Linky Friday #125: After Alaska

Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

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262 Responses

  1. Kazzy says:

    L2: That this is filed under “Liberalism” is… interesting. The implication is that concerns over racism are a liberal issue. That is to say, conservatives are not — or at least are less — concerned about racism.

    And while common sense says this is true, conservatives often insist they care DEEPLY about racism… the problem is just that liberals are the real racists.

    I mean, how much more telling can it be than saying that racism, sexism, and other related issues are liberal issues?Report

    • Will Truman in reply to Kazzy says:

      One should never make too much out of category assignment. Oddities are often the product of late-game category name changes (in this case) or having nowhere else to put the link (or others).Report

  2. Kazzy says:

    S6: I agree that the sentiment in that statement condones rape.

    However, at least three years ago the editor (Tumblrer? I have no idea how Tumblr works…) responded to criticisms of that post — which she did not write — and acknowledged that, as worded, it was wrong and that everyone retains the right to say ‘no’ to sex with anyone else (though saying ‘no’ to certain people can still be considered ‘asshole’ behavior).

    More here:

    So, yea, the post as originally written certainly condoned rape but there is more to that post’s existence and association with that Tumblr than the Tweet indicates.Report

    • veronica d in reply to Kazzy says:

      You get to like whatever genitals you like.

      [cw: sex stuff, explicit]

      For example, say I like men, and say I like dicks — which, those aren’t the same, but whatever. They go together often enough. Anyway, so imagine you’re a man. (Many of you reading this are.)

      We meet at the club. You’re dressed sharp. I’m dressed sexy. We dance and shimmy. You touch my arms, then the small of my back. I press close. It’s happening. You’re excited. So I am.

      So we pick your place. We get there, stumble in, fumble at our clothes — just like in the movies! This is happening! — and then I get your shorts down.

      You eagerly awaits what comes next! Yes!

      But I stop. You hear me sigh. What could it be?

      I mean, you know what it is. But anyway. You take a breath and hold it.

      “Honey,” I say, “I’m sorry. But does it get bigger?”

      It’s not your fault you have a four inch dick. But hey, it happens. It does’t make you less of a man.

      But I continue, “Like, this is a boy dick. I need a man-sized dick.”

      At this point all the energy seeps out of you.

      The first few times this happened, of course, you got angry, but you don’t even bother anymore. You pull up your shorts, shuffle to the couch, and sit. “Whatever. Call a cab. Just get the fuck out.”


      Okay look, the woman in that scenario is entirely in her right to like whatever genitals she likes. You can’t fault her for not liking small penises.

      Right? You all agree with that? She’s a totally righteous woman, no flaws?

      If you like a woman and then shut her down when you discover she is trans, then you are transphobic and kinda shitty. I mean, a lot of men feel this way, but it sucks. In fact, it’s much like how a lot of women won’t date short dudes. They have their right to feel this way, but it’s hardly admirable.

      Be admirable.Report

      • Chris in reply to veronica d says:

        Okay look, the woman in that scenario is entirely in her right to like whatever genitals she likes. You can’t fault her for not liking small penises.

        Right? You all agree with that? She’s a totally righteous woman, no flaws?

        I’m sure she has flaws, as she’s human, but in that scenario I wouldn’t think she’d done anything wrong. I mean, getting rejected sucks, as every man on the planet knows, but I don’t fault women for it, and wouldn’t fault her even in that situation. Just because she went home with a guy doesn’t mean she has any obligation in any sense, and honestly, and I suspect just about all of us can relate to the idea that you can be very attracted to someone with their clothes on and not at all attracted to them with their clothes off.

        If she had sex with him not because she wanted to have sex with him, but because she didn’t want to make him feel bad, what would that be? What would not doing that be?Report

        • veronica d in reply to Chris says:

          @chris — Have you zero empathy for the guy in that scenario?

          [cw: more sex stuff, I talk about dicks]

          Look, no one is saying she needs to fuck him. Of course not — and I hope I’ve established sufficiently my pro-woman, anti-rape, pro-consent-culture bona fides that that goes without saying.

          But OMG that would suck for the guy. It’s like, this is a situation that should be avoided. Her mistake was going home with the guy in the first place, if she had a weird hang-up about below-average dicks.

          Which is to say, dicks come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. Some are cut. Some are uncut. Some are long and thin. Some are thick as a beer cans.

          There are all kinds of lovely dicks out there. And she knows this, so why put herself and him in that situation?

          If she has weird standards about dicks, get that cleared up before it goes that far.

          Which, once it has gone that far, of course she gets to change her mind.

          Of course she does. Of course she does.

          (I can type that a few more times, if needed.)

          But it fucking sucks.

          Which, these days there are all kinds of websites for people with particular tastes. If she wants big cocks, she can go to “collar me dot com” and put that in her profile.

          Trust me, there are many well-endowed men who will step up.

          So anyway, my point is this: if you have a problem with trans women, do not pursue us, don’t take us home, don’t lead us on, don’t put us into that situation. You know we exist. You know that if you meet a stranger in a club, she could be trans. So if you’re the type of guy who would pull shit like that, ask first. Clear up any foreseeable nonsense before you take it that far.

          This all gets filed under “don’t be an asshole.”Report

          • Chris in reply to veronica d says:

            Have you zero empathy for the guy in that scenario?

            I guess you didn’t read my comment. ‘Sok. Just so you know, you can find the answer to this question there.

            Or wait, were you asking that question for rhetorical purposes (obviously you were)? OK, at least I know who I’m dealin’ with then.

            But OMG that would suck for the guy. It’s like, this is a situation that should be avoided. Her mistake was going home with the guy in the first place, if she had a weird hang-up about below-average dicks.

            What would you have her do? Ask him for his penis dimensions (you think he’s gonna tell the truth?)? If so, cool. It’d be better if we were all up front about stuff like that, including, you know, what genitals we have, because we all know that those things are going to affect whether we actually want to have sex with someone, particularly in a “meet a person and fuck ’em that night” context. (Though I seriously doubt you’d judge her, or a guy who rejected someone for the particular genitals she has, in the club any better than you’d judge the person who rejected that person when things had advanced much further.) But the world doesn’t work that way, so if you do this sort of thing more than once, it’s almost inevitable that you’ll end up with someone you don’t want to have sex with once things advance, for any number of reasons. And I see no issue with either party shutting things down at that point, or any point, for any reason. Hell, I don’t even think it makes them shallow, or transphobic, or whatever (which doesn’t mean they’re not shallow or transphobic or whatever, just means that this particular behavior doesn’t necessarily indicate that). If you’re not attracted to someone, you’re not attracted to someone, and you shouldn’t fuck ’em just because you don’t want to hurt their feelings — unless that’s what you want to do, in which case, fuck ’em, I don’t care, because who you fuck and why doesn’t affect my perception of you, as long as you’re both consenting adults.

            I mean, don’t be a complete ass about it. There are better and worse ways to reject someone. The rejection is gonna suck either way, but there’s no reason for the rejecter to make it worse for the rejectee by being an ass about it. But that’s not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about whether a person is an ass for rejecting a person he or she is not attracted to, period.

            (With this exception: if you rule out entire races or classes or whatever, including cis vs. trans, out of hand, you’re probably an ass and a bigot. In fact, if you do, I’m quite certain you are.)Report

            • veronica d in reply to Chris says:

              What would you have her do? Ask him for his penis dimensions (you think he’s gonna tell the truth?)?

              There are ways of letting your partner know you are into certain things, if they are the sorts of things that are a dealbreaker for you. If the other party lies, then that’s on them.

              I mean, don’t be a complete ass about it. There are better and worse ways to reject someone. The rejection is gonna suck either way, but there’s no reason for the rejecter to make it worse for the rejectee by being an ass about it. But that’s not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about whether a person is an ass for rejecting a person he or she is not attracted to, period.

              That is not what I’m talking about. If you reject someone because of a raw lack of attraction, that is fine. We are talking about rejecting someone because they are trans.

              Imagine a guy saying, “Well I pictured you with a fat clit, but your clit is too small and narrow. I won’t fuck small clits. You’re dumped!”

              I mean seriously! That guy has a right to leave, but I’d say the woman dodged a bullet not fucking such a turdmonkey.

              (With this exception: if you rule out entire races or classes or whatever, including cis vs. trans, out of hand, you’re probably an ass and a bigot. In fact, if you do, I’m quite certain you are.)

              But that’s what I’m talking about. It is this: you reject out of hand a complete class of person. You get a trans woman home. You find out she is trans. For that reason alone you reject her. That makes you transphobic and shitty.

              If on the other hand you say, “Hey, you seemed hot in the bar but I’m sober now…”

              Well, that’s life I suppose. There’s a reason I don’t hook up with dudes at bars.Report

              • Chris in reply to veronica d says:

                That is not what I’m talking about. If you reject someone because of a raw lack of attraction, that is fine. We are talking about rejecting someone because they are trans.

                If you don’t see what you’re doing here yet, I’m not going to be able to explain it to you. Suffice it to say, then, that you’re saying, “If you reject someone because of a raw lack of attraction, that’s fine. We are talking about what could be someone rejecting someone for a raw lack of attraction.” You don’t really mean what you say in the first sentence, because you immediately take it back.

                In my days as something of a rake, long, long ago, I never asked a woman if she had a penis before leaving a bar or club with her. I can’t imagine ever doing so (though my days in bars and clubs are over, for more than one reason). I would not be surprised to learn that one or more of the women I did leave with in those days was not a cis-woman, and that doesn’t bother me in the least, but if I had gotten home with one and discovered she had a penis, I probably wouldn’t have had sex with her. Does this make me transphobic? If so, so be it. I’m not sexually attracted to penises, and there ain’t nothing I can do about that, so my transphobia is, in this sense, completely out of my control. And while I would have felt bad about rejecting someone in that situation, because I’ve felt bad anytime I’ve rejected anyone ever, I wouldn’t have considered myself a bad person for doing it, so it’d be hypocritical for me to think anyone else is a bad person for doing the same.

                Now again, if I just said, “I’d never fuck a transgender woman under any circumstances,” you’d be right to call me transphobic, I think. I mean, that is quite literally what prejudice means: I’ve prejudged every transgender woman before ever meeting them, simply by virtue of them being transgender. But that’s not the situation we’re talking about, and that you keep morphing it into that situation rhetorically is uncool.Report

              • Will Truman in reply to Chris says:

                Chris, truthfully, I myself am not clear on the distinction between “I would reject a trans I took home upon discovering that she has a penis” and “I’d never fuck a transgender woman under any circumstances.”

                Is it that there is a circumstance that you could imagine altering the first case. Like, I don’t know, if you met someone online, thought they were completely awesome to the point that you would jettisen your anti-penis sexual preferences? Or that you view your current and past APSP as being conceivably subject to change at a later date?

                (I am likely going to write a separate post on this – probably at Hit Coffee – so I do want to make sure I understand you correctly, even if I’m not sure that your words in particular will be incorporated into the post.)Report

              • Chris in reply to Will Truman says:

                Not all transgender women have penises. This is why it’s possible, perhaps even likely, that I took one home at some point and never knew. Because in some cases how would I, unless she said something? And like I said, that doesn’t bother me in the least.Report

              • Will Truman in reply to Chris says:

                Oh! So you’re thinking along post-op versus non-op lines. That clarifies things for me, and makes sense.

                (This could be totally wrong because Television, but on Nip-Tuck they said that there was a difference in vagina-depth. This became a major plot point, so it could have just been a myth for a plot point.)Report

              • Chris in reply to Will Truman says:

                I have no idea, but under some theories, you should apparently ask about vaginal depth before taking a woman home, if you have preferences related to that.Report

              • veronica d in reply to Chris says:

                [cw: more sex stuff]

                @chris — The point I’m trying to make is this: genitals are just tissue, and there are many ways to have cool sex. After all, if you got home with the woman, and her vagina was too shallow for vigorous penetrative sex, then you could do other stuff. For example, if she said, “Look, why don’t we just do oral…”

                I mean, most men would be okay with that. If you have a problem with someone’s junk, you can usually work it out. When men have a problem with trans women, it’s more than that.

                Look, I would be very surprised to hear that a woman threw some guy out of bed cuz of his penis length. Which, I’m sure it has happened — the world is big — but it would be a pretty weird thing to do. Sure, she may prefer larger junk, but if she wants that, she has ways to get it besides picking up random strangers and then finding the most perfect ways to humiliate them.

                Which is to say, no one is obligated to have sex. But there are many things one should consider that are separate from obligation. If some guy only wants to date women with big, fat clits, and then he goes around picking up girls and then dropping them hard when their clits don’t measure up …

                I mean, that’s kinda fucked up, irresponsible behavior. Would you want to be a person like that?

                And actually, it’s pretty fetishy. Like, sex can be with a whole person and not just body parts.


                Okay, so look, I don’t expect your average straight man to be into girldick, although plenty of straight men are. But more, this scenario is actually super rare. It’s more the product of weird imagination than reality. It happens in the movies waaaay more often than real life.

                (And you know, many guys who claim they were “tricked” knew exactly what they were getting into. Which is a separate topic, but trust me on this. There is a lot about “going home with a trans woman” that does not match the weird scenarios imagined by insecure straight men. You guys worry about TEH GAY. We worry about THE MURDER.)

                But the point is, if you just can’t with girldick, then fine. I prefer vag as well. But you can do other things.

                This is a one night hookup, right? Offer to do other things that do not involve her junk.

                I mean, if she whips it out and puts it in your face, then yeah, that might kill the mood.

                But I promise, that will never happen to any of you. The men who claimed they were tricked are mostly lying.


                Final point, this isn’t about rape. So much of this conversation has developed in a context where creepy PUA fucks try to justify rape by pointing out that women are teases.

                Which is all a bunch of BS, and PUA subculture is full of absolute shitbirds. But we are not them. We shouldn’t let their framework shape our conversation.

                The thing is, some women in fact do shitty things to men. Some men do shitty things to women. Folks who pick up people in clubs can be sadistic fucks, or fetishy creeps who treat their partners like meat. On and on, it can be terrible. Don’t be like that. When you meet someone, you have to accept that their body can vary.

                Which is to say, actually imagine a woman who went out and picked up guys, only to then drop them because their dicks were too short.

                Seriously, what kind of person does that?Report

              • Chris in reply to veronica d says:

                I mean, most men would be okay with that. If you have a problem with someone’s junk, you can usually work it out. When men have a problem with trans women, it’s more than that.

                Yeah, this is just not right, and I’m quite sure you know it isn’t. You’re smart enough, and you seem experienced enough, to know that it isn’t. Again, a big part of sexual attraction is sexual characteristics, of which genitals are a big one. People generally don’t like to have sex with people to whom they are not attractive [edited to avoid confusion: this should be “attracted,” though it’s probably also true with the word “attractive”]. It’s not a matter of saying, “OK, yeah, I’m not attracted to you naked, but if we just leave our clothes on and do other stuff, it’s cool,” because that’s not the way this stuff works.

                And I know of at least one woman who reported not having sex with a guy she brought home because he had a small penis. Perhaps she was lying, but she said she did it. She didn’t say, “Oh shit, you have a small penis! This isn’t going to happen.” She made up some other excuse about not feeling well or something, but that was why she did it. I’m sure that sort of thing — a lack of attraction once naked (or once sober, or whatever) resulting in rejection, though not necessarily rejection with an honest explanation — is pretty common.Report

              • Kim in reply to Chris says:

                It is for people who think more in terms of physical features, yes. Other people enjoy other bits of a person… like personality, and find themselves more flexible.

                Cognitive flexibility in general is a sign of high intelligence. Being flexible about who you like is just part of that. (Ahh! I love research!)Report

              • Morat20 in reply to Will Truman says:

                IIRC, the difference was the result of a botched surgery.It’s been…a long time, but I sorta recall that arc ending with that fixed by the same doctor, only with more experience.

                *shrug*. I’m still waiting for nanotechnology. I’d like my cosmetic surgery to by done my microscopic machines growing or eliminating individual cells, thank you.

                But then Anonymous would hack them and we’d spout penises from our foreheads or something.Report

              • Kolohe in reply to Morat20 says:

                And then the GOP nomination field would be even more crowded with all the dickheads running around.Report

              • veronica d in reply to Morat20 says:

                [cw: you don’t want to know this but I’m telling you anyhow.]

