Linky Friday: Guns & Briefcases

Cities:

Photo by SimonMettler

Photo by SimonMettler

[Ci1] Ed West wants to know why we don’t use architecture that makes us happy? (Especially given that it commands a premium in excess to the cost.)

[Ci2] Mercer has its list of Quality of Living ranking of cities. Everybody to Vienna!

[Ci3] Stefan Al writes of the interweaving of malls and their urban surroundings.

[Ci4] A ghost city in China is filling up.

[Ci5] Tyler Cowen says the future of San Francisco may be Monaco.

[Ci6] Suburban sprawl is harshing songbirds’ mating buzz.

Crime:

Image by @lattefarsan

Image by @lattefarsan

[Cr1] I wouldn’t really mind lowering blood alcohol limits to .05% nearly as much if we didn’t treat .05% like .15%. Contrary to the billboards, buzzed driving is not the same as drunk driving.

[Cr2] Jesse Singal points to a new approach against campus sexual assaults that may have some potential.

[Cr3] After being fined for wasting police time about a stalker, Shana Grice was killed by the stalker.

[Cr4] David Perry went to Washington with a message from disabled Americans: Stop killing us (and allowing us to be killed).

[Cr5] Inauguration Day arrests turned into an information bonanza for police.

[Cr6] Jacob Sallum has a run down of the sexual panic that has lead to our sexual predator laws.

[Cr7] The original, indisputable narrative behind the JCC bomb threats keeps getting jammed.

Law:

courtroom photo

Image by massless

[L1] The importance of the Oxford comma (to a bunch of workers who went to court for overtime pay).

[L2] This… does seem kind of like a bum settlement.

[L3] At Lawfare, Benjamin Wittes and Quinta Jurecic wonder how things move forward if the relationship between Judges and Trump is personal.

[L4] Copyright trolling isn’t dead yet.

[L5] It’s not a positive development to hold lawyers accountable for the clients they defend.

[L6] It does seem to me there would be some liability here.

Business:

[B1] Noah Smith argues that it’s not actually crazy to bring manufacturing back to the US.

[B2] Physical books are making a comeback, and it’s millennials leading the way. Simon Jenkins says the novelty has worn off.

[B3] A matter of trust, and the science behind it, and how employers can try (try!!) to encourage it.

[B4] Will Knight writes about how the gig economy algorithms may be rigged, and they’re trying to get you to work yourself to death.

[B5] Hollywood Reporter has more on the toll that “Peak TV” is taking on Hollywood writers.

[B6] Well, I suppose this is one way for some of these free sites to get ad revenue.

Media:

Japanese news television photo

Image by likeablerodent

[M1] The FBI has arrested the tweeter that gave Kurt Eichenwald a seizure, and the story of how they did so is interesting. I don’t have a problem with going after the guy, though some do.

[M2] The Independent Journal Review started out with a lot of potential, but became the latest example of why modern conservatives can’t have nice things. (See also, The Federalist.)

[M3] Fake News, Japanese Edition.

[M4] Lee Stranaham has quit Breitbart (yet again), and wants them to stop sucking up to Trump.

[M5] Iain Martin writes of the misinformation we’re getting from Britain (and who’s giving some of it to us).


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Will Truman is a former professional gearhead who is presently a stay-at-home father in the Mountain East. He has moved around frequently, having lived in six places since 2003, ranging from rural outposts to major metropolitan areas. He also writes fiction, when he finds the time. ...more →

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49 thoughts on “Linky Friday: Guns & Briefcases

  1. B2: in informal polls of my students (many of whom are Millennials), paper books win out. (In one of my classes we are REQUIRED to use online content – and I have many many issues with this – and some students can only afford the online access and not the ‘real’ book too, and I’ve had complaints.)

    I’m Gen-X and I find my reading comprehension for reading off a screen is far, far poorer than reading on paper. I do not know why. But I do know when I am reading journal articles for my research, I have to print off the .pdf file if I’m gonna have a prayer of remembering what I read even a day later.

