Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Stated quirks

With the generous notice given by Stated Clerk Clifton Kirkpatrick that he will not stand for a fourth term in 2008, a couple of realities kick in: First, other candidates for the office now gain a sporting chance to actually be elected, and second, the Stated Clerk Nominating Committee will not have to face the difficult prospect of possibly passing over a standing Stated Clerk for re-election.

As I read Kirkpatrick’s letter-- genuine and gracious as it was--I found the wording especially interesting in a couple of quirky instances.

A work, or just plain work?
I noticed that Kirkpatrick referred to his position as his work, as in “While this work has been a great blessing…”. Others might have written “this ministry,” or “this office,” but Kirkpatrick appropriately chose a term used in the Book of Order (G-6.0502) for a ministry calling. The section, concerning of all things renunciation of jurisdiction, begins, “When a church officer… persists in a work disapproved by the governing body…” [emphasis added].

So what am I getting at? Well, I have found it troubling that the most recent version of the proposed new Form of Government (FOG) adjusts that term from “a work” to just plain “work,” distorting and broadening the meaning considerably through the mere removal of the indefinite article. The proposed FOG wording may change twice again prior to General Assembly, but the proposed FOG rewrite (5/7/07 draft) reads: “When a minister persists in work disapproved by the presbytery…” (new G-2.0309b, and see also new G-2.0210 for the same wording for elders).

Why the fuss? It’s important.

Should the new Form of Government replace our current one, a pastor or elder would not need to persist in a formal ministry or call (a work) disapproved by the presbytery to be considered to have renounced jurisdiction and thus lose his or her ordination. In fact, if the minister or elder simply “persists” in doing any mere activity the presbytery might frown upon--preaching funny, writing letters to the editor, pastoring a church that doesn’t pay per capita, attending a New Wineskins conference, or whatever else might displease presbytery--it might consider that “work disapproved by the presbytery,” which could have draconian consequences for the officer.

So, back to Cliff: He understands that his calling and position as Stated Clerk of the General Assembly was a work, his work that was a great blessing to him. It is too bad that the new Form of Government doesn’t similarly realize the difference between “a work” that is a calling, and just any old item of “work” one might perform.

A search committee or a nominating committee?
Kirkpatrick wrote: “I am making this announcement now so that the Stated Clerk Nominating Committee … will have ample time to search diligently and discern whom to propose to the 218th General Assembly (2008) for election as the next Stated Clerk” [emphasis added]. Such advance notice is a considerate gesture. Kirkpatrick is kind.

But will it actually be the Stated Clerk Nominating Committee’s (SCNC) job to go out and beat the bushes to find our next Stated Clerk? Are the members to search high and low until they find exactly the right person to propose to General Assembly for election?

Not by the Standing Rules amendment approved by General Assembly in 2006. Under the new rules for the nomination and election of the Stated Clerk, the SCNC receives applications of all who want to stand for the office, interviews the candidates, and proposes one from among them to be the SCNC nominee. The SCNC job is therefore responsive and discerning; it is not to scare up candidates or to be proactive.

Therefore it is not exactly accurate for Kirkpatrick to write that the SCNC will have time to “search diligently,” since the committee won’t be searching! They will need to use ample discernment, however, to settle on the best nominee out of a field of possible candidates who take the initiative to apply. (By the way, potential nominees not chosen by the SCNC--and only they--will still have an opportunity to be nominated from the floor at General Assembly.)

I find it rather revealing that even in his friendly, generous swan song, apparently Clifton Kirkpatrick just didn’t get it quite right as an interpreter of our policy. That has been one of the problems all along.

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Blogger Arthur said...


Maybe you ought to lighten up a little bit on Dr. Kirkpatrick. The standing rule you referenced clearly refers to “the search committee” (see below). Why refer to the committee this way unless that is what they are doing? Also, there is nothing in the standing rule that limits the committee from being proactive in addition to just receiving applications.

“(2) The Stated Clerk of the General Assembly shall be elected in the manner described in this standing rule. No member of the Committee on the Office of the General Assembly or other persons involved in this procedure as a member of [the search committee] or as a person providing staff services to the committee may be considered for nomination as Stated Clerk… (emphasis mine)

7:27 AM, September 12, 2007  
Blogger Jim said...


