The Toderonemy, Vol. I


Tod Kelly

Tod is a writer from the Pacific Northwest. He is also serves as Executive Producer and host of both the 7 Deadly Sins Show at Portland's historic Mission Theatre and 7DS: Pants On Fire! at the White Eagle Hotel & Saloon. He is  a regular inactive for Marie Claire International and the Daily Beast, and is currently writing a book on the sudden rise of exorcisms in the United States. Follow him on Twitter.

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72 Responses

  1. Avatar greginak says:

    If the only reason for posting this was for that clip of The Shat it would be worth it. The rest is good stuff, but The Shat makes it sizzle.Report

  2. Avatar Michael Cain says:

    These are nice. One of these days I should take a shot at Cain’s Laws™, which have been accumulating for a few decades now. They have a much different flavor than yours.Report

  3. Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

    Can you give a clearer example of failing conservative corollary?Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw says:


      I would say that Conservatism Can’t Fail, It Can Only Be Failed mainly happens with social issues. In some ways, I am sympathetic. I don’t expect sincere believers to switch ideology just because popular opinion is going against them but it does create a bind because they end up not being able to admit defeat and then they just drift further and further into the wildnerness.

      Though you also see this with tax cuts for the wealthy and GOP candidates. When are we going to get a GOP candidate that breaks from supply-side economics?Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:


        I’ve always understood the slogan to refer to all conservative policies, but primarily economic and foreign policy. If those policies succeed, it’s cuz conservatism can’t fail! If they fail abysmally, it’s because they weren’t implemented properly or Dem obstructionists got in the way, or Putin or something.

        Well, not Putin. Never Putin.Report

        • Avatar LeeEsq says:

          This is right. The saying that “conservatism can’t fail, it can only be failed” is applied to economic and foreign policy mainly like the tax cut regime in Kansas.Report

        • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

          Of course, the left-wing version of this is “our policies can never fail, only be underfunded and/or obstructed.”Report

          • Avatar Road Scholar says:

            Yep. That’s basically what Tod’s saying though your version is more succinct.

            There’s also the libertarian version that rejects any and all criticism of libertarian proposals by claiming “it’s never been tried”, even if the proposal amounts to a reversion to a prior state of affairs, say before a law, regulation, or tax was imposed.

            I think Tod’s describing a human universal.Report

            • Avatar DavidTC says:

              I don’t think that *is* what Tod is saying at all. If he wanted to saying ‘Liberals also think liberalism can’t fail, only be failed’, he could have said that easily enough.

              Tod, instead, is saying something how liberals will always admit there are flaws in their own programs and people…except when they’re talking about them.

              Which is something I do not actually understand, but is not the same as swapping ‘liberalism’ for ‘conservativism’ in that expression.

              I’m wondering if Tod is observing the fact that liberals are willing to pass things that suck, because they are better than literally doing nothing…and of course they don’t criticize bills *while* they’re trying to pass them, but then later they point out that it wasn’t exactly the bill they wanted, but a compromise, and of course any problems are blamed on what the *other* side demanded. (Whether or not this is actually true.) The most obvious recent example: the ACA.

              This is not really a condemnation of *liberals*, everyone in politics does this…well, everyone who actually attempts to seriously pass bills, so I guess it *is* a condemnation of liberals, currently.

              And the same with electing moderate pols. The party supports them, because better them than the other side, but then complains about how they vote. Again, everyone does this.Report

              • Avatar DavidTC says:

                Of course, that’s not to say liberals *don’t* say ‘liberalism cannot fail, it can only be failed’. Liberals can say that too.

                That entire concept is just a close cousin of that logical fallacy I can’t think of the name of, where when *other* people do something bad, it’s an indication of how evil/incompetent/whatever they are, but when you do the same thing, you always have a ‘good reason’.

                Here, it’s when *your side* fails at something, it’s always due to outside influences or events outside your control or something unfair. When the other side fails, it’s entirely correct to have failed and proves them wrong.

