May 13, 2018

April 25, 2018

Change in Comment Policy

Beginning today, comments will not be posted until approved by me. I will try to approve comments quickly, but the needed approval time will necessarily be variable.

I take this step reluctantly. Unfortunately, some visitors have used their comment privileges to post off-topic messages that include links to irrelevant commercial Web sites. Rather than removing such comments after the fact, I have decided to prevent them from ever being posted.

Your understanding and indulgence are appreciated.

April 16, 2018

A Pro-Choice Essay and Graphic

To someone who believes that women are not lesser creatures than men and should not lose the right to direct their own medical care the moment they become pregnant, the political fights over the right to abortion are maddening. The anti-abortion crusade was born of the Roman Catholic Church’s obsession with sex and male control over women. Catholics sold their obsession to evangelical Protestants, who bought it for political reasons of their own, rather than out of any abstract or biblical moral reasoning. It quickly became a widespread obsession that now even threatens to outlaw birth control devices.

The anti-abortion folks call themselves “pro-life,” which is ironic on many levels. The same people often seem unconcerned with quality of life, with child welfare, or with capital punishment. To many, a single-cell fertilized egg is worthy of more moral consideration than a one-year-old child. At best, this is illogical, at worst, outrageous. As a rhetorical slogan, however, “pro-life” sounds righteous and compelling. “Pro-choice,” by contrast, sounds selfish and uncaring. Calling the anti-abortion crowd “anti-choice” isn’t any better.

I got to thinking about how the pro-freedom forces can better advance their cause in the abortion wars by altering tactics.

As a rhetorical device, the term “pro-life” is very strong. The anti-abortion side has worked hard to encourage people to view the embryo/fetus (or even the zygote/blastocyst) as a human being. Human beings have rights, so the logic goes, and the developing human in the womb cannot advocate for itself. Implicitly, he mother, on the other hand, who is morally oblivious to the nature of the life she is carrying, can mistakenly act in what she sees as her own self-interest unless prevented by an enlightened and benevolent government.

There are problems with the “pro-life” rhetoric. Perhaps most importantly, is the identification of everything from a fertilized egg to a newborn as a human. In all cases, it is human, but it is not necessarily a human. By analogy, a severed finger is human but not a human. Clearly, a baby is a human just before birth, but months earlier, it has more in common with a fish or a frog. That it may have a heartbeat means little; so do adult fish and frogs. Whether it can feel pain early in life is likewise not dispositive (and is, in any case, debatable). So can fish and frogs. For many pro-lifers, the status of the unborn really hinges on the unstated assumption that the “baby” has a soul. Clearly, many people do not believe this, and the existence of a baby’s soul is hardly a valid consideration in the policy-making of a secular democracy. (No, the U.S. is not a “Christian” country and was never intended to be.) In any event, I find the argument to be made for my cats having souls more compelling than any for the souls of zygotes.

A case can be made—the Supreme Court accepted such a case, after all—that, at some point in a pregnancy, abortion should, in nearly all circumstances, be disallowed. I lack the wisdom to know where that point is, and so do the anti-abortion folks, irrespective of their claims. Save for egregious cases, I’m perfectly willing to leave the matter to women and their doctors.

Returning more directly to rhetorical concerns, pro-choice people necessarily need to place more emphasis on women acting as free and rational beings in their choices to abort their pregnancies. Probably, the most effective pro-choice tactic would be to have ordinary women who have had abortions explain their choices in public—on television, on social media, and in person with their friends. (Acceptance of homosexuality depended on people’s encountering actual homosexuals after all.) There is also a place for sloganeering, a consideration that led me to create this graphic:

You don’t respect women if you don’t respect women’s choices.

This seems like an appropriate message in the age of #MeToo: women are to be respected and their medical choices assumed to be reasonable (or, in any case, ones they should have the freedom to make). The use of “choices” here subtly suggests choices related to abortion, since everyone is assumed to be familiar with pro-choice rhetoric.

I encourage others to use the above graphic freely. A larger version is available by clicking on the one shown here.

Postscript: I first posted my graphic on Facebook and decided that I should put in on my blog as well. I intended to write a short introduction to it but got carried away. I hope people find this essay interesting, perhaps even useful. I invite rational discussion and reserve the right to delete comments that do not qualify.

April 14, 2018

A Brief Look at Fox News

Yesterday morning, I recorded Fox & Friends on my DVR. I have never watched this program—if I’m not listening to Morning Edition while the program is on the air, I’m watching Morning Joe—but I thought that I should take a look at the guidance being given President Trump by his most influential advisors.

When I began to review my recording, it didn’t take long to be gobsmacked. The show’s introduction included the following teaser:
Fired FBI director James Comey slamming our commander-in-chief, attacking President Trump’s integrity and appearance, saying, “This president is unethical.”
What is odd here is the phrase “our [emphasis added] commander-in-chief.” Here’s why:
  1. The “commander-in-chief” title is inappropriate in this context. Trump was Comey’s president, not his commander-in-chief, since Comey was not in the military chain of command.
  2. Stranger is the use of “our,” rather than the more usual “the.”
What do I conclude from these observations?

First, conservatives have a fondness for, if not authoritarian structures, then at least hierarchical ones. 
“Commander-in-chief” suggests more authority than does “president.” The Fox morning team seems to prefer a strong president, as long as he is white and conservative.

It was the use of “our,” however, that really got my attention. In normal conversation among Americans, we tend to talk about the president, not my president or our president. Were we speaking with outsiders—were we having a conversation in South Africa, for example—we almost certainly would refer to our president. This usage is unusual on an American television program targeted to Americans.

The use of “our” on Fox & Friends has a conspiratorial air about it. The hosts are addressing the Fox News audience that sees itself as a tight-knit community assailed by liberal antagonists. Trump is our man, not theirs. Indeed he is!

I didn’t get much further into reviewing my recording. Doing so promised to be painful, and I will need to steel myself for the project. I did watch enough to notice that the hosts assume that Hillary Clinton did something illegal. Perhaps, when my blood pressure is lower, I will watch the rest of Friday’s show. Maybe it was Fox & Friends that gave Trump the idea of launching an attack against Syria on Friday night.

April 11, 2018

Goals for Syria

As I write this, the country is waiting to learn what, if anything, President Trump will do in response to the most recent use of chemical weapons in Syria by President Bashar Hafez al-Assad. This is tricky business, and it is difficult to be sanguine about Trump’s ability to act wisely. Were I advising the president, I’m not sure what advice I would give. If we are capable, destroying Assad’s ability to deliver poison gas would be a good place to start. I don’t know how to do that, and our military may not know either.

