Morning Ed: United States {2016.08.18.Th}

Will Truman

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

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223 Responses

  1. LeeEsq says:

    Conversation about race: The article gets it right. A lot of these we need to have a conversation about this subject are based on the belief that with enough aggressive truth-telling about racism, sexism, or whatever other injustice you have in mind that the party benefiting from the persecution will eventually have a mass revelation on the bad things they did and correct the situation. People really don’t operate this way and we need a better way to correct injustice that doesn’t revolve around revelation. Beating the drum about anti-semitism certainly hasn’t helped Jews that much.

    Broaddrick: Going to ignore the political angle on this one and focus on the legal one. Sexual assault is very tricky. Since many women are not believed when they are raped, many rapists get away with their crimes. Assuming that women have a right to believe is arguing that anybody accused of rape should be assumed guilty. This goes against some very important legal principles like the presumption of innocence in criminal cases and that the burden is on the government to prove the accused guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. These principles are important.Report

  2. LTL FTC says:

    Two people can have a conversation, learn more about one another and come out the other end still disagreeing. In any other situation, that’s a productive conversation.

    What if we had a national conversation on race that ended with, “wow, that’s really interesting and that practice really hurts you in a way that doesn’t hurt me…. but there is still no way in hell I’m sending my kid to a school where you’re in the majority and they don’t pass the state exams.”

    Could that possibly be what the pro-conversation contingent would be happy with?

    This a hazard of thinking you are on the right side of history. History isn’t over yet.Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to LTL FTC says:

      That’s how things actually ended up in practice more or less. You even had similar conversations in countries that were much more ethnically homogenous. The United Kingdom of the 1970s might have been much more diverse than the United Kingdom of the 1940s but it was still an overwhelmingly White and Protestant place. When the United Kingdom began moving from the tripartite system to a comprehensive one in education, parents of grammar school kids were aghast at the thought of their children having to go to school with kids who would have failed the Eleven Plus examination. Nearly everybody involved in this debate was white.Report

  3. notme says:

    Apparently it is not even necessary to try and get pregnant before you claim your insurance company should pay for fertility treatment. I have sympathy for those that are truly infertile but come on folks.

    • pillsy in reply to notme says:

      How long would a lesbian couple need to have unprotected sex for before you believe one of them isn’t going to get pregnant?Report

    • Mo in reply to notme says:

      Did you even read the article? The article I read sounds like they tried to get pregnant on their own dime.

      After Erin Krupa was denied coverage by Horizon, she appealed the claim and began paying out of pocket for artificial insemination — $6,000 for three cycles. Each was unsuccessful. Her appeal was then denied.


    • Oscar Gordon in reply to notme says:

      The rule of demonstrating infertility through two years of unprotected sex would be fine, if there were no other identifiable potential complications.

      Without going into my whole personal family saga, the diagnosis of endometriosis should have been sufficient to determine infertility. It is technically possible to get pregnant despite endometriosis, but such cases are usually young women (late teens, early 20’s, before the condition has had a chance to do severe damage), and the rare cases of older women are just that, very rare.Report

      • Morat20 in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

        There are a number of easily diagnosed problems that cause infertility (or make pregnancy sufficiently hard that you’re needing serious help, if not outright IVF, to get pregnant). Endometriosis is one. PCOS is another.Report

      • notme in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

        I guess that is why the insurance “cited a state insurance mandate from 2001 that required most women under 35 — no matter their sexual orientation — to demonstrate their infertility through “two years of unprotected sexual intercourse.”” They didn’t actually treat Krupa differently.Report

        • pillsy in reply to notme says:

          Could someone please explain to me how @notme’s persistent habit of deliberate obtuseness and selective illiteracy is not “being an asshole”?

          I’ll take it as read that I’m being an asshole by calling his behavior out like this.Report

          • Jaybird in reply to pillsy says:

            We have a prejudice against banning people. (There have maybe only been 5 or 6 people banned in the history of the site.)

            Additionally, notme provides a viewpoint that is fairly rare on this site: The Republican Kneejerk Gutrumble.

            There are conspiracy theories out there that s/he’s not actually particularly conservative, but merely a liberal doing everything s/he can to apply Nietzsche’s maxim “The most perfidious way of harming a cause consists of defending it deliberately with faulty arguments” but, like most conspiracy theories, they’re not falsifiable.Report

          • Will Truman in reply to pillsy says:

            His record has been kind of spotty lately, but he is often valuable in linking to the sorts of items that we don’t always link to.

            That said, I often wish that Notme would act differently than he does. Asshole? Not sure. Often not ideal commenter behavior, though rarely actionable. Except that we tend to provide people around him more leeway in their interactions with him. Right now, that'[s the equilibrium.Report

          • Fortytwo in reply to pillsy says:

            Can you not call names?
            I don’t agree with notme most of the time and I also think he’s deliberately obtuse sometimes, but that’s no reason to insult someone.Report

        • Oscar Gordon in reply to notme says:

          Which explains why they are suing the state regulatory body, rather than the insurance company.

          What is your point here?

          If the point is in regard to two years of unprotected sexual intercourse, the assuming the women are healthy, sexually active adults, they probably did have at least two years of unprotected sex. If intercourse means penetration, I guess we could ask if they tried using strap-ons and dildos, but I’m thinking that isn’t going to matter much in the end, except perhaps to satisfy some regulators pornographic fantasy.

          Or is the point that they should go through at least 24 sessions of artificial insemination before getting a finding?Report

          • notme in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

            I think they are trying to game the system by using their sexual orientation as a means for force the insurance co to give them benefits.Report

            • Don Zeko in reply to notme says:

              Why do you think it would be inappropriate for the insurer to cover these particular benefits?Report

              • notme in reply to Don Zeko says:

                I think covering such things is appropriate if they meet the qualifications. Ideally insurance corps would rely on provider judgement, but it helps to have bright line rules.

                I don’t begrudge them coverage if they meet the standard, I just don’t think the are being discriminated against.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to notme says:

                The law required them to do something that was essentially impossible for them. That’s discriminatory.Report

              • J_A in reply to Don Zeko says:

                At the risk of being misinterpreted again, at some point fertility treatments should be more like cosmetic surgery than heart surgery.

                And as much as I fully, absolutely, totally, no questions asked ever, support gay equality, I don’t think insurance should pay fertility treatments for people that are infertile only because they are not doing it right.

                They don’t need to stay childless. They can pay for it themselves, they can go turkey baster (and the law should get the turkey donor off the hook forever no ifs, ands, or buts) or they go the adoption route.

                For insurers to bake into the policy prices the (potential) paying for lesbians fertility treatments or gay surrogate mothers for any and all LGBT couples is another drop in the raising costs of healthcare in the USAReport

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to J_A says:


                I agree that people should have to try a couple of artificial insemination attempts before insurance kicks in, and to be honest, AI isn’t that expensive (~$1000 a go, when we did it 5 years ago).

                But after 2 or 3 failed attempts, a doctor is going to have to go poking around, because it should have worked by then. Now insurance should start kicking in, because the price is going to go up.

                For what we paid to conceive my son, I could have paid his tuition for 4 years at a good state school.Report

              • J_A in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                That I can agree with. I can also agree when the ectopic pregnancy is added to the mix. But just saying after two years of unprotected lesbian sex we aren’t pregnant as a bridge too far for meReport

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to J_A says:

                Luckily that isn’t the case here (both couples paid for multiple AI procedures out of pocket).Report

              • a doctor is going to have to go poking around

                So to speak.Report

              • Morat20 in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                We couldn’t get insurance to cover even AI (much less IVF) despite my insurance company claiming it covered it (to a degree) when underlying medical issues were the problem.

                Which they were. Apparently what they meant by “We’ll cover IVF and AI to a degree when caused by underlying medical conditions” they mean “we’ll cover treating those conditions, and if you end up pregnant, we’ll pretend we covered a fertility service”.

