Words And Phrases


Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Editor-in-Chief Emeritus of Ordinary Times. Relapsed Lawyer, admitted to practice law (under his real name) in California and Oregon. On Twitter, to his frequent regret, at @burtlikko. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.

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283 Responses

  1. Avatar David Ryan says:

    “Government-granted monopoly”Report

  2. Avatar David Ryan says:

    “Family Values”Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko says:

      I like this one. The phrase doesn’t mean much of anything on its face, but instead serves as code for a suite of social policies which no respectable person few people would overtly articulate.Report

      • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

        Not atall. “Family values” means “nuclear family.”  That success in life [or lack of failure at it] is highly correlated with married parents is such a duh that it’s astonishingly obtuse to ignore it.  Or mock it.  Yet it’s de rigeur among the chattering classes that the term triggers instant derision, as here.Report

        • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

          The term triggers derision because those who lay claim to it often do not actually support all policies that support nuclear families.  Only particular ones.  Supporting only types of nuclear families.  Other policies that support nuclear families are not supported, due to some other pithy slogan.

          I don’t mind if you’re for nuclear families (just like I don’t mind if you’re for peace, or a strong military, or any one of a number of other things) half as much as I mind you claiming you’re for nuclear families while decrying any definition of “nuclear family” other than your own.

          As it stands, many (if not most) people who would claim to support “family values” immediately decry gay marriage as anti-nuclear family.Report

          • Avatar Will H. says:

            No reason to let the perfect be the enemy of the good.
            I don’t believe such terms are intended to be exclusionary.
            And I don’t buy into the line of thought that people are just so tribal in nature that we can’t value anything other than ourselves.
            I believe that argument relies heavily on a poor conception of self.Report

        • Avatar Burt Likko says:

          But in typical contemporary rhetoric it doesn’t just mean “nuclear families.” It stands for discouragement of anything that smacks of teh ghey; social opprobrium for non-marital sexual behavior, divorce, or single parenthood; disapproval of religious belief other than Christian/Jewish; and in some cases insulation of children from “liberal secular humanist” ideas like evolution and sex education in public schools. Those sorts of notions deserve derision.Report

          • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

            Yes and no, Burt.  Detaching sexuality from family is @ the heart of it.  It’s interconnected; it’s not all about Leviticus.Report

          • Avatar A Teacher says:

            As a small asside there is a growing pile of research that shows better school outcomes for students with a two parent home over a single parent.  It’s all correlative, of course, but it is there….Report

        • Avatar Katherine says:

          But “family values” also means “no gay marriage”, even though that doesn’t specifically damage nuclear families.  It also means “anti–abortion”, which also has nothing to do with nuclear families (the moral considerations revolve around a belief in the inherent value of human life at any stage of development).  It means “no stem cell research”.  It means “not euthanasia”.  None of those things relate to preserving the nuclear family.Report

      • Avatar Scott says:

        Who could be against affirmative action?  Just racists, err republicans, right?Report

        • Avatar Murali says:

          Who the hell said anything about affirmative action? Seriously bro, I don’tlike affirmative action, but I’m tempted to defend it just to piss you off.Report

    • Avatar FridayNext says:

      In same vein I hate “values voters.”Report

  3. Avatar David Ryan says:


  4. Avatar Scott says:

    I heard the interview this morning on my way to work and thought it was quite interesting.Report

  5. Avatar Will Truman says:

    “The AMA cartel.”

    “War on [something the speaker clearly believes is not a bad thing].”Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko says:

      …Except for the “War on Christmas.” If the “War on Christmas” gets you upset, chances are you think Christmas is a very good thing.

      There are seriously people who call the AMA a “cartel”? Wow.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        It happens quite a bit, actually. Enough so that I have long considered a post on what the AMA is and (mostly) is not. At the same time, though, it’s nice to have a phrase or a couple words put together that demonstrate that the person does not actually know what they are talking about.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:

        Truthfully, most of these peak-level professional associations exhibit some cartel-like behavior, particularly to the extent they’re able to set barriers to entry into the discipline.  Bar Associations are generally cartelish, and California dentists have created a very high barrier to entry.  They’re not complete cartels like any means–they’re not the California Raisin Marketing Board, but the terms not completely inapt, either.  I don’t know specifically about the AMA, though.Report

        • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

          The New York Bar is starting to look a bit more cartelish…especially with their new attempt to try to mandate 50 hours of pro bono work for new attorneys before they can practice…yeah…Report

  6. Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

    By the time I get around to commenting, most of the good ones will probably be gone.

    I can’t even figure out where to start.Report

  7. Avatar FridayNext says:

    This from the guy who titled his last book Liberal Fascism?

    Okay, I’ll bite.

    Comparing anything to fascism that isn’t close and doesn’t involve carrying around a bundle of spears.Report

  8. Avatar b-psycho says:

    “Socialist” when the speaker is referring to a Democrat.Report

  9. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    On TV: A reference to either the Koch Brothers or George Soros.

    On Radio: Any pun where incorporating the word “tax” is assumed to be clever. (e.g.: Taxachusettes)

    In Person: War On _______ (with these exceptions: when used ironically, a government program actually labelled War On ____, or an actual war)

    On Internet: ALL CAPS, any promise that person in minority represents silent majority about to rise at any moment.


    • Avatar FridayNext says:

      I was going to write something similar. Anyone who claims to speak “for the people” or the “real America,” especially if they are going to rise any minute now.Report

    • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

      Goldberg’s plaint is also substantive, not simply applicable to both sides.  His Top [Bottom] 5:

      ‘Diversity is strength’

      Affirmative action used to be defended on the grounds that certain groups, particularly African Americans, are entitled to extra help because of the horrible legacy of slavery and institutionalized racism. Whatever objections opponents may raise to that claim, it’s a legitimate moral argument.

      But that argument has been abandoned in recent years and replaced with a far less plausible and far more ideological claim: that enforced diversity is a permanent necessity. Lee Bollinger, the president of Columbia University, famously declared: “Diversity is not merely a desirable addition to a well-run education. It is as essential as the study of the Middle Ages, of international politics and of Shakespeare.”

      It’s a nice thought. But consider some of the great minds of human history, and it’s striking how few were educated in a diverse environment. Newton, Galileo and Einstein had little exposure to Asians or Africans. The genius of Aristotle, Socrates and Plato cannot be easily correlated with the number of non-Greeks with whom they chatted in the town square. If diversity is essential to education, let us get to work dismantling historically black and women’s colleges.

      ‘Violence never solved anything’

      It’s a nice idea, but it’s manifestly absurd. If violence never solved anything, police would not have guns or nightsticks. Obama helped solve the problem of Moammar Gaddafi with violence, and FDR helped solve the problem — far too late — of the Holocaust and Hitler with violence.

      ‘The living Constitution’

      It is dogma among liberals that sophisticated people understand that the Constitution is a “living, breathing document.” The idea was largely introduced into the political bloodstream by Woodrow Wilson and his allies, who were desperate to be free of the constraints of the founders’ vision. Wilson explained that he preferred an evolving, “organic,” “Darwinian” Constitution that empowered progressives to breathe whatever meaning they wished into it. It is a wildly ideological view of the nature of our political system.

      Yet acolytes of the living Constitution immediately started quoting the wisdom of the founders and the sanctity of the Constitution. Apparently the document is alive when the Supreme Court finds novel rationalizations for abortion rights, but when we need to figure out how to deal with terrorists, suddenly nothing should pry original meaning from the Constitution’s cold, dead hands.

      By the way, conservatives do not believe that the Constitution should not change; they just believe that it should change constitutionally — through the amendment process.

      ‘Social Darwinism’

      Obama this month denounced the Republican House budget as nothing more than “thinly veiled social Darwinism.” Liberals have been trotting out this Medusa’s head to petrify the public for generations. It does sound scary. (After all, didn’t Hitler believe in something called “social Darwinism”? Maybe he did.) But no matter how popular the line, these liberal attacks have little relation to the ideas that the “robber barons” and such intellectuals as Herbert Spencer — the “father” of social Darwinism — actually followed.


      Spencer’s sin was that he was a soaked-to-the-bone libertarian who championed private charity and limited government (along with women’s suffrage and anti-imperialism). The “reform Darwinists” — namely the early-20th-century Progressives — loathed such classical liberalism because they wanted to tinker with the economy, and humanity itself, at the most basic level.

      More vexing for liberals: There was no intellectual movement in the United States called “social Darwinism” in the first place. Spencer, a 19th-century British philosopher, didn’t use the term and wasn’t even a Darwinist (he had a different theory of evolution).

      Liberals misapplied the label from the outset to demonize ideas they didn’t like. They’ve never stopped.

      ‘Better 10 guilty men go free .?.?.’

      At least until George Zimmerman was in the dock, this was a reflexive liberal refrain. The legendary English jurist William Blackstone — the fons et origo of much of our common law — said, “Better that 10 guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer.” In fact, this 10 to 1 formula has become known as the “Blackstone ratio” or “Blackstone’s formulation.”

      In a brilliant study, “n Guilty Men,” legal scholar Alexander Volokh traced the idea that it is better to let a certain number of guilty men go free — from Abraham’s argument with God in Genesis over the fate of Sodom, to the writings of the Roman emperor Trajan, to the legal writings of Moses Maimonides, to Geraldo Rivera.

      As a truism, it’s a laudable and correct sentiment that no reasonable person can find fault with. But that’s the problem: No reasonable person disagrees with it. There’s nothing wrong with saying it, but it’s not an argument — it’s an uncontroversial declarative statement. And yet people say it as if it settles arguments. It doesn’t do anything of the sort. The hard thinking comes when you have to deal with the “and therefore what?” part. Where do we draw the lines? If it were an absolute principle, we wouldn’t put anyone in prison, lest we punish an innocent in the process. Indeed, if punishing the innocent is so terrible, why 10? Why not two? Or, for that matter, 200? Or 2,000?

      Taken literally, the phrase is absurd. Letting 10 rapists and murderers go free will almost surely result in far more harm to society than putting one poor innocent sap in jail.

      When you hear any of these cliches — along with “I may disagree with what you say, but I would defend to the death your right to say it,” which is another personal favorite — understand that the people uttering them are not trying to have an argument. They’re trying to win an argument without having it at all.




      • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

        This is all true. But ad he himself says in the interview, the right does the same… He is just choosing to write about what the left does.Report

        • Avatar Scott says:


          Fine if you don’t like his book write your own book about those evil folks on the right instead of whining about it.Report

          • Avatar Stillwater says:

            Heh. Problem is, we on the left don’t need a book to analyze and elucidate the how the right-wing uses empty rhetoric to score political points. We’re deluged with it everyday.

            Goldberg’s book and your quip to Tod actually make that point: if lefty rhetoric was so obviously empty and cliched as right-wing rhetoric, then a book-length study of the topic would be useless. It’d only be telling righties what they already know. But apparently, that’s not the case. Goldberg thinks he’s discovered something. Something no one else knows. Like how liberals are actually fascists.


