I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: When long-running marriages fall apart, it’s often useful to remember what marriage was, once, as a cultural institution: A way to establish paternity for offspring, so that wealth can be handed down and protected within a family. A business partnership, basically. Only in recent years have we spoken of love matches and marrying your best friend and all that. Also remember that people didn’t live nearly as long, once upon a time.

So when people like Al and Tipper Gore, or Bill and Melinda Gates, call it quits, I don’t think we should speak of their marriage “failing.” Rather, they outgrew it. The Gores had four children, the Gateses three, all of whom were/are adults when their parents split up. That is not a failure. That is a partnership that worked as intended. It provided stability and structure for offspring, and presumably for both the people who signed the marriage license. Now they move on to the next thing, separately.

If you think that’s cold-hearted, I offer Exhibit A: The marriage of Donald and Melania Trump, which is about as business-focused as it’s possible to be, right down to the renegotiated prenup post-2016 election. Melania, it was said, was interested in protecting the interests of her son, who she feared would be pushed out of the family wealth pile by his older, craftier siblings, once Fatass went to his reward. After all, they learned from the master of inheritance-grubbing.

So don’t waste any time worrying about the Gateses. I don’t know what Melinda is like, personally, but she can’t be worse than her husband. (OK, maybe she can.) They’ll be fine. Their children will be fine. I find it interesting that they appear to have already worked out the property split, and she declines spousal support, “despite no prenup,” as People magazine gasps. Good for them.

All that said, I am grossed out — no, I’m offended — by some of the social-media commentary, about how much of “his” money Melinda Gates will get. It’s not his money. It’s their money. True, Microsoft existed as a world-straddling force before they married, but she is absolutely part of his success, and fuck anyone who says otherwise.

Tangentially I’m also reminded of a hilarious seminar we had when I was fellowshipping in Ann Arbor, by a legendary law-school professor. He said we err when we refer to life being “cheap” in poor or undeveloped countries, because the opposite is true. Life is cheap in the U.S., and that’s what’s good about it. If you lose a finger in a work accident, you don’t have to extract a finger from the factory owner in return; you collect the insurance payout. And if you dissolve your marriage, there’s no need for honor killings or death feuds over a dowry. It’s a financial settlement.

I just googled the professor. Here’s the description of one of his books:

Njals saga, the greatest of the sagas of the Icelanders, was written around 1280. It tells the story of a complex feud that starts innocently enough–in a tiff over seating arrangement at a local feast–and expands over the course of 20 years to engulf half the country, in which both sides are effectively exterminated, Njal and his family burned to death in their farmhouse, the other faction picked off over the entire course of the feud. Law and feud feature centrally in the saga, Njal, its hero, being the greatest lawyer of his generation. No reading of the saga can do it justice unless it takes its law, its feuding strategies, as well as the author’s stunning manipulation and saga conventions. In ‘Why is Your Axe Bloody?’ W.I. Miller offers a lively, entertaining, and completely orignal personal reading of this lengthy saga.

He was one of the last speakers of the year, or I totally would have audited his class on blood feuds.

Njal. What a great name.

OK, then. The first part of the week is over, I’ve actually accomplished something, and more work awaits in the middle and end parts. But for now, we confront: Wednesday. I hope yours isn’t too…confrontational.

Posted at 9:14 pm in Current events |

43 responses to “Splitting.”

  1. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on May 4, 2021 at 11:03 pm

    Yes, but Hrafnkel?

    I had a clergy friend who occasionally liked to order at Starbucks and tell them his name was Ragnar Lothbrok, just to hear the staff say it when his coffee was ready. “Red eye for Ragnar Lothbrok?”

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  2. LAMary said on May 4, 2021 at 11:27 pm

    When younger son was maybe 6 years old he told the Starbucks guy his name was Prometheus. He got a charge out of hearing, “hot chocolate for Prometheus.” He saved that paper cup for a while.