You have something close to a point there, but a little digging shows that the "search committee" reference early in the section is actually an artifact from previous standing rules that DID have the NOMINATING committee conduct a SEARCH.

Now, however, under the amended version in which the nominating committee is not tasked with going out and searching, that reference remains as an uncorrected little mistake.

I say this because if you will note in section g of the standing rules, you will see that the wording REMOVED in the amendment once had the committee "conduct[ing] a search," including "recruiting" applicants. But that is crossed out now and gone.

In its place is a different set of tasks for a NOMINATING committee: announcing the position, receiving applications, interviewing the applicants, evaluating the applicants, and zeroing in on their choice as the official nominee. You will find no word of seeking out applicants or recruiting in the new job description for the nominating committee. That part has been changed.

You're right that it's not an enormous deal. Kirkpatrick didn't flub up big time. It's just that he must have assumed that the committee would still operate as it once had. He missed the detail that the committee's job description had changed. He got it somewhat wrong.

Having followed Kirkpatrick's work closely for a number of years, I believe this is not atypical. As I said before, his not getting it quite right is one of the problems we have seen all along, and it HAS led to larger difficulties over more serious issues over the years.

Jim Berkley

10:59 AM, September 12, 2007  
Blogger Arthur said...


Of course you're overlooking the rest of my argument (you know, the part that really mattered). Also, the wording is what the wording is. Mistaken or not, it was approved by the GA.

There is nothing in the standing order that limits the committee to only receiving unsolicited applications. You are right that the committee no longer has the requirement to proactively perform a search, but it seems you are ignoring the obvious fact that they also are not prohibited from doing so. Do you have some reason to believe they won’t be proactive in this particular work?

You seem so intent on criticizing Dr. Kirkpatrick that you find problems that are nothing but vapor.

11:56 AM, September 12, 2007  
Blogger Jim said...


Thanks for helping focus this discussion.

Look, when a legislative body STRIKES some language and SUBSTITUTES new language, it does so because it wants the new and wants to discard the old. Had General Assembly wanted the committee to go out and actively search, it would not have positively stricken that language; it would have left it in. Had General Assembly wanted the nominating committee to be proactive, it would have listed that as a task, as it carefully listed the other tasks it expected the nominating committee to perform.

I believe the intent was to limit behind-the-scenes, insider influence on the process, where people on the inside hustle around and place their favorite person in the spotlight. It is now more purely democratic, where the initiative is on the part of those who would serve. They take the step of throwing their hat in the ring.

Then the committee reviews these "volunteers" and tries to settle on the best one. The nominating committee responds rather than initiates. I think that was intentional.

What's more, whenever there is an amendment in one place of a document, it is easy to miss other places in the document in which the amendment introduces conflicts. That's just a natural fact of life. I think it is clear that the "search committee" wording in the section about no insider dealing was simply not noticed when the role of the nominating committee a few paragraphs later was amended. As I said, it's an artifact of another way of doing things. It no longer fits the intent written in through the amendment.

But all of this assumes the General Assembly knew what it was doing. It didn't.

This item was approved by General Assembly commissioners as part of a batch of consent items from the GA committee that handled this business. GA never dealt with these rule changes.

The rules were considered and written by the Committee on the Office of the General Assembly, which suggested the changes to General Assembly. General Assembly then approved them without consideration, basically "a pig in a poke."

Jim Berkley

12:58 PM, September 12, 2007  
Blogger Shawn said...

It seems to me that you are really digging for some dirt and assuming motives behind his choices that aren't readily apparent. You may or may not be wrong, but it's kind of sketchy.

I'd hate to have someone analyze my every word choice which such detail.

1:00 PM, September 12, 2007  
Blogger Arthur said...


Stop focusing your attention on the "search committee" wording aspect of the argument. I already conceded that it might have been an unintentional oversight to leave that wording there.

