Thursday.

Nadella made the comments in an on-stage conversation with Maria Klawe, a computer scientist, president of Harvey Mudd College, and member of Microsoft’s board of directors. He seemed to suggest that “faith in the system” is akin to magic.

“That might be one of the initial ‘super powers,’ that quite frankly, women (who) don’t ask for a raise have,” he told the straight-faced Klawe. “It’s good karma. It will come back.””

(“Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella to Women: Don’t Ask For A Raise, Trust Karma”, by Selena Larson, October 9, 2014, ReadWrite)

Nadella seemed to be saying that women who have “faith” in “the system” and do not ask for a pay raise tend to have ‘super powers’ and thus will be able to make higher pays in the future. But he called it a “karma”, as if asking for a pay raise would lead to some undesirable consequence – it couldn’t be as bad as my challenging Klawe’s management, could it?

It’s kind of sad that the first public rebuff of Maria Klawe I have read in the press has come as a rebuff to all women who want higher pays. On the other hand, Maria Klawe has been this decades-old unfinished story for me that I don’t yet know what was really in it.

Regardless, I feel that the following comments I made on the Haruko Obokata scandal, quoted earlier, may have relevance in this case – not so much about scientific research but about management ambition:

“An acquired habit may likely have been peer influenced. The reality that some of the notorious frauds in science history took a long time to be uncovered, or settled, may well have given some of the ambitious researchers of the modern generation a sense of rightfulness, namely that they, too, deserve greater fame and power, based on scientific half-truth at best, than their own solid accomplishments could bring them.”

(April 26, 2015, Feng Gao’s Posts – Rites of Spring)

From my perspective, “affirmative action” – to borrow an old political term – is truly affirmative when aligned with broader societal progress; otherwise it can lead to negative trade-offs when the focus is on the “rightfulness” of having something.

In Klawe’s case, advocating for women was a broader cause for her academic management career; but when she reached Nadella he seemed to say: for what I manage, gender rightfulness can’t cover it all and I emphasize ability.

Never mind for Maria Klawe, though, when Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella publicly poured some cold water on this board director’s enthusiasm advocating for female employees in computer industry, Klawe had already reached a higher plateau in her fame.

In 2014 Fortune magazine named Maria Klawe No. 17 on its list of “The World’s 50 Greatest Leaders” – behind Chinese company Alibaba’s founder Jack Ma at No. 16 – with the following citation:

“A mathematician and computer scientist by training, Klawe is leading the charge to bring more women into science, technology, and engineering. At Harvey Mudd, freshman women go to computer conferences, and introductory coding classes are now designed to be more welcoming to newcomers. Thanks in no small part to Klawe, women now make up 40% of computer science majors at the college, up from 10% in 2005.”

(“The World’s 50 Greatest Leaders”, March 20, 2014, Fortune)

Amazing, becoming one of the world’s greatest leaders for achievements at an 800-student college – but I have read she’s done more than that.

Klawe has been the president of Harvey Mudd College since the summer of 2006 when it was a 700-student college, after 3 and 1/2 years as Princeton dean of engineering and applied science.

(“Diamond in the Mudd”, by Melissa Ezarik, July 2006, University Business)

As I am finishing this blog post intended for this Friday on my blog, Feng Gao’s Posts – Rites of Spring, I come across a local news item, the list of Spring 2015 honorary degree recipients at the University of Toronto; here I list a few ones of interesting relevance:

Ceremony 5 Thursday, June 4 2:30 p.m. Convocation Speaker – Tye Farrow
Ceremony 6 Friday, June 5 10:00 a.m. Honorary Graduand – The Honorable Paul Volcker
Ceremony 7 Friday, June 5 2:30 p.m. Convocation Speaker – Professor Jeffrey Karp
,,,      
Ceremony 18 Friday, June 15 10:00 a.m. Honorary Graduand – Dr. Alfred Aho
     
Ceremony 24 Thursday, June 18 10:00 a.m. Convocation Speaker – Margaret Wilson
Ceremony 25 Thursday, June 18 2:30 p.m. Convocation Speaker – Margaret Wilson
Ceremony 26 Friday, June 19 10:00 a.m. Honorary Graduand – Dr. Maria Klawe

(“Honorary Graduands and Convocation Speakers for the Spring 2015 Convocation Ceremonies”, University of Toronto)

As selected: the only ceremony on June 4, with Tye Farrow, Toronto designer, as convocation speaker; all two ceremonies on June 5, one with American economist and banker Paul Volcker as honorary graduate, and the other with Jeffrey Karp, stem cell scientist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School – thus a colleague of Charles Vacanti of the Haruko Obokata scandal fame – as convocation speaker; the first of two ceremonies on June 15, with Alfred Aho, Columbia University computer scientist and U of T graduate, as honorary graduate; all two ceremonies on June 18, both with Margaret Wilson, Toronto secondary school teacher and Ontario Teachers’ Federation leader, as convocation speaker; and the only ceremony on the last day, Friday, June 19, with Maria Klawe as honorary graduate.

There are only two computer scientists among the 2015 honorees: Alfred Aho and Maria Klawe, both with specialization in theory, both in industry research before becoming head or chair of an academic department – for Aho it was AT&T Bell Labs and then Columbia University.

Like with Queen’s University’s in 2004, these University of Toronto honorees have been thoughtfully chosen.

It is a special addition to the honors Klawe has already, because U of T is where she had turned her fortune around:

“By the late 1960s, when Klawe entered the University of Alberta, the hippie movement was in full swing… “I couldn’t figure out how math could make the world a better place,” Klawe recalled. So Christmas 1970, halfway through her third year toward an honors degree, she dropped out of the university and went to live with a Yale dropout. In summer 1971, the pair headed overseas…

In India, Klawe found herself craving mathematics… she returned to the University of Alberta in fall 1972. After finishing her bachelor’s degree in May 1973, she went straight on to grad school at Alberta, earning her Ph.D. in mathematics in 1977, and getting divorced in 1978. Hearing of booming job opportunities in theoretical computer science, she enrolled at the University of Toronto, one of the three best programs in the world (along with Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology). By summer 1979, she was named assistant professor at Toronto.

That fall, a young hotshot theoretical computer scientist named Nick Pippenger from IBM Research in Yorktown Heights, New York, flew to Toronto to give a colloquium at the university. “He was extraordinarily shy, extraordinarily bright, and extraordinarily nice,” she recalled. The two young mathematicians rapidly developed a long-distance romance, flying between Toronto and New York every week or two. When they announced their engagement, “IBM Research was so afraid of losing Nick that they made me an offer to join either Yorktown Heights or a new theory group in San Jose.” Klawe and Pippenger married in May 1980 and moved to California in July.”

(“Maria M. Klawe: Welcoming the Excluded”, by Trudy E. Bell, Fall 2012, The Bent of Tau Beta Pi)

As she herself told it, not becoming a social activist, with a math Ph.D. but not committed to mathematics, Klawe enrolled as a computer science graduate student at the University of Toronto and soon in 1979 was made an assistant professor; she had recently divorced her ex-husband – the Yale University dropout I presume – and now met Nick Pippenger, an IBM researcher in her math-oriented field of theoretical computer science, and in about a year they were married and moved to IBM Research.

The corporate world was better for Klawe, both professionally and in personal life, and the University of Toronto started it all.

By the time Klawe started her UBC computer science headship along with my arrival in 1988, she had been with IBM for 8 years, as a manager for several years. So I wonder why in 1992 UBC Faculty Association president William Bruneau was quick to hide my local management-style dispute with her by dismissing the issue as “publish or perish”, and yet so eager to blame Reaganism and Thatcherism globally?

In fact, compared to Klawe’s own IBM experience, UBC management – Klawe included – and the faculty association were worse than IBM management in handling an internal dispute:

““At first, I did not realize how little value my manager put on me as a woman,” Klawe reflected. “I could have been anyone, and he would have hired me to keep Nick.” By 1984, relations with her manager had deteriorated so bitterly that Klawe started her own research group in discrete mathematics. In 1985, she was promoted to head all mathematical research within the computer science division at what became the IBM Almaden Research Center—leading what was regarded as one of the three best theoretical computer science research groups in the world and becoming manager of her former manager.

Ultimately the two became lifelong friends. At the time, however, the confrontation with gender discrimination left Klawe both angry and thoughtful—and led her to discover a major goal. “I began to wonder: How can we build institutions and groups to create a culture within science and engineering to nurture all people, beginning with undergraduates?” She began thinking about returning to academia.”

(Trudy E. Bell, Fall 2012, The Bent of Tau Beta Pi)

Maria Klawe was allowed to start her own research group after her manager had given her a hard time, and she then rose within the IBM Research system to become manager of her former manager!

But in this sense, at UBC and in Canada, and perhaps even more broadly affected, having disputed the management style and leadership conduct of powerful figures like Maria Klawe and Brian Mulroney, it has been endless career stall, recurring political persecutions, and life frustrations for me.

I have been living in Toronto for nearly 13 years. With the availability and accessibility of the internet I have been able to engage in intensive political blogging since 2009 – compared to in 1992 when the World Wide Web did not exist – but otherwise my predicaments haven’t improved.

Now Klawe is back receiving an honor in Toronto, as one of the world’s greatest leaders according to Fortune magazine.

I do notice that she isn’t given a higher profile, such as a convocation speaker, and the ceremony with her is scheduled as the last of the season. In comparison, a day earlier local school teacher Margaret Wilson gives two convocation speeches. But that is very subtle, nearly unnoticeable.

In contrast, much local media attention has recently been given to a case of child sexual exploit by University of Toronto education professor Benjamin Levin, who had been deputy education minister of Ontario province.

The case is rather bizarre, involving Levin’s urging women, in online chats, to sexually assault their daughters:

“There were two very different sides to Benjamin Levin.

The version known to his family and friends was a “kind, gentle” and “treasured” man, who served as Ontario’s deputy education minister and taught and researched at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.

“Mr. Levin also had a hidden, dark side,” Ontario Court Justice Heather McArthur said Friday, when she sentenced him to three years in prison for making and possessing child pornography and for counselling to commit sexual assault.

It was a stunning fall for a man one former colleague said in a letter of support was “one of the world’s most outstanding educators over the past three decades,” who worked on Premier Kathleen Wynne’s transition team in early 2013, following Dalton McGuinty’s resignation.

His foray into the online realm of child pornography put Levin on the radar of three undercover officers.

An image Levin sent to one of the officers was of a bound girl with a gag in her mouth, a leash hanging down her body and a woman standing over her, writing “mmm, so hot to imagine a mother doing that to her girl to please her lover.” In another instance, he sent her a story he wrote about the violent sexual assault of a 10-year-old girl.

He told two undercover officers posing online as mothers with young girls that he and his wife had been sexually active with their own three daughters. Levin told one officer that “he hoped his daughters would ‘share’ their own children with him and his wife,” McArthur wrote.

The judge said there is no evidence that Levin actually sexually abused a child. His wife of 36 years and his daughters wrote him letters of support.”

(“Benjamin Levin sentenced to 3 years in prison on child porn charges”, by Jacques Gallant, March 29, 2015, The Toronto star)

As “one of the world’s most outstanding educators”, Levin had a starkly opposite life online, distributing pornographic images, advising women to sexually assault their daughters, bragging about doing it to his own daughters – this was denied by his family – and expressing hope that his daughters would “share” their children sexually with him.

It sounds worse than any umbilical cord-like, everlasting desire of keeping children from moving on, I am afraid.

That brings me to the following impressions I recorded in Part 2 of my very first blog article, dated January 29, 2009:

“Sitting in front of a cableless old TV this New Year’s Eve in Toronto, I suddenly realized that unlike previous New Year’s Eves there are no longer Time Square and Dick Clark on television, normally carried by CTV network’s local affiliate CFTO; Ben Mulroney must have an aversion to the year 2009, I said to myself. Settling on watching the New Year countdown and celebration at Nathan Phillip Square live on CityTV – the only thing there was on the TV set – I was surprised to see the Toronto “Jersey Boys” appear to say “I love you baby” from a 1967 song, Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You, but I did not remember hearing the Auld Lang Syne, or perhaps it was too noisy for me to notice the sing-along.”

(“Greeting the New Millennium – nearly a decade late (Part 2)”, January 29, 2009, Feng Gao’s Space: Analysis of Current Affairs, Politics and History)

In my recollection, in the years before and after at least one TV station live-broadcast the New York City Time Square New Year’s Eve celebration that I could watch on a “cableless”, analog TV. But not 2009’s.

Now I hope what I recorded of the Toronto 2009 New Year’s Eve celebration wasn’t a Benjamin Levin kind of perverted love: “I was surprised to see the Toronto “Jersey Boys” appear to say “I love you baby” from a 1967 song, Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You, but I did not remember hearing the Auld Lang Syne…”

Think of it again:

“Can’t Take My Eyes Off (Of) You” said, “I love you, baby, And if it’s quite all right, I need you, baby, To warm the lonely night”, whereas “Auld Lang Syne” had said, “Should old acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind? Should old acquaintance be forgot, and auld lang syne?”

(“‘Auld Lang Syne’: What Does it Mean Again?”, by Christina Ng, December 31, 2012, ABC News; and, “Bob Crewe, Songwriter for Frankie Valli and Four Seasons, Dies at 83”, by William Yardley, September 12, 2014, The New York Times)

Who’s to blame?

At the time I hoped 2009 would be a good year because I was starting political blogging, hence my explanation for the lack of Time Square event on TV air, “Ben Mulroney must have an aversion to the year 2009”, referring to Brian Mulroney’s son, a CTV entertainment reporter in Toronto.

It turned out not to be, as by March 9 Maria Klawe became a Microsoft board director and, as almost always before, wherever she went not a whiff of disagreement would be in the press.

But at least in January 2009 there was another type of excitement, namely Obamamania, and even my landlady’s daughter, a secondary school principal, was reported in the press for it:

“It probably doesn’t matter to most people as they are swept up in another type of euphoria, i.e., Obamamania, anyway. The other day my landlady Mrs. Kristensen proudly showed me a copy of the January 16 Toronto Star newspaper in which her daughter Kyra Kristensen-Irvine, a Toronto-area school principal referred to as “Mrs. K.I.” by her students, made front-page news for forming an “Obama Committee” and encouraging students’ enthusiasm on the first African-American U.S. president.”

(Part 2, January 29, 2009, Feng Gao’s Space: Analysis of Current Affairs, Politics and History)

Mrs. Kristensen’s old house was across the street from the University of Toronto.

Later by 2012 Canada’s TV broadcast standards were upgraded to digital, and the old TV set Mrs. Kristensen had for me no longer worked. In late 2014 she passed away at a good old age of 99, this March I moved and now I get to watch a digital TV.

But since 1993 I haven’t been able to find a civil lawyer willing to legally confront the oppressions, nor the money for it at this point. Meanwhile, Brian Mulroney’s children are nesting comfortably and successfully in the same city.

And my extensive and in-depth blogging since 2009 has not led to any media coverage I have been hoping for. Yet today Maria Klawe is back in Toronto to roost.

But at the least, the lurid stories of online child sexual-assault chats by Benjamin Levin, the disgraced former Ontario deputy education minister, in the Canadian media has presented a tempting political blame.

For instance, some blamed Levin for the proposed radical changes to Ontario schools’ sex education curriculum – something Premier Kathleen Wynne, once Levin’s boss as education minister, vehemently denies despite some evidence for it:

“On March 6, 2009, Levin wrote and signed a memo that put himself in charge of Ontario’s school curriculum.

“Dear colleagues, I am writing to provide an update on our sector’s agenda … I will be filling the ADM (assistant deputy minster) position previously held by George Zegarac … The division formerly headed by George Zegarac will be renamed as ‘Learning and Curriculum.’ It will have responsibilty for curriculum and for Special Education including Provincial Schools.”

For some, it’s a question of what children should be learning. For others, it’s about age appropriateness. But for many, the key question is should such a strategy be moved forward when the man at the top of it is accused with crimes against children?

“Ministers and deputy ministers do not write curriculum,” Wynne told reporters. “Curriculum is written by subject experts in conversation and in consultation with a wide array of people and curriculum is reviewed and written on an ongoing basis.”

No involvement?

Memos show Levin announcing he is taking over the “renamed” Learning and Curriculum department and “will have responsibilty for curriculum.” It’s nonsensical and troubling to suggest Levin was not involved. In the interest of children, with these documents now public, members of the legislature should sanction the premier and minister for spinning attempts.”

(“Liberals can’t deny Levin’s role with sex-ed curriculum”, by Joe Warmington, March 2, 2015, The Toronto Sun)

How sexually explicit and age inappropriate is the proposed new sex-ed curriculum?Even University of Toronto students have their eyebrows raised:

“Benjamin Levin is a tenured University of Toronto professor, former Ontario deputy education minister, and was a member of Kathleen Wynne’s transition team. This July, the U of T community was shocked when Levin was arrested and charged with seven counts of child pornography.

In 2010, as Ontario’s deputy education minister, Mr. Levin proposed a radical sex education curriculum, which then education minister and current premier Kathleen Wynne was hoping to adopt. Parts of the program suggested teaching eight-year-olds about sexual orientation and identity and eleven-year-olds about anal and oral sex, as well as masturbation. Premier Dalton McGuinty rejected it at the time due to opposition from parents.

Wynne now denies that Mr. Levin played any role in forming the sexual education curriculum.”

(“Canada’s most scandalous university”, by Laura Charney, December 11, 2013, The Newspaper)

As the deputy education minister, Levin supervised far more than sex education, of course. He had a vision for a “whole-system reform” of education:

“… The moral and political purpose of whole-system reform is ensuring that everyone will be affected for the better, starting on day one of implementing the strategy. The entire system should show positive, measurable results within two or three years.

We have done this in Ontario, Canada, where we have had the opportunity since 2003 to implement new policies and practices across the system—all 4,000 elementary schools, 900 secondary schools, and the 72 districts that serve 2 million students. Following five years of stagnation and low morale, from 1998 to 2003, the impact of the new strategies has been dramatic: …”

(“The Fundamentals of Whole-System Reform: A Case Study from Canada”, by Michael Fullan and Ben Levin, online June 12 (in print June 17), 2009, Education Week)

But Levin’s education reform success has been questioned by a Ph.D. thesis produced at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education where Levin has been a professor. In her 2011 thesis, Lindsay Anne Kerr wrote:

“… this study is an intertextual analysis of print/electronic documents pertaining to students ‘at risk.’ … This study questions the accounting logic that reduces education to skills training in workplace literacy/numeracy, and contradicts the official ‘success’ story that promotes Ontario as a model of large-scale educational change. …

As distinct from the messy haphazardness of ruling directives that teacher/participants experience on the ground, Levin, Glaze, and Fullan (2008) paint a rosy picture of Ontario’s success story as a made-in-Canada model for large-scale education reform. As I have pointed out, this disconnect between frontline teachers and the official story marks the operation of ruling relations. … The purpose of this section is not to single out individuals, but to show how the ruling apparatus operates to bring about institutional capture to the ruling ideology. …

… From my analysis, it becomes apparent that the Liberal government in Ontario is actually building on education reforms begun by the Harris/Eves regime, rather than bringing about any substantive change to the original plan that exacerbated the problem of students dropping out of high school before graduation. Thus, the Liberal government’s SS Strategy continues to reproduce socio-economic inequity through strengthening neoliberal education reforms and displacing critical democratic approaches to education. …”

(“The EDUCATIONAL PRODUCTION of STUDENTS at RISK”, by Lindsay Anne Kerr, 2011, Graduate Department of Theory and Policy Studies in Education, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto)

It reads like, away from the public eye, the Ontario education reform process overseen by Levin was to a degree authoritarian, and discriminative against “at risk” students.

Now I wonder what Benjamin Levin’s possibly concocted stories of sexual assaulting his daughters might be for – getting extra jail time on a pathetically cooked tale in exchange for hiding other matters of substance in a kind of scam justice?

(Continuing to Part 2)

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Has China’s anti-corruption campaign brought down a “New Gang of Four”, and what could that imply about the country’s leadership? – Part 1: It’s four power leftists’ corruptions

(This article is expanded from a January 13, 2015 posting on my Facebook community page, History, Culture and Politics.)

In 2012-2013 when former Chinese Communist Party Politburo member Bo Xilai was expelled from the party, criminally tried and sentenced to life in prison for “bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power” following his wife’s trial and suspended death sentence for murder, I covered their cases extensively on postings on the Facebook page, History, Culture and Politics.

(Facebook posting, September 30, 2013, History, Culture and Politics)

I noted that Bo was only the 3rd Politburo member to fall from grace since the 1989 Chinese military suppression of pro-democracy protests on Capital Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, and that prior to his downfall Bo had led the most maverick high-profile political campaign, a Maoist-style one, in China since 1989:

“Suspension of Bo Xilai from the Chinese Communist Party Politburo and arrest of his wife as a murder suspect in the death of British businessman Neil Heywood signalled the end of the most maverick high-level political campaign in China since the 1989 Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests when then Party leader Zhao Ziyang took a stand more sympathetic to the protesters than the Party establishment, and fell from power.

Bo is the third Politburo member to fall from grace after the military suppression of the 1989 protests. The previous two were Beijing City Party leader Chen Xitong in 1995, who had been one of the hardline leaders supporting the military crackdown, and Shanghai City Party leader Chen Liangyu in 2005, all on corruption charges.

Unlike the Chen’s, Bo, “princeling” son of a Communist revolutionary / behind-the-scenes elder of the 1989 crackdown, has been a Maoist-style populist campaigning directly to the people.”

(Facebook posting, April 11, 2012, History, Culture and Politics)

I also noted a unique international dimension of the Bo Xilai scandal, namely that it was triggered by British businessman Neil Heywood’s murder later admitted to by Bo’s wife Gu Kailai, and that Bo maintained a degree of popularity in the city of Chongqing where he was the party chief until his fall, because of his campaign against organized crime, efforts on building affordable housing, and promotion of Maoist songs and mass gatherings:

“The scandal surrounding Bo, Congqing city party leader when it unraveled, involved his wife Gu Kailai’s murder of British businessman Neil Heywood, and city police chief Wang Lijun’s seeking asylum from the U.S. Consulate in nearby city of Chengdu, who exposed the Bo family secrets.

Bo was a leftwing populist, and is still popular in the regions where he served, especially in Chongqing he led from 2007 to 2012. Bo campaigned against organized crime, built affordable housing, and promoted Maoist songs and mass gatherings as a way of building his popularity among the city’s 30 million residents.”

(September 30, 2013, History, Culture and Politics)

In March 2012 just as Bo Xilai was about to fall from grace, a Ferrari car crash in Beijing killed the young male driver and seriously injured his two young female passengers, sending rumors swirling that the dead man was the son of senior party official Ling Jihua, director of the Communist Party Central Committee’s General Office and a top political lieutenant of the party leader, then Chinese President Hu Jintao. The two young women were reported to be of ethnic minority origins, possibly Tibetan.

The timing of these events, that involving Bo and that rumored to involve Ling, was sensitive. A scheduled, once in a decade, party-and-government leadership change was about to take place in late 2012 – early 2013, and it was believed by some political watchers that Ling’s attempted cover-up of his son’s death cost him a promotion, by the outgoing leader Hu, to the Politburo. One sensitive question was:

“How had the son of a Communist Party official, whose salary is relatively meager, managed to acquire a Ferrari?”

(“How a Ferrari Crash May Have Unsettled China’s Leadership Transition”, Hannah Beech, September 4, 2012, Time)

But some experts on Chinese politics saw in these events political factional infighting within the Communist Party.

Brookings Institution analyst Cheng Li viewed the ruling party as broadly divided between two informal coalitions, the “elitist” and the “populist”:

“Li argues the core elitist faction is the “taizidang,” or so-called “princelings” — the offspring of former revolutionary leaders and high-ranking officials. Another elite, albeit fading, faction is the so-called “Shanghai Gang,” or followers of Jiang Zemin, who served as mayor of Shanghai before becoming China’s supreme leader in 1989.”

(“‘One Party, Two Coalitions’ – China’s Factional Politics”, Alexis Lai, updated November 8, 2012, CNN News)

Li said that in 2012 the elitist coalition was led by Wu Bangguo, outgoing chairman of the National People’s Congress (the national legislature), and Jia Qinglin, outgoing chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (an advisory body consisting of delegates from various political parties and regions) – both protégés of Jiang.

According to Li, the populist coalition was dominated by former Communist Youth League officials:

“The populists are dominated by the “tuanpai” — politicians who cut their teeth in the Chinese Communist Youth League, the party’s nation-wide organization for youth aged 14-28 to study and promote communism. The league is also a training ground for party cadres.”

(Alexis Lai, updated November 8, 2012, CNN News)

Li said that in 2012 the populist coalition was led by outgoing President Hu and outgoing Premier Wen Jiabao.

Broadly speaking in this theory, the two coalitions run along socioeconomic and geographic divides, with the elitist coalition representing businesses and the affluent regions, and the populist coalition representing the poor and the less developed regions:

“The two coalitions represent different socio-economic and geographical constituencies. Most of the top leaders in the elitist coalition, for instance, are “princelings”, leaders who come from families of veteran revolutionaries or of high-ranking officials. These princelings often began their careers in the economically well-developed coastal cities. The elitist coalition usually represents the interests of China’s entrepreneurs.

Most leading figures in the populist coalition, by contrast, come from less-privileged families. They also tend to have accumulated much of their leadership experience in the less-developed inland provinces.

Many advanced in politics by way of the Chinese Communist Youth League and have therefore garnered the label tuanpai, literally meaning “league faction”. These populists often voice the concerns of vulnerable social groups, such as farmers, migrant workers and the urban poor.”

(“Viewpoint: The powerful factions among China’s rulers”, Cheng Li, November 6, 2012, BBC News)

Li reasoned that the formation of two main coalition factions is a departure from the “all-powerful strongman” rule of the Mao Zrdong era and the Deng Xiaoping era, and represents “something approximating a mechanism of checks and balances in the decision-making process”:

“In fact, two main political factions or coalitions within the CCP leadership are currently competing for power, influence and control over policy initiatives. This bifurcation has created within China’s one-party polity something approximating a mechanism of checks and balances in the decision-making process.

This mechanism, of course, is not the kind of institutionalised system of checks and balances that operates between the executive, legislative and judicial branches in a democratic system.

But this new structure – sometimes referred to in China as “one party, two coalitions” – does represent a major departure from the “all-powerful strongman” model that was characteristic of politics in the Mao and Deng eras.”

(Cheng Li, November 6, 2012, BBC News)

Bo Xilai is the son of Bo Yibo, a former Politburo member who last served as a vice chairman of the Central Advisory Commission during the Deng era. Cheng Li singled out Bo Xilai and Ling Jihua as stars of the “elitist” and “populist” factions, respectively, who took a fall or setback in 2012:

“And there is a crisis going on now – one brought on by scandals among the factional leaders.

Threats to stability

The most serious one has centred on Bo Xilai, a prominent princeling. Another case is Ling Jihua, Hu Jintao’s former chief of staff and up until recently a rising star in the tuanpai faction. Having become embroiled in a scandal of his own, Ling was appointed to a less important position on the eve of the Party Congress.

These scandals among factional leaders, however, can and should be easily dismissed. Factions themselves are too strong to be dismantled.”

(Cheng Li, November 6, 2012, BBC News)

If the emergence of the “one party, two coalitions” structure was about “balances” as Cheng Li asserted, then I wonder whether Bo’s fall and Ling’ setback in 2012 represented a balance, i.e., one “elitist” star and one “populist” star, each damaged by corruption.

But there was a stark irony in this contrast: while the elitist’s fall was connected to his wife’s shady business dealings that led to murdering a foreign businessman, the populist’s setback came with the loss of his son to a flashy lifestyle – if the Ferrari crash rumor was true.

Ling Jihua’s corruption was real as over 2 years later in December 2014 the Communist Party leadership announced that he was being investigated for “discipline violations”:

“He was, in effect, presidential chief of staff to Mr Xi’s predecessor, Hu Jintao – the gatekeeper at the very heart of power for a decade.

Ling Jihua’s problems began more than two years ago when rumours began to swirl about an alleged cover-up over his son, who died while driving his Ferrari alongside two semi-clad young women.

Over recent months the net has been closing in on the entire Ling family as corruption investigations were announced into one brother after another.”

(“Ling Jihua: China investigates top aide to former president”, December 22, 2014, BBC News)

But what about Bo Xilai’s Maoist-style populism that made him better known in China individually than most of his peers? Didn’t that make him a “populist”, and the downfalls of two populist stars?

Cheng Li categorized Bo as a “princeling” elitist making appeal with a populist – Maoist – approach across the factional lines:

“Some politicians have sought to round out their resumes with credentials across geographic and socioeconomic lines. Bo famously adopted a populist approach invoking Mao nostalgia during his tenure as party secretary of Chongqing, while Xi Jinping — widely expected to become China’s next president — left a prestigious post in Beijing to work in rural Hebei for three years.”

(Alexis Lai, November 8, 2012, CNN News)

I suppose a politician of greater ambition would try to make broader appeals beyond his established political base, and so if Bo had, it is not surprising that Xi Jinping, in 2012 the expected next leader of China, as a “princeling” elitist also had cultivated a populist image – through working in the rural area for a time.

But there was a huge difference between Bo Xilai and Xi Jinping in the political meanings of the word “populist”, in “invoking Mao nostalgia” versus “to work in rural Hebei”. One was deploying Maoist politics, while the other displaying an affinity with people at the grassroots.

Given that both were “princelings” and the identification is important in Chinese politics, the respective stories of their fathers may have relevance.

When Bo Xilai’s father Bo Yibo, a noted Communist revolutionary, died in 2007, The New York Times’ obituary included the following descriptions of him:

“Bo Yibo, the last of the Eight Immortals, Communist Party leaders who steered China through a politically volatile shift from Maoism to today’s market-oriented economic boom, died Monday. He was 98.

As one of the elderly but immensely influential party veterans who hovered above the country’s appointed leadership in the 1980s and 90s, Mr. Bo helped Deng Xiaoping, the paramount leader who died in 1997, overcome elite opposition to capitalist-style economic reforms.

Also like Deng, Mr. Bo had little tolerance for political liberalization. He played an important role in purging Hu Yaobang, a popular party leader who favored faster political change, in 1987. Mr. Bo also defended the army crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Beijing in 1989, which left hundreds of people dead.

The Eight Immortals were an informal group of senior Communist Party leaders who were purged during Mao’s Cultural Revolution but experienced a second political life after Mr. Deng’s return to power in 1978.”

(“Bo Yibo, Leader Who Helped Reshape Chinese Economy, Dies at 98”, Joseph Khan, January 17, 2007, The New York Times)

As described, Bo Xilai’s father was one of the overlords around strongman paramount leader Deng Xiaoping in the 1980s and 1990s, exercising power from above the official leadership, having previously suffered during the Cultural Revolution under the strongman leader Mao Zedong; and he defended the military suppression of pro-democracy protests in 1989.

So the son’s invoking Maoist politics, with a twisted irony perhaps, might really be about exercising power.

Xi Jinping’s father Xi Zhongxun, who died a few years before Bo’s father, was a little lesser known, and in early 2012 when the son was set to become the next Chinese leader, the following was in The Washington Post’s descriptions of the father:

“A brief, official biography issued by Xinhua News Agency makes no mention of Xi’s illustrious father, who commanded communist guerrillas in northwest China, rose to the rank of deputy prime minister after the 1949 revolution, got ousted by Mao Zedong in 1962 and, after 16 years in disgrace, reemerged to pioneer some of China’s boldest economic reforms. …

But the details of the elder Xi’s tumultuous career — his rupture with Mao, his close ties to other purge targets who are still on the party’s blacklist, and his defiance of rigid orthodoxy — are increasingly sensitive topics in a one-party state where history is shaped to serve the present.

… Although respected by crusty conservatives and neo-Maoist firebrands, Xi senior is particularly popular with many liberals, who remember him as unusually open-minded and tolerant — and hope that his son, under a carapace of political rectitude, is perhaps similar.

