Question Authority

You know, I get sick and tired, and a bit more than that, or I used to, when I went to the school and all the teachers’ cars had “question authority” bumperstickers.  These were also the sort of people who – of course – would come down on a kid like a ton of bricks for using the red pencil instead of the yellow, or for deviating a micron from the assignment.

That I managed to get through the kids’ schooling without either keying one of those cars, or putting in a little addendum on the bumpersticker saying “but bow to mine” is a miracle and a testimony to my upbringing.

But the whole matter of authority – by which I don’t mean physical power, even through troops – is an important one, and one we should be more aware of.

By authority here I mean a certain type of trust.  For instance, my husband is the authority on computers in the house.  If he says “we’re not buying this system because the bzzg is rgdrd,” I believe him because he knows a hell of a lot about computers, and I know next to nothing.

In the same way, if the kids have a piece of fiction writing, I’m the authority, even though Dan knows a bit about it.

Or if the cats just threw up in the hallway, I’m the authority on how to clean it.  I mean that type of authority.  The “I know more than you do about this, let me do it/tell you how.”

There are some types of authority that must exist for a society to make sense.  For instance, you must have people you know more than you do about running large economies. (And I wish we could find some.)  And I should hope my doctors know more than I do about surgery and infections.  (Not always true.) And… you know, about anyone would know more about growing a lawn.  (Don’t go there.)

The problem comes when authority becomes credentialism, and when authority is being claimed in soft fields that are a matter of opinion.  You really can’t tell me “I know more about how to raise children than you do” when your subject is how I’m raising MY children.  You might have read a heck of a lot about raising children, but you don’t know MY children (who tend to be oddities.)

This appeal to authority in soft subjects often melds into appeal to credentials.  So, the kids teachers would tell me, “I know more than you do about this, because they taught us this and this and this.”  One of them told us group work was essential “because the future of work is group work” – this was insanity, because it’s actually going the other way.  But she was “TAUGHT” so it’s credentialism.

My parents absolutely believed “experts” when it was things like teaching and medicine.  I think it was because neither of them had enough experience of them.  So, when my teachers said I needed to do something one way or another, my parents believed them, even if it was absurd.  That was something I couldn’t break them of.  And doctors… I remember when I was 20 I had this horrible pain which I swore was from a tooth in which I’d had a root canal.  Dad took me to the dentist who told him it was psychological, and dad should “marry her off soon.”  (I swear.  Doctor was a woman, too.)

Five years later, in the States, pain became unbearable and the local dentist in Charlotte, said the root canal was never properly done and there was a massive infection which involved my jaw bone and a bunch of nerves.

But dad believed the dentist and had a long talk with me all the way home.  (I don’t think I ever told him either, because what’s the point?)

In a sane (ah!) society there is a balance between the authority and deference to authority and questioning authority.  Either acquiescing to everything the authority says or questioning everything is a sign of trouble for a society.  And pasting “question authority” on your car when you intend your authority not to be questioned is a special kind of insanity that makes my eyes cross.

About twenty years ago I started noting a weird tendency for people – some people – to make appeals to authority.  And it was always soft subject authority.  Things like “Well, you know, she’s a teacher.”  Or “She knows a lot about this, she’s a Women’s Studies major” (When I explained why I wouldn’t be oppressed, even if people tried.) or…

And it wasn’t just people.  If it were just people, it would be endurable.  It was the mass culture.  All of a sudden we were getting stuff pushed from the media-industrial complex along the lines of “We can’t publish cozies, because amateurs don’t solve mysteries.  Policemen do, that’s why they’re trained to do it. They’re professionals.”  Also, you weren’t allowed to have a bumbling police officer in a book because it was “disrespectful”.  The same happened in other fields, at the same time.  Part of the death of SF as a well-selling genre was that you couldn’t write cooky ideas.  Yes, I know the idea of a past human civilization at the same level or above us is highly unlikely, but some of the best books of my youth posited just that, and came up with creative ways to explain the lack of remains.  It made for exciting reads.

All of a sudden, in the late eighties early nineties, houses were requiring both that science fiction have a “big science idea” – which largely excluded the human element – or that “you can’t violate things we know to be wrong.”  Which sent a bunch of people running screaming into Fantasy.  Even me, for a while.

Was this a conspiracy?  No.  I think it was when the boomers achieved some prominence in their fields – again, not because they’re boomers but because they’re a large cohort of generally the same age .  There’s a tendency in your middle years to appeal to authority and feel threatened by questioning and try to support other authorities.  So all of a sudden – and partly in reaction to their own youth culture – the boomers wanted people to respect those with learning in whatever field.  And because by then they were in command of the media-industrial complex, this idea pushed everywhere, even in places it shouldn’t go, like entertainment and teaching.

Even I was jaw-droppingly shocked when in a kerfuffle on my then LJ blog, a bunch of my kid’s classmates said I couldn’t question their teacher because… duh, she was a teacher.  Even though a) what she was teaching them (that culture was genetically inherited) was inherently wrong (and evil) and b) she was younger than I and had FAR LESS schooling than I.  But the kids were by then one generation deep in “must respect the authority of the credentialed ones” – their parents probably were taught the same, and therefore the teacher was an “authority” and we must respect her.  (PFUI.)

I would guess this is part of the issue we face with police abuses “but, we’re the authority.  We get to protect ourselves with military gear, and we can do no wrong.” And with teacher abuses, and to an extent with “doctoring by computer models” and don’t EVEN get me started on climatology.

Plus there was a tendency to put an “authority” veneer on a ton of things that are more art than science, like sociology.  And to confuse things like economics with “social justice” aka “Wishful thinking.”

However – and at the risk of Foxfier accusing me of being Irish again – I think the insanity itself is a good sign.

Why do I think it’s a good sign?  Because in other countries the authorities aren’t shouting QUITE so loudly “Listen to me” and “respect me.”

I think part of the shrill screaming here is that they sense a large number of people don’t believe them/respect them/think they’re all that.

This leads to vicious attacks (sometimes physical, as in the case of police forces but mostly calling you things like “Climate change deniers.”) and to much screaming and trying to overbowl people with their “authority.”

But what I keep thinking is this: I live with people who are very knowledgeable in the sciences, and have several friends (hi Speaker!  Hi Les!) who are real-life-scientists.  Those don’t scream “Believe me” or “respect my authority.”  Instead they bring out the figures and explain things to you.  And then you do believe and respect.

Because they know they are right and that you will respect them, once you listen.

Which leads me to believe all this sound and fury is because they know their position is precarious.

So, make them more uncomfortable whenever you can.  When they tell you “But I know this, I studied it in school,” and it’s clearly false, (Keynesianism) laugh at them.  Pointing is optional.

Question authority.

… It drives them nuts and gives them a sense of perspective!


375 responses to “Question Authority

  1. Part of the death of SF as a well-selling genre was that you couldn’t write kooky ideas. Yes, I know the idea of a past human civilization at the same level or above us is highly unlikely, but some of the best books of my youth posited just that, and came up with creative ways to explain the lack of remains. It made for exciting reads.

    Or, for that matter, advanced prehuman civilizations. One of the most successful ideas ever in the history of science fiction, one which united sf, fantasy and horror, has been the “Cthulhu Mythos,” which includes whole menageries of prehuman civilized sapients and prehistoric human civilizations. Most of the stories don’t even bother to explain why we aren’t constantly tripping over their remains, though some hint at esoteric mechanisms that delete most of them.

    • one of the most annoying things you find in the alien spacebats sub forum at althistory is that somebody will post some off the wall idea (for instance what if the moon was a life baring planetoid) and the first page or more would be guy’s saying why it would be impossible….whay to get into the spirit there fellow

      • I really, really enjoy reading about the actual, happening research into ways to break the light barrier in future space travel done by actual, real scientists precisely because of that attitude, even if I don’t really understand much of anything of what they are talking about. Hey, even if it never comes to anything why not? You will never know unless you really look, research something and you may find something else even if you never reach your original objective, and besides speculating is fun, no matter how nutty what you are speculating about happens to be. The killjoys should be respected when they are talking about resources, sure, if there is limited time and limited money it’s sensible to concentrate only, or mostly, to what is most likely to bring results, but otherwise, point the facts out if you want but don’t be obsessive about it.

