Saturday, October 18, 2014


Thanks to the members of TREC (Task Force for Re-imagining the Episcopal Church) for their efforts to forge a path for the Episcopal Church in the 21st century.  As they say, "The Episcopal Church’s structures and governance processes reflect assumptions from previous eras that do not always fit with today’s contexts."

After I read the letter to the church from the Task Force twice and watched part of the TREC webcast, I decided to put in writing my non-exhaustive response to re-imagining the Episcopal Church in the form of "Yeas" and "Nays".  Not all of my "Yeas" reference TREC's ideas.  Sadly, in the "virtual town hall meeting" webcast, the members of the Task Force did more talking than listening and answered certain questions less than forthrightly and, at times, defensively.  Full disclosure: I did not watch the entire webcast.


Reduce the size of the Executive Council, which would make the group less democratic than in its present form

Further centralize power in the office of the Presiding Bishop, with the Presiding Bishop as CEO


The Presiding Bishop's main role as chief pastor to the church

The Presiding Bishop retain her/his position as a diocesan with a suffragan(s) to assist in diocesan duties

Appoint a COO who is accountable to and under the authority of the Executive Committee, which includes the Presiding Bishop and the President of the House of Deputies, to manage executive tasks

Include clergy and lay representatives in certain decision-making powers now vested solely in the House of Bishops

Sell the property on Second Avenue in New York City where the Episcopal Church office is located, and move the office to empty space on the grounds of the National Cathedral in Washington DC

Reduce the diocesan asking to 15% or less


For living examples of re-imagining church contact faithful Episcopalians who remained in TEC after their bishops left the church and took the property with them, and have a look at their websites.

Members and churches are already using networks without the encouragement or permission of the leadership.

A reminder that, in the end, all church is local.

From an outspoken and not-so-humble pew warmer.

Friday, October 17, 2014


From an excellent letter to the Advocate newspaper by David Hood, former secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, Baton Rouge.
Several Louisiana health insurance companies have announced that they want to raise premium rates for some policies next year. Opponents of the Affordable Care Act are using this to again attack the law and its impacts on health insurance. But consumers — and voters — should keep a clear head and ask some basic questions.

The ACA requires companies to publicly justify rate increases of over 10 percent, and requires 80 percent of premium dollars be spent on health care, not administrative “overhead.” Consumers are better off because of those provisions, though some states like Louisiana have not allowed the law’s full benefits to be implemented.

Given that Louisiana has the third-highest rate of uninsured people in the nation, and that we rate 49th in poor health outcomes, we should support “Obamacare,” not fight it.
David Hood replaced Bobby Jindal as head of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals during the administration of Gov. Mike Foster, when Jindal was drafted by the Clinton administration as a bipartisan showpiece to serve as Assistant Secretary of the US Department of Health and Human Services.  Hood serves as Senior Healthcare Analyst for the Public Affairs Research Council and knows whereof he speaks.

Here's the link to a video of David Hood speaking great good sense about Jindal's refusal to accept federal funds for Medicaid expansion, which would provide health insurance for up to 400,000 uninsured citizens of Louisiana.  "What are we waiting for?" The funds that Jindal refuses go to other states.

Photo from Louisiana Public Square.

Sunday, October 12, 2014


When Jeff Skilling took over as President and Chief Operating Officer of Enron in June of 1990, he did so only after insisting that the company convert from conventional accounting principles to a method preferred by his former employer, McKinsey &Co.

On Thursday (Oct. 8), nearly seven years into his administration, Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-Iowa, R-New Hampshire, R-Anywhere but Louisiana) rolled out a new accounting formula with an alarmingly familiar ring to it.

Jindal, like Skilling, is a McKinsey alumnus.

Commissioner of Administration/Surrogate Gov. Kristy Kreme Nichols announced that the state, instead of having a deficit of $141 million as claimed by State Treasurer John Kennedy, will suddenly have a surplus of $178.5 million, a gaping difference of $319.5 million.

Enron is the perfect analogy. Who would ever have expected…? At least some of us fully expected some sort of cooking of the books by the Jindal maladministration to mask the budget disaster. Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols’ public and arrogant mouthing off to State Treasurer John Kennedy when he noted the accounting irregularities is stunning.
Nichols: “I’m surprised the treasurer is not reporting this. The treasurer’s obligated to see that revenue available is reported to the public.  The money is available, and it’s cash on hand.  He should probably do a review of the accounts to ensure there are no more outstanding revenues he is not reporting.”

