Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Almeda, CBC and Fake News

Alameda University and Master of Divinity and Fake News
-William Hay, MD FRCPC CCSAM

I wrote about this some years back but the twisted tale gets even more convoluted. I told Dr. James Houston the former chancellor of Regent College that God had a sense of humor.  Dr. Houston has a great sense of humor and he thought this a funny story indeed.

It’s most recent twist is a request from a CBC news reporter to discuss my Almeda Degree. I’ve been vociferous about CBC Fake News for a year, which is rather disappointing as I’ve been a fan of CBC programs for decades. How sad that CBC News once reliable has gone over to the Dark Side.

I have lots of prestigious “Paper’, a Medical Degree from University of Manitoba, and a Canadian Fellowship in the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons. In addition I had my FLEX, the American Medical Degree, and subspeciality certification in Addiction Medicine, in Canada, the US and Internationally.  I’ve taught at University of Manitoba and the University of British Columbia.  I’ve 30 years of medical and psychiatric clinical experience and am an acknowledged expert in Canadian and American courts.  

I didn’t ‘need’ more paper.  But I’m a Ship’s Captain having sailed solo in winter to Hawaii.  Technically I can ‘marry’ at sea but I wanted a piece of paper. My psychiatrist friend had got a piece of paper on line and married his daughter and I thought such a diploma might come in a handy if I wanted to place a blessing and a curse on some unsuspecting couple. I’m personally divocred and women have aborted my babies suggesting that even the idea of being married by someone such as myself would be suspicious. A fake marriage? 

I also have been studying Spirituality and Christian theology formally for longer than I have been a doctor. At the University of Winnipeg I studied Literature of the Bible with Dr. Carl Ridd back in the 70’s.  I grew up a Christian and have studied the Bible and Christianity all my life, studying all manner of courses in churches and teaching Christianity, prayer and meditation. I published a number of papers on Christianity, religious studies and comparative religions.  The most prestigious was an article I published in the Journal of Science and Religion.  
I also studied Yoga with the Self Realization Fellowship of Paramahansa Yogananda obtaining my diploma from that institute, travelling to Encinadas and later India.  That was back in the 70’s and 80’s before I studied Hypnosis and Self Hypnosis with the Ericksonian Institute.  A long time fan of Dr. Herbert Benson’s Relaxation Response I published a paper on meditation and blood pressure treatment back when I was delivering babies and doing surgery. 

Around that time I was asked to teach a class of young women Hatha yoga and threw out my bag trying to impress these girls with a humble presentation meant to help overcome ego. 

I have never missed an opportunity to study with religious leaders of a variety of religions, spending hours in sweat lodges with indigenous elders, going through various ceremonies, studying Tai Chi and taoism, studying Buddhism with a fellow physician, taking courses in Hinduism, learning from a Sufi, spending time with an Orthodox scholar, dating a Bahi and an aetheist and learning from osmosis. I have learned from Sikhs and Hindus and recently from a Zoroastrian.  I studied the Classics and learned the pagan religions of Greece, Rome and Egypt. I have enjoyed  reading the major texts of world religions.  I read the Torah and discussed Judaism at length with my mensch friend Sam and took guidance from Dr. Rabbi Twerski. I definitely enjoyed meeting the Dalai Lama and Bishop Tutu and have been blessed in countless spiritual encounters with men and women I could only admire and hope perhaps to emulate in some small way.

Though I ‘d been president of Amalgated Baptist Youth groups I would go on to publish a paper on how I was a better doctor than I was a Christian in the Medical Post. .  This was around the time when I had travelled to Israel on pilgrimage and began decades of travel to various spiritual sites, often designated Heritage sites.  One day I hope to write a book of these travels and the meaning they had for me. I’ve blogged them with the photographs I’ve taken and discussed the various followers I’ve talked with along with the spiritual leaders I’ve met.

About 20 years ago I began studying theology in night school formally focussing on Christian Spirituality, taking many courses over the years at Vancouver School of Theology, St. Mark’s Catholic College and Regent College.  I’d also taken church courses like Alpha and studied the Holy Spirit with the Pentecostals. I was meditating with a Benedictine Nun at the time and reading books like neuroscientist’s Mario de Beuregaard’s Spiritual Brain.  I especially liked How the Irish Saved Civilization series too. Though raised Baptist and been a member of the United Church of Canada I was formally baptized Anglican and became a reader at Christ Church Cathedral.  