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    • It is interesting that it seems to be the kids who favor paper. I find that my aging eyes have trouble with paper books. I need either very good light, or to take my glasses off and have the page four inches or less from my face. My Kindle Paperwhite, on the other hand, is much easier for me to read, with the lighting and font size easily adjustable.

      My nine-year-old, who is a reader, may possibly favor paper. I’ll have to ask her. She frequently reads paper books, and seems to use her Kindle Fire more for videos and gaming. But she may be sneaking in more books than I realize, what with our Amazon FreeTime subscription.

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      • I wear progressives myself and I find I prefer to take them off for reading. (That might be part of my issue with reading on a screen: my desktop in my office is far enough away that I need the distance-vision of my glasses – yes, I have terrible eyes – to be able to see the type clearly).

        I still don’t have the right prescription dialed in, I guess: for very close things (threading needles, for instance, or very close fine knitting work), I prefer to take my glasses off. My eye-doctor offered to change the prescription but warned me it might make everyday stuff (where I don’t need the close focus) worse, so I just opt for taking the glasses off.

        I wonder how screens will affect eyesight in the future. More presbyopics at an earlier age?

        I know reading off a screen at night is bad for me; the backlighting mucks with my sleep cycle in a way that reading off a page does not.

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        • I know reading off a screen at night is bad for me; the backlighting mucks with my sleep cycle in a way that reading off a page does not

          I don’t have this problem, but this might be a function of owning a Paperwhite. When I finally broke down and bought a Kindle, my due diligence research showed that the Paperwhite is the one to get if you want to read books, as contrasted with having a multi-media device. When I use it in a dark room I have the backlight turned down very low. It is entirely adequate for reading the text, and doesn’t screw up my sleep cycle.

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          • The paperwhite is fantastic for reading at night. It’s not actually backlit (the lights are on the side) and you can adjust it to keep the contrast the same. No eyestrain.

            As to kids and paper — paper is generally far better for some works than others, and if I was back in college I’d — by and large — prefer textbooks that are easy to mark up and flip back and forth on than a Kindle.

            And for reference material, I use searchable PDF’s and a tablet or PC.

            Kindle paperweight is absolutely great for books. Not for textbooks and reference material.

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        • I know reading off a screen at night is bad for me; the backlighting mucks with my sleep cycle in a way that reading off a page does not.

          Blue frequencies do that. I have a small “soft white” lamp on the headboard that I use for ambient light while reading off my phone or tablet in bed that seems to take care of that particular problem. I got into the habit of reading fantasy stuff in bed for 20-30 minutes when I was working insane hours during the state legislative session and needed to “shift gears” before I could fall asleep.

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    • For fiction these days I used my phone or tablet almost exclusively. I don’t care one way of the other about the appearance, but it’s nice that if I’ve got my phone in my hip pocket, I’ve also got my current fiction. I’ve been working for a bit over a year to replace much of my paperback collection with epubs, and have gotten rid of an entire (small) bookcase so far. Some non-fiction works okay on the small device. Textbooks, I still stick to paper.

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  2. Ci1: Good question. I don’t know the answer. I’m not sure that the traditional architecture that Ed West is talking about would make the typical American suburban dweller happy. Most new condos and town houses in cities aren’t built using traditional styles because of costs. Building something to modern specs in a traditional style is going to be expensive.

    Ci2: Vienna is a city where one third of the population lives in public housing and most of the people get around by the metro or the <atram. href=”https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trams_in_Vienna”> I’m not sure that the average American McMansion dweller and car driver would see Vienna with a high quality of living.

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    • The author notes that the happy-making architecture is largely in places that are unaffordable. Which raises the question of whether those locations are “nice” because of the architecture, or because of all the other things that go with wealth.