While in charge of a vast swath of northwestern China in the early 1950s, the elder Xi resisted pressure from some colleagues to crush an early uprising by Tibetans and insisted on negotiating. When Deng Xiaoping ordered tanks into Tiananmen Square to clear protesters in 1989, Xi said nothing publicly but is widely thought to have been appalled. (His official biographer declined to comment on that).”

(“For China’s next leader, the past is sensitive”, Andrew Higgins, February 13, 2012, The Washington Post)

As described, Xi Jinping’s father had been more independently minded under Mao Zedong, fallen out of favor earlier and suffered longer than Bo’s father; then under Deng Xiaoping, Xi’s father was involved in economic reforms like Bo’s father, but more as a “pioneer” than as an ‘overlord’, and when the military suppression of pro-democracy protests happened in 1989 he remained silent, unlike Bo’s father who defended it.

Like fathers, like sons, perhaps? At the least, it could be an explanation why Bo Xilai the “princeling” son resorted to a Maoist-style political campaign whereas Xi Jinping the “princeling” son had chosen a “common touch” approach.

If so, then not only that the fall of Bo Xilai and the setback of Ling Jihua represented a balance between the elitist and the populist coalitions in 2012, but that the fall of Bo Xilai and the rise of Xi Jinping must have indicated something about the “princeling” elitist faction itself.

In 2012 anticipating a huge power shift toward the elitist coalition, the China analyst Cheng Li was critical of the once-in-a-decade leadership change.

Prior to the leadership change, Li lauded the merits of the relatively even split of seats on the outgoing all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee, expressing concern over any shift of balance in favor of the elitist coalition:

“The nine-member PSC, for example, has – at least prior to this 2012 Party Congress – maintained a four-to-five split, with four seats for the populist coalition and five going to the elitist coalition.

Paradoxically, it is also in the interest of both factions to have the existing balance of power remain intact (a three-to-four split assuming the new committee will consist of seven members). The overall balance of power should also take into consideration the composition of the full Politburo and the Central Military Commission, including whether or not Hu Jintao steps down as the chairman of the powerful military commission at the Party Congress.

But recent rumours hold that the factional split in the new standing committee will shift to two-to-five (two tuanpai versus five princelings or protégés of Jiang). If true, this could be highly problematic. If the factional balance is not maintained, the defeated faction would likely use its political resources and socio-economic constituencies to undermine the legitimacy of the political system, which in turn would threaten the stability of the country at large.”

(Cheng Li, November 6, 2012, BBC News)

In short, as the Politburo Standing Committee was being downsized from 9 to 7, Cheng Li would like to see the power balance maintained at a ratio of elitist 4 versus populist 3, similar to the outgoing elitist 5 versus populist 4, and not the rumored change to elitist 5 versus populist 2, which in his opinion could risk China’s stability due to socio-economic problems.

When the new leadership emerged Li found it a shock, seeing a near total win for the elitists over the populists in a 6:1 ratio of the “supreme decision-making body”:

“Prior to the announcement of the composition of the new guard, led by new party General Secretary Xi Jinping, many analysts both in China and abroad had believed that the new leadership would continue to maintain the roughly equal balance of power that existed between the Jiang Zemin camp and the Hu Jintao camp. Yet in the end, the results were a huge surprise: the Jiang camp won a landslide victory by obtaining six out of the seven seats on the Politburo Standing Committee (PSC) while only one leader in the Hu camp—Li Keqiang, now designated to become premier in March—was able to keep a seat on this supreme decision-making body.

Chinese politics thus seem to be entering a new era characterized by the concentration of princeling power at the top.”

(“Rule of the Princelings”, Cheng Li, February 10, 2013, The Cairo Review of Global Affairs, Brookings Institution)

Cheng Li saw two major problems with this new leadership, namely, no expansion of “intra-party democracy” others had hoped to see “in the wake of the recent Bo Xilai scandal”, and too many “princelings” on the PSC:

“In the wake of the recent Bo Xilai scandal and the resulting crisis of CPC rule, many had anticipated that party leaders would adopt certain election mechanisms—what the Chinese authorities call “intra-party democracy”—to restore the party’s much-damaged legitimacy and to generate a sense that the new top leaders do indeed have an election-based new mandate to rule. For example, some analysts had anticipated that the CPC Central Committee might use competitive (though limited) multiple-candidate elections to select members of its leadership bodies, such as the twenty-five-member politburo or even the PSC. Such high-level elections, however, did not take place. The selection of elites at this congress continued to be done the old fashioned way—through the “black box” of manipulation, deal-cutting, and trade-offs that occur behind the scenes among a handful of politicians (e.g., outgoing PSC members and retired heavyweight figures—most noticeably the 86-year old Jiang).

What is even more troubling is the fact that four out of the seven PSC members are princelings—leaders who come from families of either veteran revolutionaries or high-ranking officials. It has been widely noted that large numbers of prominent party leaders and families have used their political power to convert state assets into their own private wealth. The unprecedentedly strong presence of princelings in the new PSC is likely to reinforce public resentment of how power and wealth continue to converge in China.”

(Cheng Li, February 10, 2013, The Cairo Review of Global Affairs, Brookings Institution)

In other words, Li saw the fall of Bo Xilai as that of a “princeling” elitist star, and a lesson for the Communist Party not to concentrate power further into the elitist coalition, but to take a more populist route, to make the party internal election mechanism more egalitarian and real.

But I can see something quite different: Bo Xilai wasn’t just any “princeling” elitist but one with a Maoist populist tendency; and so the denunciation of him could already be a step away from political dictatorialism, while rendering the new elitist coalition purer – provided the elitists can rely on the “common touch” populism of its new leader, the incoming Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

In 2012 Cheng Li did mention the rumor that both the disgraced elitist Bo Xilai and the demoted populist Ling Jihua had ties to the retiring domestic security tsar, outgoing Politburo Standing Committee member Zhou Yongkang. But Li did not mention the fact that the downsized new PSC no longer reserved a seat for domestic security supervision. That change was potentially significant, as subsequently in 2013 Zhou also came under suspicion of corruption:

“China’s former domestic security chief Zhou Yongkang, one of the country’s most powerful politicians of the last decade, is helping authorities in a corruption probe and, contrary to media reports, is not currently the target of the investigation, sources told Reuters.

The investigation could take weeks, maybe months, to complete. Even if Zhou is implicated, he is unlikely to follow in the footsteps of disgraced ally Bo Xilai and face prosecution, said the sources, who have ties to the leadership or direct knowledge of the matter.

When Zhou stepped down along with most members of the Standing Committee at the 18th Party congress last November, the role of domestic security tsar was downgraded, reflecting leadership fears that the position had become too powerful.”

(“China’s ex-security chief helping probe, not target: sources”, Benjamin Kang Lim and Ben Blanchard, September 4, 2013, Yahoo News)

I can also see the 2012 downgrade of the Communist Party leadership’s top position overseeing law and order as another step away from political dictatorialism, in line with the denunciation of Bo Xilai and the subsequent criminal prosecution of him for abuse of power.

But most importantly, in 2012 Bo Xilai’s downfall and Ling Jihua’s setback had more to do with corruption, as did the suspicion in 2013 about former security tsar Zhou Yongkang. Cheng li was probably right pointing out that “large numbers of prominent party leaders and families have used their political power to convert state assets into their own private wealth”, and so high-level leadership change in their favor might “reinforce public resentment of how power and wealth continue to converge in China”.

Fighting corruption is thus an important mechanism to placate public resentment over wealth accumulation among the politically powerful.

In 2012 the incoming Politburo Standing Committee gave a seat to Wang Qishan, a protégé of former Premier Zhu Rongji, both well known for economic and management abilities, and China watchers hoped that Wang would be tasked with fixing the economy and pushing for more economic reform:

“China’s Politburo Standing Committee operates in much the same way that a board of directors with specific portfolios assigned to each member does. … Their individual portfolios are important, however, because that determines which issues each member will have the most authority over for routine policymaking.

…The cadre most likely to receive one of those seats is Wang Qishan, the current vice premier in charge of financial affairs. The big question is which portfolio he will get.

That is a delicate question in Beijing. Some had considered Wang Qishan to be a better fit for the premier slot than Li Keqiang. The premier manages China’s economy, and Wang Qishan boasts significant economic experience. He is also considered to be a competent and reliable fixer—so much so that he has been nicknamed the “firefighter.” Chinese leaders have called on Wang Qishan to reform provincial governments in Hainan and Guangdong, to repair China’s image after the SARS crisis, and to manage Beijing’s 2008 Olympics debut. He succeeded in every task.

Wang also happens to be a protégé of former Premier Zhu Rongji, the economic and finance czar who cleaned up China’s banking system in the 1990s and ushered the country into the World Trade Organization. Overall, Wang is widely seen as a competent fixer with serious economic chops—and China is definitely in need of economic fixing.

Zhu Rongji was certainly effective in that regard, and many who look at Wang are reminded of his mentor. Given China’s current economic problems, many observers are hoping that Wang Qishan will receive a similar role and use that position to once again push for serious economic reform.”

(“Beijing to Announce New Leaders and Their Portfolios”, Melanie Hart, November 2, 2012, Center for American Progress)

But instead of overseeing the economy, Wang Qishan was given the role of primarily leading the fight against corruption within the ranks of the Communist Party:

“After the transition of power at China’s 18th Party Congress, the country’s leaders have voiced their determination to fight corruption with a stringency rarely seen in the past. On November 17, President Xi Jinping said that corruption, if left uncontrolled, would ruin the Communist Party and the nation. His voice was echoed by Wang Qishan, also a member of the Politburo Standing Committee and the secretary of the Commission for Discipline Inspection of the Central Committee of the Party, during a symposium two weeks later. The symposium had gathered eight scholars of political science, law,and economics to give advice on fighting corruption.

The torrent of anti-corruption rhetoric seems also to be unfolding in practice. In recent weeks, more than ten public officials have been dismissed and investigated. …

Yet a large portion of Web users feel that the string of cases look more like arbitrary political moves than reliable institutional proceedings. …”

(“China’s War on Corruption Is About to Get Real”, Yueran Zhang, December 11, 2012, The Atlantic)

As the above quote indicates, the importance and urgency of fighting corruption was reflected by the new Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s statement, that if left uncontrolled corruption would ruin the Communist Party and the country, and also by the assignment of new Politburo Standing Committee member Wang Qishan – the “firefighter” – to “Discipline Inspection”.

In 2014 under the leadership of President Xi Jinping and the supervision of Wang Qishan, the anti-official corruption campaign expanded, intensified and caught two retired top Communist Party officials more senior than Bo Xilai and Ling Jihua, expelling them from the party and sending their cases for criminal prosecution.

In June, it was People’s Liberation Army General Xu Caihou, former vice chairman of the party’s Central Military Commission and former Politburo member, “the most prominent Chinese military leader to be purged in decades”:

“Until his retirement in late 2012, General Xu held one of the highest ranks in the People’s Liberation Army, as a vice chairman of the party’s Central Military Commission. He was also a member of the elite Politburo. He has become the most prominent Chinese military leader to be purged in decades, and the most senior official named publicly in Mr. Xi’s campaign to clean up the elite and impose his authority on the party, government and army.”

(“China’s Antigraft Push Snares an Ex-General”, by Chris Buckley, June 30, 2014, The New York Times)

Then in December, it was retired security tsar Zhou Yongkang – suspected of corruption since 2013 – who, being a former member of the all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee, became “the most senior member of the Communist Party to be investigated since the infamous Gang of Four – a faction that included the widow of founding leader Mao Zedong – were put on trial in 1980”:

“Mr Zhou – who retired from China’s all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee in 2012 – “leaked the party’s and the country’s secrets,” Xinhua said, adding that the once-influential official was found to have “accepted a large amount of money and properties personally and through his family”.

The announcement makes Mr Zhou the most senior member of the Communist Party to be investigated since the infamous Gang of Four – a faction that included the widow of founding leader Mao Zedong – were put on trial in 1980.”

(“China arrests former security chief Zhou Yongkang”, December 5, 2014, The Telegraph)

It was after these two bigger ex-officials’ downfalls had become public that in late December 2014 the Communist Party leadership announced the investigation of Ling Jihua – the rumored father of a dead Ferrari driver, missing an anticipated 2012 promotion to the Politburo – for “suspected serious discipline violations”:

“Xinhua, the state-run news agency, announced in a terse statement on Monday night that the official, Ling Jihua, was being investigated for “suspected serious discipline violations,” the standard euphemism for allegations of corruption and abuses of power. It gave no details.

Until his abrupt loss of influence in September 2012, Mr. Ling, 58, was a trusted aide to Mr. Hu, comparable to a White House chief of staff, and had been widely considered a candidate for promotion to the Politburo.

The investigation into Mr. Ling opens another chapter in a palace intrigue that began with a car crash two years ago that killed Mr. Ling’s 23-year-old son, Ling Gu, and critically injured two young women riding in the Ferrari he was driving on a Beijing ring road.”

(“Party Opens an Inquiry Into a Onetime Aide to China’s Ex-Leader”, by Andrew Jacobs, Chris Buckley and Michael Forsythe, December 22, 2014, The New York Times)

That made it a total of 4 former top-level Communist Party officials disgraced by and prosecuted for corruption, with their seniority reaching the highest level since the infamous “Gang of Four” of the Mao Zedong era were put on trial in 1980.

With such a reminder, even Communist Party cadres began to dub these four the “New Gang of Four”:

“Chinese President Xi Jinping’s decision to investigate his predecessor’s top aide for corruption marks the downfall of the remaining “tiger” in a group that Communist Party cadres termed the “New Gang of Four.”

Gu Su, a law professor at Nanjing University, said the “New Gang of Four” term is popularly used by party members to describe the loose grouping, even though the extent of ties between them aren’t clear. The name is borrowed from the infamous gang, including Mao’s wife, who held immense power in the Cultural Revolution.

Uprooted Gang

The state-owned Global Times Dec. 6 described the case of Zhou alone as the “biggest, gravest since the Chinese Communist Party uprooted the Gang of Four.”

“The so-called New Gang of Four represented a very strong political group that covered every aspect of power from military to the party,” said Zhang Lifan, a Beijing-based historian who previously worked at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. They could have posed a challenge to the current leadership’s hold to power and claim to legitimacy if left unchecked, Zhang said.”

(“Xi Dismantles the ‘New Gang of Four’ With Probe of Hu’s Aide”, December 23, 2014, Bloomberg.com)

At least the case of Zhou Yongkang was the “gravest” since the Communist Party’s removal of the “Gang of Four”, according to the official media.

That kind of wording, and the Beijing-based scholar Zhang Lifan’s comment that “they could have posed a challenge to the current leadership’s hold to power and claim to legitimacy”, strongly suggest power politics, besides corruption, as a serious component of Zhou’s case as well as the cases of the other three.

But as law scholar Gu Su pointed out, it was unclear if these four had been a linked group and hence justified to be lumped together as a “gang”. The official accusations have focused on the misdeeds of each, centered at corruption. Zhang Lifan’s claim, “The so-called New Gang of Four represented a very strong political group that covered every aspect of power from military to the party”, remains to be substantiated.

After the four’s fall, in early 2015 the Chinese official media used the term “gang” to refer to groups of lesser officials around these top figures, including the Secretary Gang, the Petroleum Gang, and the Shanxi Gang:

“Over the weekend, the Party-run Xinhua news agency even went as far as naming three of the cliques as well as some of the senior officials it said were connected to them.

“The Secretary Gang,” it said, was a group of aides to senior officials, including some of the former personal secretaries of Zhou Yongkang, the once supreme head of China’s domestic security apparatus and now himself under criminal investigation.

“The Petroleum Gang,” were bureaucrats in China’s oil industry, a sector also intimately linked to Zhou’s patronage and political control.

And finally, “The Shanxi Gang,” the newspaper claimed, were officials from the coal rich province, some of whom were linked to Ling Jihua.

Mr Ling is a native of Shanxi who, as a chief aide to the former President Hu Jintao, is another high profile political scalp to have been taken down in President Xi’s purges.

It said a meeting, headed by President Xi, had determined that: “Organising cliques within the party to run personal businesses is absolutely not tolerated.””

(“Why China’s Ruling Party is Bearing Down on ‘Cliques’”, by John Sudworth, January 5, 2015, China Blog, BBC News)

These “gangs” around some of the disgraced four are singled out for their being corruption groups.

Given that confirmed information about high-level Chinese politics usually only comes from the official media controlled by the Chinese government and the Communist Party, without further disclosures, some likely during the upcoming criminal trials, vailidty of the “New Gang of Four” notion would need to rely on other forms of political analysis.

For these four figures to be viewed as a political group, they should have been in collaborative activity in politics. Thus a basic question is: Did these four even share any common political objective, or outlook, at all?

If the China analyst Cheng Li was right in his theory of the populist coalition versus the elitist coalition as characterizing high-level Chinese politics, one would guess that, given the status of the new Chinese leader Xi Jinping as the leader of the elitist coalition, and given the historian Zhang Lifan’s claim that the four could have posed “a challenge to the current leadership’s hold to power and claim to legitimacy”, these disgraced former top officials were part of the populist coalition.

As discussed, former President Hu Jintao’s top political lieutenant Ling Jihua  was a member and a star of the populist coalition dominated by the “League faction”, persons whose careers had gone through the Communist Youth League. Also as discussed, Bo Xilai was a “princeling” elitist making Maoist-style populist appeal.

So Cheng Li’s theory could apply to these two, relating to Ling’s populist status, and to Bo’s populist ambition despite his elitist status.

But a limitation of Cheng Li’s theory becomes apparent when one considers the other two of the four.

Neither Xu Caihou, the former top leader of the military, nor Zhou Yongkang, the former overseer of police and security, was from an influential or prestigious social background to be viewed an elitist, and yet they were not, and in fact could not have been, populists given their positions of holding and wielding power at the top of vast government apparatuses used to deter or restrain the population from becoming restless.

Rather, their political roles had more to do with upholding the Communist political system and ideology, and enforcing adherence and compliance to the system and to the rule of the state within the system’s framework, as can be seen in not only their former top positions but also their career backgrounds.

Starting his career in the People’s Liberation Army in 1963 when he was admitted to study Electronics Engineering at Harbin Institute of Military Engineering, Xu Caihou became a solder after military university graduation in 1968, in 1971 became an army officer when he was appointed a “deputy political instructor”, and a year later was given a serious political post as “secretary and deputy chief of the Personnel Division of the Political Department of the Jilin Military Area Command”. After 10 years on that job, Xu began to rise steadily through the ranks on the political supervision side, and in 1985 became the top political officer of the 16th Group Army, and in 1992 the director of the Liberation Army Daily, the Chinese military’s official newspaper:

“1985-1990: Director of the Political Department of the 16th Group Army of the Ground Force.

1990-1992: Political Commissar of the 16th Group Army of the Ground Force.

1992-1993: Assistant director of the PLA General Political Department, assistant director of the Department and concurrently director of the Liberation Army Daily.

1993-1994: Deputy director of the PLA General Political Department and concurrently director of the Liberation Army Daily.

(“Who’s Who in China’s Leadership: Xu Caihou”, China.org.cn)

In 1996, Xu became Political Commissar of the Ji’nan Military Area Command, i.e., the political leader at one of the 7 multi-provincial military commands that together cover the entire China, at a level just below the central military organs. In 1999 Xu became a member of the Central Military Commission, and in 2002 the military’s top political officer as the director of the PLA General Political Department, before his elevation in 2004-2005 to be one of the few overall military leaders as a vice chairman of the Central Military Commission, and in 2007 also a Politburo member:

“1999-2000: Member of the CPC Central Military Commission, member of the Central Military Commission of the People’s Republic of China, executive deputy director of the PLA General Political Department, and deputy secretary of its Party Committee.

2000-2002: … and concurrently secretary of the Discipline Inspection Committee of the CPC Central Military Commission …

2002-2004: Member of the Secretariat of the CPC Central Committee, member of the CPC Central Military Commission, member of the Central Military Commission of the People’s Republic of China, and director of the PLA General Political Department and secretary of its Party Committee.

2004-2005: Member of the Secretariat of the CPC Central Committee, Vice chairman of the CPC Central Military Commission and member of the Central Military Commission of the People’s Republic of China.

2005-2007: Member of the Secretariat of the CPC Central Committee, Vice chairman of the CPC Central Military Commission, and Vice chairman of the Central Military Commission of the People’s Republic of China.

2007- Member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee (till November, 2012)…”

(“… Xu Caihou”, China.org.cn)

Clearly, despite his initial military engineering education, General Xu’s entire career advancement to the very top of the Chinese military came along a political, rather than technical or warfare, track.

As for Zhou Yongkang, the most senior of the four, the criminal charges he faces include “bribery, abuse of power and leaking state secrets”, at least the last of which suggests that politics besides corruption is likely a part of his case.

Starting his career as a technician, Zhou worked in China’s state owned oil industry for 32 years, and reached its political top in 1998 in his appointment as the Communist Party secretary of China National Petroleum Corporation. A year later, Zhou was moved to a party career track as party secretary of Sichuan province. In 2002, Zhou became a member of the Politburo and the Chinese government’s minister of public security, and in 2007 was further elevated to the Politburo Standing Committee to be the overseer of law and order in the country.

(“Profile: China’s fallen security chief Zhou Yongkang”, by Yuwen Wu, April 3, 2015, BBC News)

In the Communist Party-ruled China, law and order at the top level is closely related to politics as can be seen in the name of the party central organ Zhou headed as a PSC member:

“Zhou Yongkang is secretary of the Politics and Law Commission. That makes him China’s domestic security chief. He heads China’s police and paramilitary operations and has a massive budget for maintaining law and order (which includes preventing and suppressing mass protests).”

(Melanie Hart, November 2, 2012, Center for American Progress)

In a political governing system in which career advancement was primarily through the hierarchy, and which valued political loyalty the most, it is possible for persons with influential family backgrounds and/or connections to rise to the top when such backgrounds and connections are important facets of the system, but it is unlikely that the rest of the top positions would go to “populists” i.e., those with appeals to the ordinary people, given that the vast apparatuses on which the system and the country depend would want their own top-level representations – this may be a major limitation of Cheng Li’s theory of populist coalition versus elitist coalition as characterizing high-level Chinese politics.

In the case of the four as a possible “New Gang of Four”, the facts that the two representing government apparatuses, Xu Caihou and Zhou Yongkang, were elevated for political indoctrination or enforcement substantiate them as power leftists; the Maoist-style political maverick Bo Xilai can also be viewed as such, as can Ling Jihua, the top political lieutenant of then President Hu Jintao, leader of the populist coalition dominated by the Communist Youth League faction.

It is important to understand that the populist officials who have appeals to the ordinary people work entirely within the Communist ideology and the Communist Party-ruled political system, making appeal for – instead of enforcing – the same ideology and system. Whatever their deep concern for the ordinary people or their talents in solving concrete problems, they do it within the rules, the perspectives and the outlooks of the ideology and the system.

So I think it can be reasonably concluded that all these four who fell with the emergence of the present Chinese leadership have been power figures on the political left – left of the new Chinese leader Xi Jinping, who is also the new leader of the so-called elitist coalition.

Most importantly, according to the official accusations these four have all engaged in serious activities of corruption – while at the top of the political left – in leading major sectors “that covered every aspect of power from military to the party” as pointed out by historian Zhang Lifan, They thus serve as a sobering dose of reality – contrary to any perception or presumption that the political left is people oriented – whether or not Xi Jinping’s leadership considerations had any role in their downfalls.

As time goes by, slowly there has been more information disclosed, mostly from confirmed semi-official sources, inching toward a scenario that these four disgraced former top officials, who shared political perspectives as shown in my analysis, may have indeed been a sort of a political group.

Once a year, China’s national legislature, National People’s Congress, and national political consultative body, Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, hold their sessions around the same time. The CPPCC has traditionally been the place where the Communist Party leadership displayed its willingness to consult with, and listen to, various sectors of the society, including non-Communist political parties that abided by the rules of the system and cooperated with the Communist Party – the constitutionally enshrined “leadership” party of China.

(“Constitution of the People’s Republic of China: Preamble”, March 14, 2004, The National People’s Congress of the People’s Republic of China)

In the latest March 2015 session several CPPCC members, quoted in their names, provided useful information on the cases of the four who might have been a political group, according to the Hong Kong newspaper South China Morning Post.

First off, CPPCC’s official spokesperson confirmed that there had been a Ferrari car crash involving Ling Jihua’s son, clarifying that the incident was not the main cause of Ling’s downfall:

“Lu Xinhua, spokesman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, became the first to publicly link a fatal crash involving a Ferrari in the capital three years ago to a one-time aide to former president Hu Jintao. Lu said that the crash, which killed the son of former rising political star Ling Jihua, was not the main cause of Ling’s downfall.

Ling, the former director of the Communist Party’s Central Committee’s General Office, was demoted to vice-chairman of the CPPCC and head of the party’s United Front Work Department in 2012, shortly after overseas media reported on the crash.”

(“Going on record on those rumours”, by Cary Huang, March 10, 2015, South China Morning Post)

There was an official rationale for CPPCC’s providing this info to the public: after his 2012 political setback Ling was made a CPPCC vice chairman.

The South China Morning Post story went on to report that a CPPCC member and former Communist Party central researcher confirmed the existence of the “New Gang of Four” group, though no detail was quoted:

“Shi Zhihong, a CPPCC member and the former deputy director of the Central Policy Research Office, confirmed overseas reports about the formation of a “New Gang of Four” faction within the party leadership, saying the four corrupt officials had long ago been put under internal investigation.”

(Cary Huang, March 10, 2015, South China Morning Post)

It implies the four had links in their corruption activities, but not necessarily as a “political gang”.

Perhaps the most intriguing and significant info – that can broaden the scope and horizon of the discourse in this article – came from two CPPCC members who were retired senior officers of the People’s Liberation Army.

One of them, Major General Yang Chunchang, told the media that former President Hu Jintao had been a “lame duck” in chairing the Central Military Commission and CMC events had been “dictated” by the fallen former CMC vice chairman Xu Caihou:

“Yang Chunchang , a retired major general and CPPCC member, said Hu Jintao was a “lame duck” in chairing the Central Military Commission. Yang said Xu had dictated events at the commission.”

(Cary Huang, March 10, 2015, South China Morning Post)

Now, that could explain a possible scenario of the “New Gang of Four”, namely that the former Chinese leader Hu Jintao was not a strong or hands-on leader, and as a result in his era several officials in top positions around him wielded the real powers and made important decisions, and they collaborated but not necessarily as a “gang”.

Note that the four in this possible “New Gang of Four” had risen to the top of their careers during the Hu era, and was disgraced just before Hu’s retirement, was retired along with Hu, or had the career rise stopped as Hu was departing. This and their being power leftists make their identification with Hu’s rule the most obvious conclusion.

With the exception of Bo Xilai, their downfalls came in the new Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign.

Truth could hurt, couldn’t it? Or at least difficult to swallow. Hu Jintao, the Chinese leadership’s face to the world for a decade from 2002-2003 to 2012, may have just been a “lame duck”.

Yet China’s growing success and influence garnered its leader some of the highest recognitions and praises bestowed on anyone in power.

The influential Forbes magazine in 2010 named Hu Jintao “the world’s most powerful person” – beating out none other than U.S. President Barack Obama for the title – and then in 2011 “the world’s third most powerful person”:

“Hu currently holds all 3 offices required to be considered China’s Paramount Leader: Communist Party General Secretary, President and Commander in Chief. But as part of a well-orchestrated succession plan, he will gradually give up his titles over the next few years, starting with the most important one– General Secretary–next year. His presumed successor, Xi ­Jinping, will assume the ­pres­i­den­cy a year later.”

(“The World’s Most Powerful People: Hu Jintao”, 2011, Forbes)

But it may have been Hu’s underlings like this possible “New Gang of Four” who exercised the real power, if Maj. Gen. Yang Chunchang was right about Xu Caihou and it did reflect Hu’s style more generally.

So much for the real worth of a Forbes advertisement.

Is there independent evidence that can substantiate this CPPCC member’s claim?

There is something that may well be: the promotion of Xu Caihou to be a CMC vice chairman came with President Hu Jintao’s taking over as chairman in an ‘off year’.

Communist China’s supreme military leadership setup is essentially two faces of the same body: the Party’s Central Military Commission and the State’s Central Military Commission. For instance, it is quoted earlier that Xu Caihou became a vice chairman of the party’s Central Military Commission in 2004 and vice chairman of the state’s Central Military Commission in 2005. The time discrepancy in the 2 appointments is due to the fact that the party appointment was made several months ahead of the annual session of the National People’s Congress when the state appointment was made.

More generally, in the past two decades China’s top leadership power holding and transition have settled into a rigidly smooth sort of ‘ideal’, in practice since 1992-1993 with Jiang Zemin, Hu Jintao and Xi Jinping in succession: the Communist Party’s general secretary is also the state president, with a 5-year term and serving 2 terms; a new term of the general secretary is elected by a new slate of the party congress held late in the calendar year ending with 2 or 7; the party leader is then elected the president by a new slate of the National People’s Congress, typically in March of the following year, i.e., calendar year ending with 3 or 8; in the term prior to becoming the new leader, the future successor serves as a Politburo Standing Committee member and vice president.

(“Who’s Who in China’s Leadership: Jiang Zemin”, “Who’s Who in China’s Leadership: Hu Jintao”, and, “Who’s Who in China’s leadership: Xi Jinping”, China.org.cn)

The military leadership title separate from those of the party and the state, what the Forbes description of Hu Jintao referred to as “Commander in Chief”, is the chairmanship of the two Central Military Commissions. The current Chinese leader Xi Jinping has been the first leader to hold the military leadership title immediately after the normal transition of the party and state leaderships.

Historically, the military leadership title possession played a key role for the 1989 military crackdown of pro-democracy protests on Capital Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. 

In the 1980s when Deng Xiaoping was the behind-the-scenes paramount leader of China, he let a younger generation of politicians, Yu Yaobang and then Zhao Zhiyang, serve as the party general secretary, and other elders, Li Xiannian and then Yang Shangkun, as the largely ceremonial state president. But Deng retained the chairmanship of the Central Military Commission to ensure Communist political stability. In 1989 when pro-democracy protests came, General Secretary Zhao Zhiyang showed sympathy and an internal division within the leadership came to the fore; Deng had control of the military and the cooperation of his fellow elder President Yang Shangkun and Premier Li Peng, and mobilized the military to crush the protests in Beijing on June 4. Also in June, Zhao was replaced by Jiang Zemin, party chief and former mayor in Shanghai who was able to end the protests there without using the military. In late 1989, Deng passed his Central Military Commission chairmanship to Jiang as well. In 1993 Jiang also replaced Yang as the president, and the transition began towards the norm of two 5-year terms of 3-title consolidated leadership as it is today. 

(“Deng, Li Seen Winning China Power Struggle”, by David Holley and Jim Mann, May 26, 1989, Los Angeles Times; “TURMOIL IN CHINA; In Shanghai, Protesters Turn Defiant”, by Richard Bernstein, June 10, 1989, The New York Times; Michel Oksenberg, Lawrence R. Sullivan and Marc Lambert, eds., Beijing Spring, 1989: Confrontation and Conflict: The Basic Documents, 1990, M. E. Sharpe; and, “Party Chief Jiang Zemin, 70, Holds Reins but Faces Tests”, by Steven Mufson, February 20, 1997, The Washington Post)

A decade after Jiang Zemin consolidated the 3 titles, the 2002 Communist Party congress and the 2003 National People’s Congress became the first time when power transfer to the next leader took place orderly and without turmoil in the background. Still, Jiang acted like Deng in the 1980s and passed only the party general secretary and state president positions to Hu Jintao, keeping the Central Military Commission chairmanship.