I was doing readings and discussing ministry with pastors and ministers and thought I’d like a Masters of Divinity in Christian Spirituality or Ecumenical Studies.  This would allow me to marry on my yacht, a dubious matter and would also document this informal aspect of my training which was increasingly a direction I was taking in my addiction medicine clinical work where it was obvious that addiction was conceptualized not just as a disease but also a spiritual malaise.  

When I looked for an institute that would provide such a degree I found that none were indeed ecumenical. I could get a masters in religious studies and having shared with various institutes what I had accomplished was repeatedly told that I could indeed obtain with some extra study what I wanted but nothing was ‘ecumenical’.  Comparative religions yes, religious studies yes, but nothing like Christian Ecumenical Spirituality.  The Baptists have their M Div universities, the United Church theirs , the Catholics theirs, the Hindus and Muslims and Taoist their’s . I found that interesting because it appeared the religions had attempted through actual amalgamation religions like the Bahai’s and perhaps Muslims and  perhaps Mormons to create a religious equivalent of Esperanzo while individually academically  they really were quite divided.  I didn’t want an Anglican Master of Divinity as I really didn’t want a job. I was a Doctor. 

The music director of my church called me, a Christian Psychiatrist, an Oxymoron because Freud had been an aetheist and he considered psychiatrists Priests of Science. I told him that while I was Freudian trained I’d also studied in depth the theist Dr. Carl Jung and been mentored by the great Christian spiritual psychiatrists Dr. White, Dr. Gutowski and Dr. Ney. 

That’s when I came across the idea in California of on line degrees based on experience and review and questions by on line faculty.  I liked the secular nature of Almeda ironically and frankly for $1000 I was pleased to get an Almeda University degree that was backed by the government of California.  The process of finding all the paper that supported the above studies and more, getting the various universities to forward evidence of my attendance, finding copies of publications and answering endless questions in this regards was itself fascinating. Then I got this diploma.  

Psychologically at the time I was also somewhat miffed by the general institutional university’s monetary elitism as the costs of study were becoming exorbitant and exclusive for my patients.  I had had scholarlships but the education debts that my patients carried were a form of indentured servitude. Yet their future employment increasingly depended on these diplomas. Also increasingly students from other countries arrived with diplomas which had no real equivalency with Canadian or American or British or European or Indian or South African degrees. I saw an increasing disparity in this and learned around the same time that the University of Toronto had granted medical degrees to students who had been failed by the faculty but by threatening legal action passed by the administration.  In California there were simply not enough positions for the number of people who wanted to study and on line universities were becoming the answer.  I’d studied Aboriginal Studies in distance learning from University of Waterloo in the 80’s and have maintained my medical scholarship in part by constant listening to medical tapes, then discs the USB sticks in my car or truck.

I supported this process and thought there really was a place for experiential equivalency. This came about when I was training nurse practitioners who were doing the work of a general practitioner though not in a hospital setting.  I thought Almeda was a phenomena but clearly institutions have an invested interest in exclusivity and branding.  

I followed the scandal of Almeda and other on line institutions which were increasingly exposed as traditional and conventional universities increasingly replaced these original rogues with their own brands. 

At the time I was asked to be on the board of an off shore medical university by a former ambassador. The whole issue of education changing with some off shore universities being acknowledged as equivalent while others didn’t meet the varying standards.  It was also apparent that much of the certification process at the institutional level depended on whose hand your greased and by how much.  

I’d met doctors from some countries who knew less than first year medical students while some countries graduated doctors superior to myself and classmates. When I was accepted for a position at Stanford I was considered one of the ‘foreign doctors’ and discussed this when I was interviewed at Berkeley and in a Virginia position.  Increasingly much of Continuing Medical Education, which I’ve dutifully completed with honours and excess is highly suspect.

About the same time a beurocratic doctor who to my mind was best described as frankly, stupid, and  received an honary degree causing me to reflect on the whole ‘business’ of education for  cash and influence of the honorary degree. Wasnt the online experiential degree an honourable extension of this existing questionable practice?  

