Oct 22

Blogging, Andrew Sullivan, and Vicissitudes of Acclaim

Andrew SullivanI haven’t done that many live blogs. And to be honest, I always feel bad doing them. They don’t strike me as very useful. I like what I do in the hours leading up to the debates. Then I have time to post related things. That is probably useful to people who are excited about the debate and who find me vaguely interesting. But once the debate is on, there is so little time. It’s hard to write more than a sentence before the topic moves on. But I felt a lot better after reading, Andrew Sullivan Liveblogs the Final Presidential Debate.

For a contrast, you can check out my own, Live Blog: Third Presidential Debate 2016. What you will see if you take the time (I don’t recommend it!) is that Andrew Sullivan wrote a good deal less than I did and didn’t make a single point that I didn’t. Don’t get me wrong: this doesn’t mean I’m a good live blogger. It means that Sullivan sucks at it. But this shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Why Does Anyone Care About Andrew Sullivan?

The truth is that I’ve never much understood why people thought Andrew Sullivan was a big deal. He’s never been very insightful. In fact, he is the very definition of what Digby calls a Villager. For those who don’t know, The Village:

It’s shorthand for the permanent DC ruling class who have managed to convince themselves that they are simple, puritanical, bourgeois burghers and farmers, even though they are actually celebrity millionaires influencing the most powerful government on earth.

And I think that explains Sullivan’s popularity. In the early days of blogs when people called them vanity websites, you found a lot of people like, well, me: idiosyncratic and ranty. But where could establishment types go when they wanted to tune into this trendy new thing called a weblog? Well, there was Andrew Sullivan: the walking, talking embodiment of Very Serious Thinking.

You know, Andrew Sullivan gets a lot of negative attention because of what he wrote shortly after 9/11:

The middle part of the country — the great red zone that voted for Bush — is clearly ready for war. The decadent left in its enclaves on the coasts is not dead — and may well mount a fifth column.

He gets the attention because of what he says about the coasts. And rightly so. But notice who easily he speaks for “the great red zone” in the middle of the country. This is a place that Sullivan knew precious little about. But that’s what makes him a Villager: he tells the power elite that what they want to hear is what the average Joe is for.

Andrew Sullivan Used to Be Good at Something

The one thing that Andrew Sullivan was ever really good at was provocation. He was the James O’Keefe of his day. And the things he’s know for — publicizing The Bell Curve and Betsy McCaughey’s attacks on Clinton healthcare reform — were mostly wrong and extremely damaging. But being right or helpful or good doesn’t matter in our economic system. He sold a lot of magazines.

So it is no surprise that he would watch the presidential debate and have less insight than I do. He never has had insight into anything.


I found it interesting that Sullivan’s live blog at New York Magazine used no live blogging software. Instead, at the top of the article it said, “Please refresh to update.” That really is pathetic.

Oct 22

Chris Wallace and the Austerity Tax

Dean Baker on 2016 July Jobs ReportAt the debate last night, moderator Chris Wallace challenged both candidates on the question of cutting Social Security and Medicare. The implication is that the country is threatened by the prospect of out of control government deficits. The question was misguided on several grounds…

The country’s problem since the crash in 2008 has been deficits that are too small, not too large. The main factor holding back the economy has been a lack of demand, not a lack of supply. Deficits create more demand, either directly through government spending or indirectly through increased consumption. If we had larger deficits in recent years we would have seen more GDP, more jobs, and, due to a tighter labor market, higher wages.

The problem of too small deficits is not just a short-term issue. A smaller economy means less investment in new plant and equipment and research. This reduces the economy’s capacity in the future. In the same vein, high rates of unemployment cause people to permanently drop out of the labor force, reducing our future labor supply if these people become unemployable…

The Congressional Budget Office now puts potential GDP at about 10 percent lower for 2016 than its projection from 2008, before the recession. Much of this drop is due to the decision to run smaller deficits and prevent the economy from reaching its potential level of output. We can think of this loss of potential output as an “austerity tax.” It currently is at close to $2 trillion a year or more than $6,000 for every person in the country.

It is unfortunate that Wallace chose to devote valuable debate time to a non-problem while ignoring the huge problem of needless unemployment and lost output due to government deficits that are too small.

—Dean Baker
Chris Wallace, Supply, Demand, and the Government Budget Deficit

Oct 21

Google Is Driving Me Crazy!

