Narcissism disguised as feminism

“Does Divorce Make You Hotter?” (Kat Rosenfield, The Free Press):

Five years ago, all my girlfriends suddenly decided to abandon their husbands en masse.

That is how it seemed at the time, at least. It all started when one woman blew up her marriage with one of those affairs so indiscreet that getting found out seemed like not just a risk but the entire point—then landed on her feet with generous alimony and a new boyfriend who was a 24-year-old fitness influencer. A few others, perhaps hoping to replicate her results, followed suit.

I lost touch with these women during the pandemic, so whether it all worked out for them, I couldn’t say; all I remember is that shortly after the last of the breakups, the new divorcées threw a Halloween party at which I was the only woman not wearing lingerie as a costume, and also the only one accompanied by a husband (what can I say? I’ve always liked him). I spent the evening feeling excruciatingly frumpy and middle-aged and also, absurdly, a little left out.

I’ve been thinking lately of that party, those women, the husbands they jettisoned like so much dead weight in a mimetic frenzy of best-life-living. Maybe the men were bad and deserved it, but it strikes me that nobody ever said so. My friends didn’t talk about being unhappily married; they just thought they’d be happier divorced, and no wonder. Even as divorce has retreated from the oft-cited peak rate of 50 percent, its place in the culture has all the urgency and incandescence of a current thing.

What does a successful alimony plaintiff call herself?

a New York Times feature about how Emily Ratajkowski has set off a booming new market for “divorce rings,” refashioned from the wearer’s old wedding band. One of them is engraved with the word badass, a detail I would have found absolutely impossible to believe had it not been accompanied by photographic evidence. … I try to imagine a world in which we’d tell a man that getting divorced made him badass, instead of a schmuck, a deadbeat, a loser who didn’t try hard enough. A world in which divorce rings for men are a thing, let alone one positively written about in The New York Times. It would never happen, of course. It’s only women who are seen as requiring this particular brand of cheerleading, who are relentlessly encouraged to reframe all their negative experiences as the best thing they ever did. … In this vision of feminism, marriage is a trap, divorce is a superpower, and women are not so much people as Strong Female Characters. …

It’s interesting, that last one: women are allegedly made more appealing by divorce, but nobody ever specifies to whom. The feminist cause? The next ex-husband?

The referenced NYT article:

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When low-skill immigration, divorce litigation, DEI, and 2SLGBTQQIA+ intersect

Today we celebrate the 20th anniversary of what used to be called “gay” or “same-sex” marriage here in the U.S., in which Maskachusetts led the way (modern-style opposite-sex marriage, in which divorce litigation may ensue, seems to go back about 4,300 years to Mesopotamia). (Joe Biden also reminds us that today is International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia, not to be confused with the Pride Month that starts in two weeks.)

Let’s check in with a formerly happy couple… “A Broken Marriage, a Big Inheritance and the Murder of an Art Kingmaker” (Wall Street Journal, May 11, 2024):

Brent had long held sway over a cerebral corner of the New York art scene, promoting women and diverse artists in the early 1990s when few galleries or museums exhibited either. … friends gravitated toward his wicked sense of humor, a zest that extended to an ebullient social life, often populated by a revolving door of lovers. “He liked younger men,” says his friend, the artist Vik Muniz.

DEI box… checked. 2SLGBTQQIA+ box… checked.

Now, landing in Rio, Brent was trying to move past a personal low point. Despite his outward success, close friends say he had been emotionally drained after nearly two years of hashing out a divorce settlement with his estranged husband, with whom he had a 13-year-old son. In Rio, he could spend a few weeks relaxing, maybe walk along Copacabana beach to meet locals or meditate.

Miracle of biology… checked. Winner-take-all divorce litigation in New York State… checked. The proud parents and future plaintiff/defendant:

What can New Yorkers do with all of the free time they have because they never have to go to Home Depot?

After work, he and Brent sought out the same nightlife, going to sex clubs and swapping ribald stories, Renaud-Clément says.

Does marriage interfere with going to the sex club?

friends of both men say the couple was known to have an open marriage

Personal background?

Daniel was born in a tiny town in the Cuban province of Camagüey. … Daniel was fleeing a troubled childhood and doing whatever he could to survive in Havana and later Madrid, including sex work, according to Daniel’s 2006 memoir.

Low-skill immigration box… checked.

Daniel got a WhatsApp message from Prevez, his former caretaker in Cuba. Prevez had since moved to São Paulo and wanted to catch up, according to his police statement. … Like Daniel, Prevez had struggled for years to scrape together a living in Cuba, repairing bicycles by day and working as a night security guard. In September 2022, he moved to Brazil in hope of a better salary. … Prevez says he took a job making deliveries for an online marketplace known as Mercado Livre in a borrowed Fiat Palio, but he wasn’t earning enough to support his own family in Cuba.