            • Avatar Will H. says:

              Actually, they’re quite aware of it. That’s where the phrase “liberal media bias” comes from.
              And it’s >not only the Right that would say such things. It’s pervasive.
              The matter was stated fairly well in this comment here.
              I’ve listened to an awful lot of NPR over the last 15+ years, but it wasn’t until I stepped back from buying into the Leftist ideology that I really saw the bias.

              Not to say that “less blinded” equates to “clear vision.”Report

          • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

            Yo, Scott, looking back at yr comment here, that’s exactly what Mr. Kelly did.  Props are in order.Report

      • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

        I have a couple of minor quibbles with nuance, but all of these I’ll second, Tom.Report

        • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

          Pat, I really do try to hold the door open for the tu quoques, that the other side does it as much as mine own [even when I don’t think it’s so].  Jonah’s examples here cannot be reflagged, though, as they’re left-specific.

          Righties do think violence solves everything, and in a way, they’re empirically correct, always in the short term and sometimes even in the long: Brown v. Board is a milestone on the American road to freedom and human dignity, but is unimaginable without Gettysburg, Vicksburg, Appomattox.

          Our differences are not all cosmetic or sophistic, merely a matter of manipulating the language and thereby the masses.  This is actually Jonah Goldberg’s argument and thesis.  And in fact, why I still attend our meetings of the LoOG, to sort out the difference between language and reality.  Ideas are not all bullshit.


          Some ideas are better than others.Report

          • Avatar Will H. says:

            Ideas are not all bullshit.

            Some ideas are better than others.

            Also, some bullshit is better than other bullshit.
            The Left tends to have more refined tastes in bullshit.
            The Right has talk radio.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

        Seconded “Living Constitution.” A “living constitution” is a dead constitution.

        I was pretty proud of that one until I Googled it and got 42,000 hits.Report

      • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

        I’m going to put “‘living Constitution'” in double quotes, because every time a conservative uses the phrase he’s talking completely out of his ass.Report

      • Avatar James Vonder Haar says:

        I have no clue where you get the impression that affirmative action advocates have abandoned the justice argument, or that the positive benefits of diversity is somehow new to left-wing thought, but you’re pretty astoundingly wrong on both counts.Report

  10. Avatar FridayNext says:

    Any claim that someone is having their first amendment rights violated when that person is being fired, boycotted, pressured, criticized or is being pressured in some legal way NOT by the government.Report

  11. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    “Hi, I’m Jonah Goldberg.”Report

  12. Avatar FridayNext says:

    And of course just about anyone who ever uses the phrase. “the exception that proves the rule” when dismissing something that doesn’t fit their half-ass hypothesis. That phrase is rarely used right.Report

    • Avatar Kimmi says:

      is it ever used right? proof in that statement means TEST. like the old canard “the proof is in the pudding”Report

  13. Avatar Kolohe says:

    “Surrender in the War on Terror” (which is a bit of a twofer)Report

  14. Avatar david says:

    Ducking the question itself. Say there is a cultural movement, it fights a bitter societal struggle, and then it wins. Fast forward a decade and its proponents are no longer tightly organized and the movement’s core ideological principles loosely transformed into what passes for conventional wisdom. Think Animal Farm’s “Animalism” being summarized into “four legs good, two legs bad”.

    Say you were on the losing side and now you want to resurrect the fight again. Wouldn’t you be disproportionately encountering empty clichés and fundamentally bad arguments for the (new) status quo? Yet all your persuasive argument is going to fail to garner mass support – when pushed, people just reassemble the old coalitions that won the culture war to begin with and push back. Thus you would observe that The Enemy seem to be using empty applause lights, all the damn time, to a frustratingly effective degree, and conclude that this is the nature of The Enemy – triviality and ingenuousness rolled into one – when in fact the difficulty is because one jousts not with the empty arguments you are being offered but the effective rhetoric of the past. Merely putting up as much rhetorical effort as The Enemy now gets you nowhere and this is only to be expected.

    Left-wingers in Poland are obliged to be unusually persuasive. Right-wingers in South Africa likewise find making headway difficult. Nationalists in Germany, modernizers in Iran, liberal reformers in Russia – for all of these groups, the terrain of public discourse will seem unfairly hostile. Does this generalize toward either side of the partisan fence in the US? Certainly the right seem to have consistently lost the culture war for six decades running, and the left seem to have lost economic policy fights since Carter was a thing. Nostalgia for price controls seems to have waned amongst the left, though.Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko says:

      It’s “Four legs good, two legs better“!

      On a more seroius note, I would not agree with the proposition that the right has lost the culture war. America just spent three months talking about contraception. Same-sex marriage is specifically banned by the constitutions of roughly three-quarters of the States. Church attendance is up, nationally. There’s an ABC-Family channel on cable, but no CBS-Subversive channel to counteract it. There was and still is no significant hue and cry over the TSA looking at live-action nudie pictures of airline passengers who are not even suspected of committing a crime.Report

      • Avatar david says:

        They’ve been talking about contraception ever since they stopped using it as a bludgeon against Catholics, though. Is it really new?Report

        • Avatar Will H. says:

          …using [contraception] as a bludgeon against Catholics…

          That’s really where the rubber hits the robe.Report

      • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

        “…but no CBS-Subversive channel to counteract it.”  Earth to Burt.  You know I’m a South Park Republican and am far more likely to offend our delicate little PC flowers than be offended meself.  But a parent can’t sit a kid down even in front of the non-cable-only channels without getting his traditional morality subverted, sometimes even during the fishing ballgame.

        There is no neutral ground anymore: everywhere’s a front on the culture wars.  As for a CBS-Subversive Channel, they all are.  [Except ABC Family, which used to be Pat Robertson’s channel, BTW.  He took the dough, gets time for his 700 Club, with the hopes it’ll be more Juno than Will & Grace.]Report

  15. Avatar Scott says:

    I would nominate the new Dem slogan “War on women.”Report

  16. Avatar Will H. says:

    [H]e’s on strong ground when he observes that a lot of what passes for political thought and debate consists of little more than the slinging about of slogans, bromides, and platitudes.

    As a guy that’s worked around bromine and amine processing, I find this statement as something of a slogan and a platitude.Report

  17. Avatar DensityDuck says:

    “Military overspending”.Report

  18. Avatar Maxwell James says:

    “Job Creators.”Report

  19. Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:


    Jonah Goldberg being one piece of evidence that it’s a myth.Report

  20. Avatar James Hanley says:

    “We’re a republic, not a democracy.”Report

    • Avatar Scott says:

      Strange, I thought that was a fact.  Or did someone change the nature of our gov’t while I wasn’t looking?Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:


        It’s sort of trivially true, but not substantively meaningful. Republics are democracies.  If a country has regular free and fair elections with near universal suffrage, it’s a democracy.  So those who use the phrase are just demonstrating that they don’t really understand the meaning of the word democracy.

        But mostly it pisses me off because it’s used by the same people who complain when courts overturning democratically-passed laws that they like (e.g., Prop 8).  In other words, it’s used opportunistically by assholes who don’t really mean it anyway.Report

        • Avatar Scott says:

          Is that the dictionary meaning or the new fangled liberal meaning?Report

          • Avatar James Hanley says:


            It’s the professional meaning.  Has been since before either you or I were born.

            I’m very sorry it’s not a convenient meaning to prop up your ideology.

            Republic never was a very well-defined term. It originally meant self-governing, not conquered and not under a hereditary ruler.  That’s pretty vague, and allows for all kinds of democratic forms within the general scope of the term.  Madison, in Federalist 51, insisted on the term republic and objected to democracy, but by that he meant simply pure majority rule.  He was making an important point, given that some of the new states were nearly that, having elections annually and few protections for the minority.  But ultimately that term sets only the end-point meaning for democracy, not the whole scope of the term.  Democracy is not an either/or binary variable, but a how-much continuous variable.  By Madison’s definition there are no democratic countries; by a more useful definition we can talk about how democratic (or not) a country is.  The U.S. is not the most democratic of countries in the world, but it’s up there near the top.

            But it’s also a republic.  So to say it’s the one, not the other, is to misunderstand.  It’s just cheap political terminology trotted out when the speaker is in the political minority and the will of the majority is frustrated, but one that gets shoved back into the box when the speaker is in the political majority and the minority has frustrated their will.

            The smart people don’t use the term. Only those who think they’re clever.Report

            • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

              He just called you a liberal….are you going to drag him out back and shoot him?Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Democracy was once synonymous with anarchy.   I’m not sure they’ve ever been very far apart, either in definition or substance.   Republics had the advantage of giving their governors enough time in office to make the tough decisions.   Sure, those governors were elected through some process but once in power, they did have enough mandate, albeit for a fixed term, to effectively rule.

                Though he enjoyed a lifetime appointment, when the Doge of Venice died, his estate was put on trial and if he was found to be abusing his authority, the estate was liable.   But the Doge was a peer among equals, a merchant among merchants: the only real nobility of Venice was wealth:Report

        • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

          But mostly it pisses me off because it’s used by the same people who complain when courts overturning democratically-passed laws that they like (e.g., Prop 8).  In other words, it’s used opportunistically by assholes who don’t really mean it anyway.

          The People’s Republic of California includes the “initiative” [read: referendum, plebecite] process in its constitution.  I’m not a fan of plebecites for passing “initiatives,” but as referenda of the last resort, I think the mechanism ain’t bad. Our rulers do overshoot the popular will, manipulating the legislative process and imposing political alliances and majoritarianism over what should be consensus.

          A republic is founded on consensus.  A “democracy” shoves the will of a little more than half of us down the throats of a little less than half of us.

          This is not good, 51% of us sticking our dicks in the ear of the other 49%.  This is not “consent of the governed” by any measure.Report

          • Avatar Simon K says:

            I’m trying to think of a Republic that wasn’t ultimately ruled by its majority. I’m coming up blank – do you have an example?Report

            • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

              The Galactic Republic. *Nods* It was ruled by the Senate, which didn’t seem particularly majoritarian.Report

            • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

              The United States, Simon.  A republic is ruled by consensus, where nobody gets their way 100% of the time.Report

            • Avatar Burt Likko says:

              Rome, pre-Caesar.


              Probably late Stuart and Hanoverian England.Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

                Rome I’ll go with.

                If we’re going with England, an oligarchical Republic is probably most prominent in the actual English Republic.

                The others are constitutional monarchies.

                The First and Second French Republics, even if both professed to being democratic…particularly after the Committee on Public Safety took over, and after the Thermidorians burnt out and was replaced by the Directory….

                Though by then the term “Republic” had become synonymous with democratic nationalism.Report

              • Avatar Burt Likko says:

                No monarch in Venice. Oligarchy to be sure. Rome too and the smites ran the show one way or another in Merrye Olde England until Pitt the Younger.

                The lesson seems to be that republic equals elites having lots of power. Part of the beast.Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

                Err. Sorry, I meant to say that in regard to the England examples. You’re right of course that Venice wasn’t a monarchy and was explicitly identified as a Republic.