      Related to nice and unaffordable… Almost 30 years ago I moved to one of Denver’s west side inner-ring suburbs. At the time, it was one of the more affordable places in the metro area. Over the last several years there have been a steady stream of stories involving both local and national rankings about how “nice” it is. This past week, one of the local TV channels pointed out that there were now zero homes for sale in my suburb for less than a quarter-million dollars. (That’s a commonly-used dividing line between starter homes and moving up homes.) Zillow says they’re wrong, that there’s one home for sale for $225,000 — but the description includes “several cracks in the foundation, brickwork, and drywall.” Zillow also confirmed that even the small condos and townhouses are going for more than $250,000.

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      • The traditional architecture that is now considered nice and is in expensive areas were run down and in slums during the 1960s and 1970s. Then baby boomers who didn’t want to move to the suburbs in America and the United Kingdom purchased the brown stones and terraces at bargain rates and made them nice again.

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      • There is also the fact that the classical styles of architecture often involve details & trim work that adds cost without adding much in the way of utility.

        That makes such things (especially in America) something of a hard sell. Do I want stained oak trim and wainscoting, or 200 extra square feet of living space, or a back deck, or some kind of kitchen or bath upgrade? It’s even a harder sell if we are talking about apartments or public housing.

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        • A similar consideration is behind the “why are desk computers so ugly?”

          I have seen (mostly created by “steampunk” enthusiasts) custom-job CPU/Monitor/keyboard configurations that are quite beautiful and furnishing-like. But they’d cost $1000 or more extra over and above the price, and few people would pay that.

          It’s the same with furniture where I live: the affordable stuff is wicked-ugly, and the attractive stuff is harder to find. For non-upholstered furniture I try to go with “vintage” or even outright antiques (if you hunt around here, you can find a real wood piece for less than you’d pay for the mostly-pressboard furniture-store stuff).

          (For upholstered? Nope. I did that once, wound up with fleas for my trouble. I’m just grateful it wasn’t bedbugs.)

          I dunno. I just wish that there wasn’t so much in modern life that was so damn *ugly*.

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        • Yet people go bonkers for stuff like granite counter tops, or whatever is trendy right now, that don’t add utility. I assume it is some combination of aesthetics and conspicuous consumption. Perhaps stained oak trim and wainscoting will come up on the trendiness cycle and have their day until something else is all the rage.

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          • Well, a good stone (or as I prefer, Quartz) countertop has a degree of utility that decorative trim lacks, although I will admit that the choices in stone some people make…

            Now, if wainscoting always included hidden storage options, I bet it would make a return.

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            • Yeah, a heat resistant countertop absolutely has huge benefits over laminate or corian, and even wood. Our countertops are part of our cooking regime, it would be nigh impossible to go back to a material that melts or warps with heat.

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            • Yep. My parents are adding some custom wood cabinetry in their dining room. Given the layout they’re after, there’s a large flat section that’s a natural place to rest dishes when serving buffet style.

              Dad wanted wood. We talked him into stone (or any of a wide variety of synthetics) because if you used wood, that wouldn’t be there two years before someone forgot to place a trivet or towel and a hot pot or serving dish stained, chipped, or scorched the wood.

              Doesn’t need to be granite — anything easily cleaned, pretty heat and stain proof, and rugged enough to have (say) a large pot of spaghetti sauce put down clumsily without marking it up is fine.

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                • Friend of mine has a concrete kitchen floor with some sort of thick sealant. Looks really good, actually. Very smooth, polished. I was surprised to learn it was concrete. Looks like stone more than anything. (I think they did a little surface work to make it look a bit like flagstones before they sealed it).

                  Supposedly very hard wearing, too.

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                  • this is a good idea.

                    says the woman who lives in a house where the previous owner thought slick white ceramic tile was the *perfect* kitchen and bathroom floor covering.

