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    Joseph E. Stiglitz: That’s an example of a kind of myth in the area of inequality. It says, those at the bottom are there because they deserve it. And those at the top are there because they deserve it. They’ve made larger contributions to the society.

    One of the points I try to raise is, look at the people at the top. They’re not the people who have made our most important contributions. The people who discovered DNA, transistors, lasers… They are people who figured out how to game the system better.

    Farley: It’s the same with books. Don DeLillo has made a lot less money as a writer than Jackie Collins.

    Stiglitz: No matter what field you name, the people who have enriched our culture and our technology are not among the top. Ask the question, do you think Watson and Crick, who discovered DNA, would have worked harder if they had gotten more money? They weren’t doing it for money. They were working as hard as they could.

    Do you think that a CEO of a company is a peculiar sort of person that will only give half his effort if you only pay him $5 million? But you have to give him $10 million if you want him to give a serious effort. If he’s that kind of person, you probably don’t want him to be your CEO. These salaries gave lie to the notion that this was all based on performance, because the pay continued even when the performance disappeared.

    — Joseph E. Stiglitz, Nobel Prize-winning economist and author of The Price of Inequality, in a Powells.com interview
  2. Jill: How did you decide to make Quinn and her sister synesthetic? Are you?

    Zumas: I’m not. Well, I didn’t think that I was at all, but I discovered as I started researching synesthesia that I could maybe be said to have a very mild form of it. Ever since I learned numbers and letters I experience them as having genders. It’s the same with months of the year and days of the week. The way they’re organized in my mind is coded by gender. Which, again, is not exactly synesthetic, because it’s not two different sensory perceptions. But it is a way of organizing information that feels inherent to the thing. It’s not like, “Oh, I decided to make Tuesday a girl.” I always just believed that that’s what it was, and it couldn’t be separated.

    But most synesthetic people have a more pronounced mixing or a collapsing of the wall between color and sound or smell and sight. It’s something I’m interested in as it surfaces in language, how we have a lot of ways of describing one sensation. We can only describe it with another sensory vein, such as smell. Most of our words for smell are actually related to the four other senses, because it’s so hard to explain to someone what something smells like. We say something smells sharp or bitter or loud.

    There was that interest, but I wanted the sisters, the remaining one and the lost one, to have shared this bond, this special way of being in the world. And synesthesia does run in families — their father has it and they have it, but the mother and brother don’t have it.

    It became another signal of or marker of Quinn’s apartness, her difficulty in being in the world.

    —From the Powells.com interview with Leni Zumas, author of The Listeners

  3. It wasn’t that long ago, but it does seem like ancient history because Ronald Reagan has been purposely reimagined as a saint for the benefit of the Republican Party — they needed a modern saint — but nobody thought that at the time. There was a real question as to whether or not he was going to be impeached, how culpable he was for the blatantly illegal acts of his administration. Iran-Contra felons had to be pardoned by the next president in order to keep them out of prison. It was a big, big deal. The analogy that you just made with Nixon is exactly right. Nixon said, “If the president does it, it isn’t illegal.” Of course, Nixon lost that fight. Everybody laughed at him. He lost his presidency. And he’s remembered as the criminal that he was.

    What Reagan’s administration said was, “If the president does it in relation to national security, it’s not illegal.” But, I think in part because Iran Contra was complex enough that people didn’t totally grasp exactly what was going on, he didn’t get nailed for it the way that Nixon did.

    The most important thing is that when Congress investigated Iran Contra and came to its conclusions and said, “Actually, what Reagan did was totally illegal and awful, and we can never do this again as a country,” there was one guy, who was not very important at the time, who said, I sort of believe the defense. I think that if the president does it in the name of national security, then by definition it’s not illegal. The guy who said that at the time was a backbench Wyoming Congressman named Dick Cheney. He went on to be Chief of Staff, Defense Secretary, and then Vice President. And he changed the course of the country.

    —Rachel Maddow, in an interview with C. P. Farley of Powells.com