                This was 10 or 12 years ago. We ended up not having a second kid. 1500 a try for AI + shots was leading into “multiple births are not uncommon” areas.Report

            • Oscar Gordon in reply to notme says:

              Damn Etherbunny ate my initial reply…


              You would have something of an argument if this was a heterosexual couple trying to get pregnant without having to actually have sex (like some weird religious thing about wanting a ‘virgin birth’).

              The problem is the state requirement does not appear to have a clear exception for cases where there is a potential medical issue which would make the “2 years of sex” standard a pointless waste of time. What if this was a hetero couple where the guy had a vasectomy*? Or the woman had her tubes tied*? Or some other medical reason that pregnancy is highly unlikely to occur without medical intervention? In the case here, neither person being equipped with a functioning penis or testes strikes me as a medical reason making the 2 years a waste of time.

              Now if the state had an additional standard that homosexual women need to try, say, two rounds of AI before other procedures could be tried, that might have some legs. But in that case, both of the couples suing would have met that requirement.

              PS AI, IVF, etc are no fun for women. I mean, none. At best, it’s about as much fun as a GYN exam, at worst, it’s quite painful. Us men, on the other hand, get 5 minutes alone in a room with some porn, some paper towels, and a cup.Report

              • Mo in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                @oscar-gordon If the guy had a vasectomy or the woman had their tubes tied for non-medical reasons, the insurance company shouldn’t pay for that. Those procedures are relatively cheap to do and very expensive to reverse. And in both those cases, you have to take action and are informed of the results (e.g. NY State has a 30 day waiting period). You make your bed, you sleep in it.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Mo says:


                Ah, damnit, I put those asterisks there for a reason.

                *There are medical reasons to perform a tubal ligation or vasectomy that are not related to a choice to not produce more children.

                Ergo, I agree, if a person voluntarily undergoes such a procedure in order to prevent further reproduction, then that’s that. You pay out of pocket.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                Way back in the 90’s when I got the operation, I had crappy insurance from a crappy 9 bucks an hour job.

                My insurance covered my vasectomy 100% (minus the co-pay).

                This is probably seen by insurance companies as the best 100% (minus the co-pay) they could possibly spend.Report

  4. Damon says:

    Race: “no conversation “can fix the past, eradicate all racist sentiment, or create a populace refulgently enlightened about Black America’s story. That’s a dream it’s time to let go of.”” Bingo.

    Broaddrick: I love the contradiction. Nothing like noticing a difference between what people say and do, especially politicians.

    McMansions: The thing I thought was interesting was that a lot of the examples were comparing houses without garages as good examples of design and houses with garages as bad examples. Given that current builders “just tack on” garages, usually to the side of the house, I wonder what the results would be for the poor examples if the garages were removed and the analysis redone. Note, I found some of the houses ugly as hell. But I also think size is a factor. The well designed houses appear to be smaller in square footage and more vertical than the mcmansions.

    America Rocks? Yeah, sure. Just not all that great on “freedom”.

    • notme in reply to Damon says:

      But if folks let go of the past how will they justify affirmative action and all the other things they think they deserve?Report

    • Marchmaine in reply to Damon says:

      On garages the site had a separate article on just that. So yes, they are agreeing with you…

      To @j_a ‘s point below… we designed our own house and spent a lot of time on proportions on the inside/outside. What we noticed about the builder is that they designed from the floor plan out. Get the floor plan you want and they will get the beams and roof systems to cover it. So, some of this is simply a revolution in building materials. I do think there’s an interesting philosophical divide over proportionality vs. functionality… but I’m not convinced it is necessary to weaponize, just yet.

      Would be interesting to get Chip’s take on it too.Report

      • J_A in reply to Marchmaine says:

        There’s something called the Small House Movement (they are in the Internet) that claims that well proportioned spaces and feelings of coziness are better for our relaxation and general feeling of well being, and that cavernous McMansions fail to feel like homes

        I actually agree with themReport

        • Marchmaine in reply to J_A says:

          Yes, I’ve read a fair bit from various sites on that topic… I rather agree.Report

        • DensityDuck in reply to J_A says:

          My wife and I were recently looking at houses. One of the things we found was that the floor plans which were listed as having more total area (square footage) didn’t necessarily feel bigger, because the layouts weren’t as good.Report

          • J_A in reply to DensityDuck says:

            There is a lot of wasted space in McMansions because the several outside volumes have to accommodated into more or less square or rectangular rooms inside. After that, you end with a lot of odd corners ard thin and long volumes that have no use but to connect rooms one another.

            The traditional symmetrical floor plan to distribute rooms was the same from the Romans onwards. The external volumes flow from the internal arrangement of the volumes of the rooms. McMansions start from the outside, with a “baroque” yuxtaposition of shapes (but without the baroque balance), and then distribute the inside as best as they can, function following form.

            I too designed and built my own house. 2,000 sq ft, three bedrooms, 2 1/2 bathrooms, formal living dining, kitchen/family room and covered patio for the spring. And the garage is in the back.

            And what I’m most proud off. There are plugs in every wall, at least two, and never more than 10 feet away from each other.

            You know the blessing that no matter what, there’s a plug nearby?


            • Maribou in reply to J_A says:

              @j_a Hm, a lot of the old mansiony houses I’ve seen (“old” by North American standards) have octagonal or even round rooms inside, function following form (though insofar as they are extremely pleasant to be inside, there’s some function there I suppose). Seen that in a few McMansions too. So why don’t they do that more? Building expenses?Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Maribou says:

                Curved walls are rather labor intensive. It was a bit easier back in the days of plaster walls, but sheet rock does not tolerate much of a radius of curvature. Octagonal rooms are a bit easier, although still quite a bit of work cutting all the miters, especially if you have crown moulding.Report

        • Richard Hershberger in reply to J_A says:

          This can easily be taken to ridiculous extremes, but I definitely agree that bigger is not necessarily better. There is a right size for the number of people living in the house, their lifestyles so far as accumulating stuff goes, and how much they like spending time in the same room with one another. Once you get bigger than that, you just have useless extra space to heat and cool.Report

  5. notme says:

    Ryan Lochte’s swim teammates to meet with authorities on robbery after being pulled off of plane to US.

    Maybe the Obama admin should offer Brazil $400 million to let them go.Report

  6. Oscar Gordon says:

    Agree with the conversation piece, in that a conventional conversation sounds like just being lectured at.

    Calling attention to structural policy problems (Policing for profit, drug war, killings, etc) does more.Report

  7. J_A says:

    As you know I am not USA born, and I have the opportunity to live in and to travel to countries with large black minorities.

    There is racism everywhere. There are places, like Trinidad, with lots of racism, much more than here. In these places, racism means “I don’t like this people, I don’t want to associate personally with these people”. The word “personally” carrying a lot of weight here. Racism in Trinidad or Brazil or Cuba or the UK is of the personal nature. I, as a person, don’t like blacks, and therefore I won’t marry blacks, won’t become friends with blacks, and, as much as possible, will avoid black colleagues at work.

    But the racism in the USA is of a different nature. It’s societal. It’s less personal, and more baked in the institutions. There is no so much that racists are saying “I don’t want to be friends with blacks” but that the societal institutions built during the decades and decades of segregation, in their South and North varieties, have been baked in, and remain in place, invisible, but still affecting black people.

    Non blacks -including me- are mostly blind to the societal tripping blocks that pervade the USA and make it more difficult for blacks to progress. No one will suspect me if I’m opening my front door. They might suspect a black neighbour because they don’t expect blacks to live here. When the police stops me they are courteous, when I apply for a job my Spanish name does not bother them, except to apologize for not being able to handle so many Rs. I don’t think my
    black colleagues have the same experiences. But it’s difficult to ask, because in a 250 employee office there are two black people, and one is the receptionist (but we have do scores of Asians, Chinese, Japanese and Indian, and plenty of Hispanics chatting in Spanish at all hours). I guess this is what people call white (meaning non-black) privilege.

