Althouse | category: wealth



an endless succession of beans and nuts.

"I think it’s a political hit job... this ProPublica group in particular, funded by leftists, has an agenda to destabilize the [Supreme] Court."

"What they’ve done is not truthful. It lacks integrity. They’ve done a pretty good job in the last week or two of unfairly slamming me and more importantly than that, unfairly slamming Justice Thomas."

“A lot of people that have opinions about this seem to think that there’s something wrong with this friendship. You know, it’s possible that people are just really friends. It blows my mind that people assume that because Clarence Thomas has friends, that those friends have an angle.”... 
“You know, I can’t talk to Clarence without him asking all about the kids. ‘What are they doing?’ We have a dog named Otis that Clarence particularly likes. We talk about dogs a lot.” Crow remembered Thomas supporting his son’s wrestling team at St. Mark’s School of Texas. “Friends do stuff like that.”... 
“Every single relationship — a baby’s relationship to his mom — has some kind of reciprocity,“ he said....

Crow is asked why he bought Thomas’ mother’s house:

ProPublica reported that Crow bought a single-story home and two vacant lots down the road for $133,363 from three co-owners — Thomas, his mother and the family of Thomas’ late brother. 
“I assumed his mother owned the home,” Crow said. “His life story is an amazing American life story: born into deep poverty. Father gone. Mother — the lady whom we’re talking about — really not able to do a lot to help raise her two sons. Ultimately raised by his grandparents, who were illiterate. Growing up in Jim Crow Georgia. So I approached him with the idea that I might purchase that home for the purpose that in due course it could be the boyhood home of a great American.”  The thought that it was more than that “kind of drives me crazy.” 
As for the improvements? “She works as a greeter in the local hospital — a 94-year-old lady,” Crow said. “When we made this purchase, she was just an 84-year-old lady, or something like that. I built a carport, so that she can park her car. It’s not an enclosed garage. That’s what I did. Now, you said improvements to the house. I don’t remember any other rooms. However, if there was a commode that was terrible, I might have fixed it. I don’t know.”...

 Crow expresses a desire to be understood in terms of his love for America:

“I think America is one of the greatest things that’s happened in world history. Here we are governing ourselves, or trying to govern ourselves,” Crow said. “There are other times in world history in which that’s happened, but nothing like this. I love the American experiment in self-governance.... 
“I decided that I like American historical manuscripts and books that relate to American history.... It’s a big collection. But it’s many thousands of documents, and books.... We have a small number of things here that are about bad guys.... You can’t have a library and talk about that without including the bad.... We’ve got Jesse James and Al Capone and Lee Harvey Oswald and John Wilkes Booth... So yeah, World War II was a fairly big event in American history. We have a bunch of stuff about World War II, including some of our enemies."... 
“It really, really bothers me that — what I’m going to call yellow journalism — has decided to say that I like some of that stuff. That’s exactly the opposite of what the truth is.... My mom was on a ship that was sunk by Germans during World War II. If you try to kill my mom, I don’t like you. I mean, that’s reasonably obvious. And so the idea that I could have sympathy for Nazism is insane.”...

"As it turns out, the rich are drawn to exorbitant prices like moths to a flame — and so it was after I bumped my rates up..."

"... to three figures that the app started delivering me one bejeweled Bichon after another. I’d drag a suitcase onto the subway and, for weeks at a time, live in some stranger’s sprawling penthouse. I dogsat a schnauzer for a real estate tycoon who I was certain had CCTV cameras trained on me in the bedroom as I slept; a nervy, Xanax-needing French bulldog for a Hollywood bigwig; a trio of overweight dachshunds that had never stepped foot* on the street below, having been trained, rather horrifically, to do their business on the balcony.... Over [a] decade I twirled through hundreds of lives... but I learned nothing about what it meant to care for — to raise — another living creature. That didn’t happen until the pandemic hit, when an animal shelter I volunteered with asked if I could foster a frightened, deer-eared mutt who’d just had a front leg amputated.... Poca is deeply wary around other dogs, which is what finally brought my moonlighting as an on-call caretaker for New York City’s Fidos and Bellas and Discos to a close."

Rich people bad. Rescue dogs good. Care because paid bad. Care because love good. 


* It was only a week ago that I blogged about the phrase "stepped foot" (as opposed to "set foot").

"Clarence Thomas’s Billionaire Friend Is No Nazi/He has a signed copy of Mein Kampf. That doesn’t mean he admires Hitler."