                    (Getting someone out to redo the floors is sufficiently woeful that I haven’t had it removed yet – but white tile in a kitchen where you actually cook? annoying. And ceramic tile that gets slippery when water gets on it? Stupid)

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      • A lot of the traditional architecture was also built a long time ago. San Francisco has the Painted Ladies, classic art deco skyscrapers, Victorians and Edwardians and California Craftsmen. They also have plenty of buildings that are 1950s mediocre. As Lee noted, there was a time from the 1970s until sometime in the 1990s when people were to get the old houses for a steal because most people were fleeing the cities if they could. Those that remained were too poor or had a bohemian bent.

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  3. Ci2: I’ve only spent a few days in Vienna, but I did notice a lot of attractive women. Not a rarity in Europe, sure. But it was interesting that there was a good mix of Germanic, Slavic, and Italian types. The same with the food: you go to a European city and you’re going to get the local cuisine prepared well, but in Vienna you get a cross-section of the Empires’ best dishes. Maybe that’s not the best way to measure quality of life, but it’s not the worst.

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  4. [L1] I heard of this on Planet Money and damnit, I’ve been a staunch defender of the Oxford comma ever since the whole “we can do without it” thing came up a few years back. You can take my Oxford comma when you pry it off of my cold, dead, and disconnected keyboard.

    [L2] This is a by-now old debate. In this particular case, note that the lawsuit itself never claimed monetary losses for the plaintiffs and it would be difficult indeed to quantify what those losses were. You expect to see advertisements on a “free” Google site — that’s how Google makes money and stays in business. So a measure of injunctive relief to the consumers seems appropriate, and money is not always the only relief granted in a lawsuit.

    [L3] I’ve got nothing to say here.

    [L4] No, copyright trolling isn’t dead yet, but it’s more SIHTAF at a cocktail party in my future.

    [L5] LAWYERS ARE NOT THEIR CLIENTS. Why is this such a hard concept for people to understand?

    [L6] This is a best-case scenario for liability on the part of the motel, and all the same I have to wonder. In other cases with less overwhelming facts liability would be a tough row to hoe — there is a doctrine of “independent and superseding acts of a third party” that would come into play in most cases. Here, where the criminal acts harming the plaintiff are so well-known and condoned by the defendant, and so clearly within the defendant’s power to disrupt, I can see the claim. But I’m not sure I’d see it with a more “respectable” sort of hotel that gets patronized less frequently for this sort of activity.

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    • L5: Doesn’t matter, she defended a RAPIST! Clearly she is promoting rape culture and must be banished forthwith from the halls of feminism.

      In order to avoid another round of “college students are being college students”, I’ll just skip that and go straight to “Adults who should know better need to stop trying to be down with the cool kids they are supposed to be teaching”.

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    • L6: I believe that the article mentioned a newish state statute as the basis for the lawsuit, so it looks to me like a state-specific thing where you can’t go on general principles.

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  5. Ci1: My theory is that this is where there is a vast disconnect between artists, the people and corporations who can commission big buildings and almost everyone else diverge.

    Architects are artists. Artists generally like building new and original things instead of doing what was already done. Even artists who are “harking back” like the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood are original in their own way. For what ever reason, people who can commission new buildings also like doing the modern stuff or can be convinced that they are doing something new. But it seems most people like really traditional architecture but the people don’t get together to commission more.

    And then there are people like me who like modern stuff but can’t afford to commission it ourselves.

    Ci5: I think he raises a lot of points but I haven’t seen an American city become a Monaco yet. Monaco can be Monaco because it is very small. What happens in the US seems to be people are willing to commute further and further. Though I admit that the big issue with American cities is that they are seemingly places for the very rich and the very poor with nothing inbetween.

    L5: I am not sure this is a new development. Lawyers who have taken on unpopular clients and causes have always been vilified and celebrated in equal measure. See Clarence Darrow, William Kusner and other radical lawyers. The internet just spreads it more.

    B2: The efforts to save the local bookstore seem to do wonders. I’m a big fan of physical books.

