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Words Poorly Used #93 — Legal/Moral

The term “legal” is most often miscarried when it has not been put in the light of a moral origin.  This relationship is the first puzzle of humanity.  Morals are abstract and difficult to pin down.  Artificial laws (legislation) are more or less successful attempts to make instances of moral behavior concrete.  I make a distinction between “artificial” and “natural” law.  Morals and natural laws co-exist.  Workable morals arise from natural law.  For example, when A kills B, B no longer participates.  There is no natural law for deciding who “should” participate.  There is only natural law for determining who, what, where, when, and how.  Therefore, no person can, by artifice, determine who “should” kill whom.

— Kilgore Forelle

Words Poorly Used #91 — Potential Evidence

Emitting from the gaseous hole that resides on the underside of the military-media complex, there is a new low in doublespeak.  I do not attribute this, but you can Google it in today’s newsspace — the phrase, potential evidence, gets such palaver as “The White House issued a stern warning to Syrian President Bashar Assad on Monday night as it claimed “potential” evidence that Syria was preparing for another chemical weapons attack.” — Associated Press attribution by a minor market TV source.  How craven?  How hunkered-down, fear-crazed pitiful?  Do the neo-cons in the deep state still believe that we are that stupid?  Certainly, they believe what they want to believe.  If we buy the concept of potential evidence, they will be right, and we humans will be lost.
— Kilgore Forelle

Words Poorly Used #90 — Words Used by Lawyers

In view of the recent surge of new persons of legal letters descending on Sodom-on-the-Potomac, perhaps we can stand on the shoulders of giants by reviewing a selection of notable quotations regarding the quarreling class.

It may be that the jury would incline to regard a practising lawyer as a man of probity whose word was prima facie worthy of belief. But the belief of lawyers in their own probity is not universally shared, and there are those who believe them to be capable of almost any chicanery or sharp practice.
— Lord Bingham of Cornhill

We have the heaviest concentration of lawyers on Earth—one for every five-hundred Americans; three times as many as are in England, four times as many as are in West Germany, twenty-one times as many as there are in Japan. We have more litigation, but I am not sure that we have more justice. No resources of talent and training in our own society, even including the medical care, is more wastefully or unfairly distributed than legal skills. Ninety percent of our lawyers serve 10 percent of our people. We are over-lawyered and under-represented.
— President Jimmy Carter

A jury consists of twelve persons chosen to decide who has the better lawyer.
— Robert Frost

The function of the lawyer is to preserve a sceptical relativism in a society hell-bent for absolutes. The worse the society, the more law there will be. In Hell there will be nothing but law and due process will be meticulously observed.
— Grant Gilmore

Lawyer — One who protects us against robbers by taking away the temptation.
— H.L. Mencken

Let’s ask ourselves: Does America really need 70 percent of the world’s lawyers? Is it healthy for our economy to have 18 million new lawsuits coursing through the system annually? Is it right that people with disputes come up against staggering expense and delay?
— Vice President Dan Quayle

A common and not necessarily apocryphal example portrays a solo practitioner starved for business in a small town. A second lawyer then arrives, and they both prosper.
— Deborah L. Rhode

About half the practice of a decent lawyer consists of telling would-be clients that they are damned fools and should stop.
— Elihu Root

What are lawyers really? To me a lawyer is basically the person that knows the rules of the country. We’re all throwing the dice, playing the game, moving our pieces around the board, but if there’s a problem, the lawyer is the only person that has actually read the inside of the top of the box.
— Jerry Seinfeld

The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.
— William Shakespeare

Is it not remarkable that the common repute which we all give to attorneys in the general is exactly opposite to that which every man gives to his own attorney in particular? Whom does anybody trust so implicitly as he trusts his own attorney? And yet is it not the case that the body of attorneys is supposed to be the most roguish body in existence?
— Anthony Trollope

[Lawyers] can make the worse appear the better cause, as though they were fresh from Leontine schools, and have been known to wrest from reluctant juries triumphant verdicts of acquittal for their clients, even when those clients, as often happens, were clearly and unmistakably innocent.
— Oscar Wilde

An incompetent attorney can delay a trial for years or months. A competent attorney can delay one even longer.
— Evelle J. Younger

When there are too many policemen, there can be no individual liberty, when there are too many lawyers, there can be no justice, and when there are too many soldiers, there can be no peace.
— Lin Yutang

