You are currently browsing the daily archive for 12 August 2010.

This is why:

That’s my driveway! I was coming home after work, a little tired and a lot inattentive, and when I turned left into the driveway unexpected (!) things happened. Namely, a one-ton Dodge dually with a welded-steel bumper intruded upon my personal space.

It’s not nearly as bad as it looks. The accident happened at very low speed; the damage is largely from the fact that a one-ton Dodge dually with a welded steel bumper and a welded steel flatbed on it has a lot of momentum, even at low speed. The thing just kept coming… I wouldn’t have been injured at all, just pushed aside, if I hadn’t had the center console down. As it was, crushed between the door and the console, I got my short ribs on the left side cracked, and one broken. This all happened back on June 28th, so I’ve long since healed up.

The Department of Public Safety ( = “highway patrol”, in Texas) officer who showed up kept shaking his head. He ultimately wrote it up as no fault of anybody, which meant that it was no use filing anything with the other fellow’s insurance company. I haven’t even tried. The bent hulk is still sitting in my yard, with a “blue tarp” over the wounded side. Anybody need parts for a 1994 Buick Century?

(As an aside: The DPS officer’s last name is “Dudley”. Can you imagine why he might be wearing every badge of rank and/or service award possible for somebody who’s still on patrol?)

So, after a couple weeks struggling with the ’74 Ford pickup, which gets 8 miles to the gallon downhill, has no two tires alike, and is completely lacking bushings in the front suspension, I bought a car. This one:

For those of you who don’t recognize it, it’s a 1989 Buick Reatta. A Reatta is what you get if you’re growing Rivieras and pick one green — a two-seater, but with all the bells and whistles of its parent car except that the glove-box latch is mechanical, plus retractable headlights.

It cost $500. I then ended up spending almost $1K to get the air conditioner working — this is Texas, it’s summertime, and the car is black; air conditioning is not a luxury. Part of that G went to getting the controls to work. The car has a CRT with a touchscreen in the center of the dash, and that’s the controls for almost everything except lights and windshield wipers, and mine died. I found one from a ’90 Riviera on the Internet for $100; the labels are wrong, but it works just fine.

But it’s still a $500 car. It has five computers (that I’ve found so far), and all of them are bugf*k insane from not being stroked and petted by previous owners. I had to pull the fuse for the security system, which insisted on locking the car at the most inopportune times, and I don’t have the door key, let alone the control fob. It needs a coil pack and wires; it needs a fuel pump, which I started to replace and discovered I no longer have the ass to manhandle antiroll stabilizer bars; the trunk won’t open without crawling inside and operating the kidnap latch; the gas gauge points resolutely to naught at all times; the right-hand door is a quarter inch too far forward, and catches on (and breaks) the plastic fender panel; the interior lights come on when you open the right door, but not the left one; other issues to numerous to mention. It gets 16 MPG in town and 23 on the highway, not that I drive it on the highway much.

It’s a fun car.

I got fired last Monday. For sedition.

Dictionary.com defines it thusly:

  1. incitement of discontent or rebellion against a government.
  2. any action, esp. in speech or writing, promoting such discontent or rebellion.
  3. Archaic. rebellious disorder.

Now my (ex-) boss isn’t running a Government, but he isn’t stupid, and to a certain extent the charge was/is a fair cop. What’s going on here?

The Oxford English Dictionary is off-line, they say until December 2010. Google turned up something called “Oxford Dictionaries On-Line”, and it saysconduct or speech inciting people to rebel against the authority of a state or monarch.” That’s closer to what J— was on about. Strike the last clause; sedition is undermining authority.

I think most of us use “authority” in a mistaken sense, as a loosely-applicable synonym for “power”. That’s a mistake that people who have or want power encourage — you will often find references to the “authority” of this or that Government agency. True authority, though, comes from expertise — education, experience, or both. If the person who “wrote the book” on a particular subject tells you to do something, or to do it in a certain way, you are wise to comply, and most people do. For people who aren’t paying attention, especially those who are anxious to get people to comply with their pronouncements and other ukases in order to satisfy their competitive urges, that looks like power — the authority speaks, and people comply.

A true authority has no problem with challenges. The person making the challenge is either right or wrong. If wrong, the challenge is easy to meet by simply displaying greater expertise. If right, the challenger gains authority; but this isn’t a problem for the original, who loses nothing and gains  an adviser with greater knowledge.

Those who euphemize power as “authority” have a problem, though. By definition, they don’t have the expertise to be a true authority; if they did, they wouldn’t have to substitute power — people would do as they say because they know what’s what. The deal — the contract, if you will — with authority is “do as I say, or bad consequences will flow from doing it wrong.” The equivalent for power is “do as I say, or I’ll hurt you.” Hurt qualifies as a “bad consequence”, but it’s not at all the same thing, especially in the (normal) situation where the Power’s dicta are wrong, and the sufferer gets both the hurt and the consequences of error.

So sedition, properly understood, is either impossible or is mostly committed by the accuser. It’s impossible to undermine true authority; it’s only possible to supercede it, to the benefit of all concerned. It is possible to undermine power — but, in the case of power masquerading as authority, the most common situation is for power to undermine its own “authority” by issuing orders that are wrong. When power is confronted with the consequences of its error, it screams “sedition!”

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