    B4: As Cathy O’Neil states, an algorithm is only as good as the people who write it and people have biases and those biases get baked into the algorithms. The idea of long hours and face time seems to be very important across a lot of cultures. Japan coined a term for suicide from overwork in 1991 but still can’t solve the issue. We mock countries like France when they try to create rules that encourage rest and relaxation. I don’t think that you can have a unified work rule across industries but there should be a balance between absolutely no regulation and mocking France for enforcement. Is it a problem or isn’t it? If it is a problem, why not use law and regulation to solve it?

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    • Using laws and regulations to create humane work structures would prevent people from being the meanest, baddest, and toughest a-holes out there. Everybody knows that trying to make the harsh world better only makes it worse and that compassion is mug’s game. (Sarcasm).

      Its amazing how similar that Capitalist America is with Communist Russia and Red China when it comes to overwork. During the heyday of Stalinism and Maoism, people who worked themselves to death for the cause were valorized and turned into folk heroes/propaganda in both countries. The corporations are doing the same thing with their employees.

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  6. Related to Cities, the current tempest in a teapot involves this article here: “Scraping By On $500,000 A Year“.

    It’s what it says on the tin: here’s how you (and your partner) can make a combined $500,000 a year and still be living paycheck to paycheck.

    It’s pretty much the most tone deaf thing I’ve seen in the last day and a half or so. But check it out. Everybody loves a good two minutes’ hate.

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    • I find it boggling. Yes, I don’t live on the East Coast. Yes, I am a single woman without dependents. But I make just under 15% of what those folks make in a year, and I’m very comfortable, I can give 10% to charity/tithing, and I’m putting money away for retirement.

      And I have money in savings – I’m one of the rare people who could cover a $500 emergency without too much worry.

      I suppose the answer is “what are a person’s priorities in life.” I’d rather feel like “I can replace the bathroom sink without worry if something goes wrong” than have a fancy car.

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    • Yeah, that is one weird article. I think my favorite bit is the defensiveness about taking three weeklong vacations, spending $6000 on each. The defense is all about taking three weeks a year. Hey, if they can get the time off, more power to them! But there isno sense that it is possible to spend week on vacation without spending $6000 to do it

      My mother rents a house on the Jersey shore for a week every summer and the extended family converges. I don’t know what she pays, but it is probably roughly $10,000 for the week. This sounds like a lot, but there are typically about ten adults plus some kids, so this really isn’t that high. For this she gets to play grandma, and this year great-grandma, for a week. Of course this is just housing. From there we could eat out every night, followed by bar hopping. It would be easy to double the price of the week. But we don’t. The house has an equipped kitchen, which we use. We take turns cooking, collectively clean up, and spend time together. It helps that we actually like each other and play well together. My job is to cook breakfast, because I am usually up earlier than most. I also make a run to the liquor store to keep me and grandma in gin and tonics. The key is to not overdo the tonic. The upshot is that we have an annual vacation that is the highlight of the summer for the kids, at a fraction of the cost (even if we all chipped in on the housing) of what that article considers obviously built into the concept of “vacation.”

      That and the incoherent explanation of why a family living in :Brooklyn needs two–count them, two!–cars. And how do they spend $5000 a year on gas? I have a longish commute. I put about $25 a week in the tank. My wife has a shorter commute, but lower gas mileage, so it likely comes out roughly the same. This comes out to about half the gas budget in the article.

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      • $6000 for a vacation broke my brain too. Are they flying first class? Are they going to Europe? Are they going to strip clubs while there?

        The intention seemed to be something like “look, these people make $500,000 a year and, after expenses, they *ONLY* have less than $8,000 left to their names!”

        It was the Bizarro World other side of the coin of the “Poor People Have Refrigerators” argument.

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        • I am going to a destination international wedding this summer.

          Plane tickets are just under 2000 dollars. The tours, most meals, and travel is 1600 dollars. Then there is the hotel plus breakfast and not covered lunches and dinners.

