Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Summer's End

All right, it's actually Autumn. But today is the day the Liz and I finally begin withdrawing from our summer place and returning to the Big Apple. Yesterday we took our last canoe ride and put the canoe in the garage for the winter. Yesterday I briefly stood in the lake while I took the steps off the dock. Now that's all over.

We're not completely closing up yet -- we'll be back briefly tqwo r three times in the next couple of weeks. Partly it will depend on how much I can get in the car -- pratly on the weather. Our first return will be sometime next week -- I hope on Monday, since that is supposed to be warm and sunny, but perhaps later in the week. On that visit, I'll drain the water and bring in the outside furniture.

Oh, I forgot to mention that on Sunday we took a 6 and 1/2 mile hike that was actually 8 and 1/2 because of the walk from the car to the beginning of the loop and then became 10 and 1/2 because we tokk a wrong turn and had to retrace our steps. It was grueling and scary because we got pretty close to sunset, but since it turned out ok we were fairly happy and relieved at the end.

This summer I zeroed in on my family history project and I am planning to continue it over the winter -- which involves taking a lot of papers home that I don't really have room for in my study. So making room will be part of my New York activities.

My attention to what we are calling "my project" has had some side effects: I am less involved at Morningside Gardens than I might otherwise have been; I have not been following Episcopal Church developments as assiduously as I was before; I have not been blogging about things either.

For example, I have not mentioned meeting Canon Alan Perry in Allentown on September 24 -- that put me back in touch with my thoughts on the Anglican Covenant. In fact, I have not mentioned the meeting of the North American Academy of Ecumenists at all. Although I am only a hanger-on, I find these meetings stimulating and thought provoking and this one was exceptionally good.

One week ago today, we were going to come back to Heart Lake from New York, but we delayed our return by a day so we could join the march from Foley Square to the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) site. We were near the front of the gathering in Foley Square, which was union led. As we entered the square we were offered caps -- by chance they were UFT caps and I was happy to wear one. It was good to see the unions in solidarity with OWS. It is just possible that this will develop into a real populist movement on the left. It remains to be seem whether the kind of real structural change we (the American people and the entire human race) need will begin to happen. Can the 99% actually bring about change? In truth, the 1% are supported by a cadre -- at least 9% and probably more -- so the 99% is really 90% or less -- and how many of those have the consciousness to realize that the game is rigged and to (at least) sympathize with OWS?

Postscript: I wrote the above before breakfast. Now it's almost suppertime and we are in New York.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Update on September 11, 2011

Today is 9/11.  I have to admit that I don't feel particularly moved by this anniversary.  This year that's partly because I am at last actually working on publishing my family history cum genealogy, and have already put some of it on the web. (at  

A month ago our famiy was here -- Jane, Scott, Amanda and Juliana.  They arrive Thursday, August 11, and left Sunday, August 14.  It seems such a long time ago now.  The day after they left, I drove to New York for a meeting.  After I came back, for a week and a half I worked fairly steadily on my family history project and on a sermon I was scheduled to give at the Heart Lake Church on August 28th.  Meanwhile, Liz worked on a proposal for a grant related to a new boiler at St. Mary's.  On Tuesday, August 23, we felt the cottage shaking -- it was the earthquake in Virginia.  Then on Sunday August 28, Hurricane Irene broguht large amounts of rain to our area.  We had lost power hear in the middle of the night, so we had no power when we woke up Sunday.  Church at Heart Lake was cancelled, so I didn't get to deliver my sermon.  For about four hours on Sunday, starting around 10:30 AM the winds off the lake was strong and drove large amounts of rain straight at us.  Water came in around the glazing in our porch windows and under the door.  Without power, Liz was unable to work on the proposal.  We had planned to drive to New York on Sunday afternoon, but we rescheduled for Monday.  When we left, the power was still off.  Our drive on Monday was uneventful until we hit the intersection of Rte 17 and the Thruway (I-87).  Both the Thruway and Rte 17 were closed and everyone was trying to cross Long Mountain on Rte. 6 and take the Palisades Parkway. A trooper told us that the parkway was a parking lot and advised waiting a  few hours, which we did in a park in Monroe.  When we finally left Monroe about 4 in the afternoon, it was slow but steady going over the mountain, but on the parkway itself we moved pretty steadily. 

The remains of Irene did a lot of damage north of us -- in the Catskills and in Vermont.  Where Jane and Scott are in North Middlesex was spared the worst, but there was a lot of flooding not far from them. 

After mailing off the proposal, we returned to Heart Lake on Wednesday, August 31.  Along with our cousin Tim, we hosted our by now regular Labor Day Sunday family gathering.  My mother's two surving siblings were there with spouses, as well as other representatives of each of the four families of my grandparent's children.  There was also one family of second cousins.   The threatened rain held off, and it was a vey pleasant gathering.

Then on Monday afternoon the rain started.  The rain was light the rest of Monday and on Tuesday, but got heavier on Wednesday and serious flooding began on Thursday not very far from here.  Finally the rain stopped Friday afternoon.  The remnants of tropical storm Lee raised our lake as high as I have ever seen it.   We are near the top of a hill.  Down in the valleys, the flooding was devastating.  Binghamton, my home town and just forty minutes from here, was flooded and in the surrounding area lots of homes were inundated.  20,000 people were evacuated.  The Susquehanna River in this area isn't expected to subside below flood level until late tomorrow. 