Kennedy: “The commissioner says the calculation has been inaccurate for years and it needs to be changed. They have to explain why we have been doing it wrong all these years and why the Revenue Estimating Conference is doing it wrong...I’m willing to listen”
Operating on the premise that she never has to explain, Nichols attacks anyone who disputes her policies or numbers.  Jindal & Co. have skirted the edge between legal and illegal for so long that I hope they have crossed the line and someone or someones go to prison, and I don’t often say such a thing or say it lightly.  If it's only one, I expect the one may not be Jindal.  If the citizens of the state and their leaders ever have the will, it will take decades to repair the destruction wreaked by the Jindal maladministration on institutions and programs in Louisiana.

Louisiana Voice has done brilliant reporting on politics in Louisiana, putting the local newspapers to shame.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014


A few months ago, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal traveled to Washington to introduce a new national health care proposal. While there, he arranged to meet privately with a small group of conservative journalists and policy experts at the offices of the Ethics and Public Policy Center think tank. 

Some of the experts engaged Jindal in debate about one of the plan's more arcane provisions. The back-and-forth between Jindal and his questioners went deep into the proposal's details, and it was soon clear that Jindal could dive as far into the health care policy weeds as any of the wonkiest wonks. He knew his stuff.
Never mind Jindal's eloquence in discussing arcane provisions and dives into the policy weeds of health care, did York explore how Bobby's arcane provisions and dives into the policy weeds in Louisiana are working out in real life with the Office of Group Benefits, the health insurance plan for state employees and retirees? Jindal and his appointees to high places are destroying the health insurance plan for 230,000 employees and retirees, so by all means Bobby should go national with his plan. His best bud, Tommy Teepel, says so, "He's an undervalued stock...” Indeed, Jindal is not popular in his home state, with his approval rating at 32%.

For further information on the health plan debacle, read Tom Aswell at Louisiana Voice, who has written article after article on the flimflammery of our absentee governor and the members of his inner circle, especially his Commissioner of Administration, Kristy Nichols, and Secretary of the Department of Health and Hospitals, Kathy Kliebert.  Where does the buck stop?   

Note: Byron York is a conservative columnist for the Washington Examiner and a contributor to Fox News.

Monday, September 29, 2014


When my father-in-law, Joe, participated in track and field and football at Louisiana State University in the 1920s after World War I, athletes received no scholarships from the university and even had to buy their own uniforms.

Joe was quite an athlete and participated in the Inter-Allied Games in 1919 in Pershing Stadium, outside Paris, which were scheduled in lieu of Olympic Games at the end of WWI.

Why the university waited until Joe was in his 80s to induct him into the Hall of Fame, I can't say except for a guess that he was old and perhaps not long for the world, and they hoped for a legacy to the Athletic Department when he departed this life.

Since Joe's usual dress was farmer-casual khaki, and his most comfortable footwear was slip-on rubber galoshes, Tom bought him a new sports jacket and new shoes for the big event, which took place on the field at halftime in LSU stadium. When we met Joe at the stadium that evening, he was wearing his new sports jacket, a nice pair of slacks, and his rubber galoshes. Some concessions he would make, but concession only went so far. I don't believe he ever wore the shoes, because they were like new when we cleared out his house after he died at the age of 91.

Before the game, we had dinner with the other inductees, the chancellor, the athletic director, and other luminaries of the university. When Joe was introduced to the chancellor, he said, "Chancellor? What's that?" In his day, they were called presidents. We watched the game from the athletic director's VIP box which is indeed a fine spot to view a football game. Extended family were allotted tickets to the game in regular seating in the nosebleed section.

Saturday, September 27, 2014


From Informed Comment:
On a 36-month schedule for “destroying” ISIS, the president is already ceding his war to the next president, as was done to him by George W. Bush. That next president may well be Hillary Clinton, who was secretary of state as Iraq War 2.0 sputtered to its conclusion. Notably, it was her husband whose administration kept the original Iraq War of 1990-1991 alive via no-fly zones and sanctions. Call that a pedigree of sorts when it comes to fighting in Iraq until hell freezes over.