                And yeah, elite concentration of power seems to be a defining feature of non-democratic Republics.Report

            • Avatar FridayNext says:

              How about the early US when the Electoral College was an actual, operating thing that decided the election by making actual decisions on how to vote and the Senate was “elected” by state legislatures? Also, too, Reps and state and local elections were voted on by a small number of eligible people. It might have been ruled by the majority of eligible electors, even if indirectly, but the ACTUAL majority (women, blacks, white males with no property) were irrelevant.Report

        • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

          This “Republic not a Democracy” thing is one of those political science terms of art that really pisses me off.

          Usually people use it to mean something like…”We’re a federal state, not a unitary one” or “we have anti-majoritarian institutions”…which is fine, but really Republic is essentially a constitutional system with a non-hereditary head of state.Report

          • Avatar James Hanley says:

            Agreed.  It’s exceptionally important, I think, to emphasize that we’re federal and that we have anti-majoritarian institutions, but the “republic, not a democracy” is simplistic and uninformative.Report

            • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

              That or it just means they probably shouldn’t have passed PSC 101.

              (Assuming they ever took it at all)Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Well, it’s just one question on the final at best, right?

                I had a student this term write on the final exam that the President appoints Representatives. But that painfully wrong answer wasn’t enough to keep the student from passing the class.

                And I live with this fear that someday he’ll be corrected by someone, and he’ll say, “But that’s what I learned in Hanley’s American Gov’t class.”Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

                Too bad such kids are not likely to show up on blog commentariats. Or at least ours.

                Imagine if he showed up here.Report

        • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

          The terminology is wrong, but usually what the person actually intends to say—i.e., that we have constitutional limits on majority rule, and that our legislative system is not strictly majoritarian even aside from that—is perfectly valid and correct.Report

          • Avatar James Hanley says:


            Except, I repeat, that they use it opportunistically.  I don’t remember lots of conservatives–who are usually the ones saying it–sadly shaking their heads after the Federal District Court struck down Prop 8 and saying resignedly, “Well, we do live in a republic, not a democracy; oh well.”  Instead it was all, “They overruled the WILLof Teh  PEPPUL!!11!!!11!

            That’s why I don’t like it. Only ignorant hypocritical asshats use the phrase.Report

        • Avatar Michael Drew says:

          Republics are democracies.  If a country has regular free and fair elections with near universal suffrage, it’s a democracy.

          Honestly asking here, but my understanding was that a country could be a republic and not have those things, while having those things determine a critical part of the public decision making in a country is more or less necessary and sufficient for being a democracy (though that’s likely to be contested by those with more idealistic understandings of the term; but I don’t consider that particularly relevant to this discussion).  Were we not a republic before we had adopted those practices?

          If there is a definitional implication running from one of these to the other (and I’m not sure there is), the way I would have thought it would run is the other way: democracies are republics (and again, maybe they’re not).  It seems to me plausible that you couldn’t rest ultimate responsibility for governance on popular will in a kind of country that isn’t a republic, but that you could rest responsibility for governance in a republic on some body that isn’t determined by these kind of elections (enough to be called a democracy).

          But – now – we do rest the determination of governance on institutions where (since the passage of the 15th, 17th, & 19th Amendments and the CRA and VRA) the question of who holds every office that makes them up is ultimately determined by the results of elections like the ones you describe.  So while we were always and remain a republic, we were at one time at least a very partial democracy if not arguably not one, but are now pretty close to being both a republic and a full (representative) democracy.   The key point being that, while we weren’t constituted as a democracy by any rigorous modern understanding of the word, we also weren’t founded as being explicitly not a democracy.  We were just founded as a republic with institutions of a particular (and quite promisingly democratic – but not enough to make us fully a democracy) nature.  But we reformed those institutions steadily over time via explicit constitutional change, and thereby evolved into being rather clearly a democracy by any sensible understanding of the word, however anyone feels about that.  And there isn’t any part of our constitution (written or otherwise) stating that we are not a democracy that can even be argued to preclude that term from being applied to us.  The constitution doesn’t say that we’re not a democracy; it just says that our institutions will be like this and like that – and we’ve changed that language multiple times over the centuries to make it so they have become unambiguously democratic.  So we just straightforwardly became a democracy as we reformed our institutions in such a way that we came to very comfortably fit the definition.

          Or in any case that’s what I would have said had anyone asked, which they did not. Could be wrong.Report

          • Avatar BlaiseP says:

            A republic is defined by what it isn’t.   It isn’t a monarchy, and that’s about as far as we can go with the definition.   Any such form of republican government, whether appointed or elected, is subject to some democratic principles.   Republics are democracies.

            We get the word Republic from Cicero but most translators use the word Commonwealth.

            Can we call the state of Agrigentum a Commonwealth, where all men are oppressed by the cruelty of a single tyrant?—where there is no universal bond of right, nor social consent and fellowship, which should belong to every people, properly so named. It is the same in Syracuse,—that illustrious city which Timæus calls the greatest of the Grecian towns. It was indeed a most beautiful city; and its admirable citadel, its canals distributed through all its districts, its broad streets, its porticoes, its temples, and its walls, gave Syracuse the appearance of a most flourishing state. But while Dionysus its tyrant reigned there, nothing of all its wealth belonged to the people, and the people were nothing better than the slaves of an impious despot. Thus wherever I behold a tyrant, I know that the social constitution must be, not merely vicious and corrupt, as I stated yesterday, but in strict truth, no social constitution at all.

            —You have spoken admirably, my Scipio, and I see the point of your observations.

            —You grant, then, that a state which is entirely in the power of a faction, cannot justly be entitled a political community.

            —That is evident to us all.

            —You judge most correctly. For what was the state of Athens, when during the great Peloponessian war, she fell under the unjust domination of the thirty tyrants? The antique glory of that city, the imposing aspect of its edifices, its theatre, its gymnasium, its porticos, its temples, its citadel, the admirable sculptures of Phidias, and the magnificent harbour of Piræus, did they constitute it a commonwealth?Report

            • Avatar Michael Drew says:

              Republics are democracies.

              If you both say so, it’s good enough for me for now.  Republics are democracies.Report

          • Avatar James Hanley says:


            Correct. My words, “republics are democracies” was a bit sloppy.  It would have been better reversed, or if I had said that most republics today are pretty doggone democratic.  Me culpa on not writing carefully.Report

            • Avatar James Hanley says:

              My point should not be taken as a critique of Blaise’s comment.  It’s largely right, and is more or less what was in my mind when I made my comment.  The real point is that there’s no reliable distinction between the two that really allows us to say the U.S. is one but not the other.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                You’re right, James.   Insofar as someone says “We’re a republic, not a democracy”, his argument has gone off the rails.   The only circumstances under which it might be true would be if we applied the ancient definition of Democracy, equating it with Anarchy, which many folks did, noting that Athens was a tyranny of the mob.   That quote from Cicero kinda lays out how why you’re right.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                In this vein, a story. Around the time that we had finished Order of the Phoenix and were waiting on Half-Blood Prince, we were arguing the finer points of what, if any, political philosophy was hidden in Harry Potter books.

                One of the Military guys in the room (who was also there at the midnight launches for the books) boomed out “We Defend Democracy. We Are Not A Democracy.”


              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                I was genuinely shocked to realise the implications of my taking the Oath of Enlistment.   UCMJ is all the law that applies to the American serviceman.   The only elected official in my chain of command was Lyndon Baines Johnson, heh heh.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                I’m (fitfully) working on an anti-textbook for my American Gov’t class (a book that’s shorter, cheaper, and smarter than the standard American Gov’t text), and I keep pondering whether I should devote a short chapter to this issue.  One the one hand, it’s not really central in importance, but on the other hand, the idea that it’s centrally important is such a common misconception that perhaps it needs to be explicitly addressed.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                You could do worse than to start with Cicero’s Republic as a framework.   So much of American Gummint studies is just nonsense.   To understand Madison and Jefferson, we simply must start with Cicero and Montesquieu.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Yep. The trick is to explain it at a level a freshman can get without dumbing it down too much. My initial notes for the chapter include Montesquieu, and I’ve gone back and forth on bringing in Cicero, but I lean toward doing so.  The only real problem with that is that I haven’t read him in so long, and to do it well requires re-reading. Not that Cicero’s not worth re-reading, but my reading list is already longer than the rest of my working life.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Nice thing about Cicero, it’s Socratic in nature, which lends to clean quotations.   And it’s short.   I have Powell’s translation but prefer Barham’s translation, link provided.

                If I ever had to sum up American Gummint, it would be “the more perfect union.”   We’re an ongoing experiment.   What wrong with America is wrong with the world:  our failures are the world’s failures.   Our improbable revolution succeeded, but even more improbably, we had the opportunity for a fresh start and the foresight to provide for treating the nation as an ongoing experiment.   No other nation had such an opportunity.  But the principles upon which our governments, yes, plural, the states were created in the same process, were ancient, so ancient they predated the Roman Empire itself.

                Cicero writes the Republic and his light went out for centuries.   The Empire arose and crushed it under foot.   We lost a great deal of the Republic and almost lost it entirely.    A strange, prescient set of dialogues, showing how little mankind has changed over time.Report

        • Avatar wardsmith says:

          Now let’s talk about “Representative Democracy”. In point of tact the only ones who live in a REAL democracy in this country are those congresscritters in DC, the rest of us, not so much. For those who disagree, consider this thought experiment. You’re a passenger on a bus. You sit in the back. You can tell the bus driver whatever you like about where you want to go. The bus driver can ignore you at will. Every two years you have the opportunity to get a different bus driver.Report

  21. Avatar Kyle Cupp says:

    “Some people say…”Report

    • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

      KC, I just don’t think the right has enough control of the mediums of communication to dictate the norm.  A GROWING CHORUS OF…  I mean, WTF up with that?  Who are these people who form the “chorus,” and why do they sing in such perfect harmony????


      Growing numbers of conservatives in California have joined the effort to repeal the state’s capital punishment law, expressing frustration with its price tag and the rarity of executions.

      The numbers have grown so much, it’s now a “chorus”!

      The chorus of criticism has death penalty advocates worried, even though California voters have historically favored capital punishment, passing several measures over the last few decades to toughen criminal penalties and expand the number of crimes punishable by death.

      Way back in 2004, I discussed the way this newspaper employs phrases like “growing chorus” to describe public opinions they agree with:

      [W]hy another story on this topic? Blame the “growing chorus”:

      A growing chorus of Bush critics has emerged in recent weeks, saying his youthful conduct then is freshly relevant today.

      I have warned you that such language is a signal that the paper agrees with the criticism. When the paper disagrees with criticism of a candidate, it is portrayed as an attack by political opponents. When the paper agrees with the criticism, the criticism becomes a mysterious and disembodied (but ever-growing) entity. Doubts grow. Criticism emerges.