Tomorrow, I go to New York for evening meetings both Monday and Tuesday.  Liz will stay here at Heart Lake and I expect to be back Wednesday afternoon -- I hope fairly early.  In addition to the laundry, I'm taking home the first load of genalogical materials to aid me in writing through the fall and winter.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Another month gone by

Another month has passed, and the current week is certainly eventful.  On Tuesday we were sitting on our porch here at Heart Lake in Northesatern Pennsylvania and we felt the cottage shaking.  Of course it was the earthquake, but for a moment we thought it was a big animal.

Now there's a hurricane bearing down on us.  We had planned to drive to New York Sunday afternoon, but now we realize that would be foolish -- we'll wait until Monday.  There's no telling what conditions will be if New York City takes a direct hit, or even a very near miss. Here at Heart Lake we're certain to get a lot of rain and maybe wind, but so far the projected path of the eye is well to the east of us.

Meanwhile, I have been working steadily at my family history, found at, or rather, that's the introductory page to the site.  I have posted the bulk of my TMG data, some of which is really not yet ready for publication, and am working on text pages to accompany it. Some of the commentary is already there.  I will be posting details about the current state of the work on my genealogy blog.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Oh, What a Week!!

Last Monday evening I had an insect sting or bite that I didn't even notice until my arm began to swell.  On Tuesday, I began taking benadryl for the swelling and I was heartened that it was contained -- it didn't spread.  But it didn't go away either and I knew I had to see a doctor.  We were planning to drive back to New York on Wednesday morning, so I decided not to see a local doctor here in Pennsylvania, but to wait until I was home --  a decision I shouldn't have made, but in fact there were no bad consequences.

On our way home Wednesday, after we had been gone an hour, we realized we had forgotten to bring a very important flash drive, so we turned around, went back to the cottage, got the flash drive, and proceeded to drive home, arriving two hours later than we had expected.  And arriving into a very hot New York City, with record breaking 100 degree temperatures.

I got to the doctor on Thursday and he prescribed a powerful antibiotic and  told me to come back in a week for blood tests.  Also, if there was no improvement, he wanted me to come back Monday (that is, yesterday.)  I noticed a small improvement on Friday, and by Sunday it was clear that the antibiotic was dramatically reducing the effects of the infection.

One of the things on our schedule in New York last week was to have work done on our car -- it needed a new power steering pump and and oil pan gasket.  So we took the car to our mechanic Thursday morning.  We also had an important joint meeting of the finance, property, and stewardship committees at St. Mary's.  Liz is working on putting together a grant proposal for some of the money we need for a new boiler at St. Mary's.

But our major preoccupation while we were in New York was working towards a resolution of a family situation involving some property in Vermont.  That took up almost all of Liz's time and good deal of my time on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

Since my arm didn't need attention, on Monday morning we began loading the car for our return to Heart Lake.  Thin coming weekend sees a trip to Vermont for Friday, Saturday and Sunday, a return to New York on Sunday so I can attend a meeting at Morningside Gardens on Monday, and then a return to Heart Lake next Tuesday, a week from today.  So our packing took that upcoming schedule into consideration.

We got off shortly before ten in the morning, not good, but not too bad considering the things that had been occupying us on Sunday (I haven't yet mentioned the Vestry meeting and a farewell party for our interns, both on Sunday afternoon.)

After about 35 miles, at the top of the Palisades Parkway, I discovered that there was too much play in the brake.  I was cautious with the brake as I went over Long Mountain on Route 6, and drove more slowly than usual on Route 17 to our favorite stop at Stewarts in Goshen.  I began to notice a little stiffness in the steering, and thought, oh gee, I'll have to take it back to the garage to have that looked at.  But as I pulled into Stewarts, I found that the power steering had failed completely.   Manually steering a modern Buick is a lot different from manually steering a car was in the 1950's.  A kind woman in the Stewarts directed us to a good garage in Goshen who sent us on to the local GM dealer.  It turns out that we had sprung a leak in the brake line to one of the rear wheels, so we lost brake fluid.  About the same time, the new (rebuilt) power steering pump failed.  It was a message -- it's time to stop putting money into this car.

So we looked at cars in our price range that the dealer had, and narrowed the choices down to two, one five and one six years old -- a Buick LaCrosse and a Chevy Malibu.  The Chevy is very like an updated version of the Vega we were driving when we first began going back and forth to Heart Lake -- it's very practical for carrying stuff, but not as comfortable as the Buick.  The Buick has a very roomy trunk like our present Buick, and will suit our needs very well.  So I think we'll go with the Buick.  Both cars had to be prepped, so we got  a loaner Malibu, and after the 2 hour drive to Heart Lake from Goshen, I am strongly leaning to the Buick.