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  3. Dexter Friend said on May 5, 2021 at 1:43 am

    Bill’s reported worth was $124B yesterday, $130.5B today. Melinda’s worth is also $124B yesterday, $130.5 B today. I feel confidant the two of them have been utilizing the white boards in the compound , devising the path of their money, which is obviously shared, as the figures above are from stories clearly stating it’s just the one big money pool. From some past videos shown yesterday, it’s clear Melinda wants to be with people who all assume equal responsibilities for everything, and she did say “even the microwaving”. So I can assume it’s true they live on frozen dinners heated in a microwave. I always thought that was a joke; surely wealth buys servants to cook, clean, and serve…right? Hell who cares. It is clear from the videos I watched Melinda is really big on equality, anyway. I never studied Bill’s business practices enough to realize how he is so hated; I only know of his philanthropical work. Likewise, I admire Warren Buffet, I just get a kick out of his stories and his laugh, his personal frugality, if you can accept his personal jet.

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  4. alex said on May 5, 2021 at 7:16 am

    I admire Warren Buffett not only for his frugality but his honesty about trickle-down economics being bullshit. He says that when tax cuts go to the rich, it doesn’t benefit him particularly because he already has more money than he needs, and it doesn’t benefit his businesses, which thrive only when the 99 percent have lots of money to spend at their own discretion. Businesses don’t invest in expansion and job creation unless there is sufficient consumer demand to make it a risk worth taking. Absent that, the rich just park the money in the stock market and the economy stagnates.

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  5. LarrytheRed said on May 5, 2021 at 7:45 am

    So don’t waste any time worrying about the Gateses.
    Don’t worry. I’m still mad that Bill didn’t choose Albuquerque.

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  6. Deborah said on May 5, 2021 at 7:53 am

    I left a notice on FB to my friends on the platform that if the twice impeached former guy gets reinstated I’m suspending my account. I’ll have to adjust to not being able to keep up with folks but I’ll live.

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  7. alex said on May 5, 2021 at 8:54 am

    The Facebook decision is supposed to be announced at 9:00, just minutes away.

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  8. Dorothy said on May 5, 2021 at 9:01 am

    I wish I could do that, too, Deborah. I’m sort of embarrassed to say that it really is a helpful way to keep in touch with my massive extended family. I have been spending waaaaay less time on Facebook than I used to. I sort of swing by in the morning to see anything that’s new, and maybe a check in two or three more times before I go to bed, each time maybe only a minute or so. Seeing pictures of my twin great nieces are such a great mood lift!

    Later today is our Senior Celebration, which is mostly virtual this year. Some of the staff (me included) are contributing cupcakes so the seniors can swing by and pick up a treat in the office conference room, which is a far cry from the usual end-of-the-year dinners we used to have. We’ve been operating without a budget for more than a year and our hands are essentially tied for any spending. Anytime a professor wants to register for a conference, we have to get permission from the Dean’s office first, and then they have to incrementally raise the limit on our department credit card for that amount. They have never said no to anyone who wants to attend a virtual conference, so I have been chafing at the need to ask on bended knee to spend money. It’s been cumbersome to deal with, time consuming and a general pain in the ass. It feels like they don’t trust us admins to use our judgement and use the credit card for conferences only. I will not be sorry to not have to deal with this stuff anymore in six months or so.

    Breaking news – the ban to keep that dolt off of Facebook is being upheld! HOORAY!

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  9. Deborah said on May 5, 2021 at 9:09 am

    Apparently FB said they’re still restricting TIFG until further notice.

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  10. FDChief said on May 5, 2021 at 9:10 am

    The weird thing about Gates is how he seems like a poster child for late 20th Century “American innovation”.

    He seems to have been a moderately decent coder and programmer, though I’ve read that people like O’Rear and and Greenberg did more of the fundamental DOS construction that made the original produce work with PCs.

    His primary talent seems to have been marketing; so basically he was a salesman, a traveling show, hawking his product…which, frankly, is kind of a kludgy mess; crash-y, easily hacked, prone to deconstructing over time – it’s primary “value” is that it provides an Apple/Mac interface over a DOS so it freed you up from command-line but without the craftsmanship of the actual Mac OS and it let you buy a computer without mortgagine your home. That’s not a bad thing…but consider what we got in return.

    I mean, think about what he “created”; a product that you legitimately expect to die on you at any moment. I’ve heard MS-DOS described in comparison to almost all the other things we use in our daily life as “imagine you’re driving along and suddenly your car engine simply dies…and to restart it everyone has to get out of the car, close all the doors, open the doors, and get back in. You’d sell that junker for pennies on the dollar as too much of a pain in the ass to be worth driving.”