      This doesn’t apply merely to criticism of candidates, but any public controversy that the paper’s editors want to push. The fact is that the way an article is worded can skew the reader’s perceptions markedly even if the facts are correct. Since we’re revisiting old posts, let’s look at another example, this time from 2007:

      The article in question begins:

      WASHINGTON — The growing controversy over White House recordkeeping and disclosure swirledaround presidential adviser Karl Rove on Thursday, as congressional Democrats said they were told some e-mails that Rove sent from a Republican National Committee account are missing.


      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        “Backing the new measure are Ron Briggs, who ran the 1978 campaign for a successful ballot initiative that expanded the reach of California’s death penalty; Donald J. Heller, an ex-prosecutor who wrote the 1978 initiative; Jeanne Woodford, a former warden of San Quentin State Prison who oversaw four executions; and former L.A. County Dist. Atty. Gil Garcetti, who said his experience as D.A. helped change his mind about the fairness of the system.”


        Just a few paragraphs down, they examine who makes up the chorus.  Was it that hard to find?Report

        • Avatar wardsmith says:

          Kazzy, I think the salient point from Tom’s post is contained here:

          When the paper disagrees with criticism of a candidate, it is portrayed as an attack by political opponents

          That “group” could just as easily been a small cadre (FOUR old people?) as a growing chorus.Report

          • Avatar Kazzy says:


            The language might very well be slanted and a broader study of the paper-in-question might reveal a true bias.  I’m not familiar enough with it to speak one way or another.

            But reading a blog post about an article and citing that, instead of the article itself, leads to questions like the one the commenter here asked: “Who are these people who form the “chorus,”?”  Had he taken the time to click through, he would have seen who the writer was referring to with the term “chorus”.  He then could have deconstructed the use of this language and the degree to which these individuals are representative of the broader group the “chorus” supposedly represents.  But we don’t get that.  We get more bumper sticker nonsense, particularly interesting given the subject of this very post.Report

  22. Avatar MFarmer says:

    When people are talking about the effects of policy on the business environment,  then it makes sense to speak of pro-business policy or anti-business policy — much policy-making has the effect of being anti-business.Report

      • Avatar Scott says:

        EPA rules on coal fired plants and labor rules on children working on farms, etc.  Too easy.Report

        • Avatar Burt Likko says:

          But rules on coal fired plants are good for other businesses like nuclear, wind, and solar generators. And construction and environmental cleanup companies who get retrofitting work.

          Restricting child labor is good for worker’s compensation insurers because kids get injured more frequently and are more expensive to fix or support on long term disability than adults.

          These rules might count as “picking winners,” but no matter what the rule is, I bet I can identify a winner as well as a loser.Report

          • Avatar Will H. says:

            Rules on coal-fired power plants are good for coal in general.
            When acid rain was a big deal, there was a lot of coal in the US that was unsuitable for use. It’s too expensive to process the high sulfur coal compared to the cost of coals lower in sulfur.
            These days, we pull the sulfur out of the stack using a lime slurry from giant showerheads. It converts to gypsum, and it goes to make wallboard. *

            I really dislike hearing about how regulation (including cap-and-trade) would be bad for coal.
            That’s true with the power plants built before the 80’s (which is the bulk of them).
            It’s not true for the power plants built since the mid-90’s.

            What has happened is that technology developed fairly quickly in different areas, and it took some time to integrate those disparate technologies. **
            The odd thing is that rebuilding our infrastructure to reflect the current level of technology is a fairly time-consuming process, and is met with a lot of resistance (because people are better informed wrt the power plants of 40 – 60 yrs ago rather then the current level of technology).

            * Of course, a gasification system is a very different operation.

            ** Such as the introduction of telecommunications equipment in the monitoring systems, et al.Report

            • Avatar North says:

              Will, that is really fascinating, thanks for sharing it. I had no idea that coal scrubbers are used in that manner. As a collector of interesting info nuggets I’m deeply appreciative.Report

            • Avatar Michael Cain says:

              “I really dislike hearing about how regulation (including cap-and-trade) would be bad for coal.
              That’s true with the power plants built before the 80?s (which is the bulk of them).
              It’s not true for the power plants built since the mid-90?s.”

              Well, cap-and-trade on sulfur wasn’t particularly bad for coal, since there were at least two options that let coal stay in business: scrubbers, and a huge ramp-up in production and transport of low-sulfur western coal.  The last was a surprise: when the EPA discussed possible consequences of the Clean Air Act amendments in the 1990s, expanded use of western coal didn’t even make the list.  The vast majority of coal mined in the West is burned in the East, in order to eliminate, or at least minimize the size of, scrubbers.  I am always staggered when I remember that the Scherer power plant in Georgia, fifth-largest power plant in the US, is powered exclusively with coal from Wyoming, to the tune of 10-11 million tons per year all transported 2,100 miles.

              Tight cap-and-trade limits on carbon dioxide, OTOH, will be somewhere between detrimental and devastating for coal.  At the present time, there’s only one short-term option: burn something else, probably natural gas.  You could replace your current coal technology with new supercritical tech in order to gain efficiency, or (perhaps) with gasification to gain even more efficiency, but that’s d*mned expensive and takes a long time.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi says:

                and It’s mercury regs that finally shut down ol’ king coal around here.Report

              • Avatar Will H. says:

                Mercury doesn’t make much of a difference for the new plants.
                Fortunately, mercury is very specific by its weight.
                A gasification system removes mercury in an evaporative column.
                A post-combustion system removes mercury with a baghouse, after piping the emissions through a system of heat exchangers.
                It’s really not an issue any more.Report

              • Avatar Will H. says:

                What I see happening from tight cap-and-trade limits:
                1). All the coal-fired plants built before the 80’s would be shut down within about 10 years;
                2). A spur of building would occur to replace the lost capacity;
                3). A wave of corporate mergers, with companies that are well-managed buying out poorly managed companies; and
                4). Years of brown-outs, because that’s what it’s going to take to demonstrate to the powers-that-be that there really is a limit on generating capacity.

                But I don’t see it harming the coal industry.
                I see it as replacing an obsolete infrastructure, which would be good for the industry.Report

              • Avatar wardsmith says:

                Will, the EPA has not granted one single permit for a new coal plant since Obama took office. They won’t either. Therefore your number 2 never gets to happen but your numbers 3 and 4 will happen in spades, esp #4.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi says:

                that’s fine, but can you prove that anyone competent was asking to build? 2009-2011, fuel’s been cheap and peak oil’s been receeding.Report

              • Avatar Will H. says:

                I believe that Hitachi and Bechtel are competent.
                Duke Energy, on the other hand, gets things done.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                NIMBYism is a bipartisan phenomenon.   Blaming this on Barack HUSSEIN Obama is a bit specious.Report

              • Avatar wardsmith says:

                The EPA is a Federal Agency and it is the EPA which is refusing to grant the permits. I had a friend who worked at Sithe Global developing power plants. He left because it is impossible to get a coal plant permitted in this country at this time. Sithe designs, builds and operates state of the art coal fired plants, elsewhere. He could easily have stayed but would have had to travel extensively internationally to some occasionally unsavory places (think bodyguards).

                Sithe designed a plant for an Indian reservation in Nevada. Absolutely GREAT for the local economy, and the power is desperately needed. The plant design allowed for no harmful emissions whatsoever. The EPA refused a permit based on the NOX emissions caused by the TRAIN that delivered the coal to the plant!

                Hussein wasn’t kidding when he said he’d kill coal.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi says:


                you mean no PM2.5 or PM10? Or do you just mean no NOX, Sulphur, and whatever else they’re measuring out there??Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                In Georgia, a state where coal is the primary fuel for electric generation, Longleaf, the first coal-fired power plant to be built in more than 20 years, is tied up in litigation. In late June 2008, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Thelma Wyatt Cummings Moore overturned the decision by state regulators to issue the plant an air permit, saying state environmental officials failed to take the plant’s carbon dioxide emissions into consideration. In her decision, Moore said the plant would annually emit large amounts of air pollutants, including nine million tons of carbon dioxide (even though carbon dioxide was not defined as a regulated pollutant at the time). In November 2008, the plant owners appealed the decision to the State Court of Appeals. In July 2009, the Court of Appeals overturned the decision, but left the plant’s permit invalid. In September 2009, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled that they would not hear an appeal by the Sierra Club against the previous ruling. While the Sierra Club appealed to the court to reconsider, the Georgia Supreme Court held to their prior ruling. In April 2010, the state Environmental Protection Division issued two amendments to the permit, but failed to allow enough time for public comment. The plant is on hold while the state determines when they will provide the documents for comment.

                In New Mexico, the Desert Rock coal-fired power plant, whose permit was originally approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Bush Administration. The permit, however, was withdrawn by the same EPA during the Obama Administration, citing inadequate analysis of environmental issues and a failure to use the appropriate technology, coal gasification combined cycle. The plant was to use supercritical coal technology and meet standards defined by the International Energy Agency for carbon capture and storage, allowing it to be retrofitted for future deployment of the coal-gasification technology when it becomes commercially available. The 1,500 megawatt plant was to serve parts of Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah, using Navajo Nation coal resources. According to the President of the Navajo Nation, the EPA is holding it accountable to higher standards than other parts of the United States. In April 2010, the power plant owner indicated that the project was not dead, but it is no longer clear what fuel the owner will use—fossil or renewable

                Two different plants, NIMBYism all over the first one for sure, failure to use the appropriate tech on the second.   Don’t blame EPA for the Georgia plant, that’s local politics.   NIMBYism all over the second one, too, yeah, let’s park those nasty smokestacks out there on the rez, those poor stupid Navajo, they’re game for anything.  Guess your friend might not be up on the latest scrubber designs.

                Telling you, Ward, you’re backing buggy whip technology here.   Burning coal is just ignorant.   Anno Domini 2012 and the best these idiots can come up with is nothing more or less than James Watt’s steam engine, puffing out sparks and ash and mercury, etc.   Woo-woo !  All aboard for the 1830’s on the Coal Fired Express!

                Are you gonna blame B Hussein Obama for everything here?Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                I love the irony of the Chevy Volt being a coal-powered vehicle.Report

              • Avatar wardsmith says:

                Blaise, one judge does NOT define NIMBYism, but certainly defines “judicial overreach” “legislating from the bench” and some other memes that didn’t make it to the top line comments here.

                FACT, there has not been a single coal plant permitted since the Obama administration. FACT, Obama said he was going to shut down coal. FACT, Obama has. The New Mexico plant was BETTER than ANY other plant, it even did carbon capture. And it was “ to use supercritical coal technology and meet standards defined by the International Energy Agency for carbon capture and storage, allowing it to be retrofitted for future deployment of the coal-gasification technology when it becomes commercially available” You’re making this too easy for me Blaise, I don’t even have to do anything beyond actually READING your own source! And to clarify, the New Mexico plant is NOT the same as the Nevada plant, different Indian nation and everything. Sithe has thrown away $100M in development costs towards the coal plant and are working towards making it natural gas. Easy right? Unless of course you factor in things like new gas pipelines, right-of-way purchases and THOSE permits.