  2. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    Besides the “Question Authority (except when “I’m” the authority) idiocy, there’s “Break the rules (except when they’re Liberal Rules)” idiocy and “Speaking Truth To Power (except when the Power is Liberal)” idiocy. [Evil Grin]

  3. You’re Irish, aren’t you?

    Ha, beat Foxfier to it. 😉

  4. Every authority you meet should have each of their pronouncements met with “why?” If the answer comes back as “because $authority says so” – or even worse “because *I* say so” – feel free to disregard them. They have no idea what they’re talking about.

    • I have this happen all the time with biology— ever listen to someone who’s supposedly a doctor argue that a pre-birth human isn’t a member of the Human species? Or that there’s no difference between an organism and a cell? Or that pregnancy should be redefined (to implantation) because embryos can exist outside of the womb?

      If the authority has good reason for “because authority says so”– or, of course, but this is the internet and it probably has to be said anyways– it being “I said so” is relevant to standing, then the general rule doesn’t apply.

      • I still remember the professional ethicist who wrote, without blinking, that when a botched abortion produces a live birth, the result LOOKS TO THE UNTRAINED EYE like a premature baby.

      • The problem you’re running into with your doctor friends is that the technical definitions for things like “species” “organism” “pregnancy” and “cell” evolved over hundreds of years in different and loosely related fields for many different purposes. As a result, they tend to fit together about as well as Joe Biden’s attempt to build an Ikea bookshelf. Some parts grossly overlap, while others leave huge gaps. It’s why I think the abortion debate is philosophical, not scientific or political, and hence insoluble.

        Even if someone trusts an authority, they should be able to provide some reasoning as to why they trust that authority. But if that reasoning is that the authority is trusted because it’s an authority…well, you can’t build an argument on a tautology anymore than you can build a sand castle on a beach ball.

        • Actually, up until 1968 or so, the technical definitions for things like “species,” “organism,” “pregnancy,” and “cell” went together just fine, and nobody would have been dreamed of saying that an unborn human child wasn’t an unborn human child. If you look at college textbooks for pre-med and biology, they all agree. One imagines that people who wanted abortions back then were a great deal less mealy-mouthed about it.

          But now, we’ve always been at war with Eastasia.

        • If that were the reason behind the problem, they’d be able to show a single source that wasn’t specifically altered to support their assertion– in some cases, they can’t find a single bit of evidence to support their claims.

    • Example over at Sarah’s facebook, broadened a bit, is when you try to tell people that something isn’t working and they want “proof” beyond the fact that it is not working, you just tried it and it doesn’t work— AKA, ‘I said so.’

  5. Your doctor knows best.
    “Medical errors are the fifth-leading cause of deaths in the US, with up to 98,000 deaths annually.” According to a study by Millennium Research Group (MRG).
    Obviously medical professionals know more medicine than we lay folk, but what gets overlooked is that humans are not interchangeable parts. We are each unique with vastly different reactions to the same treatment or medications.
    If your doctor does not treat your relationship as a partnership run not walk to find another who will. One of the hidden dangers of the ACA will be the further destruction of essential doctor/patient relationships. But that’s what government does, reduce people to statistics, or try to. Same as with education. If their cookie cutter approach in an area is a monumental failure, well they meant for the best, give them credit for trying after all, and ignore an entire class of damaged students. There’ll be another one along next year to experiment on.

  6. However – and at the risk of Foxfier accusing me of being Irish again – I think the insanity itself is a good sign.

    They say the Men of Ireland
    Are the Men that God made Mad;
    For all their Wars are Merry
    And all their Songs are Sad.

  7. “Climate Change Deniers”

    Science is not done by consensus. Criticism of science is not rebutted by ad hominem.

    • And when the measurements disagree with your models, odds are the problem isn’t with the measurements.

      • Especially when the system being modeled is the original chaotic system.

        In a perfect world anyone claiming to have a long-term climate model would be treated the same as someone claiming to have a perpetual motion machine.

        • Or would be viewed as the equivalent of Asimov’s Hari Seldon, before the fall. That’s the sort of longshot claim that makes for great storytelling, but even he had to deal with the impact of the Mule, right?

          • Asimov’s psychohistory predates the discovery of chaotic systems. At the time Asimov was writing Foundation the belief was that most random fluctuations would even out, allowing sufficient computing power to generally predict system behavior.

            The idea that models of systems operating under well-understood deterministic laws could be radically altered by such small effects as the rounding error caused by the difference in size between running memory and storage memory was stunning.

            In reality, Asimov wouldn’t need the Mule to throw the Seldon Plan into the dustbin. The inherent limitations of the Prime Radiant would take care of that, probably before Terminus ever got off the ground. Which makes for a less than interesting story.

            • Nah — a more interesting story. But not the one Asimov wrote.

            • I’ve been studying the Fermi-Pasta-Ulam problem recently. Not only do chaotic systems (perfectly deterministic, mind) not behave predictably, they also don’t behave statistically either!

              (Or, at least, any derivable statistical measures aren’t anywhere near as simple as what is commonly assumed in things like statistical thermodynamics (eventual equipartition of energy) and blow up into pathological fractal things.)

              • One of the original computer models. Fermi wanted to use this new computational ability to see how a non-linear spring-mass system would eventually approach equipartition equilibrium. It … didn’t.

              • Fermi Pasta — it’s rottini and angel hair.

                Head>desk. I’m sorry. Would you believe NOT a drop of caffeine, yet?

              • But…but…but…the IPCC says they’re 95% confident! Never mind the past decade has proven 98% of the models their using to be garbage, or that input from actual scientists stops about three levels below the actual report language.

                People have been known to think of me as somewhat…arrogant (I know!) and even I’m appalled at their hubris.

                • I’m not so much appalled by their hubris as by their stupidity. Ok, maybe somewhat by their hubris also, if they are going to try and pull a snow job on me… could they at least remember to bring the snow?

        • Especially when the model they are using deletes inconvenient data and assumes that the primary energy input into the model is a constant, when it isn’t.

      • But the measurements are easier to change than the models.

        • Which is why I had to add a disclaimer to my non-fiction books stating that the climatological calculations were done prior to the Climate Research Center’s “correction” of the data in 2011, so attempts to repeat my calculations may produce different results. Thanks be that I was using rainfall data and not temps, or I’d be really up a creek.

    • When your commitment to a model is so strong that the model cannot be overturned by contrary data, you are no longer doing science.

      • when your commitment to a model for a theory isn’t just work to you, but a major part of your self-image, you will respond with the greatest force at your disposal, to those opposing you.

        • When it is your justification for suckling the government teat you will exert even greater force to keep the funds coming.

          [I]n Fiscal Year 2013, which ended on September 30, the US government spent $22,195,000,000 on climate change matters.

  8. Years ago on usenet I’d get in long conversations/debates with, oh, Math PhD’s from Harvard about how Math is taught. The one fellow I’m thinking of specifically knew very well that I had never finished college, much less had an advanced degree in anything. But those were great conversations because he respected me and my intellect. He would explain why he thought what he thought and he expected me (and others) to understand his explanations – to have the intelligence to meet his intelligence.

    In contrast to that there were the people with credentials that would arrive and graciously share their wisdom and when you said, “That is really dumb because…” they’d utterly fall apart. It was sooooo insulting to them and I (and others) would get lectures on how this was so incredibly socially unacceptable, mean, and outrageous and that we were all bad people and how no one, NO ONE, ever behaved this way.

    The contrast between an actual authority and a credential seems to be defined, and it certainly is in my mind, by just how territorial a person is about their knowledge. Does the person explain their reasoning or do they defend their borders?

  9. I have been privileged to meet and chat with many extremely big brains in the sciences, and even argue with them (one just days before he was awarded a Nobel, which was fun). In general, the more they *really* knew the more humble they were. Therefore I posit Chase’s Theorem, “The presence of arrogance indicates ignorance.”