Soon we face a four hour drive to pick up the car and come bake to the lake.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Publishing my Family History and Genealogy

Finally my genealogy is back online at my new website.  I'm starting small -- so far I have information up only on people descended from my 2nd great grandfather, Manzer Judson Goodrich.  Manzer's oldest son, my great grandfather Earl Ashton Goodrich, was born in Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania, not far from Heart Lake where I am writing this.  I am beginning by publishing the information I have on his family, because several of my first and second cousins have expressed interest in the family stories.  All four of Earl's grandparents, six of his eight great grandparents, and three of his sixteen second great grandparents lived in Susquehanna County.  Two of his great grandparents lived in adjacent Wayne County, Pennsylvania and two other great grandparents lived two counties away in Chenango County, New York.  I'll be adding information on all of those families.  After that I'll be moving on to my father's family, my maternal grandfather's family, and my great grandmother Grace (Dayton) Goodrich's family.   There are also pictures, letters and other exhibits to be added.  I can't predict the order in which I'll be adding things.

For over fifteen years I have been using what I think is the best genealogy computer program on the market, The Master Genealogist, commonly called TMG, from Wholly Genes -- the link is actually to the Wholly Genes website.  Some people think that TMG is hard to use, but I have always found it pretty straightforward.

The web presentation of my genealogy data is generated by John Cardinal's program Second Site, which is designed for use with TMG data.  I am also using Second Site to link the narrative section of my family history to the more specifically genealogical pages.

I have no connection with either Wholly Genes or Second Site except as a satisfied user, although I contributed two chapters to the book Getting the Most Out of The Master Genealogist.

The website is in its infancy and has a lot of growing to do.  Right now all I have is the beginning of the narrative and some rudimentary information on Manzer Judson Goodrich, his three wives, and his descendants.  Part of it is still pretty kludgy.  There will be pictures soon and information on more people.  Navigation will improve, too.

Monday, July 04, 2011


We're back at Heart Lake for the summer.  This year I swear I'm going to make real progress on my family history project as well as getting the books in the attic organized.

I thought I might have separation anxiety after my term on the board at Morningside ended about two months ago, but in fact I don't.  I'm just relieved, especially given what the current board has to face.  If I feel moved to do so, I may write a little about that later.

I have agreed to remain as co-chair of the Tenant Selection Committee (our name for the admissions committee) and have also agreed to join the new Apartment Sales Committee.  Those committees are meeting on Monday and Tuesday evenings next week and I'm going back to New York for both meetings -- which means two nights away from here.  Not so long ago, it cost about $35 to make the trip -- now it's over $50.  

I'm also still Treasurer of St. Mary's, a position I want to give up, and that will take some of my attention (and gas money) this summer aas well.  I'm grateful that others, especially Warden Dorothy, are carrying a great deal of the responsibility for financial planning and keeping us on track.

 For the most part, I'm free -- freer than I've been any time since February 2003.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Well, we've come to the end of another board year

Well, we've come to the end of another board year here at Morningside Gardens. This year the terms of four of us board members were up. All four of us were eligible to run again but for varying reasons each of us chose not to run, so there were four vacancies. Seven candidates ran for those four positions; they ran as two slates -- one slate of three people and one slate of four people. The slates were each backed by one of the two parties that have dominated internal politics here at Morningside for the past few years.

In the past, I have agonized over how to refer to the two parties, since they don't have names and aren't even really parties. For the moment I'm going to use color names that don't carry too much baggage (at least for me) -- Purple for the supporters of the slate of four and Orange for the supporters of the slate of three.

While the parties embody divisions that have been with us during the more than thirty years that I have been actively involved in the governance of Morningside Gardens, their recent history goes back to the debates over the resale price that occupied us in the first half of the past decade and culminated in a change in the price structure in 2006. The Purples have at their core many persons who supported the increase in price while the Oranges have at their core many persons who opposed the increase in price.

Some vocal members of both the Orange and the Purple parties have made public statements which I deplore, and it is easy to caricature the stances of both parties. Despite slogans and hyperbole, though, both parties are concerned about both the future and the present well-being of Morningside Gardens and of its cooperators. However, they have divergent views of the best way to achieve that well-being. There is also, on each side, a deep mistrust of certain people on the other side which often spills over into a near total rejection of anything put forward by any of the people on the other side.

The Orange slate won the election handily, but one member of the Purple slate out polled all three of them. When we take into account that four of the continuing members of the board are supported by the Orange party and three are supported by the Purple party, it appears on the face of it that the board is starting out divided seven to four or possibly six or seven to three with one or two swing persons. This is essentially the position we were in two years ago and we didn't come out at all well. Last year we had a board which started out divided five to five with one swing vore. Again we didn't come out well.

The reason we came out badly each year is mistrust. Two years ago it was mistrust of the manager by the newly elected officers and mistrust of the officers by the minority. Last year it was mistrust of the preceding year's officers by the newly elected officers. I am not proud of my own role in the past year -- if I had been a little more thoughtful, I might have been able to steer us away from what became an expensive debacle -- expensive in dollars but more importantly expensive in increased ill-feeling and party spirit.

With four new members, the board has an opportunity to try to pull together. Time will tell.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

No Anglican Covenant

This afternoon, I emailed the following statement to both the General Convention office of The Episcopal Church and to the Covenant Study design group of the Diocese of New York.