                As for buggy whip, let me know how your dilithium crystal development is coming. If you don’t have it, then I respectfully suggest you shut off your computer and get the hell off the grid (51% coal nationwide, 90% where you live). The new power plants are light-years ahead of the old ones, but the intransigence of the EPA is keeping obsolete technology running while disallowing state of the art replacement. If the EPA were in charge of computers, we’d be typing these missives on teletype machines connected to the world’s 5 IBM mainframes.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Hey, I’m the one bringing the facts to this debate, not you, Ward.   It seems there are better way of burning coal and the Desert Rock facility isn’t using them.   That’s stupid.  If we’re going to burn coal, at least use modern technology.

                So what if Obama wants to shut down the coal burners?   Elections have consequences.   Coal burning is stupid, a point I’ve made and you haven’t seen fit to respond to with even one fact.   All aboard the coal-fired steam engines of the 1830’s, with Ward our fearless conductor.

                You say these bozos spent 100 million up front on this thing and it hasn’t even got a permit?   What’s prohibiting them from just saying they’ll put in the latest technology so they won’t be such polluters?   Straight off Sithe’s website:  We believe that developing energy projects with a major economic impact while mitigating the ecological footprint is the key to sustainable development.

                So mitigate, then.  And quit whining about it.   I’d also like some citations on that NOX emission caused by the coal train, while you’re at it.

                Coal is just plain ignorant.  We have laws against defecating in public but let some smokestack belch out millions of tons of pollutants, I’m always surprised to find there’s a certain coterie of folks who take great umbrage when the government wants them to clean up after themselves.Report

              • Avatar North says:

                To heck with coal. I’d rather see predominantly nuclear baseload generation anyhow.

                Also anyone predicting the environmentalists could cause brownouts is nuts. It won’t be tolerated in the US. Environmentalism is well and good but if brownouts started happening with any regularity both parties would quite quickyl move heaven and earth to resolve it any nothing the enviros screeched would stop them.Report

              • Avatar Will H. says:

                Maybe I wasn’t clear on the idea of brownouts.
                I’m thinking that’s what it’s going to take to get things done.
                Three years in litigation is ridiculous, and I’m telling you, it’s an industry standard now.
                And the consumer ends up bearing that cost.
                NIMBYism doesn’t seem to care too much for whether the community will benefit or not.
                Wherever they put the things, someone’s not going to be happy about it.

                My thoughts on nuclear:
                It’s inevitable, but it’s not ready yet. We have to figure out what to do with the waste.
                Multiplying the problem isn’t going to help any.
                Exxon Valdiz is child’s play compared to the potential of a waste leak.
                And they all leak sooner or later. A pipeline was never built that was immune from leakage.
                We’ll get there, but we’re not there yet. Give it a few years.
                It might sound like I’m an optimist, but I’m really not.
                I believe we have the creativity and the capacity to address our energy problems, but I don’t believe we’ll ever do it without taking some hard lumps. I fully believe those hard lumps are coming.Report

              • Avatar wardsmith says:

                Blaise, the Desert Rock plant was the one doing state of the art methods, that FACT is from your OWN link, therefore I AM bringing facts to the argument, you’re bringing the usual bromides. Would take too long to find the train emissions link online, but here’s one concerning oil drilling likewise cancelled for spurious reasons (aka, not on substance but meets the Obama agenda). The EPA’s appeals board ruled that Shell had not taken into consideration emissions from an ice-breaking vessel when calculating overall greenhouse gas emissions from the project. Yup that’s right, even though Shell dotted all their i’s and crossed all their t’s, they forgot to include the emissions from an ice breaker and the EPA decided those emissions were hazardous to the health of a village of 250 who were 70 miles away (and are themselves served by EXACTLY the SAME icebreaker on a regular basis!_)

                So here we have the liberal logic or what passes for same. Everything done is wrong, but it is all for the right reasons so therefore, “oh look a squirrel!”, don’t pay any attention to the puppeteers behind the curtain.

                Do you have something better than coal? Cheaper perhaps, readily available? I daresay you would not recognize a modern coal plant (installed in other countries of course, this country is in the stone ages thanks to this administration and the EPA) and certainly no one from the 1830’s would. But that doesn’t dovetail in nicely with your imaginary narrative so I don’t blame you for ignoring the facts on the ground and picking subterfuge instead. When the four members for the EPA review committee are all Democrats and partisan environmentalists, there can be no doubt of aligned agendas with groups such as the Sierra Club.

                As for elections having consequences, I don’t recall Obama running on a platform of destroying the US economic advantage of cheap power from fossil fuels. Even the interview in San Francisco was quashed by that newspaper until it was too late for voters to vet. As I said above, we all get to ride this bus, we don’t get to tell the driver where we want to go.

                No more beating a dead horse. Sithe designs state of the art plants. Some of the items necessary for that state of the art do NOT FRIGGING EXIST YET!!! Therefore they do the best they can with existing technology and put in the “hooks” to allow for future enhancements. Now tell me Mr. Software genius, do you not do the SAME FRIGGING THING when you design a software system? If not, let me know and I’ll clean your frigging clock for you even though I’ve effectively retired from software design over a decade ago.

                The only “pollutant” remaining from current state of the art plants is CO2. Yep, that molecule which is essential for ALL LIFE ON THIS PLANET is a pollutant according to the geniuses at the EPA. This discussion is pointless. Shut your stinking computer off, you’re using coal to run it. Can’t do that? Then shut your pie hole.Report

              • Avatar North says:

                Will H, most of the “waste” can simply be reused as fuel. This is not enormously economical at current energy costs and technology levels but if you want to dispose of the waste that is an option. Also waste “leaks” would be comparatively easy to prevent. Keep in mind that the volume of nuclear waste is enormously small, pipelines? Utterly unnecessary. Assuming we can’t find the political will to simply re-use the fuel then you could bury it in a salt mine and entomb it until the politcal will comes around.

                Certainly more “magic bullet” style reactors like thorium are a ways out but the Chinese and Indians are hard at work at those along with modern pebble bed and other passively safe reactor designs. Here in the US of course we would have little difficulty finding sites that aren’t located on fault lines or in tsunami zones.

                Heck, if all of that is unconvincing the Canadians have been using heavy water reactors for almost as long as the US has been using light water reactors with no significant accidents. Again economically not competative with fossil fuels right now (and in Ontario and Quebec they are practically drowning in hydro power) but if you ever had a brown out problem *poof* there are a lot of options available.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                WillH, I can’t see making energy artificially more expensive as anything but “anti-business” and antithetical to the creation of wealth.  Cheap energy creates wealth.

                Now coal might be adjudged as too big a threat to the environment to endure, but arguing that to replace it with pricier energy is a net economic benefit is magic-bean thinking.

                [Esp since America has a lot of damn coal.]Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

                So, you think all EPA regs on coal mining should be repealed? Because after all, basic safety regulations probably make mining more expensive that it was back in the good ole’ days of the company store.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                Using the word “all” is silly, Jesse.Report

              • Avatar Will H. says:

                I agree, but the detrimental effect to wealth creation reaches beyond business.
                The consumers always end up picking up the tab.
                There’s a way to get industry to generate innovation, but shifting requirements in an economic downturn is ill-advised, imho.
                BlaiseP is right about the rapid development of solar cells; but from my view, that also entails a short window for the availability of replacement parts. I think it could be useful for addressing the growth in demand, but will have little overall impact on current demand.
                I know nuclear is the wave of the future, another 30 yrs down the line; but the by-products that come out of that are way more toxic than anything we’re looking at with coal. Vitrification is a promising technology for dealing with that, but I haven’t seen a large-scale working prototype even.
                But I think we’ll be building a lot of coal-fired power plants here for the next 20 yrs, regardless of how anyone feels about it. About half of the ones running out there now should have been decommissioned about 10 – 20 yrs ago, and that’s a serious problem.
                Requirements for retrofits won’t address the efficiency issues of the older systems.

                But really, you can never tell what kind of breakthrough in technology they’ll find ten years out; some new chemical, or a new catalyst, a new process.Report

          • Avatar Scott says:


            The recent EPA regs on carbon emissions all but ensure that no new coal fired power plants will be constructed, much to the glee of the enviro nazis. As for the proposed child labor regs, they would have stop kids from doing farm chores even on the farms they live on. Fortunately, enough folks protested and the govt backed down for now.Report

            • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

              Ooh, there’s one! The use of the word “Nazi” to indicate anything other than an actual member of the National Socialist Party.Report

            • Avatar Kimmi says:

              Blaise is better to ask on this than me. But allow one humble person with some skin in the fucking game to educate your ass.

              Coal plants ain’t getting built because someone is deliberately crashing the natural gas market. When it’s cheaper to use natural gas, that’s what people go with. It’s not regulation, because, trust me, we need the energy. It’s that there are other sources that are cheaper. And that’s not wind and water.Report

              • Avatar Will H. says:

                There are a lot more coal-fired plants than gas-fired plants being built these days. It’s typically the peaking facilities that are built for gas these days.
                It typically takes about three years of litigation to break ground after the engineering and permitting procedure is completed.
                Regulations on carbon are manageable. The industry has been working two steps ahead for some time.
                A gasification system removes all of the carbon pre-combustion. That by-product goes to make asphalt.
                A modern power plants generates an awful lot of raw materials as well as producing power.

                Now, a few years back there was some environmental group that bought out some company with permits to build something like 17 new coal-fired plants in Texas, so that they could prevent them from being built.
                Once you realize that failing to introduce the newer technologies is de facto insistence on 60 yr old technologies, it makes no sense whatsoever.

                That said, the use of water is becoming more of an issue than carbon emissions.
                For anyone paying attention anyway.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                WillH, BHO promised to kill coal plants and this indicates he will, if somehow re-elected.


                “The proposed emissions standards are for all new plants, including ones powered by abundant and cheap natural gas, but would hit hardest coal-fired facilities, which would face substantial — perhaps insurmountable — technological and financial obstacles in complying with the limits.

                “What this essentially says is we will never be building dirty old coal plants ever again,” said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, one of the litigants in the lawsuit that led to development of the new rules. “The dominant power source of the 19th and 20th centuries won’t be the same again.”

                The rules aren’t final, and could be changed by a future Republican administration. Still, major business groups, especially those that benefit from cheap coal-fired power, were harshly critical.”


              • Avatar Will H. says:

                This is the truly stupid line from that article:
                The regulations would apply only to new power plants, not modifications of existing facilities, the standards for which are expected later.

                There’s only so much you can do to speed up a 286 system, and it’s never going to be as fast as my laptop with two Centrino 2’s. That’s not so difficult to understand.
                Apply the same thing to power plants, and it’s the deer-in-the-headlights look.

                A large part of this nation’s gas supply goes into point-of-use industrial process. Diverting that large-scale to power generation is… I can’t even come up with an appropriate word to convey the severity of the inanity.
                What you saw a few years back when gas prices spiked over $4/gal would happen again across the board for every manufactured product in the nation.