In any case, what the president does in the next 24 hours is a tactical matter. More important is our strategy in Syria, which seems nonexistent. What are we trying to accomplish there that could be considered a reasonable goal?

As we consider strategy, we must acknowledge that there are no good guys in the fight. Trump was not out of line in calling Assad an “animal,” and most of those opposing his regime are religious zealots. Even the Kurds have less than pure motives and, in any case, are hardly strong or numerous enough to rule Syria. Russia doesn’t want to lose an ally and certainly not a naval and airbase. Iran is seeking to achieve hegemony over the entire Middle East.

If I were God, I would probably break up Syria. Give the Kurds much of the country, as well as parts of Turkey, Iran, and Iraq. Let Iran and Iraq split up whatever is left over. I am not God, however, and none of this is going to happen.

If we are to be realistic, we have to choose between Assad and his enemies. There is no candidate to take over the country and to rule in a non-homicidal fashion. Frankly, it is becoming increasingly difficult to imagine why anyone wants to govern Syria; there isn’t much left to govern. Can a whole country be sold for scrap?

Since we clearly do not want a Syria run by religious extremists, Assad seems to be the only game in town. I suggest that our we should work for a stable Syria that includes the following:
  1. Assad remains in power but is chastened by the international community and is disinclined to pursue genocide against his own people.
  2. Russia retains Syria as an ally, retains a naval base, and withdraws all its airpower resources.
  3. Iran is chased out of Syria.
  4. Jihadists are decisively defeated.
  5. Kurds work out whatever deal they can get, perhaps regional autonomy or even a homeland carved out of Syria and parts of Iraq. I wish them good luck.
  6. Syria is at peace and begins to rebuild.
  7. Syria is a democracy, in principle, if not in practice. (“In practice” is unlikely.)
A strategy that seeks a stable result that looks like the above might be achievable. I don’t think we can ask for more.

I don’t have a plan to achieve these goals, but I do think that devising such a plan is possible, though perhaps not be the current American administration.

Pray for Syria.

April 10, 2018

Regrets

We all make mistakes in life. Big decisions may turn out wrong, or, at the very least, we may for years question what might have happened had we made different choices. In reality, however, we can never know what our life might have been like had we chosen a different occupation, a different spouse, a different job, or a different place to live. Even if one choice leads to “bad” results, we can never know whether our having taken a different path—a seemingly wiser path—wouldn’t have resulted in even worse outcomes.

I sometimes think that the small mistakes in life—the actions that likely were not at life’s crucial inflection points—result in the most painful regrets. Little errors create long-lived regret, not because they were so important, but because they could so easily have been avoided—well, should have been, anyway.

The recent fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., got me thinking about this because some of my own small regrets involve Dr. King and the Civil Rights movement. Let me explain.

I grew up in New Orleans in a family that was not particularly political. In fact, I cannot recall my parents ever talking about politics, though some of my relatives on my father’s side of the family did. When I was growing up, virtually every voter in New Orleans was a Democrat. Louisiana was part of the Solid South, where an overwhelming Democratic majority was a racist legacy against Reconstruction and the Republican Party. (In defense of Louisiana Democrats, I should add that the party did have its factions, some of which were less reactionary than others.) My earliest political memory is of being at a party at the house of a great aunt when I was about six. Someone expressed the view that, if General Eisenhower were elected president, we would find ourselves in a major war within six months. Ironically, however, having been thoroughly involved in war very much inclined President Eisenhower toward peace.

I became interested in politics in junior high school. I’m not sure just how this happened, but, in junior high, I encountered Ayn Rand; an AM radio program on XERF that, in retrospect, I would classify as promoting Christian nationalism; and an English teacher who was the rare New Orleans Republican. In high school, my best friend’s family were big supporters of Barry Goldwater’s presidential candidacy. I bought the propaganda about “states’ rights” and became ever-so-slightly rebellious by considering myself a Republican in the Southern ocean of Democrats.

I left for college at the University of Chicago in the fall of 1964, excited at the prospect of discussing politics with fellow students. I was to be disappointed. Chicago was a very liberal, though not especially activist, campus, and it appeared that everyone considered Barry Goldwater a nut job and his candidacy a fool’s errand. No one seemed open to a contrary view on the matter, so political discussion was pointless. Nevertheless, I retained my Republican philosophy, but I didn’t have much of an opportunity to expound on it. I was a poll watcher for one election—I don’t remember which one—and the experience nurtured a certain cynicism regarding big-city machine politics.

Regret Number 1

I signed on to Cap and Gown, the University of Chicago yearbook, as business manager. Eventually, I became editor-in-chief. I did so thinking that joining the yearbook staff was my ticket to breaking into the student power structure on campus. As it happened, there was no student power structure, and there was little interest in a college yearbook. The yearbook office was in Ida Noyes Hall, a quaint, uninviting building that served as a student center in an era when student recreation was not considered much of a priority.

I once found myself in Ida Noyes in the company of a group of students sitting on the floor talking. I assume they were discussing politics, possibly about students who had gone South to register black voters, but I really don’t remember. I didn’t know any of the students and wasn’t participating in the discussion. At some point, the group began singing “We Shall Overcome.” I was immediately overcome by a painful ambivalence. There was a strong sense of community and purpose in the room that I found attractive, but I was still a Republican who, although I had no dislike of blacks, also had no sympathy for the Civil Rights movement. Sadly, I didn’t participate in the singing and eventually walked away. I am saddened that I could not bring myself to join the group in song, and I am sad that, for much of the Civil Rights era, I was on the wrong side. (On the positive side, I have since sung “We Shall Overcome” at an NAACP event.)

Regret Number 2

Studying physics at the University of Chicago left me little time for watching television or for keeping up with current events. When Dr. King was killed, however, everyone knew about it. My fraternity brothers were saddened by the shooting and concerned about immediate consequences. The university adjoined a black neighborhood, and rioting spilling over into the campus seemed a real possibility. I was largely oblivious both to the distress and apprehension of my housemates.

My concern was that, having been assassinated, Dr. King would become an instant martyr, thereby achieving recognition I felt he did not deserve. Unable to keep my politically-incorrect thoughts to myself, I wrote an essay expressing my disgust with this possibility and posted it publicly in the chapter house. Friends tried to convince me, though without success, that my actions were, at best, insensitive, particularly since one of the brothers was black.