  10. “… It drives them nuts and gives them a sense of perspective!”
    No, more often than not it makes them angry and defensive. They then use their positions of authority to “correct” you for your temerity to challenge the natural order of things.
    We’ve all seen it, petty bureaucrats with some small ability to affect your life so using that small power to maximum effect.
    Most police are honest dedicated folk, but a few are bullies in it for the power it gives over the citizens.
    While rare, I have seen teachers who would not hesitate to take out revenge on the children of parents they didn’t get along with.

    • Ah, teachers… The teacher I had on the third and fourth grade sometimes seemed to use us, the kids on her class, to try to bolster the self-esteem of her own daughter who was a year or two years older (I no longer remember exactly how much) than we were, and sometimes visited her class. One incident I remember a bit too well: I was one of the more artistically talented kids, one of the ways I could get nice attention from the others was drawing, and they’d sometimes ask me to draw animals and such. So the teacher one day told the class that there would be a drawing contest between me and her daughter, and the class would then vote for the better drawing. We’d draw on the blackboard. Well, you can guess how that went, she was pretty good, partly because she was older, and she was the teacher’s daughter.

      The worst two years I had in school. She also had very clear pets, and others she bullied when the mood struck her or we acted out. I didn’t get her ire all that often, my acting out was mostly trying to hide from her notice, but I was one of the unfavorites (is that a word, by the way? I’ve seen it used).

  11. Great post as usual.

  12. OMG don’t get me started. Thank gawd I’m graduating in six weeks’ time. I’m almost tempted to reopen my blog* just to talk about my experiences in the groves of academe. Amazingly, though, I was exposed to only three truly awful teachers — needless to say, all liberal / socialist types — over 3.5 years, but two things struck me hard.
    1. The content was amazingly superficial in some classes. I even said to one prof that “I expected a more complex treatment of the subject matter in this course” in a 4-level course. In one 4-level class, I did not learn a SINGLE new fact. Bottom line: I expected to learn more; I seldom did.
    2. More than one lecturer asked me why I was doing their course (duh: “credential”) when my knowledge of the material was obviously extensive — in a couple of memorable cases, deeper than theirs. And more than one lecturer admitted that I could have taught the course as well as they did.

    *Ain’t gonna happen. I have novels to write. All this academic crap prevents me from writing the good stuff, and blogging does likewise. New novel (“Skeleton Coast”) in January; sequel to “Family Fortunes” (“Family Conflicts”) in June. And then there’s “Budapest Afternoons” to follow, and… and…

    • Yeah — I’ve been considering taking this to a semi-group blog because writing 1k to 1.5 every morning leaves me floundering to finish novels. No, probably won’t do it, but I need to put myself on a schedule where I do five blogs in one day. Like Sunday. I used to be on it, then I got sick.

      • That’s why my blog had a single Saturday post — usually a short essay — and Sunday was devoted to pics of beautiful women. I was burned out by Friday, and after seven years of Fridays, burned out completely. Novel writing is easy by comparison.

      • Why don’t you write just one blog entry a week? The emphasis should be on your paying work. Errr, just my opinion.

        • Ain’t gonna happen, Em, sorry. Blogging is SO 2007.

          • Didn’t mean you. Meant Mistress Hoyt. What will your degree be in?

            • Education. He’s gone over to the dark side.

            • B.A. (Modern European History). No education credentials. Tried it for a semester, couldn’t face the thought of fighting the Education Establishment on a daily basis, quit the idea of being a teacher, if it means requiring an “education credential” I’ll just pass on the idea. If anyone wants a halfway decent History or Lit teacher (without the EdCred) for their school, I’ll entertain the idea. Otherwise, I’ll stick to writing novels.

              • Oh! That’s when I heard of it, I guess.

              • That is part of their strategy — requirements so soul-deadening that only the dead of soul can suffer through the acquisition of credentials. Some brave few survive the process, but they remain a minority.

                You don’t have to discriminate in the hiring if you make the process of qualification sufficiently selective. You see this process in operation in most fields dominated by “Liberals”, as adherence to the dominant orthodoxy is the preeminent quality desired.

                • As I understand it, the current trend toward credentialism is a response to court decisions that using things like IQ tests for employment decisions was inherently discriminatory, so employers started using degrees as a proxy for intelligence. Which benefits those who are good at sitting through college and doing the minimum to pass, but harms those of us who are plenty smart but unwilling to sit through everything Mr. du Toit’s been complaining of just to get a piece of paper that says we know what we already know we know. You know?

                    • But have you got a piece of frilly paper with a gold seal that says you know? 🙂

                    • No I do not, and now they have decided to change the laws so I could no longer become licensed unless I went and got a four year degree. The thought that I actually trained one of the professors never crosses their mind.

                    • You can’t get grandfathered in? More and more “Education” seems like a guild and not a profession.

                    • One could make the argument that education has become a filtering device – not just for companies looking for a document with a gold seal as an indication that you have some aptitude for learning (and maybe it’s losing its value in that regard… call me crazy on that one…), but it’s ALSO in some places become a filtering device so that only the right kinds of people get through.

                    • oh yeah!

                    • I COULD have got grandfathered in if I would have became licensed before they changed the law. But while I had been eligible to test for my LS for several years under the old law I had never bothered with it since I worked for someone with a LS and didn’t need one. Yes it would have given me more options, but I wasn’t interested in them at the time, and never really figured on them changing the law so that I wouldn’t be eligible. If I want to jump through the right hoops I could still do it. My options now are either go to school for four years and be bored out of my ever lovin’ mind (or more likely be irritated to death by teachers that know less than I do, most of whom have never actually worked in the field) or go become licensed in another state that still accepts X hours of field experience for eligibility in lieu of schooling. Then once licensed by another state I would be eligible to test for an Idaho LS.

                  • I’ve run into that with the I.T. field. Somehow, the thought that even if I HAD completed my Computer Science degree back in the 80s, it would be worthless to me now, and that my 7 years experience in Database Analysis and Programming is much more important doesn’t enter their thought process.

                    • At one point not long ago it was a basic rule of the industry that a degree in I.T. was proof of incompetence. All persons who had any kind of competence left before graduation because there was more money and far more interesting work to be found in the industry. The people who pl;owed on through to earn a degree in computer science were presumptively the ones who had nothing to offer.

                    • Hey, here they now seem to be asking for papers from cleaners. Well, most of the want ads I’ve seen still also say they will also train you for the job, but especially if somebody wants to advance, like maybe get a better paying position as a work group manager or something, they’ll need those papers. And there are also what are called passes, hygiene pass and whatever, I don’t even know what those are. Been about a decade since I last worked in anything where they are now needed, and they have come into the picture after that.

              • Yeah. I sooooo love explaining to people that no, I can’t teach at public schools because I only have a PhD, not a BA in Ed. Half the people say, “That’s stupid.” The other half start, “You can take night courses/ summer school/ special certification . . .” Arrrrrgh. But at a parochial school, you pretty much need at least an MA in a field, not in education.

              • There’s always private schools. They don’t pay as well as the public ones, but then the kids can be expelled.

              • Tutoring can be fulfilling, though.

              • So I have to ask, if you aren’t getting your EdCred, why did you go back to school?

        • Because once-a-week blogs don’t tend to have as much traffic…

          • Take one day a week off. And one day to ask _us_ a question, and have everyone dissect each other’s answers. As in: “Brain storm! Give me ten ways to fix the welfare disaster.”

            • Or who are the currently writing authors who would be most worthy heirs to Heinlein. Which would be smarter place for a colony with our current level of technology, Mars or the Moon. Which of the now starting space companies seem most likely to succeed (hey, if I ever get more money I might want to buy stock). Which of the Atlantis theories you prefer. Where do you think Russia or China (or both) is headed.

              Lots of possible subjects.

            • How about a PG-13 limerick contest, like William the Coroner (RIP) used to do? Until then I’d never known you could have a clean limerick that began with “There was an old man from Nantucket.”

    • I even said to one prof that “I expected a more complex treatment of the subject matter in this course” in a 4-level course. In one 4-level class, I did not learn a SINGLE new fact.

      I hear you. One reason I dropped my linguistics major was my horror at finding that information theory was not offered even as an option. (You could get one course in information theory — as a 4th-year math major. Not otherwise.) How the hell are you supposed to know anything about the workings of language if you don’t understand how a signal carries a message?

