Richard Matheson and Andrew Bergman

Richard MathesonSorry to be gone all day. This working for money thing is very time consuming. I’m sure I would be doing a lot better if I had an actual job. But keeping clients happy is exhausting.

On this day in 1902, the great photographer Ansel Adams was born. He is best known for his nature photography. But of course, he did far more than that. In fact, his work spanned seven decades and just about any subject you can think of. Mostly, he was interested in nature, however. People especially know his work of Yosemite. I especially associate him with the Timber Cove Inn, which is one of my favorite places on earth. Like most places in California, Adams spent time there and photographed it. Unfortunately, I can’t find any of those photos online. So here’s just one of many beautiful photographs of his, “Workers Against Mt Williamson”:

Farm Workers Mt Williamson- Ansel Adams

The great film director Robert Altman was born in 1925. I don’t know quite what to make of him stylistically. To some extent, I think his brilliance was just in his willingness to do different things. So much of his work was simply playing with genres. That’s particularly true in things like The Long Goodbye and Gosford Park. But he also made films that are just unique like MASH and Nashville and 3 Women. But above all, he made one of my very favorite films, McCabe & Mrs Miller. This following scene from it provides a good idea of the moral universe of the film. The cowboy is probably the most likable character in the whole thing. But don’t get the wrong idea: it isn’t a world where evil triumphs. It just isn’t a world where anything especially triumphs. Everyone just muddles long.

The film writer-director Andrew Bergman is 69 today. I really admire his work. He is one of the greatest comedy writers ever. His script for The In-Laws is the funniest thing I’ve ever seen. Andrew BergmanHe is also the true genius behind Blazing Saddles, although as usual, Mel Brooks has done everything he can to minimize the work of his betters. What has always amazed me about Bergman’s films (The Freshman, Soapdish, Striptease) is that they are funny all the way through. A big problem with most comedies is that they stop being funny in the third act. That is never the case with Bergman’s scripts and when he is also directing the comedy continues to the end like a freight train. It’s very possible I should have given the day to him. Unfortunately, like a lot of filmmakers I admire, he doesn’t make films anymore. Here is one of many funny scenes from The In-Laws:

Other birthday: Dutch Golden Age painter Jan de Baen (1633); Classical composer Adalbert Gyrowetz (1763); physicist Ludwig Boltzmann (1844); playwright Russel Crouse (1893); psychologist Elizabeth Holloway Marston (1893); architect Louis Kahn (1901); choreographer Gillian Lynne (88); actor Sidney Poitier (87); singer Nancy Wilson (77); director Mike Leigh (71); Patty Hearst (60); MST3K creator Joel Hodgson (54); basketball player Charles Barkley (51); actor French Stewart (50); model Cindy Crawford (48); musician Kurt Cobain (1967); and actor Lili Taylor (47).

The day, however, belongs to the great writer Richard Matheson who was born on this day in 1926. He is best known for having written I Am Legend, which was the basis for four feature films, including the film that terrified me as a child, The Last Man on Earth. But what is remarkable is just how much Matheson wrote. So much of the great stuff from The Twilight Zone was written by him, including the classic “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet.” He wrote the Star Trek episode “The Enemy Within” where Kirk is turned into his good and evil parts. He wrote a number of Roger Corman’s Edgar Allan Poe films, as well as the similar (and wonderful) The Comedy of Terrors. And he wrote the short story and screenplay for Steven Spielberg’s television movie Duel. He also wrote roughly 30 novels and countless short stories. He was truly an amazing writer.

Happy birthday Richard Matheson!

The Rich Are the True Class Warriors

Your VoteI’ve written a lot around here about the fact that we do have more or less a class war. But it isn’t like conservatives would have you believe. It isn’t that the poor are jealous of the rich. It is that the rich just hate the poor. As I show in It’s the Poor, Stupid, in general, the poor vote liberal and rich vote conservative. That’s just everyone voting their own self-interest. How can I say that the rich hate the poor?

Yesterday, Paul Waldman wrote a very interesting article at The American Prospect, Why Can’t You Miserable Commoners Be Happier With Your Lot? In it, he quotes a study by Page, Bartels, and Seawright, Democracy and the Policy Preferences of Wealthy Americans (pdf). Unlike pretty much all polls that at most look at people in the broad category of making “over $100,000 per year,” this study looks at the truly rich. And it finds that the rich are downright mean (my word, not theirs).

The best example is how people responded the statement, “The government in Washington ought to see to it that everyone who wants to work can find a job.” The general public was in favor of this with 68%. But the rich? Only 19% of them were in favor of this. We’re not talking about giving a handout here. We are talking about government policy to allow people to earn a living.

The only justification I can think of for this is that the rich believe that if the government helps in this way, it will raise wages. The poor won’t be as dependent upon the rich and thus the rich will lose money and power. That’s a vile attitude, but it is also stupid. The economics are not that simple. It’s funny that the rich believe that “a rising tide lifts all boats” when it comes to enriching the rich. But when it comes to enriching the poor (where it’s more true), they don’t believe it.

Another interesting aspect of the report is spending priorities. These range from -100 (meaning they really want to cut them) to +100 (meaning they really want to fund them). The general public gave education funding +50. The rich still support it, but not as strongly: +31. Never believe a conservative who tells you they support equality of opportunity. Similarly, they are against Social Security with a score of -33 compared to a general public score of +46.

This is sad but not surprising, because it’s human nature. And given this, there are obvious policy implications. In the United States, we have a democracy only in a theoretical sense. Our elected officials listen almost exclusively to the rich. It’s even worse than that. There is a widely held belief that the rich are disinterested truth-tellers while the poor are self-interested. This is, of course, self-serving. It provides our leaders with the justification for ignoring the thoughts and needs of the vast majority of the country.

There is at least one thing we can all do: vote. Even the problems with the Democratic Party’s move to the right over the last four decades can be reversed if the poor start voting as much as the rich. Voting is the one aspect of democracy that we still have control over.

Afterword

I do wonder, though. If the poor really did start voting and the country started being a real democracy, would the rich find a way to stop this? I’m not just talking voter ID laws. Look at Michigan with their anti-democratic state-imposed city “managers.” In general, you can count on the elites not believing in democracy and we see them more and more willing to admit it publicly.