    But blacks must also somehow address the pathologies of black culture. I do believe they (or some of they) try to do so, but there’s a lot of self inflicted harm. Conservatives (and racists) do have a valid point. The institutions (family, churches, black colleges, the black middle class) that blacks had built for themselves for generations during segregation crumbled when segregation ended. I think there’s a mix of correlation and causation in there, but the result is that the “separate and unequal” black community turned into a small black middle class immersed within the majority of the country, yet not fully integrated with it, and a larger black underclass that were unable to make this transition, but whose communities lost the support -and the positive example- of the educated black middle class.

    tl/dr : Racism in the USA, is not racist people disliking blacks. It is something that segregation baked within our society’s structure, and therefore it can be invisible to most of us. How to go back and change things that have been there for more than a century is a major society endevour. That’s the black on white conversation on race. But there is a black on black side to the conversation on race. The black community has a lot of self inflicted wounds. There is nothing non blacks can do about that.

    The people that don’t like blacks will still be there, and able to do a little mischief, but, like in most places with black minorities, they will not be able to stop black people participating fully in society. They are not the problem. Eventually, they will be gone.Report

    • Joe Sal in reply to J_A says:

      “The black community has a lot of self inflicted wounds.”

      Interesting comment but I disagree with this portion. I think there are serious problems in the economy. A serious deficiency in economic opportunity for people near the bottom to utilize their personal means of production.

      Blacks didn’t have much to do with creating the thoroughfares to the cheapest labor pools on the planet, which dump cheap tangible products in their local markets.

      I have experienced some of the areas that are hit hard by poverty and there are underlying problems, two of the big ones are no access to a personal means of production that will sustain a livelyhood, the second is the velocity of money and how it gets sucked up by large corporations, kills local tangible capital formation. Basically the mixed corporation/government formations has broken the local function of capitalism.

      If you look at communities that have highly functional local capitalism and tangible capital formation, blacks prosper on level with any other race.

      I usually don’t like to group people, but in this instance I do think the black community has had little to do with the problems that have been developing since the 1970s. I hope that helps contrast that some of the wounds aren’t at all self inflicted.Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to J_A says:

      Talking about the alleged or real pathologies of African-American culture is a difficult proposition because it comes across too much as blaming the victim. A lot of the alleged or real pathologies have origins with the centuries of mistreatment that African-Americans suffered from the colonial era to the present. People love to rag about the typical African-American family but its hard to build a decent nuclear family culture when outside forces keep splitting the family up be it members of the family being sold to other slave owners or racist officials jailing men on false pretenses.

      I also think its important to point out that many of the alleged pathologies in African-American culture like drug use, premarital pregnancy, broken families, and a disrespect for education are also present in the White underclass in droves to. Its just that nobody attributes these pathologies to race in the white underclass.Report

      • notme in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Being self inflicted has nothing to do with race, does it?Report

      • J_A in reply to LeeEsq says:

        I fully agree with you that none of the black family pathologies are racial, or inherent, or something that cannot be changed. Same with Appalachia. They are just the result of what happened before, and what’s happening now.

        But we cannot change what happened before, and don’t have that much control either about what’s happening now. As Hari Seldon will discover in a couple of scores of thousands of years, history has a very large inertia. It takes a long time, or a big effort of many people to change the direction of history.

        To change where we are now we need to understand where we are now, and what things can be changed. And what things the bystanders (I.e. the non blacks and the non “i don’t like black people” racists) will accept or refuse to change.

        It might be that if enough things change the black family , or the Appalachian family, disfunction will disappear (*) without them having to change anything about their world views. But the odds are that that won’t happen. That there has to be an internal change in those communities too. I don’t find that idea that controversial. I’m aware of how we got here, I’m trying to get somewhere else. Refusing to talk about some aspects of the problem because it would be “blame the victims” doesn’t help.

        This is probably why I was called a fascist by a girl I was heels over head in college. It all makes sense now. Such clarity!!

        (*) kind of like gay acceptance (**) is changing the promiscuous gay subculture into the picket fence living, baby cot carrying, couples I see around me, while, I’m told, bath houses and gay bars are closing.

        (**) and AIDS. I know that.Report

        • pillsy in reply to J_A says:

          J_A: It might be that if enough things change the black family , or the Appalachian family, disfunction will disappear (*) without them having to change anything about their world views. But the odds are that that won’t happen.

          I don’t think your statement of odds follows at all from anything else that’s been said, and the problem of “victim blaming” is, that in many cases, including this one, is that the “cultural pathologies” are used to justify perpetuating the external pressures that lead to the damaged communities in the first place. See responses about “black on black crime” to the “Black Lives Matter” movement, where one catastrophic failure on the part of law enforcement is used to justify and defend another.

          Given the way your example about gay acceptance played out, I think activists are acting entirely appropriately by treating demands that they address a culture that allegedly drives those pathologies in the absence of clear evidence that they will persist beyond the removal of the external forces driving them.Report

          • J_A in reply to pillsy says:


            “…that in many cases, including this one, is that the “cultural pathologies” are used to justify perpetuating the external pressures that lead to the damaged communities in the first place. See responses about “black on black crime” to the “Black Lives Matter” movement, where one catastrophic failure on the part of law enforcement is used to justify and defend another.”

            If “including this one” means me, that’s a totally mistaken read of what I have been writing all morning.

            I have not in any way suggested that the external pressures should not be modified. They are real. They are big stumbling blocks for the black community to fully integrate into society, even if, like in Trinidad, some racists will continue to be around (most likely less than in Trinidad, on a percentage basis). Until those changes take place nothing the black community does to correct their internal problems will solve the big issue.

            Yes, if it weren’t for slavery, and segregation, and Jim Crow, the black community would probably be similar to the Polish community, albeit with more melanin. But because of slavery, segregation and Jim Crow they are not. I’m not the first one to notice this. Moynihan did too, in 1965.

            We can and should take away the stumbling blocks, and we should start right now, because it will take a long time to tear away things whose roots were planted so long ago. The black family disfunction does not excuse inactivity.

            But the black family disfunction is real. And it cannot be solved by non black efforts. Otherwise, the road will be clear of obstacles, but many blacks won’t be able to walk through it.Report

            • pillsy in reply to J_A says:

              If “including this one” means me, that’s a totally mistaken read of what I have been writing all morning.

              No, I don’t mean you, I mean that an argument virtually identical to the one you’ve been making is routinely used is used to perpetuate the policies and practices that drive or maintain racial and class inequalities. That’s why “victim blaming” causes such negative reactions: it lends itself so easily to justifying continued victimization, even if that isn’t the intent of the person making the original argument.

              Yes, if it weren’t for slavery, and segregation, and Jim Crow, the black community would probably be similar to the Polish community, albeit with more melanin. But because of slavery, segregation and Jim Crow they are not. I’m not the first one to notice this. Moynihan did too, in 1965.

              But actively racist policies didn’t stop in 1965. They may have been better concealed, but the War on Drugs and all the associated damage, redlining and blockbusting, and the like continued, as did a general slashing and burning of social safety net programs. Both “tough on crime” and “anti-welfare” arguments would often be rooted in racist appeals.

              Otherwise, the road will be clear of obstacles, but many blacks won’t be able to walk through it.

              I think asking people to prove they can walk through a closed door is unlikely to have useful results. If it’s open and they still aren’t coming out, then it may be time to talk.Report

              • J_A in reply to pillsy says:

                I’m saying there are two separate problems, albeit related, an that both need to be attacked at the same time. I understand that you are saying that we will only know if the second problem exists when we fully solve the first. Until then, we not only don’t know if there is a problem, but we cannot even try to find if there is a problem, because the act of inquiring is blaming the victim and sabotaging the efforts to solve the first problem.

                If my reading is correct, I don’t think you and I can get any closer to an agreement than where we stand right now.

                But my reading might be off by a lot…Report

              • pillsy in reply to J_A says:

                Until then, we not only don’t know if there is a problem, but we cannot even try to find if there is a problem, because the act of inquiring is blaming the victim and sabotaging the efforts to solve the first problem.

                Well, that may be, but my main objection is that the basis for assuming that there is a problem seems quite weak, and people are justifiably very suspicious of arguments that depend on that assumption because their rotten history.