Writes Graeme Wood in The Atlantic.
[O]ne can make out statues [Harlan] Crow has collected from countries ravaged by political violence: Nicolae Ceaușescu, the general secretary of the Romanian Communist Party; Lenin and Stalin; Enver Hoxha of Albania; the Hungarian Communist Béla Kun. These authentic specimens were harvested from the wreckage of collapsed tyranny, and they are kept in the condition in which they were found....Nearer to his office, away from the silent outer darkness, are statues of Margaret Thatcher and other political and cultural figures whom he honors rather than reviles. And inside, near the entrance to the Crow library, is the largest bust of Winston Churchill I have ever seen.... 
Down the hallway, I saw paintings by Dwight Eisenhower and George W. Bush. Bush is a friend of Crow’s, and one of his paintings depicts Crow in conversation with an elderly African man. It is labeled father to father. In the main hall, one of the most prominent paintings is a portrait of Clarence Thomas in his robes. Thomas is also visible in a few vacation photographs framed in Crow’s office. 
The Hitler paintings were, I am told, in the library somewhere—but they occupied no exalted space, and the Crow collection consists mostly of items from American history, chiefly relics of those who advanced the cause of freedom. It includes signatures from all the signers of the Declaration of Independence, as well as the desk of Abraham Lincoln.... Somewhere in the Crow library, there’s a signed Mein Kampf...
It simply isn’t possible to be a Nazi, crypto or otherwise, and simultaneously be an Abe Lincoln and Liz Cheney fanboy—let alone to conceal from your dearest confidants, among them Black and Jewish people, your preference for the master race....

"The hospitality we have extended to the Thomases over the years is no different from the hospitality we have extended to our many other dear friends."

"We have been most fortunate to have a great life of many friends and financial success, and we have always placed a priority on spending time with our family and friends."

Said Harlan Crow, quoted in "Lawmakers Call for Tighter Ethics Code After Revelations About Justice Thomas/An investigation by ProPublica revealed that Clarence Thomas accompanied Harlan Crow, a conservative donor and real estate billionaire, on a series of luxury vacations without disclosing them" (NYT).

Could ProPublica — or some other organization (the NYT?) — do the same investigation into the hospitality accepted by the other Supreme Court Justices? Was Clarence Thomas focused on because he was known to be way outside the norm or for political reasons? Anyone who at all likes Clarence Thomas is going to be highly suspicious — if not already convinced — that they're going after him because they already hate him. 

What is the usual experience of visiting wealthy friends and at what point should we object? Do we want monkish judges? I intensely admire the Justice Souter lifestyle. As Sandra Day O'Connor described it:
Justice Souter did not accept many of the numerous invitations sent to him for social events in Washington, D.C. He typically declined invitations for speaking engagements throughout the United States and in other countries as well. He preferred to return to New Hampshire at every opportunity. For years, he had a Volkswagen automobile, and he would drive it up to Weare as soon as the Term ended and as soon as the holiday and winter recesses occurred. While in Washington, D.C., he would rise early every day and run on the grounds of the Naval base at the foot of Capitol Hill before coming to the Court for the balance of the day and often late into the evening. He remained a bachelor and had no need to interrupt his work to meet family obligations, as most of the Justices typically would do. Now, back in New Hampshire, Justice Souter has managed to replace his daily Capitol Hill runs with frequent hikes across the White Mountains near his home.

Beautiful. Perfect. But sublimely different from everybody else. If he's at one end of a continuum, is Justice Thomas at the other end, or are there other Justices with even swankier sojourns among the billionaires? And where are all the others in between — nestling at the Souter end? 

I'm also interested in what sort of legal analysis we get from different types of judges. Souter represents a lifestyle ideal, but what sort of mind comes with that and do we want that mind deciding our cases? 

"How Rod Dreher's Blog Got a Little 'Too Weird' for The American Conservative."

I'm reading this Vanity Fair article by Caleb Ecarma. Subtitle: "The right-wing commentator’s columns, which were unedited and bankrolled by a single donor, will be shuttered Friday after a 12-year run. Sources say it was ultimately a diatribe on circumcision that was a bridge too far."
Over the last 12 years, Dreher... has built a cult following with some of the most bizarre diatribes in opinion journalism. He has warned that so-called sissy hypnosis porn is “profoundly evil;” detailed the “formal” Catholic exorcism of a friend’s suicidal wife; and recalled—in unsettling detail—the time he witnessed a Black classmate's uncircumcised penis....

Howard Ahmanson Jr., the heir to a California banking fortune [was] the sole benefactor of Dreher’s six-figure salary.... This unique funding arrangement—a single donor choosing to cover one writer’s entire salary—was paired with an even more unusual editorial arrangement: Dreher was allowed to publish directly on TAC’s site without any revisions or legal oversight.... 

That is, I would say, Dreher was allowed to write a real blog. And he got real money for blogging the real way. It's appropriate that a writer be paid. But all the money came from one guy. How can you write like that?! I guess it depends on the guy. You'd have to think about whether this one guy is getting what he wants... or enough of what he wants... to keep the money flowing.

Ahmanson must have loved Dreher, so where did Dreher go wrong? Sources tell Vanity Fair it was that post about circumcision. Dreher wrote:

“All us boys wanted to stare at his primitive root wiener when we were at the urinal during recess, because it was monstrous. Nobody told us that wieners could look like that.” 

I took a moment to look up Ahmanson. From his Wikipedia page, check out his "occupation": 

"Heir, idle rich, financier." Oh, Wikipedia!

It wasn't just calling a black man's uncircumcised penis a "primitive root wiener."