                @morat20 — With modern techniques, the depth corresponds to the length of the starting material.

                Like, imagine taking the skin of a sausage and turning it inside out.Report

              • Morat20 in reply to veronica d says:

                nanites. Seriously, they need to be invented. Cell-by-cell alterations.

                I think everyone, from someone who is undergoing gender transition to a guy who just wants to lose some weight or grow back some hair — would much prefer that. 🙂

                Probably one of those impossible dreams like anti-gravity. It’s just…really unlikely given what we know of physics. OTOH, thanks to Moore’s law…we’re getting good at nano-scale fabrication, but we’re a long way off from sub-cell sized machines. (Or viruses. Not much of a difference, really.)Report

        • Glyph in reply to Chris says:

          Well, and there’s another aspect, and I feel like even addressing it is a minefield, so I will tread as carefully as I can, and hope to not get blown up.

          But: the reason sex feels good and we do all this stuff, is because at root we have a biological drive to reproduce, yes?

          I mean, I am 100% OK with the redirection of that urge in any way that any number of consenting adults or crusty socks are up for. It can bring people closer together, it feels good, and it’s fun!

          But the fact remains that a lot – a LOT – of hetero people are going to bars hoping to meet someone, so that they can *reproduce* with that person. That thing is still there, under and around all this other actually *fun* stuff.

          Unconscious, sure. The conscious mind will hopefully remember to bring condoms and morning-after pills and all the rest; but on some level our hormones and our genitals are often working against us, to do what the genetic code way down at the bottom “wants”, not what the brain up top wants.

          Now, I *know* that this is the twenty-first century and (thank God!) there are all sorts of alternate paths to a similar end. Surrogates and adoptions and etc. and etc. And of course you don’t generally know the reproductive ability of most people you meet. That woman may have damaged ovaries or uterus; that guy’s sperm may not hunt; and even if both parties have 100% working original equipment, sometimes it just doesn’t happen, for reasons we don’t understand.

          But all that said, I don’t think that it’s *necessarily* a jerk move (depending on how it is handled), if someone finds out right up front that someone else will 100% not be able to biologically produce a child with them, to not want to engage in sex with that person.

          To engage in sex might be crueler to them, and to the person doing the rejecting (since it might lead to feelings, which might lead to a life-state they are ultimately unsatisfied with), than simply breaking things off right away.

          And again, there are right ways and wrong ways to handle this, as there are for any situation – the problem I see here is that the expectation of having children is often unknown to (may even be denied by) to the conscious mind, while the DNA and body wants something else (and they are very much in the driver’s seat once you get close to The Deed).

          There’s another bit, related somewhat (but not synonymous) with the first, and that’s this: Just as I am somewhat uncomfortable judging what gives someone a boner (or a lady-boner) so long as no one is getting hurt, I am also somewhat uncomfortable judging what should constitute a boner-killer (or lady-boner-killer) for other people. There is just so much wrapped up in that, that we have no control over.Report

          • Chris in reply to Glyph says:

            I agree with you, of course, and let’s face it, it applies across sexual orientations. A big part of most sexual orientations is attraction to sexual characteristics, primary and secondary, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, nor is there anything wrong with acting on that attraction (which would include rejecting people to whom you’re not attracted for that reason).Report

    • Will Truman in reply to Kazzy says:

      What interests me about that post is the intersection and conflict between liberal values (which, come to think of it, might have warranted L2 and S6 switching places). Not in a way that discredits the worldview, but in a way that expresses “things are complicated.” It honestly reminded me a bit of a previous conversation about race and dating.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Will Truman says:

        There are some people who shouldn’t be friendzoned.

        You aren’t one of them, however.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Will Truman says:


        Honestly, I don’t see a huge conflict. I think we are conflating sexual attraction with respect. There are all sorts of things about a person — physical or otherwise — that can turn someone on or off. These are often hard to predict and sometimes aren’t even known to the individual. And while these aren’t wholly dependent upon biology, I think the extent to which people can control them — especially in the moment — is probably highly, highly limited. So I’d be very hard pressed to fault someone for losing interest in someone because they became aware of something about that person that was unattractive to them. What I would certainly fault the person for was being disrespectful about it. In the scenario @veronica-d outlined, the woman was pretty awful about it. So I’d fault her for being awful but not for preferring big dicks. In the situation @chris relayed about a friend, while deceit was present, it still seems she was more thoughtful about the feelings of the other person.

        Faulting someone for preferring cis folks to trans folks? I could see faulting that or respecting that based on the specific rationale behind the preference. If the person thinks, “Eww! Trans people are freaks. GET AWAY!” That is an abhorrent viewpoint that we should shame. But if the guy simply can’t really get it up upon learning that fact, I don’t know what we do about that. Now, there exists the possibility that his ability to be attracted to it is the result of socialization that taught him — even if just subconsciously — that trans folks are something not to be attracted to. But that speaks to a larger social issue more than an individual issue.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Will Truman says:

        The conversations about race and dating that confuse me are the ones where it alternates between complaining about guys who aren’t attracted to women who happen to be a particular race and complaining about guys who are attracted to women who happen to be a particular race.

        Less transparent than just complaining about guys, I suppose.Report

  3. Brandon Berg says:

    L1: I don’t think that was a fair comparison. That affirmative action is bad for blacks because it places them in schools above their level they’re prepared for and/or because it causes people to discount their credentials is one reason some conservatives oppose affirmative action. But some conservatives oppose it because they think it unjustly privileges blacks at the expense of whites and/or Asians. So “affirmative action is good for blacks” isn’t as hard to swallow for conservatives as “same-sex relationships are inferior to heterosexual relationships” is for leftists.

    How you would come up with a good pair of hypotheses to do this experiment properly, I’m not sure.Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to Brandon Berg says:

      The evidence that affirmative action discriminates at the expense of whites and/or Asians seem scant. A lot of the white people that have complained about not getting into the schools of their choice because of affirmative action have turned out to not have the academic qualifications for the schools they wanted to get into. There might be a somewhat more credible argument when it comes to Asians but I haven’t seen it and Asians tend to favor not ending Affirmative Action when push comes to shove. The real big offender for putting students in schools that are too good for them academically are big time college sports.Report

      • notme in reply to LeeEsq says:

        What about the Asians suing Harved and UNC?Report

      • Will Truman in reply to LeeEsq says:

        I’m not sure how you can deny discriminatory effects against Asians, given the disparities between entrance scores. It may well be the case that most that complain that affirmative action cost them a spot may be wrong, but that doesn’t mean they all are. I have difficulty with this notion that there is not a corresponding hurt to the degree to which it helps African-Americans and Hispanics. Whether it’s justified or not. I have read some convincing pieces suggesting that the effects of affirmative action come to the benefit of some minorities at a cost to others (read: Asians) and the overall effects on whites is marginal (though it can help this kind of white at the expense of this other kind of white).

        Asian-American polling on affirmative action is maddeningly scarce, as I consider their opinion among the most important. It was talking with Asian-Americans (Vikram in particular, but not only him) that turned me on the issue.Report

      • Brandon Berg in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Obviously not every white or Asian student who gets rejected from a school that has affirmative action gets rejected from that school because of affirmative action. But, assuming that AA doesn’t increase the number of students a school can admit (and I don’t see why it would), every student who gets admitted because of AA displaces a student who would have been admitted otherwise.Report

        • j r in reply to Brandon Berg says:

          every student who gets admitted because of AA displaces a student who would have been admitted otherwise.

          Eh. Not quite so clear cut. College admissions is a murky business. Lots of kids get into schools for lots of reasons: athletics, legacies, parent donations, connections to some influential alumnist, accomplishment in some esoteric field, etc.

          For some reason, opponents of affirmative action only seem to hone in on affirmative action. And I say this as someone who is not particularly a fan of AA.Report

        • DavidTC in reply to Brandon Berg says:

          But, assuming that AA doesn’t increase the number of students a school can admit (and I don’t see why it would), every student who gets admitted because of AA displaces a student who would have been admitted otherwise.

          Yes, but that doesn’t mean AA ‘discriminated’ against them. It could be that AA undid some discrimination against some other party, which they would have benefited from.

          That said, as I’ve pointed out before, I hate AA. The way to remove racism is to make thing explicitly level, which people can get behind on moral grounds…and things like AA remove the moral grounds, *even if* it helps level the playing field.

          And, in addition, you are correct in that it results in students going to schools they aren’t ready for (Although, as others have pointed out, sports are really bad at that also.) and causes people to suspect the only reason they got as far as they did was because of their skin color. It seems perfectly *designed* to pit poor whites against poor blacks.

          You want to give people equal opportunities in life via education: Disallow private schools, deliberately rewrite school districts, and if that fails, bring back busing. Not to equalize race, but to equalize wealth. Make everyone of any social class get their grade school education in the same place. Even try to evenly distribute kids between teachers.

          You’d be *amazed* at how fast crappy schools would turn around when 5% of the student body has angry upper-class parents.

          The #1 indication of how well someone does in school is how wealthy the parents are, which we can’t do anything about…but the #2 indicator is how wealthy *everyone else’s* parents are.Report

      • j r in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Cosign @will-truman

        If you look at the effects of affirmative action in schools, you realize that it basically works as a scheme to cap the number of Asian students to increase the number of black and Hispanic students. The number of whites stays about the same.Report

        • Alan Scott in reply to j r says:

          @j-r , what is your starting baseline, though?

          Are you comparing selective schools that use AA vs. those that don’t? Or just comparing admission to some other metric for college fitness?

          Because there are serious geographical problems with the first approach, and the second one may just be question-begging.Report

    • Saul Degraw in reply to Brandon Berg says:

      The whole thing that makes liberals very angry about the Fisher case is that Fisher would not have gotten into UT under any circumstance. Her grades were just not that good.Report

      • UT-Austin’s got some odd admission quirks. If you graduate in the top X% of the class at your Texas high school, UT has to take you no matter what your grades were. X has varied from 7 to 10 percent over the years, I think. It’s entirely possible that Fisher’s 3.59 GPA would have gotten her admitted automatically if she had attended a school with a lower-quality student body. Some students do that on purpose. From here:

        Critics of the Ten Percent Plan point to the fact that it has caused some strategic behavior. One study found that as many as 25 percent of students intentionally choose a different high school in order to improve chances of being in the top 10 percent.


        • This is correct. It wasn’t affirmative action or necessarily even mediocre performance that kept her out, but Top Ten (seven) Percent.

          That said, I don’t think critics should have to find the perfect case to get a hearing and the policy judicially evaluated.Report

        • Saul Degraw in reply to Michael Cain says:


          Fair point but as far as I can tell Fisher did not attend a school that placed her in the top 10 percent and her SAT scores were middling*.

          I am not a fan of the top 10 percent policy for the quirks you mention. The thing people seem to do for Cal is attend community college for 1 or 2 years and then transfer into Cal or UCLA because the admission standards for transfers are lower than the admission standards for freshman. The issue if anything is that Cal can probably easily fill its freshman class three times over if it wanted to. Maybe more. Lee likes to point to an article where the Dean of Admissions at Harvard admitted that they could easily fill 5 Harvards with qualified students based on a normal applicant pool.

          *I have some sympathy for Fisher because my high school grades were erratic but my board scores were very good. I was the waitlist king when applying to college in 1997-1998. I got into Vassar off the waitlist and probably benefited because 1980 was a bit of a low-birth year so competition was not as fierce. I don’t think I would get into Vassar if I was born a few years later based on how competitive things got. The Millennials were another baby boom of sorts.Report

          • Alan Scott in reply to Saul Degraw says:

            Her SAT scores were rather low for UT-Austin, and I suspect really low for UT-Austin admits outside the top-ten percent policy, since I’m betting most of those students were ones with high SAT but lower grades.Report

        • LeeEsq in reply to Michael Cain says:

          I was vaguely aware of the UT-Austin admission system but I wasn’t quite aware of how it applies in Fisher’s case. A 3.59 GPA is a pretty high one and Fisher’s suit becomes a lot more understandable in this case.Report

    • Chris in reply to Brandon Berg says:

      This, for sure.

      The problem with social psychology is not that it’s ideologically biased science, it’s that it’s shitty science.Report

  4. North says:

    H1: I’m encouraged to see that any politician on my side of the political spectrum is willing to try and tackle this. The rank NIMBYism in the backlash that forced him to reverse course is as annoying as it is predictable.

    W1: I imagine poor Saul’s face melting off as he gazes on that list like the Nazi’s staring into the Ark of the Covenant.

    P2: The sooner the GOP nominates someone like Cruz the better it’d be for everyone involved. A landslide win for the Dems, a helpful corrective for the GOP, a knock in the snoot for the incoherent right and I’d hope an accelerated path to sobriety for the right in general.

    S6: The does seem to not sit well with basic requirements of informed consent.

    S7: I don’t know why but I find this story unbearably cute.Report

  5. Brandon Berg says:

    L3: Eh. Unless there’s a robust body of literature on how performance on that test actually predicts the ability to exercise self-control in real tasks that actually matter, that article strikes me as dramatically overreaching.Report

  6. LeeEsq says:

    H1: Single-family housing only zones in cities like Seattle, San Francisco, and Portland are NIMBYism in action. A lot of the housing crisis faced by different cities could be solved by moderate increases in height.

    L2: Considering events in the news, I do not think that racism is over-reported. A lot of White Americans may be less racist or at least less openly racist than in the days of Jim Crow but the abuses that various minorities suffer still show that there is a lot of racism in the United States against people of color.

    S2: Both articles are ridiculous and suffer from one of the greatest sins possible in literary and historical analysis, presentism. There is simply no evidence that Robinson committed rape in To Kill a Mockingbird besides the authors deep, fever swamp desire that it be the case because of contemporary politics on the subject. As to the New Yorker article, of course Atticus Finch would not be a modern liberal on racial issues. The point was that he did the right thing despite his background and his initial desire not to because of the ridiculousness of the charges against Robinson.

    S6: Ermmm is right.Report

  7. Saul Degraw says:

    H1: This might be an inherent tension in democracy about when we let majority rule equal bad policy. All groups suffer from this liberals, conservatives, and technocrats have hard times accepting being in the minority. Sometimes this is justified, sometimes not. Michael Drew might be right about most people preferring single family housing.

    H2: I think you are still projecting a bit too much. Honestly this is a pet peeve of mine. There always seem to be tons of stories about how this groups is about to peel from the Democratic Party. The typical example is Jews. The media always asks “Is this the year Jews are going to switch from Democratic to Republican?” The Democratic Party still manages to win an overwhelming majority of the Jewish vote. Why does the media like asking these questions if they are supposed to be so liberal? Why don’t I see speculation about is this the year group X are going to pull away from the GOP? Is there something that makes liberals fair-weather but right-wingers more rock-ribbed? The HUD decision what HUD was doing for decades. Disparate Impact lawsuits are not a new thing. They have been around for decades. The legality of gay marriage is not going to suddenly take away people from the Democratic Party. There are still plenty of other areas where people think the GOP is absolutely bonkers and way too conservative.

    H5: When I lived in Japan, I lived in a boarding house. These are often called Gaijin Houses but Japanese companies have their own version. They were basically liked glorified dorms. You had your own room and shared kitchen, living room, and bathrooms. This was fine at 22. I wouldn’t want to do it at 34. But I guess it is no different than people who still have roommates in their 30s.

    W1: I don’t know if I would call Barre, Vermont a city but it looks like a nice place for a vacation week.
    Anyway I got a job offer this week after three and a half years of freelancing 🙂 I will ask my questions about these towns. What is the Jewish population? Barre has a synagogue that is 7 miles away but others are more like 40 miles away (which might or might not take a while in an area like Vermont.) This is one of those things that I think relates to making it hard for the GOP to recruit. There doesn’t seem to be any awareness that minorities also like sticking around people who share their culture. If someone is white, heterosexual, and Christian to some extent, there are lots of places where they are part of the culture or are the culture/society. Change one thing and it becomes much harder. NYC is culturally Jewish. SF also has a long Jewish history. We invented America’s favorite pair of pants in SF!! They are also liberal enough to not press too hard on religious things. Barre, Vermont would probably also be okay in this regard. The other places on that list, possibly not so much. Family friend’s had a son who got a job in Kansas City for a bit. He found the location really isolating because of the sheer amounts of Christian religiousosity especially of the Evangelical variety.