I just learned that the Engineers are adamantly questioning the relevance of professional studies past training since the nature of professional standards is self study and self awareness and task specific. Now i’ve heard that many other professions are questioning the training in their departments and finding that these certifications and recertification amount to little more than a money grab as they’ve been shown increasingly to be scientifically irrelevant.  They have made a very lucrative business of charging students who agreed to pay up front over and over again for the same training which is increasingly irrelevant to the older members in the field. 

My Queen’s Counsel friend shared one night how his legal work is so highly subspecialized that there are only 2 or 3 in Canada doing it. The continuing legal education in his field is generally set by academics at the level of law students with little relevance given the generalities of the knowledge base. I feel the same. Worse in my continuing medical education certified training there are increasing sign in sheets and the didactic lectures are the only thing valued by these low brows in the increasing policing of doctors education by low level political factions intent on making more money as ‘educators’.  The best education I have at conferences is the discussions over coffee with colleagues and rarely in the didactic presentations where we go back to sitting in desks and being obedient students as fun as that is.

So psychologically I was glad to have this On Line Degree and put it up on my wall . I’d a diploma up there also which declared  “I bought the band a drink’.   Indeed it is one of the fancier ones and was only first noticed months after I put it on the wall.  Both degrees allowed me to ask patients what they wanted a degree for and what was education. I've been encouraging patients for ever to get education while bemoaning Canada's tendency to mediocrity. A master's degree is well supported in Canada and repays the effort but my phD friends and medicine specialists versus surgeons feel that the further specialization its not reimbursed as it is in the US and Europe. 

It could be said that I had some ambivalence about the academic institutions especially since a government in my former home province had under funded education with the result that my own Medical Degree, once one of the top three in Canada had been devalued by these thug politicians none of whom had much education at all among themselves.  There was a mediocrity growing in Canada and the education systems were in chaos. My second university had fallen in 'value' whereas my first and third degrees were ''devalued". 

My father used to complain that he had to stop hiring union men because increasingly the carpenters despite their “trade” papers seemed solely to be incestuously related but lacking the the capacity to distinguish hammer from saw. In those contracts he was required to hire union he was hard pressed to complete the job as opposed to other contracts where he could hire individually according to merit.

In Canada the illiteracy rate of high school graduates with the stoppage of national high school proficiency exams became such an issue that universities eventually introduced admission exams because Canadian high school diplomas no longer had currency with institutions of higher learning. Many argued the was a product of liberalism socialist  or communist influence. Everyone was. ‘Entitled’ to a degree rather than being required to ‘earn’ a degree.

It was also easier and cheaper for me to get an American license to practice medicine than to great a Canadian license in another province because of the increasing politicization and Balkanization of education in Canada. It remains the case that Ontario doesn't quite acknowledge medical education from other provinces charging several order more to Canadians to have their training acknowledged than any province charges Ontario in return despite Ontario degrees being the most suspicious in the country given how many are obtained by legal threat.  

Spiritually I was amused at the degree too. One of  my favourite religious teachers had been Brother Lawrence who was the monastery’s kitchen help.  

Then I heard Almeda as an institution died. The folk just closed up shop. This interesting innovator It was presumably beaten down by existing institutions and laws and killed.  I really don't know what they did to bring upon themselves systemic wrath but the there obviously was some back rooms decision to regulate the university degree granting process. 

This was at the time I’d bought a hard bottomed rubber boat which sprung a leak.  When I tried to get parts the company had gone out of business.   This was just capitalism and market forces at work. The same had occurred with the radar I had when it was damaged. I couldn’t get parts. I have a hard drive from a company now defunct and I only learned of it when I found it didn't interface with new software. Interesting exclusive parallels with market forces and centralized regulatory forces competing.

About this time I also finally found years later a university offering Ecumenical degrees in divinity and theology.  This was at Columbia University and the Irony was that the program was started by a psychiatrist with interest in divinity.  I’ve considered taking classes and do hope to continue to study theology in formal didactic classes alongside my ongoing informal study.  The trouble is that increasingly degrees are being issued with a shelf life. I didn't renew an American Certificate I had because the prestigious institution could only vouch for its own diploma for five years. As a learning machine professional I was interested then that these institutions of supposed higher education were unable to produce a training program of the likes of my medical degree which was a life long degree with no shelf life limitation. I don't think i’d stop being a medical doctor if my university stopped paying the rent or defaulted on a loan. My Master of Divinity degree retains inherently the value of equivalence of the citizenship status of a person whose country has been dissolved by war perhaps.