                Since we have a course of action we know will help, regardless of whether it completely solves the problem, and a course of action that may help after the first course of action is taken, if it doesn’t solve things completely, and that line of argument seems to be incredibly toxic to attempts to form a political coalition, it seems like there’s little profit in worrying about it now.Report

        • Aaron David in reply to J_A says:

          In the main, I agree with you @j_a. Well, except the facist bit…

          Ahaa, forgot to make sure that came out as a joke, sorryReport

          • J_A in reply to Aaron David says:

            She honest to God called me a fascist hehe. It’s one of my fondest memories of college. We all had had too much alcohol though. In vino veritas, etc, etc.

            But my former boss (who votes Democrat) who is also a friend calls me a Liburtard and for some reason believes I am a Pacifica listener Bernie voter

            I guess in average, I come out as average.Report

  8. J_A says:

    McMansions. My neighbourhood has been discovered, and now every block has one of two (we have three, but it’s a long block)

    They are not designed by architects but by builders. It is just throwing up things. It you think they are ugly outside, look at the inside. Rooms have no proportion, and are oddly shaped; distribution makes no sense; tacky wet bars all over (I saw one with four wet bars in my neighbourhood); etc.

    And you can make your garage part of the house. Porte cocheres are a feature in many beautiful old Charleston or New Orleans mansions. Or you can put it in the back, you know. That works too.Report

  9. Michael Cain says:

    I’d be interested in knowing where all the pictures in the McMansion piece were taken. I’m getting a big old-vs-new-parts-of-the-country vibe from most of these.Report

    • dragonfrog in reply to Michael Cain says:

      I think that’s no accident – if you’ve got a lot of grand old houses around, you have visual reference for how to make a grand house that doesn’t just look like someone took twelve modest new houses of dissimilar styles and whirled them lightly in a food processor.Report

      • Oscar Gordon in reply to dragonfrog says:


      • I believe that a lot of those houses are in the NE, where there is no shortage of older and less cluttered architecture. I think it’s a deliberate stylistic choice to clutter the fuck out of the exterior of those houses and the people who purchase them *want* 75,000 little turrets, bays, alcoves, dormers, and other mysteriously random protuberances. Look at the pictures of the insides of those houses; there are usually enough badly fitting joints and corners to strongly indicate that the house design was to build an interesting facade and then try to wedge rooms inside of it instead of laying out the rooms and wrapping a weatherproofing layer around them.Report

  10. pillsy says:

    But blacks must also somehow address the pathologies of black culture.I do believe they (or some of they) try to do so, but there’s a lot of self inflicted harm.Conservatives (and racists) do have a valid point. The institutions (family, churches, black colleges, the black middle class) that blacks had built for themselves for generations during segregation crumbled when segregation ended.I think there’sa mix of correlation and causation in there, but the result is that the “separate and unequal” black community turned into a small black middle class immersed within the majority of the country, yet not fully integrated with it, and a larger black underclass that were unable to make this transition, but whose communities lost the support -and the positive example- of the educated black middle class.

    I’d find this argument more persuasive if, following (or apace with) the economic collapse of white communities in rural and suburban areas, we weren’t seeing the rise of the exact same “cultural pathologies”, and in fact we’ve been seeing them get worse while things have (for the most part) slowly been getting better among African Americans. Worse, there’s a strong thread of conventional wisdom that says the devastation in black communities is due to “cultural pathology” while the devastation in white communities is due to “globalization” and “coastal elites”.

    I’m rarely impressed by attempts to explain a constant with a variable.

    The people that don’t like blacks will still be there, and able to do a little mischief, but, like in most places with black minorities, they will not be able to stop black people participating fully in society. They are not the problem. Eventually, they will be gone.

    And I’d be more convinced by this argument if Donald Trump weren’t a major party nominee for President.Report

    • J_A in reply to pillsy says:

      I tried to compare my experience of racism in the USA and in America. I’ve seen much worse open racism (Hindu against black mostly) in Trinidad than in the USA, but no one will say blacks are discriminated in Trinidad.

      I do believe racism and discrimination are different things. And that discrimination is bald in society even when many non racist people are unable to notice it. Yes, a majority of racists baked the discrimination into our society through generations. But it’s been half a century since, and more and more young people are not racists. But the societal structures that were built at the turn of the century remain.

      I don’t understand your white Appalachian paragraph. You seem to say two contradictory things at the same time. For what it’s worth, I do believe there are cultural pathologies in white Appalachia, like there are in inner city black ghettos. Yes, external factors -some different, some the same- have contributed to the clusterfishing, and made the situation worse. But in both cases the culture was not able to handle those changes. In other words, solving the external won’t solve the problem, but solving the culture won’t either. Both have to be attacked. That’s part of the conversation.Report

      • pillsy in reply to J_A says:

        So I brought up white Appalachia and similar communities to argue against “cultural pathology”, on the ground that it appears that there are some real common factors, like lack of economic and, for that matter, physical mobility that have had common effects. The reasons that white people are stuck in Appalachia are different from the reasons that black people are stuck in Milwaukee [1], but being stuck seems to be really corrosive in both cases.

        The only reason I see to attribute this to cultural pathology is that other communities have not suffered in the same way, but it’s far from obvious those other communities would be doing so well if they were subjected to the same pressures.

        As for open racism, it’s hard for me to believe that it’s irrelevant in the US when we have an openly racist Presidential candidate whose strategy for getting elected evidently depends crucially on racist campaigns of voter intimidation, both by states like NC and by “poll watchers” he wants to recruit to go into minority neighborhoods. Maybe Jim Crow died 50 years ago, but a major political party is trying to resuscitate its corpse as we speak.

        [1] Racism and its aftermath plays a major role in Milwaukee, but not in Appalachia.Report

        • J_A in reply to pillsy says:

          You must be a mathematician in your day job

          You say a lot of things that are true and accurate, but not very useful to get us from here to there.

          Go engineers!!!!!Report

          • pillsy in reply to J_A says:

            You must be a mathematician in your day job

            No, just by training. I think I’m an economist in my day job these days, but I’d have to double check my business cards.

            You say a lot of things that are true and accurate, but not very useful to get us from here to there.

            Well, in this case I don’t think you can get there from here, at least not by going in the direction you’re talking about.Report

        • El Muneco in reply to pillsy says:

          “Maybe Jim Crow died 50 years ago”

          The liberal bosses framed you Jim
          They shot you Jim, said I;
          Takes more than laws to kill a man,
          Said Jim – I did not die.Report

    • Brandon Berg in reply to pillsy says:

      Worse, there’s a strong thread of conventional wisdom that says the devastation in black communities is due to “cultural pathology” while the devastation in white communities is due to “globalization” and “coastal elites”.

      To be fair, when Kevin Williamson pointed out that the devastation in white communities is also due to cultural pathology, he got shouted down, mostly by lefties. It appears that the true objection here is not to inconsistency, but to the idea that anyone who has bad life outcomes bears any personal responsibility for it.Report

  11. Saul Degraw says:

    The thing about McMansions is that they seem big just for the sake of being big. I am not a part of the tiny house movement but there is no need for most people to own a 5000-6000 square foot home. 1500-2500 square feet works well unless you have a really large family. Plus McMansions seem expensive to maintain.Report

  12. Jaybird says:

    Friend went down to Pensacola to visit relations. He talked about the cost of living down there and mentioned the cousin who had a house the size of Wyoming who had a mortgage payment of $800 and an aunt who complained about her dang mortgage that she was *STILL* paying month in month out of $400.