The fact still remains that there is no wording (None, Nada, Zero, Zilch, Zip, Goose Egg) in the standing rule that even hints at the notion that the committee can't be proactive. Yes, the process has been opened up to unsolicited applications, but it is surely, as Jesus is The Savior, not limited to them. The result: The committee may search if it wants to. End of story.

Gee, "The Layman Online" thought your article was newsworthy too!

7:38 PM, September 12, 2007  
Blogger Aric Clark said...

I'm with Shawn here, I'd hate to have my every word over-analyzed so much. Even if the wording is imprecise, he was writing a farewell letter not a policy statement.

9:10 PM, September 12, 2007  
Blogger Jim said...


I don't know if words actually mean little to you or if I'm being completely opaque, but I've spent a lot of my day answering you over and over again. I DID focus on the second part of your first comment. The part about the committee not being tasked with an inside search but being asked to respond to those volunteering to run was exactly about that. The rules were written as they were, I would argue, exactly so that the replacement is NOT from the top down through a pointed SEARCH, but rather from the bottom up, through evaluating those who propose themselves.

Certainly the standing rules don't exactly say the nominating committee cannot search. But the rules don't say they cannot sit around the whole time eating pizza, either, and talking college football. Nor does it say that they cannot tear up the PCUSA statistics report, pull out a page blindfolded, and put their finger on a random name, thus finding their nominee.

But I doubt that they'll do either. I would expect the nominating committee to do EXACTLY as the rules specify that they do, which is the process I related earlier. (Wait. No. I should say that I HOPE the committee actually does do exactly what it is tasked to do, because few such committees seem to pay much attention to their purpose and charter or be limited by it anymore--the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy and the Theological Task Force being prime examples!)

The nominating committee's stated charter doesn't involve going out and looking for who THEY want, or OGA wants, or any group presses forward by bending their ears.

My little observation was that Cliff made some assumptions and missed the details about the change in the job description for the committee. As I said before, and as I hope I don't have to say again, it's no great big deal. It's a QUIRK of what he said, not the main substance. I was merely musing over a couple of quirks in his letter.

I hope you noticed that I LIKED the other quirk, about his calling his ministry a WORK. He was verifying the very usage that the Form of Government Task Force either missed or sought to change, which doesn't bode well for the quality of the new FOG effort.

And for Aric: Words DO count. They actually have meanings, and when we use them, it's important and even interesting what words we use. Pastors, in particular, ought to specialize in understanding words, because being ministers of THE WORD, we must be accurate to the actual meaning of the text (and not the vague impressions we get as we brush by the text in the pursuit of our own ideas). A lively interest in words and meanings is a GOOD thing!

Do you know the term "idiolect"? (It has nothing to do with being an idiot or anything.) It's one's preferred set of word choices, kind of like a personal dialect. I'll use "davenport" where my wife uses "couch," for instance, and someone else might use "sofa." Someone may say "You're prone to do it," others may say "You're apt to do it," and a third person would typically say "You're likely to do it." It depends on one's idiolect.

I found it interesting that Cliff used the term "his work," and then I realized that that choice could be used to illustrate a deficiency in the FOG draft being proposed. I also noticed that he had gotten the task of the nominating committee a little off (just a little; no national emergency). Again, it was a teachable moment about what the task actually is as written in the standing rules, since we're entering into a time when the process will be very important. It's a legitimate, useful subject.

So no need to get bent out of shape because I analyzed a very public person's very public communication. No need to cry foul or to rush forward to protect Cliff.

It's no big deal.

Jim Berkley

1:24 AM, September 13, 2007  
Blogger Arthur said...


You're not being opaque, and words mean a lot to me. Your logical analysis of the standing order is just simply incorrect, and you have spent a lot of your day stubbornly hanging on to a lost cause.

Of course the process is no longer entirely from the top down. That was obvious. But your observation that the process is now from the bottom up is simply incorrect. The current process contains elements of both. It mandates a bottom up approach and allows a top down approach.

I, for one, doubt very much that Dr. Kirkpatrick missed the correct logic (or as you said "the details") of the standing order. You, on the other hand, well...

4:48 AM, September 13, 2007  
Blogger Jim said...


When you were a kid, were you ALLOWED to do EVERYTHING your parents didn't actually specify that you COULDN'T do?