In no way was the murder of Dr. King going to change my mind about the righteous of his causes, but, in retrospect, I should have at least kept my counsel to myself.

For any reader who does not know, although I went through college as a moderately strong conservative, at some point—curiously, I don’t know just when—I became what Facebook calls me, namely, “very liberal.” I think Richard Nixon may have had something to do with my transformation.

Regret Number 3

After one term in graduate school, I enlisted in the U.S. Army, not out of a sense of patriotism but out of a sense of self-preservation. Graduate school draft deferments were being eliminated, and I wanted to minimize my chances of having to carry a rifle in the jungles of South Vietnam. Following an audition, I was able to enlist as an Army bandsman. After basic training, I was posted to Fort McPherson in Atlanta and, after that, to Fort Shafter in Honolulu. I considered myself a conscientious soldier who, despite the usual gripes of soldiering, was respectful of the chain of command. I was also grateful, of course, to be in Hawaii and not South Vietnam.

As a member of the 264th Army Band, I regularly spent time in rehearsals. playing concerts and military ceremonies, and marching in the occasional parade. Band members did have a fair amount of time off, however. One day, a couple of my fellow musicians and I decided to go on a hike. (Oahu has many hiking trails.) As I recall, the trail we decided to hike was on Fort Shafter, but I don’t recall much about it. What I do remember is that we were apparently missed—maybe we hadn’t shown up for dinner—and someone was sent to find us. That someone was an enlisted man who was not a member of the band and not someone we know. As we were coming off the trail, we saw him walking toward us. He said something that made clear why he was there and that he had then completed his mission. He did something that was unexpected, however; he saluted.

As you may know, in most circumstances, enlisted soldiers are obliged to salute officers. But we hikers were enlisted men and we didn’t require a salute. None of us—I know I didn’t—returned the salute. But to this day, I regret not having done so. The salute was clearly not the standard, obligatory show of respect; it was instead a sign of communal solidarity and perhaps an involuntary expression of relief. To have returned the gesture would have been to acknowledge the concern for our absence and the effort expended to find us. Also, a show of brotherhood.

Final Thoughts

With some reflection, I can think of other embarrassing situations over the years that I handled badly—for example, not recognizing or acknowledging that a person thought he or she was doing something special for me. Well, as I said earlier, we all make mistakes, don’t we? We can strive to be better people though. Certainly, I like to think I am a more sensitive person now than I was in my college days.

Let me, therefore, conclude this little confessional with a quotation from George Bernard Shaw:
As long as I can conceive something better than myself I cannot be easy unless I am striving to bring it into existence or clearing the way for it.

April 2, 2018

Bon-Ton and KitchenAid Give Me a Hard Time

Sometimes, the universe just doesn’t seem to be my friend.

The other day, I received a coupon from Bon-Ton of the sort the department store distributes from time to time. The coupon promised $10 off a $10 or more purchase. I didn’t have a pressing need to buy anything in particular, but the coupon represented an opportunity too good to pass up. I thought I might find something desirable in the clothing line or be able to augment my collection of miscellaneous Fiesta dinnerware pieces.

When I got to the store, I went straight for the Fiesta counter, which, distressingly, was not where it had always been. I feared that the store was no longer carrying the Fiesta line. I looked around a bit and then headed for the discount table that occasionally held Fiesta pieces but was usually not very interesting. To my relief, I spotted the relocated Fiesta counter on my way. I found a small bowl—I forget what Homer Laughlin China Co. calls it—to add to my scant collection of similar items. It was marked $10. This was perfect, I thought.

I proceeded to the service counter with my bowl, my coupon, and my Bon-Ton charge card, all of which I proudly presented to the clerk behind the counter. The clerk scanned the label on the bottom of the bowl and gave me good news and bad news. Fiesta was on sale for 30% off. (If there was a sign to that effect near the merchandise, I hadn’t seen it.) I could have the bowl for $7 but couldn’t use my coupon. I said no thanks and headed back to the dinnerware. There, I found a second bowl, identical except in color, marked, perplexingly, $11. Well, I thought, getting two bowls for $4.70 wouldn’t be too bad.

I headed back to the service counter, this time presenting my two bowls, my coupon, and my Bon-Ton charge card, not quite so self-satisfied as before. This time, I was informed that the $10 discount had to come from a single item, i.e., an item that cost, even on sale, at least $10. (The coupon clearly said as much, but I had not read it closely enough.) “Lots of people buy towels with the coupon,” the clerk suggested helpfully. “Or consider kitchen gadgets.” I didn’t need any linens, but, even before the clerk made his suggestion, I had thought of the kitchen department, my next stop.

My kitchen is filled with gadgets, but I scanned the wall of tools in search of something purchase-worthy. My eyes landed on a KitchenAid bulb baster. My ship, I thought, had come in. I had an old, cheap bulb baster whose tip had partially melted in some long-forgotten culinary mishap. I had tried to use it Maundy Thursday to baste a leg of lamb, but I gave up on it, threw it away, and used a ladle instead. In short, I was actually in need of a baster. This one had clear volume markers on it and was of obviously higher quality than my discarded baster. It was marked $18 but was on sale for, as I remember, $12. I bought it at the nearest service counter for $2 plus tax.

KitchenAid logo
All this took place on Good Friday. For Easter dinner, I was preparing a ham, and the new baster was not only useful, but a joy to use. Moreover, the KitchenAid package had declared the baster to be “dishwasher safe.” After dinner, I put the bulb in the top rack of the dishwasher and the clear plastic tube in the silverware basket. Clearly, the tube couldn’t stand up in the top rack and wouldn’t get cleaned lying down. Therefore “dishwasher safe” must mean that it could stand up in the bottom rack. When I unloaded the dishwasher today, the tube had multiple cracks running its length.

Although I usually put warranty information in a file, I had thrown out all the packaging of the bulb baster. Happily, I had not disposed of the garbage, and I managed to fish the information card out of the garbage. It declared
One Year Hassle-Free Replacement & Lifetime Limited Warranty
This fine product is warranted to be free from defects in material and workmanship. For one year from date of purchase, under normal use and care, KitchenAid will replace the product free of charge, if it is found to be defective in material or workmanship. In addition, from year two through the life of the product, any piece found to be defective under conditions of normal use and care will be repaired at no charge or replaced with the same item or an item of equal or better value. Individual products should be returned postage paid to: KitchenAid Products, Consumer Service Department, P.O. Box 9750, Trenton, NJ 08650-1750. You May have other rights, which vary from state to state.
I really didn’t want to have to mail the baster to KitchenAid, so I called the telephone number listed on the packaging for the KitchenAid Customer Satisfaction Center. After a short wait, I was connected to someone who deals with kitchen appliances. That person gave me the number for the kitchen gadgets people—they were perhaps at lunch—and transferred my call. When someone answered, I explained the situation and was told, as expected, that I would have to mail in the baster. I said I could send a picture of the damage but was told that that isn’t the way KitchenAid does warranty satisfaction. I then said something rude and was told that the person at the other end of the line was going to hang up. I guess I deserved that, but I was really upset about the baster.