My parish, St. Mary's Manhattanville, came out unanimously against the Anglican Covenant at our Annual Meeting on the first Sunday in Lent.  A drafting committee, of which as it turned out I was the principal drafter, came up with a statement for submission to the national church by the stated Easter deadline.  I apologize for a little awkwardness in the statement, especially for the fact that the scriptural quotations are somewhat loosely stuck in. I simply ran out of time and I wanted to include all the suggestions of all the members.

Here is the statement:

April 23, 2011

Resolution of the Annual Meeting
St. Mary's Manhattanville Episcopal Church
521 West 126th Street
New York, New York 10027

In response to the invitation extended to all parishes in The Episcopal Church to study and comment upon the proposed Anglican Communion Covenant, this parish of St. Mary's Manhattanville Episcopal Church in New York, New York recommends that the General Convention of The Episcopal Church not endorse the Covenant.  Adopted unanimously, March 13, 2011.

A drafting committee was authorized to expand upon the bare bones resolution and has concluded that we concur with the reasons set out in the vestry resolution of St. Andrews Episcopal Church in Albany, New York as follows:

* The Lambeth Quadrilateral of 1888 provides a sufficient base for the unity of The Anglican Communion.
* The discipline that would be imposed by the Covenant is contrary to the traditional autonomy of the provinces of the Anglican Communion [Covenant § 3.2.2] and, in particular, of The Episcopal Church.
* The Covenant would change the balance of Scripture, reason, and tradition by minimizing the role of reason.
* We are concerned that the Covenant would establish an ultimate teaching authority that would impair freedom of conscience by dictating which beliefs and norms are permitted to Anglicans.
We believe that each province in the Anglican Communion, and in particular, The Episcopal Church should continue to be free to respond to its discernment of God's will.

We also have a reason that is related to our history.  As the sponsoring parish of two of the women who were ordained priest in Philadelphia on July 29, 1974, we see that one effect of the proposed Covenant would be to discourage actions that offer challenges to the church through prophetic witness.  In this connection some of us are reminded of the words of Isaiah (61:8):

For I the Lord love justice,
   I hate robbery and wrongdoing;
I will faithfully give them their recompense,
   and I will make an everlasting covenant with them. 

We also think of St. Paul in 1 Thessalonians (5: 16-20a):

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise the words of prophets,

We are aware that Paul’s next words are “but test everything.”  We believe the proposed covenant has too great a potential for quenching the Spirit and short-circuiting testing.

Finally, some of us feel, along with our Suffragan Bishop Catherine Roskam, that A Covenant for Communion in Mission is worthy of our study and attention. To quote Bishop Roskam, “It is neither juridical nor punitive and is consonant with our Anglican tradition—member churches joined by common prayer and common mission.” 

St Mary’s Manhattanville has ministered to all sorts and conditions of people in what is now called West Harlem since our founding in 1823.  For nearly 200 years we have stood for peace and justice for all – for racial justice, economic justice, gender justice, and sexual orientation justice.

Respectfully submitted,
on behalf of the Rector, Wardens, Vestry, and Annual Meeting of St. Mary’s Manhattanville,

Allen Mellen, Treasurer

Cc: Covenant Study design group of the Diocese of New York

The Harrowing of Hell

There are three things on my mind this Holy Saturday.  First, comments on the proposed Anglican Covenant are due to the General Convention office by tomorrow, Easter Sunday, if they are to be considered by the drafters of the Blue Book Report to the 77th (2012) General convention .  Second, in just over a week cooperators here at Morningside Gardens will be electing four new members to the board of directors.  Third, the likelihood is diminishing that the outgoing members of the Board of Directors will be voting on a capital loan for which we have applied.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

I asked for it

A most important Board of Directors vote is scheduled for March 22 one which will affect Morningside Gardens for the next 10, 20 or 30 years.  WE URGE YOU TO ABSTAIN ON THIS VOTE.  That decision should not be the responsibility of one man; it should be made by the entire body of shareholders.
We know that you have served our coop over many years in many capacities, and now we ask you to serve once again in this most urgent way.  ABSTAIN!  You've made courageous choices in the past.  You can make this one too.
ABSTAIN.  Use your one man vote, like everybody else, to vote for new Board Members who will help guide us into our financial future, which is by definition both unknown and unknowable.
Thank you for your past service and for your honorable decision now.
[eight signatures of persons most of whom I know]
The foregoing was delivered to me Monday evening, March 21.  It's about a mortgage refinance that the coop has applied for.  The writers appear to think that the board will be voting on the refinance at tonight's meeting, but that is not correct.  They also appear to think that because I have described myself as a swing voter on some issues that I am a swing voter on this one.  That also is not correct.

It happens that the three directors who some stockholders tried to remove are against this loan, as are two others on the board.  But my reversal on the matter of sanctions and my opposition to their removal from the board was not because I think they are right and certainly not because I think they are right on the subject of the loan.

There's no doubt that the terms of the loan we expect to be offered are not those we would like, but I am convinced that they are the best we can get.