I would guess that your parents never decreed that you couldn't murder the other neighborhood kids. Does that then become permissive, so that if you murdered Tommy next door, you could have said, "Well, of course I could do it. You never told me NOT to!"?

Can the nominating committee do anything and everything it would like to do or could possibly conceive of doing, simply because it wasn't specifically instructed NOT to do such things--purchase property, give funds to a favored candidate, buy billboard space in San Jose?

No. That's ludicrous. The committee was set up with a commission. Its tasks were carefully spelled out. In that spelling out, the task of SEARCHING was carefully DROPPED, removed, scratched, discarded. It's not expected of the committee, although it once was of previous committees.

Especially because that task was consciously removed (and not just never mentioned), it is PARTICULARLY important that the committee not do it, although it could be seen as a normal part of a nominating process in other circumstances. But not in this set of circumstances with this history.

You keep grandly declaring that I'm simply wrong. Your declarations don't make it so, and you certainly have proved nothing of the kind. Use logic and evidence to prove your case--as I have painstakingly done--not just regal decrees or derision.

And this is getting very tiresome...

Jim Berkley

1:35 PM, September 13, 2007  
Blogger Arthur said...


A hypothetical:
My parents, when I was a child, required me to eat all of the food on my plate before I could leave the table. Later, my parents lifted that requirement, and replaced it with a new requirement that I share my food with anyone else at the table who wanted it. After they have taken all they wanted from my plate, by your logic, I would not be permitted to eat all of the food that remained on my plate.

By your logic, removal of a requirement is equivalent to a prohibition. That's just not the way logic functions Jim.

Also, back to the original scenario: The rationale for the change in the standing order gave no hint that anyone felt the existing system was so broken that it needed to be turned on its head. They just suggested that it would be more fair if it was opened up. There is no hint anywhere that anyone felt that a proactive solicitation from the committee was a bad thing or that they wanted it stopped. They were simply removing one requirement and adding a new one.

There are plenty of examples in the Book of Order where powers or allowances are specifically limited. I'm not going to cite them because you can easily find them yourself. This particular standing order is not limited the way you state it is.

One need not look at previous versions of the order in order to determine what the current order means. So who cares what was taken out of it? The current order stands on its own.

So far I've been pretty easy on you as far as your logical gaffs are concerned. There are others going back to your article. Shall we go there as well?

4:42 PM, September 13, 2007  
Blogger Jim said...


For a guy who started out telling me to "lighten up," you seem awfully intent on bearing down, yourself. The problem is, I can't find the sense in what you're trying to say. It doesn't add up.

Your food analogy, if intended to illustrate, merely confuses.

Let's try again: Say I have you doing chores for me. I make a careful list of those things I definitely want you to do, and you do them. Then you come again, and I have compiled a new list of what I definitely want done. The new list is different than the first list, and my desire is that you do what I have listed, not what you did last time. I actually don't want some of those things done anymore.

Have I then FORBIDDEN you to do the no longer wanted items on the first list? Not exactly. That's not the point. It's not a matter of law, but a matter of intent. I'm not going to haul you to jail if you edge the sidewalk again, and I didn't have that on the list. I suppose you could do the unwanted items, but it would be a little troublesome. Why not do what I am now asking, rather than resort to old habits?

In this case, it is entirely clear that there is an order to what the nominating committee (the term "search committee" is discarded at this point in the parts amended out) is chartered to do. Look at the verbs: to announce, to review and evaluate (what comes in) to determine eligibility, to interview, to select, and to declare.

The process is mapped out quite clearly and in order, and nowhere is "to go looking for someone you think would be good" included in that list of chores to do.

It ONCE was on the list for previous "search committees," who were to "conduct a search," including the task of "recruiting." Quite carefully, that particular part of the overall task was left out when the new list was made, and the committee was no longer referred to as a "search committee" (except earlier in the document, where they missed an instance somewhat removed from this section). The committee is renamed a "nominating committee."