Some of Dreher’s commentary on the gay and transgender communities also proved off-putting to Ahmanson, such as his lurid musings on anal sex, rectal bleeding, and the “partially rotted off” nose of a gay man who contracted monkeypox. 
“At some point, he basically decided, 'This is too weird,’” the source, paraphrasing Ahmanson, explained to me. “‘I don’t want to read this or pay for this anymore.’”

The problem was either that or the fact that Dreher, who lives in Hungary, revealed that the Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán said NATO is "in a war with Russia" and he wants out of the European Union. That caused a stir.

In his final TAC post, Dreher closed by saying to his readers: “All you Mongoloids were the Primitive Root Wiener in my Lucky Dog, and I love you very much.” I'm sure his closest readers understood all the references. I only get "Primitive Root Wiener" and it's hard to fathom why he would write that... other than that to blog well you have to take chances and say some unusual things. I'm going to guess that Dreher will be better off on his own at Substack with the money coming from a multitude of readers and not from one man — who, of course, had to worry about having his own reputation wedded to the words of a blogger.

"Last week, in a conversation with colleague Gail Collins, [Bret] Stephens argued that a couple with a combined income of $400,000 a year doesn’t necessarily have a lifestyle we’d describe as 'rich.'"

"'They’re scrimping to send their kids to college, driving a Camry, if they have a car at all, and wondering why eggs have gotten so damned expensive.' 'Granted,' said Collins, which was the most fascinating part of this exchange.... How have liberals gotten so comfortable with the idea that $400,000 a year — more than what 98 percent of the population makes — is really just a middle-class income?..."
Compared with the old establishment that survived on inherited wealth and social position, they are insecure, and many worry that their offspring will be downwardly mobile, which leads them to spend virtually all of their outsize disposable incomes on preparing the children to become star performers in the next round of competition.... 
What self-respecting mammals don’t want their kids to have it at least as good as they did? At the median household income, that’s even a semi-plausible demand, because here all government needs to provide is median-grade public goods.... If you would be satisfied knowing that your child had a secure but unremarkable life managing a Walmart in some exurb, the government could probably guarantee that.... 

But — as McArdle sees it — if you worked hard enough to get to $400,000 a year, you expected something bigger for yourself and then you'll probably want the same — and more — for your children, and — overspending for them — you're stuck with an ordinary life for yourself. The Camry. The eggs.

Is that really the explanation for the Collins/Stephens agreement? I don't know. But if it is, there are some good solutions for young people looking on and thinking I don't want that to happen to me:

1. Don't have children.

2. Don't get the idea that you're special and you need to win in economic terms. If you sort of win — within the range that you're likely to win — you'll still have an ordinary life, and it will be much more work and much more disappointing. So come to terms with your mediocrity early. If you do this, it's easier to....

3. Live somewhere cheap (and close to nature).

4. Do some sort of work that you can enjoy and feel good about. 

5. Go ahead and have children. If you're doing ##2-4, you can skip the non-having of children. Make life about love, not boosting these random new humans to the next higher rung above some other couple's random new humans.

To write Andre Agassi’s memoir, 'Open,' [J.R.] Moehringer moved to Las Vegas, where Agassi lived. Agassi said he bought a house a mile away from his own..."

"... and Moehringer occupied it for two years while he worked on the book. All the writer requested was a long table where he could lay out the scenes he’d piece together 'like a necklace,' Agassi recalled. They’d meet in the morning, fueled by breakfast burritos from Whole Foods. 'I’d spend a couple of hours with him over breakfast and a tape recorder,' Agassi said. 'Open' is widely considered a paragon of sports autobiographies — a raw and honest excavation of a well-known life. Agassi said he sought out Moehringer to write the book — 'romancing' him to do it, he said... Like any reliably employed ghostwriter, Moehringer is also known for his discretion. Prince Harry’s book is his third ghostwriting project. Maybe.... Agassi.... said he wanted to put Moehringer’s name on the cover.... But Moehringer declined such public credit, Agassi said. He preferred to disappear."

Writes Elizabeth A. Harris in "When the Writing Demands Talent and Discretion, Call the Ghostwriter/Ghostwriters write books in someone else’s voice — without leaving fingerprints. Doing it well requires great technical skill and a flexible ego" (NYT).

Moehringer is also the ghostwriter for Prince Harry's new book — "Spare" — and, again, his name is not on the cover.

I'm giving this post my "furniture" tag because what attracted me to the story was the line "All the writer requested was a long table where he could lay out the scenes he’d piece together 'like a necklace.'" 

I'm very interested in the furniture used by writers. Note my expression of admiration — here — for the book "The Writer's Desk." 

But also the appearance of the word "necklace" caught my eye — and not just because it's a snazzy simile. It was only yesterday that I was quoting from Prince Harry's book, "He grabbed me by the collar, ripping my necklace...."

By the way, how rich do you need to be to have someone working for you to assemble fresh breakfast burritos? Do people with over $100 million really just do take out from Whole Foods — day after day?

"How Rod Dreher's Blog Got a Little 'Too Weird' for The American Conservative."

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