Then in 2004-2005, Jiang finally let Hu assume the remaining important title, and that was when Xu Caihou, the PLA general among the possible “New Gang of Four”, was elevated to vice chairman of the CMC, i.e., at the same time as President Hu Jintao’s ascension to the supreme chairmanship of the military:

“The Fourth Plenum of the 16th CCP Central Committee witnessed some important personnel moves and structural modifications to the Central Military Commission. In addition to Hu Jintao succeeding Jiang Zemin as chairman, Xu Caihou joined Guo Boxiong and Cao Gangchuan as vice chairman. General Armaments Department (GAD) Director Li Jinai moved over to replace Xu as director of the General Political Department (GPD), and in a surprising move, Jinan Military Region Commander Chen Bingde was added to the commission to replace Li Jinai as head of the GAD. …”

(“The King Is Dead! Long Live the King! The CMC Leadership Transition from Jiang to Hu”, by James Mulvenon, No. 13, China Leadership Monitor, Hoover Institution)

Within this promotion are several interesting pieces of evidence, albeit partial, showing that Xu Caihou was made one of the overall leaders of the Chinese military to help Hu Jintao run the military apparatus.

Firstly, since the Jiang Zemin era the CMC normally had two military vice chairmen, as it was prior to Xu’s promotion and as it is today, but Hu’s arrival at its helm came with the appointment of Xu as an extra-third vice chairman.

Secondly, as cited earlier, in March 2015 retired Maj. Gen. Yang Chunchang, a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, stated Hu Jintao had been a “lame duck” CMC chairman while Xu Caihou dictated the CMC events; quite clearly, Xu was promoted there to run the CMC under Hu.

Thirdly, that the promotion of Xu was an enforcement boost for Hu can be seen indirectly in a resulting promotion that was a boost to Xu: the PLA’s General Armaments Department director was moved laterally to fill Xu’s General Political Department directorship, and the new armaments director was promoted from the Jinan Military Region, i,e., Xu’s former regional base in the late 1990s when he was, as cited earlier, “Political Commissar of the Ji’nan Military Area Command and Secretary of its Party Committee”.

And lastly, the promotion of the PLA’s top political officer as a specially added CMC vice chairman to assist new CMC Chairman Hu Jintao had the perfect political color and symbolism for who this new Chinese leader was.

The China analyst Cheng Li pointed out, quite correctly, that then President Hu Jintao was the leader of the “populist” coalition that was dominated by the “League faction”. Quite like Xu Caihou but in a civilian setting, Hu started with an engineering education at China’s leading engineering university, Tsinghua University, then became a “political instructor” there, and subsequently spent most of his life on a Communist political career track, including serving as the head of the official Chinese youth organization, the leader of the Communist Youth League, and the Communist Party chief in the ethnic Tibet:

“1982-1984: Member of the Secretariat of the Central Committee of the Communist Youth League of China, and Chairman of the All-China Youth Federation.

1984-1985: First secretary, Secretariat of the Central Committee of the Communist Youth League of China.

1985-1988: Secretary of the Guizhou Provincial Party Committee, and first secretary of the Party Committee of Guizhou Provincial Military Command.

1988-1992: Secretary of the Party Committee of Tibet Autonomous Region, and first secretary of the Party Committee of Tibet Military Command.”

(“… Hu Jintao”, China.org.cn)

As the Chinese leader, Hu Jintao cared about the welfare of the ordinary people, and tried to carry out policies aimed at bridging the growing economic gap between the rich and the poor, championing the slogan of “putting people first”:

“The Hu era — which ends at the 18th party congress starting Nov. 8, as Hu begins the process of officially yielding power to Vice President Xi Jinping — started out with a different vision for the country. From as early as the summer of 2004, apparatchiks began to speak of “putting people first” and creating a harmonious society — in other words, addressing China’s yawning inequalities and imbalances in ways that differed from the Jiang Zemin era. Jiang, a relative liberalizer, had successfully encouraged businesspeople to join the party in 2001. The question facing Hu when he came into office was what to do about the huge differences between the rich and the poor across the country.”

(“Hu Jintao’s Legacy”, Kerry Brown, November 8, 2012, Foreign Policy)

It could be subtle, but Hu’s efforts to forge a path to reduce inequalities, one that would differ from the Jiang Zemin era, started in 2004 – the year Jiang passed the military leadership to him.

It would be reasonable to infer that a part of President Hu’s newfound confidence and optimism in 2004, underlay by his imminent relative independence in ruling the country, could be credited to the presence of General Xu Caihou, specially promoted to run the Central Military Commission under Hu.

But 10 years later in 2014 after the Hu era had given way to the Xi Jinping era and the retired Xu was brought down for corruption, what the anti-corruption investigators discovered was nothing short of shocking:

“Prosecutors searched Xu’s luxury home in Beijing in March and discovered stashed in the basement more than a tonne of US dollars, euros and yuan, reported Phoenix Weekly, a magazine run by broadcaster Phoenix Television.

Xu also stored countless precious gems and hundreds of kilograms of expensive jade, as well as rare antiques, the magazine said, citing a person with knowledge of the matter who is close to high levels of the military.

“Case handlers had no option but to call more than 10 military trucks before all the confiscated property piled up like mountains from this former Central Military Commission vice-chairman’s house could be taken away,” the magazine said. The report, which was carried by several mainland news outlets, added that Xu was forced to “bow his head and admit defeat” when confronted with a list of the items.”

(“Ex-army leader Xu Caihou had ‘a tonne of cash’ in basement”, November 21, 2014, South China Morning Post)

Literally “more than a tonne of” cash, including U.S. dollars and Euros, in General Xu’s home basement, and a mountain of treasures that took over 10 military trucks to fill!

One cannot help but shake one’s head in wonder: did President Hu Jintao honestly believe in 2004 that with General Xu backing him up like a military ‘protector’ with Communist political indoctrination, he would be able to achieve his “putting people first” populist goals?

Well, President Hu’s “putting People first” priority did not go far before he made the adjustment, affected by the economic crisis in the West, to focus on economic growth in his second 5-year term:

“But beginning in 2007, after the dramatic collapse of Western export markets, Chinese leaders decided to put everything back into maintaining economic growth, no matter how unevenly wealth was spread across society. …

Perhaps Hu had no choice but to make this gamble. Perhaps the only way to fend off the public’s rising expectations toward government and paper over growing imbalances between wealthy coastal regions and poorer western ones was to keep his foot on the gas.”

(Kerry Brown, November 8, 2012, Foreign Policy)

Concurrent to Hu’s second term where the focus is placed back onto economic growth was the promotion of public security minister Zhou Yongkang to the all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee to oversee the country’s law and order – a police and security tsar whose career started in technical work in the state owned oil industry before moving onto a Communist Party career, as cited earlier.

In April 2014 while Zhou was under suspicion of corruption, The New York Times conducted an investigation into Chinese corporate documents and estimated Zhou’s family to have $160 million U.S. in at least 37 companies in China, not counting real estate assets or overseas assets:

“It’s difficult to get a handle on the scale of Zhou’s alleged corruption. Back in April, a New York Times investigation estimated that Zhou’s family had amassed one billion renminbi ($160 million) in assets in “at least 37 companies scattered across a dozen provinces.” NYT cautioned that this estimate did not include real estate holdings or overseas assets.”

(“In Zhou Yongkang, Xi Bags the Ultimate ‘Tiger’”, by Shannon Tiezzi, July 29, 2014, The Diplomat)

Was the Western economic crisis the only big problem ruining President Hu Jintao’s goal of reducing inequalities? His own overseer of the nation’s law and order benefited himself but caused the state and the people “huge losses”, according to official accusations:

“In a brief statement, China’s top prosecution body said that the allegations against Mr Zhou were “extraordinarily severe”.

“The defendant Zhou Yongkang… took advantage of his posts to seek gains for others and illegally took huge property and assets from others, abused his power, causing huge losses to public property and the interests of the state and the people,” it said.”

(“China ex-security chief Zhou Yongkang charged”, April 3, 2015, BBC News)

But with powerful underlings like Xu Caihou and Zhou Yongkang, President Hu’s rule was nearly trouble-free, except for a short period of riots in Tibet, a region he had previously presided over, and – with these power leftists handling the problems – Hu appeared in full control to the outside world:

“In his decade in power, Hu has maintained rigid control over the nine members of the Politburo Standing Committee, the absolute summit of decision-making in China, which in turn maintained a strong grip on Chinese society. The disgrace of key leaders, like former Shanghai party secretary Chen Liangyu in 2006 and Chongqing party secretary Bo Xilai in March, led to no noticeable fissures or dissent. Hu has adroitly handled unpleasant surprises, like the Tibetan riots in 2008, albeit with vast influxes of central funding and security spending. (Makers of close-circuit televisions in China have grown rich under Hu; rare for a country not fighting an armed rebellion or a civil war, spending on internal policing has outpaced national defense.)”

(Kerry Brown, November 8, 2012, Foreign Policy)

But as the Hu era ended in 2012-2013, the province of Guizhou, another region Hu had presided over, has remained the poorest in China:

“Whatever the case, the country Hu presides over remains as unequal, if not more, than it was the day he ascended to the top in 2002. China may boast more than 96 dollar billionaires now, but 150 million Chinese still live in poverty. The country may have become the second richest in the world on aggregate, but per capita income hovers near 90th, similar to per capita income in Cuba and Namibia. Shanghainese enjoy a per capita income of more than $12,000 a year. Residents of Guizhou, China’s poorest province, earn a mere $2,500 a year.”

(Kerry Brown, November 8, 2012, Foreign Policy)

Now we know that there were these four power-leftist high officials under then President Hu Jintao in “every aspect of power from military to the party” in China, supervising important matters and making decisions, and also engaging in serious corruption activities to enrich themselves, their families and their circles.

But beyond that, how can they be compared to the “Gang of Four” in terms of politics, i.e., the policies they pursued and the decisions they made, that could make some of their problems the “gravest” since the “Gang of Four”?

To help gain a better understanding, I review a number of excerpts from an interview of Deng Xiaoping by Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci, in 1980 following Mao’s death in 1976, the end of the Cultural Revolution and Deng’s return to power. The interview regarded Deng’s views on Mao Zedong’s mistakes in late life, the Cultural Revolution, and Mao’s use of the “Gang of Four” in politics.

Deng said Mao’s unsound ideas were “chiefly “Left” ones”:

“Question: We Westerners find a lot of things hard to understand. The Gang of Four are blamed for all the faults. I’m told that when the Chinese talk about the Gang of Four, many of them hold up five fingers.

Answer: We must make a clear distinction between the nature of Chairman Mao’s mistakes and the crimes of Lin Biao and the Gang of Four. … Of course, Mao Zedong Thought was not created by Comrade Mao alone – other revolutionaries of the older generation played a part in forming and developing it – but primarily it embodies Comrade Mao’s thinking. Nevertheless, victory made him less prudent, so that in his later years some unsound features and unsound ideas, chiefly “Left” ones, began to emerge. …”

(“ANSWERS TO THE ITALIAN JOURNALIST ORIANA FALLACI”, by Deng Xiaoping, August 21 and 23, 1980, People.cn)

My analysis has shown that, like the “Gang of Four”, the possible “New Gang of Four” were all to the political left of the current Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

Deng said Mao’s objective for the Cultural Revolution was “to avert the restoration of capitalism”, but that Mao made an erroneous assessment to target “capitalists roaders in power in the Party”, cadres who had contributed to the revolution and had practical experience, and Mao’s political mistake was taken advantage of by the “Gang of Four”:

“Question: … And what did Chairman Mao really want with the “Cultural Revolution”?

Answer: … So far as Chairman Mao’s own hopes were concerned, he initiated the “Cultural Revolution” in order to avert the restoration of capitalism, but he had made an erroneous assessment of China’s actual situation. In the first place, the targets of the revolution were wrongly defined, which led to the effort to ferret out “capitalist roaders in power in the Party”. Blows were dealt at leading cadres at all levels who had made contributions to the revolution and had practical experience… Chairman Mao’s mistake was a political mistake, and not a small one. On the other hand, it was taken advantage of by the two counter-revolutionary cliques headed by Lin Biao and the Gang of Four, who schemed to usurp power. …”

(Deng Xiaoping, August 21 and 23, 1980, People.cn)

Any comparable motive on the part of the possible “New Gang of Four”, i.e., targeting other politicians, has yet to be made known, and would be an important factor substantiating the recent four as a ‘political gang’. So far as per the official disclosures, serious corruption and related abuse of power have been the main characteristics of the recent four.

Deng said using the “Gang of Four” was a mistake of Mao’s, but Deng acknowledged that they had their own “factional set-up”, and a “fair-sized base” particularly in the use of “ignorant young people”:

“Question: What we did not understand was: If the Gang of Four was, as you said, a minority with all the country against them, how could it happen that they were holding the whole country, including the veteran leaders? Was it because one of the four was the wife of Mao Zedong and the ties between Mao Zedong and her were so profound that no one dared to touch her?

Answer: This was one of the factors. As I’ve said, Chairman Mao made mistakes, one of which was using the Gang, letting them come to power. Also, the Gang had their own factional set-up and they built a clique of some size – particularly they made use of ignorant young people as a front, so they had a fair-sized base.”

(Deng Xiaoping, August 21 and 23, 1980, People.cn)

What links there were among the recent four remain largely unclear. But my analysis has shown that they had some appeals among the political left: Ling Jihua was a “populist” star and the top aide to former President Hu Jintao, then leader of the populist coalition; Bo Xilai’s Maoist-style political campaign in the city of Chongqing enjoyed popularity; Xu Caihou had served as the PLA’s top political officer, and one would believe that the Communist political indoctrination, disciplinary and egalitarian in emphasis, has some fit in the military; and Zhou Yongkang, perhaps the least populist-oriented of the four, rose from a career in the state oil industry, and such state industry sectors would tend to show support for the political left.

Deng also said that Mao’s wife Jiang Qing, a member of the “Gang of Four”, did evil things by “flaunting the banner of Chairman Mao”, and that Mao was “responsible” for failing to intervene effectively:

“Question: Was Mao Zedong blinded by her so that he wouldn’t see what she was doing? And was she an adventuress like the Empress Dowager Yehonala?

Answer: Jiang Qing did evil things by flaunting the banner of Chairman Mao. But Chairman Mao and Jiang Qing lived separately for years.

Question: We didn’t know that.

Answer: Jiang Qing did what she did by flaunting the banner of Chairman Mao, but he failed to intervene effectively. For this he should be held responsible. …”

(Deng Xiaoping, August 21 and 23, 1980, People.cn)

It would have only made sense for the new four, in pursuing their political agendas, to flaunt the banner of President Hu Jintao, who was not only their boss but the official leader of China and for that, one with an aura of ‘the Youth Leaguer’. But what inappropriate or even “evil” political agendas the four pursued have not been revealed.

And it is getting harder to discover the full scope and depth of the possible “New Gang of Four” as their numbers have just dwindled by one.

In March 2015 a few days after retired Major General Yang Chunchang, a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, told the media that former President Hu Jintao had been a “lame duck” in chairing the Central Military Commission while former CMC vice chairman Xu Caihou dictated the events, General Xu died of cancer at 71.

Writing in The Diplomat on Xu’s death, China analyst Bo Zhiyue noted that from a poor and unprivileged background Xu was able to enter the Harbin Institute of Military Engineering, “an elite university usually reserved for princelings”, by doing well in competitive entrance examinations:

“Julius Caesar isn’t the only person who should “beware the ides of March.” March 15 also spelled doomsday for Xu Caihou, the former Central Military Commission vice chairman and Politburo member who was disgraced as the highest ranking officer in the People’s Liberation Army to be brought down for corruption since 1949. On March 15, 2014, then-General Xu Caihou was placed under investigation for corruption. Exactly one year later, on March 15, 2015, he died of bladder cancer.

A professional soldier from a humble family, Xu in fact epitomized his time. A native of Liaoning, Xu was born in his home village of Xujiazhuang in Changxing Island in June 1943. His grandparents were both farmers, and his father found a job as a clerk in a grocery store in Dalian City when he was 12 years old. An outstanding student through his elementary and secondary education, Xu entered Harbin Institute of Military Engineering — an elite university usually reserved for princelings — through competitive college entrance examinations in 1963. He was one of the only two students from his high school — No. 8 High School in Dalian — to study there. Obviously, he was a star student at the time.”

(“The Rise and Fall of Xu Caihou, China’s Corrupt General”, by Bo Zhiyue, March 18, 2015, The Diplomat)

I suppose General Xu got to know quite a few princelings during his military university education and that was helpful later in his politically focused military career.

From 1999 to his retirement in 2012, Xu was in charge of screening for senior officer promotions, and made recommendations for more promotions of full generals than Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin or Hu Jintao each promoted – since after the Cultural Revolution when China restored official military ranks in 1988:

“Between September 1999 and November 2012, Xu was in charge of appointments and promotions of high-ranking officers in the PLA. During that time, Xu personally screened more officers for promotion to the rank of full general than any CMC chairman — the top leader of China — since 1988.

Deng Xiaoping only promoted a batch of 17 generals in 1988. As chairman of the CMC from November 1989 to September 2004, Jiang Zemin promoted a total of 79 generals. As chairman of the CMC from September 2004 to November 2012, Hu Jintao promoted a total of 45 generals. But Xu Caihou screened and recommended 83 full generals — four more than promoted by Jiang, 38 more than Hu, and almost five times as many generals as those promoted by Deng!”

(Bo Zhiyue, March 18, 2015, The Diplomat)

That could be a profitable source of bribery income, which General Xu was accused of accepting in “extremely large” amount, according to Chinese military prosecutors:

“Xu Caihou, former vice chairman of China’s Central Military Commission (CMC), has confessed to taking bribes, said military prosecutors on Tuesday.

Xu was found to have taken advantage of his position to assist the promotions of others, accepting huge bribes personally and through his family, and to have sought profits for others in exchange for bribes. The amount of bribe was “extremely large”, the statement said.

Xu was CMC vice chairman from 2004 to 2012 and was made a general in 1999. Xu has been discharged from military service with his rank of general revoked.”

(“Xu Caihou confesses to taking bribe”, October 28, 2014, Xinhuanet)

Xu’s history as quoted earlier also included supervising “discipline inspection”, i.e., including anti-corruption, at the Central Military Commission in 2000-2002. That could make passing his screening a ‘premium’ clearance in ethical conduct.

But Xu’s death isn’t the end of the story for the Chinese military. During the March 2015 CPPCC annual session when Maj. Gen. Yang Chunchang lashed out at Xu, another CPPCC member, retired Major General Liu Jian, stated that former Central Military Commission vice chairman Guo BoXiong “should take responsibility for his son’s wrongdoing”, i.e., corruption:

“Liu Jian , another retired major general and CPPCC member, suggested that another former CMC vice-chairman, Guo Boxiong, was in trouble by saying that the 72-year-old general should take responsibility for his son’s wrongdoing. The Ministry of Defence recently announced that more than a dozen senior officers – including Guo’s son Guo Zhenggang – had been snared in the military’s graft crackdown. Both Guos have been the subject of speculation for months.”

(Cary Huang, March 10, 2015, South China Morning Post)

Recall that in 2004 General Guo Boxiong and General Cao Gangchuan were the military vice chairmen of the Central Military Commission, appointed under previous CMC Chairman, former Chinese President Jiang Zemin, when then President Hu Jintao took over chairing the CMC and General Xu Caihou was promoted to become a third CMC vice chairman.

In 2007-2008 Cao retired and the CMC returned to the normal setup of two military vice chairmen.

(“Chinese Military Leadership After the 17th Congress: Hu’s Guys or Whose Guys?”, by James Mulvenon, No, 23, China Leadership Monitor, Hoover Institution)

Now one has been directly implicated in President Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign, and died of cancer, and the other is at least indirectly implicated due to corruption in his military family.

That was a lot of corruption, nearly full of it, at the highest level of the Chinese military.

Whether there was a “New Gang of Four” is politically intriguing, to be further discovered and explored, but official corruption underneath former Chinese leader Hu Jintao appears beyond just the four of them.

(To be continued in Part 2)

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Young Japanese researcher’s stardom fraud begs questions about American science don’s intellectual practice

Barely 30 years old and already leading her own laboratory at the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology in Kobe, Japan, Haruko Obokata shot to scientific stardom in January 2014 when she and her colleagues published two breakthrough papers in Nature, one of the world’s top science journals, demonstrating a surprisingly simple way of turning ordinary body cells into something very much like embryonic stem cells.

All Obokata did was drop the mouse cells into a weak bath of citric acid for 1/2 hour to wash away their developmental past, and the cells emerged like cellular infants, able to multiply abundantly and grow into different types of body cells – a power known as pluripotency.

Published online January 29 (in print January 30), with an almost supernatural title, “Stimulus-triggered fate conversion of somatic cells into pluripotency”, Obokata phrased the scientific question as follows:

“In the canalization view of Waddington’s epigenetic landscape, fates of somatic cells are progressively determined as cellular differentiation proceeds, like going downhill. It is generally believed that reversal of differentiated status requires artificial physical or genetic manipulation of nuclear function such as nuclear transfer or the introduction of multiple transcription factors. Here we investigated the question of whether somatic cells can undergo nuclear reprogramming simply in response to external triggers without direct nuclear manipulation. This type of situation is known to occur in plants—drastic environmental changes can convert mature somatic cells (for example, dissociated carrot cells) into immature blastema cells, from which a whole plant structure, including stalks and roots, develops in the presence of auxins. A challenging question is whether animal somatic cells have a similar potential that emerges under special conditions”.

(“Stimulus-triggered fate conversion of somatic cells into pluripotency”, by Haruko Obokata, Teruhiko Wakayama, Yoshiki Sasai, Koji Kojima, Martin P. Vacanti, Hitoshi Niwa, Masayuki Yamato & Charles A. Vacanti, online January 29, in print January 30, 2014, Pages 641-647, Volume 505, Nature)

The answer was yes, cells could become supernatural in a sense – pluripotent to be accurate – when given unusual stimulus:

“Collectively, these findings show that the differentiation state of a committed somatic cell lineage can be converted into a state of pluripotency by strong stimuli given externally. Hereafter, we refer to the fate conversion from somatic cells into pluripotent cells by strong external stimuli such as low pH as ‘stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency’ (STAP) and the resultant cells as STAP cells. …

This study has revealed that somatic cells latently possess a surprising plasticity. This dynamic plasticity—the ability to become pluripotent cells—emerges when cells are transiently exposed to strong stimuli that they would not normally experience in their living environments.”

(Haruko Obokata, Teruhiko Wakayama, Yoshiki Sasai, Koji Kojima, Martin P. Vacanti, Hitoshi Niwa, Masayuki Yamato & Charles A. Vacanti, January 29, 2014, Nature)

It would be a faster and easier way to reprogram cells, much less likely to damage them or make them cancerous, than the genetic manipulation pioneered in 2006 by another Japanese scientist, Shinya Yamanaka, who was awarded a Nobel Prize for it.

It was Haruko Obokata’s turn to become an instant media sensation. As Britain’s The Guardian newspaper reports, the media wondered when she would be given a Nobel Prize, curiously finding out and reporting more about her: she painted her laboratory pink and yellow, sticking cartoons everywhere; at work she wore a kappogi – a cooking apron – her grandmother had given her; and in her leisure time she fed her pet turtle, took baths, shopped and went on dates.

(“What pushes scientists to lie? The disturbing but familiar story of Haruko Obokata”, by John Rasko and Carl Power, February 18, 2015, The Guardian)

But within days of the Nature papers’ publication, disturbing allegations emerged in science blogs and on Twitter: some of the papers’ images looked doctored, and chunks of her text were lifted from other papers.

The RIKEN research institute, of which the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology is a part, conducted an investigation in February and March, confirming there was at least some research misconduct; in the Nature paper quoted above, some of the text may have been copied from a paper by other researchers, and some images were copied from Obokata’s doctoral thesis on a very different subject:

“The Paper 1 Methods section in question consisted of 17 lines copied from the paper by Guo J., et al., without citing the source. This is absolutely not allowed, and this is something that is strictly taught at research institutions and universities. Appropriate quotation and citing of all sources is a matter of course for all researchers. Dr. Obokata’s explanation that she did not possess a copy of the Guo paper, did not remember where she had copied the text from, and that it was simply oversight, is highly questionable.

On February 20, the committee was presented by Drs. Sasai and Obokata with a request for correction and with supporting documentation. They brought up two points: One was that some of the immunofluorescence images of in vitro differentiated cells and teratoma … actually were derived from STAP cells created out of bone marrow hematopoietic cells but not spleen hematopoietic cells; and the second point was that they were thinking of replacing the incorrect images. The supporting documentation they provided consisted of these image files. Dr. Obokata explained that she mistook the images because both the spleen and bone marrow hematopoietic cell samples had the same “hemato” (hematopoietic) label.

Later, it was discovered that the images in Paper 1 very closely resembled images she had used in her doctoral dissertation for Waseda University. …

Paper 1 presents STAP cells created by subjecting the spleen cells of a 1-week old mouse to an acid bath, while in Dr. Obokata’s doctoral thesis she describes acquiring “sphere” cells (sphere-shaped cell clusters) by forcing the bone marrow cells of a 3 to 4-week old mouse through a narrow pipette in a process of applying mechanical stress to the cells. The two experimental conditions are quite different. …

… It is hard to believe that Dr. Obokata was unaware of the different experiment conditions when she prepared the images. Also, there are traces around the images in Paper 1 that suggest they were cut out of an identical arrangement of images in the doctoral thesis. This makes it very difficult to accept Dr. Obokata’s assertion that she cut and pasted the images from the thesis to Paper 1 without realizing that they represented completely different experimental procedures. …”

(“Report on STAP Cell Research Paper Investigation”, by Research Paper Investigative Committee, March 31, 2014, RIKEN)

Also in March, co-author Teruhiko Wakayama of Yamanashi University, Japan, a cloning expert, reviewed data of the tests he had conducted for the Nature papers, and found a mismatch between a line of mouse reported in the Nature papers and the lines for which experiments were actually done by Obokata.

The Nature paper had reported the success of converting mature cells to STAP cells for 3 strains of mice:

“We tested the following three different genetic backgrounds of mice for STAP stem-cell establishment from STAP cell clusters, and observed reproducible data of establishment: C57BL/6 carrying Oct4-gfp (29 of 29), 129/Sv carrying Rosa26-gfp (2 of 2) and 129/Sv × C57BL/6 carrying cag-gfp (12 of 16).”

(Haruko Obokata, Teruhiko Wakayama, Yoshiki Sasai, Koji Kojima, Martin P. Vacanti, Hitoshi Niwa, Masayuki Yamato & Charles A. Vacanti, January 29, 2014, Nature)

Wakayama’s test data revealed that results published for the mouse strain 129 had actually been from the other 2 strains:

“On 25 March, Wakayama told Nature News that his preliminary analysis of the STAP cell lines on which Obokata worked alone showed that they were genetically distinct from the ‘129 strain’ of mouse said to have been used to derive them. Instead, he says, they came from two other strains, known as B6 and 129B6F1 hybrid. “This discovery was a shock,” says Wakayama.”

(“Mismatch alleged in acid-bath stem-cell experiment”, by David Cyranoski, March 27, 2014, Nature)

RIKEN’s investigation findings of “research misconduct” were announced on April 1. Haruko Obokata’s short-lived scientific stardom was now a scandal, and public shaming of her followed. On live television, Obokata tearfully apologized for her mistakes, but calling them “benevolent”:

“The news media, having built her up, was more than happy to tear her down. A tearful Obokata faced a gruelling press conference, broadcast live on TV. Standing amongst a battery of microphones, strobe-lit with camera flashes, she apologised, bowed, answered questions, bowed, apologised some more, and bowed.

Obokata apologised for many things that day. She apologised for “insufficient efforts, ill-preparedness and unskilfulness”, for errors of methodology and sloppy data management. They were all, she said, “benevolent mistakes”, due to her youth and inexperience.”

(John Rasko and Carl Power, February 18, 2015, The Guardian)

Obokata insisted that her STAP cells exist, that she had created them “over 200 times”, and would be willing to go anywhere to reproduced them with other scientists:

“This is the first statement in public by Dr. Obokata since the problems with the articles emerged in February. Her lawyers said she was hospitalized Monday because her “mental and physical condition” was unstable.

“The STAP phenomenon has been confirmed on many occasions. Since I encountered the STAP phenomenon, I’ve dedicated myself to experiments with a sense of mission to explore the phenomenon. I sincerely hope that the STAP phenomenon won’t be denied due to presentational mistakes, and that scientific research on it continues.”

Dr. Obokata says she has created STAP cells over 200 times.

“If anyone wants to watch me create STAP cells, I’ll go anywhere” to work with others to replicate the data, Dr. Obokata says.”

(“Live: Obokata Speaks About Stem Cell Research Probe”, April 9, 2014, The Wall Street Journal)

But despite her method’s simplicity, other scientists were unable to reproduce the results. One by one, Obokata’s co-authors expressed doubt and asked to retract the papers, and in June so agreed Obokata. Online on July 2 (in print July 3), 2014, the two Nature papers were retracted.

At RIKEN, Haruko Obokata’s supervisor was co-author Yoshiki Sasai, a deputy director of the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology. Sasai stood by Obokata as indicated in the investigation report quoted earlier, but the investigation brought him tremendous mental stress that saw him hospitalized for nearly a month in March; then in early August 2014, Sasai was found dead at the Center, hanged from a stairway handrail, to the end still determined to get Obokata to “reproduce STAP cells”:

“Sasai, 52, deputy director of the Riken Center for Developmental Biology in Kobe and an adviser to scandal-hit Riken scientist Haruko Obokata, 30, was confirmed dead after being found hanged from a stairway handrail at the center, the police said.

Satoru Kagaya, head of public relations at Riken, said at a news conference that at least one apparent suicide note was found on the desk used by Sasai’s secretary, as well as three other notes left near the body.

One of the notes, addressed to Obokata, read, “Be sure to reproduce STAP cells,” sources revealed later in the day.

Sasai supervised Obokata’s writing. A Riken investigative committee has said Sasai bore heavy responsibility for not confirming data for the STAP study and for Obokata’s misconduct.

Obokata is now engaged in experiments at Riken to verify the findings of the research.

Retractions of papers in major scientific journals are rare, and the scandal was a major embarrassment to Japan’s scientific research.”

(“STAP paper co-author Sasai commits suicide”, August 5, 2014, The Japan Times)

A major embarrassment to Japan’s scientific research led to the suicide of the man who supervised the writing – but not the end of the saga as the woman at the center of the research work continued to insist that STAP cells exist.

Finally in December 2014, after months working with a research team assembled by RIKEN to assist her, Haruko Obokata conceded that she could not produce STAP cells under the stricter conditions and was “extremely perplexed”, and resigned from her job:

“Obokata submitted her letter of resignation to Riken, dated Dec. 21, on Dec. 15, the institute said. Riken plans to accept her resignation.

“I regret that I had to conduct my work (for verification tests) within limitations that were much greater than I had anticipated and therefore was not able to do the examination to the fullest,” Obokata, 31, said in a statement issued through Riken. “But, under the given circumstances, I tackled the work to the limit of my soul. Now, I am exhausted. I am extremely perplexed by such a result (of my verification tests).””

(“Obokata resigns as Riken reports her failure to re-create STAP cells”, December 19, 2014, The Asahi Shimbun)

RIKEN then released its second investigation report. Its genetic analysis showed that Obokata’s so-called STAP cells had been derived from regular embryonic stem cells, and so there was no other choice but to conclude that the mix-up with embryonic stem cells “refutes all of the main conclusions of the two papers”, and that the contamination – involving 3 different types of  embryonic stem cells – was unlikely accidental, although persons responsible could not be pinpointed:

“Investigation of samples from the Obokata and Wakayama laboratories

The following conclusions were reached based on analyses of SNP distribution, specific deletions, inserted GFP gene, and other factors.

a) The three STAP stem cells, FLS, GLS, and AC129, were actually derived from the three ES cells FES1, GOF-ES, and 129B6F1-ES1, respectively.

b) The FI stem cell CTS was actually derived from an ES cell FES1.

c) It is highly probable that the chimera mice claimed to be developed from STAP cells were actually developed from ES cells FES1.

d) It is highly probable that the teratomas claimed to be developed from STAP cells were actually developed from ES cells FES1.

e) The STAP cell samples given to GRAS for Chip-seq analysis were actually 129B6F1-ES1 cells.