None of this was unintentional. The wording and the set of tasks was obviously chosen for a purpose. The purpose was in part to open up the process, so that a small, privileged group doesn't set out to find someone THEY would like to insert into the role. To make it fairer and much more purely democratic, they are to make sure that potential candidates all know about the application process, they are to receive these self-generated applictions, and they are to process them and use their discernment to nominate out of that self-generated pool of applicants the one they consider best.

That is so incredibly clear in the standing rules that I wonder why you can't see it, Arthur! Why send them off on a task (proactive searching) that is no longer specified or even wanted? Why reinsert even a little measure of good-old-boy cronyism or favoritism, when the very intent of the new rules was "openness and fairness"?

Let's say you're Joe Schmoe, and you submit your application. You're basically unknown. Not well connected. You don't know any nominating committee members, but you're one sharp cookie and you'd do a great job. Those abilities would shine in a fair process.

Then let's say that a nominating committee member just loves her presbytery's stated clerk and is convinced that person would be super for the position. So the nominating committee member goes out and talks the presbytery stated clerk into applying, talks up the person with fellow committee members, brings in all kinds of extra materials about the favorite son, and generally greases the skids to get that person nominated--the kind of thing that CAN happen when a nominating committee like this goes proactive and starts bringing in the people THEY seek.

Would that be a level playing field for you, Joe Schmoe? Is that the fairest and most open process that the standing rules now seek to provide? I think not, and the KEY element is the element of nominating committee proactivity. Take that away and have the field of candidates rise up on their own volition, and then the committee will need to deal with the qualifications of an array of people who are less likely to be their pet candidates.

By removing the task of going out and looking, the new rules provide one more way "to assure that each candidate is given exactly the same consideration by the nominating committee," as it is put in another context.

THAT is the intent of the rule changes, I would argue. And that very quest for fairness would be diminished if the nominating committee just stumbles into a FORMER way of doing the task out of institutional habit--which is the minor little flub that Clifton Kirkpatrick seemed to imply, so many words ago.

Arthur, I don't expect that you will agree with me on this, but may I ask you to let it go? Or if you must say more, put it on your own blog. This blogger is getting weary, and I'm sure any remaining readers are getting bored silly.

Jim Berkley

6:44 PM, September 13, 2007  
Blogger Arthur said...


To your credit, it seems to me that what you are proposing may be grounds for a valid further amendment to the standing order.

Your last response did not address the fact that no mention was made that the COGA felt that the process was broken and needed the radical revision you described. If indeed they were concerned that Joe Schmoe would not be treated fairly then they should have specifically prohibited proactive invitations. The fact remains that absolutely no hint was given in the rationale that the COGA thought that proactive invitations were unfair or undesirable. Any claim on your part to the contrary is pure speculation and requires evidence. Where is the evidence that the COGA felt that recruiting applicants was so completely unfair that not only should the task be no longer required but in addition absolutely prohibited? Those sentiments are nowhere mentioned in the rationale section or anywhere else I've seen.

You said:

"Arthur, I don't expect that you will agree with me on this, but may I ask you to let it go?"

You may ask. You may also choose not to argue further.

7:37 PM, September 13, 2007  
Blogger Jim said...


You come into my house and make an nuisance of yourself, repeating a mantra of already-disposed-of arguments over and over again, and then you say that I am the one who is supposed to simply let it stand?

One last time: You're wrong.

1. The previous method was considered "broken" enough to revise and refine. The committee no longer assesses the work of the incumbent Stated Clerk, for instance--a change. Neither does it operate in a search mode any longer. This was done to fix the apparent problems of an unfair leg up the incumbent had and the potential for giving personal favorites an inside track. Not a radical change, but mending a not-perfect prior system to provide more fairness and openness.

2. The amendments are not a "radical revision" that turns the process on its head. That's your language, absolutizing and catastrophizing what I have contended. It's simply a fairer, more open way of going about the business, more responsive than initiative. Kirkpatrick's major image of the committee's work was that it would be seeking candidates, which ran counter to the standing rules' major responsibility given to the committee, which is determining the best candidate among the volunteers.