  13. Forgot my original thesis, sorry. I challenged the lecturers’ authority often, not overtly, but with pointed, difficult questions. The interesting thing was that the conservative lecturers (U. of North Texas; there were several conservative lecturers) took it in stride. The liberal teachers, without exception, ALWAYS pulled rank. I got the feeling that they felt intimidated and/or threatened, whereas the conservatives just enjoyed the challenges I threw at them.

  14. The “Qualifications vs Credentials” dichotomy has been one of my pet peeves for a lot of years.

  15. Point of order for Bearcat and Foxifier. The Irish are descended form the Milesians who are a people of the northern Iberian peninsula (as is Sarah) Therefore Sarah is Portuguese and so are the Irish

    • Point of order for Sanford Begley. The Irish are descended from every bloody body and his bloody dog. On average, they’re more Norse than Portuguese. There was once an Irishman who wasn’t descended from a king, so I hear, but even he was descended from a Viking and the fair lass that he had his way with.

      • To some extent that is true, their culture came with their Milesian ancestors though, not the more commonly cit4ed Celts. Recent DNA studies have backed up historical data that was ignored by the mainstream for a very long time

        • So the Milesians drank whiskey? The Milesians played harps? The Milesians had unholy brawls between Protestants and Catholics? The Milesians spoke English, but made a quixotic effort to keep Irish Gaelic alive in the interest of patriotism?

          Hardly anything that we should recognize as any part of Irish culture dates back far enough for the Milesians to have had anything to do with it.

    • Actually there’s more commonalities — the Roman colonization happened at the same time (and so likely from same areas) same tribe of Germans invaded both places, the Vikings who raided both coasts were the same…

      • Yeah, that’s the way I figured it.

      • How do you explain that they drink like Finns? 🙂

        • Which? Because that applies to either.

          • Well, the one group whose partying I’ve seen were Irish, mixed with Finns. Seems that towards the end of the party you will find the guys leaning on each other and toasting each other and everything else they can think of, and generally will have a hard time telling nationality of any of the guys since they are all slurring their speech badly enough that you can no longer really hear the accents. 😀

            On the other hand they were university students, so maybe not really representative.

            • If you get Portuguese in there, you’ll only be able to tell them apart because they’re shorter and in general darker. Seriously. I was telling the kids about something I did after a party in my graduation week (no sex involved. Oh, okay, fine. I climbed a statue downtown and gave it my panties for a hat.) and they just stared at me. The hard part was explaining to them that yes, I’d been drinking, but no, I wasn’t drunk. Most of my friends with me were, though.

              • You don’t need to be drunk to have “It seemed like a good idea at the time,” or “I thought it’d be hilarious.”

                Aeh, it probably was hilarious. And it sounds like you had fun. And you never have to do it again now.

                • It was hilarious because it looked like a Frisian cap — statue of Pollux. BUT yeah… and the guys didn’t know me when I was silly and young.

                • “It seemed like a good idea at the time,”

                  That explains most of my actions when I was young… and all of them that included phrases such as, “Watch this.”

                  • Or, more southerly, “Hey y’all, watch this!”

                    which oft ends badly.

                    • Occasionally, it spawns stories which span generations. For stupidity (ever heard of a ‘shiner got so drunk he lost his still?), for craziness (not telling that one again), or for sheer awesomeness… *chuckle*

                    • And people think those are just stories til they find the still while (deer, usually) hunting.

                    • Or the complete 1979 Plymouth Valiant inside a cave with only two openings, both less than 2 ft x 2ft. Or the 56 matching pieces of lawn furniture that ended up at the dam, six miles from any human habitation. Or the police blotter article noting the drunk found, sans shirt and shoes, passed out on the women’s racketball court at 4 am with two tennis balls down his pants. Or the hundred and some odd cherry trees growing in an open field in Southern Appalachia that, from the air, spell out F*** You Anderson. Or the massive dent in the side of the water tower outside a certain quaint Virginia town. Or where the head of the statue that used to adorn said town’s library got off to, or how a pumpkin ends up on its shoulders every March 15. Or the deer with the plastic Bush/Cheney sign grown into its antlers. Or the possum that got entombed in the overpass…

                      Ah, youth.

                  • Jerry Pournelle gave up drinking when he realized he was no longer saying “It seemed like a good idea at the time,” but instead “It must have seemed like a good idea at the time,”

                • While I do drink, I sometimes also get “contact drunk”, where people who have been drinking are acting goofy, and I will join in, as long as it seems fun, but I can seem as drunk as the others when that happens.

        • You mean How do YOU explain the Finns drinking like they were Irish

      • Um, there was no Roman colonization of Ireland. Ever.

        • We had better sense.

          • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

            Actually, Rome didn’t think Ireland had anything worth stealing and the Irish never did anything to seriously annoy Rome.

          • Well that is because you had Irish legionnaires (there have been Irish fighting on both sides of every war) and you looked at them and said, “Do we really want to go conquer and colonize that crazy Mick’s uncles and brothers?

          • Sorry — there were Greek and Roman settlements in Ireland, though if you ask me for details now, I can’t give them…

            • Probably trading settlements: wool, possibly a little gold (it used to wash out of the Irish rivers, IIRC), probably a fair amount of trade in Irish wolfhounds, otterskins, etc. And if they had the famous Irish mantles back then, they were probably a trade good back then.

            • Greeks, well, they went everywhere that a trireme could reach.

              Romans: likely there were trading outposts, but there was never anything with the formal status of a Roman colonia, and no part of Ireland was ever established as Roman territory or included in a Roman province.

              • Which is how St. Patrick was the first missionary to carry Christianity outside the Roman Empire.

                • The Apostle Thomas made it into India. St Matthew made it into Ethiopia. Georgia became the first officially Christian country in the 3rd century. St Patrick was an important missionary, but hardly the first to carry the Good News outside Roman territory.

              • Likely — but where I found this was in a trading history that involved Portugal. Apparently some of the nuts who settled in Portugal had family in Ireland. (Now since the North was mostly legionaries land grant, it’s also entirely possible the settlers of the North of Portugal were Celtic. Or at least some of them. Um.)

      • Where do the picts fit in here? I come from a melange of mutliness and yet via genetic study come out almost a stereotype of a genetic pict. Recessive traits all the way, baby! I had last count over 100. Does that mean I’m a sport? Some say that some “black Irish” are actually picts. Ironically, I am also not Irish– save through the expediency of being Scots. 😉 Considering how often they fought and other fun F words, I have to assume there’s some cross over.

        The tales on both sides hint at even more of that.

        • The picts are the originals of Scotland, not Ireland. And well, very few have cared much in all honesty

          • Interestingly, I heard that the picts also settled in Germany– and pretty much all over europe. Or is that just the hype? The even bigger irony is that I look like my grandmother–not my grandfather. He was the Scott. She was the German. Genetics are fun!

            • The trouble is, nobody really knows much about the Picts. They seem to have spoken a P-Celtic language related to the ancestor of Welsh, but they seem not to have been one people. The Latin name simply means ‘painted ones’, and refers indiscriminately to all the Britons not yet conquered by Rome. The Irish name Cruthin is apparently just the Irish cognate of Pritani (whence Britain), and was used indiscriminately for Pictish and non-Pictish Britons outside the Roman fold.

              By stretching a point, you could call almost any Celtic people Picts; by a narrow definition, not even all the people of Caledonia in Roman times were Picts. It’s not a very helpful term, really.

        • Black Irish is what I am, I thought Picts were more Scottish in origin, but then the Scots and the Irish stole women back and forth.

          • Black Irish is the Milesian ancestry, and Ireland colonized Scotland extensively during the first few centuries A.D.

            • Milesian were originally from Greece — like Thales Miletus. BTW one of those interesting things — I wonder if they also founded Milan. my Italian teacher said I had a (insert colorful words) Milanese accent… 😛

              • The Irish Milesians are no relation of the Greek Milesians. The Irish ones were supposedly the descendants of Mil Espáine, which is just the Irish form of the Latin phrase Miles Hispaniae, ‘Soldier of Spain’. That name could hardly have existed before the third century B.C., when the Romans first sent armies into the Iberian peninsula. Miletus’s glory days were several hundred years earlier than that.