Opinion

It is unlikely that there was accidental contamination by three different ES cells, and it is suspected that the contamination may have occurred artificially. However, given the difficulty of identifying who might have contaminated the cultures, it is not possible to conclusively determine that it was artificial contamination.”

(“Summary Report on STAP Cell Research Paper Investigation II”, RIKEN)

Clearly there had been persistent, even systemic, contamination with embryonic stem cells in Obokata’s over 200 experiments successfully producing the STAP cells, which under the verification conditions imposed by the RIKEN investigation she was unable to produce even once.

In its recent comprehensive reporting of the Obokata scandal – a feature article dated February 18, 2015, written by John Rasko and Carl Power – The Guardian has solemnly informed the public that the phenomena of published scientific research results incapable of verification by independent reproduction, i.e., replication, have been widespread and could even be in the majority.

Firstly, scientists would rather produce new results than reproducing others’ work:

“But before we start to congratulate ourselves on the ever-upwards path of science, we should bear in mind that most experiments are never reproduced. There are simply too many of them. Besides which, researchers often don’t have much interest in repeating the work of others. Scientists may be truth-seekers, but they generally prefer new truths. They want to be the first to make a discovery. That’s where all the glory lies; that’s how to get a name for yourself, attract more funding and advance your career. Confirming – or failing to confirm – someone else’s discovery is unlikely to get you very far. It’s unlikely to even get you into print since science journals tend to favour novel research.”

(John Rasko and Carl Power, February 18, 2015, The Guardian)

Secondly, those who find it important to verify others’ published results, such as some pharmaceutical industry researchers do, may find to their horror that even most of the so-called “landmark experiments” in their field can not be reproduced:

“Not only are most experiments not reproduced, most are probably not reproducible. This statement will shock only those who have never worked in a wet lab. Those who have will already suspect as much.

A few years ago, Glenn Begley put this suspicion to the test. As head of cancer research for pharmaceutical giant Amgen, he attempted to repeat 53 landmark experiments in that field, important work published in some of the world’s top science journals. To his horror, he and his team managed to confirm only six of them. That’s a meagre 11%. Researchers at Bayer set up a similar trial and were similarly depressed by the results. Out of 67 published studies into the therapeutic potential of various drugs (mostly for the treatment of cancer), they were able to reproduce less than a quarter.”

(John Rasko and Carl Power, February 18, 2015, The Guardian)

And thirdly, if the public haven’t known about it, researchers know “in their heart of hearts” that for various reasons, fraud being one, “reproducibility is the exception rather than the rule”:

“The Amgen and Bayer studies were too small to tell us how bad the problem really is, but they do illustrate something that biomedical researchers already know in their heart of hearts: reproducibility is the exception rather than the rule. There are probably many reasons for this. Apart from outright fraud, there are all those “benevolent mistakes” that scientists make more or less unwittingly: poor experiment design, sloppy data management, bias in the interpretation of facts and inadequate communication of results and methods. Then, of course, there is the devilish complexity of reality itself, which withholds more than it reveals to the prying eyes of science.”

(John Rasko and Carl Power, February 18, 2015, The Guardian)

But how do The Guardian article’s writers know what biomedical researchers know in their “heart of hearts”? Researchers certainly would not say anything like that to contradict the credibility of their own work.

These two writers appear to be medical and academic insiders: John Rasko is a professor at Sydney Medical School, and leads both the Cell and Molecular Therapies at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and the Gene and Stem Cell Therapy Group at the Centenary Institute, University of Sydney, while Carl Power is a researcher and editorial coordinator at the Centenary Institute and University of Sydney.

Still, the incredible speed at which Haruko Obokata shot to scientific stardom, and the same amazing speed at which it unravelled – I note that it was quite unlike the pet turtle she kept at home – made her case a glaring one. It has brought her to the rank of notorious fraudsters in biomedical research history, according to Rasko and Power who refer to two other such personalities in history.

One of the two was South Korean scientist Hwang Woo Suk:

“In 2004, this charismatic, square-jawed scientist from Seoul National University became the pride of South Korea when he claimed he had created the first human embryonic stem cells by means of cloning. His smiling face was on the front page of newspapers worldwide, and Koreapost issued a commemorative stamp in his honour. Since cloning is a form of cellular reprogramming, Hwang’s work generated the same kind of excitement as Obokata’s. Both promised the holy grail of regenerative medicine: patient-specific stem cells capable of repairing any damaged tissue or organ in the body. But an investigation by Hwang’s university proved his results were as bogus as Obokata’s. None of his 11 “cloned” stem cells matched their supposed donors.”

(John Rasko and Carl Power, February 18, 2015, The Guardian)

In fact, the Hwang Woo Suk scandal loomed large in the minds of other scientists, like Shinya Yamanaka of Japan’s Kyoto University who was pioneering reprogramming mature cells into stem cells, and who felt it prudent to repeat the experiments as he later recalled in his 2012 autobiography for the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine:

“In 2005, we succeeded in generating ES-like cells with the four factors, and I named the resulting cells “induced pluripotent stem cells or iPS cells.” I was anxious about whether they were really the pluripotent cells that we were looking for because the method used to generate the iPS cells was much simpler than I had expected. In addition, after hearing about a big scandal involving a Korean researcher who falsely reported the successful generation of human ES cells by cloning at around that time, I thought we should repeat our experiments to make sure of the result so that no researcher could cast doubt on our findings.”

(“Shinya Yamanaka – Biographical”, 2012, Nobelprize.org)

But even Yamanaka noted that competition was fierce and publishing papers “as quickly as possible” was critical:

“In 2006, we published a paper in Cell on the successful generation of mouse iPS cells using the four factors. Some researchers seemed surprised at the finding that only four genes are needed to reprogram somatic cells into the embryonic state. But in the following months, a few labs at MIT and Harvard demonstrated that they had been able to produce mouse iPS cells using our protocol, and an increasing number of researchers have since started working on the new technology.

Right after we generated mouse iPS cells, my team began to work on reprogramming human somatic cells. In November 2007, we reported the generation of human iPS cells from human fibroblasts by introducing the same quartet of genes via viral vectors. On the same day, Thomson’s lab announced in Science that they had also succeeded in making human iPS cells using a different set of four factors … I remember that I worked day and night to publish our paper as quickly as possible after I heard a rumor in the summer that a U.S. group had submitted an article on the successful generation of human iPS cells.”

(2012, Nobelprize.org)

The Hwang Woo Suk saga, a recent development of which I cited on a Facebook community page, “Science, Education Progress, and New Millennium Bugs”, was intriguing not only in his fast rise to stardom and fall – like Obokata but in a much more brilliant fashion – but also in his apparent scientific research ability and resilience, which have brought him recovery from criminal fraud conviction to founding a research company that leads the world in the nascent field of commercial dog cloning, and launching a major joint project with a company in China sponsored by the Chinese government.

(Facebook posting, March 3, 2015, Science, Education Progress, and New Millennium Bugs)

So I wouldn’t be surprised if her present disgrace isn’t the last the world hear from, or about, Haruko Obokata, either.

The reported prevalence of published scientific experiments that are actually irreproducible, and thus suspect in the forms presented, if indeed known in the hearts of researchers can make it more likely for the ambitious among them to take bolder steps, catapulting themselves on the back of falsehood to a higher plateau for greater fame and power. But contrary to the rejuvenated pluripotent trajectories of the fairy-tale STAP cells, ethically such is fraud on a downhill path, as John Rasko and Carl Power remarked:

“While some stem cell researchers may indeed possess that “vaulting ambition” characteristic of Shakespeare’s tragic heroes, from what we have read and witnessed firsthand, scientific fraud rarely springs from a heroic, all-or-nothing decision. It is more like a bad habit you acquire, a gentle slope you descend without realising how deep you’re getting.”

(John Rasko and Carl Power, February 18, 2015, The Guardian)

An acquired habit may likely have been peer influenced. The reality that some of the notorious frauds in science history took a long time to be uncovered, or settled, may well have given some of the ambitious researchers of the modern generation a sense of rightfulness, namely that they, too, deserve greater fame and power, based on scientific half-truth at best, than their own solid accomplishments could bring them.

The other example of a notorious fraud in biomedical research history discussed by John Rasko and Carl Power was one that occurred a century ago, that pioneered the right methodology leading to modern cell science, but with overly optimistic claims that were untrue but were not debunked during the lifetime of the perpetrator – Nobel Prize winner Alexis Carrel:

“Over the past century, the “wet lab” (where scientists carry out biological experiments) has seen more than its share of scandal. Indeed, modern cell science emerged from a terrible debacle.

The man in the middle of it all was Alexis Carrel, a brilliant and rather dapper Frenchman working at the Rockefeller Institute in New York. Carrel discovered that, if you remove some cells from the body, sit them in a nutritious broth and handle them correctly, they can not only survive, but thrive and multiply. Also, if you take some cells from one culture, you can start a new one and, with that, a third, and so on. The importance of this technique – know as cell “passaging” – can’t be overstated. With it, Carrel literally opened a new era in cell research. Unfortunately, he did so with an experiment that, while earning him international superstardom, proved to be a complete and utter train wreck.

On 17 January 1912, Carrel removed a chick embryo from its egg and cut out a small fragment of its still-beating heart with the aim of keeping it alive as long as possible. He had hardly begun this experiment when he announced to the world that his chicken heart culture was immortal, that immortality belonged potentially to all cells, and that death was only the consequence of how cells are organised in the body. In other words, the secret of eternal life is within us all, an attribute of our basic biological building blocks. It captured the public’s imagination and was soon accepted by the scientific community.”

(John Rasko and Carl Power, February 18, 2015, The Guardian)

I note that Alexis Carrel’s grandiosely optimistic claim of potentially eternal life for a cell culture, published in May 1912 a few months after the start of his experiment, bore remarkable resemblance to the kind of claim made by Haruko Obokata and her co-authors in January 2014 that mature cells could be bathed to re-emerge as youthful stem cells. Carrel wrote:

“The purpose of the experiments described in this article was to determine the conditions under which the active life of a tissue outside of the organism could be prolonged indefinitely. It might be supposed that senility and death of the cultures, instead of being necessary, resulted merely from preventable occurrences; such as accumulation of catabolic substances and exhaustion of the medium. The suppression of these causes should bring about the regeneration of old cultures and prevent their death. It is even conceivable that the length of the life of a tissue outside of the organism could exceed greatly its normal duration in the body, because elemental death might be postponed indefinitely by a proper artificial nutrition.

Of sixteen cultures of heart and blood-vessels made on January 17, 1912, five were still very active in March, 1912, and of the five active ones, two heart cultures previously described grew slowly, but pulsated, and another heart culture, which pulsated from time to time, produced a large growth of ameboid and fixed cells which covered an extensive area of the medium. …

These facts show that experiments made with these or with more perfect techniques and followed over long periods of time may lead to the solution of the problem of permanent life of tissues in vitro, and give important information on the characters acquired by tissues liberated from the control of the organism from which they were derived.”

(“On the Permanent Life of Tissues Outside of the Organism”, Alexis Carrel, May 1912, Pages 516-528, Number 5, Volume 15, The Journal of Experimental Medicine)

I should comment that the world must have been so excited by Alexis Carrel’s good news of eternal life in the horizon, as the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to Carrel, for his earlier work as a pioneer of organ preservation and transplant, by the end of 1912 – exactly a century before its awarding to Shinya Yamanaka:

“The new ways he has opened up of protecting threatened tissues and of replacing damaged or harmful tissue with tissue that is healthy and alive are so remarkable and the results obtained so marvellous that the Caroline Institute considers itself to be acting in complete conformity with the fundamental purpose of the great benefactor’s will in awarding Carrel the greatest distinction of present-day medicine, the Nobel Prize. ”

(“Award Ceremony Speech”, J. Akerman, December 10, 1912, Nobel Committee for Physiology or Medicine of the Royal Caroline Institute)

Carrel’s optimistic claim of potential permanent life seemed to bear out as one of those chicken cell cultures continued to live and grow for 34 years. Other scientists tried in vain, none could reproduce Carrel’s results, but they dared not question his scientific statue:

“Carrel and his assistants kept – or claimed they had kept – that culture alive for 34 years, which is five times longer than the average chicken. For many years, around 17 January, journalists wrote birthday stories on the chicken heart and wondered how large it would have grown had Carrel nurtured every one of its ever-multiplying cells. (According to calculations, it swiftly dwarfed the Earth and filled up the entire solar system.)

The problem was, no one else could keep a cell culture alive indefinitely. Lab after lab tried and failed, decade after decade. Because Carrel was a giant in the field of cell research and a Nobel Prize winner, few dared to doubt him. Scientists blamed themselves when their cells died. They assumed that they lacked the master’s skill, that his lab had higher standards than they could reach, that they had somehow exposed their cells to infection or failed to keep them properly nourished. …”

(John Rasko and Carl Power, February 18, 2015, The Guardian)

Long after Carrel and his famous chicken culture had died, scientific research finally proved that his success was scientifically impossible, that the same chicken culture can live no longer than 35 times of multiplying, which would take several months only:

“It was only in the mid-60s – half a century after Carrel established his chicken heart culture – that the dogma of cell immortality came crashing down. That’s when Leonard Hayflick, an ambitious young researcher at the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia, discovered that ordinary body cells have a finite life span – or, more precisely, an average number of times they can multiply in vitro. This is their Hayflick number. For chickens, it is 35. In other words, a population of chicken cells can double about 35 times before they die, which usually takes several months.”

(John Rasko and Carl Power, February 18, 2015, The Guardian)

But how did Carrel’s chicken cell culture live for 34 years when the cells could only multiply 35 times? There is no direct answer:

“By the time Hayflick proved this, Carrel was long dead and his “immortal” chicken cells discarded. Which means that we know Carrel’s most famous experiment was a sham, but not why.”

(John Rasko and Carl Power, February 18, 2015, The Guardian)

The first scientific paper on such limits, by Leonard Hayflick, was written in May 1961, and published in December 1961 – 17 years after Carrel had died in November 1944 (his longest-running chicken cell culture created on January 17, 1912, must have outlived him but died before January 17, 1947).

(“Alexis Carrel – Biographical”, 1912, Nobelprize.org; and, “The serial cultivation of human diploid cell strains”, by L. Hayflick and P.S. Moorhead, December 1961, Pages 585-621, Issue 3, Volume 25, Experimental Cell Research)

Carrel’s chicken fame was either a fraud, or a result of continual contamination by live chicken cells as it went along, according to Rasko and Power:

“If it was fraud, it was one of the most outrageous cases in the history of science. However, the cause may have been carelessness rather than dishonesty. Carrel and his staff used “embryonic juice” as a culture medium and, if they prepared it badly, it might have contained live chick cells. In that case, instead of just feeding their culture, they re-seeded it. It’s an easy enough mistake, but to make it consistently enough to keep their chicken heart cells alive for 34 years suggests an astonishing degree of negligence.”

(John Rasko and Carl Power, February 18, 2015, The Guardian)

Such persistent luck was more likely fraud, i.e., “artificial contamination” as termed by the RIKEN investigators on STAP cells in 2014.

According to John Rasko and Carl Power, the entire scientific community should share the blame for upholding such a false dogma for so long:

“… The entire scientific community shares some of the blame because it upheld the dogma of cell immortality for more than 50 years despite the fact that it was based on a single, sensational, irreproducible experiment.”

(John Rasko and Carl Power, February 18, 2015, The Guardian)

My view, though, is that those with the understanding and the influence should share the blame for upholding an untrue claim as scientific maxim for 49 long years, but that not everyone in science was in the know, or could openly go against the dogma even if disagreeing with it.

A century after Alexis Carrel, Haruko Obokata had the same persistent luck of contamination, but not the fortune of permanent scientific glory like that bestowed on Carrel, and instead disgrace.

Well, Obokata hasn’t been a successful pioneer of cutting-edge organ science, with medical applications, has she?

She hasn’t; but intriguingly some of her co-authors have been accomplished in that field and harbor great ambitions for laboratory growing of transplantable human organs.

In the list of authors for the earlier-quoted Nature paper dated online January 29, 2014, are Martin P. Vacanti and Charles A. Vacanti, two of the well-known Vacanti brothers, accomplished medical scientists in Boston, Massachusetts.

The four Vacanti brothers had been touted for their accomplishments by The New York Times over a decade earlier:

“Jay, 55, more formally known as Dr. Joseph P. Vacanti, is the chief of pediatric surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital, the director of pediatric transplantation, the director of the laboratory of tissue engineering and organ fabrication, and a surgeon in chief of MassGeneral Hospital for Children.

Chuck, the second-oldest brother, is Dr. Charles A. Vacanti, 53, chairman of the department of anesthesiology, perioperative and pain medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and director of the laboratory for tissue engineering and regenerative medicine.

Marty, third in line, is Dr. Martin P. Vacanti, 51. He is a pathologist at Mass General and a research scientist in Chuck’s and Jay’s labs.

And Frank, Dr. Francis X. Vacanti, a 49-year-old self-described “gizmo guy,” is an anesthetist at Massachusetts General who, working mostly independently from his brothers, is developing a coated breast implant.

Together, the brothers hold 88 patents, a vast majority of them Jay Vacanti’s. They have a total of 11 children and have been father figures to nearly 1,000 graduate students or doctors in training. The brothers have also written more than 300 scientific papers, 189 of them attributable to Jay Vacanti.”

(“SCIENTISTS AT WORK — JOSEPH, CHARLES, MARTIN AND FRANCIS VACANTI; From Old Cars to Cartilage, Brothers Like to Tinker”, by Judy Foreman, December 30, 2003, The New York Times)

As fate had it, among the 1,000 or more graduate students and doctors mentored or trained by the Vacantis would be Japanese graduate student Haruko Obokata, led in 2008 by Charles Vacanti onto a research career path that would eventually see the short-lived stardom and then shame.

Besides each working in the medical fields, the brothers had tissue engineering laboratories, led by Joseph and Charles as reported in the New York Times, where they produced world-leading pioneer work, reported as early as 2001:

“Joseph (Jay), Charles, Martin, and Francis Vacanti work together as researchers in the new field of tissue engineering, a discipline they practically invented. What they are trying to create is nothing less than lab-grown human organs, produced from a patient’s own tissue. Their work is urgently needed— roughly 100,000 patients in this country die each year because not enough people donate organs, and many of those who are saved by transplantation ultimately die because donor organs are rejected.

… Imagine a world, say the Vacantis, in which diseased pancreases, lungs, and spinal cords can be replaced as easily as the transmission in an old Chevy. Imagine a world in which salvation grows in an incubator. Imagine a world in which hope is a given.

… It was only in 1996 that Chuck and Jay Vacanti held the first conference of their fledgling Tissue Engineering Society. Today two of their former colleagues, Anthony Atala, a pediatric urologist at Children’s Hospital in Boston, and Laura Niklason, a Duke University researcher, have already performed what seem like miracles— Atala successfully implanting lab-grown bladders in beagles and Niklason growing fresh pig arteries in her lab. This year there are more than 50 laboratories in the United States alone racing to create people-made people parts. And the researchers in all of those labs are indebted to five breakthroughs made by the four Vacanti brothers.”

(“Brothers with Heart”, by Joseph D’Agnese and Chris Buck, July 1, 2001, Discover Magazine)

One of the five breakthroughs made by the Vacanti brothers was the discovery of “spore-like cells”, unusually tiny cells that lie dormant in animal tissues, so tiny that fellow researchers at first dismissed as “debris”, “junk”:

“In 1996 Chuck had convinced Marty, the pathologist, to leave Nebraska and join him in Worcester. Chuck had grown increasingly frustrated with the fragile adult-tissue cells he had been working with. Most cannot last more than 30 minutes without an oxygen supply. Fetal stem cells are hardier, but harvesting them is controversial.

Chuck told Marty to find an alternative: “Look for stem cells in adult tissue.”

He instantly replied: “They don’t exist.”

“They have to exist,” Chuck insisted, intent on driving his point home. “If the human body is constantly trying to repair itself, it must have immature cells somewhere. Find them.”

“You’re nuts,” Marty told him.

“Just do it.”

… Marty decided to give it a try. For 15 months he drew cells from living animals, only to watch them die. He scrounged lab animals other researchers had sacrificed for their work. He scraped flesh with scalpels and dissolved it in enzymes. He peered into the resulting broth, magnified 200 times, to no avail. At every staff meeting, Marty had nothing to report. It became embarrassing.

Then one day, peering through the microscope, he spotted tiny circular shapes. Adult-tissue cells are about 15 micrometers wide. Marty saw cells only 3 micrometers wide. He began showing them around. They’re too small to be stem cells, everyone said. Just debris. Junk.

Tired and depressed, Marty stood in his lab staring at flasks of the cell soup, thinking, “Wastebasket or incubator?” For reasons he does not comprehend, he stuck them in the incubator. Three days later, those little specks of junk had multiplied. What’s more, they had gone without oxygen for more than an hour before he put them in the incubator, an ordeal adult stem cells could not have survived.

At staff meetings Marty took center stage. Eventually someone asked: What do you call these cells? Privately, Marty had begun to call them “sporelike cells.””

(Joseph D’Agnese and Chris Buck, July 1, 2001, Discover Magazine)

These spore-like cells turned out to be among every animal tissues, with the ability to survive tough physical conditions, some stem cell ability and the ability of fast growth when activated:

“Weeks later, Chuck phoned with a suggestion, but Marty cut him off. Obsessed now, he had been examining every scrap of tissue he could lay his hands on and had isolated sporelike cells in every one. He’d bought a tray of chicken livers at the grocery. Even there, he found them.

Chuck was agog but, being Chuck, couldn’t wait to up the ante. Freeze ’em and cook ’em, he said. Marty took them down to -121 degrees Fahrenheit. The cells survived. He left them at 187 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes. They were still alive.

Marty tried to keep a lid on his excitement. He’d learned early that it was prudent to get the data in the bag before you crowed over a new discovery. His confidence soared the day he showed his work to Guido Manjo, an eminent Italian-born pathologist who lectures at UMass. Manjo’s advice: Test those cells for DNA— and publish as soon as possible. Then came the ultimate compliment: “Dr. Vacanti,” said the senior scientist, “you may have discovered a fundamental process of nature that has not yet been described.”

Manjo was correct. DNA was present in the cells, and no one in the history of biology had ever identified such minuscule formations living in mammalian tissue. They were the kind of cells that the Vacantis had been dreaming about: They could live in the body without oxygen for days until blood vessels grew to supply them. Marty’s most recent research shows the cells may actually be able to differentiate into tissues other than those of the organs from which they originated.

Properly incubated, they grow like grass on a prairie. The team in the lab at Worcester has used them to grow everything from retinal rods and cones to liver, bone, fascia, skin, and heart tissue. They have pulled sporelike cells out of a diabetic pancreas and grown insulin-producing islets in 12 weeks. They have cut a golf-ball-sized section from a living sheep’s lung, stuffed the wound with a scaffold seeded with pulmonary sporelike cells, and watched as the lung incorporated the new tissue in eight weeks. Everyone was in awe: A lung is perhaps the most complex organ in the body, possessing at least half a dozen different types of tissue.”

(Joseph D’Agnese and Chris Buck, July 1, 2001, Discover Magazine)

The Vancanti brothers were not trained cell scientists. Yet Chuck’s great leap of logic and imagination and Marty’s hard work led to the discovery of the versatile spore-like cells and their omnipresence.

But his colleagues were so skeptical that Chuck Vacanti moved himself to a different institution in order to avoid them. Then in 2008, graduate student Haruko Obokata came to work under him, reproducing Marty Vacanti’s results with much more professional rigor:

“The initial, tiny seed cells seemed to be very hardy and resistant to harsh conditions, so he and his brother dubbed them spore-like cells and published their results in 2001 in a respectable, though not prominent journal.

Other UMass scientists were extremely skeptical of the results. Eventually, tired of having to defend his work internally, Charles moved to Brigham. He made a conscious choice during the job interview not to mention the research.

“I didn’t want to tell them about my little flop on spore-like stem cells,” Vacanti recalled.

Martin eventually moved back to the Midwest, and Charles’s research went in other directions. But he was still interested in the strange cells he and his brother had isolated. He asked Koji Kojima, a thoracic surgeon and researcher in his lab, to try to see whether he could isolate the same tiny cells.

Kojima started by trying to find them in lung tissue. Eventually, he found the right protocol. Another scientist in the lab found them in muscle.

But Vacanti had learned his lesson. Maybe his lack of training had been an asset when he was trying an unconventional approach and following his intuition where few others would have gone. But he now knew he had to build a rock-solid case that these cells were what they seemed to be.

“Older scientists were never going to abandon what they were taught. We needed someone who was flexible enough to explore different possibilities,” Vacanti said. They needed a student.

In 2008, a Japanese graduate student, Haruko Obokata, took up the project, and succeeded in much more rigorously replicating the 2001 work that had attracted so much criticism.”

(“Ignorance led to invention of stem cell technique”, by Carolyn V. Johnson, February 2, 2014, The Boston Globe)

Perhaps other scientists’ skepticism played a role. Charles Vacanti began to think that the spore-like cells had not been present everywhere in the organ tissues but were created by the lab process – a thinking Obokata’s Japanese teacher also harbored:

“Two years later, at a conference in Florida, Vacanti met with Obokata and her mentor from Japan, Masayuki Yamato, from Tokyo Women’s Medical University. He asked them not to make fun of him. Then, he proposed that maybe the isolation procedure was actually creating the cells. He wondered if Obokata would return and see whether this was true.

“I was completely convinced that the cells we described . . . were being ‘created’ during the isolation process, rather than simply being isolated,” Yamato wrote in an e-mail. “I was so surprised to find that Chuck and I had independently reached the same conclusion.””

(Carolyn V. Johnson, February 2, 2014, The Boston Globe)

Then somewhere in this second great leap of logic and imagination, the laboratory stress became more than producing the spore-like cells, but converting the mature cells to pluripotent stem cells – as phrased in the January 2014 Nature papers.

In February 2014 Paul Knoepfler, a biomedical scientist and blogger at the University of California, Davis, conducted an interview with Charles Vacanti, who stated “our belief” that the STAP cells and the spore-like cells “are one and the same”; however, Vancanti’s explanation that the lab process killed mature cells and allow the “stem” cells to survive, obviously did not match Obokata’s notion of “conversion” in their newly published Nature papers:

You have published some revolutionary findings and outside the box hypotheses in the past such as spore stem cells. What’s your thinking today on spore stem cells? Is there any connection between the STAP cell stress reprogramming concept and spore stem cells, which you reported were able to resist great stress like desiccation and freezing?

Vacanti: It is our belief that they are one and the same. The report demonstrates that we were making these cells rather than isolating them. It may be a subtle, but we feel very important difference. We feel that many reports describing stem cells may indeed represent reports of how to make stem cells. It has been believed that the harsh environment associated with the isolation process killed mature cells, allowing the hardier “stem” cells to survive, and be selected out.

We were not dumb enough to again call them “spore like cells”, since almost no one read that paper. For several years, we believed that to be the case, but were fairly “gun shy” about being roasted again. But it seems that the time has come.”

(“Interview with Charles Vacanti on STAP Cells: Link to Spore Stem Cells & More”, by Paul Knoepfler. February 2, 2014, Knoepfler Lab Stem Cell Blog)

In a slightly different version of the history as in a Nature report, Obokata first proved the “pluripotency” of spore-like cells, then both Charles Vacanti and she felt that the spore-like cells were created in the lab process, and after that came her notion of “conversion”:

“Vacanti told Nature’s news team in January that by 2006 his laboratory could grow the cells in large numbers, but that they still “were not exceptionally well characterized by us”. That is, the team had not demonstrated pluripotency. This was a job he gave to Obokata, a graduate student who had joined his lab in 2008.

Proving pluripotency is often done by injecting cells into a developing mouse embryo — creating a ‘chimaera’ — and tracking their fate. It is a difficult experiment, and Obokata needed help. “I was looking for the god’s hand of chimaeric-mouse generation,” she said back in January. A Google search led her to famed mouse cloner Teruhiko Wakayama at the CDB, whose lab she entered in 2011 as a visiting professor. After hundreds of failures to get cells derived from adult mice to show up in chimaeras, she and Wakayama switched to newborn mice as the source of the cells — and the process worked.

By that point, both Vacanti and Obokata were convinced that the stress of the isolation process was creating the pluripotent cells. Obokata said that the idea had come to her while she was taking a bath and reflecting on the stress in her own life.

In the experiments at RIKEN, she used acid to stress spleen cells from newborn mice, and she carried out further experiments to characterize their conversion with Yoshiki Sasai and Hitoshi Niwa, two highly regarded stem-cell biologists at the CDB. With the two key characteristics of STAP cells now demonstrated — they were pluripotent and were created using stressful conditions — she had enough data to publish two papers in Nature on 30 January.”

(“Research integrity: Cell-induced stress”, by David Cyranoski, July 3, 2014, Nature)

It still appears unclear why the creation of the pluripotent cells was a “conversion” – something supposedly demonstrated in the now discredited Nature papers:

“Through real-time imaging of STAP cells derived from purified lymphocytes, as well as gene rearrangement analysis, we found that committed somatic cells give rise to STAP cells by reprogramming rather than selection.”

(Haruko Obokata, Teruhiko Wakayama, Yoshiki Sasai, Koji Kojima, Martin P. Vacanti, Hitoshi Niwa, Masayuki Yamato & Charles A. Vacanti, January 29, 2014, Nature)

John Rasko and Carl Power wonder if Obokata was “cooking” data to “please” Charles Vacanti:

“Vacanti’s role in this scientific debacle is especially intriguing because Stap cells originally sprang from his fertile imagination. For well over a decade, he had been working on a hunch that pluripotent stem cells exist in all mammalian tissue, ready to swing into action whenever needed. It was a big, bright, potentially career-defining idea which for a long time Vacanti couldn’t sell. He lacked conclusive proof. He also lacked credibility. After all, he was not a stem cell scientist but an anesthesiologist and tissue engineer best known for grafting an artificial ear on to the back of a mouse (the infamous Vacanti earmouse).

Then, in 2008, Obokata joined his lab as a graduate student, bringing with her the skill set and credentials he sorely needed. Thus began a partnership that continued after Obokata returned to Japan. With her help, Vacanti repeated his earlier experiments and revised his hypothesis: mammalian tissue doesn’t so much maintain a reserve of pluripotent stem cells; it creates them when put under stress by injury or disease. Stap cells were supposed to confirm this hunch, being the laboratory equivalent of stem cells spontaneously produced by the body.

Did Obokata begin cooking data in order to please her supervisor? Did Vacanti ever suspect that her results were too good to be true? Whatever the case, the Stap cell scandal is their monster child.”

(John Rasko and Carl Power, February 18, 2015, The Guardian)

Whatever the truth had been, when other scientists were unable to reproduce the results and expressed their doubts after the Nature papers’ publication, Vacanti defended his brainchild more vigorously than even Obokata defending her work, claiming that he was able to create the STAP cells, and even posted a “special recipe” online for doing it, which, like Obokata’s work, others were unable to reproduce:

“This charming, silver-haired midwesterner, who headed the anesthesiology department at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, did almost as much to confuse the issue of replication as Obokata herself. From the start, Vacanti claimed that he had been able to create Stap cells, including human ones, though he offered no evidence. What he did offer, however, was his own special recipe, which he posted online in mid-March (around the time that Riken first declared Obokata guilty of misconduct), assuring the scientific community that if he could make Stap cells, anyone could.

Unfortunately, that humble boast backfired. No one else could get his recipe to work.”

(John Rasko and Carl Power, February 18, 2015, The Guardian)

Then when co-author Teruhiko Wakayama, who found mix-up of test data as discussed earlier, went public with his request to retract the Nature papers, both RIKEN and Vacanti continued to defend the STAP cells:

“Wakayama told NHK he has requested that his co-authors retract the studies and then would like outside experts to do verification studies. He said he is “no longer sure about the credibility of the data used as preconditions for the experiments,” NHK reported.