                On the other hand, I did a lot of service work around the Orlando area 10 – 12 years ago.
                Homeowners were routinely paying electric bills in excess of $300 at the time (closer to $400 adjusted for inflation).
                I think everybody could benefit from paying $400 electric bills for a few years.
                Maybe then we could have some sanity injected into the prominent dialogue.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                Picking out the stupidest line from an article does not negate the facts: Re-elect Obama, he will strangle coal.  Our mileage may vary whether that’s a good thing, but let’s at least stipulate the facts.Report

              • Avatar Michael Cain says:

                “Coal plants ain’t getting built because someone is deliberately crashing the natural gas market.”

                Deliberately?  Well, maybe in the sense that there are far too many firms working unconventional gas plays who have a mountain of debt to be serviced, and need every bit of cash flow they can get.  All of them would be collectively better off if they cut their production in half; unilaterally, any one of them can only afford to keep on drilling, and hope the other guys go bankrupt before they do.  Cash flow is starting to seriously pinch; here in Colorado, the shale gas guys are starting to look for every possible reason that they can back out of the contracts they’ve signed with landowners.  Chesapeake will reportedly come up about $5B short of generating enough cash flow this year to support their previously announced drilling plans.

                I am reminded of the fiber optic fiasco that led to the telecom bust at the end of the 1990s: 20 different companies were borrowing enormous sums on the basis of a business plan that said they would capture 20% of the Internet data transport market. :^)Report

            • Avatar BlaiseP says:

              Let’s put aside all the usual environazi arguments from both sides.   Yes, we need power.  Here’s the real problem:  any fossil fuel solution is a dead end.   From a physical standpoint, burning fossil fuel to make steam is horse-and-buggy technology.   It’s inefficient and wasteful.   There are loads of other things we should be doing with coal.   Without exception all those horrid pollutants the environazis are screaming about are tremendously useful in chemical processes:  mercury and sulphur especially.   Coal tar forms the basis for aniline dyes and tens of thousands of other products.  Burning our coal is just stupid.

              This planet has dozens of dynamical systems at work we could be exploiting to generate electricity.   The cost of solar power is dropping precipitously with each iteration of panel technology.   Our problem isn’t power generation, it’s power transmission and storage.

              I’ve already discussed child labour laws around here.   Suffice to say the affected farmers are puzzled by anyone opposing these laws.   They’re pretty reasonable laws, so say the farmers and dairymen of Augusta WI.   There’s plenty of other things farm children can do without being impacted by these laws.   Mucking out a cow stall is certainly within the purview of the permissible.

              If you feel it’s okay to use the word Nazi in discourse around here, I know you’re just channelling Rush et. al.   No skin off my nose.   But this I do know about the fascists:  they were defined by what they were against.    What they were actually for was never clear.   Something about the Fatherland and they were obsessed with modernity.   So if I notice that you’re rattling on in the vein of what you’re against, without any prescription of how you’d change things, who’s being the Enviro-Nazi here?    Maybe you?Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                “The cost of solar power is dropping precipitously with each iteration of panel technology.”

                Not fast enough to actually keep anybody in business, though.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi says:

                … are you seriuosly trying to say that there’s nobody building solar arrays on houses?

                It’s not profitable yet, or I’d be doing it myself…Report

              • Avatar Scott says:


                Right, things are so great for solar corp’s like Solyndra.Report

          • Avatar Scott says:


            The proposed rule prohibiting kids from doing farms chores on the farms they live on was withdrawn after an uproar.  Workers’ comp as nothing to do with this issue.  Once again more foolishness coming out of Barry’s admim.


            • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

              This is bullshit. The very Labor Department regulation rule the Daily Caller links to explicitly states that children of the owners are exempt. We already went over this in another thread when the kerfuffle was originally raised.

              This rule was to stop farmers from employing 15 year old migrant kids. Unfortunately, Obama caved on it because the right-wing convinced the last 19 family farms actually left in the US that the stormtroopers were coming to stop them from sending their kids out in the fields.Report

            • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

              FWIW, Burt is wring on the workers comp, but not for the reasons (I think) Scott is saying.

              Workers comp is by design not a federal program, and each state is different, so Scott is wrong; it does affect some farmers in some states – but not all.  (In some states, like Oregon, children of farm owners are exempt from w/c.)

              But Burt, w/c actually costs carrier very little, because there is no “pain & suffering” allowed.  In a long term disability case it can lead to a large claim, but that is offset by the fact that in smaller claims kids heal much faster, and they make almost nothing so indemnity payments are small.  And if they are disabled, or if they pass away, they do not have dependents claims, which is where the bulk of money from serious injuries comes from.Report

        • Avatar James Hanley says:

          EPA rules on coal fired plants

          Not a good example, dude.  Unless you really want to say, “pro-business means being anti-people’s health.”

          Then again, I always thought that when conservatives said “pro-business,” they really meant, “anti-market, anti-competition, anti-consumer, pro-shareholder.”Report

          • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

            “Pro-business” seems to mean “policies that shift the externality costs of a business to the rest of society”.Report

            • Avatar James Hanley says:

              Exactly. Pro-business=pro-externality.  They want us to think it means pro-market, and they may fool themselves into thinking it, but it ain’t so.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi says:

                I once saw an actual conservative come up with an actual regulation that actually was hurting business (an example of “overly broad scope” — a reg applied to smallcaps, where it was costly and mostly unnecessary, as well as to largecaps, where it cost little). Next Congress they fixed it.Report

        • Avatar Kimmi says:

          TALK to gasp, Scott.

          I can tell you how much BUSINESS is generated by the Deaths of People because of those Clean Air Acts. Oh, wait, are you trying to say they weren’t loopholed to sunday?

          Tell you what, dipshit. You tell ME why there is a statistically significant correlation between how long you live and how high up you live in pittsburgh.

          This FINE fucking clean air act didn’t stop a 20 year old (in fine fucking shape) from heading to the hospital — unconscious. Because of the fucking air quality.

          RULES on coalfired plants make our city prosper. You think pulmanologists want to live in a city where they’re being killed by the air? WE have more money, more prosperity when Job Creators don’t DIE.

          And get your fucking story straight. Forty years of loopholes do NOT destroy a single damn job. Mercury regs killed the coal power plants, and nobody else.Report

          • Avatar Scott says:

            Can anyone in charge here tell me why this kind of language and personal attacks are allowed?Report

            • Avatar Kimmi says:

              Mostly because I’m making about twenty points, and doing one adhom in the middle because I’m frustrated. You can feel free to call me out on the adhom, which you can feel free to say “that’s unwarranted abuse.”

              (or someone else might, we’re big kids around here.)

              Me? I dunno. You’re talking about something I care a good deal about, and have done substantially more research than you seem to have. I also, you might say, have a bit more skin in the game here than you do. I live in the country’s worst polluted city. That twenty year old who went to the hospital due to poor air quality? a very good friend of mine.

              If you started bitching about how peanut regulations are costing XYZ, without bothering to back up anything — and you were mostly wrong — would you really expect the parent of a kid with peanut allergies not to bitch you out?

              I swear when I’m upset — call it stress relief and don’t take it too personally.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi says:

                not that I mean to assert that I’m in charge. you can look up the commenting policy. It’s been posted ad infinitum.

                Bring Back Knives!Report

              • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

                One of my small joys is picking through this thread and calling out the usages that infuriate me. Here’s another one!

                Ad hominem doesn’t mean “insult”, and it surely doesn’t mean “coarse language”.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                I’m pretty sure that at this point, ad hominem means insult in internet speak. There’s no going back. The internet ruins everything that isn’t cats or porn, because ultimately, all the internet is for is cats and porn.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Taking it to the man. I thought that that was what “ad hominem” meant. Instead of talking about the argument, you’re taking it to the man.

                Now *OFFICIALLY* I think this merely means a fallacy like “you can’t believe statement X! Person P said it!”… but I kinda see how “to the man” could also mean “You say that P is true and that Q is not true and, therefore, the statement If P Then Q is false… but I say that you’re a dick!” would be an ad hom.

                I mean, technically, it’s “changing the subject” but the person is, kinda, taking it to the man.


              • Avatar Chris says:

                I suppose there are two ways of taking “ad hominem.” One is that “ad hominem” stands alone, and simply means “to the man,” and therefore anything addressed at the person isntead of what he or she is saying is an “ad hominem.” The second is that it’s short for an “ad hominem argument,” or the “fallacy of ad hominem,” in which case, an insult is not necessarily an “ad hominem.” I think people tend to use it in the first sense, but act as though its implications are those of the second sense. This, at least, is what I often see here and elsewhere on the internet from the people who frequently cry “ad hominem.”Report

              • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

                Yeah, I agree with the last bit of that especially. The vast majority of people who cry foul about insults or rough language on the internet do so only to distract from the arguments made by those using the rough language.

                Our own Tom Van Dyke is a masterful purveyor of this kind of idiocy.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                Nice try, Ryan.  Doesn’t fly.Report

              • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

                As long as the internet does me the great favor of keeping my cats and my porn separate, we can has a truce.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                Man, if you can’t even be prescriptivist about dead languages…Report

            • Avatar Burt Likko says:

              Allowed? Because we try to err on the side of free expression. Enjoyed? No. The remedy is to call the offending commenter out on the misbehavior. Which has happened.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi says:

                repeatedly. I’m not one of those PC police liberals.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                Tell you what, dipshit. You tell ME why there is a statistically significant correlation between how long you live and how high up you live in pittsburgh.

                Burt, I don’t think the offender has been called out atall here exc by the offendee, which doesn’t count.  In fact, the “callout” spiraled down into an inane digression that served to let the offender slide.

                This isn’t free expression, it’s an abandonment of standards, and is appropriate nowhere.Report

              • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

                Because calling the regulars “inane” is a great way to get us to agree with you.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                That’s a fair point, Ryan.  I was, however, appalled by the bald sophistry of the coverup.  Basically, one can only enforce discipline within their own tribe:  For Scott to complain about being called a dipshit means nothing.  Were a leftperson or two to stand up and rule our Ms. Kimmi out of order, it would have great effect.

                And they should stand up against such jejune namecalling, Ryan, as a first principle.  There’s plenty of time to jerk me around later.  And I do assure you that Scott been the miscreant here, as a fellow gentleperson of the right, I’d consider it a duty to our LoOG community to be the one to object.Report

              • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

                I think you overestimate the amount to which we take Kimmi seriously. You are, perhaps, right that we would call out you or Scott. I think we would also call out any of the people we really truly like around here, like Tod or Jaybird or pick someone.

                If we have been remiss in calling out Kimmi’s crap for what it was, it’s only because she is an established serial liar who always flies off the handle at the slightest provocation, spinning facts out of thin air as she goes. The appropriate response to her is something along the lines of “99” or “Yay!” or talking about lolcat porn.