    But we’ve made him richer than the most rapacious medieval robber baron.

    The mere existence of the fortunes of people like Gates make me nostalgic for the days of the 90% top marginal income tax rate.

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  11. Deborah said on May 5, 2021 at 9:15 am

    I’ve been reading that wood is very expensive right now because of supply chains being messed up from Covid. Sawmills were shut down and housing construction is up, so supply is low and demand is high. I would not want to be starting a building project anytime soon. Although we are extending a fence in Santa Fe, maybe we’ll have to wait on that for a bit.

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  12. alex said on May 5, 2021 at 9:18 am

    I guess it shouldn’t be surprising that Facebook would kick the can down the road. It would have faced blowback either way.

    On edit: Deborah, I turn 59 and a half this month and had planned to cash in some of my retirement savings penalty-free to do some much-needed remodeling, but now I think I may just wait given the ridiculous cost of lumber.

    We had also planned to continue expanding our backyard deck as time this summer allowed, but that’s on hold too. We bought a concrete mixer at an estate sale a couple of years ago and plan to put that to use this summer instead.

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  13. Mark P said on May 5, 2021 at 9:27 am

    I read the long article on Gates from the last thread. My BS detector kept going off. I don’t believe all the PR about him reading quantum mechanics papers while singing karaoke sitting on the toilet, or whatever. He was never a real tech guru, or particularly prescient about the next big thing in the tech world. And the last iteration of MS Office I had to use a few years ago was the best example in the universe of bloat ware. I applaud all his good works, but really don’t give a rat’s ass about his personal life.

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  14. Jeff Borden said on May 5, 2021 at 9:58 am

    I interviewed the father of Bill Gates when I was a reporter at Crain’s Chicago Business. He was pushing a book he’d written urging parents not to bequeath vast wealth to their children, which he argued undercut ambition and purpose. I’d say his son and his daughter-in-law followed that advice by plowing their fortune into philanthropy.

    To FDChief’s point, I am typing post this on a MacBook Pro, which I purchased specifically so I would not have to deal with Windows 10.

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  15. Deborah said on May 5, 2021 at 10:20 am

    I don’t have any experience with Microsoft except software, but always used on Macs.

    We are in the car trying to get out of Chicago for our trek to NM. I’m burying my face so I don’t have to look at the crazy driving all around.

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  16. ROGirl said on May 5, 2021 at 10:20 am

    Mark P, sounds about right.

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  17. Julie Robinson said on May 5, 2021 at 10:41 am

    Our contractor told us he’s paying 4K more for lumber than when we signed the contract. Of course, his delays have cost us more than 4K in additional rent, and we’ve learned the last week in June is the most popular time to move, thus the most expensive. No pity from us.

    The Gates kids may be mostly grown, but that doesn’t necessarily make it any easier for them now. I was 27 when my folks split up and it felt like the rug had been pulled out from under me. I knew they weren’t happy but it still rocked me, and took a long time to get over. So I hope they are getting some counseling and am happy they can easily afford it.

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  18. Dorothy said on May 5, 2021 at 11:43 am

    Someone told me recently that a piece of plywood that used to go for $13 is now selling for $52.

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  19. basset said on May 5, 2021 at 12:17 pm

    The cheapest grade of two by fours were over $7 each in our local Home Depot the other day, usually they’re about $2.

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  20. Linda said on May 5, 2021 at 12:20 pm

    What is mind blowing is the ramifications that the split may have on philanthropy, and, because they gave so much, on future health policy, because mega donors are often a tail wagging the dog. That two people splitting up should cause this economic disruption is practically medieval. That some people defend the disruptions caused by such imbalances of wealth, as I saw on Twitter, is depressing.

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  21. David C said on May 5, 2021 at 1:46 pm

    We’re thinking of finally finishing our basement and it looks like we’re going to go with steel framing. Steel studs used to be a buck or two more them lumber but now they’re half the price.

    I think Facebook is hoping the former guy’s arteries solve their problem so they don’t have to.