3. Nowhere have I said that a little looking and encouraging by the committee would be strictly "prohibited." What I have said is that that is not the intended process written up in the standing rules, nor is that necessarily the business of the nominating committee, despite what Kirkpatrick intimated. The committee is not given the task of searching; it's given the task of collecting and evaluating. I have also said that proactive searching could well damage the sense of fairness for the Joe Schmoes of the world. In other words, there's a good reason why that task was written out of the list of things to do by the committee. It's not necessary and it could potentially compromise the desired fairness and openness. Therefore, one would think the committee would tend to stay away from that extracurricular activity and stick to the tasks it WAS given to do.

4. Hints WERE given that COGA thought the proactive work was potentially harmful. COGA devised a DIFFERENT system in order to be more open and fair, and they ditched the language and tasks related to searching. That is more than a hint; that is pretty concrete action!

5. "Absolutely prohibited?" "Completely unfair?" Those are your amped-up words, not mine. The committee has simply not been tasked to search, and it would fulfill the purposes of the standing rules if the committee stuck to the plan and didn't freelance a search on its own. It would also have been more accurate if the Stated Clerk had not stumbled into effusive search language in describing the nominating committee's tasks ahead, failing to remember that that was then and this is now.

Now, as any good discussion leader would do, I'm going to ask (no, make that REQUIRE, since politeness hasn't restrained you) that you not dominate this discussion any further. If others want to chime in, more power to them. But as for you, Arthur, please post no further comments on this thread, as I will remove them. You've more than had your opportunity. Enough is enough.

Jim Berkley
He whose patience has run out.

12:42 AM, September 14, 2007  
Blogger Earl said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

2:46 AM, September 14, 2007  
Blogger Presbyman said...

Reading this thread, I have a vision of some crows cawing and pecking at Jim Berkley.

8:08 AM, September 14, 2007  
Blogger Moe said...

Well this was fun.

Let me say first, I think part of the problem in this debate over the committee's powers is this. There hasn't been any explicit discussion about the concept of "enumerated powers" and whether the committee should be considered as constituted with "enumerated powers."

Here is what I mean by that. The committee is a construct, a creature, of the church which has constituted it. We need to think about whether, when the church constituted this committee, brought into being, and vested it with powers and a function, was it the intention that the committee's work should be limited to tasks that the stated powers and function vested in it? Bearing in mind that there's always going to be some interpretive question about the scope of the powers so stated, the threshold issue is whether the committee should only be doing those things it was affirmatively tasked to do (fairly interpreted), or whether it should be permitted to do anything that it is not prohibited from doing. When you think of it this way, I think Jim is clearly right in taking the position that the Committee should only be doing the things it was affirmatively authorized to do.

It seems to me that family analogies break down here. Because there, most people don't expect that their kids will order their lives so as to do only those things which they are affirmatively authorized to do. Life doesn't work that way. Really it works pretty much the other way - kids are thought to have the freedom to do anything that hasn't been prohibited, expressly or by fair understanding. Kids, unlike committees of the church, are not constituted with "enumerated powers."

Having said that, I think Jim's criticism of the Stated Clerk's use of the word "search" in his letter is awfully picky. I mean, given the fact that this is a farewell letter, and a gracious one, not a statute or regulation, don't you think that it's a stretch to criticize the use of the word, even if the word search is not used in the committee's enumerated powers? It seems to me that announcing the position and receiving and evaluating applicants is searching for a candidate.

It's certainly fair to use Kirkpatrick's "s" word as a platform for discussion of what we think the powers of the committee are, or ought to, be. But to suggest that this indicates something about Kirkpatrick's lack of ability to generally in his role get things quite right, well, I think that reveals more about the irritability of the Stated Clerk's critics about him and everything he's done, and the resulting difficulties he must have had in performing his duties, than anything else.

8:50 AM, September 14, 2007  
Blogger Jim said...


Huh? What are you picking at?

I see no contradiction between what I said at first (and have elaborated on extensively since then) and what you have quoted as a supposed contradiction. Both are consistent.

On "error" #1: My sentence is not emphasizing "time;" it's emphasizing "search." Actually Kirkpatrick's "dilligent search." He has them hard at work doing something the standing rules have not asked them to do. There's the rub.

But while we're talking about the "time" element of that sentence, I just realized on reading Kirkpatrick's statement again last night that it was a little more askew than I first thought.