Google LogoI feel for people who own websites that need to make money. They really are at the mercy of the internet giants that push traffic. A great example of this is Upworthy that saw its traffic go down by 25 percent almost over night because Facebook made a change to one of its algorithms. Late last month, Google made a change in its ranking algorithm: Penguin 4.0. And the results have been dramatic.

The change is not necessarily bad. In fact, it’s been great for Frankly Curious. Traffic has increased by about 10 percent. That doesn’t matter that much to me. For one thing, the site doesn’t really make any money. But more important: I’m focused on the regulars around here. It is nice when a particular article gets a lot of attention, but that’s not what keeps me grinding out content every day. I like the community here, even if it is small. (There are about a hundred regulars, but only a couple dozen who ever comment.)

For other websites, Google’s changes have not been welcome. Search Engine Roundtable ran an informal (non-scientific) poll and found, Only 12 Percent Said They Saw Ranking Improvements After Google Penguin 4.0. But mostly, people aren’t seeing any change. (Of course, it’s hard to say because traffic is noisy.)

Weirdness at Google

But there is one thing that has been going on with Google that driving me crazy. A month and a half ago, I wrote an article I’m rather proud of, Dean Spanley: Film and Book Comparison. It’s more the idea of it that I like. No one has written about this and the film and the book (novella) are really different. So I knew that I would get traffic for it. But I haven’t.

So I went to Google and I did a search: “dean spanley book film comparison.” That’s almost the title, so I figured it should be at the top of the search results — or close enough. But the search produced this:

Google Search: dean spanley book film comparison - Example One

Okay, so it isn’t at the top of the rankings. But when I looked, I found it was nowhere. That is to say: Google didn’t even have the page in its database. This was horrifying — not for me but for the world. The best thing about Google has always been its enormous database. That’s why it has always been better than Bing.

What was going on? Frankly Curious is a small website, but its been around a long time and it has a lot of unique content. What’s more: it isn’t that small. Anyway, I went to show a friend. I entered the same search into Google and I go this:

Google Search: dean spanley book film comparison - Example Two

Now the page was the top ranked. In fact, just “dean spanley book” ranks at number 11. So I was pleased. And, as usual, I just figured I had imagined the other search or that it was a glitch.

Flipping a Switch

But no! The truth is that the search flips back and forth. It seems that my article isn’t in the database during the day and it is during the night. Or something. I haven’t studied it closely. But it is the case that for days, sometimes it’s there and sometimes it isn’t. Of course, maybe Google has always been this way and I simply didn’t notice.

I’m just glad that it doesn’t really matter to me in a practical sense. But it is driving me crazy!

Oct 21

Charlie Pierce on Not Respecting the Election

Charlie PierceThe “takeaway,” as we say in the pundit game, was what Donald Trump said, or didn’t say, about “respecting” the results of the election. Good lord, people were fighting for space on the fainting couch all day on Thursday, too, and likely will be for the foreseeable future. Can we stop with the civics class pieties, please? Yes, what Donald Trump said on Wednesday night about keeping us all “in suspense” as to whether he’ll “accept” the results of the presidential election was a great soundbite and an easy way to emphasize further the fact that the Republican Party has nominated a petulant child for president. But enough with the shocked faces from the pundits who drape themselves in imaginary togas and weep on cue for this assault on the fragile American democracy. This is nothing new…

It has been an article of faith for the entire Republican Party for a quarter-century now that any elected Democratic president is prima facie illegitimate. Trump is just putting a layer of narcissistic varnish on the bucket containing all the historical deplorables. Further, the history of the country is replete with efforts, some of them violent, by politicians to avoid “respecting” the results of elections… We had a civil war because 13 states didn’t “respect the election” of Abraham Lincoln. And that fact is not mitigated in the least by the nice words spoken by Stephen A Douglas in the aftermath, when he declined to respond to losing by joining the Army of Northern Virginia. That’s a fairy tale.

Donald Trump is just being a little cruder about things than many of our television historians would like. Democracy is not a bedtime story, but the monsters within it are very, very real.

—Charlie Pierce
Why Are You Surprised Trump Won’t Respect the Results of the Election?

Oct 20

Agreeing and Not With a Thoughtful Conservative

Charlie SykesRecently, Sean Illing at Vox interviewed Charlie Sykes, a conservative radio host in Wisconsin who is quitting the business.

Sykes says a good many interesting things in the interview. Mostly what impressed me was his consistency. He believes that Republicans who considered Bill Clinton’s sexual behavior unfit for the White House are utterly hypocritical in supporting Trump. Sykes admits that Trump represents a fascist figure, and that some conservative voters believe in “crazy stuff.” He said, “How many times can you say that Obama isn’t gay or a Muslim or that he wasn’t born in Kenya?”