A Riken official told The Japan News that “the basis of the articles” — the fact that STAP cells were produced – “is unshakable.”

Dr. Charles Vacanti, a study co-author, said in a statement that he stands by the research.

“I firmly believe that the questions and concerns raised about our STAP cell paper published in Nature do not affect our findings or conclusions,” said Vacanti, who is director of the Laboratory for Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.”

(“Scientist wants to withdraw stem cell studies”, by Elizabeth Landau, March 12, 2014, CNN News)

After RIKEN’s release of its first investigation report, finding research misconduct on Obokata’s part, Vacanti continued to defend the Nature papers and opposed retracting them:

“Harvard researcher Dr. Charles A. Vacanti, head of the department of anesthesia at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, was the senior author of one of the papers but was not named in an English-language draft of the RIKEN report provided to the Globe.

Vacanti said he continues to stand behind the main findings of the research he did with Obokata, who worked in his Brigham lab for several years.

“While the investigation determined there were errors and poor judgment in the development of the manuscript, I do not believe that these errors affect the scientific content or the conclusions,” Vacanti said in an e-mailed statement. “It is imperative to correct the errors, but absent any compelling evidence that the overall scientific findings are incorrect, I do not believe that the manuscripts should be retracted.””

(“Fraud alleged in findings on stem cells”, by Karen Weintraub, April 2, 2014, The Boston Globe)

The Nature papers were retracted in July, and in August came the death of Obokata’s RIKEN supervisor and co-author Yoshiki Sasai. Then, Vacanti decided to step down from his chairmanship at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston for a one-year sabbatical, but doing so without mentioning the scientific fraud scandal, only that his resignation was 2 years overdue after 12 years on the job:

“When I accepted the position in 2002, I anticipated serving as Chair for a period of 10 years, having a vision of what I hoped to accomplish during that time.  I approach the age of 65 next year having served as Chair of two anesthesia departments – UMASS then BWH – over the last two decades.  I have always felt that a leader is most effective during the first decade of service, after which time there can be diminishing returns on the energy invested in the challenges faced. I feel that is certainly true in my case, and that by this measure, I am two years past due in making this decision.”

(“STAP News From Harvard? Vacanti Stepping Down as Chair & Going on Sabbatical”, by Paul Knoepfler, August 13, 2014, Knoepfler Lab Stem Cell Blog)

As a fellow biomedical scientist, University of Sydney’s John Rasko expressed his indignation at Charles Vacanti’s unaccountability, and unwillingness to retract the Nature papers even after Obokata’s expression of consent:

“Fellow scientists question the explanation, given the controversy erupting around the Nature papers. “(It) certainly seems to coincide with recent events,” said Sydney University stem cell researcher John Rasko.

“Vacanti was reluctant to accept that the study should be retracted, and maintained that the observations were real,” Professor Rasko said. “This was even after Obokata had said she supported the retraction — and it took a long time for her to capitulate.””

(“Science can keep its house in order”, by John Ross, August 19, 2014, The Australian)

As Rasko and Carl Power later pointed out in their The Guardian article, while leaving for sabbatical Vacanti posted another “special recipe” for creating STAP cells, stating that his laboratory was able to use it to reproduce them through “conversion”, with “profound” results:

““In recent months, our lab decided to re-explore the utility of a low pH solution containing ATP in generating STAP cells,” Vacanti writes in the revised protocol. “We found that while pH alone resulted in the generation of STAP cells, the use of a low pH solution containing ATP, dramatically increased the efficacy of this conversion.  When this acidic ATP solution was used in combination with mechanical trituration of mature cells, the results were even more profound” (emphasis original).”

(“STAP co-author offers yet another recipe for stem cells” by David Cyranoski, September 12, 2014, Nature)

Just like with his previous online recipe, others were unable to make it work.

Given Charles Vacanti’s leadership role and status in medical research and education at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, a leading U.S. hospital affiliated with Harvard Medical School, his lack of scientific accountability in the face of efforts by the Japanese RIKEN institution to conduct a thorough investigation into fraud, questions naturally arose about institutional responsibilities on the part of Brigham & Women’s/Harvard.

In March 2014 when the controversy grew intensely public, Harvard Medical School issued a general statement emphasizing its “highest standards of ethics”:

“We are fully committed to upholding the highest standards of ethics and to rigorously maintaining the integrity of our research. Any concerns brought to our attention are thoroughly reviewed in accordance with institutional policies and applicable regulations.”

(Elizabeth Landau, March 12, 2014, CNN News)

When Charles Vacanti decided to resign from his chairmanship, the contrast between RIKEN’s active investigations and inaction on the part of Brigham & Women’s/Harvard was noted by researcher and blogger Paul Knoepfler:

“What’s the deal with Brigham and Women’s Hospital or Harvard Medical School when it comes to the retracted STAP cell papers?

I was just writing yesterday in part about how we haven’t really heard anything (news, statements, etc.) from those places about the whole STAP cell mess.

In contrast, in Japan and at RIKEN there has been a non-stop flood of news and developments involving STAP.”

(“Paul Knoepfler, August 13, 2014, Knoepfler Lab Stem Cell Blog)

By December 2014 when Obokata resigned her job and RIKEN’s second investigation report completely discredited the retracted Nature papers, the inaction of Brigham & Women’s/Harvard became the focal point as Knoepfler pointed out:

“With its final report released today (also a powerpoint of images were released including the one showing a figure posted here of reportedly made up data published in a STAP paper), RIKEN seems to now have handled this complicated mess in a relatively rigorous, scientific manner that paves the way for moving on from it.

Harvard and Brigham and Women’s Hospital may or may not be conducting STAP investigations of their own. However, certainly at this point relatively speaking key unanswered questions remain on the Harvard side of STAP.”

(“Perspectives on final RIKEN report on STAP cell scandal & what comes next”, by Paul Knoepfler, December 26, 2014, Knoepfler Lab Stem Cell Blog)

In their February 2015 The Guardian article, the Australian researchers John Rasko and Carl Power observed that in the United States scientific misconduct investigations are usually carried out “under a veil of secrecy”; they further opined that “in all likelihood Brigham has begun its own inquiry”:

“It makes you wonder why Vacanti hasn’t been dragged over hot coals like Obokata and her Japanese colleagues, and why Brigham hasn’t followed Riken’s example by publicly flogging itself.

The answer is simple: in the US, investigations into scientific misconduct usually take place under a veil of secrecy. In all likelihood, Brigham has begun its own inquiry but, in stark contrast to the one carried out by Riken, we probably won’t learn anything about it – even the fact of its existence – until after a verdict is reached.”

(John Rasko and Carl Power, February 18, 2015, The Guardian)

It had better be, because scientific accountability has become a serious issue. Now in other parts of the world like Japan in this case, and also Taiwan, a Nobel Prize laureate or a government cabinet minister would have to shoulder the appropriate responsibility for a scientific scandal.

The Scientist magazine in December 2014 named the Haruko Obokata story No. 1 on its list of “The Top 10 Retractions of 2014”.

(“The Top 10 Retractions of 2014”, by Adam Marcus and Ivan Oransky, December 23, 2014, The Scientist)

At No. 2 on the list was an Iowa State University researcher who spiked rabbit blood samples with human blood to make it look like his HIV vaccine was working. The fraud led to serious penalties not only for the researcher, Dong-Pyou Han, who resigned and is facing criminal charges, but also for the institution, Iowa State University, which must reimburse the National Institute of Health nearly $0.5 million in funding spent on Han’s employment, and also lose nearly $1.4 million in cancelled funding for the remainder of the project:

“Federal officials are rescinding nearly $1.4 million in grant money for an Iowa State University research team that was besmirched by a colleague’s alleged fraud.

The National Institutes of Health decision comes on top of ISU’s agreement to reimburse the federal agency $496,000 for salary and other costs related to Dong-Pyou Han’s employment. The former ISU scientist is accused of faking experiment results to make it look like a vaccine was protecting rabbits against the AIDS virus.

Han, who resigned from the university last year, faces four federal criminal charges that could bring prison time if he’s convicted.

The National Institutes of Health is the leading source of federal money for medical research. A spokeswoman told the Register on Monday that the agency has decided not to make the final, $1.38 million payment on a grant to the ISU team. The team, which includes researchers at other universities, was awarded $14.5 million in such grants over several years, officials have said. Much of that money was awarded because of the team’s dramatic reports of vaccine success, which turned out to be bogus.”

(“ISU loses $1.4 million in fraud case”, by Tony Leys, July 8, 2014, The Des Moines Register)

As RIKEN’s second investigation report has concluded that the contamination with embryonic stem cells in the STAP cells experiments was unlikely accidental, the main difference between the fraud in the Obokata case and Dong-Pyou Han’s fraud is that no one has been caught for “artificial contamination” leading to the STAP cells.

Like the Dong-Pyou Han case in the U.S., the Hwang Woo Suk case in South Korea nearly a decade earlier also saw the perpetrator face criminal charges, and Hwang was held criminally accountable for fraud in spite of his solid scientific research ability.

Given the illumination by John Rasko and Carl Power that the contemporary scientifically disgraced Hwang Woo Suk and the early 20th-century Nobel Prize laureate Alexis Carrel were top examples of scientific fraud in biomedical research history, and given that the ramifications during the two’s respective career and life times were polar opposites – criminal conviction versus lifelong glory – I have to wonder if the inaction on the part of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in the Haruko Obokata/Charles Vacanti case has been due only to the absence of a concrete allegation of intentional fraud, or also to a sense of elite impunity – when compared to the Iowa State University case.

Next down on the No.3 spot of The Scientist’s top-10 retractions of 2014 was Taiwanese researcher Peter Chen and his fraudulent peer-review ring, a connected circle of researchers who peer-reviewed and approved one another’s papers for publication – often relying on false identities.

The unraveling of the Peter Chen case led to the retraction of 60 published papers deemed to have been accepted due to fraud, Chen’s departure from his university professorship, stepping down of a U.S.-based scientific journal’s editor-in-chief, and the resignation of the Taiwanese government’s education minister in 2014. A former president of the National Central University, the Taiwanese education minister Chiang Wei-ling had advised Chen’s twin brother on his Ph.D. thesis 10 years earlier, and was named by his former student as a co-author on 5 of those fraudulent papers. On the Facebook community page, “Science, Education Progress, and New Millennium Bugs”, I have posted some facts from press articles on this case:

“The case came to light in May 2013 when Ali Nayfeh, then editor-in-chief of the Journal of Vibration and Control, learned from an author that he had received e-mails from two people claiming to be reviewers, e-mails that came from generic-looking Gmail accounts rather than the professional institutional accounts that many academics use.

Nayfeh alerted SAGE, the company in Thousand Oaks, California, that publishes the journal. The editors there e-mailed both the Gmail addresses and the institutional addresses of the authors whose names had been used; one scientist responded that he had not sent the e-mail and did not even work in the field.

This sparked a 14-month investigation that came to involve about 20 people from SAGE’s editorial, legal and production departments. It showed that the Gmail addresses were each linked to accounts with Thomson Reuters’ ScholarOne, a publication-management system used by SAGE and several other publishers, including Informa. The investigators tracked every paper that the person or people behind these accounts had allegedly written or reviewed, and also ferreted out further suspicious-looking accounts, a total of 130 of such accounts.

After the scandal was exposed, ring leader Peter Chen resigned from his teaching post in February 2014. In May, Nayfeh resigned at his journal. And in July, Taiwan’s education minister Chiang Wei-ling (蔣偉寧), whose name had appeared on 5 of the papers, resigned “to uphold his own reputation and avoid unnecessary disturbance of the work of the education ministry”, according to a public statement.

Those 5 papers were authored by Chen Chen-wu (陳震武), twin brother of Chen Chen-yuan (陳震遠), i.e., Peter Chen. The papers bore Chiang’s name as a co-author, and also listed Peter Chen as one of the authors — without Chiang’s knowledge — according to Chen Chen-wu.

Chiang, a 56-year-old civil engineer, was president of National Central University before he was appointed education minister in February 2012. He said he did not know Peter Chen personally, but had advised Chen’s twin brother Chen Chen-wu in his doctoral thesis about 10 years earlier.”

(“Facebook posting”, March 28, 2015, Science, Education Progress, and New Millennium Bugs)

In comparison, even if he had not been a party in the fraudulent experiments conducted by Haruko Obokata, Charles Vacanti was a senior author of the now retracted Nature papers, an academic and scientific mentor of Obokata, and the intellectual father and leader of this whole framework of spore-like cells and STAP cells. His acts of posting special recipes online, claiming creation of STAP cells in his laboratory as described but providing no evidence, already were much more involvement in activities of questionable scientific honesty than the former Taiwanese education minister Chiang Wei-ling.

In Japan, developments continue in relation to the Obokata scandal. In early March 2015, Japanese media reported the decision to step down by RIKEN president, Nobel Prize in Chemistry laureate Ryoji Noyori:

“Ryoji Noyori, longtime president of the Riken research institute, has decided to step down as the head of the government affiliate, which has been mired in a scandal involving the creation of so-called STAP cells, sources said March 6.

In expressing his intention to resign, the 76-year-old Nobel Prize-winning chemist has cited his advanced age and the fact that his term has already extended for nearly 12 years.

Ministry officials said that he is not resigning to take responsibility for the recent scandal over the groundbreaking discovery of a new stem cell mechanism called “stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency” (STAP).”

(“Nobel laureate Noyori to resign as president of embattled Riken, citing age, long tenure”, March 6, 2015, The Asahi Shimbun)

There were remarkable similarities to Charles Vacanti’s resignation as department chairman at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in August 2014, I note, that both had been on the helm for 12 years, and both resignations were said to be unrelated to the Obokata scandal.

But Ryoji Noyori wasn’t even in a science field related to Obokata; still, he voluntarily returned part of his salary to RIKEN as a gesture of taking responsibility for the debacle:

“Riken will announce later this month the results of an evaluation by a panel of outside experts on the progress of the institute’s organizational reform to prevent similar instances of misconduct from occurring. Noyori is likely to have decided to resign as the announcement is approaching.

Noyori voluntarily returned a portion of his salary to take responsibility for the STAP scandal last October. But he has appeared in only one news conference to discuss the scandal, triggering criticism that has not fulfilled his accountability as head of Riken.”

(March 6, 2015, The Asahi Shimbun)

Then on March 24, Japanese and international media reported on Noyori’s imminent departure and the Japanese government’s naming of his replacement, former Kyoto University President Hiroshi Matsumoto:

“Former Kyoto University President Hiroshi Matsumoto will replace Nobel laureate Ryoji Noyori as head of the Riken research institute, the science ministry decided Tuesday.

Noyori, 76, will leave the post on March 31, halfway through his third term through March 2018, after a difficult year caused by a researcher’s highly publicized misconduct in a stem-cell study.

The 2001 Nobel winner in chemistry has served as head of the leading government-backed research organization since October 2003.

Matsumoto, a 72-year-old expert on space plasma physics, was president of Kyoto University for six years until last September. He is a member of the government’s Committee on National Space Policy.”

(“Former Kyoto U. chief to take helm at scandal-plagued Riken”, March 24, 2015, The Japan Times)

So the Japanese government has moved a top academic executive from the institution where Shinya Yamanaka had done ground-breaking, Nobel Prize-winning research on cell reprogramming for stem cell creation, to RIKEN’s helm.

Foregoing the remaining 3 years of his third term, the timing of Ryoji Noyori’s resignation was highlighted in his official announcement, that he was departing a day before the commencement of RIKEN’s new status as a National Research and Development Institute, and that his efforts to reform RIKEN following the Obokata scandal had received a positive assessment in the prior week:

“As of April 1, 2015, RIKEN will have a new status as a National Research and Development Institute. With the consent of the Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, I have decided to take this opportunity to step down from my position as RIKEN president, effective March 31, 2015.

Over the 11 years and 6 months since my appointment in October 2003, I have dedicated my efforts to making RIKEN the bedrock for the launching of many of Japan’s advances in science, technology and innovation. Fortunately, RIKEN has attracted numerous outstanding scientists from inside and outside Japan, and these people have achieved creative and outstanding results, not least of which has been the discovery of element 113. RIKEN has also successfully completed two of Japan’s key technology projects—the SACLA X-ray Free Electron Laser and the K computer—and most recently, has launched the world’s first clinical trial in regenerative medicine using iPS cells. …

Despite this, however, because of a most unfortunate case of research misconduct that has severely tarnished RIKEN’s good reputation, I have had to implement major RIKEN-wide organizational and managerial reform directed at rectifying this situation. Last week, the Management and Action Plan Monitoring Committee commended these efforts in its report, and it is with some relief that I am assured the measures are proving to be effective and will be carried forward.”

(“Ryoji Noyori to step down as RIKEN president”, March 24, 2015, RIKEN)

Clearly, this Nobel Prize winner has displayed appropriate senses of conscientiousness, pride and humility.

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Power, avengement, ideological cementation — Mao Zedong’s class politics in great forward leaps, tactical concessions

The following, originally posted on November 7, 2013, on FengGao.ORG – Portal to Various Blog Topics and Articles, is an English synopsis of one part of a series of blog posts in Chinese. The title here is from an excerpt on the Facebook community page, History, Culture and Politics.

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Part 6, “青少年时代对政治思想的一些兴趣 (some interests in political thoughts during the youth era)”, is a broad review of Chairman Mao Zedong’s select articles Feng once read during the Cultural Revolution, some of them taught at school. Feng also discusses some family history and experiences against the backdrop of Mao’s revolution, and compares some of Mao’s ideas to some of Vladimir Lenin’s.

The Cultural Revolution was an era ruled by leftist politics centered at “Mao Zedong Thought”. From the start of schooling, quotations from Chairman Mao were a part of the curriculum; by the second half of Grade 2 and in Grade 3 full articles were taught as Feng remembers Chairman Mao’s articles, “Serve the People”, and “In Memory of Norman Bethune”. From there, many more Mao articles were taught in elementary school, although Mao’s full articles on philosophy were not until the middle school as Feng recalls.

As for Feng himself, by elementary school graduation he had practically gone over then four volumes of “Selected Works of Mao Tse-Tung”, though he did not understand all of it.

Because the 4 volumes listed the articles in the order they were written, the collection offers an outline of the evolution of the Chinese Communist Party’s policies and guidelines as Mao represented.

From the start, i.e., in the several years after the founding of the Chinese Communist Party in 1921 by him and his comrades, Mao Zedong’s analysis of the Chinese society and strategizing for the revolution stood firmly on the side of the poor classes of people: the industrial proletariat class and the semi-proletariat class (the poor peasants, the small handicraftsmen, etc.).

To Mao, the industrial proletariat were “the leading force in the revolutionary movement”, while “the landlord class and the comprador class are wholly appendages of the international bourgeoisie”; the classes in between were similarly assessed (“Analysis of the Classes in Chinese Society”):

“The semi-owner peasants are therefore more revolutionary than the owner-peasants, but less revolutionary than the poor peasants.”

“… three sections of the petty bourgeoisie differ in their attitude to the revolution. But in times of war, that is, when the tide of the revolution runs high and the dawn of victory is in sight, not only will the left-wing of the petty bourgeoisie join the revolution, but the middle section too may join, and even right-wingers, swept forward by the great revolutionary tide of the proletariat and of the left-wing of the petty bourgeoisie, will have to go along with the revolution.”

“… the idea cherished by China’s middle bourgeoisie of an “independent” revolution in which it would play the primary role is a mere illusion”.

Feng comments on the rigidity of Mao’s class character theory:

“如果说对一个人的评估是以其对革命的态度为准,那么该人的革命态度从毛泽东这种相当严格的分析看来已由其所在的阶级等级的属性所决定。”

English translation:

“If, say, the evaluation of one is based on one’s attitude toward the revolution, then one’s attitude toward the revolution, by such fairly strict analysis of Mao Zedong’s, has been predetermined by the character of the class one belongs to.”

From this perspective Mao cheered the peasant movement to overthrow the landowner power (“Report on an Investigation of the Peasant Movement in Hunan”):

“The patriarchal-feudal class of local tyrants, evil gentry and lawless landlords has formed the basis of autocratic government for thousands of years and is the cornerstone of imperialism, warlordism and corrupt officialdom. To overthrow these feudal forces is the real objective of the national revolution. In a few months the peasants have accomplished what Dr. Sun Yat-sen wanted, but failed, to accomplish in the forty years he devoted to the national revolution. This is a marvelous feat never before achieved, not just in forty, but in thousands of years. It’s fine.”

Weeks after Mao said the above, the Nationalist government broke off its alliance with the Communists, and Mao had to take a step back in his political adjustments, accepting “bourgeois-democratic revolution” as a transitional stage:

“China is in urgent need of a bourgeois-democratic revolution, and this revolution can be completed only under the leadership of the proletariat. Because the proletariat failed to exercise firm leadership in the revolution of 1926-27 which started from Kwangtung and spread towards the Yangtze River, leadership was seized by the comprador and landlord classes and the revolution was replaced by counterrevolution. The bourgeois-democratic revolution thus met with a temporary defeat.” (“Why Is It That Red Political Power Can Exist in China?”)

“Does the Communist Party agree with the Three People’s Principles? Our answer is, Yes, we do. The Three People’s Principles have undergone changes in the course of their history. The revolutionary Three People’s Principles of Dr. Sun Yat-sen won the people’s confidence and became the banner of the victorious revolution of 1924-27 because they were resolutely applied as a result of his co-operation with the Communist Party. In 1927, however, the Kuomintang turned on the Communist Party (the party purge and the anti-Communist war) and pursued an opposite policy, bringing the revolution down in defeat and endangering the nation; consequently the people lost confidence in the Three People’s Principles. … the two parties should resume their co-operation, in accordance with the Principle of Nationalism, or the struggle for national independence and liberation, the Principle of Democracy, or the attainment of internal democracy and freedom, and the Principle of People’s Livelihood, or the promotion of the people’s welfare, and they should lead the people to put these principles resolutely into practice. This ought to be clearly grasped by every member of the Communist Party. Communists will never abandon their ideal of socialism and communism, which they will attain by going through the stage of the bourgeois-democratic revolution.” (“The Tasks of the Chinese Communist Party in the Period of Resistance to Japan”)

The compromise with the bourgeois was a external strategy, not to erode the Communists’ internal principles (“Combat Liberalism”):

“Liberalism stems from petty-bourgeois selfishness, it places personal interests first and the interests of the revolution second, and this gives rise to ideological, political and organizational liberalism.

Liberalism is a manifestation of opportunism and conflicts fundamentally with Marxism. It is negative and objectively has the effect of helping the enemy; that is why the enemy welcomes its preservation in our midst. Such being its nature, there should be no place for it in the ranks of the revolution.”

After the full Japanese invasion of China in 1937, many students and young people joined the Communists’ anti-Japanese movement, and that led to more flexibility by Mao in accepting the bourgeois background and context (“The Orientation of the Youth Movement”):

“What is the nature of the Chinese revolution? What kind of revolution are we making today? Today we are making a bourgeois-democratic revolution, and nothing we do goes beyond its scope. By and large, we should not destroy the bourgeois system of private property for the present; what we want to destroy is imperialism and feudalism. This is what we mean by the bourgeois-democratic revolution. But its accomplishment is already beyond the capacity of the bourgeoisie and must depend on the efforts of the proletariat and the broad masses of the people. What is the goal of this revolution? To overthrow imperialism and feudalism and to establish a people’s democratic republic. A people’s democratic republic means a republic based on the revolutionary Three people’s Principles. It will be different both from the semi-colonial and semi-feudal state of the present and from the socialist system of the future. Capitalists have no place in a socialist society, but they should still be allowed in a people’s democracy. …

The young intellectuals and students, the young workers and peasants in Yenan are all united. Large numbers of revolutionary youth from all over the country, and even from Chinese communities abroad, have come to study in Yenan. … The youth in Yenan, besides being united among themselves, have integrated themselves with the masses of workers and peasants, and more than anything else this makes you a model for the whole country.”

For Mao, this people’s democracy, or New Democracy, is the direction for the renewal of the Chinese culture (“On New Democracy”):

“What, then, are the new politics and the new economy of the Chinese nation, and what is its new culture? In the course of its history the Chinese revolution must go through two stages, first, the democratic revolution, and second, the socialist revolution, and by their very nature they are two different revolutionary processes. Here democracy does not belong to the old category–it is not the old democracy, but belongs to the new category–it is New Democracy. It can thus be affirmed that China’s new politics are the politics of New Democracy, that China’s new economy is the economy of New Democracy and that China’s new culture is the culture of New Democracy.”

But Mao’s New Democracy was predicated on the leadership role of the Communists and the proletariat, and thus ultimately belonged to the proletariat:

“Apparently, stereotyped Party writing exists in foreign countries as well as in China, so you can see it is a common disease. In any case, we should cure our own disease quickly in accordance with Comrade Dimitrov’s injunction. “Every one of us must make this a law, a Bolshevik law, an elementary rule: When writing or speaking always have in mind the rank-and-file worker who must understand you, must believe in your appeal and be ready to follow you! You must have in mind those for whom you write, to whom you speak.” This is the prescription made out for us by the Communist International, a prescription that must be followed. Let it be a law for us!” (“Oppose Stereotyped Party Writing”)

““The theory of human nature.” Is there such a thing as human nature? Of course there is. But there is only human nature in the concrete, no human nature in the abstract. In class society there is only human nature of a class character; there is no human nature above classes. We uphold the human nature of the proletariat and of the masses of the people, while the landlord and bourgeois classes uphold the human nature of their own classes, only they do not say so but make it out to be the only human nature in existence. The human nature boosted by certain petty-bourgeois intellectuals is also divorced from or opposed to the masses; what they call human nature is in essence nothing but bourgeois individualism, and so, in their eyes, proletarian human nature is contrary to human nature. “The theory of human nature” which some people in Yenan advocate as the basis of their so-called theory of literature and art puts the matter in just this way and is wholly wrong.” (“Talks at the Yenan Forum on Literature and Art”)

Mao’s stringent proletarian demands for the Communists and the intellectuals in Yenan were a background to consider, once the Japanese was defeated and the Communists would contest with the Nationalists for national popular support (“On Coalition Government”):

“On the major premise that the Japanese aggressors must be completely destroyed and a new China must be built, we Communists and the overwhelming majority of the population are agreed on the following fundamental propositions at the present stage of China’s development. First, China should not have a feudal, fascist and anti-popular state system under the dictatorship of the big landlords and big bourgeoisie, because eighteen years of government by the chief ruling clique of the Kuomintang have already proved its complete bankruptcy. Second, China cannot possibly establish the old type of democratic dictatorship–a purely national-bourgeois state–and therefore should not attempt to do so, because on the one hand the Chinese national bourgeoisie has proved itself very flabby economically and politically, and on the other, for a long time now a new factor has been present, namely, the awakened Chinese proletariat with its leader, the Chinese Communist Party, which has demonstrated great capacity in the political arena and assumed leadership of the peasant masses, the urban petty bourgeoisie, the intelligentsia and other democratic forces. Third, it is likewise impossible for the Chinese people to institute a socialist state system at the present stage when it is still their task to fight foreign and feudal oppression and the necessary social and economic conditions for a socialist state are still lacking.

What then do we propose? We propose the establishment, after the thorough defeat of the Japanese aggressors, of a state system which we call New Democracy, namely, a united-front democratic alliance based on the overwhelming majority of the people, under the leadership of the working class.

Some people suspect that the Chinese Communists are opposed to the development of individual initiative, the growth of private capital and the protection of private property, but they are mistaken. It is foreign oppression and feudal oppression that cruelly fetter the development of the individual initiative of the Chinese people, hamper the growth of private capital and destroy the property of the people. It is the very task of the New Democracy we advocate to remove these fetters and stop this destruction, to guarantee that the people can freely develop their individuality within the framework of society and freely develop such private capitalist economy as will benefit and not “dominate the livelihood of the people”, and to protect all appropriate forms of private property.”

Feng wonders how, in a New Democracy “based on the overwhelming majority of the people, under the leadership of the working class”, the individuality of the “private capitalist economy” would not be decried as “divorced from or opposed to the masses”.

Mao’s 1946 interview with American journalist Anna Louise Strong further extended the Chinese Communists’ anti-imperialist, anti-feudal and anti-colonialist propaganda offensive to the American people (“Talk with the American Correspondent Anna Louise Strong”):

Strong: Do you think there is hope for a political, a peaceful settlement of China’s problems in the near future?

Mao: That depends on the attitude of the U.S. government. If the American people stay the hands of the American reactionaries who are helping Chiang Kai-shek fight the civil war, there is hope for peace.

Strong: What do you think of the possibility of the United States starting a war against the Soviet Union?

Mao: There are two aspects to the propaganda about an anti-Soviet war. On the one hand, U.S. imperialism is indeed preparing a war against the Soviet Union; the current propaganda about an anti-Soviet war, as well as other anti-Soviet propaganda, is political preparation for such a war. On the other hand, this propaganda is a smoke-screen put up by the U.S. reactionaries to cover many actual contradictions immediately confronting U.S. imperialism. These are the contradictions between the U.S. reactionaries and the American people and the contradictions of U.S. imperialism with other capitalist countries and with the colonial and semi-colonial countries. At present, the actual significance of the U.S. slogan of waging an anti-Soviet war is the oppression of the American people and the expansion of the U.S. forces of aggression in the rest of the capitalist world. As you know, both Hitler and his partners, the Japanese warlords, used anti-Soviet slogans for a long time as a pretext for enslavement of the people at home and aggression against other countries. Now the U.S. reactionaries are acting in exactly the same way.

To start a war, the U.S. reactionaries must first attack the American people. They are already attacking the American people – oppressing the workers and democratic circles in the United States politically and economically and preparing to impose fascism there. The people of the United States should stand up and resist the attacks of the U.S. reactionaries. I believe they will.

Strong: That is very clear. But suppose the United States uses the atom bomb? Suppose the United States bombs the Soviet Union from its bases in Iceland, Okinawa and China?

Mao: The atom bomb is a paper tiger which the U.S. reactionaries use to scare people. It looks terrible, but in fact it isn’t. Of course, the atom bomb is a weapon of mass slaughter, but the outcome of a war is decided by the people, not by one or two new types of weapon.”

But soon the power balance in the 1946-49 civil war shifted in favor of the Communists, and that allowed Mao to contemplate a fast transition from the New Democracy that had not really started to proletarian Socialism. The United States’ continuing support for the Nationalist government led by Chiang Kai-shek made it possible for the Communists to defeat the Nationalists completely, with the Soviet Union’s support and return, via anti-imperialist, anti-feudal and anti-colonialist policies, to the proletarian agendas Mao had resolutely advocated from the beginning, or as Feng comments:

“如果说孙中山是中国的列宁,那么毛泽东是准备成为中国的斯大林的。”

English translation:

“if, say, Sun Yat-sen was China’s Lenin, then Mao Zedong was prepared to become China’s Stalin.”

Mao declared in this regard (“Revolutionary Forces of the World Unite, Fight against Imperialist Aggression!”):

“History has developed in the direction pointed out by Stalin. The October Revolution has opened up wide possibilities for the emancipation of the peoples of the world and opened up the realistic paths towards it; it has created a new front of revolutions against world imperialism, extending from the proletarians of the West, through the Russian revolution, to the oppressed peoples of the East. This front of revolutions has been created and developed under the brilliant guidance of Lenin and, after Lenin’s death, of Stalin.

The radiance of the October Revolution shines upon us. The long-suffering Chinese people must win their liberation, and they firmly believe they can. Always isolated in the past, China’s revolutionary struggle no longer feels isolated since the victory of the October Revolution. We enjoy the support of the Communist Parties and the working class of the world. This point was understood by Dr. Sun Yat-sen, forerunner of the Chinese revolution, who established the policy of alliance with the Soviet Union against imperialism. On his deathbed he wrote a letter to the Soviet Union as part of his testament.”