    McMansions are what poor people think rich people live in. It wasn’t a problem until these poor people grew up and got well-paying jobs.Report

    • DensityDuck in reply to Jaybird says:

      Yeah; there has always seemed to be a nasty streak of anti-borgie sentiment in complaining about McMansions. Like, who do these people think they are, buying big houses to live in like they’re rich or something? oooh, look at youuuu, got a nice big house for your six screaming contributions to overpopulation and your stupid giant gas-guzzling SUV that helps clog up traffic, way out in the suburbs where you’re a net cost on infrastructure spending to provide you with sewer and electrical service.Report

  13. Richard Hershberger says:

    McMansions: There is so much to criticize about them. The architectural aesthetics is only the beginning. In no particular order:

    What strikes me most about every McMansion I have seen close up is the poor construction. These are simply wood frame houses, often with some sort of faux masonry. There is nothing wrong with a wood frame house, but this can be well built or poorly built, and your typical McMansion seems to be the latter: ticky-tacky construction for wealthy people. I suspect that most of them will be bulldozed sometime in the next fifty years.

    The ones in my neck of the woods go for an English country house look: your own little Downton Abbey. It’s actually a good look, but to work that English country house has to be in the middle of an expansive park, as our English cousins call it, or yard, as we Americans say. This can be very effective if you have a team of full time gardeners on staff. In the American incarnation this means a huge lawn. This is an uninteresting and absurd use of space under the best of circumstances. I live in prime farm country. Those huge lawns were all productive farmland a few years ago. Hooray for us!

    Better from a land use perspective but utterly ridiculous aesthetically is the alternative of taking these faux English country houses and cramming them together. There are some developments with this ginormous houses separated by tiny strips of grass. I assume these are sold to people who desperately want to live in a McMansion but can’t afford the ginormous-lawn developments.

    And really, what do you do with an enormous house? If you have an enormous family, there is no mystery here. But most of the families living in these things are not enormous. When my wife and I were house hunting I wanted the smallest house that would be adequate for the family, simply because any extra room is simply an invitation to accumulate crap. I suspect that those McMansions have some combination of a bunch of rooms that are rarely used and a bunch of rooms filled with random crap.Report

    • dragonfrog in reply to Richard Hershberger says:

      The faux finishing touches can lead to some subtle comedy, at least where I live – almost everything under skyscraper scale is made of wood here, so there’s a lot of faked masonry finishing elements, obviously implemented by people who’ve only ever seen other fake masonry buildings. Having never seen up cloase a real masonry building with that feature, they’ve never looked at the actual structural logic of the thing they’re faking.

      So you get those corner covers that are supposed to look like cut stone quoins, but instead of a zigzag pattern (one block with its long dimension pointing along the north wall, one pointing east, one pointing north etc.) they have a wide-narrow-wide pattern (one block with no long dimension, one block with long dimensions in both directions, one with no long dimension…)

      One of my favourites is the big columns with great imposing pediments that float a hand’s breadth or more off the ground.Report

  14. Marchmaine says:

    On the Liberal/Conservative living preferences, I thought the most interesting chart was the one that shows the Total population. 50% prefer suburbs/small towns and 25% each prefer Cities or Rural.

    I actually think that’s a healthy divide, and I’m coming at it from the small-to-rural side… we’re looking for balance, not for everyone to live in the country. If we’d do a little bit better job managing suburban growth so that it mimic towns rather than sprawl, we’d have a much better approach to making that balance work.

    On a side note, talking to a very conservative friend who is extremely pro-city (one of the 4% by these surveys), I was arguing that there was probably about 20% who preferred rural living and another 20% that preferred small towns (granting him 60% for Cities/suburbs) – he thought that was unpossible, no more than 25% total for that group. I find that to be a pretty consistent blindspot among city dwellers.Report

    • Autolukos in reply to Marchmaine says:

      Stockholm syndrome is a hell of a thingReport

    • LeeEsq in reply to Marchmaine says:

      Cities and urbanism come up as topics of discussion on LGM frequently. One poster theorized that people prefer suburbs to cities is because what they really want is small town, defined as place the definite commercial core/main street with houses, schools, and other facilities relatively close by. These things don’t scale up well and the idea of a city as collection of small towns does not sit well with most people so they go for suburbs as the best possible alternative.Report

      • Marchmaine in reply to LeeEsq says:

        The thing about “scaling” arguments is that things scale as well as technology allows; we have the cities we have now and the suburbs we have now based upon the technology that we have now. It starts with water, and technology builds out and up from there.

        Where I usually part company with the “scalers” are the people who want to make a dogmatic assertion that changes to technology will always (and must) go into vertical scaling and not horizontal scaling.Report

        • Joe Sal in reply to Marchmaine says:

          I have read a few sources that indicate urban areas will need to start producing 15% of their food within about 10 years to secure against deficiencies.

          That has me kinda of wondering where the water supply for that will come from. City drainage systems could capture a lot of run off, storage would appear to be a future issue.Report

          • Marchmaine in reply to Joe Sal says:

            I’d be curious to read those sources; I heartily agree that the current food system is extremely efficient but also very brittle… but we’re no where near carrying capacity.

            I get a chuckle out of this whitepaper on NYC food supplies:

            The complex, interconnected system that supplies food to New York City is, in many ways, a mystery even to those who consider themselves to be “food literate.”

            [BUT, not to worry, the system is very resilient]

            Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the food system is highly resilient, able to adapt to changing conditions without major interruption. Despite the resiliency built into the system, it is not without challenges, such as those posed by infrastructure and transportation needs, a lack of food traceability, and economic fluctuations. Infrastructure and transportation needs will become increasingly apparent, as food movement into and within the New York City region is projected to increase by 61 percent by 2035, placing additional strains on the City’s bridges, roads, and other essential infrastructure. The current recession has impacted all aspects of the food system, and planning for how to deal with future economic downturns should be a major consideration.

            [Resilent except for these local concerns, and not even accounting for global or production concerns]


            Another way to put it is this, from what I’ve seen, if cities will need to generate 15% of their own food or face shortages, you should start shopping for a new home now. Absent a miracle energy source that’s not going to happen in that time frame.

            But… and this is my point… this is an example of Horizontal only thinking – most of the issues NYC notes are infrastructure bandwidth issues, not actual agricultural issues. One way to address them is greater and greater infrastructure spending… another is to move some of the people closer to where the food is.Report

    • Saul Degraw in reply to Marchmaine says:


      I am not completely anti-suburban but it depends on what you mean by suburb. I grew up in an older bedroom community where you could walk to the central commercial district and grab a slice of pizza as a kid. That was nice. I could also walk to a train station and take a 35 minute train ride into NYC. Some place where residential and commercial are far apart would be depressing.

      What people like in many cities seems to be the neighborhood feel where there is a central shopping district or high street that you can walk to and about.Report

      • Marchmaine in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        What people like in many cities seems to be the neighborhood feel where there is a central shopping district or high street that you can walk to and about.

        I think that’s true, but I also think that’s true for suburbs, towns, small towns and villages – including the proximity to a city. This points to more cities rather than fewer cities… that’s maybe the biggest disconnect.Report

        • J_A in reply to Marchmaine says:

          This is how suburbs developed in the XIX century, when the paterfamilias would take the train or the tram to the city, but the family had to stay and shop, go to school or church in the suburb. Not only groceries, but clothes, hardware, toys, books, medicines, had to be available at walking distance. They had to be fully self sufficient, like villages were. So the suburbs started by converting existing nearby villages, and they by creating new ones.

          Post WWII the car culture changed that. People could drive long(er) distances for their necessities, and had space to carry their shopping back home. My neighbourhood was developed in the late 1940s and includes a schools area, a churches area (with like seven different churches one next to the other) and a shopping area. But shortly thereafter developers no longer needed to include a downtown in their planned communities. And therefore they stopped doing it. In the West, were cities and town were far from each other, there were no villages to turn into suburbs, so we skipped all the old style suburbs and went directly into sprawl.Report

          • Saul Degraw in reply to J_A says:


            There are some Bay Area suburbs that have central commercial districts but they tend to be older like Burlingame, Mill Valley and other towns in Marin, etc.

            I suppose you can get into debates about whether Walnut Creek and Berkeley are independent cities or suburbs of SF-Oakland or both.Report

            • LeeEsq in reply to Saul Degraw says:

              Walnut Creek was a rural place for a long time. When they started to build it up into an urban area/suburb, the designers decided to build a commercial core but it ended up looking like an outdoor mall because it was not built up over decades but all at once from a single design.Report

            • J_A in reply to Saul Degraw says:

              If older means pre massive car (like my inner ring Houston suburb) there is no contradiction.