I found a padded envelope, addressed it, enclosed the baster, along with a memo I had to type, and set off for the post office. Postage cost me $3.75, and I was told the envelope would be delivered in two days. I made sure I had a tracking number, as I wanted to make sure the package arrived. (I once had a dispute about a warranty return that was said not ever to have arrived. The dispute ended amicably, but I wanted to avoid such situations in the future.)

I soon expect to see how good is the KitchenAid warranty. By the way, in my memo, I said that my faith in KitchenAid had been shaken, as indeed it has been. Because I didn’t want to request any more basters in my lifetime, I wrote that I “would appreciate being told what I can and cannot expect of this product.” How I wash my new baster will depend on what I hear back.

March 24, 2018

Assault Weapons

Today is the day of the March for Our Lives—technically, Marches for Our Lives, since, at last count, 844 protests were scheduled throughout the world—the Washington, D.C., protest organized by the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in response to the recent massacre at their school. Students are marching for stronger gun laws, especially the banning of assault rifles.

The now-expired Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act of 1984, otherwise known as the Federal Assault Weapons Ban, banned particular weapons (as well as copies and duplicates). It also listed characteristics of weapons that would cause a weapon to be banned. It has been credibly argued that these lists are, on the one hand, too specific, and, on the other, too vague. A specific list of weapons invites litigation as to whether particular arms are effectively duplicates of banned ones. The lists of impermissible characteristics include properties that do not seem essential to making a weapon unsuited to be in civilian hands.

The problematic nature of the model list is fairly obvious. The enumerated properties that can result in a ban include such provisions as the following:
Semi-automatic shotguns with two or more of the following:
  • Folding or telescoping stock
  • Pistol grip
  • Detachable magazine.
If I get shot by a weapon, it does not matter to me that it had a folding stock or a pistol grip. No one said that what the Army needs to kill people is a weapon with a folding stock. What makes a weapon one to which civilians should not have access?

M16 Rifle

The answer is that the weapon should reliable incapacitate and, preferably, kill an opponent. Moreover, in a combat situation, it may be necessary to kill more than one opponent quickly. Whether or not the weapon has a pistol grip or flash suppressor is just icing on the cake.

The most essential characteristic of a weapon for the individual soldier is that it fires a round that delivers a substantial amount of kinetic energy into an enemy body. It is not muzzle velocity or slug weight that matters; what matters is the total amount of energy available to tear through the tissues of a target. Therefore, any weapon that delivers a projectile at the muzzle having an energy of more than j joules should be banned. (Due to air resistance, less energy is actually delivered to the target.) Since I know little of weapons or physiology, I don’t know what j should be, but objective experts of good will should be able to come up with an appropriate number. Weapons that can fire a round with more than j joules of energy, as well as any device that allows an otherwise legal weapon to do so should be banned.

Next, an assault weapon should be able to fire many rounds in rapid succession. Therefore, any gun should be banned that can fire two rounds in less than s seconds. Again, I don’t know an appropriate value for s. Human factors are involved here. Weapons that can fire successive rounds at intervals less than s seconds should be banned, as well as any device that modifies an otherwise legal weapon to do so should be banned.

An effective weapon of war should be able to fire many rounds quickly. Any weapon should be banned that, even if it can fire n rounds (n should be 10 or fewer) spaced more than s seconds apart, cannot fire subsequent rounds until at least c seconds have elapsed. Presumably, c is the time required to change a magazine. This provision effectively limits magazines to n rounds. Devices and procedures that get around this restriction should be banned.

An ideal weapon for a soldier must also be lightweight, which not only makes it easy to carry but also allows the soldier to carry more ammunition. It is not clear that weight is much of an issue when considering a civilian ban if effective energy and rate-of-fire restrictions are in place. However, any legal weapon should be detectable by standard metal detectors.

Finally, an effective assault weapons ban should outlaw the manufacture, importation, sale, or possession of the weapons defined as I have suggested. If the weapons themselves are banned, it is probably unnecessary to ban their ammunition as well.

Yes, I want to take away your guns. The NRA be damned.

March 22, 2018

Pittsburgh Churches Settle (Sort Of)

After nearly a decade of secret negotiations, nearly all of the churches that left the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh for what became the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh in the Anglican Church in North America and have been in legal limbo since 2008 have made an agreement with the Episcopal Church diocese that stabilizes their status for the immediate future. The agreement was announced Wednesday, February 28, when it was posted on the Web sites of the two Pittsburgh dioceses. (I phoned the Anglican Diocese on March 1 to point out that the text of the agreement on its Web site ended in the middle of a sentence. The omission has since been corrected.) Bishop Dorsey McConnell wrote a letter to the Episcopal diocese about the agreement,

Background

Recall that, in October 2008, the convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh voted to leave The Episcopal Church. This grossly improper development was engineered primarily by Bishop Robert Duncan, who, by that time, had been deposed by The Episcopal Church. Although many parishes claimed to have left the diocese, a significant number remained. The leadership of the Episcopal diocese was rebuilt, and a new “Anglican Diocese” was created, ludicrously maintaining the fiction that it was the entity formed from the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania in 1865.

Although similar schisms have occurred elsewhere—in the dioceses of San Joaquin, Fort Worth, Quincy, and South Carolina—the legal context of the Pittsburgh split was unique. Calvary Church, the most prominent church of the diocese, along with St. Stephen’s Church, a decidedly less prominent church, had sued the bishop and many diocesan leaders over early skirmishes in Duncan’s takeover plot. This litigation resulted in a 2005 stipulation agreed to by all parties. The most important provision of this agreement—item 1 in the stipulation—was that, should parishes leave the diocese, property held by the diocese itself would remain with “the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh of the Episcopal Church of the United States of America.”

It was never clear why Duncan agreed to the stipulation, though, after the schism, he vainly argued that the newly created “Anglican” diocese was the diocese referred to in the legal agreement. Predictably, he lost that argument, and Episcopalians retained endowments and real property owned by the diocese. This included a number of churches whose congregations left the diocese. (By all rights, Episcopalians should have been given all diocesan records and office equipment, but that didn’t happen.)