          So there you go. Admittedly this is a first world problem. But it is possible to spend that much.

          When I go to Singapore to visit my girlfriend’s family, plane tickets are between 1000-2000 dollars. Usually closer to 2. I think a friend spends about 2500 dollars to visit her family in Australia. Sometimes more.

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          • I admit I’m a bitter cranky spinster, but if someone in my life had a “destination wedding” at that cost, I’d send them a nice card, maybe a check to go towards some expense in their future life together, and stay home.

            Yes, even if it was a sibling.

            I couldn’t afford a $2000 plane ticket and the $1000 or so it would cost to stay in some fancy place for a few days. Not without stripping my life down to bare frugality for eight or ten months to recoup the money I spent, and I’d honestly rather have a kinda-nice life every day than, I don’t know, go to Naples to see two people get married.

            This may be the aftereffects of growing up in the 70s as the kid of Depression babies: our “big” vacations were trips to National Parks to go hiking. We drove. We ate many meals of peanut butter. And I didn’t realize there were hotels nicer than Holiday Inn until I was in my 20s.

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            • And yeah, I said earlier I could cover a $500 emergency, and I could, but I don’t regard $3000 or more to go to a wedding an “emergency” – I could afford it but I’d be ANNOYED and would feel I’d have to budget v. strictly for a long time to save that money back up.

              I get that some people do destination weddings because there is no place that is convenient for most of the wedding party, but still, it does seem like it’s asking a lot of the guests, esp. if the guests aren’t earning six figures in a year.

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          • Yeah, that was what I thought as well. People are scoffing at $6000 for a vacation and I’m like, well, that’s $1150 per airfare times four people plus $225 a night for a hotel room times three nights, plus about $165 for renting a car during that time. The leftover money can pay for meals, as long as nobody averages more than $15 per meal during the trip.

            So that’s a long-weekend trip to nowhere in particular where the whole family stays in the same room and eats at Denny’s the entire time.

            Obviously you can quibble about this or that part of the trip–“why don’t they drive?” “Stay with grandma!” “I could totally eat for less than $15!”–but the point of the article is that it’s not outside the bounds of possibility for a family making five hundred large to have middle-class consumption patterns and still not save money.

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      • I think it’s a click bait article to draw people to the guys financial advice site. He sets up an easy situation for him to solve and shows his brilliance by offering easy and obvious advice to rich people. Seems like he accomplished all this goals. Got lots of clicks.

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      • I think the target audience is those who aspire to $500,000 a year, live a lifestyle like that depicted, and not feel like they’re doing anything worth criticizing when they complain about living paycheck to paycheck.

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        • Personally, I don’t think there is anything worth criticizing about folks living paycheck to paycheck regardless of their income level. I mean, as long as they’re meeting basic obligations (keeping a roof over their kids’ head and such), I’m pretty okay with folks doing what works for them. And I don’t even know if the hypothetical couple qualifies since they’re funding retirement.

          Where I might criticize such a couple is if they talk of their situation in terms of an unavoidable hardship. So, to me, living paycheck to paycheck isn’t risible in the least. Framing choices freely made as burdens or hardships? That will wad up the knickers a bit.

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    • As much fun as it is to mock the expense lines, what irritates me is that the whole “living paycheck to paycheck” framing is off (as it usually is in these rich people finance pieces). This hypothetical couple is saving quite a bit of money:

      * $36k in their 401(k)s
      * $7300 after all the itemized expenses
      * Principal repayment on their mortgage and student loans

      Arguably, their $10k “emergency” spending is also savings that are preallocated to cover short-term costs. Yet under the terms in which we talk about expenses for wealthy households, they’re “living paycheck to paycheck” because their savings are not infinite.

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  7. (See also, The Federalist.)

    Hard to picture that a magazine founded by a corrupt, slandering serial plagiarist would have issues.

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