I do not say that all lawyers are bad, but I do maintain that the general tendency is bad: standing up in a court for whichever side has paid you, affecting warmth and conviction, and doing everything you can to win the case, whatever your private opinion may be, will soon dull any fine sense of honour. The mercenary soldier is not a valued creature, but at least he risks his life, whereas these men merely risk their next fee.
— Patrick O’Brian

If there were no bad people, there would be no good lawyers.
— Charles Dickens

No great idea in its beginning can ever be within the law. How can it be within the law? The law is stationary. The law is fixed. The law is a chariot wheel which binds us all regardless of conditions or place or time.
— Emma Goldman

A lawyer is a person who writes a 10,000-word document and calls it a “brief.”
— Franz Kafka

A good lawyer knows the law; a clever one takes the judge to lunch.
— Mark Twain

The minute you read something that you can’t understand, you can almost be sure that it was drawn up by a lawyer.
— Will Rogers

It is the trade of lawyers to question everything, yield nothing, and to talk by the hour
— Thomas Jefferson

Lawyers enjoy a little mystery, you know. Why, if everybody came forward and told the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth straight out, we should all retire to the workhouse.
— Dorothy L. Sayers

A countryman between two lawyers is like a fish between two cats.
— Benjamin Franklin

Lawyers are men whom we hire to protect us from lawyers.
— Elbert Hubbard

I think we may class the lawyer in the natural history of monsters.
— John Keats

There are three sorts of lawyers – able, unable and lamentable.
— Robert Smith Surtees

The power of the lawyer is in the uncertainty of the law.
— Jeremy Bentham

A chief called Lawyer, because he was a great talker, took the lead in the council, and sold nearly all the Nez Perce country.
— Chief Joseph

As a lawyer, as a private citizen, you see a lot of injustice. You see a lot of people who should have been punished and are not, and people who were punished wrongfully are not vindicated. Fiction is sort of a way to set the record straight, and let people at least believe that justice can be achieved and the right outcomes can occur.”
— David Baldacci

A lawyer with his briefcase can steal more than a hundred men with guns.
— Mario Puzo

The doctor sees all the weakness of mankind; the lawyer all the wickedness, the theologian all the stupidity.
— Arthur Schopenhauer

I am sorry to say that sometimes matters of very small importance waste a good deal of precious time, by the long and repeated speeches and chicanery of gentlemen who will not wholly throw off the lawyer even in Congress.
— William Whipple

An eminent lawyer cannot be a dishonest man. Tell me a man is dishonest, and I will answer he is no lawyer. He cannot be, because he is careless and reckless of justice; the law is not in his heart, is not the standard and rule of his conduct.
— Daniel Webster

Of course, some would say if you have a performing inclination, then you should become a lawyer. That’s a platform we use, or a priest. You know, anywhere you lecture and pontificate to people.
— Rowan Atkinson

Maybe these gems will put you in a calmer frame of mind as we contemplate the perfect storm that is descending on the District. Special thanks to,, and

Words Poorly Used #88 — Should

Today I heard an otherwise voluntaryist podcast, but it had far too many instances of the use of the word “should.”  There were too many because “should,” in an independent clause is only another baseless assertion.  The only way a “should” is permissible is in the first person when the speaker understands “why.”  Whenever “should” is applied to the second or third person, the premises are flawed.  There is no way to establish the authority of the first person relative to the other person.  Since “should” can be unspoken, in the first person, there is no particular need for it in explicit expression.  The exception is, however, that “should” can be used to state probabilities among things, for instance, “whoever partakes of dihydrogen oxide should eventually perish,” (coincidental) or “whoever bets on a horse race should either win or lose.” (causal)  My head feels like exploding when I hear a voluntaryist say should in an authoritarian context.

— Kilgore Forelle

Words Poorly Used #87 — Open Borders

“Open borders” is a bit of an oxymoron.  Natural borders, such as rivers and mountains, have natural fords and passes which are more safe to navigate than other locations.  The fords or passes are naturally open, when there is no statist intervention.  States can take control of natural openings and fictional openings.   Then crossers find different natural openings, or create artificial openings.  The openings are quite distinct from a border.  A border impairs or negatively influences passage, an opening enables or positively influences passage.  Let there be natural borders and natural openings, without state interventions, without cultural definitions.