I'm posting this now, before the board meeting, and I may update it later.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

"Mardi Gras" party at St. Mary's

On Saturday evening, we held our first ever Mardi Gras Masked Ball at St. Mary's.  The picture shows me, Janet, Ralph, and Liz.  It was taken late in the party; that's why the table in the background is empty.  We had a full house and it was great fun.
I expect that soon there will be sone pictures at St. Mary's Facebook page.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Trouble at Morningside - Six

Today is the day of the special meeting at which the cooperators at Morningside Gardens will vote whether to remove directors from the board.  Voting will be separate for each of the three directors in question.  I have circulated a statement setting out the reasons I am urging cooperators to vote NOT to remove any of the three.

Others have also circulated statements, some urging a vote to remove, other urging a vote not to remove.  I have long since given up trying to predict how votes here will go, so there is nothing to do but wait for the outcome.

We'll know the results by tomorrow afternoon.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Trouble at Morningside - Five

Some private emails have made it clear to me that I need to make very explicit two things that I thought I had said clearly.

When I brought up the matter of last spring's censure  of a board member, it was for the purpose of stating that I think that censure can be enough of a rebuke for actions the board deems improper. Once the person has been censured, that's the end of it. The censure does not alter the person's eligibility to fill any corporate office.  In that instance, I thought that from the beginning.  Only after the fact did I conclude that I should have applied that principle instead of voting to impose sanctions on three board members.

Second, while I have found what I am calling the Maimonides standard (don't say or do anything to cause hurt to another person) to be a useful guide for my judging my own conduct,  I never said that it is binding on anyone else, nor do I judge anyone's conduct by that standard.

I need to amplify that last statement a bit.  In a blog post, I used the word "conspiracy" and referred to "the devil."  "Conspiracy" was an unfortunate choice of words to describe the agreement to keep the motions to sanction the three a secret from the rest of the board until they were introduced at the September 14th board meeting.  I am sorry now that I consented to the secrecy agreement, but at the time there seemed to us all (including me) to be sound strategic reasons for doing it that way.  I apologize for calling my fellow board members co-conspirators, just as I apologize to the other five board members for my part in springing the motions on them at the meeting.

A second thing that needs clarification is my use of the term "the devil."  As I said in part three of this series, when otherwise good people act to cause harm to other people, I find it useful to attribute that to a malign influence.  I say that not to let people off the hook for their own actions, but to try to counter the all too human tendency to demonize other people. I do not mean to suggest that any individual is possessed by "the devil."


Yesterday (Thursday) , Liz and I drove to Bethlehem, PA, to attend the Eucharist that formally inaugurated the full communion relationship between the Episcopal Church and the Northern and Southern Provinces of the Moravian Church. The link is to the write up of the event at Episcopal News Service.

Liz was a member of the Moravian - Episcopal Dialogue when it began in 1999. Liz left the dialogue for personal reasons after interim eucharistic sharing was approved by both Moravian provinces in 2002 and by General Convention in 2003. Over the years of Liz's ecumenical involvement, I have met a number of folks in the field, including some Moravians, and it was a pleasure to see people I knew in Bethlehem last night. Mostly it was a pleasure to attend the joyous service in Central Moravian Church.

It was a welcome break from the troubles here at Morningside.

There is a video of the service at the Episcopal Church website.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Come on, Mouneer

The Episcopal / Anglican Bishop of Egypt has issued a statement which essentially buys into Mubarak's speech of last night.  I am disappointed but not surprised.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Another Blog Notice

UPDATE 5 AM Wednesday mornuing.
I have now caught up on moderating comments.  Things should move much faster now.
I still have some responses to write.

Because of the pressure of other matters, I have not been able to attend to comments awaiting moderation or to other correspondence regarding Trouble at Morningside.  I hope to be back on this track soon.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Blog Notice

I have turned on comment moderation and word verification.
Anonymous comments will not be approved.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Trouble at Morningside - Four

Last night at the board meeting here at Morningside I came out. No, not as a gay man, but as a conscience stricken Christian. My conscience would no longer let me be unjust and unmerciful towards three of my colleagues on the board.

Before I left for the board meeting, I told Liz that there was no need for her to come to the meeting -- that the open session would be boring and that my dramatic move would come in closed session.
I had no way of knowing how wrong a prediction that would turn out to be. In what follows, I will use the same letters to denote individuals that I used here.

J had submitted a board member motion to rescind the September 14th motions and had specified that it be for open session. However, because the motion included a number of "Whereas" clauses that alluded, by extension, to matters that remain in closed session, C, on the advice of corporate counsel, moved the motion to closed session on the agenda.

At the outset of the meeting, J asked for a vote to change the agenda and move his motion into open session. Because two board members were late, the motion passed. I voted against it, and I have been pondering why. Mine was largely a strategic vote. I didn't want to tip my hand, especially not that early in the meeting.

Counting the adoption of the minutes, there were some 15 motions before we got to J's motion to rescind. I had earlier sent an email to J saying that if he really wanted the motion to pass, he needed my vote -- I even told him how to pare down the motion so that I would support it. When J introduced the motion, it was in the pared down form which has a stark simplicity. It was very clear what the issue before us was -- whether or not to rescind, period.

The first speaker was H. H is loud and he speaks his mind. One of the things he said was that to vote for this motion would be to state that we were wrong when we voted for the September 14th motions.

I was the second speaker . I said that, yes, voting for this motion would be to state that we were wrong and that was why I was going to vote for it. The harm we did to the coop by passing those motions far exceeds the harm done by the improper actions we were responding to.

