Smart people saying smart things

David Roberts: “Coal is the enemy of the human race, mainstream economics edition

Once you strip away the econ jargon, the paper finds that, on the margin, electricity from coal imposes more damages on the U.S. economy than the electricity is worth. That’s right: The next coal-fired power plant is a net value-subtraction. A parasite, you might say, that will enrich a few executives and shareholders at the public’s expense.

If you’re of a wonky bent, it’s worth digging in. The authors try to establish a framework for integrating air-pollution costs into national accounts — that is, a systematic way of accounting for those “externalities” you’re always hearing about — and come up with something called gross external damages (GED). They calculate GED for several common industries and find that not only coal power, but “solid waste combustion, sewage treatment, stone quarrying, [and] marinas” have air-pollution externalities that exceed their total value added.

But coal power is a parasite in a class by itself, with a GED equal to the combined totals of its three closest competitors. In fact, coal plants “are responsible for more than one-fourth of GED from the entire U.S. economy” — roughly $53 billion in damages a year.

Maggie Koerth-Baker: “The only good abortion is my abortion

I am making a decision.

The only thing that makes my abortion decision different from anyone else’s abortion decision is that some people who are against abortion will think that my abortion is acceptable.

Some. Not all. Maybe not even most. I honestly have no idea. My life is not in danger, after all. I have not been raped. I merely think that I might not want to sit around, feeling the symptoms of pregnancy, for god knows how long, until a heartbeat stops and the ripping pain kicks in and the blood starts flowing on its own.

Let me be clear. I have options. It’s just that they all suck. That’s kind of how bad news related to pregnancy works.

… There is no universal good option. There is no universal bad option. But for each individual there is an option that is the least bad. Here is why I am pro-choice. If someone has to make a decision and the best they can hope for is the least-bad option, I don’t believe I have any business making that choice for them.

My abortion is not a good abortion. It’s just an abortion. And there’s no reason to treat the decision I have to make any differently than the decisions made by any other woman.

Dahlia Lithwick: “A Bill Seeking to Regulate Use of the Word Vagina

The scourge of women being allowed to speak the word vagina in a legislative debate over what happens when women use their vaginas must be stopped. And if women are not capable of regulating their own word choice, the state should regulate it for them. To that end, we propose that the Michigan House promptly enact HB-5711(b) — a bill to regulate the use of the word vagina by females in mixed company.

The bill will include Part A(1)(a) providing that any women who seeks to use the word vagina in a floor debate be required to wait 72 hours after consulting with her physician before she may say it. It will also require her physician to certify in writing that said woman was not improperly coerced into saying the word vagina against her will. Section B(1)(d) provides that prior to allowing a female to say the word vagina a woman will have a mandatory visit with her physician at which he will read to her a scripted warning detailing the scientific evidence of the well-documented medical dangers inherent in saying the word vagina out loud, including the link between saying the word vagina and the risk of contracting breast cancer.

… There is to be no exception in the event that a woman uses the word vagina as a result of rape, incest, or to preserve her health or ability to have future pregnancies. If women were intended to use the word vagina there would be a word for vaginas.

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  • Tonio

    Now I feel ashamed that I used to live in Michigan…

    While I’m tempted to think those legislators there intended to shame female sexuality to promote male privilege, my theory is that it’s simple resentment. When I was a teenager before e-mail was common, my father used to bring home photocopies of crudely sexist jokes that were shared among his co-workers. Obviously the shaming I mentioned was inherent in such jokes. But since that time, workplaces have rightly deemed such humor as unacceptable, which has led people like my father to grumble about political correctness. If the legislators have the same mentality, they probably think it’s unfair that their female colleagues can use clinical sexual terms while they themselves would be slammed for telling T&A jokes. Merrill Markoe once described the panel that grilled Anita Hill as acting like middle-school boys. Likewise, the boys in Lansing were probably tempted to giggle like Beavis and Butthead.

  • The_L1985

    Heheh….heheheh….you said “technical terms.”

  • Lunch Meat

    I’d like to offer an amendment/addendum to Ms. Lithwick’s proposal.

    “Employees of Tex-Mex restaurants who think it is funny to mispronounce Spanish-derived words (i.e., kwesadilla) should be warned that, should they attempt to comically mispronouce the word “fajita” in a loud, crowded restaurant, they will suffer the penalties for any misunderstandings that result.”

  • I was taught that speaking Spanish with a bit of a lisp was evocative of the Castilian pronunciation and not at all in error as long as one also uses the ‘vosotros’ tense. 

  • AnonymousSam

    Michigan seemed like a liberal-leaning state when I lived in it, and then I escaped just before the Republicans successfully outlawed democracy. I’d have thought they would have caught on to the dangers of voting for Republicans after the fiasco a couple of years prior where they nearly made about 40% of the state ineligible to vote… <.<

  •  Castilian Spanish isn’t lisped, exactly. Esses are still esses, but “soft” C and Z are pronounced like the English “th” in “thin”. People mocking Castilian pronunciation usually get that wrong (I’m not saying that your informant necessarily did).

  • Michigan was a liberal-leaning state when I lived there too, for the first 25 years of my life. I wonder if the people who wanted to make it nearly impossible for college students and black people to vote got their way, I wonder how much gerrymandering was done, and I also wonder how much wealthy special interests from outside the state influenced recent elections.

    One thing: Michiganders aren’t any more likely to vote than anyone else in this country. I would guess that the same thing happened there that happened throughout the U.S. — Democratic voters stayed home in droves, and far right-wing voters came out in droves. That’s why this war on women is happening. 

  • christopher_young

     Also, Castilian “J” is pronounced like the “CH” in Scottish “Loch” (more or less), not like an English “H”, as I understand is the case in many American dialects. This has confused several USian friends of mine at various times.