If there is a summary lesson here, perhaps it’s that there is evidently no hole that can’t be dug deeper. How could it be more obvious, after more than two decades of empty declarations of victory in Iraq, that genuine “success,” however defined, is impossible? The only way to win is not to play. Otherwise, you’re just a sucker at the geopolitical equivalent of a carnival ringtoss game with a fist full of quarters to trade for a cheap stuffed animal.
In his televised address on Wednesday, September 10, 2014, President Obama said, "Our objective is clear: we will degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counter-terrorism strategy." and, "...we will not get dragged into another ground war."  Whatever the label for the present war, it is now Obama's war. I thought it right that the US helped to rescue the Yazidis from the mountain where they were trapped and that we provide assistance and military equipment to the Kurds, who seem to me the sanest people in the territory, but we should stop there. Is anyone thinking through to possible consequences of bombing in Iraq and now in Syria?

What will happen if a pilot is shot down and captured by ISIL, and the worst happens? Surely there will be cries for further escalation. Turkey has taken in over 1 million refugees. Are we willing to welcome refugees from Syria and Iraq whose homes are destroyed by our bombs or who flee from their homes for fear of being bombed? While it's true that we created a number of the problems in Iraq, I don't see how bombing, killing, and wounding more Iraqis will solve them. ISIL is a brutal organization, but what is the end game? How will we know when ISIL is defeated?  What if ISIL is not destroyed in 36 months?

Iraq, as a country, was cobbled together by British colonial powers after WWI.  Kurds and Shi'ites tried to break away at the time, but the colonial powers quelled the revolt.  Sunni/Shi'ite divisions go further back than the colonial period.  Despite past interventions by Western powers, we cannot now fix the troubles in the Middle East.  In Iraq, the center will not hold, no matter how many bombs we drop, but the destruction proceeds, and who knows how or when it will all end?  We can be certain the end will not come before more innocents are killed, wounded, or driven from their homes.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014


Tom Aswell, who writes at Louisiana Voice, has done excellent investigative reporting on the Jindal administration time and again, all the while putting big media in Louisiana to shame.
Former Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) Secretary Bruce Greenstein has been indicted by the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office on nine counts of perjury stemming from a lengthy investigation of his involvement in the awarding of a $183 million contract to a company for which he once worked.

Greenstein is accused in four counts of lying under oath to the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee during his confirmation hearings of June 8 and June 17, 2011 and five counts of lying to an East Baton Rouge Parish Grand Jury on June 3 of this year.
With all the shenanigans of the Jindal administration, it’s hard for me to believe that nothing illegal took place, and the governor was completely out of the loop. He’s certainly run roughshod over Louisiana law and had to pull back several times when his policies were declared unconstitutional.

Of course, there must be proof of illegal activity (innocent until proven guilty), and justice must take its sometimes slow course, but, if I were Kristy Nichols, Commissioner of Administration, or anyone in Jindal’s inner circle, I’d be a bit worried. If I were Kathy Kliebert, Secretary of The Department of Health and Hospitals, I’d be worried. Since Jindal doesn’t brook disagreement, would he even pay attention to legal advice that was not to his liking?
As legal setbacks begin to mount for Gov. Bobby Jindal with the indictment of a former Jindal cabinet member coupled with an attorney general’s opinion that recently announced changes to state employee group health plans are most probably illegal, one political observer intimated to LouisianaVoice that Jindal’s political career “may be coming unraveled” even as he remains fixated on the White House.

The attorney general’s office on Tuesday (Sept. 23) released a legal opinion that could signal a devastating blow to the administration’s plans to overhaul health benefit plans offered through the Office of Group Benefits (OGB) to some 230,000 state employees, retirees and dependents.
Two stories in the same day, one of alleged criminality by a former member of Jindal's administration and another of possible gross mismanagement of changes to the Office of Group Benefits health plan, which will affect 230,000 state workers and retirees. It's about time the Jindal maladministration was brought up short!  Jindal and his inner circle must be reeling.  Then again, perhaps Jindal is too busy chasing his dream to become president to notice and will leave the troubles to be addressed by his staff.

Voters who prefer Republican governance, might want to have a look at the destruction wreaked by the Jindal maladministration and his enablers in the Louisiana State Legislature to see untrammeled, extremist conservative  governance in practice.  Would you want Jindal to be your president?