                The reason that fallacy has gotten associated with conservativism is, to be blunt, that conservative has had a *lot* of epic fails of its base principles over the years. Complete and utter disasters of things that could be considered tests of their entire philosophy. Market crashes, government funding disasters after tax cuts, disastrous wars, etc.

                Liberalism usually doesn’t fail in such a spectacular manner. Liberalism might sometimes fall a bit short of its goals, but rarely appears to make things *worse*. (And, when it does appear to do that, there is, indeed, plenty of ‘that’s not really liberalism’.)Report

              • Avatar Michael Cain says:

                Anyone (who’s sane, at least) says, “Of course policies, including no action at all, can fail. That’s why we instrument them, and re-examine them from time to time.” That may be biased. Every permanent non-partisan staffer I’ve known says that; politicians and their partisan staff, not so much.

                All the permanent non-partisan staffers I’ve known are also big believers in the KISS principle.Report

          • Avatar North says:

            Yes the left wing version is something like “If we increase funding or add an additional program to the current program then it’ll all work fine.”Report

  4. Avatar Christopher Carr says:

    Google suggests Errol Flynn was 6’2”.

    Perhaps that one should be the Tom Cruise Fallacy.Report

  5. Avatar El Muneco says:

    Christopher Carr:
    Google suggests Errol Flynn was 6’2”.

    Perhaps that one should be the Tom Cruise Fallacy.

    All the “actor that stood on a box” web pages I can find point at Alan Ladd as being the genesis of the legend. Flynn doesn’t appear in a list of notable actors under 5’8″, so that’s more support for it not being him.

    On that not, I’m surprised that Bob Hoskins was 5’6″ – I always pictured him more DeVito-sized.Report

  6. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    The movie producers were right about the height thing unfortunately. When you call men little or small, it’s considered an insult.Report

  7. I think it’s undeniable that the greatest signer of all times was John Hancock.Report

  8. Avatar Brandon Berg says:

    The most obvious example over the past decade has been where parties disagreed on whether there should be a 36% marginal tax rate or a 37% marginal tax rate.

    Did that really happen? What we actually got was an increase from 35% to 39.6% for the top marginal rate on wage income, and an increase in the rate on investment income from 15% to 23.8%, plus a 0.9-percentage-point increase on the top marginal rate for Medicare taxes. I know Republicans are pretty lousy negotiators, but bad enough to get there from a starting offer of 37%?

    Incidentally, including Medicare and state taxes, actual top marginal tax rates are over 50% in California, New York, and Hawaii, and in the high 40s in most other states. Note that when your marginal rate is 50%, a 1% increase in your marginal tax rate is a 2% decrease in your marginal after-tax income.Report

    • Avatar Road Scholar says:

      Brandon Berg,

      …plus a 0.9-percentage-point increase on the top marginal rate for Medicare taxes.

      I’m not sure about the rest of it without doing some googling, but Medicare and SS taxes don’t have a progressive rate structure. If anything, the SS tax is arguably regressive in nature due to the cap on earnings subject to it (not sure about Medicare in that regard).

      Also, this:

      Note that when your marginal rate is 50%, a 1% increase in your marginal tax rate is a 2% decrease in your marginal after-tax income.

      is only sort of true and even then only when the starting rate is 50%. In that case an increase in the rate from 50% to 51% reduces your take-home on the next dollar from $0.50 to $0.49, which is indeed a 2% reduction. But note that the difference between 50% and 51% is also 2% when figured the same way, as a relative increase/decrease. And if your starting point is, say, 25%, then changing it to 26% is actually a 4% increase ( (.26 – .25)/.25 ), resulting in a 1.3% decrease ( (.75 – .74)/.75) in after-tax income. The reverse is true if you’re starting at a 75% rate.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

        As of whenever the Obamacare tax hikes went in, the Medicare tax does indeed have a marginal rate structure, albeit with only two brackets. The second starts at either $200k or $250k, above which the employee contribution increases to 2.35%.