My personal learning includes going to places like Instanbul where I hired a Turkish professor of religion and history and was guided for days through mosques and museums studying Islam as well as visiting the underground churches of Cappadocia.  I have had a number of torture victims as patients who had escaped from Muslim prisons and countries.  At the same time I’d been a presenter in Azerbaijan with a most delightful Muslim physician who answered my religious questions about his religious experience devoutly.  In the last few years because of the horrid ignorance of the Canadian politicians regarding religion I've been reading more extensively about the church development and religion and state interface. Where once I was reading Kierkegaard and Buber I found answers in Karen Armstrong’s Fields of Blood. I'm also reading the history of council and creeds withe the dicussions of orthodoxy and apostasy. At the the of King Lear he says “Lets talk of court things, whose in whose out”. Because the matter of whose in the in crowd as in the high school yard chum circle functions well beyond the school yard. Indeed President Obama gave out medals once reserved for the courageous and brave to comedians as the Queen Knighted Beatles and the Nobel Prize for Literature was given to Bob Dylan. 

The mystery is with everyone shelling out experiential degrees who indeed did Almeda offend, whose hand did they fail to grease and why as a true innovator in the process did they fail. I expect the answer is money. They simply didn't have the resources to muddle on like other similar bodies had through history. Time magazine with its ‘person of the year’ awards survived the probable error of the infamous Hitler choice. Perhaps if Almeda stuck to Divinity degrees no one would have cared but their administration degrees might have been used by too many Canadian Senators resulting in that once august body having shameful ignominy today. I am glad I didn't marry anyone because they might well have overnight joined the ranks of the unmarried without the blessing of the legal system which is making a killing off an institution once principally a source of ecclesiastical revenue.

I reported a fake doctor who had risen in the ranks of our local government concealing his never having obtained a doctorate from the august instition he claimed he had. What fascinated me was that he had appealed so much to the authorities. He was consulting on policy and nor practicing in a physical manner where our Fake surgeon surgeons or Fake pilots show up rather obviously. This fellow merely had the gift for the gab and said what our local government wanted to hear. His recommendations were so alien to the university position I knew that I questioned his credentials. Sure enough he was an imposter. But his policy persists today as abhorrent as it is because the government wanted a stamp of approval on their cost cutting nonsense. The matter which interested me most was his success at fooling literally hundreds if not thousands before I personally called him out as a fake, a liar, a fraud. It was a very dangerous tim. 

It goes to the naming of a thing - godly or ungodly. Are the fruit trees Adam named wrongly named today as we found only later that Adam disobeyed God. Are the names given since the Apple less or more valid. 

Personally I see the future as closer to retirement, some five or 10 years out, with the idea that I’ll see myself studying more religion and theology and spirituality, meditating more and writing and reading more in the area of spirituality. I don’t know if I’ll marry anyone at sea.  I have my ship’s captains papers for that as it is though I believe it would require me being in international waters. I may have to get a new degree if I want to host a dock party wedding and sactifymthe occasion.

But it was fun to have a CBC Fake News journalist call me and ask me about what is now being  called a ‘fake degree’.  I don’t know that it is. It’s a bit like when a country changes its flag.  Like Canada today, increasingly a communist police state with all the assaults on freedom speech and the death of journalism.  I grew up with a journalist mother during the hey day of the Winnipeg Free Press and have watched  journalist friends leave Canada because they say news journalism can’t be done here any more.  I do believe one can be  a sports journalist still but I don’t know any more. Will hockey be as fake as soccer any day soon? 

I think it’s ironic that I get a divinity degree and the institution fails.  If I was grandiose I would think my intrinsic evil nature , that binary gnostic self,  had destroyed this institution.   Perhaps it’s  just a reminder that religious studies is an ongoing , one day at a time, matter.  Like my boat and radar I guess I may have worked my studies so hard that I simply need a new one.  

I laugh too, sure that the young CBC journalist who called was probably given the story by someone who I’ve insulted for being a pot head sharia communist Liberal liar who panders to the shirtless Prime Minister Trudeau who supports the destruction of freedom of speech with anti Semitic Islamaphobia legislation.  I still have the Master of Divinity Certificate from when it was considered ‘good’.  It’s a bit like Canadian Currency though. Since the liberals came into power my dollar is now only 70 cents on an American dollar. I much preferred it a couple of years ago when it was almost par with the American dollar. 