    W4: I don’t disagree with you. I still think that the Federal floor should be maybe a few bucks above above sustenance in the lowest cost of living part of the U.S. for moral reasons. There seems to be a crabs in the bucket thing about pay. When Chipotle said that they were raising prices because of minimum wages, there was a lot of clucking from conservatives about how this will hurt liberals. Why is that people will get angry at price hikes for the lowest paid workers? You could also reduce executive pay so they are getting paid well but not astronomically so and reduce prices on food.

    L2: No.

    P3: Slatepitch!!Report

    • H2 – I’m not sure how I’m projecting here. I think the Democrats are morally in the right here. But people overwhelming, overwhelmingly disagree. Which has consequences, whatever one considers the merits of the policy. Capps (who is liberal, and is leftward on the issue) pointed to specific cases of Republicans winning in Democratic areas over the issue. And if you haven’t seen “Policy X could cost Party Y votes from Group Z” where the value of Y is Republican, you haven’t been paying attention.

      W4 – I honestly consider Chipotle a luxury good, so I’m not too worried about a minor price hike there. People who are really price-conscious or strapped aren’t eating at Chipotle.Report

    • I would recommend at least looking at L2. You and your brother are responding it to as a National Review piece on the race card, instead of a social science critique on studies about racism. (Which may indicate that I didn’t blurb it very well.)Report

    • dragonfrog in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      H5 – I think what’s described in the link is a pretty reasonable model, that gets around some of the dorm-living issues: They’re renting/selling full studio apartments, so everyone has their own bathroom and small kitchen – no one has to see you groggy and unkempt at breakfast, you don’t inconvenience anyone because you like really long baths.

      But if you want to have several people over for dinner or a games night, there’s a big kitchen and dining room and living room everyone can use without all perching on your bed.Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to dragonfrog says:


        I’ve seen a lot of new codo buildings add community rooms and the like for these activities. Not necessarily with a kitchen though and the space can be reserved.Report

  8. Chris says:

    W1: I would totally live in Thomaston. That’s a great part of Georgia, filled with pine, pecan, and peach trees. But man is it hot and humid, so if you ain’t ready for it…

    S4: I looked it up, and apparently there are still a handful of privately owned Blockbusters, despite the fact that Dish closed all the corporate stores a couple years ago. (Also, I’d never seen a Hollywood Video until I moved to Austin. The only competitors I’d seen until then were local stores.)

    S7: I am still laughing my ass off about this. “How was I supposed to know? They just looked like big bear-shaped dogs that eat chickens.”Report

  9. Richard Hershberger says:

    Off topic, but a serious question for The Powers That Be. I see that The League, Mindless Diversions, and Not a Potted Plant tabs on the drop-down menu now have clarifications that they are politics, culture, and law respectively. Where should I be putting my baseball posts? I have been using The League because, you know, baseball leagues: get it? I am finishing up a long post on English grammar. Where should that go? “Culture” taken broadly encompasses nearly everything we post on here, so Mindless Diversions is the obvious place. But as the section is currently used, it seems to be more entertainment, in the sense of music and movies and books. This seems like a useful section to have on its own. But this orphans a lot of what I write about. So is Mindless Diversions the “everything else” dump? If not, what is?Report

    • Sports posts traditionally go in MD as well. In fact, my initial position here was as an MD-only poster, invited largely to write about “non-scripted” (i.e. not pro wrestling) sports.Report

    • Mindiv provided that there is not a political or religious angle. Sports is included in Mindiv. Alternatively, if you consider them more academic in nature, Ordinary University. If you want to put them all in the same place as a series (both political and non) OU may be the most appropriate.Report

    • @richard-hershberger

      I’ve been pushing for a more logical re-division of categories and other movement toward re-organization – and I’m pleased to see that SOMEONE has noticed the minor changes I’ve made to the category menu (still under the “blogs” misnomer, alas). Please feel free to state your feelings about such more rational “departmentalization” at every opportunity and in every venue!

      There is no (reasonable) limit to the categories and sub-categories we could create, though there’s also no need to overdo it either, and we also have to deal with the inertia of how we done did things way back when and if it was good enough for ______, it’s good enough for me. You of all people should be quite familiar with that pattern!

      Logically, to me, your baseball posts belong in Culture/Sports/Baseball, and I’m going to create the necessary sub-category straightaway. While I’m at it, I’m uh-gunna do Football, and Basketball, and Hockey, but not soccer, because soccer is boring. All of these labels are fluid and can be changed.( If you wanted to create your own baseball history sub-blog also posting to the front page, called “Amos Rusie lives!” or some such, we could discuss that, too.)

      Also, note that there’s nothing preventing you from assigning multiple categories to the same post. Generally, it’s better practice to stick with the most specific category, granular category if there’s one for your topic, but, if you have a post about baseball and the law and the political ramifications, no one’s going to sue you, or risk hurting your feelings (we baseball history fans would riot on your behalf), if you happen to go category-happy now and then. Also, you can add tags, which can also help identify and organize posts, and not just for internal use.Report

      • nevermoor in reply to CK MacLeod says:

        You’re doing great work on the site. Did you ever play around with my javascript new-comment suggestion?Report

        • nevermoor in reply to nevermoor says:

          Also, I (at least) am getting strange behaviors where first page-load marks all comments unread (which is correct), second page-load STILL marks all comments unread (for example, my reply above reloaded into a page with everything unread; I expect this one will reload into a page with few, if any, comments unread).

          After that it works as expected.Report

          • nevermoor in reply to nevermoor says:

            (expectation confirmed)Report

          • CK MacLeod in reply to nevermoor says:

            It’s a difficult behavior to track, since we have several different conditions/codes intersecting (cookie, PHP and order of priority of function calls, JS, caching, browser rendering rules), with the results also affected by logged-in/out status. The cache system also tries to make a special allowance for “known users,” adding another element of potential complication. Keeping the whole system in mind is hard enough – fully understanding every element and sub-element of it may be beyond all but the most advanced developers, and testing every permutation, under alternative configurations, if possible, might be very time-consuming. And that’s all assuming we know what the user SHOULD expect and what we really want the user to experience, and how much we care whether every user experience is identical under (however-defined) similar conditions!

            Anyway, since we’re really just aiming for a bit of visual aid, not transparent live perfectly accurate updating documentation of all conditions, it doesn’t surprise me that expectations and experience would diverge in different ways, and from user to user and set-up to set-up. I don’t mean to dismiss your feedback at all. I welcome it and find it interesting and useful – just no guarantees about being able to address the issue anytime soon!Report

        • CK MacLeod in reply to nevermoor says:

          Thanks – other than to think about how I might go about it, I haven’t moved toward implementation of a “show new since last visit only” option. I’ll move it up the list of things to examine, but I’m a little leery of offering it at all, since I’m wary of encouraging de-contextualization. Highlighting new comments is one thing, but disappearing old ones (even if user-initiated and -controlled) is a little different.Report

          • nevermoor in reply to CK MacLeod says:

            Completely agree about disappearing old ones. I was referencing a key-press event to cycle through the unread comments (vs tabbing/scrolling though the full post).Report

      • Richard Hershberger in reply to CK MacLeod says:

        If I Were In Charge, the second thing I would do (after giving myself a raise) would probably be to eliminate the categories, or nearly so. Categories make sense when the volume of posts is high. Someone checking in once a day should be able to see the teasers for every new post without scrolling down too terribly far, and certainly without clicking to an “older posts” page. Anything up to, oh, let’s say half a dozen posts per day, and this isn’t even close to being a problem.

        Categories make sense in two situations: if the volume of posts is so high that you need to break up the firehose of posts streaming by, or if you have distinct groups of readers interested in specific topics: people interested, for example, in incisive legal commentary but not in yet more politics blather, or the other way around.

        We clearly don’t have such a volume of posts that this is an issue. I haven’t analyzed the comments to find if they fall into distinct groups. If so, then making the category labels more transparent is clearly a Good Idea. This still raises the problem of coherent categories.

        As it is now, someone checking in once a day has to click through several links to find every new post. It is not at all obvious to me where is the value added in this.

        The one category that does make sense to me is Off the Cuff. It seems to me a useful distinction between short toss-off posts and longer pieces.

        OK, worrying about this stuff would actually be the third thing I would do, Were I In Charge. The second thing, after giving myself a raise, would to be work on the Groupies problem. Where are they?Report

        • The categories, as they now exist, are an offshoot of the subblogs that used to exist. It was sort of a ‘soft landing’ for the subblogs, but it was a middle ground that never made a whole lot of sense. Which is why the catablog arrangement is likely not going to last that much longer, and the subblogs are likely coming back.Report

          • Richard Hershberger in reply to Will Truman says:

            How do/did the subblogs work? If each contributor had a separate subblog, that runs into a different problem. The advantage of a group blog is that there isn’t the pressure to constantly post, to keep giving readers new material. Separate everyone into subblogs and you no longer have a group blog. You have multiple blogs hosted on a single site. Patheos is like this. The idea seems to be that this single site contains a wide range of viewpoints interacting with one another. In practice you have a bunch of separate blogs with similar URLs. They interact with one another no more and no less than do any other separate blogs.

            The solution is to also have a comprehensive front page where all posts appear, in addition to the separate pages.

            (But what does this have to do with groupies?)Report

            • The sub-blogs as they existed in the past were an interesting, in my view prematurely aborted, not very well-developed organic expansion of the main “League” site. “Sub-bloggers” could cross-post to the front page or they could follow their blogging bliss. Some prized their access to the front page. Others made more of a point of cultivating their own gardens.

              There are numerous technical, practical, and conceptual considerations involved (and problems to be solved), and what works best for one type of writer or audience may not work best for another.

              If (IF!) the objective is to expand readership and scope, and create a virtuous circle in which more writers want to write more for a site that more readers and users want to visit (and others more often link, discuss, are aware of, etc.) (eventually creating a monetizable product… and therefore more likely groupies), then facilitating access in different ways for different kinds of users – narrowly subject-oriented, author-oriented, issue-oriented, general-interest, site-community-oriented, etc. – becomes more important.

              You might envision and aim for a site, or system of sites, that far exceeded the ability of any one person ever to take in as a whole, with various methods for creating a unified or relatively representative product for… people who are into that kind of thing.

              In the meantime, proceeding stepwise and organically and bringing people along as much as possible, the introduction of logical categories is also a way to make contributions more “permanent.” I’d invite you, for instance, to go to POSTS in the dashboard, find all of the ones you have authored (there are different ways to do this depending on user level), hover over each one, click Quick Edit, and check the Mindless Diversions/Sports/Baseball box for every post on baseball. You might want to grab the earlier one from when you were just a lowly Guest Author, too.

              That would produce immediately an archive of Baseball posts that anyone who just caught on this week to what you’ve been doing could use to view the older ones. It means that when someone – you or a fan or a groupie – wants to share what this guy Hershberger has been doing can go to an archive page – Baseball! – and read them all together – along with Schilling’s if Schilling adds his old Baseball posts. Someday, we could introduce a feature that collected them all together in downloadable e-pub or printable format, and, voila!, you’d have written a book on baseball history. We could charge money or ask for donations or you could deliver it out of the kindness of your heart with the aim eventually of being hired by a “big” site and getting groupies.

              If you and friends wanted to devote yourselves to a Baseball blog or toward running/editing/building a Baseball category, there wouldn’t necessarily be a huge outward difference, or need only be as much difference as you felt like creating. Alternatively, you can just click on your name, and bring up your author archive. Likewise, the outward difference between Richard Hershberger’s author archive and Richard Hershberger’s (sub-)blog would be as small or as great as you felt a need or desire to make it. You could persuade the editors or me to reward your efforts with a prominent position in sidebars and menus… and so on, and so on…

              Similar considerations go for anyone else. It really depends on what kind of platform you want to have – and help to build. A third option would be to build your own fully independent site, and set up more convenient interaction/sharing with OT. But these would really just be areas of greater and lesser focus. The archives exist by virtue of your being an author and by virtue of their being topics. That you had a sub-blog or indie blog or both wouldn’t eliminate the archives. The question is what arrangement best suits your interests and resources as you assess them, and as they and your assessment may change over time.Report

      • El Muneco in reply to CK MacLeod says:

        I’m of three minds: one says that “football” is perfectly fine as a category since we can put NFL, CFL, college, association, rugby, gaelic, and Australian all under the same rubric; one says “why hockey and not soccer, when they’re both equally boring and equally popular”, and one says “where’s NASCAR, you elitist pig?”Report

        • CK MacLeod in reply to El Muneco says:

          Here’s the thing:

          Now, there’s an argument for soccer, except for the fact that it’s terrible, and is popular worldwide only because it’s a sport you don’t need to be able to count higher than six or so to follow, and only need a ball or facsimile and feet or facsimile to play. Maybe there are other reasons, I don’t know or care, I just know that it’s boring. I would have said something similar about hockey a few years ago. I used to say it was like watching the colored load go round and round in a washing machine window. But then I started bandwagoning on the Kings, and noticed that in a close and important game between excellent teams it produced extended, uninterrupted sessions of mass mesmerizing orgiastic and desperate, physically violent struggle unlike anything in any other sport I know of. Maybe rugby gets like that or could get like that, I dunno. Soccer is a little like that at its best, I guess, but the violence seems more for the hooligans than for the players.Report

          • El Muneco in reply to CK MacLeod says:

            I kid to some extent, since we’ve all seen the same arguments repeated endlessly with nothing new entered into the equation. I freely admit that my preference for association football over hockey is a matter of personal preference, and one can get their fix in the traditional NA sports – hockey has just as low scoring and more violence, the NBA has just as much faking of fouls, and the NFL has almost as corrupt a ruling body.

            That said, I personally regard all the footballing traditions as equally valuable. Gridiron rewards planning, short-burst athleticism, power, and precision. Association football rewards improvisation, endurance, finesse, and in MLS and the English lower divisions, head-butting. Rugby and Australian Rules are different but interesting mixes of the two extremes.

            Just kind of a pet peeve that a lot of people say “I like sport X with features A and B and also sport Y with features C and D” when soccer is A+B+C+D. Note that this is no way influenced by the fact that I ran about 7 miles this morning playing the damn game and have been light-headed ever since…Report

            • CK MacLeod in reply to El Muneco says:

              I’m just kidding, too. If people want soccer, they can have soccer. It doesn’t make any difference what categories we create, though, if people don’t write pieces that fit in them. People have hardly ever written about NASCAR at this site. Soccer has had some streaks of posting activity, but I haven’t seen much sustained and common interest. OTOH, we’ve had a bunch of good, unique baseball pieces lately, football seems a perennial plus had its own League fantasy group, and there have been some extended basketball arguments: So, I’m mostly just going on what I’ve seen… plus the Kings might have an awesome next season after taking the playoffs off this time, and I enjoyed their last Stanley Cup run as much as I’ve enjoyed any televised sports thing ever.Report

              • Chris in reply to CK MacLeod says:

                There are several big soccer fans here, including some contributors. You’ll probably see it more from us on Twitter, though.Report

              • El Muneco in reply to CK MacLeod says:

                Baseball is probably going to get the most interesting stuff long-term. There’s twice as much history as pro gridiron, analytics are both more possible and more interesting, although places like Football Outsiders are doing their part to change that. And I think I remember one of the regular baseball posters from Usenet back in the day, so there’s some pedigree there.

                I posted a bit on soccer back in World Cup time, but as you say, there’s not much sustained interest nationally. It’s definitely behind the “big three” – and failing to win the damn Gold Cup isn’t helping to move forward, although the women’s team is taking steps to get back to the circa 2000 heights of the program.

                I think a big part of how I see things is because I’m in the Sounders catchment, and despite an NFL team that was one play away from three straight NFC Championship appearances and one yard away from back-to-back Lombardis, it seems that there is a real struggle for which team really owns our heart.

                I don’t really dislike hockey – it’s just not my thing, and it’s not anti-Canada animus since I have had a secret liking for curling since the days of Al Hackner. I even don’t dismiss NASCAR out of hand like a lot of snobs do – it’s just a totally different challenge than F1 is despite the fact that it’s all done behind a wheel.Report

  10. Vikram Bath says:

    [H1] This one sticks with me a bit. Obviously it seems the guy really does think that getting rid of single-family zoning is the right thing to do, but recognizes that there isn’t public support for it. So, yay democracy?