To Mao, The external threat posed by the Western imperialists was a basis for the Communists and the proletariat to deploy Stalinist strategies in their own sphere to thoroughly overcome the bourgeoisie and make ruling of the country more absolutist; a proletarian-led New Democracy would be a “dictatorship” (“On the People’s Democratic Dictatorship”):

“”You are dictatorial.” My dear sirs, you are right, that is just what we are. All the experience the Chinese people have accumulated through several decades teaches us to enforce the people’s democratic dictatorship, that is, to deprive the reactionaries of the right to speak and let the people alone have that right.

“Don’t you want to abolish state power?” Yes, we do, but not right now; we cannot do it yet. Why? Because imperialism still exists, because domestic reaction still exists, because classes still exist in our country. Our present task is to strengthen the people’s state apparatus… The state apparatus, including the army, the police and the courts, is the instrument by which one class oppresses another. It is an instrument for the oppression of antagonistic classes, it is violence and not “benevolence”. “You are not benevolent!” Quite so. We definitely do not apply a policy of benevolence to the reactionaries and towards the reactionary activities of the reactionary classes. Our policy of benevolence is applied only within the ranks of the people, not beyond them to the reactionaries or to the reactionary activities of reactionary classes.

In 1924 a famous manifesto was adopted at the Kuomintang’s First National Congress, which Sun Yat-sen himself led and in which Communists participated. The manifesto stated:

“The so-called democratic system in modern states is usually monopolized by the bourgeoisie and has become simply an instrument for oppressing the common people. On the other hand, the Kuomintang’s Principle of Democracy means a democratic system shared by all the common people and not privately owned by the few.”

Apart from the question of who leads whom, the Principle of Democracy stated above corresponds as a general political programme to what we call People’s Democracy or New Democracy. A state system which is shared only by the common people and which the bourgeoisie is not allowed to own privately — add to this the leadership of the working class, and we have the state system of the people’s democratic dictatorship.”

Under this proletariat-led “people’s democratic dictatorship” being founded by Mao, intellectuals with “illusions” about the United States could well be treated as “right-wingers” (or ‘rightist’) (“Cast away Illusions, Prepare for Struggle”):

“Part of the intellectuals still want to wait and see. They think: the Kuomintang is no good and the Communist Party is not necessarily good either, so we had better wait and see. Some support the Communist Party in words, but in their hearts they are waiting to see. They are the very people who have illusions about the United States. They are unwilling to draw a distinction between the U.S. imperialists, who are in power, and the American people, who are not. They are easily duped by the honeyed words of the U.S. imperialists, as though these imperialists would deal with People’s China on the basis of equality and mutual benefit without a stern, long struggle. They still have many reactionary, that is to say, anti-popular, ideas in their heads, but they are not Kuomintang reactionaries. They are the middle-of-the-roaders or the right-wingers in People’s China. They are the supporters of what Acheson calls “democratic individualism”. The deceptive manoeuvres of the Achesons still have a flimsy social base in China.”

Mao talked about the U.S. policy in this regard (“Farewell, Leighton Stuart”):

“Liberals or “democratic individualists” who cherish illusions about the United States and have short memories! Please look at Acheson’s own words:

“When peace came the United States was confronted with three possible alternatives in China: (1) it could have pulled out lock, stock and barrel; (2) it could have intervened militarily on a major scale to assist the Nationalists to destroy the Communists, (3) it could, while assisting the Nationalists to assert their authority over as much of China as possible, endeavor to avoid a civil war by working for a compromise between the two sides.

The first alternative would, and I believe American public opinion at the time so felt, have represented an abandonment of our international responsibilities and of our traditional policy of friendship for China before we had made a determined effort to be of assistance.

The second alternative policy, while it may look attractive theoretically and in retrospect, was wholly impracticable. The Nationalists had been unable to destroy the Communists during the 10 years before the war. Now after the war the Nationalists were, as indicated above, weakened, demoralized, and unpopular. … It is obvious that the American people would not have sanctioned such a colossal commitment of our armies in 1945 or later. We therefore came to the third alternative policy. . . .””

The American policy under President Harry Truman and Secretary of State Dean Acheson hoped to avoid a Chinese civil war, did not want to take part in it but did not intend to let the Communists gain the upper hand through a coalition government; this Mao had anticipated back in 1945 (“The Situation and Our Policy after the Victory in the War of Resistance against Japan”):

“An American once said to me, “You should listen to Hurley and send a few men to be officials in the Kuomintang government.” I replied: “It is no easy job to be an official bound hand and foot; we won’t do it. If we become officials, our hands and feet must be unfettered, we must be free to act, that is, a coalition government must be set up on a democratic basis.” He said, “It will be bad if you don’t.” I asked him, “Why bad?” He said, “First, the Americans will curse you; secondly, the Americans will back Chiang Kai-shek.” I replied: “If you Americans, sated with bread and sleep, want to curse people and back Chiang Kai-shek, that’s your business and I won’t interfere. What we have now is millet plus rifles, what you have is bread plus cannon. If you like to back Chiang Kai-shek, back him, back him as long as you want. But remember one thing. To whom does China belong? China definitely does not belong to Chiang Kai-shek, China belongs to the Chinese people. The day will surely come when you will find it impossible to back him any longer.” Comrades! This American was trying to scare people. Imperialists are masters at this sort of stuff, and many people in the colonial countries do get scared. The imperialists think that all people in the colonial countries can be scared, but they do not realize that in China there are people who are not afraid of that sort of stuff.”

Feng observes the failure of the American mediation:

“与美国政府的意愿相反,它所调停的国民党和共产党的纷争的最后结局是1949年共产党在中国大陆的全面胜利及之后毛泽东逐步地、全面地推行的无产阶级纲领,从1952年农村土地改革开始,在1958年的“大跃进”和“人民公社化”时进入其经济上和制度上的顶峰,并更在1966-76年的“文化大革命”十年里达到其政治上和意识形态上的巅峰。”

English translation:

“Contrary to the U.S. government’s wish, the conflict it mediated between the Nationalists and the Communists ended with a Communist triumph in mainland China in 1949, and as its aftermath Mao Zedong’s stage-by-stage, comprehensive implementation of the proletarian guiding principles, starting with the 1952 rural land reform, reaching the economic and institutional pinnacles in the 1958 “Great Leap Forward” and “People’s Communization”, and further arriving at the political and ideological zenith during the ten-year Cultural Revolution of 1966-76.”

Feng shows that his family history had some interesting coincidences with Mao’s.

Feng’s paternal Grandfather came from an ordinary peasant family in Jian region of Jiangxi province, as a young man went to work in a shop in the city of Jian, later followed the boss to work in trading in Shanghai and made some money to have a business of his own in Jian.

Feng’s Father and his older sister were the only siblings, but Father said Grandpa and Grandma had quite a few children before them but none survived. When an elementary school assignment required Feng to write about the family, Father gave Feng the explanation that the others died because Grandpa’s family was too poor to afford a 火塘 (meaning Fire Pond), fireplace. Feng didn’t understand why a shop worker couldn’t afford to light a fire enclosure in the home during the winter, and even today he doesn’t know why Father’s other older siblings all died while still children.

In the Preface of his 1998 book Father said that his mother, i.e., Feng’s Grandma, was from a major family in Jishui, Jiangxi. Feng thinks that could be a source of money for Grandpa to start his own business, or at least to keep the children from dying in winter cold.

Jishui in the Jian region is an ancestral place of Mao Zedong’s, whose ancestor 20 generations ago had moved from there to become the founder of the Mao clan in Shaoshan in Hunan province. Also in the Jian region, the Jinggan Mountains adjacent Hunan was the base of the Red Army guerrillas led by Mao after the 1927 breakup with the Nationalists; under Mao they occupied the city of Jian at one point and set up the Workers’ and Peasants’ Democratic Government, but by the time Father was born in 1933 the Red government had moved to the city of Ruijin near Fujian province.

As a businessman Grandpa accepted the Communist revolution’s triumph and retired in the 1950s, letting his garment business of silk specialty be jointly managed by the government. As in Part 2, Father’s sister married a former People’s Liberation Army officer and they became part of the management for the government in this business field.

However, with the money made in Shanghai Grandpa had bought some land in his home village, so he was classified as a “landlord” and during Cultural Revolution, already in his 70s, was sent back there to do labor work and be monitored by the people. As in Part 4, in the early 1970s Father was part of the official Cultural Revolution writers group at Sun Yat-sen University and participated in writing articles for the PLA Daily, People’s Daily and Guangming Daily in Beijing. But during that same time his father was branded a former “landlord” receiving “reform through labor” in the countryside, even though Grandpa had left the village for decades and in the city was considered an enlightened businessman. Fortunately the village was not far from Jian city so Feng’s Aunt and her husband got to visit Grandpa once in a while.

On Mother’s side there was a similar situation. As in Part 3, maternal Grandpa, a Christian pastor, during the rural land reform was physically beaten, mistaken as a “landlord” for the church’s land. But Grandpa’s father, like him a noted calligrapher in the history of the Shantou region as in Part 3, and a preacher but not an ordained pastor, also did business and bought land in his home village, and so his fourth son who lived there, i.e., Grandpa’s younger brother the “Fourth Granduncle” Feng visited at the village during Cultural Revolution, was classified as a “landlord”.

Feng notes that his maternal Grandpa’s village 塘边 (meaning Pond Side), Tangbian Village in Jieyang County, had the same name as one in Jiangxi’s Yongxin County, Mao’s wife He Zizhen’s hometown near the Jinggan Mountains; it was in that Tangbian Village Mao and He got married in 1928.

Part 4 has covered that, while studying in the Soviet Union in the 1930s, He Zizhen learned along with her schoolmates listening to TASS radio broadcast, that Mao Zedong in Yenan married Jiang Qing, and a young woman who witnessed the sad scene was later a coauthor of Father’s in the 1980s.

But that wasn’t the saddest, Feng notes. When she was about to be martyred, i.e., executed by the Nationalist government, Mao’s previous wife Yang Kaihui didn’t know that Mao had already remarried He Zizhen, and rejected an offer to declare divorce from Mao in exchange for clemency. And when Feng was attending school in the Cultural Revolution era, Mao’s martyred wife Yang Kaihui and wife Comrade Jiang Qing, a Cultural Revolution leader, were all that were known.

At school the teacher told the pupils Mao Zedong was from an ‘upper-middle peasant’ family, i.e., an “owner-peasant” family as in Mao’s “Analysis of the Classes in Chinese Society” quoted earlier. Afterwards, some classmates joked among themselves, that according to Chairman Mao an upper-middle peasant was less revolutionary than a ‘lower-middle peasant’ (i.e., “semi-owner peasant”), and much less so than a “poor peasant”.

After the Cultural Revolution, people learned from the press that the hard work and astuteness of Mao’s peasant father had made his family the wealthiest in Shaoshan Village, that should have been classified as “landlord”, and Mao himself admitted was “rich peasant” – though by that time Mao had gone to school and later became a revolutionary.

But there was more. Before the founding of the Chinese Communist Party by Mao and his comrades, his parents had both died at the age of 52, and as the eldest son he inherited the wealth; during the time period writing his analysis of classes, Mao still went home and spent some family money on revolution, so was a “Red Landlord” himself.

Part 2 has mentioned that Father’s sister and her husband both died at 72, leaving only an adopted son.

Feng sees an irony, that both Grandpa and Mao’s father had worked hard themselves and made money that way, but the revolutionary Mao inherited it.

Feng offers his view on the political economic system Mao established:

“孙中山提出的、共产党提倡的“耕者有其田”思想是可贵的,但在毛泽东领导下通过平均田地消灭富有阶级进而集体化建立的、以无产阶级为首的高度中央集权的等级制度,其优越性主要显示于与中世纪封建农奴社会的人身对土地的依附及对土地拥有者的从属制度的比较:农民还是没有自己的田地,不过田地不属于富人们了,在实践上属于各级共产党和政府集权机构,农民和各界老百姓的工作、生活和活动空间则仍完全依附从属于他们所在的生产或工作单位。”

English Translation:

“The “Land to the Tiller” idea proposed by Sun Yat-sen and advocated by the Communist Party was praiseworthy. But the proletariat-led, highly centralized hierarchy system established under Mao Zedong’s leadership through agrarianism, elimination of the wealthy classes and then collectivization, had its superiority manifested mainly in comparisons to the Medieval feudal serfdom society’s system of personal bondage to the land and subordination to the land owner: peasants still did not have their own land, but the land no longer belonged to the rich, in practice belonging to the various levels of the Communist Party and government organs of concentrated power, while the working, living and activity spaces of the peasants and ordinary people were still fully bonded to and subordinated to the organizational units in which they worked.”

Feng also opines, among other things, that Mao Zedong’s politics of class struggle based on the support of “the overwhelming majority of the people” relied on and utilized the poor people’s revenge mentality more than their hope for social development.

Back in 1939 during the anti-Japanese war, Mao emphasized the importance of intellectuals for the revolutionary cause:

“… many of the army cadres are not yet alive to the importance of the intellectuals, they still regard them with some apprehension and are even inclined to discriminate against them or shut them out. Many of our training institutes are still hesitant about enrolling young students in large numbers. Many of our local Party branches are still reluctant to let intellectuals join. All this is due to failure to understand the importance of the intellectuals for the revolutionary cause…

There must be no repetition of the incorrect attitude towards intellectuals which Party organizations in many localities and army units adopted during the Agrarian Revolution; the proletariat cannot produce intellectuals of its own without the help of the existing intellectuals.”

But after the Communist victory in mainland China, the discrimination and shutout of intellectuals Mao had promised not to repeat soon happened again. A major instance was the 1950s Anti-Rightist Campaign widely carried out in the cities about 2-3 years after rural land reform. As in Part 3, Father’s professor Zhan Antai was banished as a Rightist in 1957.

Feng’s discussions on this focus on the Chinese Christianity field of which maternal Grandpa was a member, and within which quite a number of enlightened persons showed sympathy or support for the patriotism and New Democracy the Communists propagandized.

The most well-known example was Dr. Fu Lianzhang (Nelson Fu), director of the English Gospel Hospital in Tingzhou, Fujian. In 1932 persuaded by Zhou Enlai and Mao Zedong, Dr. Fu moved the entire hospital to Ruijin, Jiangxi, to become the Central Red Hospital under the Communist Soviet government there. But only after he moved there did Fu realize that the Communists’ purge policy against counter-reactionaries was very harsh, his medical doctor daughter and son-in-law were soon executed as counter-revolutionaries and he himself barely avoided the same fate. Fu rose within the Communist system to become in charge of the Party leaders’ healthcare, and still saw danger were he not to become a Party member or follow the revolutionary politics; but regardless, Fu did not escape death when Cultural Revolution came.

Fu had become director of the Gospel Hospital during 1925’s May 30th Anti-Imperial Movement in China, replacing a British doctor. The May 30th Movement also gave impetus to a nationwide Non-Christian Movement. At the time, Zhou Enlai led the Nationalist Military’s eastern campaign from Guangdong’s provincial capital Guangzhou (Canton) to the Chaozhou-Shantou region, and directly guided the Non-Christian Movement there to repatriate school education management from the foreign missions. The Non-Christian Movement resulted in the departure of many foreign missionaries and the takeover of important missionary and education work by the Chinese, and is viewed in China as a major turning point for the Chinese Christianity’s moving toward “self-management, self-support and self-propagation”. After the Communist victory in mainland China, a nationwide “Three-Self” patriotic movement from 1950 on was directly overseen by Zhou to rid the Chinese Catholic and Christian churches of foreign control.

But Feng finds a much earlier and more voluntary history of “Three-Self”, within the English Presbyterian Church in the Chaozhou-Shantou region.

The church in Yanzao Village in Chenghai County was the first Christian church in the history of the Chaozhou-Shantou region, founded in 1849 by German missionary Rudolf Lechler from the Swiss Basel Mission. It was also the first in the region to be led by a Chinese pastor, starting in 1882. Grandpa was the pastor throughout the 1940s. This church had a unique history and statue within the region; when the Communists came to power, in 1950 there were more than 10 Christian churches and over 1,600 Christians in Chenghai County, and over 800 of them were members of Grandpa’s church.

As in Part 1, the well-known Swatow (Shantou) drawn work was also invented by a Christian woman from this village and associated with this church. In the 1960s-70s at the China Export Fair (Canton Fair), Swatow drawn work textile products earned large amounts of foreign money for the Chinese government, and so Grandpa’s honor of calligraphy for the renaming of the Fair’s former site to Guangdong Trade Center, as in Part 5, was well deserved from this perspective.

The family histories of Feng’s maternal grandparents were testaments to the earlier “Three-Self” evolution of the Christian community in that region.

Grandma’s grandfather Lin Zhangzao, baptized as a child by the Scottish missionary William Chalmers Burns at the Yanzao church, worked as a medical doctor, and in 1901 became an ordained Presbyterian pastor in Shantou, an important trade-port city in which the Christian pastors had practically been all foreign missionaries.

Grandpa’s grandfather Wang Lieji in 1900 became the first ordained Chinese pastor among the English Presbyterian churches in the city of Chaozhou, then the regional capital.

Feng notes that it was the time of the Boxer Rebellion and there were records of churches in the region, including the Yanzao church, under siege. According to the Yanzao church’s history, during that time Dr. Lin Zhangzao became a preacher in Shantou city at the Reverend John Campbell Gibson’s invitation, responded to and handled the unrest calmly, and was ordained a pastor by a special nomination of the Shantou Presbytery approved by the wider Chaozhou-Huilai regional Synod.

Feng concludes: anti-Christianity sentiments before the 1925 Non-Christian Movement had caused damages to the Christian churches but also acted as stimulus for the Chinese “self-management, self-support and self-propagation” process in the Christian community; even earlier, a localization process pioneered by the Yanzao church, involving at least self-management and self-propagation, had progressed in the rural areas of the region; so by the time the Communists were involved in the 1920s, there was already a solid foundation for “Three-Self” within the church community.

But after the Communist victory in mainland China, all churches in Chenghai, including the Yanzao church, were closed by the 1952 rural land reform, reopening only in the 1980s after Cultural Revolution. The Yanzao church’s elementary school which Grandpa also taught beside his pastor work, had been the first Christian school in the region as in Part 3, and was also closed. The school principal Lin Ziliang, a younger cousin of Grandma’s whom Mother customarily called “Seventh Uncle”, then immigrated to Australia and in the 1960s-70s came to the Canton Fair often, seeing Grandpa and Grandma each time.

In contrast, in the 1950s churches in China’s cities continued their activities within the “Three-Self” patriotic framework, and for a considerable number of rural churches’ the closing was temporary. Along the Han River downstream from Chaozhou city were two English Presbyterian churches where Grandpa had served as pastor, in the small townships of 官塘 (meaning Official Pond), Guantang, northeast of the river, and 彩塘 (meaning Colored Pond), Caitang, southwest of the river; both reopened soon after the land reform. So did many rural churches in the neighboring Fujian province where Dr. Fu Lianzhang, medical doctor friend of Zhou Enlai and Mao Zedong, had come from.

The contradiction, i.e., the fact that the historically “self-managing and self-propagating” pioneering church at Yanzao led by Grandpa Rev. Wang Chaoying fared the worse in the rural land reform after the Communist triumph, gives Feng the impression that under Mao Zedong’s leadership the Communist Party’s advocating “Three-Self” was to oust the foreigners and put everything under proletarian rule, not really to allow “self-management”.

The story was quite similar in the field of Western medicine, related to Christianity in China, though here the localization process was less comprehensive. In 1849, Rev. Rudolf Lechler was the first to bring Western medicine to the Chaozhou-Shantou region. In the 1860s, English Presbyterian doctor William Gould came and Grandma’s grandfather Lin Zhangzao studied under him, and when Dr. Gould founded the first medical hospital in the region, Swatow Mission Hospital, Great-Great-Grandfather became a doctor there; by 1901 when ordained a pastor in Shantou as discussed earlier, he had been a doctor for over 3 decades.

Dr. Lin Qi, whose family was also from the Yanzao church, was an even more distinguished medical professional. About 10 years younger than Lin Zhangzao, In his early teens Li Qi began studying at the Mission Hospital, and by the time when Lin Zhangzao was made a pastor in 1901, Lin Qi was a deputy director of that hospital. Dr. Lin Qi also helped found the William Burns Memorial Hospital, late known as Chaozhou Mission Hospital, in Chaozhou city and served as the director. Another Chinese doctor from Swatow Mission Hospital, Xiao Huirong, later in the 1910s also served as Chaozhou Mission Hospital director.

So by the time of the May 30th Movement and Non-Christian Movement in 1925 when Dr. Fu Lianzhang replaced a British doctor to become director of the Gospel Hospital in Tingzhou in the neighboring Fujian province, at least 2 Chinese doctors had served as director of a major Christian hospital in the Chaozhou-Shantou region. Of course Dr. Fu later took it much further, in 1932 moving an entire Christian hospital to the Communist Soviet area in Jiangxi province to become the Central Red Hospital, which was precious.

As another contradiction, the Chaozhou Mission Hospital, a pioneer in hospital management by Chinese doctors, was closed in the 1930s, in Feng’s guess due to the Japanese occupation, and was never reopened.

Feng presents his perspective on this aspect of history:

“可以说,赶走外国人将管理权收回到中国人手里、无论是在宗教、教育或医药方面都是很重要的历史事件。但建立中国自己的、真正本土化地吸收、掌握和运用西方文化知识和现代科学的途径方式更为关键。”

English translation:

“It can be said, that expelling the foreigners and repatriating the management rights into Chinese hands were important historical events be it in the field of religion, education or medicine. But establishing China’s own routes and methods to genuinely locally absorb, master and apply Western cultural knowledge and modern science is more crucial.”

Feng compares some of Mao Zedong’s words in “Report on an Investigation of the Peasant Movement in Hunan” quoted earlier, to words written on October 14, 1921 by Vladimir Lenin, whom Feng read as a youth more than Marx, Engels or Stalin because of Lenin’s accessible and lively writing style (“Fourth Anniversary of the October Revolution”):

“The bourgeois-democratic content of the revolution means that the social relations (system, institutions) of the country are purged of medievalism, serfdom, feudalism.

What were the chief manifestations, survivals, remnants of serfdom in Russia up to 1917? The monarchy, the system of social estates, landed proprietorship and land tenure, the status of women, religion, and national oppression. Take any one of these Augean stables, which, incidentally, were left largely uncleansed by all the more advanced states when they accomplished their bourgeois-democratic revolutions one hundred and twenty-five, two hundred and fifty and more years ago (1649 in England); take any of these Augean stables, and you will see that we have cleansed them thoroughly. In a matter of ten weeks, from October 25 (November 7), 1917 to January 5, 1918, when the Constituent Assembly was dissolved, we accomplished a thousand times more in this respect than was accomplished by the bourgeois democrats and liberals (the Cadets) and by the petty-bourgeois democrats (the Mensheviks and the Socialist-Revolutionaries) during the eight months they were in power.

Those poltroons, gas-bags, vainglorious Narcissuses and petty Hamlets brandished their wooden swords—but did not even destroy the monarchy! We cleansed out all that monarchist muck as nobody had ever done before. We left not a stone, not a brick of that ancient edifice, the social-estate system (even the most advanced countries, such as Britain, France and Germany, have not completely eliminated the survivals of that system to this day!), standing. We tore out the deep-seated roots of the social-estate system, namely, the remnants of feudalism and serfdom in the system of landownership, to the last. “One may argue” (there are plenty of quill-drivers, Cadets, Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries abroad to indulge in such arguments) as to what “in the long run” will be the outcome of the agrarian reform effected by the Great October Revolution. We have no desire at the moment to waste time on such controversies, for we are deciding this, as well as the mass of accompanying controversies, by struggle. But the fact cannot be denied that the petty-bourgeois democrats “compromised” with the landowners, the custodians of the traditions of serfdom, for eight months, while we completely swept the landowners and all their traditions from Russian soil in a few weeks.”

In a matter of weeks The Russian Revolution led by Lenin accomplished 1,000 times more than the bourgeois democrats, liberals and petty-bourgeois democrats had done in 8 months, and in a few months the Chinese peasants cheered on by Mao Zedong did what Sun Yat-sen had wanted but failed to accomplish in 40 years.

But when Lenin saw mistakes, he was much more sincere and real than Mao in admitting and making correction, such as when acknowledging the need for state capitalism and business principles, for a New Economic Policy in his proletarian Soviet Union:

“Borne along on the crest of the wave of enthusiasm, rousing first the political enthusiasm and then the military enthusiasm of the people, we expected to accomplish economic tasks just as great as the political and military tasks we had accomplished by relying directly on this enthusiasm. We expected—or perhaps it would be truer to say that we presumed without having given it adequate consideration—to be able to organise the state production and the state distribution of products on communist lines in a small-peasant country directly as ordered by the proletarian state. Experience has proved that we were wrong. It appears that a number of transitional stages were necessary—state capitalism and socialism—in order to prepare—to prepare by many years of effort—for the transition to communism. Not directly relying on enthusiasm, but aided by the enthusiasm engendered by the great revolution, and on the basis of personal interest, personal incentive and business principles, we must first set to work in this small peasant country to build solid gangways to socialism by way of state capitalism. Otherwise we shall never get to communism, we shall never bring scores of millions of people to communism. That is what experience, the objective course of the development of the revolution, has taught us.

And we, who during these three or four years have learned a little to make abrupt changes of front (when abrupt changes of front are needed), have begun zealously, attentively and sedulously (although still not zealously, attentively and sedulously enough) to learn to make a new change of front, namely, the New Economic Policy. The proletarian state must become a cautious, assiduous and shrewd “businessman”, a punctilious wholesale merchant—otherwise it will never succeed in putting this small-peasant country economically on its feet. Under existing conditions, living as we are side by side with the capitalist (for the time being capitalist) West, there is no other way of progressing to communism.”

Over two years later Lenin was dead at only 53 years of age, Stalin soon assumed power and the New Economic Policy was history.

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A coherent look back at political violence in Cultural Revolution China–with comments on Western press objectivity/accuracy

(This blog-post excerpt originally appeared on November 29, 2010, on my Facebook community page, History, Culture and Politics.)

The following is excerpted from a blog post on Feng Gao’s Blog – Reflections on Events of Interest, first posted on November 22, 2010:

Team Canada female athletes disqualified from Commonwealth silver medal, jailed Chinese democracy activist awarded with Nobel peace prize, and others in between (Part 2) — when violence is politically organized

In 2006 when The Globe and Mail Journalist Jan Wong made the allegation that Marc Lepine, Valery Fabrikant and Kimveer Gill, the killers in the three mass shootings on Montreal university and college campuses since 1989, were victims of marginalization of immigrant minorities “in a society that valued pure laine” (pure laine refers to a person from an established French family), and caused a firestorm of condemnations including from the Canadian Parliament, Wong also made a trip to Beijing, China, where she had once served as the newspaper’s bureau chief, from 1988 to 1994.

In this 2006 China trip Jan Wong finally decided to look for an old Chinese acquaintance she had betrayed back in 1973 when – after she had gone to China as a 19-year-old “starry-eyed Maoist” in 1972 and become one of only two Beijing University foreign students – she informed the Chinese authority about a female student who sought her help to go to the United States. …

1972 had been an historic year when Jan Wong first went to China, if one gives it a little more thought.

On February 21, 1972, Richard Nixon made a historic visit to China – the first by any U.S. President – and opened official dialogues between the two countries which had become staunch enemies after 1949 when the Communists triumphed in China. In his week-long visit Nixon met Chairman Mao Zedong and held extensive talks with Premier Zhou Enlai.

Then on May 22, 1972, Richard Nixon arrived in Moscow as the first U.S. President to visit the Soviet Union though it was the second visit for him…

Later in September 1972, the aptly named “Summit Series” of men’s ice hockey games between the Soviet Union national team and the Canadian national team were held and won by Canada. These 1972 Summit Series were the first between the two hockey superpowers…

Shortly afterwards in October 1972, Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, a French Montrealer who had swept to majority power in 1968 in the mist of “Trudeaumania” and personal show of defiance against violent threats from Quebec separatists after ascending to the helm of the Liberal party, nearly lost an election amid “Trudeauphobia”, forming only a minority government propped up by the New Democratic party farther to the left. …

It was amid the atmosphere of historic East-West political thawing that Jan Wong travelled from Montreal to Beijing in 1972 – except that Montreal didn’t share that kind of warming and Jan Wong went to China to join the Cultural Revolution as a self-styled “Montreal Maoist”.

I see! As a logical step of the time the Chinese government made sure to invite a “Montreal Maoist” before opening more widely to the outside world, and 16 years later in 1988 – it happened to be the year I came to Canada – The Globe and Mail, which had long considered itself “Canada’s National Newspaper”, chose this “Montreal Maoist” to represent Canadian journalism to the Chinese people – as its 13th Beijing correspondent.

I can already imagine hearing the whisper – but how could The Globe and Mail have had anyone better when Jan Wong’s prerogative as the first Canadian to be a Beijing University student during the Cultural Revolution meant she got some of Chairman Mao’s geishas among her classmate friends?

But then when Jan Wong lamented about the French Quebec society’s “pure laine” attitude having to do with ethnic immigrant minority resentment, The Globe and Mail made a 180-degree turn and gagged her – as discussed in Part 1 of this blog article.

Seeing this kind of journalistic calculation representing Canada by Jan Wong, one gets the idea that no Canadian story involving someone of Chinese heritage or origin is newsworthy until it can be for Chinese consumption.

My ten years of elementary and secondary education coincided with the duration of the Cultural Revolution, 1966 – 1976. …

Right from the start, my schooling didn’t actually begin until early 1967.

My family – me, my parents, maternal grandparents and younger sister – had been living in a dorm-apartment allocated to my mother by the education bureau of the southern Haizhu District (海珠区) in the city of Guangzhou, where she was a middle school teacher. The elementary school entrance age was seven at the time, and at age six in 1965 I applied to a new school which I recall was named Haizhu District Experimental School, that was experimenting with admitting younger children, but I was quickly turned down after an interview. 

When the Cultural Revolution began in the early summer of 1966, my mother was roughed up by her middle school’s student Red Guards, who came to our place ransacking and confiscating anything of hers that looked valuable, had her hair cut very short forcibly like her head had been shaved, and required her to attend daily regiment of critical self-reevaluation. In an age group with the combination of youthful restlessness, physically strength and enthusiasms for social experimentation, the middle-school student Red Guards were especially known for their nastiness and propensity for violence – with their teachers who unfortunately also had the role of behavioral counseling bearing the brunt of it during the early months of the revolution.

In the fall of 1966 my father, then a junior faculty member at Zhongshan (Sun Yat-sen) University, arranged for the family to move to the university campus, where the anarchy and violence were not as bad as in the middle school environment and were more targeted at officials and senior professors due to the intellectual focus of higher education.

Being new on ZD campus – except for one prior short stay at my father’s faculty dorm room beginning on the day the middle school Red Guards ransacked my mother’s dorm-apartment – I naturally did not know as much about what went on as my classmates at the university‘s affiliated elementary school also in Haizhu District, which was appropriately renamed “July1 Elementary School” in honor of the Chinese Communist Party’s birthday.

Interestingly, 20 years after leaving the July 1 Elementary School in 1972, I became a Canadian citizen on July 1, Canada Day, 1992.

For example, in early 1967 I had little awareness that as Grandma and I came to the family’s new dwelling on ZD campus (the basement of a house and then the first floor by the time Grandma and I arrived) and the new semester began, Zhao Ziyang, then Guangdong province’s Communist party leader, was also taken to Zhongshan University – on January 21 – for a short period of detention. Under pressure from the university student Red Guards, on January 22 Zhao agreed to a transfer of provincial party and government powers to a province-wide “Alliance” of Red Guard organizations, including handover of the official seals.

It was a type of power transfer from the Communist party to the Red Guards where the Red Guards would not manage power but act as monitors. On the next day, January 23, an official announcement was issued for this power arrangement by the provincial party organ under Zhao Ziyang to all Communist party members in Guangdong province.