Jaws dropped -- at least figuratively. One board member perceived my move as a personal attack, or at least he spoke in that way. Another (A) flat out told me that I was wrong and told me why.

I asked for, and got, permission to respond to the latter (A). I said I was not defending the actions that I still think were inappropriate, but that I have concluded that our response was excessive -- that an appropriate response would have been simple censure as it was when a majority of the board censured A last April for what we perceived as misuse of privileged information. I paraphrased the statement of Maimonides that I cited in Part One of this series.
any utterance (true or not) that might cause a person physical or monetary damage, or shame, humiliation, anguish or fear is prohibited
(Obviously I was not as clear as I could have been. A heard me as saying he was wrong to have caused monetary damage to B. In fact my intent was to say that I am applying the Maimonides standard to myself, not to others.)

I said that under that standard even simple censure is prohibited, so I apply the law of double effect (an action that has both a good outcome and a bad outcome is permissible only if the good outcome outweighs the bad outcome.) Censuring is a lesser evil than condoning improper behavior and is thus the better choice

Which brings me to the question of why I did not suggest replacing the September 14th motions with a simple motion to censure. The short answer is I didn't think of it. In any case, I don't think it would have gotten enough votes to pass, and finally, at this late date, even that response to the "offense" is excessive.

During the discussion, C made a great point of the harm that was caused by the secrecy of the actions of the prior administration. In fact, we cured that harm, if indeed there was any, by electing new officers last May. I say "if there was any" harm because, while there was certainly a potential for harm if the situation had continued, it did not continue. As for any financial harm to the coop, I strongly doubt that the charge imposed on E is collectible; the other charges were purely symbolic and hence to my mind they not only "might cause" but their intent could only be to cause "shame, humiliation, [and] anguish" to the three. I do not presume to judge the motives of the others who voted for the September 14th motions, but I can judge my own -- and having judged, I now repudiate my vote in the only effective way possible -- by voting to rescind.

Five people voted along with me for J's motion to rescind. Based on prior votes, I differ with all of them on key issues, including the issue of whether anything improper took place last year. But they are my sisters and brothers and I have to love them as myself.

The five people who voted the other way are also my brothers and sisters and I have to love them too as myself.

It's lonely being the swing voter. I sometimes jokingly say that I'm the decider -- and that seems to be true on a number of questions.

At the end of the open session meeting last night, I heard some one who should know better say "The spin has started," in reaction to a statement of someone else.

Pray for the peace of Morningside.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Chasing "Chasing Heaven"

Yesterday evening, Liz and I and our friend Celia took the subway downtown so that we could go to a play, "Chasing Heaven," in which our friend Christine Campbell is playing the lead. We met at about 6 pm, on the Number 1 train. Celia was coming from 168th and we met her at 125th street. "Chasing Heaven" is by Leah Maddrie and is playing the Metropolitan Playhouse at 220 East 4th Street. I never knew, and Celia forgot, that 220 East 4th Street is not between 2nd and 3rd Avenues, but is rather between Avenue A and Avenue B, three blocks east of where we thought it was.

When we got there, we discovered that the show was sold out -- the theater was packed. The director told us that he had to give up his seat. We went across the street to an Irish bar -- I don't know the name of it -- and drank some beer, in which the director, George Ferencz joined us. We'll try to get to one of the two remaining performances, at 9 pm Thursday and Saturday.

I've lived in New York since I came to Columbia University's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at the age of 22 in the fall of 1958. In all that time, I have never become familiar with the East Village. I did teach for several years a few blocks south of there, at Seward Park High School on Grand Street, so I know some of the territory south of Houston Street, but not the East Village. Next time I'll know to take the D to West 4th or Broadway-Lafayette, and then switch to the F to Second Avenue.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Trouble at Morningside - Three

A week ago, an anonymous poster left this comment on my post Trouble at Morningside - One:
One need not turn to Jewish or Christian teachings for guidance on the subject of hurtful speech. Every child who graduates from Kindergarten is taught this. Backpeddling will not excuse you from your direct role and complicity in fomenting the conflict at MG that is tearing our community apart. Pandora's box is open.
It's a fair enough comment and I think it warrants being lifted out of the comments and into the main posts. My reply last Sunday was:
You misunderstand me. I am not looking to excuse myself from anything. Nor am I backpedaling, at least not in the sense that expression is commonly understood.
Now that I have posted this in which I say that I am going to issue a public statement urging a "NO" vote in the upcoming special vote to remove three directors, I want to expand on that answer.

I will avoid using actual names or initials in what follows, but I will use unassociated letters of the alphabet to distinguish those whom I am discussing. I acknowledge an inconsistency here; I link to an earlier post in which I did use first names.

The problem I have been struggling with since the end of July is this. I am convinced that some of the officers of the coop acted improperly last year when they consulted a law firm and incurred expenses with neither the authorization nor the knowledge of the board. But I also know that they are all honorable people and I do not believe for a moment that they knew they were doing anything wrong.