    We have similar issues in my ridiculously picturesque town with insufficient housing. We have a local mailing list where my neighbors fret about rumors that houses will be converted into duplexes. Occasionally some idea for building more housing comes up, but it inevitably gets shot down for some nice progressive-sounding reasons but could just as easily be explained by the idea that existing homeowners control a scarce resource and oppose anything that would make that resource less scarce.Report

    • North in reply to Vikram Bath says:

      The brutal tragedy of NIMBYism is how extremely understandable it is that NIMBY’s think the way they do. You buy a car, you don’t want to wake up one morning and find out it turned into a bus. When that sentiment is applied to housing it produces NIMBY’s and since NIMBY’s are, almost by definition, highly involved, informed and motivated while the people they hurt are less informed and motivated while also having less direct power in that housing area the NIMBY’s have an inherent advantage and often win out.Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to North says:

        @north @vikram-bath

        I agree but the issue might be more complicated. Michael Cain likes to point out that people really like the suburban ideal of detached housing and private transportation. In a recent mini back and forth, he pointed to evidence that about half the world’s population might prefer this.

        You can see why. It represents prosperity and privacy. People like my grandparents were attracted to the suburbs because they remembered growing up poor as the children of immigrants (my grandmother spent some time in the Hebrew Orphan’s Asylum before being taken in as a foster child by a more wealthy and established German-Jewish family). Irving Kristol mentions this in Arguing the World about how he went from sleeping in the dining room and commuting to college to having a proper sized apartment and house after WWII. He said owning a car was beyond his wildest dreams during the 1930s. One of the things that made him become conservative was rage about how Irving Howe lived a middle-class life while still declaring himself a democratic socialist. Kristol said something like “We lived in the same building. Who is the bigger hypocrite?”

        A friend of mine in college grew up in NYC. His family lived in a two bedroom apartment and the parents set up a small wall to turn the second bedroom into two for him and his sister. This is not how most people want to live with two children.

        So there seems to be a small minority that prefers multi-family units or town homes and public transportation and might have very good policy reasons for supporting this like environmentalism but can’t figure out how to sell it to the majority. Matt Y recently posted about how good school districts tend to be in rich suburbs and the solution to getting more modest Americans into good school districts is building multi-family residences like apartments and townhouses.

        I think he gets it a bit wrong though. The answer seems to be that people really don’t like living in apartments once they get to be a certain age and they want a house of their own. They are also willing to commute long distances to get a house of their own or switch jobs to make this so. People like me who would rather live in an apartment near a lot of art and culture over a house near nothing but a multiplex seem to be the exception, not the rule. When I worked in downtown SF, a lot of people would come in from Sonoma and Napa or Fairfield. They disliked the commute but they liked having their own house and garden. I don’t think that upzoning would attract them back to the city. They wanted the suburban ideal and were willing to move far enough to get it.Report

        • Where it becomes a problem for me is when people who want to live in houses do not want to live around people who would live in apartments and regulate accordingly. These are categorically different things,in my view.Report

          • Will Truman: when people who want to live in houses do not want to live around people who would live in apartments

            Right. The issue in my city isn’t “hey, I don’t want to live in a duplex!” No one is going to force them to convert their own house into a duplex if they don’t want to. What they are worried about and want to stop is their neighbors converting their houses into duplexes.Report

        • North in reply to Saul Degraw says:

          There are a lot of angles to that Saul. If ya talk about traditional apartments then yes a lot of people would quickly prefer a suburb to that. But if you talk about merely dense housing like townhouses or the like I suspect you’d divert a nontrivial percentage of people into city living*. Also we’re facing a huge aging cohort who will not be needing suburban housing. Dense but palatable urban housing could be an appealing place for elderly childless people to live.

          Separate from this point is a parallel point: do should urban dense regions be allowed to grow? The vehement opposition in this case you’re seeing is from people who are literally having their cake and eating it to in that they have single family homes close in to the city and they’re fighting to prevent the city from naturally expanding to encompass those neighborhoods. To be blunt my sympathy for them is nil.

          *Schools being the wow factor but school policy is so deep and messy that there’s no point discussing it in this subject.Report

          • Saul Degraw in reply to North says:


            Townhouses are interesting. I like them aesthetically. The thing that is getting to me about apartments is not so much the size or layout but the noise factor. I don’t like hearing the people above me vacuum and clomp around on heels. I also don’t like hearing the person in the apartment next door blast music loudly or in the case of when I lived in Brooklyn, get into large arguments.

            Do townhouses stop this problem? I guess they could with good soundproofing but I have not had an apartment with good soundproofing yet. And I don’t want to go around with headphones in all the time.

            I don’t know if you are right about townhomes being more attractive or not. I like the Brooklyn Brownstone thing myself but a big part of the Brooklyn Brownstone thing is being in an area like Brooklyn with history and walkable to places like BAM or a quick subway ride to Film Forum or Lincoln Center because I am an art addict. So my housing preferences are (assuming I eventually have a family):

            1. Brooklyn brownstone type of thing.

            2. Detached house in a inner-ring suburb.

            3. Good sized apartment in a city with layout for families.

            4. Townhome in an inner-ring suburb

            5. Detached house in an exurb

            If I remain childless and/or unmarried, my preferences would probably be for a Brownstone type of thing or a bigger apartment in a city and all the suburban stuff goes away.Report

            • North in reply to Saul Degraw says:

              I like in a newer midrise condo. Opening and shutting the windows turns the outside street noise on/off like a stereo. I never hear my neighbors above or to the sides. So noise is far from an intractable barrier; people build houses by fishing airports for heavens sake.Report

              • Saul Degraw in reply to North says:


                I keep my windows shut most of the time in SF and during NYC winters. I still heard my neighbors scream or blast music*. Could have been old walls.

                *Officially I can make a noise complaint after certain hours but the politics of this in urban areas is fraught.Report

              • Improved materials and best-practice techniques reduce the amount of sound transferred between units enormously in new construction these days. An acquaintance in the business tells me that double-studding, resilient channels, moderate insulation and now-standard construction techniques should completely block loud shouting between units. That comes at some cost, of course.Report

              • North in reply to Saul Degraw says:

                Well yes Saul but that’s SF and NYC where the regulatory incentives are pointed profoundly away from building anything new, let alone anything new and soundproof, unless you can be absolutely sure that you’ll sell it to a rich person and never think about it again.Report

        • @saul-degraw
          I believe that you and I differ more on degree/pace/other details than on fundamentals. I’ve never said that the suburbs can continue unchanged. I’ve also said that you can’t turn over umpteen trillions of dollars worth of suburban housing in less than several decades. The real questions are finding a feasible “path” from where we are to where we want to be (and I claim that the end state is somewhat indeterminate due to changes including technology).

          For example, I assert that every metro area over about a million people had better be building, or seriously planning, their light-rail system and circulators in their major job centers (or equivalent systems if the climate is suitable). Such systems have the potential to quickly wipe out a lot of relatively-long single-passenger auto trips at the worst hours of the day. They provide motivation for higher density redevelopment. With some forethought, they provide access to suburban jobs to residents of urban areas that are job-poor. And they can be sold to a lot of people in the suburbs as an improvement over driving downtown five days each week (I think Burt has pretty much convinced himself of that).

          That said, I also claim that the path forward that light-rail is part of requires a thriving downtown, but there are significant parts of the country where that no longer exists. It works better in metro areas that are higher in overall density, and I point out that all of the metro areas west of the Great Plains with a million or more people are in the top 40 in the country by population-weighted density (ignoring size, 23 of the top 40 metro areas by population-weighted density are west of the Great Plains). Both of those are among the reasons I wear the particular lunatic-fringe hat that I do. I’ve admitted before that my outlook is parochial — I’m perfectly happy with solutions that only work for the part of the country west of the Great Plains :^)Report

          • Morat20 in reply to Michael Cain says:

            Houston’s been working on light rail for awhile. We’re about a decade behind because one House Representative with outsized power HATED the thought of Houston having mass transit. I think mass transit might have mugged Tom Delay’s mom or something.

            Anyways, we’ve got the usual NIMBY issues (“We want light rail. Just not down our street, okay?”) but the biggest problem has been…..light rail systems are only really useful once complete.

            So it’s lightly utilized as it’s being built, which generates a lot of “Why are we wasting so much money no one uses it” noise.

            Right now, Houston’s connecting up downtown — the major job centers — with light rail. So Medical Center to Downtown proper to the Theater distrct, etc. The plan after that is to run lines out to the suburbs and ring cities (basically down the major highways) and replace the park-and-ride bus system.

            People have, obviously, complained that it’s useless if they have to take busses (which deal with rush hour just like cars) downtown just to catch the train, and why can’t they have run the lines to the suburbs first! (Then of course they’d complain that they’d end up 10 miles from the destination and have to a bus from there….)Report

            • LWA in reply to Morat20 says:

              That sounds great.

              Could someone arrange for the project to have one of those big billboards that says “This Project Funded By United Nations Agenda 21, President Barak Hussein Obama, and Planned Parenthood- Thanks To You, It’s Working!”Report

            • Michael Cain in reply to Morat20 says:

              Yeah, Denver and Salt Lake City have the advantage that they’re quite a lot more compact than Houston. SLC got a bunch of money from the Olympics; Denver got a major route as part of the I-25 expansion a decade ago. Next year is a huge jump for the Denver system: another line through the western suburbs, a big eastern loop through Aurora that also gets you to the expanding medical campus, and a line to the airport. I’m looking forward to it; the new western line has two stations within two miles of my house. I may buy a monthly pass when it opens and go somewhere every couple of days just because I can.Report

              • Morat20 in reply to Michael Cain says:

                Houston’s got at least three major “centers” inside the loop. Probably closer to five or eight once you add in all the major business parks.

                But at the very least you have to connect the various stadiums, downtown proper, the theater district, the medical district, the courts…

                Houston proper is just too sprawled to be walkable, especially when the weather is truly awful half the year.

                Although the Park and Ride system (busses) is pretty heavily utilized. Two of my friends work downtown and use it daily, and they’re looking forward to rail that doesn’t have to navigate traffic. That’s five to ten years off though….

                Houston’s just so far flung. I mean you’re talking rail lines that have to go thirty to forty miles out in every direction just to encompass the closest major areas. (Woodlands, Clear Lake, Katy, etc…)Report

            • LeeEsq in reply to Morat20 says:

              One neat thing that China is doing, and no place outside of China can replicate this for a variety of reasons, is that the Chinese cities that are building their entire mass transit systems at once rather than line by line. You need a lot of people power and an authoritarian government to pull this off though.Report

          • North in reply to Michael Cain says:

            Minneapolis has a light rail and I swear by it. From downtown the the basement of the airport in like 20 minutes any time of the day. 30 minutes to the Mall of America too if one ever is inclined to go there. Both the stadiums are on it and now they’re expanding it to Saint Paul (though why anyone would go to that dump is beyond me). It’s a beautiful line and worth every penny. Not to mention it’s integrated with the bus system so you can use your train ticket as a bus transfer too.Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to Vikram Bath says:

      This is what Saul said above. Sometimes democracy means that bad policy is going to win because it is supported by the majority. Most housing policy in the United States is bad. In the more conservative states, you have a lot of housing but the downside is that you get sprawl and all the related transportation and environmental problems that come with it. Liberal areas have less sprawl and more public transportation but high costs of housing because blue state NIMBYs not only try to prevent building new sprawling suburbs, they work against densification of urban areas. Even if you up zone blue state cities slightly to allow more multiple family housing or slightly higher building heights, like three to five stories rather than one or two, your going to do a lot to help[ the housing shortage.Report

      • North in reply to LeeEsq says:

        The real problem for liberals being that if they prevent increased density AND they prevent sprawl then there’s no where for additional* population to live**. At least conservatives don’t have that problem.

        *Additional poor population that is, the rich can move in regardless.
        **And that sends liberals spiraling off into rent control schemes and similar such nonsense.Report

    • North in reply to Jaybird says:

      That is awesome… I find it interesting that Obama’s appointee to head the DEA was such an abrasive bugger to congress and the Senate and basically undermined the DEA’s reputation on the hill with her antics. I find that very interesting. That said I don’t find it interesting enough to invoke any kind of fifth dimensional chess assertion. I would add that Obama doesn’t appear to be rushing reinforcements to the DEA either and that ain’t nothing.Report

      • Glyph in reply to North says:

        Well, and you have your new DEA head admitting that marijuana is “probably not” as dangerous as heroin.

        (Of course, he follows this baby step with “I’m not an expert.”

        Uh……you DO know what the ‘D’ stands for, right?)Report

        • Chris in reply to Glyph says:

          Will heroin make you want to eat one of these?! I think not! Therefore marijuana is at least as bad.Report

        • Will Truman in reply to Glyph says:

          That’s further than the leaders of the FDA and CDC seem willing to go with regard to ecigarettes…Report

          • Chris in reply to Will Truman says:

            I was in a bar on a large, packed bar (it’s really big, and there were no seats anywhere) and it was almost impossible to walk through the standing folks, so it was really crowded) on a Friday night a few weeks ago in a, er, let’s say trendy part of town, and I’d estimate that about 1/3 of the people in there had e-cigs of some sort. Mostly the really large, elaborate vaping systems.

            I mention this because that’s a whole hell of a lot of people, and given the percentage of people in the primary demographics there who are smokers, it’s likely that a large percentage of those folks weren’t smokers before they started vaping. I can sort of understand the FDA’s reluctance to say anything good about them as it looks like more and more non-smokers are picking them up, on the off chance it does turn out that they’re bad for you and anything positive they say about them results in a whole bunch of non-smokers picking up the vaping habit.

            That’s not to say that I don’t wish they would just come out and say, “This is so obviously not as bad as inhaling all that shit in commercial cigarettes, not to mention the fact that inhaling burning material is never all that good for you,” but I do understand their reluctance.Report

            • Glyph in reply to Chris says:

              You should factor in the fact that some of those vaporizers were almost certainly being used for cannabis products. The more people use nicotine vapes in public, the more cover there is for potvapers.

              Which, come to think, may ALSO help explain govt. reluctance to embrace e-cigs.Report

            • Will Truman in reply to Chris says:

              Almost every study evaluation I’ve seen of the average (continuous/non-experimental) ecigarette consumer has shown an overwhelming percentage of vapers are smokers and former smokers. The only exception is one that defined things in such a way that I myself qualified as a non-smoker vaper.Report

              • What do you think of the argument that the cute cand-yish flavors are there to appeal to kids?Report

              • @mike-schilling I understand the concern, but I believe it’s misguided. That’s the short version. The long version is below, and let me know if I’ve said anything confusing.

                Though it’s being framed otherwise, it’s not the tobacco companies or big producers that are doing the candy flavors. The various non-tobacco flavors available from the tobacco companies tend to have consciously grown-up names (Pina Colada instead of Pineapple, for example) or at least neutral ones (Cherry, Vanilla, etc). They also notably do not make them available in the disposables, which are for the experimenters. I’m not sure why this is the case – I figure either they want to avoid scruntiny, or for reasons outlined in the penultimate reason below – but it sure seems to be.

                It’s more the open systems (which are not really for beginners anyway) where this sort of thing is more common, and where you see a lot of the “let’s try this flavor” experimentation more generally. I went into a shop a few months ago and they were offering mustard-flavored ejuice. Mustard! But what the hell, you have to differentiate yourselves from the big boys.

                By way of comparison, I tend to get ejuice from three different providers. Halo, which is the biggest one, offers very little in the way of non-tobacco flavoring. Flavorz is a big one I’ve heard of and never tried, and few candy flavors (though more in the way of fruit). On the other hand, the small vendor I use the most frequently? Has a whole candy section.

                I think they’re mostly just trying to find stuff to sell. And I think a lot of the stuff that seems to appeal to children will appeal to grown-ups, too. I mean, I’d like to try atomic fireball sometime even though I am not as big into non-tobacco flavoring.

                But even setting all of that aside, I think this is a bad concern tactically as well. Which is to say that I do not want Lain picking up ecigarettes. But if she does, I want them to taste as different from cigarettes as possible. Though there is scant evidence of a gateway effect, but to whatever degree I am concerned, I want as wide a chasm as possible.