        The second part of my comment is precisely correct. Note that I said “marginal after-tax income.”Report

        • Not precisely correct when applied to state taxes, since they’re deductible for federal taxes.Report

          • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

            California’s top marginal tax rate is 13.3%. 39.6% + 3.8% + 13.3% * (1 – 0.396) = 51.4%.

            Technically this is slightly off, since when including the employer-side Medicare contribution, it should also be added to the denominator. I haven’t fully thought that through, but I think I can just correct for that by dividing the rate by 1.0145, giving 50.7%.

            But apparently they also brought back the Pease limitation, which (I think) reduces itemized deductions (including state taxes) by three percent for high-income taxpayers, so that adds another percentage point or so.Report

            • Of course, most people (I say without evidence, but I’m pretty sure) who have incomes that high take much of it as capital gains, which means much lower rates and no medicare.Report

              • Avatar nevermoor says:

                Depends. Not doctors/lawyers.Report

              • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

                For reasons I’ve gone over multiple times before and don’t see any point in rehashing again, due to the effects of compounding and double taxation, investment income is in effect taxed more heavily than wage income.

                Putting that aside, in the 2011 tax year, among taxpayers with AGIs exceeding $10 million, a bit under half of income consisted of qualified dividends and long-term capital gains, which as far as I know are the only types of income subject to the ostensibly low rate. In the $5-10 million category, it was under a third, dropping down below 10% by the time you get to $1M-1.5M.

                See Table 1 here.

                2011 was a so-so year for stocks, and there were losses to carry forward, so I ran the numbers again for 2006, which was a pretty good year for stocks. This increased the numbers somewhat, to 55% for $10M+, 42% for $5-10M, 33% for $2-5M, 29% for $1.5-$2M, and 25% for $1-1.5M.

                The long-run average is somewhere in between, but I’m too lazy do this for enough years to get a good average. To be honest, I’m not 100% confident that I’m using the right numbers ((qualified dividends + net long-term gains – net long-term losses) / AGI), but I’m pretty sure I’m not making any mistakes that would dramatically change the results.

                Maaaybe I should be subtracting itemized deductions. I can’t decide whether it makes sense to do so, although it’s not really relevant to the top marginal rate anyway.

                In any case, it’s clear that except for the very richest (0.01% or so), the majority of income is subject to ordinary rates, and it’s not really even close. Brookings backs me on this (PDF). Their report shows the top 0.1% having only 35% of income as investment income, and that includes interest, ordinary dividends, and short-term gains, which are all taxable as ordinary incomeReport

  9. Avatar Kolohe says:

    I want to say I heard the “cannot fail, only be failed” for the first time in the 80s wrt Communism.Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko says:

      Interestingly, a strain of conservatives these days seem to demonstrate an odd admiration of Vladmir Putin for his robustly masculine and aggressive leadership style. Call it a mirroring effect.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw says:


      I think @road-scholar is on point when he describes it as a universal human trait because we seemed very unable (as a species) to admit our ideologies might not always work out or be wrong. So there is a Marxist version, though the one I hear is that “Real Marxism/Communism has never been tried and was corrupted by the Soviet Union.”Report

  10. Avatar Doctor Jay says:

    Thank to you, I now have an opportunity to introduce people to this.

    Now I wouldn’t claim that William Shatner was a great singer, but that was pretty darn cool.Report

  11. I don’t have a pithy name for it, but one working rule I have developed (I hesitate to call it a “law”) is, “bigotry feels itself aggrieved.” Under this working rule, people support measures they’d otherwise feel to be wrong or violent or unjust because the pose some kind of threat or represent others who pose that threat.

    If we take Tod’s Augusta National example, I’d imagine that at each stage of membership discrimination (blacks, women, gays), the discriminators believed themselves beset by a true danger. Tod alludes to that feeling with gay folks when he mentions how some cite alleged attacks on their religious liberty.Report

    • Avatar Doctor Jay says:

      This is quite true, I’ve found.

      My intuition leads me to want to question this aggreivement, to bring more clarity to it,since I think it might help.