                • P.S.: Milan was Mediolanum in Latin. Wikipedia informs me that it was founded by the Insubres, a Gaulish tribe, about 600 BC. There were Greek colonies on the Italian coasts by that time, but none so far inland.

          • I thought that the Black Irish were decendents of sailers from the Spanish Armada who were shipwrecked there.

          • So a scamp ran away from home… then comes back home with an invading army. Then the other side invades back and discovers a love interest, then were kicked out, then came back. The tales seem to indicate that this was a time honored tradition among love lorn rebels. In both Irish and Scots lore. 🙂

        • Where do the Picts fit in here?

          They pict a spot for themselves, of course.

            • They are due a nod for their invention of the popular party game which bears their name, Pictionary.

              We should also acknowledge their widespread and well-earned reputation as liars, fantasists, raconteurs, tale-tellers and leg-pullers, a reputation reflected in the word Fiction (some fronunciation difficulties were not uncommon amongst them, especially with regard to voiced consonants.).

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

      Sorry Sanford, but I disagree. The Milesians defeated the Irish Fairy Folk (ie Gods) in battle. The Irish can’t be descended from them as they lost to the English. [Very Big Evil Grin]

  16. You made a fundamental error in reading those bumper stickers, an error that is not surprising given that your foreign birth and ESL status deprived you of deep, bred-in-the-bone familiarity with native idiom.

    You see, when you read “Question Authority” you mistook it for a declarative statement with “question” as the verb and “authority” being the object. This is a very understandable and common mistake.

    In actuality what those bumper stickers represent is an assertion of status, in which “question” is an adjective modifying the type of authority being asserted. Thus those bumper stickers are intended to identify the car driver as holding membership in that privileged class, those ennobled with the authority to ask questions and demand answers.

    That class of nobility includes teachers, members in good standing of the mainstream media (thus, not affiliated with Fox, which is why their questions can be answered with ridicule, the poseurs) and Liberals in general. It is why such conservative politicians as Chris Christie and Newt Gingrich (and yes, Ronald Reagan) are so rare: they succeed in spite of defying the authority of their questioners to demand answers.

    You can rely on my analysis, I’m an accountant.

    • I thought you were being sarcastic…

      “Thus those bumper stickers are intended to identify the car driver as holding membership in that privileged class, those ennobled with the authority to ask questions and demand answers.”

      …and then I realized you were speaking the simple truth.

      • I only regret being unable to recall the essayist whose work I read some ten – fifteen years ago and who first conveyed the point that the Right of Inquiry is the crux. How many times have we been infuriated by “our” political representatives accepting the premise of their interrogators when it is obvious (to us) that the entire premise of a question is invalid?

        • Ah, this reminds me of some video snippet of Chris Christie being interviewed by a news bimbo, probably in the previous election cycle … in which she asked some inane question and his instantaneous response was “I reject the premise of your question,” followed by further explanation. My heart went pitty-pitty-pat-doubletime that day. If only …

    • I bow to your expertise, RES. I only quibble with your characterization of Chris Christie as “conservative”

      • Heh – I hesitated over that one meself. For NJ he’s almost radical, so I slipped it in.

      • Conservatism is not an ideology but a tendency of the spirit. It wishes to conserve things. Whether this is good or bad depends entirely on what one wishes to conserve.

        Chris Christie is a New Jersey conservative. He wishes to conserve New Jersey, pretty much as he has known it all the days of his life. This is a fairly ghastly thing to wish for.

      • Chris Christie isn’t a conservative. He’s just a politician who can do math. Unfortunately our current political climate make him an ally*.

        *I happen to believe the current talk of Christie as the GOP front-runner is the news media trying to saddle us with a weak candidate and wishcasting by Eastern Seaboard types. We traditionally haven’t done well with people from the Atlantic coast. The only one to win since WWII was elder Bush, and he was only riding Reagan’s coattails**.

        Another reason the GOP pisses me off. Reagan was not only able to get himself elected twice, he got H.W. – and arguably W. – elected. Maybe we should try going back to that well?

        • It’s a form of concern trolling, just like how Liberals tell conservatives what we must do to win elections (which is almost always to be more like them), they like to tell us who we should run.

          I swear, that’s how we ended up with McCain, who was barely winning anything suddenly being thrust on the public as the new god of the GOP.

          • I don’t know. McCain strikes me as from the same wing of the GOP as Romney, Dole, and Bush Sr., with Bush Jr. be somewhat to the right of them.

            The fact that this wing of the GOP is spectacularly bad at winning Presidential elections seems to escape them. And, unfortunately, the party as a whole.

            • Those guys were similarly anointed by the press as the best the GOP had to offer, and the Leadership of the Stupid Party assumed this would mean they’d get a fair shake by the press.

              The press likes to set them up and knock them down. That’s why we seem to cycle through frontrunners each cycle.

              • Part of the problem is structural: the GOP allows the MSM to select their candidates. Look at the panelists and moderators for debates — in GOP primaries! The GOP seems incapable of understanding that a) the press is not impartial and b) the press is not their friend.

                Allowing Fox News to host a debate sorta makes sense; accepting MSNBC hosting one is on a level with trying the question of whether John Wilkes Booth’s shooting of Lincoln was justified before a panel comprised of mid-level officers of the Army of the Confederacy.

                This is not to say the GOP should only allow “friendlies” on their debate panels, merely that the panel ought not consist only (or even primarily) of unfriendlies. I daresay almost any of the commenters here could propose a half dozen suitable interrogators without blinking: Charles Krauthammer, George Will, Britt Hume, Jonah Goldberg, Byron York, Michael Barone, Robert Stacy McCain, Cal Thomas, Ken Blackwell, Stephen Hayes, Hugh Hewitt, Rush Limbaugh … heck, if we go to bloggers there are easily a dozen more who do not openly prima facie reject conservatism.

                Republicans have got to stop letting the wolves select which dogs will guard the sheep.

        • I am saying it for once and all. If it’s Christie vs Hilary, I’m voting for Let It Burn. And you know, I’m pretty hard to get to this point. So, maybe they might want to rethink this.

          • I doubt he’s going to be the nominee. He’ll probably do OK in New Hampshire, though I think they’re used to a higher degree of cheek-polishing than Christie’s temperament permits. He’s not going to do well in Iowa, and he’s going to get shellacked in South Carolina.

            • Christie is a liberal with enough brains to balance a checkbook. He would have a better chance at the presidency running as a democrat than as a republican.

              • O am not a particular fan of Christie, but the Democrat Party is well Left of him. Moreover, I can argue without benefit of adult beverages that a Christie Administration would be as superior to a Hillary Administration as hos weight exceeds hers.

                Consider the cabinet and bench appointees. Christie might well appoint people more liberal than I would prefer but he wouldn’t appoint any of the screaming nutjobs Hillary would.

                What has awarded nominations to “moderate” Republicans in the past has been a) the MSM and b) the division of the conservative Republican vote amongst (for recent example) Gingrich, Santorum, Paul, Perry, Bachmann & Cain. Frankly, looking at the field in 2012 I can’t claim I think any of them would have been a more effective Chief Executive than Romney.

                • Well, he is a Liberal– of my folks’ generation, or maybe the generation before….

                • No. In Christie’s case there’s the knife slipped into Romney’s back. THAT to me is evidence of enough ill intent and untrustworthiness not to allow him anywhere near the levers of power. I think he’d be EXACTLY like Hilary (to be liked, you know, by the press and the left) but would take the Republican party down with him for good. No.

          • It might very well be Christie vs Hilary.

    • So what do you think: considering that most of those slogans are ones which became popular back in the 60’s and 70’s, so

      a) most of the hippies, back in the day, were never trying to change the society into something where everyone’s voice really would be heard, instead they were always just trying to overthrow the authority they didn’t like and replace it with their own.

      b) most actually were sincere, and may still believe in the ‘everyone’s voice will be heard’ ideal, and those slogans, in the abstract, but are just too dense to see the discrepancy between what they say and what they do.

      c) they believed when they were young, but after they got the authority power corrupted their ideals (and besides they believe more that they are right than that everybody should be heard anyway).