                Personally, it honestly doesn’t make that much difference to me. I sometimes lace my ejuice with some sort of flavoring (fruit, cocktail, coffee, chocolate, honey) but I can take or leave it. If it were banned tomorrow, I’d simply get a wider variety of tobacco flavors from more sources to satisfy by desire to break monotony.Report

              • It’s more the open systems (which are not really for beginners anyway)

                Just like Linux.Report

              • @mike-schilling You joke, but that’s not far from the truth. The open systems require significantly more work, are a much bigger PITA, but are much more gratifying.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                When I smoked, I smoked the fruity/sweet cigarettes that just tasted good. My friends who smoked Camels and Marlboros made fun of the “girly” cigarettes I smoked.

                They weren’t mocked for being “kiddie” cigarettes, mind.

                As such, I’m guessing that the cute cand-yish flavors are targeting IT people.Report

        • dragonfrog in reply to Glyph says:

          “I’m not an expert, nor has it occurred to me to consult with any of the experts I assume are working somewhere in the DEA, on the thing that is the very heart of the DEA’s mission.”Report

    • Michael Cain in reply to Jaybird says:

      Initiatives for legalization have gotten as far as signature collection in 13 states (12 for the 2016 ballot, Ohio for 2015). Five or six seem likely to make the ballot, two or three to pass. Ohio is interesting. The legislature is afraid enough of the initiative that they have already referred a constitutional amendment for the 2015 ballot that includes language to overrule the initiative if both pass, and any future marijuana initiatives if only the referred amendment passes. Arizona’s initiative is statutory. A conservative legislator there is campaigning for the state legislature to legalize immediately so that they can retain some control of the process — the legislature can’t change initiated statutes in Arizona until five years have passed.Report

      • If I were part of Gov. Christie’s strategic team, and given his stump speech over the last month, I’d be real tempted to tell him, “It’s one thing to stand athwart history and yell ‘Stop!’ It’s another to set yourself up to be steamrollered by popular opinion.”Report

        • North in reply to Michael Cain says:

          It is astonishing. Either the man was simply puffed up prior to bridgegate or after that scandal he flat out lost his fishing mind.Report

          • Kolohe in reply to North says:

            The type of people that voted for Christie are older white people that think their property taxes are too high and the drug war is still worth fighting. So he’s just dancing with those that brought him. legalization is still just a 50/50 proposition nationwide, and the secular trend of increasing support appears to have plateaued somewhat. (I’m sure if and when legal mj becomes settled law, the desire to make it illegal with match up with alcohol and tobacco prohibition).Report

            • Michael Cain in reply to Kolohe says:

              To some extent, he’s also speaking to particular regions no matter where he happens to be standing. Here’s my population cartogram showing states with medical marijuana or more (Alaska and Hawaii as well, but my cartogram software doesn’t do those). “Medical marijuana” meaning you can smoke/ingest the real stuff, as opposed to states that have said they won’t prosecute you for possession of low-THC high-CBD oil (although in some of those states there’s still no legal way to actually procure such oil).Report

          • Saul Degraw in reply to North says:


            I think Kolohe is right here. Christy is a former Federal Prosecutor and just sticking to his roots. For better or for worse, he believes in the Drug War.Report

          • North in reply to North says:

            That’s a good point Kolohe and that makes a lot of sense.Report

    • Vikram Bath in reply to Jaybird says:

      Did someone say weed?
      “D.A.R.E. Published an Op-ed Calling for Marijuana Legalization”Report

  11. LWA says:

    The post by the Anti-Planner is pretty revealing.
    In it, he writes with the dry, abstracted language of political writers everywhere, positioning his views as neutral advocacy for generic freedom as opposed to central planning, behind the Rawlsian veil of ignorance of the outcome.

    Then a commenter goes and mucks it up. A few comments in, one writes in agreement, then lobs his own observations of teaching in a minority neighborhood where of course all the young black men are thugs and the young black women are whores. Of course.

    It is completely unfair to accuse the Anti-planner of holding these views- but what this illustrates is how easily the dry abstract neutral sounding arguments we use in politics are really just frameworks intended to hide our preferred outcomes. For the commenter, the abolition of central planning would, in his mind, lead to his preferred outcome of racial segregation.

    All zoning laws are by definition some variety of social engineering. Even the most neutral “We want the city to be a nice place to live” is a way of imposing a preferred outcome upon the complex order which would result otherwise.

    The issue is which outcome is the preferred one. What do we want our housing policy to be? Do we value freedom mostly, even if it results in segregation? Do we value integration?

    Liberals do need to confront the fact that the integrated city of our dreams will also need to accommodate things nobody likes- individuals who fail, families that are dysfunctional, people who are rude, uncouth, loud, obnoxious and generally undesirable. Its easy to gloss over this fact, and when we speak so loftily of “freedom”, is that just a codeword for “God I wish I had the freedom to move away from those trashy people next door”?

    The Citylab article reflects this, commenting on the theory that once white liberals are forced to live side by side with black people, they will rush to the arms of the Republicans.

    An aside-
    Am I the only one who finds it astounding that this theory, propounded by Stanley Kurtz at National Review (among many others), is espoused by Republicans themselves? That is, they are proud of the fact that their hostility to black people is the shining beacon that welcomes back home disenchanted white people?
    This isn’t a smear by radical leftists… No, confidence in the self-evident impossibility of racial integration is a theory advanced by Republicans themselves, proudly.Report

  12. Don Zeko says:

    North: W1: I imagine poor Saul’s face melting off as he gazes on that list like the Nazi’s staring into the Ark of the Covenant.

    I’ve got extended family living in Shelby, NC, and yeah. I, a non-jewish white dude from the south who has lived in small-to-medium cities and suburbs his whole life and finds the idea of living in NYC intolerable, would very much not want to live in Shelby.Report

    • North in reply to Don Zeko says:

      Well we all have places we couldn’t live. I can’t live in the south. I would die from the heat. Just die.Report

      • Richard Hershberger in reply to North says:

        It’s not the heat. It is the humidity. Seriously. It’s a cliché for a reason. I spent much of my youth in the Mojave Desert. The rule of thumb was that you couldn’t complain about the heat without being mocked unless it was over 110 degrees. The thing is, it’s not actually all that difficult to accommodate to high temperatures when the humidity is low. Hardly anyone had air conditioning. We used evaporative coolers (a/k/a “swamp coolers”). They are cheap to operate and work just fine when it is dry. Even in the height of summer the temperatures came down to comfortable shirt sleeve levels at night. Sure, this was around 11:00 p.m., but when you are a teenager on summer vacation, what the hell. For the older set, you get up early. You have about one glorious hour after sunrise to do outdoor work. By “glorious” I mean 70 degrees and low humidity: the sort of weather that makes weathermen in the northeast break out in song. I’m not saying that I would want an outdoor job there, but for indoor work it really wasn’t that big a deal. When I compare this with the mid-Atlantic’s generic summertime weather forecast of “hot hazy and humid” I would happily take that low-humidity 110 degrees over a 90 degree steam bath.Report

  13. dragonfrog says:

    [H6] I’m not sure if it’s better or worse with new construction vs. flips.

    Across the alley from us, a house is being built that will almost certainly have all kinds of things wrong with it. After demolishing the old house, the builder showed up, poured a garage pad where the sides of the form weren’t properly secured, so the pad is all wonky, dropped off about four lifts of assorted lumber, then disappeared for two months (it turns out he was tied up in a lawsuit because of deficiencies in another house he built, including its being several inches out of square).

    They showed up again a week ago and built a garage out of the lumber that had been sitting around exposed to the elements for two months – some of it quite buckled, some of it starting to mold. The garage is similarly out of square – one wall is a good inch off its chalk line, and hangs two inches out over the edge of the pad. I’m pretty sure the walls aren’t properly secured to the slab at the moment, though they could still do that before the job is done.

    The lead guy on the construction was openly talking to me about how he likes building rental properties, because he can do slapdash work, and still make his sale – apparently prospective landlords aren’t as fussy, and maybe don’t have an expectation that the house will last beyond their own financial timelines.Report

    • Morat20 in reply to dragonfrog says:

      *makes throttling motions*

      I’m currently waiting on a –very late — AC guy to come explain to my why I have mold growing on my new registers. (Well, humidity obviously. But WHY. I’m getting wet, unconditioned air in before the coils judging by the fact that it’s a 100 degrees outside and my house is cooling fine, just way too wet. If it was after the coils, it wouldn’t cool very well AND I’d have water condensing on my walls).

      I suspect it’s the air return, the parts of which I can inspect seem to have been…not done in a very thorough fashion.Report

      • North in reply to Morat20 says:

        Oh the horror!Report

        • Morat20 in reply to North says:

          Shoddy workmanship offends me. I mean, don’t get me wrong — I can barely hammer a nail straight. I can’t DO quality construction work. I don’t pretend I can. But if you’re gonna do a job, do it right. (Although there is “getting what you pay for” when going with the cheap options).

          I mean, I get being a bit lazy and not doing it as fast as you can, but for god’s sake — some of the stuff I’ve seen come out of homes. (My favorite remains the electrician who ‘moved’ a wall socket by yanking the old one inside the wall, plugging an extension cord in, running that to the new socket, and splicing it in. And then sealing up the wall. WTF?)Report

          • Richard Hershberger in reply to Morat20 says:

            (Although there is “getting what you pay for” when going with the cheap options).

            I often hear the “what did you expect for the price?” argument. I see two problems with it. The first is that it presumes that I, the consumer, am in a position to assess the contractor’s expenses. It’s not as if he opens his books to me so I can analyze whether or not he can do good work and still make a profit. The second is that it implicitly says that I should be using price as a proxy to assess quality. One does not need to study game theory to see the problem with this.Report

            • Morat20 in reply to Richard Hershberger says:

              I have the same issue with pricing doctors, actually. 🙂

              As for houses, I am rather grateful for code inspections for exactly that reason. I can’t assess a crap job or a good job when they re-piped my house. But the city guy that came out to do the inspection? HE can. And did.

              So a lot of the big stuff — electrical, water, and gas and I think roofs and foundations — the city makes sure that it was done properly. (Unless you go with a guy who doesn’t think he should inform the city of the work, which seems like a bad way to save 100 bucks in my mind).

              Some people complain about city building codes and inspections. *shrug*. Maybe they’re too tight in some places, too light in others. But I don’t mind the idea at all. The city — and I, I admit — have a vested interest in my house not burning down or collapsing on me. And clamping down on shoddy building practices makes the city a nicer place to live.

              (I suppose that, living in Texas, it’s unlikely our city building codes are too onerous. I do know my water guys mentioned that the city required a specific method when handling pex piping — one they used because it was superior and far, far, far less likely to develop leaks, but noted some companies in other cities didn’t because it required an expensive piece of hardware to do. Those guys have a solid reputation around town, so I’d suspect they’d have done it that way anyways. But other companies might not.)Report

    • Richard Hershberger in reply to dragonfrog says:

      I’m not sure if it’s better or worse with new construction vs. flips

      I totally do not trust new construction. When I was house shopping, I wanted something at least ten years old, on the principle that any grossly shoddy workmanship would have long since become obvious.Report

      • Kolohe in reply to Richard Hershberger says:

        I think right now (and for the next two-three years), 10 year old housing is the most risky, as it was built in the height of the building boom when corners would have been cut (but not square and level). I do trust stuff *started* around 2009-2010 because by then everyone was clamoring for work and would be on their best behavior. (stuff that was *finished* around 2009-2010 may be the worst of all, due to long fallow periods as financing fell through for everything in the second half of 2008)Report

        • Richard Hershberger in reply to Kolohe says:

          This was some years ago, so the timing was different. I ended up buying a townhouse of mid-70s construction. That is old enough to have some issues with age, but the basic construction is sound enough.Report

      • dragonfrog in reply to Richard Hershberger says:

        We took a similar approach – I think we specified nothing newer than 1980 (there was a big construction boom of poorly build houses in the 80s here, and we didn’t care for the aesthetics of a lot of what was built in the 90s). Between that and wanting somewhere reasonably central, I think we somewhat confused our realtor, who specialized in new construction in neighbourhoods where everything went up at once.Report

    • Saul Degraw in reply to dragonfrog says:


      I have friends who bought completely new places. I have friends who bought older houses that were previously owned. The answer seems to be six of one or half a dozen of the other. Both have faults. I generally like older houses because of the history and aesthetics.Report

      • Morat20 in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        I’ve got an older house (mid-60s). Some expensive stuff tends to go around 30 or 40 years. Pipes have to be replaced. The electrical system needs upgrading (I’d like more of the house having grounded sockets and those sockets that’ll cut the power on surges, the name for which escapes me). I’ve had to redo the insulation in the roof, but the walls badly need it.

        The windows need to be redone. Sealant gets old, stiff, and cracks. So it’s leaky.

        But new houses have maintenance issues too.

        It’s a lot like buying a used car. Sometimes they’ve recalled and fixed all the problems, so a well-kept up older car is often more reliable in some ways. But other stuff is starting to wear out. New cars have unknown problems lurking, waiting for recalls. But their parts aren’t worn yet.Report

        • Troublesome Frog in reply to Morat20 says:

          As the owner of a house that was built during the brief window when people thought aluminum wiring was a good idea, I feel your pain. Nothing like going to replace an outlet and having it crumble in your hand like a blackened potato chip.Report

          • dragonfrog in reply to Troublesome Frog says:

            Ai-eee! We escaped that issue, but at some point (we believe in the 1970s based on wallpaper patterns and such) someone thought they were much more handy than they actually were, and some of the wiring reflects that.

            Our house does have some asbestos here and there also.Report

            • Troublesome Frog in reply to dragonfrog says:

              I’ve been taking care of the asbestos a bit at a time. Somebody thought it would be awesome to tile the garage floor with vinyl asbestos tile in the 80s, so I had that removed and put down a nice epoxy. I used to be upset at it, but I realized that basically every house built before the ban has asbestos all over it, so unless I bought a fairly new house, it’s just something we all deal with.

              The asbestos contractor told me that the VAT manufacturers were basically giving the stuff away just before the ban went into effect, so cheap weirdos bought the stuff for their own projects while they could. Meanwhile, government form contracts for builders often specified VAT specifically and it took a very long time to get that changed everywhere, so we ended up with VAT being dumped into government buildings (schools, especially) at the tail end of the Glorious Asbestos Era.

              The good news is that while the house is definitely the product of its times in terms of bad practice (aluminum wiring, asbestos, and ducts whose sizes bear no relationship whatsoever to actual planned airflow), the quality of the work was very high, so doing the repairs hasn’t been a big deal. There wasn’t a lot of incompetent hackery to be found. I pity people with badly installed aluminum wiring.Report

              • Here is where I swear I am never buying I will always rent,forgetting that we own our homeReport

              • Troublesome Frog in reply to trumwill says:

                I’d be a lot more nervous if my father hadn’t spend 30+ years as a general contractor. When I start panicking about something, I give him a call and he tells me what really needs to be done.

                I can’t imagine being at the mercy of outsiders for that sort of thing. I already hate getting my car worked on for the same reason. It’s how I know what the little old lady at Best Buy who just wants to be able to email her grandkids feels like when the salespeople start talking to her.Report

              • Michael Cain in reply to trumwill says:

                There are pluses and minuses. The day will come when Lain wants a purple bedroom. If you were renting, you’d have to explain to her why you had made choices so that she couldn’t have it. When Comcast decided they didn’t need my services after buying my employer, that we owned the house free and clear made a number of different life choices viable.Report

              • DavidTC in reply to Troublesome Frog says:

                Vinyl asbestos tile, if I understand correctly, is not very dangerous if you just leave it alone. The asbestos is made into the vinyl and fairly unlikely to get into your lungs. It’s not like the…uh, whatever you call them…the boards of asbestos they put in walls, or as drywall putty, which, duh, flakes.

                So it’s pretty least, unless you have to cut into it or need to have it removed, at which point it becomes a hassle.Report

              • Troublesome Frog in reply to DavidTC says:

                Right. Most of the time people just tile over them instead of disturbing them. Unfortunately, mine was in a garage, so it had years of temperature cycles and cars driving over them and they were crumbling. They also looked like garbage and could slowly turn one drop of oil into a giant one-molecule thin slipping hazard. Those years were dark times.

                The remaining asbestos is in paper insulation around my HVAC ducts. “Fine” as long as you don’t touch it and a total disaster if you need to disrupt it. My ducts need to be resized and adjusted. I’d do it myself, but then I have an asbestos disaster on my hand. Waiting for the right time to have it all torn out.

