It's always gratifying to me when I discover that people I admire also appreciate each other, like Elvis Costello making nice comments about James Thurber, or Tom Lehrer's view that Stephen Sondheim is the greatest lyricist bar none. With Joseph Heller and Kurt Vonnegut Jr., the admiration was actually a close friendship. I suppose it isn't that surprising, since they were both WW II vets who wrote two of the great comic anti-war novels of all time, Catch-22 and Slaughterhouse Five.
The story goes that Heller and Vonnegut are at a party in the 1980s, and Vonnegut points out another guest to Heller. "Joe, that guy over there... He's a hedge fund manager. Somebody told me that last week, he made more money than you have on Catch-22 since it was published."
Heller thought for a moment. "That may be true. But I have something he'll never have. Enough."
Several events of the past year have brought this comment into focus. In this country, and maybe it's worldwide, I can't be sure, we have turned avarice from a vice to a virtue. People who have enough are viewed as losers and saps, while the greedy are lionized. One of the few places where this isn't true is sports. Both the fan base and the sports media get genuinely irate about cheaters. Barry Bonds is one of the best players in baseball history, but he is despised as a cheat. Patriots coach Bill Belichick, winner of three Super Bowls, can now be certain that his obituary will call him a cheat in the first paragraph. He was fined $500,000 and there are fans and sports writers who think the penalty should have been more severe.
Out in the "real world", there are always people who will spin and twist the truth, defending those who break the rules out of some ideological loyalty. The phrase we have learned all too well this decade is "It's okay if you're a Republican", as scandal after scandal shows the GOP to be easily more corrupt than Bill Clinton is horny at his horniest, but we are told that it's okay for them to lie and even to be convicted. They will be pardoned, cleansed of their sins and re-hired by other Republicans after proof positive of their dishonesty and greed is part of the public record.
This week, we get to see the true disciple of avarice as virtue make the rounds. The disgusting and decrepit homonculus Alan Greenspan is selling his new book, so can be seen on TV pretty much any time you turn it on right now. At least now, some people are leading stories about this weasel with his full curriculum vitae. He was a sycophant to Ayn Rand, founder of the most successful anti-Christian cult of the 20th Century. (Why don't Christians hate him and Rand the way Rand despised the faith? Maybe it's because "It's okay if you're a Republican.") These are the people who confused avarice for a virtue and shouted it to the rooftops. If you want to know why America is descending from the paragon of nations to a dystopia, take a good look at these shitheels shouting the praises of greed.
Now playing: Arrau, Claudio - Valse No. 2 Op. 64 en ut dièse mineur
This blog is still alive, just in semi-hibernation.
When I want to write something longer than a tweet about something other than math or sci-fi, here is where I'll write it.