Tweets on flag protocol at embassies overseas

Biden and Blinken can do whatever they want. They can play fast and loose with the rules all they want. They are the boss for now. But if I were an ambassador or a management counselor advising an ambassador overseas, I would stand on 2 FAM 154, which ONLY mentions flying the national flag. There is NO mention of a BLM flag or a Pride flag in the Foreign Affairs Manual.

Article 20 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations states, “The mission and its head shall have the right to use the flag and emblem OF THE SENDING STATE on the premises of the mission, including the residence of the head of the mission, and on his means of transport.

Satow’s Guide to Diplomatic Practice, the international diplomat’s bible, so to speak, section 10.10, makes no provision for any flag EXCEPT the official flag and emblem of the sending State in terms of the duties and authority of the receiving State to protect it from insult or damage.

postscript. I challenge anybody at the Department of State to get State’s Legal Office to sign off on a FAM change necessary to fly those flags officially. That decision memo will die before it leaves the home bureau, quicker than a swatted fly.

Holding news and information producers accountable

Wouldn’t it be something if we could hold news people accountable for their deeds? I mean, other professions seem to be able to be held accountable. Why not the people and entities who bring us information?

OK. let’s try that from a different tack.

When I was a young budding electrical engineer, I took a course called Modern Physics. The textbook, Fundamentals of Physics, was a huge tome by guys named Halliday and Resnick. I’ll never forget those two. Among other ideas that stuck with me for life, there were the concepts of accuracy and precision. Accuracy was represented by hitting the bulls-eye of a target with an arrow. Precision was hitting the same target over and over again. Accuracy included the idea of truth, scientific truth, that is. Precision was concerned I seem to recall with repetition.

We seem to have an awful lot of precision when it comes to information these days. The writers, the producers, and agencies that purvey the news can hit the same target again and again. But it seems that when it comes to the truth, scientific truth, reproducible truth, there is a gross deficiency. Every day we hear about retractions, we hear about folks getting stuff wrong, about information not being properly sourced.

When I was a wee pup, I worked in an agency that monitored various sources of news around the clock. When we thought some item of news rose to the level that it might interest our principals, we cranked out spot reports or even did rounds of phone calls. If we sent misdirected information to the top, we got in a bit of trouble.

I noticed that the only televised source of news reporting in those days got it wrong about 50% of the time when they were dealing with “breaking news.” So it became wise for us to wait beyond the “breaking news” point if it wasn’t a true emergency, to let them get it right.

Here is what I propose. Give each pundit, each writer, each news agency, each producer a public information accuracy quotient, IAQ. The IAQ would be a ratio of the number of times they issued information (precision) divided by the times their reports were true (accuracy). So, for example, if Joy Reid said various things seven times in a day for seven days in a week, the numerator would be 49. But if all the things were true, if they met the standard for accuracy, the denominator would also be 49, and her IAQ for the week would be 1. A perfect score. But as things became proven to be false, the denominator would shrink over time, slowly approaching some lower number, with a consequent rise in the overall ratio. Of course, the golden IQA, the standard for precision and accuracy, would always be 1, or unity. They would be required to display their IAQ on the website and, where applicable, on their television screen for all to see.

That way, when CNN or MSNBC or Fox News or any individual news reporter presented a IAQ greater than one, everybody would know. And people could use the IAQ to determine if they wanted to listen to or trust a particular source of news. Or shun them. A kind of a social ranking with consequences.

Is it really too much to ask?

planting today (05052021)

I planted today. Although it was high noon, the Earth was still moist from yesterday’s thunder shower. For the past three weeks I’d been building up my gardening plot at the West End (and Foggy Bottom) Community Garden, row by row, with generous layers of compost, bat guano, a volcanic ash product, and the previous weeks coffee grounds (which I always mix with ground pepper, cinnamon, and mushroom powder). The soil could not have been readier.

Because my plot is slightly oblong, I ended up with four eight foot vertical rows and five five foot horizontal rows (my choice). In vertical row one I alternated sunflower and moringa seeds spaced about six inches apart. Row two is all okra, germinated for 24 hours in water-soaked paper towels. Row three features three different types of eggplant, including an African variety that is very bitter, very tasty and very healthful. In Guinea-Bissau they call it jagatu and it goes whole of quartered in palm oil based stews and seafood dishes. The seeds I found, though, are from Burkina Faso. Row four has kale and beets.

The back five horizontal rows are slightly covered by the branches of an overhanging tree that provides early morning shade. I haven’t planted them yet but I am thinking about a row of herbs, basil, cilantro, parsley and oregano, a row of sweet and bell peppers of various hues, a row of dandelion greens, and a row of zucchini and yellow squash. The plot is bordered by a fence, so I’m thinking in the back row I’ll plant some passionfruit whose vines can cling to the fence and come back perennially.

That may be a lot of variety for so small a plot. We will see what sprouts and what dies in Earth’s womb.

Update. May 10, 2021. Watered today. Tiny green sprouts in every row. No rain in the forecast, so I will be watering every day this week. No evidence of pests so far.