The stipulation further laid out—in its item 2—a procedure for negotiating the departure of a parish whose property was not owned by the diocese. This provision was never really put into practice. A number of parish properties have been returned to the Episcopal diocese voluntarily, both those owned and not owned by the diocese outright. A half dozen or so churches owned by the diocese but occupied by non-Episcopal congregations have been allowed to continue to operate with the understanding that they will maintain their buildings and keep them insured. The recent agreement covers nearly all the parishes that have title to their property that are members of the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh.

Agreement

What was published on February 28—available here—is an executive summary of the agreement between nine parishes and the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, along with an introduction to that summary agreed to by all parties (referred to as a “joint statement”). The actual agreement has not been published, and it may never be made public. It is unclear, however, why it should not be released.

A slight digression here: The introductory paragraph to the joint statement prefixed to the executive summary refers to “the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh of the Episcopal Church in the United States.” This is similar to the designation that appears in the 2005 stipulation, namely, “the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh of the Episcopal Church of the United States of America.” Neither of these names is exactly right, and I cannot understand how lawyers cannot figure this out. The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh is part of  “The Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America,” or, if you prefer, “The Episcopal Church.” Whether, in either case, “the” should be capitalized is disputed. I have written several times about the proper of the name of our church. See, for example, here. End of digression.

The joint statement explains how the agreement was negotiated regarding “the respective rights, obligations[,] and expectations of the parties relative to the historic real and personal property of each of the Parishes.” It goes on to say that we’re all going to be nice and Christian toward one another and not engage in lawsuits. (More on this below.) Bishops of each diocese contributed conciliatory remarks. It is noted that certain “court and administrative approvals” will be necessary to put the agreement into effect.

The executive summary, which describes the actual agreement, is divided into five sections. The first, “A Distinctively Christian Compromise Resolution,” emphasizes Christian charity toward one another and says that the agreement does not constitute an admission of guilt.  (Cf. fines levied on corporations for various non-admitted infractions.)

The next section, “The Real and Personal Property,” provides critical definitions needed to understand what follows. Specifically, it distinguishes “Historic Property” from “Subsequently Acquired Property,” both real and personal, held by or for the benefit of a parish. Historic property is that held prior to the October 4, 2008, schism, including anything “acquired under the terms of a will or trust executed before” that date. Subsequently acquired property is everything else.

“How the Parties Will Relate to One Another and the Historic Property” is the longest section, and its intent is self-explanatory. The section begins with the affirmation that (1) the parishes own legal title to their property, (2) that the Episcopal diocese has a trust interest in the historic property, and (3) that the diocese renounces any interest in the subsequently acquired property.

The section goes on to say that the parishes can continue to use their properties and that, under rather vaguely specified circumstances, the Episcopal diocese may do so as well. However, the parishes must maintain and insure historic property and may not “lease, sell, assign their interests in, alter[,] or encumber” church buildings without permission from the diocese. “The Agreement specifies several factors or circumstances to be considered in the event of such a transaction [i.e., request to effect an otherwise prohibited action].” The executive summary does not specify what those several factors or circumstances are. Conditions of historic endowments and bequests must be respected, and the diocese maintains control over income and principle use. Again, the actual agreement, but not the executive summary, offers more specific restrictions and procedures. The diocese has the right to obtain sufficient information to assure that parishes are meeting their obligations.

Significantly, each parish is to pay an annual fee to the diocese equal to 3.25% of its operating revenue for the next 20 years. Thereafter, this fee decreases to 1.75% annually.

The agreement has provisions—again unstated in the executive summary—for handling the case of a parish wishing to relinquish its use of historic property. If it continues to use historic property and remains separate from the diocese—most likely in the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh—the agreement remains in effect, potentially in perpetuity.

Annual meetings between representatives of the diocese and each parish are mandated, as well as a meeting with any newly called rector.

The agreement provides procedures for dispute resolution, escalating from friendly discussion to litigation. The executive summary describes such procedures in a very general way.

The next section, “A Collective Agreement But Separate Contract,” explains that the agreement is to be construed as separate agreements between the diocese and each parish. Thus, a dispute between the diocese and a single parish does not affect the relationship between the diocese and other parishes.

The final section is titled “What Remains to Be Done.” All the principals have signed off on the agreement. A letter will be sought from the Pennsylvania attorney general stating that that office does not object to the agreement(s). Also, Judge Joseph James, who oversaw the litigation brought by Calvary and St. Stephen’s, will have to approve the agreement(s) in light of the aforementioned stipulation.

Analysis

The agreement mostly resolves the property issues remaining from the October 4, 2008, schism. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that agreements have not been reached by an additional three parishes, I believe these are Trinity, Beaver; Grace, Mt. Washington and Edgeworth;  and Trinity, Patton. (A call to the spokesperson for the diocese to verify this was not returned.) These are relatively small parishes. The most significant parishes, both in terms of real estate and number of members, are covered by the agreement, namely Ascension, Oakland, and St. Stephen’s Sewickley.

The most significant aspect of the agreement is its recognition by all parties of the trust interest of The Episcopal Church in the historic property, that is, an acknowledgment, perhaps implicit, of the applicability of the Dennis Canon, Canon I.7.4:
All real and personal property held by or for the benefit of any Parish, Mission or Congregation is held in trust for this Church and the Diocese thereof in which such Parish, Mission or Congregation is located. The existence of this trust, however, shall in no way limit the power and authority of the Parish, Mission or Congregation otherwise existing over such property so long as the particular Parish, Mission or Congregation remains a part of, and subject to, this Church and its Constitution and Canons.
The diocese does not own the property in question, but that property is held in trust for the church. Many of the restrictions set forth in the agreement also apply to parishes that are members of the diocese.  For example, a parish of the diocese cannot sell real property that it owns without diocesan permission. It seems unlikely that the Dennis Canon could be used to require that any of the parish parties to the agreement surrender their historic property. That annual payments to the diocese are to be made, however, clearly establishes that the properties are being used to the benefit of the diocese and wider church.

Although the diocese would, in some respects, have preferred that the parishes, including their parishioners, return to the diocese, it was clear that that was not going to happen anytime soon. Certainly  regaining the buildings without parishioners would have been something of a liability, even though some of the buildings (or the land beneath them) are quite valuable. The agreement essentially creates a repository of property that the diocese may be able to use sometime in the future. (Parishes may grow tired of paying the annual fee or may even decide to return to The Episcopal Church, particularly if the Anglican Church in North America fails to flourish.) Although the diocese would likely have received more money from the parishes in assessments had they remained in the fold, it should be able to cover administrative costs and perhaps receive some real income from the agreement.