Last April we had an instance where board member A released certain damaging information about board member B, who was running for reelection. A was avowedly trying to prevent B's reelection. In that instance, the majority of the board concluded that the the information was privileged and therefore it was improper for A to release it on his own. We voted to censure him. By my current standard, my vote then was prohibited speech and therefore sinful -- I'll return to that point later.

Just before A released information on B, the then minority on the board, A, C, and D, alerted board members to certain invoices from an outside law firm -- invoices that had notations that it appeared were for matters that the board should have been informed about. It was, in part, those invoices which lay behind my statement last May in Board Affairs that "for the reasons I have stated [earlier in that post], and for some additional reasons that I will not put in a blog post, I have decided that I will not support" E for president. (My friend Z said that was innuendo and perhaps he is correct -- I'll have to ponder that. In any case, I think I made the right choice when I voted for C for president.)

I took a lot of flak from friends for my votes in the reorganization meting in May. In particular, people wondered how I could have voted for A for vice president when a few weeks earlier I voted to censure him. I'm not going to answer that question here, except to say that I thought then and I think now that the censure was a sufficient sanction for the move against B, and that what they were urging seemed to me to be, in effect, shunning.

After the new administration took office in May, three unexpected events happened. First, our auditors declined to renew, and we were forced to scramble to find a new auditor in time for the mid-year audit. Second, it became necessary to investigate the behavior of an employee. Third, in early July, E sent an email to several non board members in which he made negative statements about an employee -- a serious lapse in judgment. Each of those events required action by the new president and the new officers -- the choice of a new auditor also required action by the board.

Sometime in mid July, I was given a packet of material that C had assembled, detailing the history of the coop's involvement with the outside law firm I mentioned above. At the time I concluded (based on a careful reading of the material) that the material established that E and other officers had acted in this instance as if the authority for the affairs of the coop (the corporation) were vested in them rather than in the board. The board discussed this material in closed session in July.

On September 14th, 2010, the earliest possible date to call a board meeting with 100% attendance, another meeting was held in entirely in closed session, ostensibly to discuss the matter, but actually to take action against three board members, B, E, and F. My apologies to A, C, D, G, and H, my fellow conspirators, but that is in fact what we were. We conspired to keep the resolutions (which we had predecided to pass) secret from the rest of the board until they were sprung on them at the meeting. Those resolutions were fine tuned so that all six of us would vote for them. In particular, in order to get my vote, the resolutions stopped short of actually billing anyone for charges beyond those that we judged E to be responsible for.

In fact, I made that point in the meeting, and all ten of the other directors heard me make it. I can well believe that some of them (the five who were not part of the conspiracy -- excuse me, the majority caucus) did not fully take in the distinction I was making. Three of them were without doubt feeling the shock that comes with feeling attacked. The other two, I and J, were no doubt in shock also.

Here I must make another discursus. I apologize to those of my readers for whom the words in the subtitle of this blog "Thoughts of a progressive Episcopalian" invoke a yawn, but I now realized that I missed a significant signal. There were four motions. The first called on E to resign. The second billed E for a specific sum. The third censured E, B, and F, and stated that they "should" each pay a specific sum. The fourth was a motion to move all of the motions into open session and notify the cooperators of the text of the motions. The only one of these motions I was willing to make was the last. I was not willing to make any of the other motions. That was, of course, a sign that I knew something was wrong -- But I didn't know what was wrong.

In fact, as I see it now, there were two things wrong. First, and least important, the sanctions imposed in motions two and three were excessive, even if it were granted that some sanction was warranted; and second, the imposition of these specific sanctions was categorically wrong.

I believe in the devil. That is, I think that when otherwise good people act to cause harm to other people, that it is useful to attribute that act to the influence of a malign influence -- the devil. I wish I had been more alert to the opportunity my vote of September 14th for those four motions was offering to the devil. (Like many other places in the US of A, Morningside Gardens has been an open hunting park for the devil for several years.) And I recognize that I succumbed to the temptations of the devil in voting for these motions.

The upshot was that these motions led to a stockholder petition to remove E, B, and F from the board. There's a lot going on in this petition. It's whole foundation is inference from the motions and rumor originating from several sources. But there is also a subtext -- not explicitly stated in the petition -- that these people don't vote the right way on financial matters and therefore the coop would be better off if they were not on the board. After all, suppose they and their friends could regain the majority -- what would happen then?

In fact, in the summer and fall of 2009 there was a stockholder petition circulating to remove directors including at least some of the same people -- that petition was based in part explicitly on the way people voted and in part on unproven allegations of their intentions. Fortunately for the coop, that petition did not have a sufficient number of valid signatures. The current petition has withstood challenges to the signatures and the vote will indeed go forward.

At the December board meeting, I stated that I was going to vote against removing the three directors. There are ample reasons to vote against removal and I shall state some of them in the future.

This post is getting too long, so I’ll quickly add just a few points. First, as to “prohibited speech,” the insight (or perhaps conversion experience) I had the other day was to see that a vote constitutes speech. For me, the implications of that are profound.

Second, as to the censure of A last spring, for me the law of double effect comes into play here. Voting to censure was indeed prohibited speech, but taking no action would have been worse, because it would have amounted to condoning improper behavior. By the same token, if on September 14 I had voted to censure, or in some other way had indicated that I could not condone the actions, that would have been acceptable – voting for the motions as they stood was not acceptable.