                But I do like the house, so there’s that.Report

        • Michael Cain in reply to Morat20 says:

          I was looking for something else the other day and came across these. Got no idea about quality — seems awfully cheap even for a GFCI function, let alone GFCI plus surge.Report

  14. Troublesome Frog says:

    W5: These open plans always just seemed like a transparent way to save money with the “collaboration” angle as just a way of selling it. Collaboration with the person in the next cubicle over was never an actual problem. “Oh, if only I had some input from Bob, but he’s on the other side of this small partition I’d have to walk around!”

    I can imagine jobs that would work well for that type of environment (at least, tasks that work well). For example, a debugging cycle with multiple people working on one system. But that’s what conference rooms are for. It’s pretty rare for people to be doing that sort of thing every day.

    The whole thing always seemed like a way to save some cash by reducing employee comfort, increase micromanagement, all while treating us like total idiots by claiming that it’s what everybody wants. It’s the only thing worse than cubicle configurations with the employee’s back facing the door. Nothing helps a guy concentrate like the constant paranoia that somebody is sneaking up behind you.Report

    • Richard Hershberger in reply to Troublesome Frog says:

      I can imagine jobs that would work well for that type of environment

      That’s the thing. These discussions always seem strangely divorced from discussions of the jobs themselves, as if all jobs are the same.Report

      • Troublesome Frog in reply to Richard Hershberger says:

        The thing that gets me is that in general, I don’t think most software engineering work is really helped out by that type of environment. If you’re tracking a bug together and running tests and banging around data, it’s great to be sitting at the same table and seeing the same thing real time to bounce ideas off of each other and test hypotheses. But I find that most of the time isn’t spent doing that type of work. Most of the time, you’re doing stuff that requires a lot of concentration and uninterrupted thought.

        I think it’s only a subset of any population that concentrates well in that sort of chaotic environment. Conversely, I don’t think that subpopulation is really *hindered* by quiet and privacy in the same way other workers are bothered by constant distraction and interruption. It seems like a huge leap for most of these places to be taking.

        While I’m sharing my own personal office pet peeves, why do we spend so much money running the AC to drop the temperature down to 68 degrees?Report

        • Yeah. For a few years, I was stuck being the person that management came to with questions of the form, “How will the technical staff react if we do such-and-such to the working conditions?” Also the person that much of the technical staff whined to about working conditions. (I’ve never figured out why either group chose me for the role.) People doing multi-disciplinary projects with lots of interaction not only amongst the team members, but with operational staff in the field, seemed to thrive in the open environment. People doing more researchy things were the ones that complained bitterly that there was nowhere they could go and stare at the problem for three uninterrupted hours looking for a starting point.Report

        • Morat20 in reply to Troublesome Frog says:

          As a coder, I hate open plan. The guys on every side of me aren’t coders (I have no idea what they do. Some sort of engineers) and they’re LOUD. They have long teleconferences where they put it on speaker. Why doesn’t the ONE GUY stick his phone up to his ear? I dunno. I guess he has to have it on speaker because it’s a teleconference.

          I can’t concentrate, people are loud, people are constantly walking behind me which is annoying. I’m probably losing about 15% or more of productive work each day just from distractions.

          But our coding work is pretty solitary. We’ve got neat delineations between coders and 80% of our communication is splitting tasks or notifying people of code updates they need to grab (we use an old, freeware versioning system. Not one of the more expensive, fancy ones that’ll do it on the fly).Report

          • Troublesome Frog in reply to Morat20 says:

            Having people walk up behind me while I work creeps me right out. It’s built way down in the animal portions of my brain. I can’t work like that.

            The past couple of years have been 100% work from home, which is pretty cool for the most part. The weirdest thing I’ve learned: Do you have any idea how many times your doorbell rings during the week while you’re at work? It’s astounding the number of people who come to the door every day. I’d ignore it, but for a long time my next door neighbor had a seriously ill child so I couldn’t not answer the door.Report

          • Mike Schilling in reply to Morat20 says:

            I don’t mind the people around me talking; sometimes it’s valuable information, sometimes I can actually contribute, and if it’s unimportant to me I have no trouble tuning it out. But the people further away who don’t know how to use their inside voices just annoy the hell out of me.Report

        • DavidTC in reply to Troublesome Frog says:

          While I’m sharing my own personal office pet peeves, why do we spend so much money running the AC to drop the temperature down to 68 degrees?

          I read an interesting article the other day that asserts that the freezing temperatures are due to plain-old sexism.

          It’s been repeatedly shown that anything below 72 degree is actually counter-inductive to increase productivity. (No, it doesn’t make workers more alert…it makes them more *cold*. Cold might keep them *awake*, but if they’re 4 degrees from falling asleep, they’re not getting any work done anyway. Poking people with needles keeps people awake, too, but is hardly helpful.) And, of course, it costs more to run the AC.

          And yet, somehow, penny-pinching corporations keep doing it. Why? Could it be to to make things more uncomfortable for women?

          Women, having generally less body mass, are more susceptible to cold temperature, and on top of that standard formal office attire has them wearing less clothing. Where did the strange ignorance come from, when any idiot can see that women are *clearly* walking around with exposed legs and arms, as generally expected by the ‘formal dress’ dress code? (Whereas men, if they want, could walk around with exposed arms…or not.)

          I don’t know if this is reasonable as a reason, but it would be interesting study to find out who, *exactly*, is setting the temperatures this low, and why they’d doing it.Report

          • Brandon Berg in reply to DavidTC says:

            I read an interesting article the other day that asserts that the freezing temperatures are due to plain-old sexism.

            When all you have is a hammer…Report

            • Pay differentials aren’t sexism because they’re a consequence of how men and women are different. But considering thermostat settings in the context of how men and women are different is obvious nonsense.Report

              • Glyph in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                Seems pretty obvious to me that if you don’t want sweaty, stinky people in your office, you are going to have to tilt the thermostat a bit toward the ones who tend to get hotter, sweater and stinkier, and that tends to be men.

                Them’s just the facts, and the people who tend to get cold have options to tweak their personal temp (for women, switching out skirts for longer skirts or pants and short sleeves for long ones; for everybody, bring a sweater) that are often not available in the opposite too-warm scenario (a man can’t wear shorts instead of pants, and some offices require ties and jackets; even if he can ditch the jacket, he may not be allowed short sleeves; even if he is and can lose the tie too, pit-stains are unappealing and embarrassing, so…back on with the jacket?)

                TL;DR: A cold person is uncomfortable, but has several available options to remedy this; a hot person is uncomfortable, and makes everybody else uncomfortable, and has few available options to remedy this.

                So the thermostat is going to skew cold.Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to Glyph says:

                People who wear three-piece suits in places like Florida in the summer deserve no sympathy. It’s as if they insisted the place be dehumidified down to 1% so their suit of armor doesn’t rust.Report

              • zic in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                Particularly when they could be wearing a linen suit.

                In warm weather, the wool power suit demands the privilege of cooling. This is a gross insult to Mother Earth, who suffers acid skin and vapors at the moment.Report

              • Glyph in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                It’s not about a particular state, it’s about accommodating the realities of differences between people in shared spaces, and is no more “sexist” than a unisex bathroom that has more stalls than urinals would be.Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to Glyph says:

                I’m also wondering how many of the places that require jackets and ties for males require skirts or dresses for women, and then make things more comfortable for the former.Report

              • Murali in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                There are some workplaces in Singapore (which is barely a degree north of the equator) where the dress code is a 3 piece suit. Florida weather is pretty decent by comparison.Report

              • Chris in reply to Murali says:

                Singapore’s weather is basically a south Florida Spring year round.Report

              • Glyph in reply to Murali says:

                When I worked in Germany (which is obviously far more temperate than either) they required jacket & tie in the office; being Germany, there was no A/C in the office, and it was summertime, and I was pretty pit-stained and uncomfortable most days.

                I am a product of my biology/genetics and my acculturation (as far as what I find uncomfortable or embarrassing); and obviously there ARE cultural differences, as far as the level of sweat/ambient body odor that is considered professionally acceptable; but here in a US office, the answer is generally “none”.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Glyph says:

                the ones who tend to get hotter, sweater and stinkier, and that tends to be men.

                Them’s just the facts,

                ??? Are there, like, commonly referenced studies confirming this or somethin?Report

              • Glyph in reply to Stillwater says:

                Eh, you want to go look for peer-reviewed studies, knock yourself out. I think it’s pretty common knowledge, and a common complaint for a reason, and the reason it’s a cliche etc. etc. I feel pretty confident a Google search would back me up, but I feel lazy right now.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Glyph says:

                Thru her adult life my wife has worked in women-based healthcare (obgyn stuff, etc) and with nary a man on the labor force, those establishments consistently have some of the lowest thermostat setting of any places I’ve experienced.Report

              • DavidTC in reply to Stillwater says:

                Healthcare is an entire different thing. That entire industry keeps everything freezing for no reason at all.

                Seriously, it’s not like there’s a medical reason. The old ‘inhibits bacterial growth’ is nonsense…a few degrees is barely going to do anything, and there’s just as much things that cold *harms* (like patients near going into shock) that there’s no real medical justification.

                Of course, that industry *also* has complete dress parity, and women, like men, are expected to wear an entire set of clothing *over* their normal clothes…so maybe what’s actually going on is that *all* the staff are extremely overdressed, and, thus, way too hot. So they keep it very cold. (And they’re all just pretending it’s a medical reason.)Report

              • Stillwater in reply to DavidTC says:

                Or maybe there’s a bunch of women who prefer it cold, and those who like it warmer put on a sweater?

                But really, I’m not at all sure where this men are “hotter, stinkier and sweatier” than women stuff comes from. I’ve known plenty of women who were stinky and sweaty!Report

              • Glyph in reply to Stillwater says:


                Short version: women’s bodies keep a higher core temperature around the vitals, which results in lower temps on the appendages. I am also reliably informed that women regularly bleed every thirty days or so; having donated blood and lost blood in injuries, I can tell you this experience indeed can make you feel cold.

                These factors presumably mean that a woman, on average, will experience the same ambient temperature as “colder” than a man.

                A person that feels “hot”, will tend to sweat more, since sweat evaporation is the mechanism for cooling.

                Evaporation, is one of the ways that scent molecules are transmitted through the air.

                Hence – tends to be “hot”, will be correlated with “sweat”, will be correlated with “odor.”

                I mean, seriously guys. Come on. It’s starting to look like you are so invested in a particular interpretation of the outcome, that you are questioning fairly well-known basics of human biology.

                (And I have also wondered why the heck hospitals and the like were always so cold. I assumed it was because the staff are often working and moving fast, and therefore get hot).Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Glyph says:

                It’s starting to look like you are so invested in a particular interpretation of the outcome,

                What outcome is that, glyph? (I really have no idea.) Personally, I find the whole topic ridiculous and only got involved when someone (!!) said men are “hotter, stinkier and sweatier” than women. That same person then offered an alternative explanation for why men apparently like cooler temps: because their clothing norms aren’t tailored (!) to permit a self-determined context dependent garmentological response to thermostatic displeasure.

                But really, to repeat myself, my wife has consistently worked in women-only offices and those offices are freaking frigid.Report

              • Glyph in reply to Stillwater says:

                @stillwater “their clothing norms aren’t tailored (!) to permit a self-determined context dependent garmentological response to thermostatic displeasure.”

                Space awesome.

                @jaybird – well, if there’s no difference, then what the heck are we all arguing about?!Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Glyph says:

                I have a blog post here that says that there isn’t any difference.

                While it’s true that the blog author did, technically, post a correction saying that he didn’t understand the data he was reading, the correction was phrased fairly strongly that since he wasn’t able to understand the data, nobody else should be able to reach conclusions from it either. I think that this pretty conclusively demonstrates that we shouldn’t be able to reach a conclusion.Report

              • DavidTC in reply to Stillwater says:

                Are there, like, commonly referenced studies confirming this or somethin?

                Tendency to sweat is based on how well you can cool off, which is, assuming naked people, based on surface area/volume ratio. Each square inch of skin can get rid of a certain amount, and each pound of body generates a certain amount of heat. As the size of a person increases, that ratio decreases, and it’s harder for the skin to get rid of heat…and thus it creates some sweat to help. (And technically the genders vary in body shape, also, but not enough to really change that ratio.)

                However, that’s pretending everyone is naked. In reality, people wear clothes [citation needed] and so how much sweat people create is really based on how much *exposed* skin they have, and how well their clothing ‘breathes’.

                Women almost always have more exposed skin, and flimsier clothes, so tend to sweat less, even if compared to an identically sized man. And, in reality, they tend to be smaller, so generate even less.

                The attempt to reduce the amount of stinkiness, BTW, is why business are willing to pay women an extra 30% over male employees…oh, wait, nevermind.Report

              • DavidTC in reply to Glyph says:

                Seems pretty obvious to me that if you don’t want sweaty, stinky people in your office, you are going to have to tilt the thermostat a bit toward the ones who tend to get hotter, sweater and stinkier, and that tends to be men.

                And if you don’t want freezing cold people in your office, you should tilt the thermostat in favor of them.

                Them’s just the facts, and the people who tend to get cold have options to tweak their personal temp (for women, switching out skirts for longer skirts or pants and short sleeves for long ones; for everybody, bring a sweater) that are often not available in the opposite too-warm scenario (a man can’t wear shorts instead of pants, and some offices require ties and jackets; even if he can ditch the jacket, he may not be allowed short sleeves; even if he is and can lose the tie too, pit-stains are unappealing and embarrassing, so…back on with the jacket?)

                Uh, no. You’ve managed to conflate a few different dress codes there.

                If men are wearing suit jackets, I would be willing to bet actual money the dress expectations does not allow women (or men?!) to wear sweaters! The women *might*, maybe, hypothetically, be able to wear pants (I doubt it), but that still leaves women in flimsy tops instead of jackets. (And anywhere the women are allowed to wear pants, I’d be very startled if the men were forced to wear suit jackets while working.)

                There is almost no ‘dress level’ that exists that results in women wearing *more* than men, from extremely formal all the way down to fricking swimsuits, women are expected to wear less clothing (Or, rather, expose more skin) than men. Even the supposedly identical causal ‘t-shirts and jeans’ lowest dress code…hey, look, women’s t-shirts have shorter arms for some reason.

                Of course, women can buck expectations and dress differently…and isn’t *that* an interesting choice…force women to dress incorrectly (and then subconciously be treated differently), or force them to constantly complain about the cold (in which case they’re complainers), or force them not to work there.

                So the thermostat is going to skew cold.

                …because the men must remain happy. Dress standards require men to wear one level of clothing, and women to wear another, so *of course* the thermostat will be aimed at what men wear. Because, uh, some legitimate business reason, I’m sure. (Let’s ignore the fact that a lot of the *men* are pretty damn cold also.)

                Incidentally, if worrying about ‘sweating’ was actually a factor, businesses would not be making men wear suit jackets *in the summer*.Report

              • Glyph in reply to DavidTC says:

                I think you confuse cause and effect. My argument is simply that too-warm people generally have fewer individual clothing tweaks available to them than too-cold ones, therefore the thermostat (which must be shared) will skew cold. That men tend to be in the first category, and women the second, is an accident of biology.

                The result is not sexism; the result is what happens when you have to accommodate different biologies and dress codes/customs in shared spaces.

                As I said, it is no different than a unisex bathroom with more stalls than urinals – this configuration offers the chance for the maximum number of people to be accommodated, since a man can always use a stall, but a woman generally can’t use a urinal.Report

              • DavidTC in reply to Glyph says:

                I think you confuse cause and effect. My argument is simply that too-warm people generally have fewer individual clothing tweaks available to them than too-cold ones, therefore the thermostat (which must be shared) will skew cold.

                And you completely missed my point in that, uh, no, women do *not* have those options, not if they want to dress ‘correctly’ for their work place.Report

              • Will Truman in reply to DavidTC says:

                I’m not sure if I agree with Glyph’s core argument, but I’ve never worked at a or heard of a business attire place that disallowed sweaters or pants for women. And I’ve worked for what has to be one of the most achingly conservative employers in the country. (I worked Network Room and they wanted me wearing a coat and tie.)Report

              • DavidTC in reply to Will Truman says:

                I have no idea what ‘Network Room’ is, and it is not possible to google it.