He wrote: "I am making this announcement now so that the Stated Clerk Nominating Committee ... will have ample time to search diligently and discern whom to propose to the 218th General Assembly (2008) for election as the next Stated Clerk" [emphasis added].

It's a good and right thing for Cliff to do. It was thoughtful not to keep people guessing by waiting to the last minute to announce his candidacy or retirement. His announcement now clears the decks for many other potential candidates to take a crack at the election, people who might have hung back had Cliff decided to run. All that is good.

But Cliff's stated REASON--to give the committee ample time to search--breaks down not only by the fact that the committee isn't chartered to SEARCH, but also by the fact that by the standing rules, the committee is obligated to open a window for applications between September 23 and December 23. Then it is obligated to decide on a single nominee by "no later than forty-five days before the opening of General Assembly." Nothing Cliff does can take time away or give the committee any more time than they already have!

Of course Cliff might have been thinking, "Well, the nominating committee thought their task would be simple. They would just naturally nominate me--not much work involved there! But I'm going to throw them a curve by not running, so now they'll have to go through the real work of actually examining the other folks. That will take some time, so I'd better give them a heads up!" But that sounds rather egotistical, and I wouldn't expect that of Cliff.

Thus, I think his "ample time" explanation is probably rather mindless. The stated window of time is there whether Cliff made his announcement or not. The committee has a set time to do the work, no matter what.

Cliff DOES give potential candidates more time to contemplate entering a Cliff-free election. That is his kindness to the other candidates. But it does not affect the work of the nominating committee, since that committee would have merely received his self-generated application like any other self-generated application.

Okay, I will concede one minor time saver for the committee: They will not need to read the COGA evaluation of Cliff's work, since he will not be running.

On "error" #2: "How do you know they won't be searching?" Silly me. I thought the nominating committee would do what it was chartered to do and would not reflexively or independently do tasks intentionally stricken from a previous list of responsibilities.

Earl, how can you say it's a lost cause? Read what the committee is told to do. Note the "shall" language and the verbs. Read what the previous committee had been asked to do, and how that set of tasks has been purposefully amended to set up a different process, and notice that searching has been excised. While the nominating committee might stray into searching and the FBI is not going to be called in, it's not what they are supposed to be doing.

The "cause" is crystal clear, plain and apparent on the face of it. I'm not going to be intimidated into silence. That's silly!

Jim Berkley

9:54 AM, September 14, 2007  
Blogger Jim said...


Thanks for your contributions.

Yes, it's a little picky. That's why I called it a quirk. Yes, I did use it as a launching pad to discuss a larger issue--how the nominating committee is set up to work. I had studied the new standing rules, and Kirkpatrick's comment was out of synch with the rules. I hoped to add some clarity and focus attention on what the rules call for, not on what Cliff or anyone else might mistake the task of the nominating committee to be.

In the past, I've transcribed Cliff's speaking at times and have read and commented on a great deal of what he writes. He tends to be, uh, effusive, to pile grand phrase upon phrase. Here, I think, quite frankly, he was kind of blathering and just missed the boat on what he was saying. As I responded to Earl, above, he also made no sense about his announcement supposedly giving the committee more time.

That's unfortunate. It's also forgivable. We all make mistakes. As I've said repeatedly, it's not a big deal. It merely provided the occasion for some serious thought about matters nearly unrelated to Cliff's announcement.

However, from my experience, these little mistakes in fact are not isolated occurrences for Cliff. They are not uncommon, and in other instances, they have caused a lot of problems.

For instance, how he spoke about the reversal of the Israel divestment issue at the press conference immediately following at GA 2006 is a prime example. He simply got it wrong and characterized the action in inaccurate ways. Then he issued conflicting FAQs about the situation and let BOTH of them stand.

Consistency on logical details is not one of Cliff's strengths. Speaking amiably and grandly, he does well. Speaking accurately--well, that's not so good. That's what my final comment in the original posting was about. This little quirky instance IS an indicator of a larger problem many folks have had with his performance.