Third, and this is a completely new topic, it is not possible to have genuine fruitful rational discussion at our board meetings. Time constraints, Robert’s Rules, and the fishbowl atmosphere all contribute to that impossibility. Much of what we say is either advocacy or posturing. Real deliberation on hard questions takes a great deal of time – time we don’t give ourselves. I may say more on this later.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Trouble at Morningside - Two

I had planned to write something more on the troubles before now, but that didn't happen. The careful reader will recall that in this post I said (not in so many words) that I now perceive that I fell into sin when I voted a certain way at a closed session board meeting on September 14th.

For my distant friends I have to explain that at that meeting a bare majority of the board imposed certain sanctions on three board members who were officers in the last board year. The sanctions were imposed for actions the three had taken that the majority of the board deemed improper. They were not actions which were intrinsically improper -- the impropriety lies in the fact that they were undertaken without the authorization or knowledge of the entire board. I'm sorry -- I can't be more explicit.

I am now faced with the question of what to do about the results of my September 14th vote. I have struggled with that question for weeks.

Another thing that most people here at Morningide know but that my distant friends do not is that a valid stockholder petition was submitted to the president calling for a special stockholder vote to remove the three directors named in the September 14th motions. One thing I plan to do is issue a statement urging a "NO" vote on the question fo removal. That is the least I can do do.

I am pondering whether there is anything else I can do.

While I was thinking about this I encountered eight lines of a poen by Margaret Attwood:
We are hard on each other
and call it honesty,
choosing our jagged truths
with care and aiming them across
the neutral table.

The things we say are
true; it is our crooked
aims, our choices
turn them criminal.
The pom is about two peopple, but the lines seem to me to apt when I consider the state of thigs here at Morningside.

Also, this past Wednesday evening, Liz and I attended a hymn sing with Alice Parker and I heard and sang for the first time these words of Charles Wesley's:
Times without number have I prayed
"This only once, forgive";
relapsing when thy hand was stayed,
and suffered me to live.

Yet now the kingdom of thy peace,
Lord, to my heart restore;
forgive my vain repentance,
and bid me sin no more.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Still More than you want to know

I showed up for my colonoscopy at 7:30 am; by 8:30 the procedure was underway and by 8:45 it was over. I was awake during the latter part of the procedure and experienced much discomfort from the pseudo-gas pains caused by the air pumped into me during the procedure. Two polyps were removed and, assuming the biopsy show they are ok, I have to go back in three years for another one. He also told me I have diverticulosis, which sounds alarming but according to the Naitonal Institutes of Health, half of all Americans of 60 have it and of those 75 to 90% never get diverticulitis -- which is painful and could require a colon resection.

Liz picked me up on schedule, at about 9:30, and we walked the 9/10 of a mile home. (I had also walked to the doctor's office.) The gas pains persisted into the early afternoon. After I got home, I slept for two hours, in two separate shifts -- one before I ate anything and one after I had eaten lunch. Finally, at about 3 pm, I began to feel normal and now at 5 pm I'm back in the groove.

However, the state I was in for most of the day meant that I didn't get much catching up done. I still hope to post part two of Trouble at Morningside by Saturday -- especially because I expect there will be a part three.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

More than you want to know

Tomorrow morning at 7:30 am I will report to nearby gastroenterologist's office for a colonoscopy. Today I am on a very restricted diet, liquid except for some white toast I ate at breakfast, and the unpleasant part of the preparation will begin at 4 pm this afternoon. I am going to have to miss a pleasant gathering we have at St. Mary's every month -- it's called "Peace of Pizza" and members of the congregation share food and fellowship with the five interns who are housed as St. Mary's.

I'm planning to devote this day to "catch up" -- I have an awful lot to catch up on. Tomorrow I'll probably be logy from the sedation (and the fasting) so that may be another "catch up" day too.

I'm working on the next installment in the "Trouble at Morningside" series. I hope to have it posted by the weekend.

Monday, January 10, 2011


I have been a happy user of the Eudora email program since I first started using email. Since Qualcomm stopped updating Eudora a few years ago, I have begun experimenting with Thunderbird.
Yesterday, I made the switch over to Eudora OSE, which is really Thunderbird but has many of the features of Eudora. I hope I like it.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Trouble at Morningside -- One

It's been a while since I posted anything and longer since I posted about Morningside Gardens, the cooperative I call home. Things are not well here at Morningside -- the board of directors is deeply divided and there is anger, dismay, and confusion among the cooperators. A friend said to me today that the general fractious mood that characterizes our country these days is also manifesting itself here at Morningside.

What follows is largely intended for my neighbors, but you more distant friends might find it interesting also.

I have recently been reading about the ethics of speech, in particular hurtful speech. I read that Maimonides said that any utterance (true or not) that might cause a person physical or monetary damage, or shame, humiliation, anguish or fear is prohibited in Jewish law. As a Christian, I find that teaching to be consonant with the Christian ethic as I understand it.

Over the past several weeks I have been increasingly uneasy about the effects of a vote I cast in a closed session board meeting on September 14. If I take the statement of Maimonides as a standard, my vote was prohibited speech.