What the diocese got, therefore, is a recognition of the Dennis Canon, preservation of the property, and some small amount of income. It avoided what could have been substantial and continuing legal costs, though some future legal costs are to be expected. The diocese no doubt will have earned some goodwill in the Anglican world for not having pursued litigation to a final conclusion.

It is something of a surprise that the parishes admitted the trust interest of The Episcopal Church, but that probably seemed a small price to conclude litigation and achieve some stability. Maintaining historic property is something the parishes would have wanted to do anyway, and the diocese has made no claim on subsequently acquired property. (That would have been a stretch, in any case.)  Presumably, the agreement will allow parishes to renovate, expand, and even sell property. It is not specified—at least in the summary—under what circumstances this will be allowed, but the diocese has indeed shown more forbearance toward those who left than has been shown elsewhere. (The diocese made it easier for clergy to return to The Episcopal Church, for example, and some have indeed returned.) The parishes, too, will save on legal bills. Their payments to the diocese are modest and will even be reduced after 20 years, at which point inflation may have made them insignificant.

The diocese had not insisted on being involved in the running of the parishes or the selection of its leaders. The provision to meet with new priests is only intended to assure that new clergy understand the ongoing agreement.

It is at least mildly interesting that the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh has no role in the agreement. From one point of view, this is not surprising, as the diocese no longer has a dispute with the Anglican entity. On the other hand, immediately after the 2008 schism, the Anglican diocese actively discouraged negotiations. The Anglican diocese has clearly given its blessing to this latest development, and it, too, gains stability from it.

One factor influencing the character of the agreement is the expressed reluctance of Judge James to countenance parishioners being ejected from their buildings. Additionally—I don’t know that this was considered explicitly—accepting congregations and their buildings back into the Episcopal diocese could have affected the theological orientation of the diocese in a direction of which most members of Episcopal parishes would not approve.

On the whole, I think the agreement is fair to all concerned. Of course, only time will tell if relations between the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh and the parishes involved in the agreement will run smoothly. It will be interesting to observe what happens when there are disagreements, as invariably there will be. I do not think the agreement will have much influence over property disputes elsewhere, where circumstances differ from those of Pittsburgh.

An information meeting is being held tonight at the Church of the Redeemer, Squirrel Hill, to explain the settlement to interested parties. I will attend and report on anything of interest. Stand by.



March 14, 2018

“Amen” in the Book of Common Prayer

Amen.
The principal Sunday service at my church is a Rite II Holy Eucharist. During Lent, however, we are using Rite I, with which I am less familiar. When Rite I is used, I have to follow along in my prayer book more closely than usual, since I have most of the Rite II service memorized but not Rite I.

This past Sunday, I noticed, for the first time, that the amen at the end of the Eucharistic Prayer on page 336 is rendered in italic small capitals. This was jarring, as “amen” is usually presented as “Amen.” Well, not always.

I decided that I should investigate how “amen” is rendered in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer. Mostly, the underlying rules regarding how the word is printed are pretty straightforward. There are a few surprises, however, and a few places where a revised prayer book should depart from the current one.

Read what I discovered and what I suggest for revision on my Web site. See “Amen in the Book of Common Prayer.”

February 24, 2018

Visit to the Veterinarian

I woke up Thursday with a sense of dread. After avoiding making veterinary appointments for my cats Charlie and Linus, the day had finally come when I would have to capture the little beasts and confine them to their carriers. Fortunately, their appointments come only once a year, but I had vivid memories of the battle of wits that had occurred last year. By the time I had put the cat carriers into the car, I was bandaged and exhausted, and I was only slightly relieved that the cat hunt would likely not make us arrive late at our destination.

Charlie and Linus are wonderful and loving cats that, for most of the year, are a joy to have around. After sitting down at my desk or in front of the television, one or both cats usually finds his way to my lap. Well, Linus likes to be on my lap. So does Charlie, though he often climbs on my shoulder, which can make it hard to type or see the television screen.

I have never had any trouble picking up Charlie, to take him to the bathroom scale for a weighting, for example. (Each cat could afford to drop a couple of pounds. At the suggestion of my vet, I have been feeding them an obscenely expensive prescription food and making an attempt to monitor their weight.) Linus is another matter. Although the cats are litter mates, Linus has always been much more skittish than his brother. When I was first saw them considering adopting them, Charlie was willing to come close to me, but Linus did his best to hide.

Linus
Linus
Linus, in fact, is almost impossible to carry. If he is sitting on my lap and I try to rise and pick him up, he quickly escapes my grip and runs away. If he feels himself being restrained, he fights with a fearsomeness more often associated with the largest and meanest of carnivores. Although both cats often disappear behind or under furniture, Linus sequesters himself more frequently.

I had a plan for getting the cats into their carriers. To begin with, I followed the advice of various pet authorities and have had their carriers out and open for the past year. At one time or another, each cat had voluntarily entered one of the carriers, but this had not become a regular habit. Besides, I was less concerned with their comfort at being confined than I was with the process of confining them in the first place.

Charlie
Charlie
Preparation for the task ahead began with getting dressed. I put on my long-sleeve canvas Carhartt work shirt and had my leather gloves handy. I was hoping that shirt and gloves would provide protection from frantically waving claws. I closed the bedroom door to prevent any cat from retreating beneath the bed. (Extracting a cat from under the bad had proven difficult in the past.) Because the cats often sit on my lap or approach me in the bathroom, I had positioned one carrier beside my desk chair and one carrier in the bathroom just in case I got lucky.

My timing was probably a little off. In the early morning the cats are always out and about, waiting for food and fresh water. A bit later—I had not realized this before—they tend to nap, often in out-of-the-way places. I had timed the appointments to avoid rush hour traffic and to allow time to catch Charlie and Linus and put them into their carriers. I also took into account that I could have a helper, Olivia, around should she be needed. I put out two small bowls of cat treats in the hope that this would lure the animals out of their hiding places, but, when we pulled out of the driveway, the treats remained untouched.

Carrier
One of the cat carriers
When my schedule called for corralling the cats, they were both under or behind furniture. It was time to call Olivia. Her job would be to wield a broom to flush the cats into the open. This worked pretty well for Charlie.  He walked out of his hiding place, and I was able to grab him without difficulty. I lowered him into the carrier, and Olivia zipped up the cover.