Jim Berkley

P.S. Who is Moe? I would think that having a one-name pseudonym and no other information about yourself is tantamount to making an anonymous posting. You write and reason well. Why not have the fortitude to attach your real name to it?

10:17 AM, September 14, 2007  
Blogger Earl said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

11:02 AM, September 14, 2007  
Blogger Jim said...


First off, who ARE you? Do you have a last name? With whom am I corresponding, other than a software engineer from PA? You know my name. What's yours? Especially if you're going to fling accusations, have the courage to stand behind what you say and allow me to face my accuser.

Careful about declaring undocumented inconsistencies by the handful! Where, when, how? What specifically are you grousing about in what I've written about Cliff or my friend Joan Gray somehow failing to depart from their job descriptions? Be specific. Did I do it, or are you mindlessly lumping me with others in an irresponsible group accusation?

It is so cheap to accuse broadly, wildly, and without specifics. It's like shooting a shotgun into a crowd, hoping to hit the right individual. And disparaging terms like "the Layman crowd" does not elevate your discourse.

Second, it's one thing for a person to SAY something isn't part of his or her mandate, and it's another thing for it to be formally proven or correct. If I say, "It's not my job to keep my dog from attacking your child in your yard," do you think you might want to contest what I think my mandate is? If Cliff were to say, "It's not my job to defend the Constitution," and someone else says "Oh yes it is!" is that not legitimate? Certainly if Cliff says it's not his mandate to enforce dairy hygene in Wisconsin, a person would be hard-pressed to make a case for why it should be. But it is entirely consistent to point to the supporting documents and make a case for why a committee is INTENDED to operate in a certain manner, and why the Stated Clerk is INTENDED to perform certain tasks.

Was I "so emphatic" about the committee not searching, no not one bit? I said it wasn't intended in the way the standing rules were set up. I said they won't be searching--assuming they would do what they are chartered to do in the way they are instructed to do it, and wouldn't freelance their task just any which way.

Consider this analogy: You set up an intense study trip to Darfur, and somebody says, "What a great vacation! Bring back some trinkets for me." And you reply, "We're not going there to shop." Okay, do you mean emphatically that at no time on the trip will anyone buy anything? Of course not. You were saying, "Our purpose isn't to have a shopping vacation. We have another reason for going to Darfur."

Okay, that is a very close analogy to what I was saying about the purpose of the nominating committee. They're not charged with going out and searching. So I say they won't be searching, but they will be discerning. Same figure of speech, and understood by anyone who wants to understand it.

And "so emphatic"? You're hyperbolizing. Notice that I also said that "it is NOT EXACTLY ACCURATE for Kirkpatrick to write that the SCNC will have time to 'search diligently'" [emphasis added].

"Not exactly accurate." Does that sound emphatic to you? Come on. No need to jump on me with both feet. After all, I didn't do that with Cliff!

Am I sorry that I "tried to pick apart Cliff's letter"? Huh? To begin with, go back and count the compliments I give Cliff. There are several. I hope you noted that the whole section on his use of "work" noted pleasure that he chose that word.

So that leaves us with a comment that he had missed the boat on what the nominating committee would be doing, and the linking of that little gaffe to the fact that such errors have been commonplace in his work and are part of the problem leading to many people's agreement with him that he should not run again. And for that observation, I'm supposed to repent? Hardly! One can't repent for something that's not wrong.

Getting flamed does not equate with having moral culpability. It merely means some folks are flamers.

There is plenty in this life that demands my repentance, and the One to whom I repent knows that well. But this isn't such an occasion. A few "crows" (as Presbyman put it) pecking away persistently if ineffectively does not make a peccadillo.

Jim Berkley

1:57 PM, September 14, 2007  
Blogger Earl said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

2:57 PM, September 14, 2007  
Blogger Jim said...


If it will make you feel better, I can see that an exuberant exclamation point seems emphatic.

About anonymity: Hey, if you won't sign it, then don't write it.

Now, enough (he whispers). This has descended into bickering, like two siblings in the back seat on a long vacation trip. We'll draw a chalk line down the middle of the seat, and you stay on your side, and I'll stay on mine. :-)

Jim Berkley

4:32 PM, September 14, 2007  

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