                However, I will point out that there is difference between what is technically allowed, and what is expected. In fact, many organizations have no *written* dress code at all.Report

              • Will Truman in reply to DavidTC says:

                Computer network room. As in, not even in an office. And part of your job is to be on the ground on your back plugging crap in. Wearing a suit.

                But written or unwritten, I could not imagine the employer taking a woman to task for wearing a sweater or slacks. I could tell you 100 stories about how ridiculously uptight they were, from monitoring the frequency and duration of restroom breaks to telling me I needed to find a new roommate when my roommate left the company, but not that.Report

              • DavidTC in reply to Will Truman says:

                Much like I asked Gylph, I have to ask you: When was this?Report

              • Will Truman in reply to DavidTC says:

                Around 2002 or so. Men were required to wear suits, women could wear slacks and sweaters (I’m absolutely certain on the former, relatively on the latter).

                Looking around right now, it looks like sweaters may generally be a no-no, but suits and pants are okay.Report

              • Glyph in reply to DavidTC says:

                When I went into the office way back when, women wore short(ish) skirts, and long skirts, and pants, as they chose.

                Men uniformly wore long pants. No exceptions, ever.

                Many women brought sweaters, since, yes, they often found the temp chilly. There was no issue with sweater-wearing for women of any rank.

                There was still, particularly amongst management, an expectation that a man would wear *at least* a long-sleeved button shirt and tie (which of course means a closed collar), if not a suit jacket as well – and sweaters were rarely seen (maybe because they conceal the tie or don’t go well under a suit jacket? Dunno. And some of this casualed up later, especially for non-management, to the point where short sleeves and no tie were fine).

                Point is, by both dress code and custom, the women in my office generally had far more ability to regulate their own personal temperature via clothing than did the men.

                Now, maybe THAT’S sexism – that’s a separate long discussion I have no time for.

                But given the facts on the ground, calling the thermostat issue “sexism” indeed starts to look like Brandon’s “when all you have is a hammer” comment to me.Report

              • DavidTC in reply to Glyph says:

                And at this point I have to ask when the hell this was, because business professional dress codes *currently* does not allow sweaters, for men or women.

                Business professional (1) for women is, in fact, either a skirt suit or a pants suit, or an actual dress. No sweaters. They can, at best, wear ‘exactly the same’ outfit as men (minus the tie)…except not really, because all their stuff tends to be thinner, and pantsuits are not actually in style, and often not really allowed, or at least not encouraged.

                Are you judging this on what women were allowed to wear in that weird gap after ’80s powersuit’ women, where women just wore random things to the office and businesses hadn’t quite figured things out yet? Because that’s not how it works anymore.

                Sweaters for women are business *casual*, and at that point we’re talking polo shirts and khakis for men, or even sweaters for them too.

                1) There’s also the higher business formal, but that’s just a subset of ‘formal’ and it sure as hell doesn’t include sweaters.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to DavidTC says:


                Where the hell are you getting your information from?Report

              • Glyph in reply to Kazzy says:

                Adding on to Kazzy, maybe it would be helpful to see the original article that sparked all this. Because maybe there’s more nuance or context there that would make this notion seem less ridonculous to me.

                I mean, if you argued that the person in charge of the office (and therefore of the thermostat) is statistically-speaking too often a man, and THAT’S sexism, I wouldn’t argue against that at all. But this idea that the temperature setting *itself* is part of the mechanism to keep women down (rather than a pushed-pulled thing that will, and I believe probably should, tend on average to lean in favor of the hot people) just seems bonkers to me.Report

              • Will Truman in reply to Glyph says:

                I’m stuck on my phone, but you can Google for it and it will pop up quickly enough. Washington Post had two articles on the subject of gender and office thermostats.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Will Truman says:

                I assume this is one:

                My objection to DavidTC is more focused on his complete ignorance of dress codes and female attire. Zazzy works in a professional setting and rarely, if ever, wears a skirt. She consistently wears women’s dress slacks and long sleeve shirts, sometimes with a blazer-like jacket. The material of the shirt and jacket does seem thinner than that of my own analogous pieces, but the notion that she CAN’T dress this way is just silly. She does. Almost every day of the week.Report

              • DavidTC in reply to Kazzy says:

                ….I am slightly baffled why you think saying someone works ‘in a professional setting’ is the same as saying they work ‘in an environment that requires men wear to a suit jacket’.

                I mean, that might be what you *were* saying, but a ‘professional setting’ can mean almost anything.Report

              • DavidTC in reply to Kazzy says:

                What are you talking about?

                The ‘suit and jacket’ code is called business professional or business standard or just business, or sometimes ‘business formal’, (but sometimes business formal is another level)…but the exact name is not important. The important thing is absolutely no reference thinks this standard, for women, includes sweaters.

                I have to suggest the people saying sweaters are acceptable business professional dress have the burden of proof. Find me some site where there’s a dress code level that says ‘Men must wear suits with jackets’ and at the same level (Whatever they call it) says ‘Women can wear sweaters’.

                I have no idea why on earth I’m having to argue this. It’s trivially easy to look up what the rules are, there are thousands of ‘Explaining what various levels of dress mean’ sites. I’d provide links, but I think it’s more effective if I just suggest people google it themselves, and watch as I psychically predict that the ‘suit and jacket’ equivalent for women is roughly ‘a modest neutral-colored dress or button up neutral-colored shirt, suit jacket, and either knee-length skirt, or matching suit pants’.Report

              • Will Truman in reply to DavidTC says:

                You didn’t just argue sweaters, but pants and I think jackets as well. You might be right about sweaters (and my memory faulty or experience unusual) but there are warmer options for women, which is how sweaters came up in the first place.

                Edit to add: I thought this was a response to me and not Kazzy. Report

              • DavidTC in reply to Will Truman says:

                Uh, actually, what happened is that *originally* I was talking about business casual clothing, which has…pants and short or long sleeves for men, with jacket sometimes, and long sleeves and pants or dresses or short sleeves and skirts for women.

                While sweaters are acceptable there, they’re usually not acceptable in the fricking summer, which is when we’re talking about. Likewise, jackets for women…sometime they can work, but are a bit odd in the summer, whereas they’re fine for men all the time under business casual.

                For some reason this discussion instead became about business professional clothing (Because of the poor hot men forced to wear suit jackets.), which, uh, isn’t really that common anymore, so it’s kinda silly to keep talking about it. For business professional clothing, women *can* wear pants with suits.

                But in any industry where there is competition, dressing like that will incur a competitive disadvantage that is a whole different tangent into sexism and expected dress, one I’m really trying to avoid having to go into. Like I said, just because it is within the *dress code* doesn’t mean it’s actually acceptable to dress that way.

                These ‘warmer options’ seriously impact careers, because, like it or not, how seriously a woman is taken is based very largely on how she dresses. (Which is the *entire point* of the dress codes in the first damn place, so no one should be surprised that people can be inside the letter of the dress code and still be ‘incorrectly’ dressed.)

                Additionally, women are much more expected to actually *follow seasonal rules* of dress and not wear, for example, a heavy suit in the middle of July…even if their damn office is kept freezing via AC.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to DavidTC says:


                “…pantsuits are not actually in style, and often not really allowed, or at least not encouraged.”

                Maybe you mean something different by ‘pantsuits’ than what most people mean.Report

              • Will Truman in reply to Kazzy says:

                And the links I provided above did encourage them. Or at least explicitly said they were okay for business professional (and not just in a “meets minimum requirements” way). Sweaters weren’t mentioned either way for BP, but pants and jackets were explicitly approvedReport

              • DavidTC in reply to Will Truman says:




                Edit: Good, that worked.

                And the point is less that ‘pantsuits are not allowed’, it is ‘the absolute top of the line formal is a skirt suit’…and also, in places where men have to wear suit jackets *all the time* (Which, as I point out, is pretty rare), women are expected to dress _all_ the way up also.

                An office where it’s acceptable to walk in wearing a suit and take the jacket off and hang it up? Yeah, a pantsuit is fine. An office where everyone wears a custom tailored suit, with jacket, 100% of the time? No, a pantsuit is not fine.

                You’ll also see a lot of recommendations for wearing a skirt suit to a job interview, even if the job allows pantsuits…this is because, as we all know, you wear one step up to a job interview.Report

              • Will Truman in reply to DavidTC says:

                So I’ve cited Princeton, St Louis University, and the Houston Chronicle. I will take that up against Jezebel and two sites I’ve not heard of…Report

              • DavidTC in reply to Kazzy says:

                I’m pretty sure I mean what everyone else means by that. The same outfit as a male suit (minus a tie)…it’s matching pants and jacket, over a neutral colored shirt. It is technically classified as professional business attire. (Although, of course, some colors are a little bit too much.)

                My point is, if you were to take two identical shirts and jackets for a woman, and pair one of them with matching pants, and one of them with a matching knee-length skirt, and took a poll as to which was most professional…the skirt would wins, hands down. (Fun fact: Pantsuits were not allowed on the Senate floor until 1993.)

                EDIT: And, of course, there’s Clinton, who gets flak for wearing a pantsuit.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to DavidTC says:

                But that is a VERY different argument than your original statement, which was that they are not allowed. Stop moving the goal posts here. You made a hyperbolic argument and got called out for it.Report

              • DavidTC in reply to Kazzy says:

                And now I see what’s going on.

                Pantsuits are probably wear for any ‘business casual or up’ job. Rather expensive, and I’m not sure how appropriate they are in *summer* (Which is when we’re talking about) but whatever. They work in ‘business casual’ jobs.

                …which is exactly the environment I *wasn’t* talking about. The environment I was talking about was where men had to wear suits with jackets, and thus women have exactly three choices: A skirt suit, a pant suit, or a dress.

                Now, I want you to do something. I want you to google ‘pantsuit vs skirt suit’ and read, well, any random article. I’ll wait.

                ‘Allowed’ and allowed are not the same thing when it comes to fashion, especially not in the sort of environment where people are required to dress to the 9s, which are about the only places that suit jackets are still worn! In *those* places, the choices for women are professionally-tailered skirt suit, or an elegant dress (1)…or they can make a fashion mistake and wear a pantsuit. There are damn few options for women covering their legs in the summer while formally dressed. They can get a long dress, sure, but that’s still less covering than pants…and now their arms are bare.

                In other places, where a less formal look is allowed, yes, a pantsuit is fine (Although in summer? Still weird.), but no one there is wearing a suit jacket in the first places, at least not while sitting at their desk. (They might wear one in, but they take it off.)

                Of course, ‘business professional’ dress codes are actually fairly rare in 2015. We only got into that topic because Glyph decided to talk about the poor men forced to wear jackets sitting at their desks and overheating in the summer, so they need the AC set to freezing, and my response probably *should* have been ‘Men required to wear suit jackets during the workday’ is actually pretty damn rare, instead of pointing out that women can’t just throw on more clothes if they want to be dressed ‘correctly’, although that is also true.

                1) Unless it’s ‘boardroom formal’, in which case they’re not allowed to wear a dress, and have to wear a suit of some sort.Report

              • Will Truman in reply to DavidTC says:

                The three links I provided all disagree with you, expressly discussing pants and jackets as being fine for women in a business professional (not business casual, but business professional) environment. And it offers zero discouragement of doing so.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Glyph says:

                For the record, a beard that goes down to your chest allows you to not have to wear a buttoned collar with a shirt and tie. A somewhat loosened tie and an open collar is a-ok.Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird says:

                A sufficiently long beard also removes the requirement for pants.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Mike Schilling says:


              • Will Truman in reply to Jaybird says:

                Aforementioned employer required that you notify your superior of any prospective change to facial hair grooming in the “more facial hair” direction. I had to inform my supervisor of my intent to grow a goatee.Report

              • The oil company where I used to work had a safety-related policy against facial hair for refinery workers (for whom wearing am air pack that sealed tightly to the face might be necessary in emergencies), and intermittently applied it to the rest of us (whose real job, should we be in such an emergency, would be to stay the hell out of the way.) A couple of my co-workers had such full beards that, the day after they were forced to shave, I didn’t recognize them.Report

              • El Muneco in reply to Glyph says:

                Yep, and that’s why I had a fully-non-regulation space heater in my half-cubicle. And if anyone argued, I’d show them the purple tint in my fingertips. And if it had ever gotten to the point of being a firing offense, I’d have said “at least at home the temperature won’t actually be dangerous to me”.

                On the other hand, raising the temperature to a comfortable level for the fifty to a hundred of us would have cost – about one or two hours’ salary of any of us. Sorry if I can’t find any sympathy for that position…Report

              • Brandon Berg in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                Pay differentials aren’t sexism because they’re a consequence of how men and women are different. But considering thermostat settings in the context of how men and women are different is obvious nonsense.

                My objection is not to the claim that different air temperatures affect men and women differently, but to the notion that people set the temperature too low specifically to harm women.

                With pay differentials, at least there’s a plausible motivation. Paying women less for the same work because you can at least saves money. Here the claim is that companies are deliberately spending more money specifically for the purpose of reducing women’s productivity, costing them even more money.

                I would suspect this of being a parody if modern feminism had not become such a complete and utter joke already.Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                I agree, deliberate harm is silly in a “War on Christmas” way. Not caring or noticing I find quite plausible.Report

              • DavidTC in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                My objection is not to the claim that different air temperatures affect men and women differently, but to the notion that people set the temperature too low specifically to harm women.

                And let me clarify *I* don’t think it’s a deliberate attack against women either. And neither does the article.

                The article talked about the quite-real reality, in certain areas, of entire groups of women scurrying out the door of their office buildings for lunch and sitting outside where they can, as they put it, ‘thaw’.

                A large fraction of office environments, in the summer, are almost unbearable to the women who work in them, while the men have no problem with the temp…and thus, no one actually does anything about the temp.

                A problem exists, but no one does anything about it because it doesn’t affect men. That’s pretty much textbook sexism.

                Here the claim is that companies are deliberately spending more money specifically for the purpose of reducing women’s productivity, costing them even more money.

                Well, no. The claim, when dissected, is actually that companies are deliberately spending more money specifically for the purpose of reducing *everyone’s* productivity, because companies are really really dumb and once read an article written by insane ‘efficiency experts’ how the cold keeps people alert, written back in the 1950s.

                Of course, as I pointed out, repeatedly jabbing someone with a pin keeps people alert also, but hardly increases their productivity…and if your problem is workers falling asleep, you’ve got a pretty stupid business.

                Actual modern studies show ‘keep things cold’ is nonsense, and cold workers are crappy workers.

                This stupidity just hurts women more than men, and what it’s doing to them is ignored because of sexism.Report

        • aarondavid in reply to Troublesome Frog says:

          “While I’m sharing my own personal office pet peeves, why do we spend so much money running the AC to drop the temperature down to 68 degrees?”

          As this is what I actually did for a living for a long time, here is the scoop:
          If you are in an older building, say made before 1990, it wasn’t built for the heat load that it currently has. That heat load has doubled due to the installation of computers and related equipment into the conditioned space. Due to that doubling of heat load, more hot air needs to be removed from the CS (conditioned space) and the ducting system in the building, which is built into the walls and other dedicated spaces during construction, isn’t designed to handle this airflow.

          Often a building that has these problems is made to overcome the issues by running the chiller at full blast if the building is so equipped, and if not a centralized system, doing the same with whatever package units or splits are on the roof. Basically, whoever is running the climate control systems is cheating the system to ensure both the basic required airflow*, keep building pressure at a somewhat decent level and trying to keep the building cool. Also, most of the thermostats in a big building, if it is using a chiller/boiler setup, will only control the the amount of air that comes into a given space. All temps are controlled from a central computer system, and as they are essentially the water temps of what is being piped around the building, they aren’t going to give people control of it.

          *California (and I would assume other states) mandates a certain amount of airchanges per person per hour. Osha gets very particular about this.Report

          • aarondavid in reply to aarondavid says:

            Sorry, that was to @troublesome-frogReport

          • DavidTC in reply to aarondavid says:

            To recirculate the air doesn’t require AC. Any air conditioning system can just run their fans without any cooling.

            As for ‘AC that aren’t built for current heat load’…this would work perfectly well as an explanation of why certain parts of building were freezing and other parts weren’t. And I’m sure, in fact, that is sometimes the issue…there’s some room with fifty computers that needs to be kept room temp, so the rooms *without* any computers end up freezing.