One down and one to go. Linus was hiding under a daybed. Two sides were blocked, and the two short sides were partially blocked. Olivia worked one side, and I worked the other. I thought I might be able to grab Linus as he came out from under the bed. He was, of course, much too fast for me. He ran between the litter box and the cat tree, which was set against the wall. I thought I had him trapped, but I was fooled again. Linus ran at breakneck speed across the room and up the stairs, a move I had not expected. At the top of the stairs was a closed door, so I seemed to have Linus trapped in a blind alley. I lunged to grab him, and he literally tried to climb the wall. The wall, however, was featureless plaster, and, although Linus gave it a good college try, there was nowhere for him to go. Moreover, his attempt to climb the wall meant the his body was stretched out so as to make him easy to grab. I clutched his torso, and thrust him into the carrier, which Olivia had brought up behind the two of us. A moment later, the top of the carrier was zipped up, and I was ready to put the cats into the car.

The trip to the vet was relatively uneventful. The cats rode in the back of the car, each huddled at one end of a carrier. They whimpered now and then, and I tried to say something reassuring in reply. Surprisingly, both cats were reasonably well behaved on the examination table. The vet even picked up and held Linus without injury to anyone present.

The ride home was uneventful. I let the cats out of their carriers at the top of the stairs, and I went downstairs myself a few minutes later. By that time, the treats had disappeared, and so had the cats. I poured myself a glass of port and relaxed with a movie. Charlie and Linus showed up later in the evening as though nothing out of the ordinary had happened.

February 23, 2018

Schools and Guns

I am encouraged by signs that the latest school massacre may actually result in some helpful legislation, largely due to the activism of the students who survived it. It is not at all clear that the students will get the changes in public policy they are demanding, however, either from the Florida legislature or from the Congress.

Guns
Any thinking person understands that the most effective and most obvious “solutions” to the problem of school shootings necessarily involve restrictions on the availability of guns. Despite this fact, politicians, “influenced” by the NRA, are loath to adopt any provision the NRA will construe as chipping away at Second Amendment rights. And virtually any proposal to make guns less available in any environment whatsoever will be so construed. It makes no difference that the arguments put forth by the NRA are simply insane. (At CPAC yesterday, NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre delivered an angry speech calling any attempt to limit guns to be part of a socialist plot to “eradicate all individual freedoms.” LaPierre really shouldn’t go off his medication.)

Though heartened by possible solutions to mass shootings being widely discussed, I am distressed that the idea of arming teachers, an idea being advanced by President Trump, is being treated in the media as anything other than the harebrained idea that it is. Teachers generally chose their profession because of their interest in education and love of children, not because they want to hunt down miscreants intent on killing themselves and their charges. Perhaps the hazardous-duty pay Mr. Trump has advocated will find some takers, but I doubt that many schools will be able to enlist a posse of 20% of the faculty that the president proposes.

Our president—not my president, I am tempted to say—has opined that he disapproves of active shooter drills. This, like most of his remarks on the subject, is crazy. Does he disapprove of fire drills as well? Should we abandon school fire drills and simply give volunteer teachers fire extinguishers? Students can do whatever seems reasonable at the time.

Because most school shootings are perpetrated by actual students, security, whether in the form of armed guards, metal detectors, or key entry systems,will likely not deter a determined shooter, who has lots of time to identify lapses in security defenses. Moreover, once a shooter begins a rampage, he —invariably he—must first be found before anyone with a gun, be it a guard, member of the staff or faculty, or a law officer responding to the attack, can engage him. Even if the NRA’s good guy with a gun identifies the gunman, shootouts are notoriously unpredictable affairs. I doubt that many teachers anticipate with anything but dread a gunfight at the OK corral in the corridors of their school. Are armed teachers supposed to abandon their students to their own devices while they play Wyatt Earp? A shooter who knows that some teachers are armed—a student shooter might even know which teachers are armed—is likely to try to kill teachers first. Have eager teacher volunteers considered that?

In light of the foregoing considerations, I offer two alternative suggestions, each of which might be found desirable by our moron-in-chief or the NRA: First, we could simply replace all teachers with armed police officers. They can take on the instruction role and will be available for defensive duty when the need arises. (I’m not sure what to do with the displaced teachers. Perhaps they can find a more lucrative profession.) Second, if there cannot be armed adults everywhere, we can arm all the students. Therefore, wherever a shooter shows up, a good guy with a gun is guaranteed to be readily at hand.

Are my suggestions any crazier than Donald Trump’s?

February 20, 2018

What Does Putin Know?

Donald Trump continues to insist that there has been no “collusion” between his campaign and Russia. If by “collusion” is meant discussion regarding ways in which Russia could help the Trump campaign, wherein all parties had an explicit, shared objective, it may well be the case that there was no collusion. Trump’s assertion that the absence of collusion is an established fact, is simply fake news, however, or yet another instance of alternate reality in which the president indulges.

People rationally suspect some nefarious connection between Trump and Russia because (1) members of the Trump administration have a surprising number of connections to Russia; (2) Trump himself has such connections but regularly denies their existence; (3) Trump has refused to increase sanctions on Russia because of that country’s interference in our electoral process; and (4) Trump is loath to say anything negative about Russia or Putin and has, in fact, said some very positive things. Yet, anyone who has paid any attention to international affairs in recent years is well aware that Russia is not a nation friendly to the United States.

Of course, Trump seems fond of strongman leaders generally, with the exception of Kim Jong-un. Perhaps Trump is fond of dictators because he envies them. Putin, however, seems to be a special case. I have been perplexed by this, but I now have a working theory to explain it. Putin must have something so damning on Trump that our president dare not anger Putin, lest the Russian leader tell what he knows.

Given what we already know about Donald Trump, Putin’s hole card must be pretty damning indeed.

February 8, 2018

The Trump Parade

I was distressed when I learned that President Trump has asked the Pentagon to stage a military parade in Washington, D.C., at some future time. The president was impressed with the Bastille Day parade he attended in Paris last year. That parade has a long history and, according to The Washington Post, often includes troops of countries other than France. (There were U.S. troops in the parade Trump witnessed, for example.) The Bastille Day parade is a French institution and not simply a display of French militarism.

Trump’s parade is something else. After praising the French procession, the president said, “We’re going to have to try to top it.” Trump, of course, always has to have the very best. The White House suggested that a D.C. parade will give citizens an opportunity to honor our military. One must suspect, however, that the event is less for him or the nation to honor the military than it is for the military to honor him.