Friday, September 12, 2014

DIANA - FEBRUARY 21, 1997 - SEPTEMBER 12, 2014

Diana with St Francis

Today we made the difficult decision that Diana's quality of life had deteriorated to the point where it was time to let her go. She was still eating but not enough to keep her weight. Her usual weight varied between 30 and 34 pounds, and she was down to 22 pounds.  She had only one eye, but her eyesight in the eye was very poor.  She was deaf, with severe arthritis, and failing kidney function.  She'd take her medications for arthritis and kidney function only concealed in a piece of hot dog, and she was refusing the hot dog, so she was no longer getting relief from arthritis pain from the anti-inflammatory.
Our kind veterinarian, Dr Scott, at Ridgefield Animal Hospital agreed we were not making the wrong decision, that Diana had only a short while to live, and it was unlikely that she would have good days, along with bad days, as had been the case a few weeks ago.

Diana was with us for 17½ years, a good long run for a dog friend, and we are thankful for all the years together.  She was my companion on my walks until a couple of months ago, and I will very much miss our walkies together, but I have been missing her already.

Last Friday, I expressed my grief publicly on Facebook.  For me, Diana's life with us was pretty much over then.  Here's the picture I posted and what I said:

Tom and Diana in her better days
We are watching our dog Diana, who is 17 years old, deteriorate slowly. It's painful and depressing to see our once lively companion in such a sad way. She sleeps most of the time, but she still eats, drinks, and potties outside. She's losing weight because she eats much less than when she was healthier. Diana is deaf, has only one eye, and is nearly blind in the one. She has severe arthritis, but we give her anti-inflammatory medication every day, and she doesn't seem to be in pain. She's also on medication for failing kidney function.

Our benchmarks are if she stops eating, or can't get up, or can't walk, then it's time. Also, the weight loss is a concern. Most likely, we will pay a visit next week to one of our wonderful and compassionate veterinarians for an opinion about her weight.

Diana is in love with Tom at the moment. On the days when he works at the boat museum, she is obviously depressed, doesn't eat, and sleeps most of the day until he comes home in the late afternoon. On the days he's home, she eats better and follows him around wherever he goes until she decides it's time for a nap.
Tom and I are both at peace with the decision, though we know there will be sad times ahead. We will spread her ashes in our yard and garden, which has become a virtual pet cemetery for our dog, Rusty, and the several cats who have shared our lives over the years, but, this time, Tom wanted to be spared the burial.

St Francis, Diana, and azealeas
Rest in peace, Diana.

Thursday, September 11, 2014


September Midday Mass

The tall old priest entered the half-lit sacristy,
fresh from his usual Tuesday morning studies.
The fair-haired acolyte with the bad complexion
was ready, vested, standing in the dimness
quietly. The old priest noticed he was sniffing
and his eyes were red. A failed romance,
he thought; but keeping his own rule on chit-chat
in the sacristy, vested silently.
The old familiar motions and the prayers
displaced whatever thoughts he might have had;
the only dialogue to break the stillness was
the rote exchange of formal preparation.

Then, in one motion as he slipped his hand
beneath the pale green veil, the other hand
upon the burse, he lifted vested vessels,
turned and followed in the sniffing server’s
wake. Eyes lowered to the holy burden
in his hand, he failed to notice that
the chapel for this midday feria —
on other days like this with one or two
at most — was full of worshippers; until
he raised his eyes, and saw the pews were filled —
but undeterred began the liturgy:
the lessons and the gospel from last Sunday,
his sermon brief, but pointed, on the texts.
It wasn’t till the acolyte began
the people’s prayers, and choked out words of planes
that brought a city’s towers down, and crashed
into the Pentagon, and plowed a field
in Pennsylvania, that the old priest knew
this was no ordinary Tuesday in
September —
not ordinary time at all,
that day he missed the towers’ fall.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG
March 8, 2008


I took the photo the other evening at dusk. Ever since I saw the first pictures of asperatus clouds, I've watched the sky, hoping to see the formations. The clouds in the picture are not as dramatic as some pictures I've seen, but I believe they may qualify as asperatus.

Asperatus clouds resemble waves in the sea.  The clouds do not produce storms, but they tend to form near thunderstorm clouds. On the left in the photo near the tree is the top of a thunderstorm cloud. 
Undulatus asperatus (or alternately, asperatus) is a cloud formation, proposed in 2009 as a separate cloud classification by the founder of the Cloud Appreciation Society.

The clouds are most closely related to undulatus clouds. Although they appear dark and storm-like, they tend to dissipate without a storm forming.

As of June 2009 the Royal Meteorological Society is gathering evidence of the type of weather patterns in which undulatus asperatus clouds appear, so as to study how they form and decide whether they are distinct from other undulatus clouds.