Warren entered the world of policymaking when, in 1995, she was appointed to serve on the National Bankruptcy Review Commission, during the Clinton Administration. She found the work thrilling and the results maddening. She describes a report, sponsored by the banking industry, alleging that bankruptcy protection amounted to a five-hundred-and-fifty-dollar “hidden tax” levied on every hardworking American family: “I’d spent nearly twenty years sweating over every detail in a string of serious academic studies, agonizing over sample sizes and statistical significance to make certain that whatever I reported was exactly right. Now the banks just wrote a check, commissioned a friendly study, and purchased their own facts.” Warren’s frustration was part of what led her to seek a broader audience for her research by writing “The Two-Income Trap,” which led to appearances on the “Today” show and “Dr. Phil,” where she spoke with a family struggling with debt. “Year in and year out, I’d been fighting as hard as I could,” Warren writes. “But by spending a few minutes talking to that family on Dr. Phil’s show—and to about six million other people who were looking on—I might have done more good than in an entire year as a professor.”
Defenders of big pay packages like to claim that senior managers earn their vast salaries by boosting their firm’s profits and stock prices. But Piketty points out how hard it is to measure the contribution (the “marginal productivity”) of any one individual in a large corporation. The compensation of top managers is typically set by committees comprising other senior executives who earn comparable amounts. “It is only reasonable to assume that people in a position to set their own salaries have a natural incentive to treat themselves generously, or at the very least to be rather optimistic in gauging their marginal productivity,” Piketty writes.
Recently, I was sent to review Son of God, a movie I would otherwise have never elected to see. In retrospect, my review comes across as anti-Evangelical, the ending overly Catholic. And while it is true that Evangelicals will be the largest audience for the movie—and the ones who will buy the door-hangers and yard signs and 5 part Son Of God sermon series that the publicity people hawked at the screening I attended, the ones who will say yes to buying out screenings for $2,000 to “spread the love of God,” as I was encouraged to do—my desire was not to slander Evangelicals, who, though I am now a Catholic, are still my people. Rather, my frustration is out of concern for Evangelicals, particularly those of a rather American, non-denominational stripe, who seem to be the (willing) victims of corporations (20th Century Fox, in this case) hoping to cash in on Christianity. There was a word limit and a Catholic audience, but I’m afraid I wasn’t a skilled enough or charitable enough writer.
Powers summed up his poetics in a single statement: “God doesn’t like crap in art.”
Throughout the spring semester of 1985, I climbed that narrow staircase every two or three weeks to learn what he thought of my short stories. He welcomed me with a formal friendliness. There was never any question of whether I could call him by his first name, the way other faculty invited us to address them. To his friends, he was Jim, but to us students, he was always “Mr. Powers.” He wore eyeglasses with dark plastic frames that looked straight out of a black and white photograph. His face had a sour, serious expression. He clutched a pencil. We sat side by side and went through his markings on my stories. Some pages had more of his pencil marks than my ink. He noted with brackets where I could cut words. He squiggled lines under awkward phrases. He added missing commas and struck errant ones. He circled inconsistencies where I’d typed “100” on one page but then spelled out “one hundred” on the next. He noted in the margin, “say it better—I’m tired of that word” (adrenaline) and “dialogue isn’t going anywhere, is it?” and “Any point in this? Bad transition is why I ask” and “such a cliché it’s hard to take seriously” and, where I’d written, “A twinge of anxiety shot into his gut,” he’d penciled “THIS IS A GOOD EXAMPLE OF A BAD SENTENCE. STUDY IT.”
My qualm, right now, with the political left is that it is so taken over by sexual issues, sexual questions, that we have forgotten the traditional concern of the left was always social class and those at the bottom. And now we’re faced with a pope who is compassionate towards the poor and we want to know his position on abortion. It seems to me that at one point when Pope Francis said, “You know the church has been too preoccupied with those issues, gay marriage and abortion…” at some level the secular left has been too preoccupied with those issues.
I just try to put the thing out and hope somebody will read it. Someone says: “Whom do you write for?” I reply: “Do you read me?” If they say, “Yes,” I say, “Do you like it?” If they say, “No,” then I say, “I don’t write for you.”
Oh god. Well, in my opinion it’s the idea of the free individual. That’s a very overrated aspiration and American society is full of its symptoms. There’s a very limited sense in which people differ from one another and those differences seem to me to be fairly superficial. There are many more ways in which people are similar but the whole accent of this culture has been to stress those differences and understress the similarities. People are encouraged to want their own this and their own that, and led to believe that those external things are all attributes of their individuality and they aren’t complete without them. And such is the basis of a consumer culture.
Brian Eno, when asked, “What is the the most overrated idea currently held by western culture?”
Brian Eno: His Music and the Vertical Color of Sound Eric Tamm
Mr. Ansari is gracious to his fans. He explained that instead of a photograph, he would offer a conversation. He inquired about their taste in music, what they liked about his performances, his stand-up, his sitcom “Parks and Recreation.” His fans were mollified but they were rarely happy. They had to walk away with nothing on their phones.
In the United States, ten per cent of adults are former Catholics, a group that far exceeds every other religious denomination except the remaining Catholics.