Adult (il)literacy in the U.S. in perspective. Posted today to social media.

NaPoWriMo 2021 #6 – Memories from Rope-Yarn Wednesdays

With these hands I weave my own destiny.
The threads I twist and spin together form
The basis, whether cotton, wool, or silk,
For weaving every cloth and tapestry
That results. Color and texture inform
The ultimate Design. Repetition
And precision make the underlying
pattern strong. The crosswise stitch overlaps
to reinforce borders of interface
With new threads introduced. The surface fills
with dust for a moment – I blow it off
And continue. I reach a point where I
can see the end. I may undo a stitch
Here and there for a more complete outcome.

NaPoWriMo 2021 – #4 Echochrome Dreams

Today’s prompt invites us to examine liminal spaces. I didn’t like the photographs so I did an independent search and discovered the Sony game Echochrome. This sonnet resulted.

Echochrome dreams

“Change the way you perceive the world and the path will be revealed.”

I never played Sony video games –
But I recognize a good string quartet
When I hear one – all those years of playing
Viola were not for naught. Music moves,
One learns so much from its forward motion –
Pathways that touch form continuities,
And if you jump from one path you will land
On another. The gap that’s blocked from view
Between connected paths should not be feared;
A hole that’s blocked from views may not exist –
Until you step in it, of course, and then
You fall to lower levels. Closer things
Overlap things more distant – you see more
Detail in near objects than those afar.
– April 4, 2021

NaPoWriMo 2021 #3, repeated, unpacked

Prompt was the Robert Frost poem, “The Road Not Taken.”

The cherry blossoms are
in full display today. A gift
To perpetuity from the Japanese.

We didn’t have to end
that war the way we chose.
I can’t make up for what
the people lost but still
I feel their pain.

We fought another war
that both sides lost:
A sacred cause that should have
been resolved by Jefferson,
Madison and Hamilton
over dinner in New York,
not on battlefields.

(How much might it have cost
To cut a deal? 620,000 lives lost
Is a price we cannot fathom,
a mortgage that forever haunts us,
a note that has no maturity date.)

Dogwoods remind me
of cherry blossoms,
white petals, not pink.
The tree that formed 

the cross where Jesus died –
A passing Easter thought
not inappropriate.

Too much is lost in war,
too many lives foreclosed
the fruit of labor spoiled
on the vine. I think about
their roads and choices lost.
– April 2, 2021

NaPoWriMo 2021 – April 1, 2021

Today’s prompt is the animated version of SunRa, Seductive Fantasy

Sun Ra, man,
Our prophet and guide
Saint of inner space

In painting and music –
And growing flowers –
There is no finiteness,
Only infinity, he tells us.

Shapes and seeds
Abound – a never ending
Increase in variation –
Alternating generations.

LIke a trombone’s slide
Or a trumpet’s valve
Or vibration of strings
Across a bridge.

Every moment is
An improvisation –
A riff on a theme,
Removing the top layers
And building again.
– April 1, 2021

Mid-term in the American Century Cycle

All: Congratulations on reaching the halfway point of our journey! We have covered five of the plays in the American Century Cycle and we have five left. Give yourselves a pat on the back!

You have probably noticed some things from our readings.

1. August Wilson gives us an inside peek into and a bird’s eye view of life in black America. But he also gives us a similar view into overall America. It just takes some peeling back of the onion skin.

2. Reading these plays may be whetting your appetite to see more live theater. Hopefully COVID will pass and we will be able to see more real plays soon. People have remarked that they look at plays differently after going through the cycle. I’ve noticed that now I prefer to read through a play before seeing it on the stage so I know what to expect. All that is normal.

3. If you are seeing something of your own lives in the reading of the plays then we are doing it right. If not, we are not necessarily doing it wrong.

4. A lot of Wilson’s poetic artistry is hidden in the stage directions and the settings of each play. His poetry will spoil you and you will never be able to get enough. That is ok.

5. The plays may get easier to understand as we build up an understanding of Wilson from the plays we have already read. At the same time, they may get more difficult as themes become more complex. Hang in there.

Feel free to hit “reply to all” for further discussion. Everybody’s perspective is important and significant. No one, especially not the study group leader, has a monopoly on ideas, interpretations, analyses. Many of August Wilson’s fans have not read through half his plays. Even fewer have completed the cycle. You are all joining a very special “brotherhood.”

Your midterm grade is A+!

NaPoWriMo 2021 – #1

Romare Bearden – The Piano Lesson, 1984

The black mirror invites my inspection –
A scaled representation of the whole.
The wooden metronome in its foreground
Reminds one of rhythm and time’s passage,
The pendulum’s swing until the winding
Dies. The young girl, black like the mirror, plays
As her mother directs. The mother’s face,
More blue than black, leans in attentively.
A non-flowering plant rests in a vase.
A paintbrush seems out of place. It could be
A missing conductor’s baton. The sun
Bursts through the window as a slight breeze blows
The curtains askew. A ceiling lamp and
A table lamp compete to light the room.