I especially liked his take on the conservative media’s support: “another chance to beclown themselves on behalf of the Orange Duce.” He added, “They broke it. They own it.” And Trump’s most fervent GOP political allies? “The Huckabees, the Giulianis, the Newt Gingriches — they ought to be totally and utterly discredited by their support.” I agree. But I feel the less outspoken allies should be as well.

Naturally, as I am not a conservative, there are areas of disagreement. Charlie Sykes respects Paul Ryan; I do not. Sykes believes William Buckley’s rejection of the John Birch Society was principled; I see it as purely a strategic move. The Birchers often accused prominent Republicans of being Communist tools; it was wise to break off that kind of dissension, while maintaining the anti-civil rights and Cold War rhetoric that appealed to Birchers.

Did Political Correctness Give Birth to Trump?

There’s one area where I both grant his point, and reject it. Sykes blames some of the far-right’s rise on liberals who were too quick to label opponents as “racist” or “sexist” (while acknowledging that Trump is both). And I’ll agree that these terms are very powerful, so they should not be used lightly.

I’d argue that the perception conservatives have of the nation being “too PC” is something few conservatives have any direct experience with, but they hear about it from their media.

However, there’s a difference between attacking people and attacking policy. I neither know nor care what Reagan’s views towards African-Americans were. His policies were deeply racist. People who support voter-ID laws may themselves be unbiased; but voter-ID laws are deeply racist. Bush II worked well with Condoleeza Rice; but he also supported policies that endangered women’s health.

It Was You, Charlie

Furthermore, at least before the rise of social media, calling conservative voters “racist” or “sexist” was not a frequent occurrence. How often did it come up at the workplace, or at family dinners? Most accusations of “sexism” or “racism” were over-hyped instances of, say, something spoken at a college protest.

It was Limbaugh and Fox News that spread these stories, to further their narrative that liberals were bent on thought-controlling dissent out of existence. I’d argue that the perception conservatives have of the nation being “too PC” is very like their perception that crime rates are rocketing and voter fraud is rampant. It’s something few conservatives have any direct experience with, but they hear about it from their media.

There is blame on our side for using those terms too lightly (particularly on the internet, where pejorative terms are used with little care for how harmful they can be). But it’s mostly right-wing media that has created the notion that white male Christians are threatened by “PC.”

Charlie Sykes and the New Prometheus

Finally, there’s one area where Charlie Sykes is completely, 100% correct. Illing compared Trump to a “Frankensteinian monster,” and Sykes didn’t think it’s an apt analogy. Right on, Charlie! The monster was highly intelligent, and only became filled with violent rage once he’d been rejected by humanity’s cruelty to those who look different.

Trump does indeed resemble an angry monster, but it’s what’s inside that counts. If we’re going horror classics, he’s more Dracula. He lives in a castle, must return every night to his lair, preys on superstitious rural villagers. And like Dracula in bat form, Trump is skilled at navigating blindly through an echo chamber.

My credit to Charlie Sykes for leaving it.

Oct 20

What Did Not Happen at Last Night’s Debate

Clinton - Trump - Did Not HappenAt the third 2016 presidential debate in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Wednesday night, a few things did not happen.

Hillary Clinton did not fall into a coma.

She did not swear or use a racial epithet, and she did not commit a violent crime.

Her command of policy detail and the way our system of government works did not fail her, and she did not thus reveal herself to be a robot (in which case she’d run the risk of short circuiting on the job) or a victim of sporadic dementia.

Donald Trump, meanwhile, didn’t transform into the second coming of Franklin Roosevelt. He didn’t cop to a late-in-life diagnosis of attention deficit disorder that had impaired his ability to retain and process information over the course of his entire adult life, but which has now been medically remedied. His presentation yielded no heretofore uncovered evidence that Clinton murdered anyone or has a drug problem.

Only a debate development of comical magnitude could have reversed the public’s impressions of these candidates. No such development transpired, and no such development was ever likely to transpire.

This race is over. It has been for some time.

—Brian Beutler
The 2016 Race Is Over

Oct 19

Live Blog: Third Presidential Debate 2016

Third Presidential Debate 2016Welcome to the third presidential debate! Could this get any worse? Given what Trump has been saying on the campaign trail, it’s hard to imagine this thing being anything but worse than the second one.