                You may also not be aware that Scott showed up on the post about my marriage to insult me and say broadly misogynistic things. My willingness to defend him against anything was reduced to zero at that point. He’s a known asshole; he’s reaping what he has sown.


              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                Ok, Ryan, I hear that. I do think “dipshit” should be called out here and everywhere, by whomever can have the best effect to thin that garbage out.  I do believe the Broken Windows Theory should be enforced, that most garbage is not “free expression,” and does not benefit the neighborhood.

                As for Scott’s behavior toward you, I didn’t see it, but have been known to tell members of my own side of the aisle to cool it. [There is the difficult question of propriety when someone puts their autobio on the table.  Must the reader tacitly accept the point being asserted?  Different question though.]

                Peace, brother.  As we’re both on the masthead, I think our first duty is to the LoOG, and only then to our POV.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi says:


                also, people may have been refraining from calling me out on it, because I took scott’s complaint fairly seriously (which, to be honest, is a rarity from me).Report

              • Avatar Kimmi says:


                In case I wasn’t clear — I have been called out numerous times — with various degrees of good humor, for my use of four letter words, which were in evidence above. that I wasn’t called out this time? meh.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                This isn’t really about you, Ms. Kimmi.  It’s about broken windows.Report

              • Avatar Burt Likko says:

                Well, if that’s right then neither you nor I have called her out either. At this point, I agree it would be diffuse. But better late than never, so:

                Kimmi, please mind your language and respond to the point. Calling Scott names was out of line.Report

          • Avatar Scott says:


            No one is talking about going back to the days when power plants could pollute as much as they wanted so you can take that strawman and shove it.

            The EPA recently proposed rules that will effectively prohibit the construction of new coal fired plants. This is even the opinion of the Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune ( see article below)  If you really had skin in the game you would have a clue about this so I can only conclude that you are falsely claiming to have knowledge to make your argument seem more authoritative.  This is the first time the EPA has effectively regulated an entire class of power plants out of existence.  This move seems especially foolish given that that regs are cover carbon as opposed to a real pollutant.  Businesses need reliable sources of power to flourish and that will not happen with Barry’s anti-business admin.


            • Avatar Michael Cain says:

              “This move seems especially foolish given that that regs are cover carbon as opposed to a real pollutant.”

              At this time, carbon dioxide is as real as any other pollutant.

              Let’s review the state of the law.  The Supreme Court has ruled that, under the current wording of the Clean Air Act, carbon dioxide is a pollutant.  The Court has also ruled that the EPA may not decide arbitrarily which pollutants it will regulate and which it will not; it has to conduct a scientific inquiry, and unless the pollutant can be shown to be harmless, the EPA must regulate.  Following those decisions, the EPA under Bush conducted an inquiry, the science staff report showed endangerment from increasing greenhouse gas levels, but the political appointees sat on it and waited for their time in office to run out.  It was unlikely that the science staff report would show anything else, given the publications of the Climate Change Science Program under Bush.  All of which left the EPA with no choice but to follow the required statutory procedures: identify the sources of greenhouse gases (including carbon dioxide) and begin the process to issue rules that limit the emission of such gases.

              If changes are going to be made, the ball is in Congress’ court.  And it seems worth noting that if the Republicans had been thinking ahead in 2001-05, they would have simply amended the law so that carbon dioxide was made a statutory non-pollutant.  Instead, they accepted the Bush administration’s analysis that (a) we can declare carbon dioxide a non-p0llutant by waving our hands and (b) no one has standing to sue us if we do that.  According to the Court, wrong on both counts.  I suspect they had drunk from the “permanent majority” Kool-Aid, and decided that they didn’t have to do potentially unpopular things in statute; they could simply interpret the law selectively and get away with it.Report

  23. Avatar dhex says:

    i don’t know whether i should be ashamed to admit that i looked on amazon to confirm that was the name of a real book and not some practical joke you were playing on us. yeesh.

    as for your question, anything invoking tradition or progression as a label. the term “progressive” is one of the most hilariously self-congratulatory things you could possible call yourself. and the invocation of “traditional values” and the like is so opaque as to be frosted glass. both are rhetorically effective for their intended audiences and patently absurd outside of them.

    libertarian is nearly as bad as a term  – it sounds like the 19th century from which it sprung. (this may be part of progressive’s problem as well.)Report

  24. Avatar Brandon Berg says:

    “Corporate Personhood”Report

    • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

      Also, “exploitation.”Report

    • Avatar James Hanley says:

      Can a legal term of art really be a reliable indicator that the person using it doesn’t know what they’re talking about?Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

        There’s an exception for actually using it as a legal term of art. There are also probably a few acceptable uses of the term “exploitation,” though none come to mind. Usually it just signifies deep confusion about basic issues of causality.Report

      • Avatar DensityDuck says:

        You mean like when people say “we’re a republic, not a democracy”?Report

  25. Avatar Dan Miller says:

    “Little platoons”.  It carries with it a freight of “ooh, look at me! I read Burke!” that I grates on me like I’m a fine Asiago.Report

  26. Avatar Mark Thompson says:

    Along with the whole “pro-business” I think you could include any phrase with the form “pro/anti-(insert broad and ill defined field here)”.

    One of my longstanding pet peeved is always “working people/families want…”. Bosch.Report

    • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

      On that note, there’s “working class.” Like the rest of us don’t work, too? That said, it’s idiomatic enough that it’s not necessarily a sign of sloppy thinking.Report

      • Brandon – I more or less agree with you on that one, which is why I chose not to include it.  But “working people/families want…” seems to wind up with a less-defined application amounting to something along the lines of “‘people who want what I want,’ err, want [x]…and also work, unlike the people who want [not x].”Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        I would prefer the use of the phrases “Hourly wage class” and “Salaried Class” to encompass what’s implied by “Working Class”.   Anyone who submits an invoice for his work or processes a credit card is in business for himself.   Such a person is a member of the Merchant Class:  he has a merchant account at a bank.   Anyone who earns his income from capital gains is a member of the Investor Class and decidedly not a member of the Working Class.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi says:


        The problem with working class is that it’s an old term, and rather inaccurate for pink collar workers, who comprise a lot of the upper lower class that I assume is being talked about.Report

    • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

      MarkT, sometimes a cigar is a cigar: no responsible CEO will open extensive operations in California.  It’s anti-business.

      “California appears to slip deeper into the ninth circle of business hell,” the report said. “Each year, the evidence that businesses are leaving California or avoid locating there because of the high cost of doing business due to excessive state taxes and stringent regulations, grows.”



      • Avatar Plinko says:

        Nobody wants to live in California, it’s too crowded!Report

        • Avatar Will H. says:

          I say we take back Sonora.
          Recovering territory militarily will reduce illegal immigration.Report

        • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

          And don’t even get me started on Manhattan.Report

        • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

          And all the startup companies we have here?  The exceptions that prove the rule.Report

          • Avatar wardsmith says:

            Startups continue to locate in Kalifornia for the simple expedient that Sand Hill Road investors (VC’s to you) steadfastly refuse to invest in anything more than 60 miles away. There are other VC firms, but they don’t quite have the cash (and cachet) that the Sand Hill crowd does. This is speaking from experience mind you, YMMV.Report

            • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

              And because there’s a wealth of talented engineers here, largely because of our fine public university system.Report

              • Avatar Simon K says:

                There certainly are talented engineers in Silicon Valley, probably more than elsewhere but if I were setting up a new R and/or D department, I’d not locate it there. The cost of ordinary engineers, and their level of competence is way out of line with elsewhere. In Silicon Valley you pay $100k for someone who can barely think coherently about their breakfast, let alone code. There are places where you can pay $60k and get someone who can not only code, but communicate clearly, in English, and actually think original thoughts from time to time. And I don’t mean China or India.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                In Silicon Valley you pay $100k for someone who can barely think coherently about their breakfast, let alone code. 

                Or you pay $150-175K for someone who’s incredibly productive. It’s true that many employers would rather have a lot of Yugos than a small group of Ferraris, but that’s the usual thing that for some reason isn’t called class warfare.Report

            • Avatar Simon K says:

              They’ll invest in things further away. But on condition that you move the head office to Silicon Valley. They want you where they can keep an eye on you without getting distracted from their golf. The other network effects matter, though – especially in the hardware business, being in Silicon Vallye puts you close to offices of all your major customers, which makes support and sales visits much easier.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi says:

        SF still has one of our best deepwater ports. I call bullshit.

        Now maybe if you’re running retail… but that’s because of too many house-poor/bankrupt foolz in SoCal.Report

        • Avatar Michael Cain says:

          Physically good, yes.  But in terms of tonnage, nothing on San Francisco Bay makes the top 30 ports in the country. Even combined, they’re dwarfed by the traffic moving through the Texas/Louisiana Gulf Coast complexes.  Measured by value, Oakland comes in at 22; but San Francisco International Airport beats that at 17th.  The big port tonnage and values on the West Coast come in at LA and Long Beach.Report

        • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

          More of the freight that comes into the United States comes through the Port of Long Beach than the Port of San Francisco, IIRC.  I think the amount is quite astonishing.

          That said, we have a limited number of corporate types in California.  Gas, agribusiness, shipping, transport, and high tech (software) are the biggies.  The high tech (software) is one of the few *growing* industries, in new incorporations (never mind the fact that nobody incorporates anywhere except Delaware, really, no matter *where* they actually do business).

          We could probably do with a more balanced regulatory environment.  California’s code has a tendency to be labyrinthine precisely because they try to accommodate multiple factors; the rules are different for a food truck vs. a restaurant vs. a cafe vs. a cafeteria, etc.  It’s one of those cases where “making the rules more germane to the business” has resulted in “making the rules way too fucking complicated for the industry”.  I know a restaurant owner that could probably make a killing if he also opened a catering truck, but he already puts in a billion hours as it is and he doesn’t have the time to figure out the rules for catering trucks.Report

      • Avatar Simon K says:

        I think that article largely proves Mark’s point.Report

  27. Avatar BlaiseP says:

    “Religious Right”.   Though many religious people are Conservative, many (I strongly suspect most) are not.Report

    • Avatar Kimmi says:

      Give it a couple of years. When we’ve got more Hispanics and Blacks, I’m certain that most religious people won’t be socons.Report

  28. Avatar J.L. Wall says:

    I’ll go with “authentic”, “authenticity”, or anything that smacks of watered-down, poorly-translated, not-thought-through cultural (mis)appropriations of Heidegger and/or Nietzsche.  (Typically without the interlocutor actually knowing what they’ve just done or whom they’ve unintentionally referenced to annoy me.)  You add “being” or “way of life” to the conversation, and I’ll likely just leave the room.  Or stop reading.  This normally doesn’t happen in human interaction, which is probably for the best.