              By the West I was thinking more Texas or Colorado or Nevada, or Southern California. San Francisco was a big city in its own right in the XIX century, and followed the patterns of late XIX century suburb formation. No contradiction there either.

              You are an honorary East Coaster SaulReport

              • Saul Degraw in reply to J_A says:

                I spent the first 28 years of my life on the East Coast in and around NYC. I am no honorary East Coaster but an actual one! You can’t take the East Coast out of me.Report

  15. LeeEsq says:

    When McMansions started to become a thing I was working on a State Assembly political campaign in Queens. Developers and individual home owners were tearing down existing houses and replacing them with small scale McMansions. They stuck out like a sore thumb in the neighborhood and replaced yards and gardens with concrete. A frequent request was to do something about them, meaning prevent them from being built.Report

    • Damon in reply to LeeEsq says:

      I’m not sure if they would qualify as Mcmansion status, but my grandfather used to live in Coral Gables Miami. Very near the university. People were buying houses, tearing down the buildings and rebuilding right at the set back line. Virtually zero space on the sides, as it was all about maximizing the size of the house for the footprint. What else you going to do if you want to live in an expensive area and not have a tiny house?Report

  16. Chip Daniels says:

    Re: McMansions:

    The current round of McMansions seems new, but oversize vulgar displays of wealth have a pretty long pedigree, stretching back to the Gilded Age palaces of the Industrial Age Nouveou riche, to the Venetian palazzos to the Domus Aurea.

    But what makes McMansions different?
    IMO what makes them different is what the article discusses, the awkward proportions and blithe disregard for beauty and harmony.

    So what happened?
    Why for instance could a Stanford White design a grossly oversized mansion in 1899 that somehow looks graceful and beautiful?
    Can’t architects do the same today?

    Well, no they can’t.
    Or to be more kind, they don’t want to.

    The things that the article talk about- proportion, harmony, composition- are rarely taugh in architecture schools, and considered unimportant within the architectural community.

    Look at any issue of an architectural journal of what goes for “leading edge” domestic architecture, and nowhere are these topics discussed.

    The hallmark of the Modern movement was the emphasis on personal interpretation and idosyncratic inventiveness.

    The idea that there are fixed rules of proportion and harmony and composition is considered an embarrassing historical fiction.
    So its no surprise that a modern architect called upon to design a large display of wealth, would fail to follow them.Report

    • J_A in reply to Chip Daniels says:

      I am a wanna be architect that discovered that it was unable to draw by hand, and was ten years too old for CAD.

      You are absolutely right. There is little that is classical or balanced in the architecture of the last 50 years. But McMansions are awful because no architect whatsoever has worked on them. They are designed by builders based on throwing together in random combinations what are the biggest most adorned premanufactured elements available in the Home Depot catalogReport

    • Richard Hershberger in reply to Chip Daniels says:

      Those Gilded Age mansions were built for genuinely rich people. When you are a Rockefeller or a Vanderbilt–or even the next tier down–you can buy good taste, even if you have none of your own. The modern McMansion is for upper middle class people. They can afford to buy a big house, but they can’t afford to buy good taste as well.Report

      • The tiny house movement is for people who, when given the choice between purchasing big XOR purchasing taste, choose to purchase taste.Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Richard Hershberger says:


        I don’t think this is strictly true. There are plenty of upper-middle class and middle class people with good taste as well.

        I suppose the issue is that “good taste” is relative. A lot of my friends are more attracted to living in older suburbs/towns or neighborhoods. They are not moving to new exurban developments if they move to the burbs. Or they want to live in urban neighborhoods like Ditmars Park (home of some beautiful Victorians), Carroll Gardens (a classic Brooklyn Brownstone), or Noe Valley, etc. Most of my friends seem to avoid new buildings/developments because of aesthetic tackiness in their view.

        I think there are cultural/aesthetic issues of taste that spill out into politics or as JB says questions of taste have become questions of morality. There are some observations on how Trump is an outsider’s version of how a rich person should live. Nothing about Dwell magazine and minimalism or Eames chairs and Nelson benches. It is all about maximalism with his supporters. Palin’s sneers at the Brooklyn-San Francisco set also seem to have the same rebellion against urban bourgeois minimalism.Report

        • Richard Hershberger in reply to Saul Degraw says:

          There are plenty of upper-middle class and middle class people with good taste as well.

          Of course. Good taste is orthogonal to wealth. But if you have enough wealth, you can buy good taste. Of course you have to want to, first. Presumably Donald Trump could afford it, but chooses not to. But given the will and the money, you can have a gorgeous house filled with elegant furniture and great art, without so much as a jot or tittle of good taste.

          On a related note, if you are ever in Baltimore with an afternoon free, check out the Walters Art Museum. It is superb. I was once talking to a docent there who seemed usually astute, and asked him who Mr. Walters paid to pick out this stuff. The docent swore that it was Walters himself (or rather, the son, not Walters pere). I don’t know if this is true or merely the official line, but really, either way it is an excellent museum.Report

          • Aaron David in reply to Richard Hershberger says:

            If you have enough wealth, you change good taste. In other word, they are setting the style now.Report

            • Kolohe in reply to Aaron David says:

              Changing the fashion is a far different thing than setting good taste. Look at the Studio 54 era (says the guy that still has grunge flannel on the far edge of the closet hanger rod)Report

              • Aaron David in reply to Kolohe says:

                Point, but in my defense, good taste or bad taste is solely in the eyes of the beholder (And I still have my black leather motorcycle jacket, that I look like a sausage in)Report

              • J_A in reply to Aaron David says:


                Not completely in the eye of the beholder. What pleases the eye is the same in most visual expressions, even in fashion (rythm, balance, volume, texture, color harmony, etc.)

                Without properly combining these elements, the result is not pretty, even though pretty encompasses infinite combinationsReport

              • Aaron David in reply to J_A says:

                I want to agree with you, but I do think that some of that is tied into the culture that you grew up in and the norms thereof. I find bright colors in many things to be unappealing, no matter the combinations that they appear in. Other cultures find bright colors to be very appealing as they signify other things. And yes, we seemed programmed to like symmetry, balance, etc., how those are represented is often different at a specific level. So, maybe like chaos theory, as you pull away to different viewing levels, what seems similar now seems divergent. Just a thought.

                Also, many of these things change with time and economic circumstance. Thinking specifically with beauty standards here. Cleopatra was considered an incredible beauty in her day, at 4’10” 150lbs. At the time, beauty corresponded to wealth, which corresponded to food. Vastly different standards of beauty now, in wealthy, non food scarce societies.Report

        • Chip Daniels in reply to Saul Degraw says:

          aesthetic issues of taste that spill out into politics

          There is this also. Art has always carried embedded ideas of culture and morality and politics, even though the forms vary widely.
          Classical architecture has famously been representative of both democracy and fascism in the hands of Jefferson and Speer respectively.

          Modernism does have strong affiliations in America at least, with a culture that is generally left of center.

          Not that it is in any way consistent, and not that it doesn’t contain inherent self-contradictions; for instance, the aesthetic of hidden fasteners and jointless materials that you see in these sleek white shiny boxes is inherently expensive to build, and is a luxury good not open to the working class.

          Also, the postmodern jumble aesthetic of irregular angles and looming masses carries with it, IMO unhealthy attitudes towards power and wealth.Report

      • Kolohe in reply to Richard Hershberger says:

        If being rich can buy good taste, explain Donald Trump…oh, I get it now.

        (but really, both the Breakers and the Biltmore are hit and miss as far as ‘good taste’ goes)Report

        • J_A in reply to Kolohe says:

          The Breakers is tacky. But there are a couple of smaller houses in Newport that are absolutely fantastical gems.

          Biltmore I like. The interior though is a little poor compared to the structure. My guess is that the family stripped out the good things before leaving the house behind.Report

        • Jaybird in reply to Kolohe says:

          This particular matter of taste is actually a matter of morality.