This Guangdong approach to power transfer received immediate positive response from Premier Zhou Enlai in Beijing, who was opposed to the full power takeover by Red Guards taking place in Shanghai.

Unfortunately for Zhao Ziyang in Guangdong, Chairman Mao wanted a third type of power transfer to the Red Guards, one that would soon take place in Heilongjiang province in the northeast bordering the Soviet Union – a full power takeover with a key role for the military (and a role for some politically correct officials). In the evening of January 21 when Zhao Ziyang was taken to Zhongshan University, a next-day editorial in People’s Daily, the Chinese Communist Party’s official newspaper, was being broadcast calling for full power takeover by the revolution, and on January 23, the day Zhao Ziyang officially announced the Guangdong power transfer to under Red Guard monitoring, the Communist Party central issued a decision to use the military to support full power takeover in the provinces and regions.

By the late 1980s Zhao was the reform-minded General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party – the official top leader as there was no longer the position of Chairman – and his ascent coincided with rapid growths of the Chinese democracy movement and related mass protests driven to a large extent by intellectuals and university students.

In May 1989 Zhao Ziyang attempted to show empathy for the university students of the democracy movement on Tiananmen Square, expressing the view that their intentions were good and the situation was not a major problem, even after the movement was branded “a planned conspiracy and a turmoil” by an April 26 editorial of People’s Daily. …

Mikhail Gorbachev, then the reform-minded leader of the Soviet Union, was visiting Beijing during May 15-18, and was told by Zhao that despite Zhao himself being the official party leader all important decisions had to be referred to the behind-the-scenes paramount leader Deng Xiaoping, who had survived the Cultural Revolution downfall and reemerged as the final arbiter of power in China.

In the early morning of May 19, 1989, Zhao went to Tiananmen Square to try to persuade the students to end a hunger strike, having just attending a top-level meeting which decided, against his opposition, to use the military to suppress the mass protests. …

On June 4 – exactly half a month (16 days) after Zhao Ziyang’s appearance on Tiananmen Square to show his empathy to the students – the military used force to clear the protests on the streets of Beijing and on Tiananmen Square.

It’s ironic that in the 22 years from the spring of 1967 in Guangzhou to the spring of 1989 in Beijing, the table had turned between Zhao Ziyang and university student protesters yet the end remained the same for both.

The father of “Ping”, one of the girls in our class, an associate professor of Physics more senior than most of the parents of our class, had been branded a “rightist” in the 1957 anti-rightist political campaign and was now subjected to further political condemnation and cruel treatment. He leaped to his death from on top a campus building.

Then there was the time when for several days something was floating in a pond on my way to and near the elementary school, that looked like a dead pig and had horrendously stenchful smell. It turned out to be, upon closer inspection by the more curious, the swollen belly of a man dead in the water for days before emerging.

The types of violence that occurred in the early years of the Cultural Revolution targeting persons in positions of power or intellectual seniority, in some sense were not unlike the FLQ kidnappings of James Cross and Pierre Laporte in Montreal in 1970, which had inspirations from international political radicalism.

A major difference between the FLQ violence in Canada and the violence during the Chinese Cultural Revolution was that part of the Chinese leadership sanctioned the Red Guards’ violent anti-status quo actions.

Another type of violence raging during an early period of the Cultural Revolution was militant fighting, or violent battles, between different Red Guard organizations. In the spring of 1967 the various Red Guard organizations in Guangdong province quickly fell into two camps: the more radical “Red Flag” which had played a key role in the January power transfer from Zhao Ziyang, and the more pro-government “East Wind” which were more sympathetic to the subsequent military takeover and its law-and-order stability.

In fact, on January 21-23, 1967 it was under detention by the Zhongshan University Red Flag Commune and their affiliated vanguard group, “August 31”, that Zhao Ziyang acceded to transfer of provincial power to under Red Guard monitoring, and the ZD Red Flag Commune became one of the official monitors of provincial power. Then on January 24 a top “August 31” leader, Mathematics student Huang Yijian (黄意坚), received a phone call from Premier Zhou Enlai and encouragements from Zhou for the Red Guards to be united and to keep good relations with the military.

But events did not follow Zhou Enlai’s wishes and the military took over full power in March in Guangdong. On April 14, accompanied by General Huang Yongsheng, Commander of the Guangzhou Military Region, Premier Zhou flew to Guangzhou from Beijing to meet with the leaders of the severely split Red Guards organizations, many members of which were also under military detention, to personally see that their activities would not turn violent and that the Spring 1967 Canton Fair due to open the next day on April 15 could go forward smoothly.

The Canton Fair was very important for the Chinese economy and foreign relations as it was Chinese’s only export trade fair – held biannually in Guangzhou – during the first three decades of the Communist era, 1950s – 1970s.

In the evening of April 14, 1967, Zhou Enlai attended and spoke at a rally of Red Guards totaling over 10,000 strong, held simultaneously at the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall located in the city center and at the indoor City Sports Center, calling on the Red Guards to be united and help ensure a successful Spring Canton Fair. After midnight Zhou toured the about-to-open Canton Fair exhibition halls, and succeeded in persuading the Red Guards to let open some exhibits sealed off because of their accused political incorrectness – that had especially been the case with many of the traditional Chinese artisan crafts.

Sadly, it had been in early February 1967 while working devotedly on the power transfer/takeover issues when Zhou Enlai was for the first time diagnosed with a heart problem, and it was then during these five grueling April days in Guangzhou in which he had no sleep for a period of 84 hours that Zhou’s heart problem worsened, to the point that from then on he would require daily oxygen aid and oral medications four times a day. Later in 1970 Zhou Enlai said to the famed American journalist Edgar Snow, “Cultural Revolution has defeated me when it comes to my health”; but then shortly after Richard Nixon’s historic visit, in May 1972 Zhou was also diagnosed with bladder cancer, which would in the end destroy him.

And unfortunately, past the Spring Canton Fair the conflicts between the Red Flaggers and the East Winders and between the Red Flaggers and the military continued to worsen. A “May 3” hunger strike was staged in front of the Guangzhou Uprising Martyrs Cemetery Park by about 2,000 Red Flaggers demanding the release of one of their leaders in military detention, and it ended only after Premier Zhou Enlai in Beijing ordered the release on May 6.

On July 21 and July 23 – exactly half a year (6 months) after the January 21-23 Communist party-to-Red Guards power transfer by then provincial party leader Zhao Ziyang and with Guangdong under military rule since March – the first major deadly Red Guard militant battles took place in Guangzhou between the Red Flaggers and the East Winders, with the July 23 incident at none other than the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall and the nearby outdoor City Sports Stadium.

Located on the site of the former Presidential Palace of which Dr. Sun Yat-sen had been the occupant before it was destroyed in civil warfare, the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall is a grand architectural marvel combining Byzantine architecture and Chinese imperial designs with the spirits of Sun Yat-sen’s egalitarianism and people orientation. It is the most important symbolic structure in Guangzhou and one that gets compared to the Forbidden City and the Great Hall of the People at Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.

Dr. Sun Yat-sen is dear to the hearts of the people of Guangzhou. He was born in a village only 60 miles south and spoke Cantonese, and the southern national government he founded in Guangzhou in 1917 (after the government in Beijing betrayed the 1911 Republican Revolution and reverted to monarchy for short periods of time and the nation became fractured) has been the only national government of China ever located in this city. …

It so happened that on July 22, the day after the “July 21 Incident”, a call was made in Beijing by Jiang Qing, Chairman Mao’s wife and one of the leaders of the Cultural Revolution, for the Red Guards not to put down their weapons when it came to defending themselves. Jiang Qing stated that the Red Guard slogan, “文攻武卫”(attack with intellectualism and defend with militancy) was politically correct, and her words were reported by the press on the next day, i.e., the day the militant battle took place at Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall in Guangzhou.

Two major mass events had been scheduled for July 23. One was a rally by the “Mao Zedong-ist Red Guards”, the most hardline East Wind organization made up mostly of youths from the families of politically correct officials and military officers, to celebrate the organization’s official establishment in Guangzhou, and the other was the memorial service by the Red Flaggers for their seven comrades killed at the sugar refinery. The Maoists’ rally had been planned at a meeting hall within the Guangzhou Military Region headquarters’ compound and the Red Flaggers’ at a sports field, when the city’s military control commission reassigned the Maoists to the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall and the Red Flaggers to the nearby outdoor Yuexiu Sports Stadium – both adjacent to the Yuexiu Park where the Sun Yat-sen Monument was located.

Both rallies were supposed to be peaceful. But with several thousand Maoist youths attending the Memorial Hall and many thousands of Red Flaggers going to the Stadium, the two parade processions began to exchange heated arguments, including when some Red Flaggers served their memorial wreaths to the Maoists, and then the fighting began. …

Local military commanders sent several hundred soldiers to try to mediate, but they were attacked by the Red Flaggers and had to be evacuated by larger contingents of soldiers. General Huang Ronghai, Commander of the Guangdong Military District who also headed Guangzhou city’s military control commission, then came to the scene and he, too, could not contained the situation. Eventually several thousand troops arrived and formed walls of human chains to separate the warring sides.

Right afterwards, the propaganda publications by the Red Flaggers and the East Winders, each headed by a banner featuring Chairman Mao’s supreme directive, “要用文斗, 不用武斗”(fight intellectually, not militantly), blamed members of the other side as the violent aggressors who caused the bloody mass debacle, calling them murderers in a premeditated massacre.

The Maoists announced that 26 of them were killed or missing while the Red Flaggers put their death toll at 33 – a total of 59 – and of course hundreds more wounded on each side. …

Zhongshan University, the most prominent entity in Guangzhou named in honor of Dr. Sun Yat-sen, would have its share of militant fighting, with a year-long escalation of tension between the Red Flaggers and the East Winders culminating in what became known as the “June 3 Incident” of 1968, before the military in Guangdong fully intervened and disarmed all the Red Guards.

Not every junior faculty member went with it, though. My old classmate buddy “Ling”’s father, who was my father’s fellow lecturer at the Philosophy department but a little more senior, did not believe in the Cultural Revolution’s political correctness and refused to take part in it. He was denounced by his own students – an experience that appeared like my mother’s at her middle school from what “Ling” has told me:

“My dad did not belong to either and was a target by his own students. I recalled one day he came home with his head half shaven. I did not dare to ask why but could see how angry, heartbroken and confused he was.”

“Ling”’s father, Prof. Yuan Weishi, is today a very well-known intellectual in China, a prolific scholar in Chinese history and politics with influential independent views and public outspokenness.

On August 1, 1967, which happened to be the annual People’s Liberation Army Day, the ZD Red Flaggers successfully tested a chemical bomb on campus – quite a boisterous scene! But a death and an injury occurred from accidents in the experimental making of the chemical bombs. As well, the chairman of the Chemistry department, a professor who had earned his Ph.D. in Germany in the 1930s and taken part in Nazi Germany’s weapons program, had a role in developing the chemical bombs and later suffered political repercussions.

August 11, 1967 saw one of the most deadly gunfire ambushes in Guangzhou. On that day, middle-school Red Flag leader Wang Xizhe and his followers first went to seize weapons at the air force compound across from his school, but found that the arms had been evacuated. Their car convoy then went on their way to the city’s Baiyun Airport to join a dispute over the kidnapping of Cultural Revolution representatives just flown in from the Communist Party central in Beijing. As they drove past the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall they encountered a hail of rifle fire and hurriedly changed their destination to the Sun Yat-sen Medical University (then a separate institution from but since part of Sun Yat-sen University) for emergency care – 5 of Wang’s comrades were killed and he was among the over a dozen wounded.

Today, Wang Xizhe (王希哲) is very well known as a Chinese democracy activist in exile after spending on and off many years  in jail in China for his political activities, and as a former collaborator of the jailed 2010 Nobel Peace Laureate Liu Xiaobo – in 1996 the two jointly issued the “October Tenth Declaration” calling for a dialogue between the governments of Mainland China and Taiwan among other political changes.

By some time in 1967-68 only one major ZD campus building remained in the East Winders’ control, the Central Library. It was the university East Winders’ headquarters, where hundreds of them were barricaded inside. Their food supplies were brought in by East Wind workers and peasants from outside the campus, during regular intervals of ceasefire and going through checkpoint inspections by the university Red Flaggers. Threats from the East Wind workers and peasants to invade the campus to rescue their comrades served as a deterrent against any serious attack by the ZD Red Flaggers on the ZD East Winder headquarters.

With the East Wind headquarters holed up and holding up in the Central Library till the time when the military came to restore order, most of the books there were saved. The stereotype story about burning and destruction of books I read in Western publications, such as in the following quote, is inaccurate as far as I can remember (although more serious damages including book burning did occur at a small number of departmental libraries):

“At Zhongshan University in Canton, the Red Guards first burned all the books from the collection of Western classics; then they burned all texts not obviously Communist or Maoist; and then they burned the library building itself (Thurston 1987).”

I wish Rebecca had a better source of information for this story on the Cultural Revolution; during 1997-99 I taught Computer Science in the same department as Rebecca and we even went together visiting a U.S. military disaster assistance information center in the Camp Smith compound of the United States Pacific Command. (the trip with Rebecca and two other female professors has been mentioned in my Facebook comment on a Council on Foreign Relations article by Commander Michael L. Baker of the U.S. Navy…)

Nevertheless there was burning of a ZD campus building in a related storyline – after a group of East Winders broke free from the Central Library and took over the old Physics Building in the summer of 1968.

On June 3, 1968, a deadly battle happened when the Red Flaggers waged an attack to retake the Physics Building, including using guns and explosives, and setting the building on fire in the end. Some of the kids watched it.

Despite the calamity of this violent “June 3 Incident” and the many injured, there were only two deaths, one Red Flagger in the attack, and a top East Wind leader, Ruan Xiangyang (阮向阳). When the fire was burning up the Physics Building Ruan escaped from the top floor by climbing out a window down the wall, and running to hide in a home nearby, but he was then caught by a group of pursuers. Unluckily for Ruan, the pursuers were mostly middle school Red Flaggers from outside the university who had come to re-enforce their comrades, and they practically beat him to death.

Both the ZD “August 31” leader, Mathematics student Huang Yijian, and the middle school Red Flag leader Wang Xizhe, had roles in directing this June 3 attack on scene.

But neither Huang Yijian or Wang Xizhe were the top leader of the Red Flaggers. The No.1 Red Flag leader in Zhongshan University was Biology student Wu Chuanbin (武传斌)…

In any case, about two months after the “June 3 Incident” in 1968 the military and affiliated workers’ law-and-order militia entered the ZD campus and disarmed the Red Flaggers without meeting resistance, and the period of Cultural Revolution militant violence was over for Zhongshan University.

This happened after a July 25 meeting in Beijing with Red Guard representatives in which both Premier Zhou Enlai and General Huang Yongsheng, by then Chief of the General Staff of the Chinese military but still heading the Guangdong Provincial Revolutionary Committee, called Wu Chuanbin a trouble maker, who then quickly fell from grace by early August.

Wu Chuanbin lives in Toronto, Canada today, so I guess The Globe and Mail journalist Jan Wong, the self-style “starry-eyed Maoist”, isn’t the only Canadian in her adulation of the Chinese Cultural Revolution.

Ruan Xiangyang’s end reminds me of my mother having been roughed up by her middle school Red Guards in 1966. His name, 阮向阳, also sounds like a bad omen to me as my Grandma Lin Zhenhua (林珍华), part of whose Christian family history I have discussed in my Chinese blog post, “忆往昔,学历史智慧” (“Reminiscing the past, learning history’s wisdom”), had a second name, Lin Ruanju (林阮菊). Soon at the July 1 Elementary School in 1970 we would have a new Mathematics (Arithmetic) teacher, a charming young women by the name of Ruan Jiabi (阮嘉碧 or 阮佳碧), whose name now many years later sounds exactly like ‘soft Canadian currency’.

Grandma passed away in 1980 at the age of 82 (I believe she was born in 1898, the same year as Zhou Enlai), and I left China in 1982. But I find that my old teacher Miss Ruan might still be teaching elementary arithmetic in the same Haizhu District of Guangzhou, and with a prestigious ‘experimental school’ – Beijing University’s affiliated middle school’s Guangzhou Experimental School!

My mother has retired from her Guangzhou No. 33 Middle School years ago. After leaving the July 1 Elementary School in 1972 I entered and four years later graduated from the Guangzhou No. 6 Middle School. This school had been Zhongshan University’s affiliated middle school for a couple of years prior to the Cultural Revolution, and before that had been founded in 1937 as the affiliated middle school of the Huangpu (Whampoa) Military Academy established in the same year 1924 as Zhongshan (Sun Yat-sen) University by an intellectual leader and a guiding light for military officers – Dr. Sun Yat-sen!

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Creating centers of arts and culture out of deserted old buildings (Part 4): Big cultural goals depend on culture

(This post was originally written and posted on my Facebook community page, Arts and the Community, and Fashion Statements, on January 12, 2015.)

(Continued from Part 3)

With a $26 million bond issue sponsored by Fairfax County, and a $1-million annual matching grant for site maintainence, in 2007 the Lorton Arts Foundation looked set to launch its Workhouse Arts Center at the former District of Columbia Correctional Complex in Lorton, Virginia:

“Fairfax County, which bought the Lorton site from the federal government in 2001, is leasing the workhouse buildings to the arts foundation and approved the sale of $26 million in bonds to finance the initial redevelopment. It also gives the group a matching grant of $1 million yearly for maintenance of the buildings, for now.”

(“Lorton Prison Reformed Into Arts Center“, Annie Gowen, August 23, 2007, The Washington Post)

What would $26m get for an artistic complex?

“The closing of the penal complex and the region’s overall development boom fostered a blossoming in Lorton…

Signs up and down Ox Road now advertise new subdivisions of million-dollar houses near the area now called Laurel Hill.

“When we first started, we thought we were entering a depressed area. There weren’t any houses out here at all,” said Sharon Mason, the Workhouse Arts Center’s executive arts director. “Now new homes nearby are selling from $1 to $2 million. We’re taking a look at our programming with the mindset of . . . what does this community want?”

The arts center will likely be one of the most high-profile amenities in Laurel Hill, where organizers envision not just studio spaces for artists but also two restaurants, a theater, an event center, music programming in a nearby barn, a museum and lofts where artists can live and work.

Many of those features are in the distant future, organizers say. For now, the Lorton Arts Foundation is finishing construction of the 10 brick buildings that will be artists’ studios, office space and the exhibit gallery.”

(Annie Gowen, August 23, 2007, The Washington Post)

The distant-future goal was a high-profile cultural and entertainment center in an affluent community, but the initial financial borrowing was for a basic artists’ facility.

To pay for it, the Foundation envisioned revenue from arts classes and shows:

“[Foundaton executive officer Tina] Leone said that the foundation’s goal is to be self-sustaining and that fundraising and fees from classes and programming would cover the bulk of the debt service on the $26 million bond, as well as operating costs.

Officials expect about 150,000 visitors in early years. In contrast, the Torpedo Factory Art Center in Alexandria, which sits on a spot well-trafficked by tourists, draws 500,000 yearly visitors.”

(Annie Gowen, August 23, 2007, The Washington Post)

A working artists’ facility would not generate much revenue; Fairfax County had concluded the make-or-break factor would be fundraising:

“A 2005 analysis by Fairfax County budget staff concluded that the project would succeed only if the foundation “is successful in an on-going fundraising campaign” …

The foundation hopes to raise at least $1.9 million annually after the first five years, which would be more than half its total expenses, the report said. If it fails, the county could reassume control of the buildings at a cost of nearly $10 million, which would be offset by some operating income, the report said.

An audit last year showed that the foundation raised $618,595 in 2005 and $1,042,220 last year.”

(Annie Gowen, August 23, 2007, The Washington Post)

The Lorton Arts Foundation fundraised in a big way, lining up dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov for a performance:

“The center has launched a schedule of painting, drawing and yoga classes in a borrowed space at a nearby shopping center; students and teachers will likely move into renovated classrooms on the 55-acre site later this fall. On Sept. 28, a black-tie fundraising gala will feature a performance by dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov, an early supporter.

The gala will be in a former prison gym, where organizers dream of adding heating and air-conditioning and theater seats. For now the digs will remain rustic, although a dance floor was bought to protect Baryshnikov’s toes.”

(Annie Gowen, August 23, 2007, The Washington Post)

Fundraising gala in an old prison gym with no air-conditioning, but with a new dance floor for Mikhail Baryshnikov, what ambition!

Some local experts expressed skepticism that regional fundraising could suffice:

“Some experts have privately expressed skepticism, noting that the foundation will not only have to compete with other organizations building arts facilities — such as an endowment campaign by George Mason University, which is planning a $56 million performing arts center at its Prince William County campus — but private groups searching for money for other Laurel Hill projects. …

“It’s going to be hard, just like it’s hard for us,” said Brian Marcus, associate dean for development at George Mason’s College of Visual and Performing Arts. Fundraisers for GMU and its local partners, Manassas and Prince William County, have raised $5 million of the planned $15 million for the opera center’s endowment but are still seeking $4 million for construction.”

(Annie Gowen, August 23, 2007, The Washington Post)

As George Mason University’s Brian Marcus politely suggested, the legacy of George Mason – a United States founding father, of the Gunston Hall plantation near Lorton as earlier reviewed – loomed large that the former DC Workhouse and Reformatory would have to compete with on the fundraising stage – obviously from an inferior position.

Furthermore, George Mason’s wealthy tobacco plantation days were long gone. As of 2007, Fairfax County’s arts market lagged far behind similar U.S. regions’:

““Fundraising is highly competitive right now, especially in an area like Northern Virginia with the construction industry the way it is right now,” Marcus said. Developers used to be good targets for fundraisers, but “they’re not feeling as comfortable making significant gifts right now, so the timing is not the greatest,” …

The market might be there, and there is room for growth in Fairfax County, where the arts are a $77.5 million industry, according to a recent study by Americans for the Arts, a nonprofit advocacy group. Nationally, the average for communities with populations of more than a million is $267 million.

Jim Steele, a board member of the Arts Council of Fairfax County, said the southeastern end of the county has been underserved for a long time. The demand for reasonably priced studio and exhibit space in Northern Virginia remains high, he said. The Torpedo Factory has a long waiting list of artists wanting studio space.”

(Annie Gowen, August 23, 2007, The Washington Post)

A $77.5 million arts industry in Fairfax County versus the national average of $267 million, but no shortage of artists – a long waiting list at the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria, where the Fairfax County courthouse was in George Mason’s era as previously reviewed.

But Alexandria is no longer in Fairfax County. As reviewed before, George Washington’s family had been instrumental in founding the Potomac River port town in eastern Fairfax County; it was then brought by Washington, the founding U.S. president, into the U.S. capital District of Columbia, was later returned to Virginia and is today an independent city in Virginia:

“In 1791, George Washington included portions of the City of Alexandria in what was to become the District of Columbia. That portion was given back to Virginia in 1846 and the City of Alexandria was re-chartered in 1852. In 1870, the City of Alexandria became independent of Alexandria County, with the remainder of the County changing its name to Arlington County in 1920.”

(“Northern Virginia Hazard Mitigation Plan Update, Chapter 3: Regional Information”, 2012, City of Alexandria)

President Washington had the interest of the city, one the busiest U.S. ports, at his heart, personally ensuring its inclusion in the capital D.C.:

“The Residence Act of July 16, 1790, as amended March 3, 1791, authorized President George Washington to select a 100-square-mile site for the national capital on the Potomac River between Alexandria, Virginia, and Williamsport, Maryland. President Washington selected the southernmost location within these limits, so that the capital would include all of present-day Old Town Alexandria, then one of the four busiest ports in the country. Acting on instructions from Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, Major Andrew Ellicott began surveying the ten-mile square on February 12, 1791.”

(“Boundary Stones of the District of Columbia”, boundarystones.org)

Alexandria’s Christ Church was founded in 1751 by the Anglican Truro Parish based at Pohick Church, the family church of both Mason and Washington, like the D.C. prison in today’s Lorton northeast of the Occoquan River, a border with Prince William County as previously reviewed.

(“History of Pohick Church”, Pohick Church)

According to his step-grandaughter and adopted daughter Nelly Custis-Lewis, George Washington religiously attended Sunday services at Pohick Church or Christ Church:

“Truro Parish is the one in which Mount Vernon, Pohick Church, and Woodlawn are situated. Fairfax Parish is now Alexandria. Before the Federal District was ceded to Congress, Alexandria was in Fairfax County. General Washington had a pew in Pohick Church, and one in Christ Church at Alexandria. He was very instrumental in establishing Pohick Church, and I believe subscribed largely. His pew was near the pulpit. I have a perfect recollection of being there, before his election to the presidency, with him and my grandmother. It was a beautiful church, and had a large, respectable, and wealthy congregation, who were regular attendants.

He attended the church at Alexandria when the weather and roads permitted a ride of ten miles. In New York and Philadelphia he never omitted attendance at church in the morning, unless detained by indisposition. The afternoon was spent in his own room at home; the evening with his family, and without company. Sometimes an old and intimate friend called to see us for an hour or two; but visiting and visitors were prohibited for that day.”

(“George Washington’s Adopted Daughter Discusses Washington’s Religious Character”, Nelly Custis-Lewis, February 26, 1833, Constitution Society)

Ironically, the American Revolution led by Washington and others ended the official church status in the U.S. for Britain’s Anglican Church, to which Pohick Church and Christ Church belonged. The U.S. Anglican Church separated from the Church of England and was renamed the Episcopal Church. Declines ensued; many parishes were disbanded. Fortunately, the beautiful Pohick Church with a wealthy congregation as Nelly Custis-Lewis noted, continued to thrive, no doubt supported by its members’ wealth:

“After the Revolutionary War, with the Religious Freedom Act of 1785, Virginia formally disestablished the Church of England as the official church of the Commonwealth. Episcopal churches (as they came to be called) underwent difficult times. Deprived of their clergy, their church lands often seized, many congregations totally disbanded. Still, services continued at Pohick, with Parson Mason Locke Weems, Washington’s first biographer (and first raconteur of the famous Cherry Tree story), taking services on occasion from the turn of the nineteenth century until as late as 1817.

One worshiper at the time, John Davis, describes the persevering vitality of parish life at Pohick in 1801: “About eight miles from Occoquan Mills is a place of worship called Powhick Church. Thither I rode on Sunday and joined the congregation of Parson Weems, a Minister of the Episcopal persuasion, who was cheerful in his mein that he might win men to religion. A Virginia Churchyard on Sunday resembles rather a race-course than a sepulchral ground . . . . [thus] I was confounded on first entering the Churchyard to hear ‘Steed threaten Steed with high and boastful neigh.’ Nor was I less stunned with the rattling of carriage-wheels, the cracking of whips and the vociferations of the gentlemen . . . . But the discourse of Parson Weems calmed every perturbation, for he preached the great doctrines of Salvation as one who had experienced their power.””

(“History of Pohick Church”, Pohick Church)

The American Revolution also led to major changes in the lives of black people, and in his book traveler John Davis also wrote of impressions of blacks at Pohick Church:

“… the ladies come to it in carriages, and the men after dismounting from their horses make them fast to the trees. …

… and the vociferations of the gentlemen to the negroes who accompanied them. But the discourse of Parson Weems calmed every perturbation; for he preached the great doctrines of Salvation …

Of the congregation at Powheek Church, about one half was composed of white people, and the other of negroes. …

After church I made my salutation to Parson Weems, and having turned the discourse to divine worship, I asked him his opinion of the piety of the blacks. “Sir,” said he, “no people in this country prize the sabbath more seriously than the trampled-upon negroes. They are swift to hear; they seem to hear as for their lives. They are wakeful, serious, reverent, and attentive in God’s house; and gladly embrace opportunities of hearing his word. Oh! it is sweet preaching, when people are desirous of hearing! Sweet feeding the flock of Christ, when they have so good an appetite!””

(John Davis, Travels of Four Years and a Half: In the United States of America; During 1798, 1799, 1800, 1801, and 1802, 1803, Applewood Books)

No mention of white-black segregation at the Sunday service beyond their being two halves – “in God’s house” according to the famed Rev. Parson Mason Locke Weems.

The church segregation standard of that era, if blacks were allowed in a white church at all, was their sitting in the back or in the balconies, according to filmmaker Marilyn Mellowes:

“Some white owners allowed the enslaved to worship in white churches, where they were segregated in the back of the building or in the balconies.”

(“The Black Church”, Marilyn Mellowes, God in America, PBS)

Pohick Church’s own history account notes that part of the black half Davis saw in 1801 had been recently freed by George Washington’s widow Martha:

“Undoubtedly those in the second group included many former slaves freed by Martha Washington on January 1st of that same year.”

(“History of Pohick Church”, Pohick Church)

That could be why so many blacks were desirous in Pohick Church, that many were now free persons.

When George Washington took control of his Mount Vernon family plantation in 1757, Fairfax County had a large slave population, around 28% of the total, growing to over 40% by the American Revolution’s end. Washington was both a large land owner – with around 7,600 acres, about half of George Mason’s 15,000 acres as previously cited – and a major slave owner, by the time of his 1799 death owning 318 slaves, about 90% of the Mt. Vernon plantation population.

(“George Washington and Slavery”, Mary V. Thompson, George Washington’s Mount Vernon; and, “The private Lives of George Washington’s Slaves”, Mary V. Thompson, Frontline, PBS)

But most of the slaves were not exactly Washington’s but his wife’s, from his January 1759 marriage to wealthy widow Martha Dandridge Custis:

“… It was after his marriage to Martha Dandridge Custis in January of 1759 that Washington’s slaveholdings increased dramatically. His young bride was the widow of a wealthy planter, Daniel Parke Custis, who died without a will in 1757; her share of the Custis estate brought another eighty-four slaves to Mount Vernon. In the sixteen years between his marriage and the beginning of the American Revolution, Washington acquired slightly more than 40 additional slaves through purchase. Most of the subsequent increase in the slave population at Mount Vernon occurred as a result of the large number of children born on the estate.”

(Mary V. Thompson, George Washington’s Mount Vernon)

After the American Revolution, abolition of slavery gained popularity. In 1780, the state of Pennsylvania enacted the Gradual Abolition Act, granting slaves freedom in various situations. With the construction of the U.S. Capitol during George Washington’s presidency, Philadelphia became the temporary capital in 1790 and the Washingtons brought along some household slaves to that city. In 1791 when U.S. Attorney General Edmund Randolph lost some slaves due to the Gradual Abolition Act, he immediately informed Martha Washington and George Washington’s Chief Secretary Tobias Lear, warning of what could happen to the Washingtons’ slaves; Lear then wrote to George Washington for his directions:

“The Attorney General called upon Mrs Washington today, and informed her that three of his Negroes had given him notice that they should tomorrow take advantage of a law of this State, and claim their freedom — and that he had mentioned it to her from an idea that those who were of age in this family might follow the example, after a residence of six months should put it in their power. I have therefore communicated it to you that you might, if you thought best, give directions in the matter respecting the blacks in this family.”

(“Washington, the Enslaved, and the 1780 Law”, Edward Lawler, Jr., The President’s House in Philadelphia, ushistory.org)

On April 12, 1791, President Washington replied with his understanding and decision:

“The Attorney-General’s case and mine I conceive from a conversation I had with him respecting our Slaves, is some what different. He in order to qualify himself for practice in the Courts of Pennsylvania, was obliged to take the Oaths of Citizenship to that State; whilst my residence is incidental as an Officer of Government only, but whether among people who are in the practice of enticing slaves even where there is no colour of law for it, this distinction will avail, I know not, and therefore beg you will take the best advice you can on the subject, and in case it shall be found that any of my Slaves may, or any of them shall attempt their freedom at the expiration of six months, it is my wish and desire that you should send the whole, or such part of them as Mrs. Washington may not chuse [sic] to keep, home — for although I do not think they would be benefitted by the change, yet the idea of freedom might be too great a temptation for them to resist. At any rate it might, if they conceived they had a right to it, make them insolent in a State of Slavery. As all except Hercules and Paris are dower negroes, it behooves me to prevent the emancipation of them, otherwise I shall not only loose the use of them, but may have them to pay for. If upon taking good advice it is found expedient to send them back to Virginia, I wish to have it accomplished under the pretext that may deceive both them and the Public; — and none I think would so effectually do this as Mrs. Washington coming to Virginia next month (toward the middle or latter end of it, as she seemed to have a wish to do) if she can accomplish it by any convenient and agreeable means, with the assistance of the Stage Horses etc.”