Low-skill immigration box… checked a second time. (Mr. Prevez migrated from his caretaker job to live in Brazil.)

Prevez said Daniel told him about the ongoing divorce. Then, he told police, Daniel made him an offer: $200,000 and a free place to stay in Rio in exchange for killing his ex.

According to New York law, Daniel could seek a third of Brent’s net worth as the surviving spouse—likely more than he would get in any divorce settlement. Daniel’s lawyers say they intend to claim his share as a surviving spouse.

A European friend: “Big irony is that these gay dudes fought so hard to be able to get sued for divorce.”

Related:

  • “Couple who led gay marriage fight to divorce” (NBC): Julie and Hillary Goodridge were among seven gay couples who filed a lawsuit that led to a court ruling making Massachusetts the first state to legalize same-sex marriages in 2004. The couple became the public face of the debate in the state and married the first day same-sex marriages became legal. The divorce case was filed last week in Suffolk Probate and Family Court and was not unexpected. The couple announced they were separating in 2006.
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The child support plaintiff sends her condolences

A friend’s sister recently died of cancer at age 62 (despite Joe Biden’s pledge to eliminate cancer). He had previously been sued by the mother of the people who used to be his children. As is conventional in Maskachusetts, she was able to obtain a court order that her child support profits be guaranteed in the event of his death via life insurance. The successful plaintiff learned of her kids’ aunt’s death via the kids and reached out to her former defendant… to ask for confirmation that his life insurance that would benefit her was up to date.

Speaking of Maskachusetts and cash… (source):

Matt Gorzkowicz, Healey’s budget chief, said officials believe most of the unexpected revenue was generated by the state’s new surtax on annual income exceeding $1 million — the so-called millionaire’s tax — and collections from capital gains, all money that state officials largely can’t use to balance the budget as a whole.

This is the first year that MA is living its principles of taking from the rich to give to the poor. Previously the state constitution required a flat rate tax (I guess that also enables taking from the rich and giving to the poor because the rich paid a lot and didn’t receive much in the way of services). I wonder if those who are subject to the 9% rate (previously they paid 5%) will eventually wander up to New Hampshire or down to Tennessee, Florida, or Texas, thus restoring revenue to its previous percentage of state GDP. This has been the pattern with federal tax rates over the decades, i.e., a roughly constant percentage of GDP extracted despite wildly varying rates:

(Note that the Federal government went on a “wartime footing” in the 1940s, with taxation ramping up from 5 percent of GDP to 20 percent and then has stayed on this wartime footing ever since!)

Friends who live in what Zillow says is a $2.5 million house in the Boston suburbs are in the process of negotiating the purchase of a $4 million to-be-built house here in Jupiter. They’ll pay the millionaire tax on their way out partly because they bought their house in 2007 for $1.45 million. Adjusted for official inflation and expected realtor commission, it is actually worth about the same as what they paid (which means they’ve lost money when you factor in maintenance and pre-sale repair expenses and they’ve lost huge $$ if you compare to the S&P 500), but they’ll have a fictitious capital gain that is larger than the $500,000 married couple exclusion for a primary residence:

Massachusetts is still getting money from them, even more than before, but the bureaucrats aren’t privy to their escape plans. I.e., the state government is on a sugar high, at least with respect to them, and the inevitable crash will come in 2025 when the new house is finished and the Pack Rats are loaded up.

Circling back to the original topic… it’s important to remember that a human in his/her/zir/their 60s is like a 9-year-old dog and that cancer can strike either kind of animal at any time. Get that estate plan tuned up and, unless you love progressive political schemes more than your own children, have a way to move out of Massachusetts (16 percent state estate tax) as soon as the first cancer diagnosis is received!

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Cougar Tale in the New York Times

Other than gender studies graduates who are about to have all of their student loans transferred onto the backs of the working class, divorced women are the most reliable Democrat voters in the U.S. What’s the latest harvest of material from Democrat-controlled media on the miracle of family court?

“My Husband Is Two Years Older Than My Son” (New York Times):

Our 19-year age gap feels treacherous and gossip inducing — and is also the best thing that’s ever happened to me.

This is his first marriage and my third. Minutes before our rainy courthouse wedding, my future mother-in-law said, “He’ll be your last love and you’ll be his only love.”

If you had asked me five years ago if I would ever date again, I would have said, “Not in a million years.” I was a middle-aged woman filing for divorce,…

The author is grateful that the mandarins permitted her to leave her house and work for wages:

I work as a freelance makeup artist in Portland, Ore., but business had been slow back then, so for extra income I took a cashier job at the local Fred Meyer grocery store, which is where I met Tylan.
He struck me as gorgeous with his long hair, piercing blue eyes and hippie wardrobe. He worked the cash registers too but was a “P.I.C.” (person in charge) who also had management responsibilities.
When the pandemic hit, my makeup work dried up completely, and I became reliant on my cashier job at Fred Meyer, which, as an essential business, stayed open even during the worst of Covid.