          “Taste” is a dogwhistle.Report

        • Chip Daniels in reply to Kolohe says:

          Taste is rather interesting also.

          Pre-Modern architects had these same sorts of debates we are having, about what the forms mean and when this or that is ugly or beautiful.

          What we lump together today as a sort of catchall “Classical” was actually many different variations, all of which contained different sorts of meaning.

          The strict spare Neo Classicism might connote sobriety and moral rectitude, while Baroque could be a lusty cry of exuberance and unrestrained pleasure.

          Similarly Modern architecture carries all sorts of meanings, able to be read differently by different people.

          Taste usually means “conforming to the dominant moral paradigm”. Sobriety, self assured patrician mores are usually “tasteful” while wild sensual pleasure is seen as immoral.

          And like with most art, the line between pleasing fullness and overripe gaudiness is pretty hard to define; a bit too much color, a few too many curves or breaks.Report

          • Oscar Gordon in reply to Chip Daniels says:

            I’m a form follows function kind of guy. I don’t mind experimentation, as long as the structure can still fulfil its intended role without excessive expense (either upfront, or over the life).

            Of course, fulfilling the intended role is more than just being an adequate structure for the task. If it’s a structure where people need to be inside it, but no one wants to be in the building, then its failing, artistic value notwithstanding.Report

    • Saul Degraw in reply to Chip Daniels says:


      Above thread, someone mentioned that these buildings were built by builders/developers and not architects. Do you know of any architects who make McMansions?

      I am reminded of another story on how most people prefer “traditional” styles of architecture but most architects do not want to build traditional buildings. I know a few architects who do houses and they seem to have a different clientele than your McMansion buyer.Report

      • Chip Daniels in reply to Saul Degraw says:


        I yield to none in my conservative admiration for tradition and history, but I have to be honest in saying that there were plenty of godawful Victorian buildings built not by signature famous architects like Daniel Burnham and Stanford White, but by half assed amateur architects or itinerant carpenters and done in a slipshod careless manner.
        Most have long since burned or been torn down, but some stand and are considered charming quirky like a homely bowlegged uncle who by virtue of being old is considered adorable.

        The Gilded Age was not a compliment. Donald Trump has plenty of antecedents as a vulgar buffoon with more money than taste.

        No, very few signature star architects do McMansions because McMansion almost always refers to buildings in historical styles, which few architects like to do;


        There is also a genre of ostentatious vulgar houses done in Modern style, which are every bit as ugly and ungainly as any McMansion. Think Miami Vice drug dealers or those who want to emulate them.Report

      • Kolohe in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        Architects are involved in McMansions, unless you think the building plans just spontaneously generate like medieval maggots.Report

        • J_A in reply to Kolohe says:

          I made the plans to my house that were submitted to the city and to the HOC. My contractor got a guy to sign them for a couple of hundred dollars.

          I changed them slightly during construction and didn’t bother to tell anybody.Report

        • Francis in reply to Kolohe says:

          The problem is that the developer hires one firm that develops one plan for an entire community of 150 houses (or more). The only choices are plan as-is vs mirror-image and one of three “styles”.

          Lennar, KB Homes and rest of the really large residential developers really do commit crimes against (my version of) good taste. Just drive around the newish communities in Orange County, or outside Sacramento, or throughout Riverside, California.Report

    • Oscar Gordon in reply to Chip Daniels says:

      My wife & I are looking into building a vacation cottage, and one of the styles we are thinking of is a smallish (1200 sq ft) shipping container house. Architects are doing some very interesting things with those, including stuff like this.Report

      • Before we bought, I became fascinated with pre-fab housing. Which is not quite the same as container housing, but not too dissimilar in concept.

        We found out (kind of late in the process) that’s sort of how the house be bought was built. (I say “sort of” because it was prefab, but it wasn’t the sort of mass-produced units combine to build a house, which is a big part of what I became fascinated with.)Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Oscar Gordon says:


        The benefit of a shipping container house is that you get all the plusses of a vacation home while still maintaining the ability to travel 🙂Report

        • Kolohe in reply to Saul Degraw says:

          They’ve had the container home on some of the tiny house shows. According the shows, it’s somewhat more difficult to transport than the homes you can simply attach a trailer hitch to (because you need a professional crane then rig with a CDL driver) but they are more durable and can be battened down in severe storms.Report

          • J_A in reply to Kolohe says:

            Container houses can be stacked 6 to 8 high, which allows for fairly cheap apartment building too. Three such side by side can turn into a nice 1,200 soft apartmentReport

          • Marchmaine in reply to Kolohe says:

            The cool kids put their containers right on the boat.

            We’re looking to build a cottage on our property – I’d love to do something interesting and close to net-zero energy… but despite all the buzz, there are surprisingly few options. I’ve looked at pre-fab, pre-fab wall panels, straw houses, earth houses, hobbit dome houses, eco houses, and others… can’t quite alight on a combination of livability, tech, repeatability, and buildability anywhere near Virginia. (I’d welcome a link if someone is better at google than I – or knows of something worth exploring.)Report

        • Oscar Gordon in reply to Saul Degraw says:

          Ah yes, with all the comforts of “Sex Trafficking Victim Chic”!Report

  17. Jaybird says:

    Do you like endorphins? Are dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin some of your favorite things?

    Well, you’re going to get a brainbath from this article about how the hashtag #FirstSevenJobs is camouflage for privilege.

    Feel the outrage! Explain how it’s totally like that! Explain how it’s not like that at all! Get upset at all of the people who are getting upset! CONFIRM YOUR PRIORS.

    Whew. I need a pre-moistened towelette.Report

    • pillsy in reply to Jaybird says:

      Well, you’re going to get a brainbath from this article about how the hashtag #FirstSevenJobs is camouflage for privilege.

      I’m not going to click that link. You can’t make me.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to pillsy says:

        It’s got a paragraph about how you should, instead, tweet about your parents’ first seven jobs.

        Do you want to know if the writer who wrote that paragraph told us about her parents’ first seven jobs?

        Do you?Report

        • pillsy in reply to Jaybird says:

          Do you want to know if the writer who wrote that paragraph told us about her parents’ first seven jobs?

          Do you?

          “You didn’t click on the goatse link, but don’t worry: I can describe the picture you would have seen!”

          I think it must say something profound about society that we have replaced a single piece of crude pornographic photography with endless, carefully refined pieces of prose in order to satisfy our urge to look at horrible things, and then make our friends and acquaintances look at them too.Report

        • dexter in reply to Jaybird says:

          @jaybird, That all depends on how good a writer that person is. I remember reading a book of essays by an author whose names eludes me now and was fascinated by one essay about how he arranged his sock drawer.Report

    • Saul Degraw in reply to Jaybird says:


      I read the article and did not find it that horrible. Her point is not controversial. At least not to me but I also don’t buy into the self-made person mythos.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        Oh, I didn’t realize that her point wasn’t controversial.

        I’ll retract my original comment.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        Her point might not be controversial but it is not helpful. There is some truth to the image of the liberal/leftist as a type of moral scold that looks down upon everything fun. This is a good example of this. It comes across as self-parody. Sometimes fun little activities and memes are fun little activities and memes.

        It falls under what I’d call the aggressive truth-telling fallacy, the idea that if you tell the truth often enough and hard enough that the other side will just capitulate and give you what you want. There is no evidence for this.Report

  18. pillsy says:

    Brandon Berg:
    To be fair, when a conservative pointed out that the devastation in white communities is also due to cultural pathology, he got shouted down, mostly by lefties.

    This is true, but I can’t quite help but notice that said conservative–if I’m thinking the same one–tends to phrase everything in the most obnoxious way possible, and his comments about those white, rural communities were not in any way an exception.

    It appears that the true objection here is not to inconsistency, but to the idea that anyone who has bad life outcomes bears any personal responsibility for it.