— Kilgore Forelle

Words Poorly Used #86 — Anecdotal

That evidence may be anecdotal is not a case for dismissing the evidence.  Often people will say that an illustration is anecdotal, meaning that the example shown does not in itself constitute definitive evidence of the apparent result.  Let’s say that an Olympic ice skater has an awkward fall in a competition.  That single case neither proves that he is a bad skater nor that he is a good skater who tends to perform poorly in certain cases.  Multiple falls on multiple occasions are a clearer indicator.  A friend today criticized what he called “anecdotal” cherry picking among the media following POTUS through Europe.  But there is another view, the accumulation of gaffes can be taken for perhaps a significant attribute of POTUS.  Anecdotal evidence is valuable in several ways; it gives a qualitative dimension to data, it can accumulate into statistical evidence, and it can give a nod to possible, maybe probable, trends.  After a bit of recurrence, however, dismissing evidence because it is anecdotal is like dismissing an avalanche because it is snow.

— Kilgore Forelle

Words Poorly Used #85 — Agreement

For purposes of this discussion there are two disjunct forms of agreement.  When a seller and a buyer reach a meeting point on a transaction, it is a meeting point of agreement.  The price may not be low enough to suit the buyer, but she is getting something she would rather have than the particular amount of money.  The price may not be high enough to meet all of the merchant’s economic goals, but she now has money which was the specific object of the offer — it is an amount of money that she would rather have than the merchandise.  Both parties have agreed through a meeting of the minds on that which will make each happier.  The other kind of agreement is where one party is relieved of threatened punishment by the other party, who brings some kind of unequal power to the bargaining table.  The protection racket is the classic example, wherein the muscle guys make the disadvantaged one an offer that he cannot refuse.  If you pay us, we will not break up your place of business.  If you do pay us, in fact, we may keep other miscreants from breaking up your biz.  In this second example, all of the satisfaction is only on one side.  Think IRS.  Think about our really screwy election system.

— Kilgore Forelle

Words Poorly Used #84 — Scientist

Once again we’ve see this too-broad-by-multiples word, scientist, asked to carry far more straw than would break a camel’s back.  If we look at its etymology, we can see the truth that it was not meant to tote all the baggage attached to it today.  The Online Etymology Encyclopedia describes the oldest usage as “scientist (n.) 1834, a hybrid coined from Latin scientia (see science) by the Rev. William Whewell (1794-1866), English polymath, by analogy with artist, in the same paragraph in which he coined physicist (q.v.).”  This directs us to “science,” the entry for which reads “(12c.), from Latin scientia “knowledge, a knowing; expertness,” from sciens (genitive scientis) “intelligent, skilled,” present participle of scire “to know,” probably originally “to separate one thing from another, to distinguish … ”  I like that.  That is “to separate one thing from another, to distinguish.”  You can see that there is nothing there that pins us down very hard.  The upshot is that scientists call themselves scientists because they give themselves permission to call themselves scientists.  This renders absurd the sentence, “X % of scientists agree that A is true.”  There is no definite denominator for the percentage calculation, nor is there a stable numerator.  Caveat Emptor!   Labels call for the very greatest caution.  Consider this Zen Koan:

Shuzan held out his short staff and said, “If you call this a short staff, you oppose its reality. If you do not call it a short staff, you ignore the fact. Now what do you wish to call this?” — The Buddhaful Tao, Some Great Koans

Let me paraphrase this, if you call this wooden object a thing only related to its current use then you have to ignore all the other truths about its multilayered reality.  But if you don’t call it a name by way of recognizing its current use, you forget why it exists, at present in its current form.  So, when we refer to science we refer to some vast field of endeavor with multitudinous and separate rule bases, not a static entity.  If we refuse to label a scientist as such, we ignore the right of any human being to label herself as such.  And we expose ourselves to the risk that this “scientist” may in fact know enough to state a truth that might change our lives profoundly.  I myself am a scientist, a computer scientist.  But does that mean I am fluent in marine biology?  It should only mean that I am conversant with Bayesian logic operations, combinatorics, numerical analysis, conversion of digital code to decimal code,  hexidecimal code, octal code, structured programming, and directly related fields.  Do I know how to set up my family members’ home computers?  No, probably.  Furthermore, by virtue of being a scientist to I get to join a consensus in any other or all fields scientific?  No, definitely.