(Are we to infer from “management responsibilities” that she was having sex with the boss, as in this scholarly journal paper from the UK?)

… I was 46, one year younger than his own mother, and he was 27, two years older than my son.

He introduced me to emo-rock and I introduced him to obscure slow-core. We drank mead, tested out new recipes, and discussed music, career goals and sometimes, our love lives. Mine was nonexistent and I was content with that, and he was single, waiting for the right one. There were times I even tried to play matchmaker, but it never quite worked out.

There was a midnight skinny dip at the river, making out on a giant velour bean bag, and indoor camping with a tent made out of bedsheets. And then it happened one night, Tylan knelt on one knee and proposed. I was stunned and momentarily mute. It wasn’t until Tylan said, “Yes?” that I nodded my head and blubbered, “Yes!”

What else can divorce plaintiffs look forward to other new sex partners from a different generation? An enormous smile, at least according to “In Defense of Divorce” (Slate), author of This American Ex-Wife: How I Ended My Marriage and Started My Life:

Lenz walked away from her marriage to rebuild her life in her 40s, and to find out what freedom feels like. Reading her story, we get to feel that freedom too. I talked with Lenz—divorced woman to divorced woman—about why divorce isn’t a tragedy.

People are really uncomfortable with a woman who is free and a woman who chooses herself. I think that adds into the dissonance—it makes people really uncomfortable when you say, “Hey, my marriage was not great and I’m leaving.” And you know this, too: The moment you get divorced, so many women go, “When did you know? When did you know? How should I know?”

I am anti the legal structure of marriage, because it is founded on women’s inequality. Look at the history of marriage. Look at these laws of coverture. Look at the laws in America where marital rape wasn’t even illegal until the past 20 years. And that’s because wives are property, and that’s the way that our legal system views women.

How tough is it to be a wife and mother with a full slate of modern appliances supplemented by Uber Eats food delivery and a weekly Latinx crew to do the real cleaning?

No, you feel miserable in your marriage because you never get a break because this whole system is packed on top of your shoulders and you can’t fricking breathe. And then the one time you get a moment to breathe, he’s like, “Hey, we haven’t had sex in two weeks.” … even the worst marriage still benefits a man in the end, because he is still getting free child care and his dinner made every night.

(Fair to guess that after the author sued her co-parent, both the retroactive and going-forward child care were not free?)

Contrary to nearly all survey data and journal articles, the book author says that the kids are way better off when mom and dad are having sex with a variety of new partners:

I think of it rather as a gain for [the kids, who were 4 and 6 when she sued their father], because they deserve relationships with the happiest version of both of their parents. … it’s really uncomfortable to be a sexual person to your kids, because if you tell, especially a tween daughter, that you’re dating, she wants to know, are you having sex? And then you have to talk about it.

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Vivek Ramaswamy unaware of the family court sector of the U.S. economy

A tweet from Vivek:

Here’s an idea to bridge the divide on abortion: codify sexual responsibility for men into the law. If a woman carries a child to term, she can automatically make the man fully $$ responsible both for herself and for the child, if confirmed by paternity test. Should be an idea that both parties can agree on.

Elon Musk responded with “Yes”. You’d think that he would already be aware of the U.S. system; see “Elon Musk Battles To Keep Custody Case In Texas Where Child Support Is Capped At $2,760 Per Month For 3 Kids, Despite Being The Richest Man In The World”:

Elon Musk is in the midst of a custody battle with Grimes, and things are getting as complicated as a SpaceX mission.

According to reports from Business Insider, Musk initially filed in Texas, accusing Grimes of moving to California to avoid the Lone Star State’s child support cap of $2,760 per month for three kids.

Grimes fired back with a countersuit in California, seeking physical custody. Musk reportedly had custody of their 3-year-old son X Æ A-Xii against Grimes’ wishes. The different child support limits in California, where there’s no cap, could mean a hefty sum for Musk, currently the richest person in the world.

Given that family court profits are a huge sector of the U.S. economy and Vivek was claiming to be qualified to run the whole thing, I find it fascinating that Vivek is unfamiliar with the current system in which having sex with an already-married specialist physician can yield a spending power equivalent to what an American who goes through medical school and residency to work as a primary care doc can enjoy (profitability depends heavily on the state in which the plaintiff resides/sues). Some lawyers who specialize in this area refer to child support as “woman support” since the typical plaintiff identifies as female, the money is paid to the adult plaintiff, and there is no requirement that a successful plaintiff spend any of the family court profits on the child.

Hunter Biden was reported to be paying $20,000 per month to Lunden Roberts (Daily Mail), thus giving her an after-tax spending power in excess of a primary care doc’s (the $240,000 per year was tax-free). Why wouldn’t someone in politics such as Vivek have followed the Biden family and thus learned that sex in the U.S. can pay better than most jobs?