    Unless, of course, we’re actually discussing Heidegger and/or Nietzsche.  But like that would ever happen…Report

    • Avatar BlaiseP says:

      I get your drift.  Authentic Scotsmen.   Another word which annoys me most exceedingly is “Paradigm” used incorrectly.   I fine myself twenty dollars every time I’m forced to use the word.   The Red Cross wishes I used it every day, I suppose.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        eg., … you can’t buy as much with a paradigms as far as you once could.Report

        • Avatar BlaiseP says:

          Sadly, yes.   I think I’m going to increase my fine, or at least my billing rate, if I’m ever made to write another Powerpoint slide stack.    I have come to believe Powerpoint is a tool devised by fiendish plotters, intent upon wreaking havoc upon Capitalism and clear thinking everywhere.Report

          • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

            Powerpoint presentations are just marketing/advertising.

            If you regard them as that sort of necessary evil, you’re better off.  Whether you’re making one or watching one.Report

          • Avatar Michael Cain says:

            I maintain it’s possible to put together a set of PowerPoint slides that support a good presentation on a subject… but only if you ignore most of the capabilities they provide, and most of the guidance given by “experts”.Report

            • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

              If you have more than one slide per minute you speak, you’re totally off the rails.

              If you have more than 20 words on any slide, you’re totally off the rails.

              If the number of slides that have words outnumber the number of slides that have graphs or charts, you’re totally off the rails.Report

              • Avatar Will H. says:

                I say ditch the PowerPoint and bring back Mr. Bill.
                If Play-Doh won’t keep their minds active, nothing will.Report

            • Avatar Simon K says:

              The key word is “support”. Unfortunately, most people treat the PowerPoint as if it was the presentation and try to jam all the information they intend to present onto the slides. The “presentation” then gets emailed around as if it was a standalone document. The result is a document that doesn’t contain enough information, and a presentation that’s boring to watch.Report

          • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

            I thought everyone already knew PowerPoint was a Microsoft product.


            • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

              Man, I hate this attitude. There is not a single computer program in existence that approaches the ease of use and power and all-around usefulness of Excel. I have a lot of nice things to say about Word as well, and I will even defend Access and Power Point for certain things. Power Point, in particular, is stunning in its ability to duplicate the features of Adobe Publisher for a lay audience who doesn’t have any interest in, you know, paying for Adobe Publisher.

              Jamelle Bouie had a post today or yesterday about how “no one has fond memories of Windows”, which is just completely and utterly false. Windows doesn’t have >90% market share because everyone hates it. Same goes for Office.


              • Avatar Kimmi says:

                Access breaks supercomputers. Real programmers don’t use Access.


                it is only to be used on what it was designed for — little things that are NOT self-modifying, and are not big, and are not designed to be used by others.Report

              • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

                That’s fine. The vast majority of computer users don’t use supercomputers and aren’t programmers. Myself, I learned SQL on Access, because Access, like all Office products, is deeply and fundamentally user friendly in a way that virtually no other productivity software is.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                Excel was bought.  I will give Microsoft this, they did make it better.  I will also give Microsoft this: they made it too easy to use badly.  All in all, though, I’d call it a win.

                Word was inferior to WordPerfect for years, and now it’s much, much better than Wordperfect was… but it still doesn’t enable you to actually see the markup in the document, which is a feature that should have been included 20 freakin’ years ago, especially given that even the current version does not clean up its markup properly.  This drives me insane whenever I see any document that’s been worked on by more than one person.  It’s a criminal waste of productivity.

                Access is good for making visual representations of backends.  Its own backend sucks, and leads people to use Access badly.  It’s not as bad as it is made out to be but it’s worse than it ought to be.

                I hate… HATE… the whole iLife aspect of Macintosh but Omnigraffle is a bazillion times better than Visio.

                I will agree that Powerpoint is a cheaper, more accessible version of Publisher.  People still use it wrong 🙂

                Outlook is horrible.  It could have been just fine, but it’s always been engineered to not work properly unless it’s plugged into Exchange, and that’s just wrong.

                Windows deserves bashing as an OS, but so does every other OS so that’s not exactly a notable issue.  They only get so much guff because they’re so popular.Report

              • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

                I won’t defend Outlook, except insofar as I spent three years with Lotus Notes.Report

              • Avatar Michael Cain says:

                “…but it still doesn’t enable you to actually see the markup in the document, which is a feature that should have been included 20 freakin’ years ago, especially given that even the current version does not clean up its markup properly.”

                In my last full-time job, I inherited WordPerfect documents that were on the order of a decade old, and had been modified time and again by several different analysts (time constraints during the legislative session meant that other than two-page memos, no one actually created a document from scratch).  I spent part of my first interim going through those old documents with “Reveal Codes” enabled.  An absolutely insane amount of kruft had accumulated in there.  It really was sort of a miracle than any of the documents formatted at all.

                If Word accumulates stuff at the same rate, then yeah, “Reveal Codes” should be there.Report

              • Avatar Rod says:

                “Word was inferior to WordPerfect for years, and now it’s much, much better than Wordperfect was… but it still doesn’t enable you to actually see the markup in the document, which is a feature that should have been included 20 freakin’ years ago, especially given that even the current version does not clean up its markup properly.  ”

                That’s because Word doesn’t use mark-up the same way WordPerfect does. WordPerfect uses a stream model. Basically a document is one long string of characters with formatting codes embedded like HTML.

                Word, on the other hand, uses an object model. Each character is a separate object complete with attributes like font, size, color, bold, etc. Likewise, each word is an object consisting of a list of character objects and so words have attibutes — mostly dups of the attributes that apply to characters but with a few more tossed in like language (English, Russian, Italian, etc.). The next step up is, IIRC, paragraphs (I don’t think they have sentence objects, but I could be wrong). Same deal applies and you get more attributes like indentation and line spacing. Lower level objects inherit default properties from higher level objects so if you change the font of a paragraph you change the default font of all the word and character objects inside that paragraph.

                This lets you (from a programmer’s viewpoint anyway) easily do things like styles. Define a style, like blockquote for instance, and you can just apply it to a paragraph to get the desired effect. Makes standardizing document appearance very easy if you know what you’re doing.

                This system also has some seemingly odd quirks. Hold down a key so it just starts repeating and just let it go on. Like thisssssssssssssss…. After a few pages it will just stop. That’s because the word, paragraph, and document indices have programmed upper limits of, IIRC, 65536. So a document can’t have more than that many paragraphs. But that’s a BIG document, so no biggy. And a paragraph of that many words would be, what?  Hundreds of pages?

                So anyway, bottom line is there are no “Reveal Codes” in Word because it has no “codes” to reveal.Report

              • Avatar Jeff says:

                I really REALLY hate the new “ribbons” on Microsoft products.  They m ake it impossible to find anything.  I have no clue what was wrong with the menus, other than Microsoft wanted to live up to its name for screwing things up.Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

                I’ll second at least the first part of this.  I use both Pages and Keynote even though I have Word & Powerpoint on my laptop, because I find them (especially Keynote) greatly superior to the MS products.  And I’d use Filemaker over Access any day.

                But Excel is still is a class all itself, and it’s not even close.  It baffles me how, despite the fact that it’s basically stood still for a decade, no one can come close to it.Report

              • Avatar Michael Cain says:

                “It baffles me how, despite the fact that it’s basically stood still for a decade, no one can come close to it.”

                In all seriousness, why would you try?  To a considerable extent, corporate decisions about which spreadsheet are going to be driven by the power users.  In the case of Excel, that implies VBA, Solver, and the enormous wealth of add-ins that have appeared over the years.  Microsoft, even with all of their resources and access to the code internally, hasn’t always maintained consistency between Excel on Windows and Excel on the Mac.  When Mac Excel 2008 came out without VBA and Solver, the project manager said publicly that waiting for those to be ready would entail a two-year delay, so they shipped without them.  VBA is proprietary, so any attempt at recreating it would suffer through at least the usual clean-room problems.  The cost of getting into the power-user spreadsheet market, where those power users have a lot of time, effort and code invested in Excel, is very high.Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

                Hmmm.  SO, would I be write to extrapolate that the cost for word & powerpoint competitors is less?  Of, maybe they’ve got more of a stable framework to work with before they start?

                Also, thanks for this answer.  I really have been wondering about this for a while.Report

              • Avatar Jeff says:


                I tried using OpenOffice.  Their spreadsheet doesn’t have Text-to-Columns — one of the functions I use most (don’t get me started on VLookUp — I use that ALL the time!).  I gave up after that.Report

              • Avatar Rod says:

                Actually it has both of those but the text-to-columns works a little differently is all. (And maybe not as well, IDK.)

                I’ve used both suites and my general impression is that Writer beats Word in usability but Excel is generally more capable and a hell of a lot faster than Calc.

                Bottom line, though… if you just want a suite to use occasionally or if you’re short on fundage like a student, OpenOffice is hard to beat.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                Seriously.  Don’t blame poor craftsmanship on the tool.  The fact that a dumb guy drilled a hole through his brake line does not mean that drills cause errors.

                It is true that Powerpoint encourages dumb people to poorly communicate bad ideas, but that problem wasn’t something that Powerpoint created.Report

              • Avatar Michael Cain says:

                Someone has to take the blame for making it possible for the dumb people to spend more time working on the animations than they do on the organization and words :^)Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                The fact that a dumb guy drilled a hole through his brake line…

                GoodGawdAmighty! Anyone *this* bad with a drill surely can’t blame the tool!

                They are a tool.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                The only thing I need a word processor to do is make bullet lists and numbered paragraphs, and make all the tabs line up.  Word can’t even do that right.  It does give me a dozen different kinds of bullets and hundreds of fonts in which my text can be misformatted, so perhaps I shouldn’t complain.  And the way Word  became a whole new vector for virusus, because it didn’t occur to those morons that a completely open macro facility could be abused — well, words fail me.Report

  29. “My body, my choice” and “It’s a child, not a choice” are my two favorites.  Because nothing settles an argument so well as question-begging.Report

  30. Avatar Kimmi says:

    AGW. abortion doctors. ACORN.Report

  31. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    “Democrat Party”.

    “Left-brained” vs. “right-brained”.


    Godel’s theorem (used by non-mathematicians).


  32. Avatar trizzlor says:

    The expression “Will somebody think of the children” has been appropriated sarcastically to imply that any proposal which attempts to deal with a social ill is actually just a bleeding-heart/nanny-state way of telling other people what to do and/or making oneself feel superior. I think it tends to poison debate when one side does see a role for such proposals by mocking that role out of hand.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      I am old enough to remember when The Children was the shield that social conservatives hid behind.

      War on Drugs? The Children.

      Censorship on the television? The Children.

      TWISTED SISTER??? The Children.


      • Avatar trizzlor says:

        I’m sure it’s still used as a shield by socially concerned people of all kinds, but now it’s also the bludgeon that libertarians can reach for. Neither use is actually an argument though.Report

      • I think of Helen Lovejoy whenever the well-being of The Children is raised as a reason for doing anything.  Even when it’s me who’s doing the raising.Report

  33. Avatar Stephen M. Stillman says:

    “Never underestimate the wisdom/intelligence of the American public.”Report