I’m actually thankful because it brought me back to reflect on this journey and how I really must spend more time in my spiritual pursuits having been way laid by political discussions which do not appeal to me nearly as much as talking about Jesus or asking why Christians can’t create a ‘core’ study program like medicine with it’s subspeciality degrees.  I love medicine that way. After a generalist degree in medicine and surgery,  subspecialized in Community Medicine, Psychiatry and Addiction Medicine. I 
think it would be great if there was a 4 years religious studies program and then you  could get  a Christian degree, a Catholic degree, a Judaic degree, Moslem degree, or a Hindu degree etc.  There is initially shallow generalist knowledge and later deeper specialist knowledge.   Thomas Merton was a much deeper student of east and west and I really have a long way to go.  

I believe there is one God. I believe that Jesus was the son of God and that humans are the children of God.  I believe what Jesus said summed up religion as later stated by Hillel, Love God and Love your neighbour as yourself.  I wrote a paper at Vancouver School of Theology on comparing heavens and concluded that Mark Twain’s description of heaven was the one I wanted.  

Yesterday I listened to a Methodist minister share his views on hope.  I hope to get a new Theology degree. I’ve got a new radar and a new boat to replace the previous hard bottomed dinghy.  I have hope that CBC News will one day stop being so Fake and that the present Liberal Government will be replaced by a government less promoting of drugs and impaired consciousness.  It seems fake to me.

But there is a fundamental confusion today about what is truth and what is fake.  I miss the blue on the Canadian flag I grew up with.   I do hope University of Manitoba and University of British Columbia maintain their standards.  Poor socialist Venezuelans today have a country that is unable to feed their people and no doubt their university degrees are becoming like their other paper currencies.  I don’t think I’d like to be operated by a doctor who graduated from Somalia or one who bought his degree with lawyers from University of Toronto. 

I think it’s ironic that my spiritual degree has returned to the little off shore island where it began.   Almeda was the brain child of some academics with an office  on a Caribean Island back when.

I just learned that Almeda apparently had been bought in recent years by a Pakistani ‘diploma mill’  I received a call from the CBC News reporter today having written this after the email arrived last week.  

I immediately wondered if this was where Prime Minister Trudeau’s gifts of Canadian tax payer’s millions of dollars  to Pakistan was going.  The plot thickens. What is true and what is fake?

I have agreed to talk with the CBC reporter next week to discuss this. 

My natural paranoia is such that I can’t help but think that CBC News would take an interest in this after I’ve been such an out spoken critic of CBC Fake News.  The reporter denied knowing I was a critic of CBC yet admitted to reading my on line writing.  What is true?   

I’m especially a rather loud critic of the unholy relationship between CBC News and the Liberal government.  The Liberal government has given CBC news more money despite the increasing number of jokes circulating on the internet about CBC reporting. My personal favourite is  “Is it fake news or is it CBC?”   

I am thankful that the email occasioned my reflection on this which I share but I sensed that the motivation might well be an attempt at character assassination since the Liberals have excelled in Ad Hominem and all the CBC News seems mired in innuendo and suggestion.  Fear mongering always and what sells rather than what is true.  

So much of it does come down to the rhetoric “Appeal to Authority”.  Clearly CBC, Pakistan and Almeda today all have issues with Authority "image" .  My ‘spiritual’ authority is questionable as a ‘sinner’ .  My authority is as a doctor.   I do have a diploma which was validated by the California Education system.  But today it is questioned. 

That this was nearly a decade ago when Almeda was as valid as the CBC news of that era makes one question "perception".  What is the 'shelf life' on a story especially a CBC story. I find CBC news tedious because it sounds increasingly so much like Pravda and gives speculation and opinion rather than stating the 'facts' before getting into the talking heads.  Reuters retains some respectability as it continues to focus on fact more than the journalist, not that there is any objectivity since Heissenberg.  

 Tarek Fatah would say Pakistan has had image problems longer than Almeda or CBC so why is Trudeau giving them Canadian  money.  Why is CBC questioning education that originates in this Muslim country. Is this Islamaphobia? Is it news?  Whose paying for this.  What’s my part in it. Why me. Why today.  

Of course as a spiritual person, I ask what does God want me to know from this?  A thrice divorced man, I probably shouldn’t be marrying people?   

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