Of course, it isn’t just Vivek. Twitter shows over 5,000 replies to the post. Most of them seem to be from people unaware that it is already possible to get a court-ordered paternity test and then 18-23 years of cashflow (depending on the state).

How can this blind spot be explained?

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Elon Musk’s curious passion for population growth

Elon Musk simultaneously believes that (1) civilization will collapse because of a declining birth rate in the West, and (2) we’re entering a glorious age of humanoid robots.

Example:

From the Elon Musk biography:

In early 2021, Musk began mentioning at his executive meetings that Tesla should get serious about building a robot, and at one point he played for them a video of the impressive ones that Boston Dynamics were designing. “Humanoid robots are going to happen, like it or not,” he said, “and we should do it so we can guide it in a good direction.” The more he talked about it, the more excited he got. “This has the potential to be the far biggest thing we ever do, even bigger than a self-driving car,” he told his chief designer, Franz von Holzhausen.

Musk gave the specs: the robot should be about five-foot-eight, with an elfish and androgenous look so it “doesn’t feel like it could or would want to hurt you.” Thus was born Optimus, a humanoid robot to be made by the Tesla teams working on self-driving cars. Musk decided that it should be announced at an event called “AI Day,” which he scheduled for Tesla’s Palo Alto headquarters on August 19, 2021.

It was not a very polished event. The sixteen presenters were all male. The only woman was the actress who dressed up as the robot, and she didn’t do any fun hat-and-cane dance routines. There were no acrobatics. But in his slightly stuttering monotone, Musk was able to connect Optimus to Tesla’s plans for self-driving cars and the Dojo supercomputer. Optimus, he said, would learn to perform tasks without needing line-by-line instructions. Like a human, it would teach itself by observing. That would transform not only our economy, he said, but the way we live.

Even as he envisioned futuristic scenarios, Musk focused on making Optimus a business. By June 2022, the team had completed a simulation of robots carrying boxes around a factory. He liked the fact that, as he put it, “our robots are going to work harder than humans work.” He came to believe that Optimus would become a main driver of Tesla profits. “The Optimus humanoid robot,” he told analysts, “has the potential to be more significant than the vehicle business.”

I can’t understand how these thoughts are consistent. If human population were to slide back towards 4 billion or 2 billion, there might be a short-term labor shortage, but wouldn’t that labor shortage be solved by a working humanoid robot?

I think that Musk is completely wrong about civilization collapse even without the robot angle, incidentally. The median age in Japan is 49. People don’t say that’s a collapsed civilization compared to Gaza, where the median age is 18. The worldwide median age is about 30. There is no realistic scenario, as far as I’m aware, in which the median age of the world population ever exceeds Japan’s current median age. Therefore, Japan represents a worst-case scenario.

How bad is Japan doing? Not any worse than the typical advanced economy, says this tweet:

An astonishing paper this week finds that population explains virtually all of the difference in GDP growth in advanced economies over the last 30 years! “From 1998 to 2019, Japan has grown slightly faster than the U.S. in terms of per working-age adult.”

What drives population growth? For the Palestinians, the world’s most successful people demographically, it seems to be the UNRWA guarantees of food, health care, education, and other essentials, all funded by the US and EU taxpayers. A Palestinian can have 10 children, not work, and never worry that one will go hungry so long as there are taxpayers in Illinois and Germany. What about for economies that don’t receive guaranteed aid from foreigners?

This article on “The Baby Boom” by Arctotherium looks at a falling birth rate at the beginning of the 20th century followed by the familiar post-WWII baby boom (1946-1964; I was born in 1963). Wikipedia points out that our baby boom coincided with a marriage boom, but doesn’t offer a single agreed-on explanation for why the marriage boom occurred. Arctotherium points out that a baby bust is not an inevitable result of wealth:

The Baby Boom took place in what were, at the time, the wealthiest, most technologically advanced, longest lived, most urban, most educated, most individualist, and most scientifically sophisticated societies in human history, by a wide margin. And it took place during a time when all of these metrics (except maybe individualism) were very rapidly improving.

Consistently with Wikipedia, Arctotherium highlights the marriage boom and adds a theory for the cause:

So what caused this marriage boom? The answer appears to be a rise in young men’s status compared to young women’s. The marriage boom can be explained almost entirely by a combination of female labor force participation (down), young male wages (up), and male unemployment (down).

Wages are not the only way to measure status. After briefly reaching parity at the zenith of first wave feminism, young men during the Baby Boom again greatly exceeded their female counterparts in educational attainment.

The mechanism here is clear: young women want money and status, young men have relatively more money and status, women can get men’s money and status by marrying them. Marriage leads to babies, and thus the Baby Boom.

What caused the baby boom to end with a baby bust? A decline in marriage. Women didn’t have to get married to get money and status.