  17. Cannot find the direct quote, but I know I got it from “The Might of the West” by Lawrence Brown. Every age has what its “educated” knows is right — the teachable formulated knowledge, versus what the learned — those on the edges of the expansion of knowledge, are learning is really true’ but may not conform to the “educated” knowledge.

    One can be learned by rote, the other cannot. One is challenging itself, the other refuses to be challenged (Last statement mine, not Brown’s).

  18. “Also, you weren’t allowed to have a bumbling police officer in a book because it was “disrespectful”. ”

    These people need to be sat down and forced to watch “Columbo”.

  19. Went to church this morning and you know what the message of the sermon was? Question all authority that comes from man. 🙂

  20. Remember the Book of the Month discussion? It now has a poll.


  21. Is it enough to point and laugh? Shouldn’t we also be trying to point out the contrafactuals? (Central planning worked so well it made the Soviet Union the breadbasket of the world… and didn’t lead to bread lines at all)
    And subverting expectations? (Yes, I’m a heartless Conservative, which is why I’m taking this canned food to my local food pantry.)
    Is it something that takes practice? I’ll admit, when I was in law school and generally more optimistic about life, it was easier to laugh things off, make jibes, etc. But now that I’m older, wiser, and all that, and more aware of how it’s seeped into every area of life, it’s harder for me to not to get a little angry myself when I hear people spouting unexamined and obvious untruths.

  22. Mine said “Question Authority Intelligently” — using Logic, and reason, and all the other stuff Authoritah Figahs *loathe*.

    As to 2016, here’s why the US needs — and deserves — to Burn: .

  23. A small demur. Social justice is not wishful thinking. It’s not economics but it is not wishful thinking. The current Pope is a bit of a challenge for a Catholic of my stripe because he utterly has the “wrong” kinds of fanboys but judging a person on that is no substitute for actually listening and reading what he’s said.

    When the Pope was elected, he pointed to and recommended that everybody read a document that the LA bishops (and he had a big hand in the writing of it) had put together called the Aparecida document. I actually buckled down and read the thing and got to one puzzling point where they talk about free market governing types (in their terms liberal) down there were contributing to the despoliation of the poor. That did not compute and asked a number of Catholics what that meant. Universally the answer essentially came back that poor people were working hard, creating things, and rich people would find them inconvenient and take their stuff. The big problem seems to be that there is trillions of dollars in value locked up in the work and possessions of the poor that are not properly registered in cadastre or property registries and so when someone wants to do a development, they do a title search and buy out the registered owners and just evict the squatters.

    Social justice is bringing the paperwork of ownership into alignment with the real facts on the ground of who lives there, who builds there, and who by all rights should own the property (and if in the US would have gotten adverse possession a long time ago). It’s an equal dignity/equal rights term that was Catholic long before it was socialist and when used in that original sense is both real and unobjectionable.

    • We had this discussion with Foxfier a while back. The only people who know that definition of the term are those who are well read in Catholic history. Nobody uses that term that way.

      • And that includes most priests and bishops and I’m not holding my breath on the current pope. TM, you read the document he wanted you to read, but did you read opposing views? Because I bet you there are some, and that that document is heavily slanted. Yes, he has all the wrong fanboys and he CULTIVATES them. Sorry, he does. He does just enough of traditional charity (kissing the diseased) that it sort of hides it but not really. As someone who grew up in a Latin country, he gives off the whole vibe of “hip socialist priest” or worse “hip socialist bishop” or “hip socialist Cardinal” — like the one in Porto, when I grew up.

        • Good thing one doesn’t have to like the Pope!

          Me, my biggest beef with him is that he’s going to get himself killed with his dang fool stunts where he runs off without his guards.

        • Yeah, well, the only thing the Church teaches about the Pope is that he will not authoritatively teach error in a matter of faith and doctrine. Anything else, up to and including damnation, could be in the cards. (Pope St. Celestine resigned the papacy because he could be saved or pope — not both.)

        • Actually, I have not read actual opposing views. I haven’t been able to find them. I’ve read some opposing prejudice, some opposing surmise but the actual opposition to his actions, so far, has been pretty thin gruel except on style issues. Tribal grunting is what it ends up being for the most part and that’s not an acceptable reason to oppose a Pope.

          Here’s a for instance. Do you know of an alternate explanation of despoliation of the poor than the one that I laid out? I’d like to hear it. I suspect that you aren’t in favor of the definition that I laid out as I am not in favor of it. There’s a whole right wing strain that I first heard about through Mario Vargas Llosa that is very serious about empowering the poor through registering their property and including them as first class citizens in capitalism. I have yet to see any comment by Pope Francis on Llosa or that strain of neoliberal (what americans call conservative) thought.

          The existence of a non-poisonous, non-communist left is a pressing matter for the world. How do you dig the bastards out either by converting them in place or routing them from influence? Democracy needs at least two long-term viable political parties to work after all.

          Francis could be undertaking this work because besides bad economics the communists seem pretty well committed to atheism. Or Francis could be the hip socialist poseur that you name him. But then why did he have such conflict with the Kirchner people?

          • I’d like some more definition on what “registering their property” means, because it sounds a bit iffy in relation to your first comment, which appears to equate squatting in empty buildings to ownership.

            • Hernando de Soto = El otro Sendero. Registering property and setting up rule of law allowing use of property to borrow to set up small business. Unfortunately there is a lot more legal infrastructure than just property registration.

            • I’m talking about long-term occupation and improvement leading to adverse possession. If you haven’t touched a piece of property in a several decades and found that it’s occupied, the law in the US says it’s theirs, not yours and the US has a lot better property registration procedures. You don’t have to jump through so many hoops. In Greece, for example, it can take years to sell a property because people come out of the woodwork with all sorts of claims. So when land registration is a mess and justice is for sale to the highest bidder the poor lose out and that society is, from the Church’s perspective, not just.

              • I’m pretty sure adverse possession requires making improvements to the property, not doing the equivalent of camping out there.

                • Would mowing the lawn or other maintenance count?

                  • That would be beyond my limited knowledge of the subject.

                  • Family example:
                    My grandfather let a guy put his milk cows (supposedly to keep his kids afloat) on land he owned for something like five years, the land was right on my grandfolks’ land, and the only reason the ungracious bastard didn’t steal the land is that my grandfolks also had their own (single) milk cow and goats on the land, and even then it cost my grandfather an ungodly amount.

                    If Papa had been “foolish” enough to let a neighbor gain more from his back 40 than he himself had gained, Oregon law would’ve given the land to his neighbor.

                    That said, this is about the balance I’d urge– largely because it’d remove City type “squatters” of the “shit in the corner, piss in the door” type.
                    (Sorry for the rudeness, but it’s relevant– when my grandparents were setting their claim, the “Indians” used that as a claim; secondary, the “Indians” were those who had nothing but ancestry to recommend them, those with native blood who did shit already had other claims.)

                    • Wow, my brain has been misfiring on this subject today. Glad you mentioned this, because it reminds me that there is a reason that people who are familiar with this kind of stunt will rent some of their property to someone else for some ridiculously low amount, like $1 per year.

                      Regarding the city type squatters – if they are going to be considered “owners” of property simply because they have entered it and slept there for a number of years, what should be done when the structure is ready to fall on their heads? Should the building be renovated by the city? And if they weren’t able to do upkeep, why should they be considered the owners any more than the people who actually had title, but hadn’t been able to do anything with it,for whatever reason?

                      Another question: Should the people who go and squat in foreclosed homes be granted title to them, simply because the bank hasn’t been able to sell them?

                    • While “keep folks who’ve never been anywhere near” is valid, the rest sucks.

                • Which causes all sorts of complications. Building a shanty and living there can be considered improvements. Which means that landowners who out of either kindness, laziness, or ignorance of it happening allow people to squat on land without running them off risk losing it. That totally leaves out allowing employees to ‘camp out’ making improvements and living on land.

                  Absentee landowners may very well never know people are occupying their land, until they go to do something with it (say log it or develop it) then when they try and remove the squatters it can become an unholy legal mess, with the very real possibility of them losing their land.