            However, that can’t explain all buildings that are being kept at 68. The complaint isn’t ‘my buildings heating is random, and I’m in a cold area’. In fact, now that you mention it, I seem to remember that being a fairly common office complaint back in the 90s…poorly designed shared systems that resulted in one office 15 degrees warmer than another office, so there was no way to actually set a comfortable level. Your explanation seems as good as any for that.

            That’s not really what’s going on now. If that was what was happening now, we’d have problems with people in hot areas also. In fact, logically, we should have *more* of a problem with that, because some AC wouldn’t be able to cool the building at all.

            But nowadays, it’s just ‘women freezing, men not’. Oh, I’m sure rarely it’s ‘Our AC sucks, so we have to run it 100%, and that woman just happens to be sitting in a cold area.’, but that, statistically, can’t be the explanation.Report

  15. Michael Drew says:

    Idea (and it may not work if the categories are last-minute decisions by @will-truman):

    If an email were sent around to the contributor list with the categories that were to comprise the LF each week, I think this would spur people to associate interesting items they see on the tubes during the week more immediately with Linky Friday. Then the post/comments could be structured around a series of conversations on a topic to which people had provided contributions knowing those topics would be discussed (rather than, or actually maybe in addition to, randomly collecting items to discuss). Now, that may not be what Will wants to do with the series, which is perfectly great, or it may increase the number of submissions when what Will is looking to do is hold that number ready right now. But if sounds like a good idea to Will, I think it might be kind of a neat thing to try out.

    Had that been what we were doing this week, and the email came around saying that Liberalism was going to be one of the categories this week, I almost certainly would have sent this link in. (I’m making it Haidt’s tweet of the link bc that’s where I saw it first, and I find his seemingly approval there quite interesting.) OTOH, I could also just make it a point to try to keep LF more in mind on my own as I tool around the tubes, and show the effort to be more involved on my own initiative without an email reminder.

    In all honesty, I did think about sending it and decided against because a) the post makes my blood boil, and b) I probably thought about it for less than a second and immediately decided I didn’t want to take us down the road of that debate in the comments. But had I known that Liberalism was to be on the docket this week, I would have practiced some relatively infrequent liberal self-discipline and submitted the link because it matched the agenda so well.

    JAT; I would expect Will doesn’t necessarily have the time and energy to incorporate this idea into LF just at this moment in his life.Report

    • …Thinking about it more, there’s probably no way for Will (or someone else) to come up with the categories early enough in the week for it to get into people’s mind in time for them to get things in… and anyway by the time he’s able to divine the categories, there probably isn;t then room for a further deluge of links. So… maybe dumb idea.

      Anyway, I should have sent that link in, since in this case it would have been such a serendipitous match to a LF category. Mea culpa. I’m a big serendipity fan.

      (Yes, I like Kate Beckinsale okay too.)Report

    • The process is always changes, but as things stand, I do sort of know in advance what at least some of the categories are going to look like. Right now, I know that next week is likely to include Education, Economics, European immigration and integration, Media, and Society… as well as one (probably one, though possibly two) other undetermined category most likely determined by a user submission. If nothing else comes in, then there will be a Sesame Street section. If SS gets squeezed out (which is likely), then it, along with Latin America, will be at the top of the queue next time there is an opening. There’s also a United States set bubbling up near the surface, but I haven’t figured out where I’m going to fit it in or how.

      The week after next will be after a link harvest, where I take all of the links from the previous two weeks and write blurbs and organize them. A lot of those links will be some degree of time-sensitive, and those will dominate #127 the same way they dominated #125… next week’s, #126, will involve more pulling from the queue. Though I have just enough in there to have already determined most of the categories.

      But that’s how much I know in advance about what the categories are going to look like. And they’re subject to change (I don’t know what I’m going to call that European category, for example, and “Liberalism” was “Academia” until earlier this week when I swapped out a link and changed the name). But if it would be helpful I could probably include something like:

      Future Categories: Education, Economics, European immigration and integration, Media, Society, Sesame Street, Latin America, and United States.

      … but without any guarantee of when they might go up beyond “soon.”Report

      • That would be great, Will, thanks. Hadn’t thought of giving more notice than within the week, nor of just doing it via the post. Any way to plant the seed ahead of time I think would accomplish the basic idea just fine.Report

    • I think you got that link off my twitter feed. I thought it was an interesting piece, and I’ll note that it was the first submission in what apparently is planned as a colloquy involving two other conservative intellectuals. I had been meaning to monitor it. Though I think the post leaves much out on the subject of why “liberal” became synonymous in the U.S. with “social liberal” or “state liberal” (Roosevelt liberal), and raises another question as to whether the peculiar U.S. usage is not in fact more appropriate to the history and meaning of the the term and its variations than the prior association with, in short, 19th Century European liberalism, it did not make my “blood boil.”

      I was disappointed a little that it did not appear on the list above, but I long ago decided that Will didn’t like me, so ignored the tweets I tweet out. That’s most of what I do on Twitter these days: I only rarely get involved in Twitter debates, as at long last I’ve determined it’s not really very good for that.

      Anyway, it would be relatively easy to produce a link submission form that could be displayed in the sidebar and other locations (have also been thinking about a dedicated ‘Sphere page, as off and on discussed with Trumwill off-site). Links submitted by users would go into the underused (virtually unused) links database, which already includes ample resources for categorization. The link list could be outputted in various ways more or less conforming to Trumwill’s current presentation, maybe with a couple of convenience features both for him and for the readers: For instance, a reader could click on a button that would automatically paste a version of the link or its # into whatever open comment box.

      But I’m really curious about what in that Haidt-linked “Plea Regarding ‘Liberal'” made Mr Drew’s blood boil. Could be the basis for an interesting discussion, even if it unfortunately lacks a very clear connection to Trump or penises.Report

      • Will Truman in reply to CK MacLeod says:

        I saw not the tweet in question, I fear.Report

      • Yep, now that you mention it, that’s where I saw it (via the OT transom). Moreover, now that I look, I don’t follow Haidt on Twitter.

        I think you said it pretty well – it doesn’t account at all for how the term evolved; it just declares it an illegitimate usage. And it seeks to deny the right to use a term for the meaning as it has clearly come to have, whatever their feelings about it. Meanwhile, this group of people has had no use for the term for probably almost a century, and has used it as a term of derision for years.

        That being said, it is a legitimate line of argument, and they probably have a pretty good argument – that’s why my blood boils. There’s really no point to the argument: it isn’t going
        anywhere. Even conservatives (and libertarians) would rather have the term to kick around than reclaim. Meanwhile, I have a pretty strong attachment to it, involving a pretty elaborate set of considerations about how the liber root relates to the modern liberal’s support for a set of government actions in furtherance of certain goals (consistent with a certain vision of liberty). It’s not like liberals are themselves not at all concerned with liberty; there’s a reason why liberals went from being laissez-faire advocates to advocates for civil liberties along with government protection of certain personal goods necessary for the full realization of liberty.

        But ultimately, the term did once pretty much mean “advocate of as limited government as possible,” and I think there wouldn’t be much anyone could say to people who have determined to try to take this term away from the left, given what a quixotic idea that is in practice. They’re arguing this to make a point, not to actually accomplish anything, so there will be less than no point debating it with those committed to that project. That’s why my blood boils reading their case.Report

        • …I’m tempted to add: my blood doesn’t really boil when I read it. But I suppose that’s kind of obvious since I am able to type this.

          My blood doesn’t really *figuratively* boil, either, I guess. A bit of hyperbole there. More of a “SMH” moment, maybe.

          …Though still, as you say, probably a worthwhile discussion.Report

    • Murali in reply to Michael Drew says:

      I think the authors overstate the case, but there is a real distinction between liberalism and leftism. Some parts of the left (nearer the centre) especially the more neoliberal parts of it are of course liberal while the slightly further left consists of social democrats who aren’t really liberals.Report

      • CK MacLeod in reply to Murali says:

        I’ve been promoting a discussion of that tension within the left-liberal coalition for some time now, though making sense of it somewhat requires adopting the definition of “liberal” – as the opposite of “illiberal,” and in relation to political ideals – that those conservatives favor. (Their colloquy is now complete.)

        Since the underlying question is as to the best definition of “liberal” for our purposes, which latter also have to be defined, it’s premature to insist that anyone is or is not “really liberal.” How to make that determination is what we are trying to find out. If, for instance, we emphasize a liberal ideal regarding political processes, then social democrats (since the early 20th Century) are clearly more liberal than the leftists with whom they have much else in common, including a rejection of key “classical liberal” economic precepts. We now also have elaborated examples of the partial adoption of classical liberal economic ideas separated to greater and lesser extents from recognizably liberal political ideas. We also have long-standing attempts to merge social democracy, classical liberal economics or neo-liberal market economics, and liberal political ideas, whether in the American social-liberal manner or in the more socialistic or openly socialistic European (“social market”) mode. Another additional element of complication is that “liberal” no less than “conservative” also connotes or evokes a temperament, and it’s not impossible at all for someone to combine both temperaments.

        The potential for all of the ideas to converge around a generally applicable model that can be adapted to local conditions is what a neo-Hegelian like Fukuyama meant by the “end of history,” or what he now refers to as “getting to Denmark” – implying that, in general, if you put someone behind the Rawlsian veil he or she would eventually choose something somewhat Denmarkian, a series of best Goldilocks guesses across the full range of political-social-economic-cultural questions, within a political system flexible enough to correct errors and imbalances, stable enough to supply security and predictability.Report

      • Michael Drew in reply to Murali says:


        No doubt there is a distinction. They’re not the same, and indeed there are leftists who will vehemently deny they are liberals (and they’re probably right). We’re talking Venn diagrams here. Liberals need to be concerned about some basket of liberties, and the value of liberty as a temper on their means for pursuing other goals (like equality) as well. Leftists are leftists inasmuch as they pursue those other goals (like equality). They can do so while also being concerned about a basket of important liberties (freedom of speech, etc.), and also tempering their means with a concern for liberty in general, making them leftists and liberals – or they can more thoroughly disregard such concerns for liberty, making them just leftists.

        However, the article goes down the road of saying that if your policy aims put you at all in the company of people who want to see government taking actions to promote values other than liberty, like equality or social security or heath care and a minimum income everybody, etc., then you’re not a liberal – they want to define liberal as opposition to those things.Report

        • Murali in reply to Michael Drew says:

          I mostly agree with you: they do over-state their conclusions. Here’s why I’m (nevertheless) sympathetic to that conclusion: I see liberalism as fundamentally being about value neutrality. Controversial moral values like economic equality, traditional “family values” etc are thus impermissible as goals of the state. That is, a liberal state should not justify policies because they further such values. That does not mean that the state cannot do anything which happens to further such values. It can have a social safety net if the safety net can be justified on the basis of neutral values (i.e. values everyone in that society accepts or would have to accept for any sort of society to be possible in the first place). That is to say, the class of goals which the state may legitimately act towards is very small. In addition, in the pursuit of these legitimate goals, the state must avoid as far as it can frustrating people’s pursuit of their own values.Report

          • Michael Drew in reply to Murali says:

            Given that’s your view, that makes sense. It does seem like the way you describe liberalism is pretty close to just the non-U.S. or archaic sense of the term: high emphasis on (if not maximal) liberty & extremely circumscribed (if not minimized) state. The state only being able to pursue ‘uncontroversial’ values seems to guarantee that. (Though, some might argue that is too democratic a vision for a robust liberalism, which needs to be substantively counter-majoritarian (even counter-super-majoritarian) at times in important repeats in order to achieve its tempering effect. Think of the internment of Japanese-Americans in WWII, which was both itself very broadly popularly supported as was its basic aim.)

            That’s a perfectly correct view of liberal/ism. But it has a certain place outside of the specific context of contemporary America’s political culture, and then it has a different place within contemporary America’s political culture, where it has just simply come to have a different dominant meaning. Words just do that. You (not you, them) can rail against it, but ultimately it isn’t incorrect.

            The point here is not that you’re sympathetic to the authors’ views about a preferable vision of liberalism, but that you (I think) don’t share their inclination to try to deny Americans legitimacy in using the term for what (or for one of the things) it has come to mean American political culture. Hell, you could write the essay critiquing that evolution and condemning that usage much more defensibly s an outsider whose language context actually tends to naturally con true the term the way you lay out – and you (so far as I know!) choose not to. Yet these guys write from within American political culture, where they are fully aware of the kind of evolution that has gone on, and presume to try to effect kind of linguistic revolution where the meaning of this term within that culture is concerned. Your modesty given your position (outside American political culture, where liberalism largely does commonly denote a meaning much like your vision for it) only underscores their presumption.Report

            • Murali in reply to Michael Drew says:

              I’m pretty sure that even within American academia (at least the parts of it concerned with political theorising) and probably in philosophy and pol sci departments throughout the English speaking wolrd, “liberalism” tends to denote something closer to European usage (or mine) than to the casual American usage.

              The curious thing is that the academic usage has not evolved as much as casual usage even in America.

              Also to be clear, I think that a social safety net is within the boundaries of liberalism. But, economic equality itself is not. Thus, welfare state capitalism (or some versions of it) and libertarianism are both broadly speaking, liberal, but particular elements of modern states like minimum wages and (other similar restrictions on employment contracts) may not be. High liberalism and classical liberalism are still varieties of liberalism.

              I think I have written a post about this. It turns out that I did write one a year ago.


              • Michael Drew in reply to Murali says:

                Well, in my experience in/with political theory sections of American political science departments (so, that’s *a* political theory section of *an* American political science department) a lot of time is spent discussing readings in the history of Western political theory. So that is all going to point back to the sense of the term that originates and continues outside of the colloquial American political context. Basically, for this purpose (liberalism) academic political theory in the U.S. is just an extension of European and British political theory.

                On cashing out liberalism in terms of policy, it seems by your previous description it would depend on the political context, wouldn’t it? In practice, I think it’s a stretch to say that a safety net is uncontroversial in the american context, while OTOH, at this point I don’t think having *a* minimum wage is (though raising it past certain levels would be). Generally speaking, I don’t think there is much of a political constituency in the U.S. at all for “economic equality itself”; however, there is one for reducing inequality (which is an aim of a social safety net in any case). And particularly, I’m unclear how a reasonably low (in context) minimum wage is a policy in furtherance of “economic equality itself,” rather than reducing inequality, which is, again, the aim of the social safety net.Report

          • Michael Drew in reply to Murali says:

            …Oh yeah, and I was going to add: this is certainly a topic that I have long wished that American “liberals” – people of the broad left who call themselves that – would give quite a bit more conscious attention to. Rather than just take the received terminology for our set of views, think consciously about why that might or might not be the right term for us. The word has a Latin root of liber: “free.” (…Or, “book”).

            So the question of liberty needs to be present and accounted for in the philosophy. How does it fit in? It doesn’t have to be the way that libertarians judge the liber root to play in their philosophy, or the way scolds would tell us it should play in the “correct” meaning of the word liberal. But it has to be very consciously considered in my view.

            In particular, I’d like to hear from someone like Paul Krugman, who makes such a major point of identifying with that label (the name of his blog and one of his more political books), yet rarely writes about how the word itself relates to the views he associates with it. Why “liberal” and not “progressive,” etc.? That’s not challenge: I’d really just like to her him ruminate on the question a bit.

            For that reason, despite my issues with the article we’re discussing, I’m glad the category appeared so it could occasion us to raise the question.Report

  16. Notme says:

    Roddy Piper RIPReport

  17. Stillwater says:

    Here’s an interesting linky and (the final sentence from) the accompanying abstract:

    The results provide substantial support for theories of Economic-Elite Domination and for theories of Biased Pluralism, but not for theories of Majoritarian Electoral Democracy or Majoritarian Pluralism.

    {{I’m gonna stall on actually reading it in the hope that Chris will tell me what it means dive right in a writes up a clear, concise summary of findings. #freeriderslivesmatter }}

    Edit: Oh hell, that looks awful on the page. I’m gonna delete everything but the final sentence.Report

  18. Notme says:

    Deblasio’s new new york is taking shape. This incident along with recent story about the guy bathing in the fountain should give people pause.

  19. Murali says:

    P1: This should be old news already. Economists have known for years that it is instrumentally rational for voters to be epistemically irrational and/or misinformed.Report

  20. Christopher Carr says:

    P6 – As a fervent antitranscendentalist, I must disagree with your Natural Law Party’s basic politics, but I appreciate that we’re at least having the same conversation.Report