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  22. Suzanne said on May 5, 2021 at 2:47 pm

    “Indiana is the perfect example, since no state in the Rust Belt has cut taxes as aggressively as this one. A decade ago, local property tax caps were added to the Constitution, limiting local spending. Then corporate taxes were cut, and income taxes cut. All of this was done with the hopes of boosting population and economic growth.
    That didn’t happen.”

    Yeah, we’ve noticed.


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  23. Connie said on May 5, 2021 at 2:58 pm

    My husband came home home from his up north trek with a bag of what he called wild leeks, but turned out to be ramps. Three of them from white to green added a nice peppery pop to the potato soup.

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  24. Julie Robinson said on May 5, 2021 at 3:36 pm

    When were Indiana income taxes cut? I don’t remember that. I remember use taxes going up, sales tax going to 7%, and local county and city taxes rising. What a bunch of baloney.

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  25. Linda said on May 5, 2021 at 4:23 pm

    Julie @ 24:

    Not surprised. The transformation of states into “tax havens” mostly involves a bait and switch: much heralded income tax flattening, and a greater reliance on less publicized raises in other taxes, especially sales taxes. I lived in Tennessee for five years. I never paid income tax, but paid big state and county sales taxes on everything, including food, which is not true in Ohio. Moving was like getting a raise.

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  26. kayak woman said on May 5, 2021 at 6:30 pm

    Ambidextrous OS person here. Apple since 1979 (still have a couple WORKING Apple II+ computers in the dungeon) and latest is my new MacBook Pro. But. The laptop I spend the most time on is my Dell something-or-other, work issued. They’re getting better but in my case that may be because the Mother Ship keeps it up to date (and locked down) and when it does die for whatever reason, they fix it or ship a new one. Ah, Corporate America.

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  27. LAMary said on May 5, 2021 at 6:42 pm

    Hah. My dad owned a lumberyard. A good sized one. Had his own railroad siding and everything. My brothers inherited it. One was an asshole and the other was doing all the work while the asshole remodeled his house, bought all new appliances on the company dime, worked three days a week. So they sold it. Oh well. If they had just hung in a little longer…
    And I have a backyard full of six foot dog eared redwood fence slats. We replaced a lot of fence stringers and bought new slats about a year ago. The ones in the backyard are being recycled as boxes, stools, raised bed gardens. Sand them down and they’re still red and termites don’t eat redwood.

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  28. Sherri said on May 5, 2021 at 7:18 pm

    But there’s no such thing as systemic racism, of course…


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  29. Deborah said on May 5, 2021 at 9:52 pm

    Greetings from Sioux City, Iowa where we’re staying tonight in a cool old hotel downtown that’s been renovated recently. We walked around the city for awhile when we got settled in and found an amazing piece of architecture that my husband didn’t even know about. It’s the Woodbury County Courthouse designed in 1916 by Purcell and Elmslie which turns out to be one of the most spectacular pieces of prairie school architecture, anywhere. It’s really amazing. I’d link to photos of it but honestly the photos don’t do it justice, it’s one of those buildings that you have to see. It has incredible detail, very hard to explain. I only wish we could go inside. It’s very Frankish Lloydish Wrightish and Louis Sullivanesque. I’m so glad we stopped for the night here and it was a complete surprise.

    Tomorrow night we stay in Scottsbluff, Nebraska which is in far western, Nebraska, which is in the Sandhills part of the state which is quite beautiful.

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  30. Kim said on May 5, 2021 at 10:28 pm

    Deborah, that’s a spectacular building! The interior appears to be just as wonderful.

    One question, though: What’s the deal with the ornamentation? It evokes something earlier than FLW/Prairie School. Maybe BobNG, who I know to have some expertise here, can weigh in? Thanks for sharing.

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  31. basset said on May 5, 2021 at 10:30 pm

    And also out west… I expect every yahoo with an AR… pardon me, “modern sporting rifle”… on that side of the Mississippi is going to be trying to get in on this:


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  32. susan said on May 5, 2021 at 10:44 pm

    Here’s the HABS page (Historic American Buildings Survey) for the Iowa City Courthouse. It is pretty neat-looking. Built 1916-18, during WWI.