Affirmative Action in favor of women is common across the Boom countries, as is disproportionate female employment in state-created regulatory jobs such as HR. There are also thousands of organizations explicitly dedicated to promoting women’s careers at the expense of men’s, and almost none of the converse. These combine to artificially raise women’s wages above the market rate, and lower men’s.

But we don’t just have wages to consider, we also have taxes and transfers. Thanks to progressive taxation, men pay the vast majority of taxes while women receive the vast majority of benefits. Since married men are the most productive, while single women are the poorest (on a per-household basis), this is predominantly a transfer from married men to single women. This makes marriage less attractive to women; they can get men’s money for free, courtesy of the government, without having to give anything in return. The state serves as a surrogate husband.

Arctotherium has some data from New Zealand, noting “The welfare state has done to marriage what the Soviet Union did to agriculture: effectively collectivized it, with the corresponding horrendous set of incentives for individual men and women”:

But young men’s vs young women’s economic status is not the only factor determining marriage rates. It fully explains the boom, but not the bust. The explanation lies in the fact that second wave feminism thoroughly redefined marriage. It shifted from a patriarchal institution in which husbands had social (and some legal, though this was mostly dismantled by first wave feminism) power over their wives to one in which wives had effective legal power over the husbands (through the mechanisms of feminist family courts, greatly expanded definitions of abuse, and the replacement of the marriage model of the family with the child support model), and from a lifelong contract to one dissolvable at will (though the institution of no-fault divorce). In JD Unwin’s terms, we shift from a regime of absolute monogamy to one of modified monogamy. This had obvious and immediate consequences on marriage rates.

The mechanism through which no-fault divorce reduces marriage rates is simple. No-fault divorce eliminates the promise of lifelong commitment, greatly reducing the benefits of marriage for both parties. The other partner can bail at any time, for any reason. This particularly increases the costs for men through the mechanism of family courts (as divorce usually means he loses his assets, income, and children).

Arctotherium found an interesting data set on marital happiness:

Despite the increase in divorce rates, people aren’t happier in the marriages that have survived.

If Arctotherium is correct, the U.S. will never have a high birth rate again because marriage will never be attractive again. (The article has some pipe dream proposals for radically overhauling our society, e.g., “Roll back the welfare and pension state and lower income taxes.” It is safe to assume that none of these will ever happen and, therefore, marriage will never make the kind of sense for a young woman that it did from 1946-1964.)

Circling back to Elon Musk, what would be so bad about the U.S. population stagnating at 336 million or declining to 200 million (the 1970 level), especially if we had robots to help out the oldsters with domestic tasks?

Related… miscellaneous quotes from Michel Houellebecq’s novels (not in quote style for better readability):

A bachelor who breathes his last at the age of sixty-four is hardly the stuff of tragedy,

I thought about Annelise’s life—and the life of every Western woman. In the morning she probably blow-dried her hair, then she thought about what to wear, as befitted her professional status, whether “stylish” or “sexy,” most likely “stylish” in her case. Either way, it was a complex calculation, and it must have taken her a while to get ready before dropping the kids off at day care, then she spent the day e-mailing, on the phone, in various meetings, and once she got home, around nine, exhausted (Bruno was the one who picked the kids up, who made them dinner—he had the hours of a civil servant), she’d collapse, get into a sweatshirt and yoga pants, and that’s how she’d greet her lord and master, and some part of him must have known—had to have known—that he was fucked, and some part of her must have known that she was fucked, and that things wouldn’t get better over the years. The children would get bigger, the demands at work would increase, as if automatically, not to mention the sagging of the flesh.

Bruno and Annelise must be divorced by now. That’s how it goes nowadays. A century ago, in Huysmans’s time, they would have stayed together, and maybe they wouldn’t have been so unhappy after all.

my body was the seat of various painful afflictions—headaches, rashes, toothaches, hemorrhoids—that followed one after another, without interruption, and almost never left me in peace—and I was only forty-four! What would it be like when I was fifty, sixty, older? I’d be no more than a jumble of organs in slow decomposition, my life an unending torment, grim, joyless, and mean.

On 14 December 1967 the government passed the Neuwirth Act on contraception at its first reading. Although not yet paid for by social security, the pill would now be freely available in pharmacies. It was this which offered a whole section of society access to the sexual revolution, which until then had been reserved for professionals, artists and senior management—and some small businessmen. It is interesting to note that the “sexual revolution” was sometimes portrayed as a communal utopia, whereas in fact it was simply another stage in the historical rise of individualism. As the lovely word “household” suggests, the couple and the family would be the last bastion of primitive communism in liberal society. The sexual revolution was to destroy these intermediary communities, the last to separate the individual from the market. The destruction continues to this day.

