[EM] Noise (Was: Credentials?)

Abd ul-Rahman Lomax abd at lomaxdesign.com
Sat Jan 20 20:14:41 PST 2007

At 04:06 PM 1/20/2007, RLSuter at aol.com wrote:
>You aren't being harsh at all. In fact, to say that Lomax's response
>"isn't good enough" is putting it mildly. There is no excuse at all,
>not the flu or anything else, for dismissing one idea and asserting
>the superiority of an alternative idea without so much as looking
>at the first one.

If Suter has read the more recent posts from me, he would know that I 
am far from having "dismissed" the idea. I was explicit that I hadn't 
read it at that time. I have now. And I have suggested *action* to 
consider adopting what was proposed. As part of that, I'm sure, there 
would be debate about alternatives. There are other questions to be 
considered, which, again, would come up in the discussion.

>Unfortunately, this is a tactic Lomax has used frequently on this list,
>which is why I, and I suspect many other people on this list, can't
>take him very seriously and don't bother even to look at most of his

I am utterly unconcerned. If I write something of value, others will 
pick it up, because there *are* people who read what I write and who 
derive value from it. If I write nothing of value, well, that would 
make me like Mr. Suter. Who is permitted to post here, with drivel 
that adds nothing to the discussion but noise.

>  Despite his authoritative sounding statements about Robert's
>Rules of Order, for example, Lomax also has never bothered (as
>evidenced by earlier misstatements about them he has made) to
>learn very much about the history of those rules or of the many
>criticisms of them that have been expressed by other people, nor
>has he bothered to inform himself of the many alternatives to those
>rules that have been proposed by people who have addressed--
>far more carefully and conscientiously than he has--the difficult
>problem of how to organize meetings and discussions in the
>fairest and most productive possible ways.

I have extensive experience with non-Robert's Rules meeting process, 
including different forms of consensus process. I have also 
experience functioning as a chair under Robert's Rules. Most of the 
criticisms of the rules, including those that Mr. Suter has expressed 
here in the past, are based on ignorance of the rules, or ignorance 
of the common-law and common-sense reasons behind the rules.

Robert's Rules were not invented by General Robert, they were a 
codification of what had become common law, if I'm correct, making it 
convenient for meetings to not have to re-invent the wheel by making 
all the mistakes that meetings which *do* try to reinvent the wheel 
commonly make. Meetings, under the rules, are totally free to make 
their own rules, which override whatever is in Robert's Rules. A 
meeting could, for example, decide that complete consensus is 
required for any decision. I wouldn't advise it, based on my 
experience with meetings that did have that rule....

Consensus is highly desirable, but making a rule of it, typically, 
ends up ensconcing the status quo, for anyone who benefits from the 
status quo may act to preserve it, against the wishes of even a 
supermajority. What happens? Well, what I've seen is that the 
supermajority, if they can, walk. The only ones left are the 
supporters of the status quo and others who *can't* leave. The 
organizations sometimes limp on, and sometimes they collapse.

Consensus rules can work under certain narrow conditions. The fact is 
that, if sufficient time can be allotted to the process, some kind of 
consensus can almost always be worked out. The problem is that 
"sufficient time" can become an onerous burden. The FA/DP plan 
involves boiling down groups into small enough representative groups 
that the finding of consensus becomes far more practical; it is 
almost impossible if the group size is too large. But, in the end, it 
is my opinion that the majority has the right of decision. In a Free 
Association, after all, they can simply walk away *together*, for 
there is no property to defend or fight over.

>One of the most recent examples of the latter is "Breaking
>Robert's Rules: The New Way to Run Your Meeting, Build
>Consensus, and Get Results" by Lawrence E. Susskind and
>Jeffrey Cruikshank (Oxford U. Press, 2006). Susskind, the
>lead author, is a professor at MIT as well as head of the
>Public Disputes Program at Harvard Law School. Neither
>that book (which I've read) nor any other can be said to be
>the last word on the subject, but it does certainly prove that
>Lomax has much more to learn about the subject than he
>evidently thinks he does.

The title makes me rather uninterested. You can't break Robert's 
Rules if you don't adopt them. And RR allows meetings to make 
whatever rules they like, including rules that contradict Robert's 
Rules. However, I would probably read it if I can get my hands on a 
copy or find it on-line.

I'm not a parliamentarian, officially, though I have served as one. I 
don't consider myself an expert on Robert's Rules, but you don't need 
to be an expert to use the Rules, there are really only a few basic 
principles that should be kept in mind; further, a chair can do 
pretty much whatever he or she pleases, and, as long as nobody 
objects, *it does not matter if it conforms to the rules.* A good 
chair will *often* disregard the rules, and a good chair will also 
note when doing this, "Absent objection, ...." And if the chair fails 
to note that, anyone can object anyway.

I have a style of asserting what I see or what I think I see. 
Sometimes I will qualify it, when I'm not certain, other times I just 
say it, trusting that if it is wrong, others will correct me. Some 
people think this arrogant, I suppose they are not used to people who 
just say what they think. Tough. Here, at least, not my problem.

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