    I don’t really believe “personal responsibility” is a concept that can meaningfully apply to communities.Report

    • Marchmaine in reply to pillsy says:

      I’m not sure which conservative writer we’re not talking about? But both Kevin Williamson and JD Vance have published very forthright articles/books about the pathologies of the white lower class culture. The diagnosis appears similar, but the cures seem to differ.Report

      • pillsy in reply to Marchmaine says:

        I’m talking about Kevin Williamson, who provoked a strongly negative response from the (among others) the left by being Kevin Williamson.

        The response to Vance’s work has been much less negative, as far as I’ve seen, but there’s also been a lot of commentary that suggests that it’s fresh and new and informative to readers–as opposed to being part of the existing conventional wisdom.Report

      • Williamson’s piece is about Those People; Vance’s is about My People. Not the same thing.Report

  19. notme says:

    Merkel says refugees didn’t bring Islamist terrorism to Germany.

    I wonder if she’d be willing to admit that Islamic terrorism has increased since she started importing them?Report

  20. Alan Scott says:

    Conversations about race:
    This feels like the upscale version of this clickhole article. Jeremy Willinger has imagined what a conversation on race would be like, and decides that it would be bad for Black people. I don’t especially get the sense that he ever bothered to consult a Black person in forming this opinion. His very article proves that the divisiveness he imagines will result from a conversation already exists independent of the conversation actually happening.

    Ugh. Is there a word for this phenomenon, where somebody in a design discipline fails to realize that the world is bigger than the particular and sometimes silly aesthetic rules they were taught? You see this over and over again (see also, graphic designers saying that two spaces after a period “looks ugly”, the incredibly arbitrary rules of women’s fashion, etc.) I feel like architecture is a particularly bad offender here.

    It’s like me as a theater major decrying a play’s dialogue because plays are supposed to be in iambic pentameter, or something. Some of those houses are ugly, others are quite wonderful–but you can’t just tell which is which by applying a set of simple rules you learned in a sophomore year architecture class.Report

    • Trumwill in reply to Alan Scott says:

      With regard to McMansions, that was sort of my thought. A lot of people here bring up that McMansions are space-inefficient. That criticism resonates with me. The criticisms of the article itself don’t, really, except to whatever degree they are interrelated. Which is a non-zero degree, but a lot of the criticisms are clearly aesthetic.Report

      • J_A in reply to Trumwill says:

        I know it’s very old guy of me to say this, but there are certain elements of artistic appreciation that apply to all visual arts, like painting and sculpture, and including architecture, that induce a pleasant aesthetic experience .

        These elements are somehow ingrained in our brains, and are present in all art we see from Egypt, Mesopotamia, China, India, Grecoroman, Gothic, Renaissance all the way to Picasso, Calder, Pollock or Moore.

        Balance, volumes and rhythm are part of those elements. A Picasso and a Raphael both follow the same aesthetic rules, because if they didn’t, they would look ugly in our eyes. A child’s drawing mostly doesn’t, and no one but their parents think it’s pretty.

        Don’t they teach Artistic Appreciation in High School here? Really, I did learn all that in high school. (Actually in 7th and 8th grade – we had to endure two years of the fishing thing).Report

        • Saul Degraw in reply to J_A says:


          Only in really well to do public schools and in private schools. Arts is usually the first thing to get slashed with odd exceptions here and there. Texas schools manage to have really good music programs because football needs marching bands.Report

    • James K in reply to Alan Scott says:


      It’s worth bearing in mind that Willinger is summarising a pay-walled article by John McWhorter, who is in fact black.Report

  21. Kolohe says:

    For the record, McMansion has been used for the last 15 years in much the same way that neoliberal has been used over the past 2 to 3 – a vague expression of ‘something I don’t like for reasons tangential to what that something is’

    Around my metro area, the custom jobs are usually far worse than the cookie cutter ones.
    Check this one out, for instance, particular note to pic 25 and the glass wall bathtub.

    The thing I do personally don’t like about the cookie cutter ones is that they have, to me, a poor ratio of built out area to lot size. If I could afford what some of these people are paying for SFDH, I’d opt for less square footage inside and more open space between me and my neighbors. Otherwise, I might as well just get a townhouse or condo high rise unit.Report

    • Oscar Gordon in reply to Kolohe says:

      Sheesh, real estate photographers. They keep taking photos like that, they are gonna have to up their game with walleye lenses.Report

    • Aaron David in reply to Kolohe says:

      There are two things to think about in regards to the McMansion talk around here:

      First, they are generally from stock plans, as a builder rarely has that much desire to add work that he doesn’t need to do to their day. Those plans get run past either an architect or an engineer, to make sure that the levels of the lot work with the plans, the plumbing works out, etc. At that point they go the the local gov. for aproval. Any changes that come from them are coming either from the person who wanted the house built, or if the builder is building on spec (speculation) things that they feel will sell the house quickly in the market. In other words, these ugly things are there to sell the house, or because the person who wants it feels they need it.

      Second, I work with a lot of African American men who grew up in inner-city Oakland. From watching them buy houses, what they want is a decent house that works, that they can feel proud of and will house their family. They don’t want to live in the inner city anymore with crime, falling down old houses, crap school districts, etc. They want something they feel comfortable in. It is often short hand to say my house has x many rooms, this is what I am worth now. See how far I’ve come. The signifiers in that community are different than others.Report

      • Chip Daniels in reply to Aaron David says:

        Which are not all that different than the signifiers used since the dawn of time.

        The European aristocracy who built those magnificent manor houses were saying that very thing.

        Its like the lyric “Poor man wanna be rich
        Rich man wanna be king

        The difference between a “traditional” mansion meant to look like a French villa, and a “Modern” mansion meant to look like an Apple Store is the cultural affinity and identity that someone wants to communicate.

        A gilded ornate foyer might say “Look at how much money I have/ I want to impress you“;
        It references aristocracy, class and traditional understandings of power; But it references it only to those who lack it.

        A sleek modern one might communicate “I am of sophisticated taste that you can’t understand/ I am impressing those above you“; an erudite person of means, who exercises power in a more mysterious but immanent way communicating it to those who are discerning enough to know the signals.

        But like fashion, there are countercurrents and reverse signifiers. The jeans may be ripped, but a discerning eye notices the brand and cut, and the pairing with a $1000 pair of sunglasses; a rustic bungalow may be placed on a dramatic beachfront, or contain a breathtaking interior that signifies “I am so self-assured I have no need to impress you“.

        Donald Trump is a McMansion, as was William Randolph Hearst. Vulgarity is often just the clumsiness in communicating the message, not the message itself.Report

  22. Jaybird says:

    As for the Juanita Broderick thing, erstwhile brother Ryan Noonan pointed this wonkette article out the other day:

    Let’s Talk About Juanita Broderick

    It contains the following bulletpoint:

    To sum up, I think Bill Clinton could very well have raped Juanita Broaddrick; that it doesn’t make him an evil man, or irredeemable (I’m Catholic; we’re all forgiven, if we’re sorry, and Broaddrick says Bill Clinton personally called her up to apologize). It doesn’t even necessarily make him a bad feminist — you know, later, once he stops doing that.

    As I said at the time: “There are pieces that age well. This does not strike me as being a piece that will age well.”

    Back in the 90’s, I remember what happened to the high dudgeon that the left was able to get into over the issues revolving around Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas. In a flash, we got to see high dudgeon transform into “well, you have to understand”.

    Once again, Bill Clinton is inspiring people to clear their throats and explain that, well, you have to understand.Report

  23. Saul Degraw says:

    The NYC Parks Department has figured out how to respond to Trump. You use unabashed ridicule and the Bronx Cheer.

    “NYC Parks stands firmly against any unpermitted erection in city parks, no matter how small”Report

  24. Mongo says:

    Unless the opposite effect was the intention of the architect was looking for, homes used to be places of calm; their design reflected cultural messages of symmetry, and balance. Design is just another expression of currents in a culture — so, if the architecture of dwellings is unbalanced, disproportionate and asymmetrical … well…

    Remember that people have to live in those disproportionate, poorly-designed spaces — what subliminal effect does that have?Report