Children existed solely to inherit a man’s trade, his moral code and his property. This was taken for granted among the aristocracy, but merchants, craftsmen and peasants also bought into the idea, so it became the norm at every level of society. That’s all gone now: I work for someone else, I rent my apartment from someone else, there’s nothing for my son to inherit. I have no craft to teach him, I haven’t a clue what he might do when he’s older. By the time he grows up, the rules

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Veterans Day reminder to Check Six

A New York Times story about Fred V. Cherry from April 25, 1982:

Some of the above text:

When Col. Fred V. Cherry of the Air Force, a decorated fighter pilot, was released in 1973 after more than seven years as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam, he came home to find that his wife, who had deserted him, had been paid a total of $121,998 by the Air Force – his salary, his subsistence allowance, his flight pay and his savings.

Colonel Cherry, who is 54 years old and has retired from the service, recalls that he was not only ”wiped out because I had lost everything I had stayed alive for for seven years,” but penniless until the Air Force advanced him money.

The North Vietnamese turned out not to be this guy’s worst enemy.

According to records cited in the opinion, Colonel Cherry, at the time a major, was shot down in October 1965 and listed as missing. The next month his wife and children were returned from Japan to Portsmouth, Va.

In the fall of 1967, Colonel Cherry’s sister, Beulah Watts, who lived nearby in Virginia, learned that although the Air Force had by that time confirmed that Colonel Cherry was alive, Mrs. Cherry would not be sending him an Air Force-authorized Christmas package. Indeed, while he was still officially missing, she asked the Air Force if it would be possible to have him declared dead.

In 1968 Mrs. Watts told the Air Force Mrs. Cherry was living with another man. In 1969 she reported that Mrs. Cherry had given birth and was ”squandering Colonel Cherry’s money.

The litigation around who should get the money earned by the pilot lasted for at least 16.5 years after he was shot down and 9 years after he came home.

See also, Lieutenant Colonel Robert L. Stirm, who survived five years of captivity in Hanoi:

Despite outward appearances, the reunion was an unhappy one for Stirm. Three days before he arrived in the United States, the same day he was released from captivity, Stirm received a Dear John letter from his wife Loretta informing him that their marriage was over. Stirm later learned that Loretta had been with other men throughout his captivity and had received marriage proposals from three of them. In 1974, the Stirms divorced and Loretta remarried, but he was still ordered to provide her with 43% of his military retirement pay once he retired from the Air Force, although the divorce judge stated that much evidence was presented to the court of Loretta’s unfaithfulness while Stirm was prisoner.

After Burst of Joy was announced as the winner of the Pulitzer Prize, all of the family members depicted in the picture received copies. The depicted children display it prominently in their homes, but not Colonel Stirm, who in 2005 said he cannot bring himself to display the picture.

So… as we reflect on the comfortable lives that we enjoy as a result of the work done and sacrifices made by veterans, we should also remember to Check Six. Our most serious problem may not be the one that we are focused on.

(The October 7, 2023 attack by the Islamic Resistance Movement (“Hamas”) and other Gazans happened while many Israelis were saying that their worst enemy was a change to the relative power of the parliament and judicial branch. That’s another example of the failure to Check Six.)

Related:

  • Hogan’s Heroes turns out to be reasonably accurate: A man wrote to thank a Stateside woman for knitting a sweater that he received. She responded with “I didn’t realize that they would give it to a prisoner. I knitted it for a fighting man.” A man received a letter from his wife: “Dear Harry, I hope you are broad-minded. I just had a baby. He is such a jolly fellow. He is sending you some cigarettes.” There were so many similar letters that each bunkhouse had a wall of photos of former wives and girlfriends who had decided to discard their imprisoned mates via a “Dear John” letter.
  • “Grimes chased Elon Musk around 12 different locations to serve him custody papers” (Page Six, November 10, 2023) (It looks like Grimes is trying to get child support profits under the California formula, which offers potentially unlimited cash, rather than in Texas, where her revenue would be capped at about $33,000 per year for three children. Based on the biography that I recently read, it seems as though both litigants were living primarily in Austin, Texas.)
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Hello Prenup web service vs. ChatGPT

A family member is soon to get married. The couple had decided that they wanted a prenuptial agreement. Both work, but there are differences between the two in terms of student loan debt, expected inheritance, and expected future income. They don’t have a lot of money right now and didn’t want to spend $20,000 on lawyers (maybe that was the pre-Biden number?) for both sides to draft what ultimately would turn out to be a fairly standard prenuptial agreement. I did some research and found Hello Prenup, a Boston-based startup that, for $600, will run Web-mediated negotiations between the two potential victims. The company’s About Us web page shows a Chief Diversity Officer’s dream team:

I decided that my wedding gift to the happy couple would be to pay Hello Prenup’s bill.