Trump’s new thing is claiming that the election is rigged. This is, of course, what losers say. It’s also what children say. And that about sums up Trump. The main thing I remember from the second debate is Trump complaining that the moderators were going easy on Clinton and giving her more time. It turned out that he actually spoke for more time. He also interrupted her 13 times compared to her interrupting him once. And he spoke over the moderators twice as much as she did.

Trump’s Whining

If you haven’t see Obama talking about Trump’s claim that there will be a rigged election, you should. It is very thoughtful — very Obama. But it has some good lines, especially, “You start whining before the games even over?!” And: “I’d advise Mr Trump to stop whining and go try to make his case to get votes.”

Under normal circumstances, I would think the third presidential debate would be changed because of this. Certainly I am known to get over excited about things. And when people say things like Obama did about Trump, I am ashamed. And Obama isn’t the only one. Elizabeth Warren is openly mocking him. She even clucked at him! But I don’t see this having any effect on Trump.

Trump in the Third Presidential Debate

Trump will do in the third presidential debate what he did in the second one: play to his base of supporters. And that seems to be all that Trump is interested in at this point. That is what all this “rigged election” whining is about. It gives Trump a way to maintain his delusion that he is still a winner even after he loses the election. What’s amazing is that his supporters believe all this nonsense and don’t see it as the face-saving maneuver that it is.

Of course, it isn’t hard for Trump to make this argument, given that Republicans have been pushing this whole voter fraud nonsense for at least the last seven plus years. So perhaps these pathetic angry white men can be forgiven. Of course, they bought the lie with ease at the beginning. They’re big on buying lies.

Trump TV?! Trump Vlog!

For months I’d been assuming that all this would end in Trump TV. But an article by Brian Beutler made me rethink that, Donald Trump’s Media Conglomerate Already Exists. People like Ryan Lizza and Josh Marshall are pouring cold water on it. The problem isn’t just that the market is saturated. Starting up something that would compete with Fox News would be unbelievably expensive. Trump doesn’t have the money to go toe-to-toe with Rupert Murdoch.

I like what Marshall said, “If there’s a post-campaign Trump media vehicle it’s far more likely to be a bargain-basement but perhaps high traffic website on the model of Breitbart.” And such a sad ending to Donald Trump would be perfect. It would give me a small bit of evidence that there is a just God. Or at least one with a sense of humor!

I’m not looking forward to the third presidential debate. It will probably be interesting. But it won’t be edifying.

But stop back by throughout the day and during the debate itself for my gloomy thoughts.

Live Blog

Oct 19

Odd Words: Cacography

CacographyWe are starting the the C words with page 35 of The New York Times Everyday Reader’s Dictionary of Misunderstood, Misused, and Mispronounced Words: Revised Edition. And I’ve picked another word that has to do with writing: cacography.

Beyond Cacography: Where’s Caboose?

I was shocked — Shocked I tell you! — that the word “caboose” was not in the dictionary. It is one of my very favorite words. When I was incredibly young, my sister and I used to run to the window each time the freight train went by, pointing and screaming, “The caboose! The caboose!” How can you not love a word like that. And it is also the case that cabooses are the coolest part of the train. I’ve never lost my love of the word. In Oregon, there is a town named Scappoose. It’s not very nice. But I’ve always loved it because it rhymes with “caboose.”

Words I Didn’t Know

Even though page 35 was a partial one, it still had some interesting words. There is “caboclo,” which may be the native peoples of Brazil or the people resulting from the mix of the Brazilian natives and the European invaders. It depends upon who you ask.

I was going to use the word “cabotage,” which has to do with trade at sea. But since I did a boat word yesterday, it seemed kind of boring. Most people would find it kind of boring anyway.

A word I did know was “cacciatore.” But that is just because Chicken Cacciatore is one of my standard dishes. I didn’t realize it was a dish “containing or prepared with tomatoes, mushrooms, herbs, etc.” But it is. It’s still one of my favorite things.

That’s enough of such trivialities, let’s get on to cacography!

Ca·cog·ra·phy  noun  \ka-‘kä-grə-fē\

1. inartistic or illegible handwring.

2. bad spelling.

Date: late 16th century.

Origin: from the Greek κακός which means “bad.”

Example: The clippings are peppered with bitchy annotations written in his highly stylized calligraphy to which I make additional acerbic annotations in my cacography of orange felt-tip ink and mail them back to him. —Jamie Brickhouse, You’ve Got Republican Mail!

Oct 18

Omaha World-Herald’s Third-Way Nonsense

The Omaha World-HeraldFrom Charlie Pierce I learned that The Omaha World-Herald broke with an 84 year run by endorsing the Democrat, Hillary Clinton Is Prudent Pick for President. But the endorsement is lukewarm at best. And it doesn’t make a lot of sense, to be honest.

