John Edwards Is Off the List. So Is his Hair.

John Edwards ought to have lost any credibility as a Democratic presidential candidate when he paid $400 for a haircut. There are other, more solid reasons: Edwards' vote on the war, and his inability to man up about enabling Bush and killing thousands are more serious signs of his disconnect with reality. But people understand haircuts. I have a relative who works as a "celebrity" hair stylist in a major city, doing quite nicely, thank you, and to actually experience the mental canyon between those in the upper income brackets and most Americans makes the class war a concrete reality.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, "the richest 1 percent of American households held one-third of all wealth in the U.S. economy, and took in 14 percent of the national income". The right wing economists who built this economy with Milton Friedman complain about the implied rebuke: how is that YOUR problem? Does it really harm anyone that CEOs make 400 times as much as the people on the shop floor, instead of 20 times as much? By even mentioning the income gap, are we not (gasp; pause for the image of Dick Cheney dressed as Aunt Pittypat, fanning himself and calling for his salts) fomenting class warfare? Is this not simple selfishness and resentment on the part of the poor?

Isn't it pretty to think so? Larry Bartels of Princeton actually did the numbers, counting the voting record of the Senate between 1989 and 1994. "In almost every instance, senators appear to be considerably more responsive to the opinions of affluent constituents than to the opinions of middle-class constituents, while the opinions of constituents in the bottom third of the income distribution have no apparent statistical effect on their senators’ roll call votes." And this was during a time when so-called Wall Street "Democrats" controlled the Congress. Work by Lawrence Jacobs of the University of Minnesota and Benjamin Page at Northwestern shows that the same income gap shapes the votes of politicians in international affairs... who loses their job, and who gets sent to war.

If bloggers are the new pamphleteers, we need to keep pestering the candidates until someone (Barack Obama, who still talks as if he's actually read the Constitution and thought about it, would seem the natural choice) starts talking about this in public, and presents the research, and doesn't let the media parrot the latest quote from the corporate candidates about "class warfare."

Current Reading, May, 2007

“If the Holy Bible was printed as an Ace Double, it would be cut down to two 20,000-word halves with the Old Testament retitled as ‘Master of Chaos’ and the New Testament as ‘The Thing With Three Souls.’ ”
(an unknown editor)


“You have to give Bill Clinton his due: When he bombed Kosovo in 1999, he became the first president since World War II to bomb white people.”
(Seymour Hersch in an interview with Rolling Stone)

“I’m beginning to understand just what a dreadful curse it can be, the novelistic ego. And I think whatever complications being the son of Kingsley involved me in, that’s been a help [perceiving writing as a trade]. This curse, the way it works is that any praise you get is instantly assimilated, and it just brings you up to where you should have been already. But any criticism just jangles around in your head and makes you stay up at night. Kingsley says somewhere in his letters that nothing quite lays you open so much as a novel, and so for a lot of my friends, a lot of the time, their thoughts are almost poisoned by criticism.”
(Martin Amis)

“Yeah, I’m mildly ticked off. I’ve had three decades of being told that forms I work in can’t possibly do anything that isn’t cliched and juvenile by their nature, and it got old three decades less five minutes ago. Judging an art by its bad examples isn’t criticism; it’s tossing a grenade into the barrel and then complaining that the fish are dead.”
(John M. Ford)

“I hate that expression, 'fusion.' What it means to me is this movement where nothing ever really fused. It ended up being the curse of Miles Davis. Where Miles discovered that playing for the rock audiences, he could reach more people with the Grateful Dead than he could playing four sets a night at the Village Vanguard for three years. What happened was that he influenced a new generation of musicians and the way he influenced them was cool but what you ended up with was Kenny G and jazz-lite.” (Wayne Kramer of the MC5)


In what cultural anthropologists are calling a "colossal achievement" in the study of white-collar professionals, the popular radio show “This American Life” has successfully isolated all 7,442 known characteristics of college graduates who earn between $62,500 and $125,000 per year and feel strongly that something should be done about global warming.
"We've done it," said senior producer Julie Snyder..."There is not a single existential crisis or self-congratulatory epiphany that has been or could be experienced by a left-leaning agnostic that we have not exhaustively documented and grouped by theme.".... This American Life host and producer Ira Glass began work on the project in 1995 in Chicago, where he found himself inspired by and catering to an audience of professionals who dine out frequently and have a hard time getting angry. Glass and his team of producers, writers, and interns set about the exhausting task of gathering all available information on a range of subjects from minor skirmishes with the law to the rewards of occasionally talking to poor people.
(The Onion)

“To our joy or to our misery, the contingencies of reality have a great influence on what we write,” says Natalia Ginzburg in her book “It’s Hard to Talk About Yourself,” in the chapter in which she discusses her life and her writing in the wake of personal disaster.
It is hard to talk about yourself, and so before I describe my current writing experience, at this time in my life, I wish to make a few observations about the impact that a disaster, a traumatic situation, has on an entire society, an entire people. I immediately recall the words of the mouse in Kafka’s short story “A Little Fable.” The mouse who, as the trap closes on him, and the cat looms behind, says, “Alas . . . the world is growing narrower every day.”

(David Grossman, in The New York Times Magazine)