First, it is odd that this company was founded in Maskachusetts. The state’s family law renders prenuptial agreements potentially useless. Even if a prenup is fair when signed, a judge can invalidate it via a “second look test”, evaluating the fairness at the time of the divorce (the “divorce” happens at the very end of what might be years of litigation, so the prenup could become unfair merely because, for example, all of the assets of the couple had been handed over to attorneys). A prenup in Massachusetts is more likely to lead to an extra $300,000 in legal fees (one side challenges the prenup; the other side has to defend against that) than a substantial change to the plaintiff’s profits. (Remember that a judge can work around an alimony waiver by simply awarding more child support, for example, or a larger share of the property.)

I like the idea of the site because it gives people nudges to work together to get to a finished document. Unfortunately, the flexibility is limited. For example, the options for alimony are (a) complete waiver, (b) leave it up to state law, and (c) waiver if the divorce lawsuit is filed before N years have elapsed and state law otherwise. In a country where people love alimony (apparently, since we keep voting for politicians who preserve the institution) there is no option to build in alimony via a formula. Suppose, for example, you wanted a formulae, e.g., lower earner gets alimony X% of the difference in income for Y% of the years prior to the plaintiff filing the divorce lawsuit. This is not doable except via editing the Word document after it is generated. What if you wanted to agree that if one spouse quits his/her/zir/their job to take care of kids for more than 2 years then the other spouse would pay 40 months of alimony in the amount of 50 percent of after-tax income? Not doable. (Remember that alimony is now tax-free to the recipient and not deductible for the payor, so old formulas based on pre-tax income would leave the payor destitute. The law changed starting in 2019 after the IRS noticed that alimony recipients were defrauding the U.S. Treasury on a regular basis by not reporting alimony received as income (payors, of course, were still deducting it).)

Hello Prenup doesn’t seem to contain enough education regarding what it takes to make a prenup valid. After using the service, the happy couple to whom I gifted the service wasn’t aware that sloppiness in disclosing existing assets could be an easy route of attack for a divorce plaintiff trying to invalidate a prenup.

Nit: Hello Prenup does a poor job generating Microsoft Word documents. It doesn’t use “keep with next” for section headings, for example.

It’s an interesting idea to interview each engaged person separately via the Web, but I’m not sure that the $600 service produces a better result than sitting down together at a single PC and using the forms that come with the $29 Nolo Press’s book on prenuptial agreements or by using various other free or low-cost forms from services such as Rocket Lawyer.

Maybe the answer is that Hello Prenup doesn’t have enough AI? I gave the following prompt to ChatGPT (GPT-4):

Give me an example prenuptial agreement between Robert and William. Robert is a 60-year-old Medicaid dentist earning $1 million per year while William is an unemployed 20-year-old. They plan to have children.

The result was a recipe for epic litigation. For example, “In the event of a divorce, Robert agrees to provide spousal support to William for a period to be determined, taking into consideration the length of the marriage and William’s employment status.” So the attorneys on both sides will argue in front of a judge what the appropriate period of alimony should be? They can also argue how long the marriage was (it can take 2-3 years for a divorce lawsuit to get to final judgment; does the “length of the marriage” include this period of litigation or not?).

ChatGPT also included the seemingly reasonable boilerplate “This Agreement shall be governed by the laws of the state in which the Parties reside.”

Does that mean the state in which the Parties reside at the time the prenup is signed? The state in which the Parties reside at the time that one sues the other? What if they don’t live in the same state either at the time of signing or at the time the lawsuit is filed? Hello Prenup generates agreements that are specific as to which state’s laws govern.

So… Hello Prenup has some deficiencies, but nothing like GPT-4’s!

If you’re considering getting married, don’t be distracted by foreign wars. Remember that, depending on the state where you choose to reside, you could be embroiled in a far more upsetting and personally costly war of your own in family court. A prenup offers a small degree of protection against this, though not against the most upsetting and expensive parts of a typical divorce lawsuit. The typical U.S. state sets up a winner-take-all battle between the two parents for who will (1) get to spend time with what used to be joint children, and (2) who will therefore get the river of cash that is associated with those children (“child support”; the flip side of this is “who will be forced to disgorge the river of cash while seldom seeing the children”). It is far more protective to move to a state such as Nevada that defaults to 50/50 shared parenting and limits child support profits than it is to work on and sign a piece of paper. For the typical married-with-kids person, it is far more dangerous to live in Maskachusetts or New York with an “ironclad prenup” than it is to live in a shared parenting state with child support profit limits with no prenup.

[Update: A friend provided the same prompt to GPT-4 today and it came up with a different clause for governing law…

Maybe ChatGPT has been going to law school?]