(Edward Lawler, Jr., ushistory.org)

As Washington understood it, the Attorney General took the Oath of Citizenship of Pennsylvania in order to practice law in that state’s courts, and consequently lost some accompanying slaves to freedom, but as a temporary resident Washington himself was only subject to a 6-month residency rule, that his slaves could get freedom after 6 months. Thus, his instruction to his Chief Secretary was to transport the slaves out of the state prior to the 6-month deadline, with an excuse that would keep them and the public unaware of the reason: “I wish to have it accomplished under the pretext that may deceive both them and the Public”.

Washington also stated his views on holding slaves: for one, he did not think freedom would be good for them, but they might think otherwise: “for although I do not think they would be benefitted by the change, yet the idea of freedom might be too great a temptation for them to resist”; and for another, except Hercules and Paris whom he named, they were his wife’s “dower” slaves, their freedom could mean monetary penalty for him, and so he needed to prevent it: “As all except Hercules and Paris are dower negroes, it behooves me to prevent the emancipation of them, otherwise I shall not only loose the use of them, but may have them to pay for.”

That was the kind of situation George Washington was in, that even if he had granted freedom to his family slaves, it would have applied only to a minority of them, not to the dower slaves who had come with his wife in their marriage.

In practice, it probably would have been difficult for Washington to let go of his own slaves and use hired labor when his wife’s lifestyle relied on a full suite of slave servants.

Washington’s “dower negroes” dilemma became well known decades later in 1845 when a runaway slave maid of Martha Washington’s, Ona Maria Judge, achieved fame telling the story of her escape, and that she did not want to be a future slave of a granddaughter of Martha’s:

“There is now living in the borders of the town of Greenland, N.H., a runaway slave of Gen. Washington, at present supported by the County of Rockingham. Her name at the time of her elopement was ONA MARIA JUDGE. She is not able to give the year of her escape, but says that she came from Philadelphia just after the close of Washington’s second term of the Presidency, which must fix it somewhere in the [early?] part of the year 1797.

Being a waiting maid of Mrs. Washington, she was not exposed to any peculiar hardships. If asked why she did not remain in his service, she gives two reasons, first, that she wanted to be free; secondly that she understood that after the decease of her master and mistress, she was to become the property of a grand-daughter of theirs, by name of Custis, and that she was determined never to be her slave.

Being asked how she escaped, she replied substantially as follows, “Whilst they were packing up to go to Virginia, I was packing to go, I didn’t know where; for I knew that if I went back to Virginia, I should never get my liberty. I had friends among the colored people of Philadelphia, had my things carried there beforehand, and left Washington’s house while they were eating dinner.”

Washington made two attempts to recover her. First, he sent a man by the name of Bassett to persuade her to return; but she resisted all the argument he employed for this end. He told her they would set her free when she arrived at Mount Vernon, to which she replied, “I am free now and choose to remain so.”

Finding all attempts to seduce her to slavery again in this manner useless, Bassett was sent once more by Washington, with orders to bring her and her infant child by force. The messenger, being acquainted with Gov. [then Senator John] Langdon, then of Portsmouth, took up lodgings with him, and disclosed to him the object of his mission.

The good old Governor. (to his honor be it spoken), must have possessed something of the spirit of modern anti-slavery. He entertained Bassett very handsomely, and in the meantime sent word to Mrs. Staines, to leave town before twelve o’clock at night, which she did, retired to a place of concealment, and escaped the clutches of the oppressor.

Shortly after this, Washington died, and, said she, “they never troubled me any more after he was gone. …”

(“Washington’s Runaway Slave”, Rev. T. H. Adams, May 22, 1845, Two 1840s Articles on Oney Judge, ushistory.org)

So in 1797 as George Washington’s presidency ended in Philadelphia, Miss Oney Judge, a slave maid of Martha’s, parted ways with the Washingtons and ran away to New Hampshire as they were to return to Virginia.

George Washington’s public image of Christian devotion was also challenged by Mrs. Judge Staines:

“She says that she never received the least mental or moral instruction, of any kind, while she remained in Washington’s family. But, after she came to Portsmouth, she learned to read; and when Elias Smith first preached in Portsmouth, she professes to have been converted to Christianity.

… She says that the stories told of Washington’s piety and prayers, so far as she ever saw or heard while she was his slave, have no foundation. Card-playing and wine-drinking were the business at his parties, and he had more of such company Sundays than on any other day. …

This woman is yet a slave. If Washington could have got her and her child, they were constitutionally his; and if Mrs. Washington’s heirs were now to claim her, and take her before Judge Woodbury, and prove their title, he would be bound, upon his oath, to deliver her up to them. Again — Langdon was guilty of a moral violation of the Constitution, in giving this woman notice of the agent being after her. …

Mrs. Staines was given verbally, if not legally, by Mrs. Washington, to Eliza Custis, her grand-daughter.”

(“1846 interview with Ona Judge Staines”, Rev. Benjamin Chase, January 1, 1847, Two 1840s Articles on Oney Judge, ushistory.org)

The runaway slave’s first-person account of Sunday card-playing and wine-drinking parties directly contradicted George Washington’s religious character attested to by his step-granddaughter Nelly Custis-Lewis.

Nelly was a sister of Eliza Custis to whom their grandmother Martha had promised this slave.

(“Martha Parke Custis Peter”, Wendy Kail, The Papers of George Washington)

On the other hand, such a portrayal of George Washington as lacking religious devotion might explain his lack of religious preference for his slaves, which he once wrote about:

“I am informed that a Ship with Palatines is gone up to Baltimore, among whom are a number of Trademen. I am a good deal in want of a House Joiner and Bricklayer, (who really understand their profession) and you would do me a favor by purchasing one of each, for me. I would not confine you to Palatines. If they are good workmen, they may be of Asia, Africa, or Europe. They may be Mahometans, Jews or Christian of an Sect, or they may be Athiests.”

(George Washington, John Clement Fitzpatrick edited, The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources, 1745-1799, Volume 27, 1938, United States Government Printing Office)

In his will, George Washington stipulated freeing all of his own slaves, 123 of them, upon his wife’s death; but the dower slaves of Martha’s – Oney Judge was obviously one – by Virginia’s slavery law belonged to the Custis estate:

“Of the 318 slaves at Mount Vernon in 1799, 123 individuals were owned by George Washington and were stipulated in Washington’s will to be freed upon his wife’s death. …

Neither George nor Martha Washington could free these dower slaves by law. Upon her death the slaves would revert to the Custis estate and be divided among her grandchildren.”

(“Status of Slaves in Washington’s Will”, George Washington’s Mount Vernon)

After Washington’s death, his wife had fear that his 123 slaves could revolt and kill her:

“There was a fear that these slaves could revolt and kill Martha in order to gain their freedom. Rumors circulated about a suspicious fire at Mount Vernon that may have been set by slaves.”

(“Ten Facts About Martha Washington”, George Washington’s Mount Vernon)

U.S. President John Adams’s wife Abigail helped Martha Washington decide to free George Washington’s slaves:

“Abigail Adams, wife of President John Adams, visited Martha at Mount Vernon in 1800 and wrote “in the state in which they [the slaves] were left by the General, to be free at her death, she did not feel as tho her Life was safe in their Hands, many of whom would be told it was there interest to get rid of her—She therefore was advised to set them all free at the close of the year.”

(Helen Bryan, Martha Washington: First Lady of Liberty, 2002, John Wiley & sons)

So there they were in 1801 when John Davis attended Rev. Weems’s service at Pohick Church, many among the reverent black half of the congregation were George Washington’s former slaves set free on January 1 by his widow Martha.

Despite her goodwill to alleviate her fear, Martha became ill by October and died on May 22, 1802.

George Washington’s friend and fellow U.S. founding father, George Mason IV of Gunston Hall, died in 1792 without in his will freeing any of his 300 or so slaves, despite his famously strong views against slavery: 

“Possibly the second largest slave owner in Fairfax County (after George Washington), Mason’s views on slavery are revealed in his writings. He intensely disliked and disapproved of the institution and argued against it. He wrote:

[Slavery is a] slow Poison, which is daily contaminating the Minds & Morals of our People. Every Gentleman here is born a petty Tyrant…. And in such an infernal School are to be educated our future Legislators & Rulers.

… At the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787 he said:

Every master of slaves is born a petty tyrant. [Slaves] bring the judgment of heaven on a Country. As nations can not [sic] be rewarded or punished in the next world they must be in this. …

Although opposed to slavery, Mason remained a slave owner until the end of his life. His lengthy will, which named 36 slaves individually, manumitted none of them.”

(“George Mason’s Views on Slavery”, George Mason’s Gunston Hall)

Decades later in 1849 – after the Ona Maria Judge stories about Washington – George Mason’s grandson Gerard was killed by a slave:

Woodbridge plantation was located on the Occoquan River, opposite the old town of Colchester, Virginia. It consisted of lands patented by George Mason III, the father of George Mason of Gunston Hall. …

In 1792 George Mason of Gunston Hall willed this land, along with the ferry, to his youngest son, Thomas. …

Unfortunately, Thomas’ political and agricultural careers were cut short when he died in 1800 at the early age of thirty. The exact cause of Thomas’ death is unknown. … The ferry house remained within the family because Gerard Mason, Thomas’ oldest child, was living there in 1849 when he was found slain there by his own slave.”

(“Woodbridge”, George Mason’s Gunston Hall)

So there was at least one known instance where a slave murdered his U.S. founding-father family master.

Dying young was not uncommon in the Mason family as reviewed before: all 3 of George Mason VI’s sons died young in the 19th century, and Gunston Hall was later sold outside the family.

Less than 2 months after Martha Washington’s death her grandson George Washington Parke Custis, George Washington’s adopted son and brother of Nelly and Eliza, donated one of George Washington’s bibles to Pohick Church, with a telling inscription referring to his concern that this church could cease to be:

“Presented to Truro Parish for the use of Pohick Church, July 11, 1802. With the request that should said church cease to be appropriated to Divine worship which God forbid, and for the honor of Christianity, it is hoped will never take place. In such case I desire that the vestry will preserve this Bible as a testimony of regard from the subscriber after a residence of 19 years in the Parish. – George Washington Parke Custis.”

(“The Truth about George Washington’s Presidential Inaugural Bible”, Catherine Millard, Summer 2012, Christian Heritage News)

Who would want to end such a proud legacy, the family church of George Washington and George Mason?

Demographic changes led to some declines. As previously cited of former Lorton Arts Foundation president Irma Clifton, the town of Colchester at the Occoquan River mouth, founded by the Mason family of Gunston Hall nearby, into the 19th century declined and was nearly wiped out by an 1815 fire. In this declining period George Mason VI was Gunston Hall’s owner, and following his 1834 death his sons lived only to their 20s, and the plantation was ravaged by the Civil War before being sold.

Pohick Church also suffered decline, neglect and Civil War ravages.

After an 1837 visit to a nearly abandoned Pohick Church – Virginia Theological Seminary students led sporadic services there and the Methodists used it on alternate Sundays – Virginia Episcopal Bishop William Meade conveyed his sense of shock at the 1838 church convention:

“My next visit was to Pohick Church, in the vicinity of Mt. Vernon, the seat of General Washington. It was still raining when I approached the house, and found no one there. The wide open doors invited me to enter, as they do invite, day and night through the year, not only the passing traveller, but every beast of the field and fowl of the air . . . How could I, while for at least an hour traversing those long aisles, ascending the lofty pulpit, entering the sacred chancel, forbear to ask, ‘And is this the House of God which was built by the Washingtons, the McCartys, the Lewises, the Fairfaxes?—the house in which they used to worship the God of our fathers according to the venerable forms of the Episcopal Church, and some of whose names are still to be seen on the doors of those now deserted pews? Is this also destined to moulder piecemeal away, or, when some signal is given, to become the prey of spoilers, and to be carried hither and thither and applied to every purpose under heaven?’ Surely patriotism, or reverence for the greatest of patriots, if not religion, might be effectually appealed to in behalf of this one temple of God.”

(“History of Pohick Church”, Pohick Church)

The Virginia Bishop’s call for “patriotism”, “if not religion”, to save this “House of God” “built by the Washingtons” and others, was answered by Rev. W. P. C. Johnson, who became Pohick Church’s rector and launched a national campaign for renovation donations, to which contributions were made by U.S. President Martin Van Buren, former President John Quincy Adams and other notable Americans. As previously cited, while there Rev. Johnson likely rented living space at the Gunston Hall mansion from George Mason VI’s widow Eleanor Ann Clifton Patton Mason.

After a few short years Johnson left and the church reverted to desolateness. Illustrator and historian Benson J. Lossing visited in December 1848 and recorded his impressions:

“at early twilight [I] reached the venerated Pohick or Powheek Church where Washington worshiped, and Weems, his first biographer, preached. … The twilight lingered long enough with sufficient intensity to allow me to make the annexed sketch from my wagon in the road . . . [the next morning I returned] to Pohick Church, on the road to Alexandria, where I understood a Methodist meeting was to be held that day . . . When they were all assembled, men and women, white and black, the whole congregation, including the writer, amounted to only twenty-one persons. What a contrast with former days, when some of the noblest of the Virginia aristocracy filled those now deserted and dilapidated pews, while Massey or Weems performed the solemn and impressive ritual of the Church of England!”

(“History of Pohick Church”, Pohick Church)

As Lossing noted, a December 1848 Methodist service at Pohick Church had no more than 20 local attendees.

This was close to the scenario George Washington’s step-grandson George Washington Parke Custis had feared, that Pohick Church would “cease to be appropriated to Divine worship which God forbid”.

Perhaps the small group of Methodists were determined to outlast the remaining sporadic Episcopal worshipers and revive Pohick Church as theirs. If so they didn’t succeed, and moved on to Pohick Church’s old site, once known as Occoquan Church as reviewed before, to build their new church:

“In 1857, the first Methodist Church in this community was built. James and John Cranford did much of the work on the new church. The spot selected for it was the former location of the first Pohick Church. When the church was dedicated, it received the name of Lewis Chapel, in honor of the Rev. John Lewis, who inspired the movement.

The Lewis Chapel attendance increased to such a point it became necessary to enlarge the building. This was done by adding ten feet to the rear end, and by taking out the gallery, which had been placed in the front of the church for use by the slaves.”

(“Cranford’s History”, Cranford United Methodist Church)

Apparently as late as 1857 the Methodists made a slave gallery for their new Lewis Chapel at Pohick Church’s old site. In contrast, the historical accounts of Pohick Church since the days of 1801 when Rev. Weems preached, as reviewed above, did not mention any separate balcony or gallery for slaves or blacks.

During this time of the 1840s and 1850s, the slavery abolition movement was growing strong in the northern U.S. as seen in the two quoted articles about Oney Judge, the Washington family’s runaway slave, both written by Christian clergymen, Rev. T. H. Adams and Rev. Benjamin Chase.

Soon the Civil War came in 1861, and Pohick Church was ransacked by Union soldiers from Michigan, who took things apart for their keep, fully aware that this had been George Washington’s church:

“The 2nd Michigan Volunteers, under the command of Brigadier General Samuel P. Heintzelman, conducted the first raid on November 12, 1861. One of those present, Lieutenant Charles B. Haydon, expressed his outrage over the devastation wrought upon the Church: “At 8 ½ A.M. we reached the church 12 miles out. Pohick Church is a brick building built in 1773. Gen. Washington contributed to building it & was a frequent attendant. It has a very ancient look & one would suppose that it might be sacred enough to be secure. I have long known that the Mich 2nd had no fear or reverence as a general thing for God or the places where he is worshiped but I had hoped that the memory of Gen. Washington might protect almost anything with which it was associated. I believe our soldiers would have torn the church down in 2 days. They were all over it in less than 10 minutes tearing off the ornaments, splitting the woodwork and pews, knocking the brick to pieces & everything else they could get at. They wanted pieces to carry away . . . A more absolute set of vandals than our men can not be found on the face of the earth. As true as I am living I believe they would steal Washington’s coffin if they could get to it.””

(“History of Pohick Church”, Pohick Church)

“Patriotism” as Virginia Bishop William Meade had appealed to did not matter to Michigan volunteer soldiers in the Union army: “they would steal Washington’s coffin if they could get to it”.

Such mentalities haven’t changed much in Michigan today, have they, as shown in the pride of preserving and featuring former police jail cells in converted arts centers, in Detroit and in Hamtramck “nestled inside loving arms of Detroit” as previously reviewed?

On the other hand, during the Civil War some Americans likely resented the Washington family, many of whom joined the Southern Confederacy to help preserve slavery:

“The Washington family paid dearly during the war. At least 12 served the Confederacy; eight died in battle, by hanging or of disease. Their estates became battlegrounds; their property was seized; and they were left impoverished.”

(“The Confederate Washingtons”, James H. Johnston, February 15, 2014, The Opinion Pages, The New York Times)

So Pohick Church wasn’t alone in the fate of ravage.

The most famous Washington who joined the Confederacy, and died in war, was John Augustine Washington III, the Mount Vernon plantation’s last family owner, who expressed outrage about such Union soldier behavior, and was soon killed in action – even before Michigan soldiers’ raid on Pohick Church:

“Abraham Lincoln must have been pained by the number of Washingtons on the other side during the Civil War. He idolized George Washington. One of the first books he read as a boy was Parson Weems’s apocryphal biography of the first president, and it made a lasting impression. …

Lincoln might find solace in the fact that none of the Confederate Washingtons were direct descendants of the first president, who didn’t have children But his brothers and half brothers did. They were Virginia aristocracy, marrying the likes of the Lees. Most prominent in Lincoln’s day was the last owner of Mount Vernon, John Augustine Washington III, the great-grandson of George’s brother John. When war came, he walked away from the Union.

John Augustine was not a military man, but he entered the Confederate Army as a lieutenant colonel and aide-de-camp to (and tent mate of) Robert E. Lee, a distant cousin. The pious, gentlemanly Washington quickly turned partisan, explaining in a letter from July 1861: “In fact the Yankees are for the most part a set of plundering fellows, who will steal and bully when they can and do as little fighting as possible.” Two months later, he was shot and killed by such fellows at the Battle of Cheat Mountain, Va. In a condolence letter to Washington’s family, Lee told of the circumstances:

He accompanied my son, Fitshugh, on a reconnoitering expedition and I fear was carried too far by his zeal for the cause of the South which he had so much at heart. Before they were aware they were fired upon by a concealed party. … He was the only person struck and fell dead from his horse.

(James H. Johnston, February 15, 2014, The New York Times)

Fortunately Mt. Vernon and Washington’s tomb, a short distance east of Pohick Church, wasn’t ransacked, thanks to a women’s group, the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association of the Union.

The women had raised money nationally to take over George Washington’s mansion with 200 acres:

“In 1853, Louisa Bird Cunningham was traveling on the Potomac River and passed by Mount Vernon in the moonlight. Struck by its appearance, and fearing that it would soon be lost to the nation for lack of upkeep, Cunningham wrote a letter to her daughter Ann Pamela Cunningham. In the letter, Cunningham commented that if the men of the United States would not save the home of its greatest citizen, perhaps it should be the responsibility of the women.

These words galvanized her daughter into action. Initially writing under the nom de plume, “A Southern Matron,” Ann Pamela Cunningham challenged first the women of the South, and later the women of the entire country to save the home of George Washington. … Cunningham and the organization she had founded, the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association of the Union, raised $200,000 to purchase the mansion and two hundred acres.”

(“Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association”, George Washington’s Mount Vernon)

But it took years before John Augustine Washington III, who wanted the U.S. government or the Virginia government to buy it for $200,000, sold Mt. Vernon to the women; they took possession on George Washington’s birthday a year before the Civil War:

“… But he believed no less piously than Cunningham that the estate should be preserved as a fitting, official memorial to his illustrious ancestor; and to him, that meant that the government—if not of the United States, then of Virginia—should buy it for $200,000 …

Five years later, matters looked very different. An undeterred Cunningham had continued to raise money and had enlisted a powerful ally: the intense, charismatic Edward Everett, a former congressman, Massachusetts governor, Harvard president, ambassador to England, and—briefly— secretary of state and U.S. senator. … So when Cunningham wrote to John Augustine Washington in March 1858 to tell him that the Virginia legislature, like the U.S. Congress, had just voted down a bill to buy Mount Vernon, and to renew her original offer, she was also able to report that she already had in hand more than enough to make a sizable down payment on the $200,000.

In that case, John Augustine wrote back, “believing that after the two highest powers in our country, the Women of the land will probably be the safest as they will be the purest guardians of a national shrine,” he would be pleased to accept Cunningham’s offer… On George Washington’s birthday, February 22, 1860, with the full $200,000 paid, John Augustine Washington moved out of Mount Vernon, and Ann Pamela Cunningham moved into a drafty, leaky house that contained nothing but the key to the Bastille that Lafayette had sent his beloved mentor… and the opulent London-made harpsichord that President Washington had bought for his granddaughter, Nelly Custis, in 1793. Martha Washington’s great-granddaughter, Mrs. Robert E. Lee, had sent the instrument back to Mount Vernon in 1859, when she heard that the MVLA intended to make the house a shrine…”

(“How Private Philanthropy Saved the Founders’ Homes”, Myron Magnet, Autumn 2014,City Journal)

It was a pricey $200,000 for a mansion and 200 acres. As previously cited, George Mason’s Gunston Hall and 1,000 acres sold for only $15,000 in 1866, a year after the Civil War.

The Mount Vernon ladies’ Association of the Union protected Mt. Vernon from warfare by having it declared a neutral territory:

“With the conflict making travel difficult for Cunningham, the estate was managed by two staff members during the Civil War; a Northerner and a Southerner. Cunningham’s secretary, Sarah C. Tracy and Upton H. Herbert, Mount Vernon’s first Resident Superintendent, managed the estate through the war years. There were also free African-American employees working at the estate, including Emily the cook, Priscilla the chambermaid, Frances, a maid, and George, the coachman and general assistant.

Cunningham believed that it was imperative that no military outposts were placed within the borders of the estate in order to physically protect the property. After a visit from Tracy, on July 31, 1861 General Winfield Scott issued Order Number 13, declaring the estate’s status as non-partisan. A large proportion of the visitors during the war were still soldiers, though without military aims. Soldiers who visited the estate were requested to be neither armed nor dressed in military uniform. Such actions ensured that Mount Vernon remained neutral, respected grounds.”

(“The Civil War Years”, George Washington’s Mount Vernon)

U.S. President Abraham Lincoln, his family and his cabinet circle were visitors to Mt. Vernon during the Civil War, but Lincoln did not actually set foot on it – staying on a Union navy boat due to the fragility of the ground’s neutrality:

“When Lincoln was inaugurated on March 4, 1861, some of his wife’s relatives stayed at the White House during the festivities. … On March 20 one of Mary’s cousins wrote home, “We have had a boat at our disposal for several days to pay a visit to Mount Vernon, but so many things have interfered to keep us home.”

The following week while President Lincoln remained in Washington, Mary took her guests to the estate on the steamer Thomas Collyer. …

On December 12, 1861, John Dahlgren of the Washington Navy Yard accompanied some Cabinet members and guests to Mount Vernon. He wrote in his diary, “As the position of our forces here was by no means assured, I considered it very hazardous for such important functionaries to go ashore. However, the whole party went, except him of War, who quietly remained in the steamboat in mid-river.”

In February 1862 Julia Taft, a friend of the Lincoln family, went on a picnic to Mount Vernon with ladies from the newly commissioned Fort Foote across the Potomac River. Their enjoyable day was shortened by the appearance of Confederate troops … The two orderlies who had stayed behind to bring the lunch baskets down to the landing were captured and spent two years in Libby prison.”

Following the February 20, 1862 death of 11-year-old Willie Lincoln, some of Mary Lincoln’s relatives again were in town. On Wednesday, April 2, Dahlgren reported going to Mount Vernon “with the President, some members of his family, and others. I advised the President not to land, and remained in the boat with him.””

(“Mount Vernon”, Abraham Lincoln Online)

The extended Washington family members who joined the Confederacy included the Washingtons’ Alexander family cousins:

“The Washingtons’ first cousins, a branch of the Alexander family, also lived at Claymont and joined the Confederate Army. Thomas Blackburn Alexander died of wounds in a hospital in Staunton, Va.; a second brother, William Fontaine Alexander, served the Confederate Army as a physician.

Claymont, a mansion as big as a modern hotel, was a breeding ground for rebellion. James Washington of Claymont rode with his older brothers Bushrod and George in the 12th Virginia Cavalry and later joined Confederate Col. John Mosby’s Rangers… James and his cousin Herbert Lee Alexander… were captured trying to blow up a railroad bridge. Imprisoned at Fort McHenry in Baltimore, James died of typhoid fever in the waning days of the war. Alexander survived the war, only to die of tuberculosis a year later.”

(James H. Johnston, February 15, 2014, The New York Times)

These Washington family cousins were descendants of Captain John Alexander, an early white settler in Virginia along with ancestors of George Mason and others.

(“John Alexander, Founder of Family in Virginia”, Sigismunda Mary Frances Chapman, A History of Chapman and Alexander Families, Virginia Book Company; and, “Claymont Court”, Washington Heritage Trail).

George Washington’s beloved town of Alexandria was named after this Alexander family, who owned the land:

“John Alexander, 1605 – 1677, emigrated from Scotland to the colony of Virginia around 1653. Alexander became a surveyor, justice of the peace, sheriff and captain of the Stafford County militia. … he is perhaps known best for his purchase of a large land parcel along the Potomac River, part of which, in 1749, became the town of Alexandria.

Surprisingly, the Alexanders were not the moving force in establishing the town of Alexandria. Rather, a group of northern Virginia entrepreneurs and members of the Ohio Company, including Lawrence Washington, George William Fairfax, William Fairfax, John Carlyle, Hugh West, Augustine Washington, Nathaniel Chapman, and others, petitioned the colonial government for establishing a town on the Potomac …

At that time John Alexander’s grandsons Robert and Philip owned the 60 acres of land that became the town of Alexandria. The Alexanders rented out their acreage to tenant farmers. They were not enthusiastic about having their land become a town and preferred to continue to receive income from their tenants. It is said that to “sweeten the transaction,” the Alexanders were told that the new town would be named Alexandria.”

(“John Alexander, Patriot”, John Alexander Chapter, National Society Daughters of American Revolution)

When a family had a great name – like Alexander the Great, founder of Egypt’s historic port of Alexandria – a city was named for them even when they did not want it.

Along with the women’s group Daughters of the American Revolution, the MVLA also contributed to the 1890-1917 restoration of Pohick Church; then on May 29, 1921, U.S. President Warren Harding attended the dedication of a memorial plaque at the Pohick Church cemetery honoring 6 local soldiers killed in World War I.

(“History of Pohick Church”, Pohick Church)

Ironically, the Pohick cemetery is also the final resting place of historic dignitaries whose remains were uprooted elsewhere, including:

Peter Wagener (†1798) — Truro Parish vestryman and officer in the Revolutionary War; originally buried at Stisted plantation, near the now defunct town of Colchester, with other Wagener family and household members.

Hugh West (†1754) — Truro Parish vestryman and founder of Alexandria; originally buried at Cameron with other West family and household members.”

(“The Pohick Church Cemetery”, Pohick Church)

Hugh West isn’t even the the most famous of Alexandria re-buried at Pohick cemetery. A year after Harding’s visit, in 1922 the Alexander family’s remains were moved from their Preston plantation to the Pohick cemetery:

Alexander Family — The remains of members of the Alexander family, for which the city of Alexandria is named, were moved to the Pohick cemetery in 1922 from Preston Plantation.”

(“The Pohick Church Cemetery”, Pohick Church)

The Preston plantation cemetery land became a rail yard.

(“The Archaeological Investigation of the Former Preston Plantation and Alexandria Canal at Potomac Yard. Alexandria, Virginia”, Robert M. Adams, June 1996, Alexandria Archaeology Museum, City of Alexandria)

Another year later in 1923, President Warren Harding suddenly died in San Francisco – the 6th U.S. president and the 3rd from Ohio to die during the presidency.

(“President Harding Dies Suddenly; Stroke of Apoplexy at 7:30 P.M.; Calvin Coolidge Is President”, August 2, 1923, The New York Times)

The year Harding visited Pohick Church, electricity came to the town of Occoquan across the Occoquan River, site of the historic “Occoquan works” where the automatic mill, possibly America’s first, had inspired George Washington to build one at Mt. Vernon as previously reviewed. Then in 1924 a electrical mishap caused a fire and destroyed the mill – at the town that had given Abraham Lincoln all of the 55 votes he got in Prince William County in the historic 1860 presidential election. 

(Earnie Porta, Occoquan, 2010, Arcadia Publishing)

Under the care of the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, George Washington’s Gristmill, among the first handful automated ones in the U.S., continues to run for visitors to see.

Buried at Pohick Church cemetery was also Indian chief “Long Tom”, as the legend goes:

“ALEXANDRIA, Va. Susannah Alexander awoke, grabbed a gun and killed a man pursuing her husband, John, around the room with a hatchet. Then the Alexanders … buried him on a hillside.

The victim was Long Tom, Orinoco Indian chief. John Alexander was a founder of this early American city—and wouldn’t have been except for Susannah’s sudden awakening.

Mention was made of the historical incident at ceremonies in the cemetery of old Pohick Church where John and Susannah—as well as Long Tom—lie buried.”

(“Indian Scare Story”, January 12, 1956, The Nevada Daily Mail)

How true was this “Long Tom” tale, now that we know the Alexander family weren’t founders of Alexandria but for their land?

Pohick Church’s own cemetery account has a “Long Tom” tombstone photo, and states he was “shot and killed by Susanna Alexander either in self-defense or to save the life of her husband, John”, “grandson of Capt. John Alexander, who originally seated Preston before 1677”.

(“The Pohick Church Cemetery”, Pohick Church)

A Captain John Alexander family record lists only one couple of John and Susanna (or Susannah) Alexander in the family tree: John Alexander, 1711-1764, Capt. Alexander’s great-grandson, wife Susanna Pearson, 1717-1788, daughter of Simon Pearson, “proprietor of Pearson’s Island, Alexandria, Va”.

(Sigismunda Mary Frances Chapman, Virginia Book Company)

Was this the one? Quite possibly, an online tombstone photo shows the name of “Susanna Pearson Alexander”.

(“Susanna (Pearson) Alexander. Cemetery: Pohick Churchyard, Lorton, Virginia, United States”, BillionGraves)

Poor Indian chief Long Tom lost to Ms. Susanna Pearson, but they all rest together at the Pohick Church cemetery now – since 1922, after the 1910 opening of the D.C. Correctional Complex that made Lorton well known.

Finally in 2001 those who had “committed ugly actions” – as previously cited – left Lorton, and in 2008 a new era began when the Workhouse Arts Center, in the old prison aspiring to be a nationally prominent arts center someday, held its grand opening:

“The opening celebration, which runs through Sept. 27, will present visitors with a sampling of the center’s offerings, including free workshops, live music and children’s theater performances of “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.””

(“In Lorton, a Prison Success Story”, Amy Orndorff, September 19, 2008, The Washington Post)

Wow, children in today’s Virginia have been indoctrinated with teachings about the Alexander family’s misfortunes!

Not really.

“Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day”, is a 1972 children’s novel about a day’s mishaps for school boy Alexander and his family, written by author Judith Viorst and turned into a theater play staged by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. and nationally, and is now also a Disney movie.

(“Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day”, The Kennedy Center; and, “Disney, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day”, Disney Movies)

Oh well, still a “very bad day” for an arts center’s grand opening.

(To be continued in Part 5)

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