Social Warfare Is About Status, Not Money


“Voting is no longer the test of inclusion. What is happening in the rich democracies may be not so much a war between the haves and the have-nots as a war between the socially advantaged and the left-out. No one who lives in poverty would not trade that life for a better one, but what most people probably want is the life they have. They fear losing that more than they wish for a different life, although they probably also want their children to be able to lead a different life if they choose.

Of the features of modern society that exacerbate that fear and threaten that hope, the distribution of wealth may not be the most important. Money matters to people, but status matters more, and precisely because status is something you cannot buy. Status is related to identity as much as it is to income. It is also, unfortunately, a zero-sum game. The struggles over status are socially divisive, and they can resemble class warfare.”

–Louis Menand, “Karl Marx, Yesterday and Today” in The New Yorker

The Saints We Revere End Up Alone

“The sad truth is that the saints we revere for thinking for themselves almost always end up thinking by themselves. We are disappointed to find that the self-taught are also self-centered, although a moment’s reflection should tell us that you have to be self-centered to become self-taught. (The more easily instructed are busy brushing their teeth, as pledged.) The independent-minded philosopher-saints are so sure of themselves that they often lose the discipline of any kind of peer review, formal or amateur. They end up opinionated, and alone.”

—Adam Gopnik, “Jane Jacobs’s Street Smarts” in The New Yorker

How Private Violence Leads to Public Power

“Across the South a revanchist political class that had campaigned on eliminating the ‘threat of black rule,’ and as its power was restored and became congealed into the institutions of the state and thus ‘legitimized,’ it moved to subdue the wave of extralegal violence it had previously encouraged—and not in small part used—to seize power. This fact helps make sense of the puzzle introduced at the outset of this article—why a vulgar white supremacist would advocate lynch mob violence as a private citizen, only to undertake extraordinary measures to thwart lynch mobs as governor.”

–“The Course of Law: State Intervention in Southern Lynch Mob Violence 1882–1930

The Rich Don’t Pay Taxes


“The economic system is, basically, that the rich and the powerful exited long ago from the messy business of paying tax,” Harding told an audience of academics and research students. “They don’t pay tax anymore, and they haven’t paid tax for quite a long time. We pay tax, but they don’t pay tax. The burden of taxation has moved inexorably away from multinational companies and rich people to ordinary people.”

—Luke Harding, in an article by Alan Rusbridger, “Panama: The Hidden Trillions” on the New York Review of Books

Care about people, not ideology

“With altruism, you don’t care about ideology, you care about the fate of people. And then it solves the issue: If you care about the fate of children, why would you want guns in the school? The most legitimate aspiration of any human beings is the basic wish not to suffer, the basic wish for well-being.”

—Mattieu Ricard, in an interview with Michael Paterni, “The World’s Happiest Man Wishes You Wouldn’t Call Him That


By Leviathan (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

A cricket forlorn on the fire escape,

a regularity in the nightspace

grounds the beginning of fall.


On my Twitter feed,

people comment on the #VPdebate.

It is clear, from their collective insight,


that a strong performance is not predicated

on truth.


The refrain of a lone cricket

outside my window

is more than enough.


The Lesser Bohemians: A Steamy, Intense Read

The Lesser BohemiansThe Lesser Bohemians by Eimear McBride
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Combine A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Trainspotting, and The Clan of the Cave Bear, and you have The Lesser Bohemians. The sex is so steamy I felt totally weird reading it on the bus. The narrator’s voice and mind is transcribed in a lyrically compelling stream-of-consciousness. This is like a teenage girl’s gothic wet dream, written for intelligent adults. There’s intensity and brilliance here, though at times all the hot and heavy got a bit much for this staid reader. Regardless, McBride’s sentences are refreshing to read in their innovative and passionate broguish breathiness, surprisingly fluid, and a welcome respite from formulaic trends.

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