Autocrats love their militaries, as the military is the ultimate source of an autocrat’s power. At least for now, the military is not the source of our government’s authority, but the president does enjoy the trappings of dictatorial power. No doubt, Mr. Trump admires Soviet Union and Russian parades and, most likely secretly, those of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea as well.

The predominantly military parade is America is an anomaly. Such affairs have been staged mainly to celebrate the successful conclusion of wars, though inaugural parades during the cold war sometimes have had more than token military components.

For Trump, presiding over a military parade would be a demonstration to North Korea and the rest of the world that our military is powerful, that the president’s nuclear button is very big, as it were.

To American citizens, on the other hand, the proposed extravagance is a profligate use of time and money, as well as a distraction of the military from more pressing missions. Americans hardly need additional opportunities to honor the troops; one could easily argue that our military gets more attention than is healthy in a democracy. Do we really need warplane flyovers, military color guards, and ceremonies honoring wounded warriors at sporting events, for example?

To allies and adversaries, the Trump parade will be a sign of increasingly unpredictable and unilateral militarism on the part of the United States. It will be seen as a threat to world peace, discomforting both friends and enemies.

It is my hope that citizen shaming, and perhaps even congressional action, will kill the idea of staging a military parade in Washington so President Trump can say that his parade is bigger than President Macron’s.


January 29, 2018

Why Can’t You Get My Name Right?

My last name is not a common one. I guess you could call it unusual, but, as surnames go, I don’t think it’s weird. It sounds like it looks, as long as you know that in German ie and ei combinations are always pronounced as though the first letter isn’t there. (Think diesel, for instance, or leitmotif.)

I often have to spell my name for someone, either—think about that word and its pronunciatory variations for a moment—in person or over the telephone. I will say “D-E-I-M-E-L,” or, to prevent mishearing, “D-E-I-M, as in Mary-E-L.” The latter form is to prevent may name from coming out Deinel, which sometimes happens.

However carefully I spell my name, people write it down or type it as Diemel as often as not. Apparently, many people have so internalized the i-before-e rule that they write (hear?) ie even when what was said was ei. Meticulous pronunciation is incapable of preventing people from making this error. Sigh!

I was buying light bulbs today at an electrical supply house that stocks a particularly wide variety of lamps. (I’ve been swapping out compact fluorescent bulbs for LED ones.) I don’t have or need an account there, but, for some reason, the company needs a name to put on an invoice. I spelled my name in the usual way. What got typed into the computer was Dimeling.(See below.) I have no idea what combination of aural perception, cognitive processing, and neural communication produced this mangling of my name. The counter man set a new record for faulty transcription!

Light bulb invoice

January 15, 2018

Martin Luther King Day 2018

I heard a report on the radio today that referred to the Civil Rights Era in a way that made it clear that it was viewed as a historical period that ended some time ago. When did it end and why? Surely the Civil Rights Era did not end because all the goals of the civil rights movement were attained. War, poverty, discrimination, and unequal justice are still with us. Moreover, civil discourse no longer is about ending poverty. Instead, we talk about helping the middle class while in fact working only to further enrich the wealthy and sanction discrimination on bogus “religious” grounds.

Such thoughts on this Martin Luther King day inspired the graphic below. Feel free to use it elsewhere as is, except possibly for size.

Today is a good day to think about where we are as a nation and the direction in which we are headed.


January 14, 2018

Make America Democratic Again

Many Americans are asking themselves how we can return to a pre-Trump America, a time when the United States had challenges but did not seem destined to become a fascist plutocracy. It is clear that if the country does not change course by the time of the 2020 presidential election, the American experiment may be finished.

The answer, of course, is that Americans must take back their government, which means that we must throw out Republicans and elect Democrats to Congress in 2018. Given Republican gerrymandering and voter-suppression efforts, this will not be an easy task, but the preservation of our Republic demands it.

To remind us all of what we must do, I offer the graphic below. Readers are free to reproduce it elsewhere without alteration (except for size). Click on the image to see a larger version of it.

Make America Democratic Again

January 12, 2018

Posting Here, There, and Everywhere

When I created this blog, I described the intended content as “Random quick takes by Lionel Deimel.” I expected to be posting brief comments or essays that didn’t seem to justify being added to my Web site, Lionel Deimel’s Farrago. As it happens, many of my “takes” have not been quick at all, that is, they have been anything but brief.

Over the years—I began this blog in 2002—the World Wide Web has undergone many changes. Blogs—and even conventional Web sites—are not as prominent as they once were, having been eclipsed somewhat by social media. The older formats remain important, but visits to them are often mediated by tweets, Facebook posts, or Google searches.

I find myself expressing many of my current “random quick takes” on Facebook, on my own page and, sometimes, on pages of groups of which I am a member or visitor. This guarantees a modest audience, though the reach of such posts usually does not extend beyond the group of people I know. Facebook friends seldom share my posts, however clever. No post has ever gone viral.

Less frequently, I comment on Twitter. My likely audience there is smaller, though I occasionally do get responses from people I don’t know. The tagging system on Twitter makes it marginally more likely that a tweet will be seen by someone I’ve never heard of.

On Facebook, I post items from elsewhere, mostly news items. I also post brief commentaries, either as pure text or as graphics. I also post links to essays on this blog or, less frequently, to essays on my Web site. I tweet similar items, though news items are usually retweets.

Social media are best at communicating that which is of immediate interest. Twitter, for example, has been a boon to journalists, who can track unexpected events as they happen. On the downside,  information quickly dissolves into the fog. On Facebook, for example, I sometimes see two stories in my news feed that I want to pursue, but, after checking out the first, the second has seemingly disappeared. Social media are bad about letting you find something that has not been placed online recently.

Ideas that seem to deserve a half-life of more than a few hours tend to find their way to this blog. To make people aware of my posts, I write about them on Facebook and Twitter. It is easy to find a post here after the fact using Google, the search box at the top of the page, or—few blogs have this—my table of contents. (There are various ways of following what is going on here, which you can explore in the column at the right.)

Material of greater or longer-term interest usually shows up on my Web site. If it is of immediate interest, I may use my blog or social media to call attention to it. Lionel Deimel’s Farrago has its own table of contents.

Actually, all of the foregoing is just prologue to what I really wanted to say here, namely that I intend to be posting more brief comments here, either as text or embedded in graphics, the sort of think I have mostly placed on Facebook or Twitter.

Stay tuned.