Boiling mad

Frogs make a lousy analogy for the erosion of civil liberties, or the price of oil, or just about anything else not froglike in the first place. But that’s not stopping politicians from using it. The latest was Hillary Clinton in Iowa last week.

As the New York Times reported:

“It’s like the old saying about boiling the frog,” Mrs. Clinton said during a visit to a school in Guthrie Center, Iowa. She was making the point that when oil-producing countries drop their prices, it tends to lull U.S. consumers and politicians in the United States into complacency about their reliance of foreign oil.

“If you want to boil a frog, don’t put it in hot water because it will jump right out,” she said. “You put it in cold water and then turn up the heat gradually and it’s a goner.”

This has driven writer James Fallows nuts on many occasions, the latest being… today.

OK. But we have also got to figure out how, for the sake of scientific accuracy, freshness in language, and the dignity of the poor frogs, we can stop talking about them in this heartless and formulaic way. (By the way, minus points to the New York Times for reporting the episode as if Sen. Clinton were using a clever image.) Soon, I will release the results of the contest to find other words to get across the point that people can get used to slowly worsening circumstances that would shock them if confronted all at once. tested this in October 1995.

We placed Frog A into a pot of cold water and applied moderate heat. At 4.20 seconds, it safely exited the pot with a leap of 24 centimeters. We then placed Frog B into a pot of lukewarm water and applied moderate heat. At 1.57 seconds, it safely exited the pot with a leap of 57 centimeters.

Even so, the analogy lives longer than frogs in Minnesota. Last month, Department of Employment and Economic development boss Dan McElroy used it to describe the state of rural Minnesota. Rep. Mark Buesgens, R-Jordan, used it to describe the fee increases in a veterans’ bill. House Minority Leader Marty Seifert invoked the frog in urging the governor to veto some bills.