Related:

  • Real World Divorce, especially chapters 5 and 7 regarding what can be the subject of litigation
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DeSantis kills permanent alimony

Although the profit opportunity from child support, e.g., from a one-night unmarried encounter, was limited in Florida, the state was a paradise for alimony plaintiffs, especially those married or 7 years or more who could seek “permanent alimony”. The successful plaintiff could use what had been the defendant’s money to throw a massive divorce party, as recently described in the Wall Street Journal. Due to the cruel tyranny of Ron DeSantis, however, the party may be over a little earlier than planned…

“Governor DeSantis Signs Landmark Alimony Reform Bill Eliminating Permanent Alimony” (Lowndes). As in some other states, the alimony revenue opportunity is now a formula based on time served:

The length of durational alimony is not to exceed 50% of short-term marriages (<10 years); 60% of moderate-term marriages (10-20 years); and 75% of long-term marriages (20+ years);

Plaintiffs still have an incentive to quit jobs and spend like crazy in the months or years leading up to their lawsuits:

The amount of durational alimony is to be determined by reasonable needs not to exceed 35% of the difference between the net incomes of the parties, whichever is less.

“reasonable needs” = whatever a plaintiff was spending during the marriage, so a plaintiff who takes five trips to Europe before suing can say that regular trips to Europe were part of the marital lifestyle. Also note that alimony is now tax-free (as child support previously was), so 35% of the defendant’s income is roughly 50% of the defendant’s spending power (and could become more if Joe Biden delivers on his promise to make successful Americans pay their fair share). Alimony revenue entitlement is subject to modification if incomes change, so a plaintiff who wins 15 years of alimony will have a financial incentive to refrain from work for 15 years.

Embedded in an amoral society, moralism:

Courts can consider the impact of adultery in determining the amount of alimony whether or not it has a financial impact.

(In the true no-fault states, a plaintiff who says “I want a divorce because the defendant objects to all of the Tinder dates I have brought home to the master bedroom” is entitled to the same profits as one who has been faithful.)

It will be tougher to profit after a defendant’s death:

Requires the showing of a special circumstance to secure alimony with life insurance.

Let’s check the reactions…

A “gender bias expert” (PhD!) implies that it is “women” who are alimony profiteers, despite the fact that the Florida alimony law was and is gender-neutral:

Here’s one from a “fascism fighting scribe” (who complains of living in “DeSantistan” (why not move away from fascism?)) in which the reduction in profitability of divorce lawsuits is characterized as “erosion of the institution of marriage in Florida”:

Note that this person also suggests that, out of 74 gender IDs recognized by Science, it is “women” who are passionate seekers of permanent alimony.

Regardless of the gender IDs of those involved, the new law is interesting from a cultural perspective. Americans apparently can agree that decades of cash payments are the natural outcome of a marriage in which one participant decided that he/she/ze/they would be better off partnering with someone else (or flying solo/Tinder). The British have a different point of view. A married defendant will see his/her/zir/their plaintiff in court over a period of months and, in an ideal world, one former sex partner will pay the other a lump sum as part of a “clean break”. And then in Germany, assuming the couple being divorced checked a “separate property” box on the marriage license application, neither former sex partner will pay the other (someone who didn’t work during the marriage is expected to work once divorced).

Related:

  • Real World Divorce Florida chapter (will now require revision!)
  • a look at how family law financial incentives shrink the U.S. economy by discouraging plaintiffs from working
  • below is an ideal Presidential-style tweet from Joe Biden’s handlers that, in my opinion, DeSantis needs to copy if he’s going to win. Biden’s script line, “There is nothing beyond our capacity if we work together” is completely false, but it sounds great. (Why false? Building and operating a Chinese-style high-speed rail system is way beyond our capacity. Creating a health care system that an increasingly low-skill population can afford has been beyond our capacity for decades (so 18% of GDP is spent on health care compared to less than 5% in high-skill Singapore).) DeSantis would have to modify the below. Say that he’s optimistic if we change a few things, e.g., stop offering to change the depicted child’s gender with drugs and surgery, try to cut the number of Americans on means-tested welfare down from 100 million, etc. But DeSantis needs to start with a message that even the lowest-skill most welfare-dependent richest-in-criminal-background Americans are going to contribute to a bright future.
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Ukrainian wives discovering the superiority of being married to the German taxpayer

Western Ukraine is safe enough for elderly Americans to visit (example). Friends of friends go about their daily work there without any thoughts of becoming a war casualty. One guy, however, misses his wife and kids (elementary school age). They fled to Germany during the early days of the war, taking 100 percent of the family savings with them. Now the wife is established in the German welfare system, getting per-child payments, and has discovered how much more pleasant life can be without a husband in the house (does Germany have Tinder?). The father has sought to recover the children at least, but a German court agreed with the wife that Ukraine is not safe enough for anyone to live in (though the Ukrainian mom and teenage son whom I wrote about in April 2022 moved back long ago).

In the pre-globalized pre-welfare-state world, a live husband with a good income would become more valuable in the event of a war that killed a lot of working-age men. But in our current world, the husband, despite being a high-status professional in Ukraine, became surplus when he couldn’t compete with the German government (and German Tinder?).

Context from the BBC:

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