The endorsement talks about how people don’t trust Clinton. There’s the email scandal and Benghazi! and (inexplicably) her support for single-payer healthcare. And then they lay on the good ol’ third-way line. “If Secretary Clinton is elected, Americans will need her to be a uniting president, working from the center, and not advancing an agenda that will further alienate moderates and conservatives.” I despair for our nation!

That’s where they leave the endorsement. But how exactly is Clinton moving to the center going to help? One reason people don’t trust her is that they think she talks populist to the people, but when alone with the banks, she’s her real plutocratic self. So if Clinton governs the way The Omaha World-Herald wants her to, it will prove that the people saying she’s duplicitous were right.

Omaha World-Herald Does Care About Trust

The truth is that the editors at The Omaha World-Herald are endorsing Clinton but they want the world to know that they expect her to be a Republican.

And that just shows that this conservative newspaper isn’t at all concerned about Clinton being trustworthy. They know that Clinton is as trustworthy or more than any other politician. This is just a way for them to call for Clinton to do what all the conservatives and third’way pseudo-moderates call on Democrats to do: move right!

Of course, I’m very used to this kind of nonsense. What most bugs me is this idea that somehow Clinton could be a “uniting president.” Obama tried very hard (and for far too long) to be a uniting president. And all that happened was that the Republicans rejected it. If Obama moved to the right one step, they moved to the right two. And the new, more extreme, conservative position was duly disseminated to the Republican base.

We Democrats have spent the last 35 years trying to find common ground with the Republicans. And all that has happened is that the country has gotten more and more conservative. Wages have stagnated, even while corporate profits have steadily increased. More people than ever are jailed, most effectively having their lives ruined. Aid to the poor has been savagely cut.

Just More Third-Way Nonsense

Yet Hillary Clinton is supposed to work “from the center.” And who exactly is this supposed to make happy anyway? The one remaining moderate Republican who is on life-support in an unnamed hospital in the great Omaha area? Certainly the Trump base (AKA: the Republican base) isn’t interested in some kind of third-way, corporate-friendly policy. Unless she starts calling Mexicans rapists, I don’t see her winning over this group.

Right now, FiveThirtyEight estimates that she will beat Donald Trump and Gary Johnson combined. And remember: Johnson is taking as many votes from Clinton as he is from Trump. So where exactly does The Omaha World-Herald get this idea that the onus is on her to reach out to conservatives? Nowhere.

The truth is that the editors at The Omaha World-Herald are endorsing Clinton but they want the world to know that they expect her to be a Republican. Anything else will be her fault. Damn all the liberals who support her. The Omaha World-Herald’ editors must be mollified! It’s too embarrassing to support the nominee who is a perfect reflection of the party they’ve supported these last 84 years. But you can expect more editorials over the next few years where they complain about how Clinton has failed because she didn’t united the country. And what they will mean by that is: didn’t do what they wanted.

Oct 18

Odd Words: Bumboat

BumboatWe reach the end of the B words on page 34 of The New York Times Everyday Reader’s Dictionary of Misunderstood, Misused, and Mispronounced Words: Revised Edition. And I’ve picked a simple enough word: bumboat.

Other Words for Sale on My Bumboat

Page 34 featured two related words that are no doubt of use to readers of The New York Times: Bundestag and the Bundesrat. They are the legislative houses of the German government. From what I know (And I’m certain one or more of you all will correct me if I’m wrong!) the Bundestag is more like our House of Representatives and the Bundesrat is more like our Senate. But the Bundesrat is more like the Senate before the Seventeenth Amendment. That is to say: its members are not directly elected by the people but rather appointed by the state governments.

Disgusting Biology

One word I didn’t know may surprise you: bung. It is “a plug or stopper for the hole in a wooden barrel.” I certainly knew the coarse word “bunghole,” which I assume is derived from it. It is a marvel that for a great many people, the anus never loses the fascination that it held when they were children. I, of course, find almost everything about the human body disgusting. Really: observe yourself while you’re eating some time. You’ll quickly conclude that eating should be done in private and with great shame.

Thirty white horses on a red hill
First they champ,
Then they stamp,
Then they stand still.

But enough of such talk. Let us move to bumboat!

Bum·boat  noun  \bəm’-bōt\

1. a small boat used to ferry provisions to ships lying in harbor.

Date: late 17th century.