                  Yes in many of those countries land registration is a mess, but just taking from the rich and giving to the ‘poor’ doesn’t fix the mess, it simply opens up another can of worms. Like many socialist policies it can seem to make sense if you carefully pick your examples to slant in the direction you want it to be perceived. It isn’t justice however, it is redistribution.

                  • Adverse possession long predates the invention of socialism. Encouraging the poor to not just squat but to register their property and formalize their ownership is not, to my mind socialist. In every communist takeover that I’ve ever heard of, getting rid of the cadastre/property register was a fairly early task.

                    There is a real problem when the legal system’s concept of property doesn’t match the reality of what’s happening on the ground. In the 3rd world the rich just buy the judge and the poor get evicted. In the US, it was the bankers that and the financial services people who bought justice. When you read tales about wrong address evictions and nobody goes to jail for it, there’s something seriously wrong, even in the US.

                • ADVERSE POSSESSION
                  in property law
                  Adverse possession is a doctrine under which a person in possession of land owned by someone else may acquire valid title to it, so long as certain common law requirements are met, and the adverse possessor is in possession for a sufficient period of time, as defined by a statute of limitations.

                  The common law requirements

                  The common law requirements have evolved over time, and the articulation of those requirements varies somewhat from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Typically, adverse possession, in order to ripen into title, must be:

                  (1) Continuous; this means continual.

                  (2) Hostile to the interests of the true owner; this is the adverse part of adverse possession.

                  (3) Open and notorious, so as to put the true owner on notice that a trespasser is in possession.

                  (4) Actual, so that the true owner has a cause of action for trespass, on which the true owner must act within the statute of limitations.

                  (5) Exclusive, in order that there be no confusion as to who acquires title once the time has run.

                  The statute of limitations

                  A typical statute will require possession for 7 years, if under color of title, or 20 years, if not.

                  • Ah. Then I was thinking of something else, and I’m glad you’ve straightened that out. Still, I believe that most cases which would come up in the situations mentioned above would fall considerably short of meeting this standard.

                    • I’d suggest that the best policy is to just keep an open mind and go at it case by case. That’s what I do. I don’t prejudge other than to agree that it’s a difficult standard to meet.

                      What’s the right standard? That’s an interesting question that the churchmen don’t seem to have gone into much detail. I think they should but I don’t set their agenda.

                  • I have done surveys on several adverse possession suits, although it has been a few years. The most common scenario I have run across is when a fence has been in for a number of years (seven is often the minimum, but the longer it has been there the stronger the case). Many times the fence is treated as the property line, and this oftentimes holds up in court, but it depends on the judge. Other times one owner claims that they always knew the fence was not on the property line ( if the fence is not straight this is a stronger claim) while the other claims that it was always thought to be the property line, this is generally a mess and tends to involve large lawyer fees and at times multiple surveying companies to verify each others work.

                    Other times it involves buildings and/or houses built on or across the property line, usually in this case if the buildings have been there for the specified minimum period of time (different in different jurisdictions) the original owner is tough out of luck, although sometimes the building owner is required to quit claim deed an equal amount of land as they are gaining to the original owner (this is often a solution settled on out of court in cases where the minimum time has not elapsed). In theory if a property has been surveyed and corners marked, and those original corners can still be found all actions commenced since that survey was done are ineligible for adverse possession claims, but again like everything else this boils down to more what the judge decides that what the lawbooks actually say.

                    I always advocate that if you want to be a nice guy and permit someone to use your land for whatever purpose, or if someone builds a fence on your side of the property and you don’t require them to move it. Notify them in writing and have that notification verifiable by some means.

                    • I’m actually living this situation. I could be a jerk and insist on the property line and have my neighbor’s sprinkler system removed or I could be a jerk and settle the property line to be between the two sprinkler pipe runs and enjoy slightly lower property taxes.

                      Mostly I keep my mouth shut.

                • You should really take a look fairly closely at slum pictures in the 3rd world. If you’re in any spot long enough for a reasonable claim of adverse possession, you are not going to be under canvas. The ladies won’t tolerate it and the cheaper building materials over the long haul aren’t that much different in price to replacing canvas over and over so it isn’t much of a financial issue. The building pattern is to put up tin and tar paper or local equivalent in a shack and put your meager savings into bricks, sometimes one brick at a time, which are piled on the inside to keep safe from thieves and cut down the weather that gets through. When you have enough bricks, you buy a bag of cement and build part of a wall. Then you start saving bricks again. After years of saving that way, if you haven’t been burned out or had some other disaster befall you have a house.

                  This is a conversation that the US has had to a fair nicety. What constitutes adverse possession and what’s just trespassing, where’s the line. The countries of LA apparently haven’t done that so well and it’s both a symptom and a cause of their comparatively poor national economies.

                  This despoliation is something that does not have to be physical as a bulldozer breaking down your one room cinder block house. It can happen simply by misfiling your paperwork. In fact it *did* happen here with the mortgage paperwork scandal we ‘settled’ recently. There should have been prosecutions. We could have done better.

                  • “This is a conversation that the US has had to a fair nicety. What constitutes adverse possession and what’s just trespassing, where’s the line.”

                    Sort of. Yes we have laws written, but they are written with loopholes, workarounds and vagueities until it really depends on the judge. As much as I dislike laws that require ‘interpretation’ because they give too much power to some government entity, in this case that may be the best we can do because of the complexities if issue, it does kind of need to be decided on a case by case basis.

                    “You should really take a look fairly closely at slum pictures in the 3rd world. If you’re in any spot long enough for a reasonable claim of adverse possession, you are not going to be under canvas.”

                    I have, those are exactly what I had in mind when I typed my reply above. Notice I specified shanty, and absolutely nowhere mentioned anything about canvas or a tent?

                    • It’s admittedly hard to tell the quality of a building after a Cat 4 hurricane goes through but I saw wood, tin, cinderblock interspersed with flimsier stuff. There were some solid buildings there IMO. Solid enough to be considered permanent, but not solid enough to survive a massive storm.

          • I’m not saying he IS a hip socialist poseur. I’m saying that there’s a feeling in my gut he is. Again, I’ve seen these displays before. But I’m not He who judges hearts, and I pray I’m wrong. It’s just a lot of what I’ve seen from him smacks of the same kind of “holier than thou” as the minister who dressed as a homeless man. I hope that’s reflex, and his generation, and that there’s something more real than that behind there. And I’m glad it’s not my job to judge.
            On the entire property rights in the third world thing — the problem is not with that concept. The problem is with an execution that starts in “property rights” and ends with the Maryknollas and “guns to the dispossessed”. Partly it’s naivete on the part of churchmen and partly the effect my dad observed “If there’s one communist among them, they’ll all act like communists within a year.” But the execution of any “social justice” thing is usually to empower the left.

            • The only way to cure the empowerment of the socialist left via social justice is to consider and create a liberal left that argues with the right on other grounds. Part of that has to be rescuing social justice from its current problematic entanglement with the bad guys.

          • An interesting approach is taken in the book THE POVERTY OF NATIONS: A SUSTAINABLE SOLUTION, By Barry Asmus, Wayne Grudem

            [E]conomist Barry Asmus and theologian Wayne Grudem have teamed up to outline a robust proposal for fighting poverty on a national level. These two experts believe the solution lies in a comprehensive development plan that integrates the principles of a free market system with the Bible’s teachings on social ethics. Speaking to the importance of personal freedom, the rule of law, private property, moral virtue, and education, this book offers a clear path for promoting economic prosperity and safeguarding a country’s long-term stability—a sustainable solution for a world looking for the way forward.