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  33. Dexter Friend said on May 6, 2021 at 2:18 am

    Dorothy, a segment on NBC Nightly News confirmed the 4X factor for plywood.
    I have sold my cars via trades publications, newspapers, and For Sale signs in the windows, but I am not dealing with that anymore, so I called around trying to get just a worthy price for my car that I no longer want, to car dealers. Sheesh. You can imagine. Trucks and SUVs are what are commanding decent dollars…I have a 2008 sedan that is rust-free, shiny red and low mileage and I was offered a bag of peanuts and a can of Coca Cola, basically. I mean, hell, the car runs perfectly, is quiet, it’s just that I prefer other styles of transportation. I ain’t taking a beating by just giving this car away, fuck that, and I have decided to drive this Impala until the goddam wheels fall off.

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  34. alex said on May 6, 2021 at 7:55 am

    Deborah that courthouse is amazing. It’s a shame the public can’t get behind public works like that anymore. Usually it’s about cost-cutting rather than creating something extra special.

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  35. Jenine said on May 6, 2021 at 9:30 am

    Woodbury County Courthouse centennial page. It has a swoopy 360 interior virtual tour.
    I like the outside sculptures framing the entrance too.

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  36. Julie Robinson said on May 6, 2021 at 10:12 am

    Not only do they not build government buildings like that anymore, they also don’t build churches like that anymore. Metal sheds with a bit of colored glass if you’re lucky.

    Deborah, in Nebraska you’ll be driving through the area where my great-great-grandparents lived after moving from Canada. They were part of a mostly black town named Audacious, nothing but memories now. Like so many others who attempted to farm there, the family had to move on. We have a book of poetry by one of their grandsons, written about the beauty of the Sandhills and the Platte River. It’s on my bucket list to visit.

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  37. Suzanne said on May 6, 2021 at 10:32 am

    Have any of you been following the craziness of the election audit in AZ? It gets nuttier every day! Last night, Rachel Maddow played a video of one of the audit observers (or maybe an auditor) explaining that they were putting the ballots under a light to check for bamboo because they know that there were a bunch of ballots shipped in from somewhere in Asia.

    I never knew that group mental problems to this extent were possible.

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  38. JodiP said on May 6, 2021 at 10:50 am

    Deborah, I’ll add my thanks for sharing about the courthouse! We have a gem of a residential home here also designed in part by Purcell for his family. The Minneapolis Insitute of Arts owns it now and you could tour it pre-pandemic.

    I had such a lovely interaction in my neighborhood this morning. There is a beautifully ornamented home that I often walk past and drag my friends to see. Today, I encountered the owner, a retired special ed teacher. He invited me in to see the woodwork. He and his wife lived there for 35 years, and she passed away last summer. He also has a sweet lab that I volnteered to walk. Our boy, Hamilton, still doesn’t want to walk with me unless things get desparate, so I have time now.

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  39. Deborah said on May 6, 2021 at 11:32 am

    We’ve been on the road again for awhile. Before we left Sioux City we tried to get inside of the County Courthouse, but no dice, either because of Covid or it’s no longer in operation. Too bad.

    Siri has not been cooperating this morning.

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  40. Julie Robinson said on May 6, 2021 at 1:16 pm

    Suzanne, I read a long story about the Arizona recount last night, either in the NYT or WaPo. I’ve been so out of touch I didn’t even realize there was a recount happening there, and I certainly don’t understand how it can be legal after the election was certified. They are just looking for bamboo, they are looking for watermarks, which aren’t on the official ballots. According to the story, they are also leaving ballots and unlocked computers unattended and mixing counted and uncounted ballots. What a cluster.

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  41. Scout said on May 6, 2021 at 6:02 pm

    As a resident of Maricopa County in AZ, I am spitting nails furious that a bunch of mouth breathing, knuckle dragging Q thugs and goombas are fucking with my ballot. The GOP has completely lost its mind.

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  42. Sherri said on May 6, 2021 at 7:21 pm

    “What a waste it is to lose one’s mind. Or not to have a mind is being very wasteful. How true that is.”

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  43. Colleen said on May 6, 2021 at 8:13 pm

    I’m kind of horrified by our stupid governor DeathSantis signing the restrictive voter bill into law. He’s just more and more awful every day. I like living in Florida, but I really hate our legislature. And I feel very helpless. I voted, and it doesn’t matter a bit….

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