Origin: apparently from the Dutch word bomschuit, which some sources say means “small fishing boat.” However, I can’t find that word defined anywhere. The Dutch word schuit means “boat.” So I suspect that bomschuit is slang or jargon.

Example: Now it seemed the bumboat was returning to her best customer. —Hal Weidner (Heart of War: A Descent into Darkness)

Oct 17

The Latte Lie and the Shaming of the Poor

Latte LieI happened upon an article from earlier this year by Helaine Olen, Buying Coffee Every Day Isn’t Why You’re in Debt. It’s actually from her 2013 book, Pound Foolish: Exposing the Dark Side of the Personal Finance Industry. And it gives me an opportunity to discuss this issue, which I think is very important. I am sick to death of this idea that if the poor were only thrifty (No latte for you!) all their problems would be solved.

It’s hard enough being poor. But most places outside this country where you run into poor people, you notice something: they don’t reek of shame. But here in the United States they do. (We do, since I’ve been a fellow sufferer a couple of times.) Being poor is mostly a matter of bad luck. But here it is portrayed as justice. “If only the poor acted more like the rich!” In fact, this is exactly the argument made by prominent rich people like David Brooks and Charles Murray. But note: neither of them are racists. It’s just that their Great Brains lead them inextricably to the racist conclusions they draw.

The Latte Lie

You probably know the old saying, “Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves.” Well, no one much uses it anymore because it is so obviously false. But Olen noted that today, you will hear the same advice. She focused on the Starbucks latte. Many personal finance gurus explain that you aren’t poor because you’re out of work or making minimum wage. No: you are poor because you splurge on Starbucks lattes! And they justify it with highly distorted mathematics:

[David] Bach calculated that eschewing a $5 daily bill at Starbucks… for a double nonfat latte and biscotti with chocolate could net a prospective saver $150 a month, or $2,000 a year. If she then took that money and put it all in stocks that Bach, ever an optimist, assumed would grow at an average annual rate of 11 percent a year, “chances are that by the time she reached sixty-five, she would have more than $2 million sitting in her account…”

Note the many problems here. The $5 per day is actually not $2,000, but $1,825. That matters a lot when you are compounding interest. And it isn’t just the latte but also a biscotti. Otherwise, you couldn’t make it to $5. Who these people are who have lattes every single day of their lives I can’t say. But then he adds that this is all going to be invested and make 11 percent a year! Amazing.

Olen reported on a more reasonable analysis that assumed $3 per latte and took into account things like taxes and inflation. The result? After 30 years of Starbucks deprivation, $50,000 would be saved. Time to retire in Grand Cayman, am I right?!

Shame the Poor!

The truth is that the power elite love this kind of lie. It works on two levels. First, it gives them an excuse to not pay workers more. After all: just cut out those lattes and you’ll retire a millionaire! Second, it gives them an excuse to not pay workers more. Because the reason they are rich is because they are frugal. Or they are when it comes to paying workers. When it comes to little things like a daily latte to make life bearable, they don’t deprive themselves. After all: they know that this business about the latte is just a useful lie.

The whole thing reminds me of Randy Newman’s “God’s Song.” In it, all the religious people of the world get together and they ask God, “If you will not take care of us, won’t you please, please let us be?” And that’s the thing here. The rich are lucky to be so and the poor are unlucky to be so. (If you want to think of this in terms of genes, be my guest; but that’s not what I mean.) As a result, the rich should count their blessings. And they shouldn’t come up with stupid theories like the latte lie to make the lives of the poor harder than they already are.

Oct 17

Fowler on Feasible

Frontispiece of Fowler's Modern English UsageWith those who feel that the use of an ordinary word for an ordinary notion does not do justice to their vocabulary or sufficiently exhibit their cultivation, feasible is now a prime favorite. Its proper sense is “capable of being done, accomplished, or carried out.” That is, it means the same as “possible” in one of the latter’s sense, and its true function is to be used instead of “possible” where that might be ambiguous. A thunderstorm is possible (but not “feasible”). Irrigation is possible (or, indifferently, “feasible”). A counter-revolution is possible: that is, (a) one may for all we know happen, or (b) we can if we choose bring one about; but, if (b) is the meaning, “feasible” is better than “possible” because it cannot properly bear sense (a) and therefore obviates ambiguity.

The wrong use of “feasible” is that in which… it is allowed to have also the other sense of “possible,” and that of “probable.” This is described by the OED as “hardly a justifable sense etymologically, and… recognized by no dictionary.” It is however becoming very common…

—H W Fowler
Modern English Usage

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