      That is, for instance, I know a woman who tells me that, in the context of her husband’s service in the Air Force, had women tell her, “I just don’t want to have to go to church with those people,” meaning African-Americans. There is a sense of harm there, of grievance.

      I think that that’s the thing that needs to be looked at – what harm? How will be you harmed? I think the harm is real in a sense – socializing with black people would lower one’s status in the normative culture the speaker was raised in. But if you ask them that – and no sense of approbation or shame can accompany that question (that’s no mean feat!) – and plumb this you will bring this to the surface, where they themselves can see it, and see how they’ve been manipulated by their upbringing.

      This isn’t quite all hypothetical. It’s happened to me, not on these terms, but on different ones. Once I could figure out just what the harm I feared actually was, I could manage affairs and relationships on a much more equitable basis. Equality is hard work.Report

      • That’s a good approach, hard to do (as you say), but worth it.

        Sometimes it’s even possible to see some legitimacy in the grievance, which makes the bigotry harder to tease out. My mother, for example, once joined a picket line to protest busing in my city. One justification for her grievance was that she preferred her kids (my siblings…I wasn’t born yet) go to a the neighborhood school just 5 blocks away instead of being bused a couple miles away. By itself, that grievance is legitimate. However, I won’t deny that other factors probably were at play.Report

    • Avatar DavidTC says:

      Sometimes I think we should actually spend some time and effort looking at the *psychological* reasons for racism and sexism and homophobia and transphobia.

      It’s become clear, at this point, that laws against racism do not ‘work’ in the sense of ‘forcing white people to behave as if black people are people’. Instead, they work by forcing people of different races to *interact* with each other, which changes how they view each other, and changes their behavior.

      Same with sexism. The laws don’t change how men in the workplace see women…they just result in, for example, men who have female bosses, so as *the men* climb up the ladder, they are not uncomfortable with the idea. And, *finally*, we’re at the point where the generation of who climbed the ladder without ever having a woman above them (aka, the people who comprise the glass ceiling) are generally dying off.

      Now, this is, in a way, a bit obvious…but, OTOH, I don’t recall it *ever* being presented that way in school. In fact, I don’t recall the motives *for* racism or sexism ever being explained either.

      The ‘official’ story for racism, the one we teach kids, is that, for some unknown reason, a lot of white people disliked black people, and then a bunch of black people (and white people helping them) convinced everyone this was wrong by annoying them via various protests.

      That story…literally makes no sense. I mean, the motives of black people makes sense, but *why* did white people act that way in the first place? Why did they change their minds? It’s not explained at all.

      And the same thing with sexism. Why did men treat women that way for so long? Why did they fight change. And sexism is presented even stupider in textbooks…they like to pretend women were just kept from voting and stuff, when in reality women were placed in very specific boxes and moving out of that box was, if *not* punishable as an actual crime, could still get them blacklisted from society.

      No explanation of why everyone seems to think an unmarried mother *working in a mill* posed such a threat to society.

      If we actually started explaining the *motives* of historic assholes to children, they might realizes people who are *currently* assholes are presenting exactly the same motives right now…which, come to think of it, is *exactly* why we’ll never tell children about any of this.Report

  12. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    I used to contend that the intelligence of a group of people rose in inverse proportion to its size.

    Now, I realize that this is not true. Experience demonstrates that small groups of people, and indeed even individuals, are more than capable of demonstrating forehead-slapping levels of boneheadedness when faced with important decisions.Report

    • Avatar North says:

      I believe the Murphy’s law is that the intelligence of a group is equal to the intelligence of it’s dumbest member divided by the number of people in the group.Report

  13. Avatar aarondavid says:

    Well, the double A rule of politics (or AA rule): the political out group will listen to its own outgroups saying they need to be MORE extreme while trying to regain power.Report

  14. Avatar Brandon Berg says:

    Regelung macht frei: A person complaining about free markets run amok will almost always be doing so in the context of talking about a problem in a very highly regulated industry, and often about a problem that is directly attributable to that regulation.Report