            “The religious leaders of the world wonder why poor countries remain poor. Key figures from Billy Graham to Pope Francis and the Dalai Lama have often urged the rich of the world to care for the poor—but how to do it? How to organize government and business to ‘remember the poor’? Now, theologian Wayne Grudem and economist Barry Asmus bring forward a book to explain how free enterprise and, crucially, biblical teaching combine to illuminate the path to progress for the poor. Every legislator—every voter—needs to read this.”
            —Hugh Hewitt, nationally syndicated radio talk show host; Professor of Law, Chapman University

            “Grudem and Asmus provide a comprehensive set of principles for reducing poverty around the world. Seldom does one find such a complete and thoughtful integration of sound economics with good theology. The Poverty of Nations is strongly recommended for anyone concerned with world poverty.”
            —P. J. Hill, Professor of Economics Emeritus, Wheaton College; Senior Fellow, Property and Environmental Research Center, Bozeman, Montana

            “The authors have written clearly that the sustainable solution to the poverty of nations is the free-market system—the most moral and successful economic arrangement and the only one capable of enabling people to produce their way out of poverty and to personal well-being.”
            —Jon Kyl, Former U.S. Senator from Arizona

            From review by reader Hank Peace:
            The Poverty of Nations looks at economic systems (chapters 3-6), government laws and policies (7-8), and national cultural values and beliefs (9). They define the most important factors for economic growth as: “the rule of law, private ownership of property, specialization and free trade, economic freedom, and the incentives necessary to create wealth and the hope of reward.” They define the elements of the free market as: “(1) decentralized decision making . . . , (2) specialization and trade, (3) the signaling system of the market, (4) prices as the language of the signaling system, . . . (5) profits and losses . . . (6) competition and voluntary cooperation,” plus “the risk-taking of the entrepreneurs who drive innovation.” They also describe the foundations for a free market system as “(1) private ownership of property with easy legal documentation of ownership, (2) the rule of law, (3) a stable currency, and (4) low taxes.” Recommended safeguards against corruption are: the rule of law, a fair court system, an absence of bribery, limited power of government, and separation of government powers.

      • It’s a distinctly minority usage these days, true. Is that a good thing or a bad thing and what should be done about it?

    • Here’s a rule of thumb: think of how stupid reporters are on any topic that you know anything about. Usually you should remember that’s how stupid there are if you don’t know the topic.

      If it’s on religion, subtract 50 IQ points.

    • We might be able to take back ground by responding to things in terms of “and how does that make the society more just, to take away from those who earned to give to those who yell?” (or whatever specific example is best)

      • I think we agree on tactics here. I also find that asking for details of the particular use case, what happened and which specific actions were unjust and why tends to invalidate a lot of these socialist social justice complaints.

    • I might be stepping in it here — probably am and will end up with it all over my face — but I can’t help but having a ::wobbita:: reaction to this. It strikes me as a Tweedledee definition.

      In the real world, however, the words “social” and “justice” don’t go together. So the use of the term you cite may be perfectly valid it this context, and have all that philosophical wanking attached to it by the relevant authorities, but it seems to me — especially in the context of Sarah’s reference — that the net result of it is to give credence to people who call themselves “liberal” with about as much semantic content.

      It all leads to collectivism and strikes this lapsed Protestant as being a bad thing for a church of Christ to be preaching.

      So that’s my face-plant. I’m sure I”m wrong somewhere, but I don’t see it.


      • In the real world, however, the words “social” and “justice” don’t go together.

        Sure they do; the way a society is organized will either promote or damage justice. Socialism, for an example, rather obviously is biased against justice– it does not allow people the freedom to live up to their potential, nor does it permit the basic, elemental fairness that one controls the work of one’s hands. Ditto slavery.

        It’s in the perverse use where “social” is more like “what the mob wants” and “justice” is “it’s emotionally appealing” way that it’s evil.

        • I’ve noticed that in socialist/communist/totalitarian societies words mean the opposite of they seem to mean; like in your example: Social Justice, German Democratic Republic (DDR) etc. We have creeping Newspeakism.

  24. My automatic reaction to a “Question Authority” sticker is always: “Oh, yeah? Make me!”

  25. I wasn’t feeling good yesterday so I saw this post today. —
    BTW I have seen credentialing starting in things like car mechanics, plumbing, and electronics tech. My hubby has been one type or another (generalist) electronics tech since he started learning the subject at sixteen (50 years). He taught electronics in the Army, Navy, and a junior college. But because he doesn’t have a degree or “credentials” except for his military service, many bosses discount his authority. (He also does electronics as a hobby… and is one of the few who can troubleshoot and repair to the component level).

    So yea– even if you have certain credentials… if they are not the “right” credentials, you might as well not have credentials at all. I see that in electronics now (electronics needs schooling and then needs practical training on the job) have not had the practical training and only know the theory. This credential idea hurts all aspects of our society. Plus the society has discounted the practical side of the job– whether it is electronics or teacher.

    • Plus– who credentials the credentialers?

      • You gotta get in at the start, and CREATE the credentials, then you are the one who credentials the newbies, and also the new credentialers.

        • Doesn’t mean that your standards are any good though lol… I mean… have you seen some of the credential tests for electronics?

          • No, the closest to an actual Electronics credential test was the portion of the A+ Computer Tech test that dealt with actual Electronic components. I could probably have PASSED such a test 20 years ago, but I doubt I could remember enough now.

            • Besides, I never claimed certification tests were a good measure, I just explained how you get to be the one who does the testing. I’m the one who had to keep re-explaining things to one of the MCSEs (Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer – I think it requires a total of 5 certification exams in different areas) on the helpdesk where I used to work, so I know certs are not necessarily a measure of competence.

              • The absurd assumption that credentials trump experience. In ANY field. Perhaps the artifact of modern academics? The credentials may be all they have.

                In any field is probably going to earn some ire. But the reason we do extensive classroom instruction, board testing and credentialing in some fields (appropriately, mind) is that the cost of ‘learned errors’ can be phenomenally high in the field. (Medical, engineering, such-like. Experience still betters the credential.)

                IM(I promise)HO

              • I’m kind of late to this reply, but I wanted to mention that MCSE really stands for Must Consult Someone Experienced. That certification the best evidence I know of for the fact that certs don’t provide (or prove) competence.

            • I knew people who passed that test in the late 1990s. The questions were five to ten years out of date. So no– 😉

          • I have, and that’s why i don’t have any of them.

    • Florida actually passed a law requiring licenses for interior decorators. Because, you know, recommending the wrong color pillow might kill your client.

      Institute for Justice fights these things.

      • I think their justification was that they might recommend knocking out a wall, and that means they need to know structures.

        Because 1) nobody would do it themselves, and 2) heaven forbid that “telling people to do something that destroys their house” isn’t already illegal?

        • A friend of mine wrote a roll on the floor funny post about “decorator control” that consisted of “Did you see what so and so did?”
          If I could find it…

        • so they need a license to make structural recommendations.

          • If the offered justification were the true one, yes.

            • That’s the kicker. I think that it’s two things:
              1. Increasing control over an uncontrollable situation–what I mean is: Increasing government control by making it 5 felonies a day from 3 felonies. I think it was Harvey Mansfield who wrote “3 Felonies a day”. There so many laws that at any time you would be unknowingly violating three felony statutes.

              2. With the incredible uncertainty of the current marketplace, people are try to shore up their positions by creating ever more barriers to entry.

              • My suspicion is that it involves complementary impulses.

                On the one hand it represents the desire of the bureaucratic heart to require a documented grant of permission for (nearly) every human activity*.

                OTOH, it expresses the desire of tradespeople to stifle competition, by erecting barriers to entry, form guilds to “assure” the public safety and confidence in purveyors of such services as the guild’s members offer.

                It has previously been amply demonstrated in the efforts to require hair-braiders to hold cosmetology licensure.

                *Should this nation ever decide to permit legal prostitution I shudder to think of the regulatory regime which will quickly develop. Practitioners will need extensive training, physical and psychological, and be required to maintain CPE qualifications. Under the rubric of Wickard v. Filburn we would soon discover that marital relations and “self-abuse” were subject to federal regulation under the Commerce Clause.

                • I would have to point out that prostitution is legal in some state currently. (I have no idea what sort of regulatory hoops prostitutes have to jump through)

                  • It isn’t federally regulated … yet. Of course, the experience gained when they “inherited” a brothel in a tax forfeiture and ended up losing money on it may have had a sobering effect.

                    Insert joke about Union bosses at a convention in Las Vegas taking time out to visit a union brothel …

      • ROFL I feel the same about cutting hair– geez!