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Finding gold amid Vanity Fair dross
by Jake Highton
Apr 17, 2011 | 558 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Vanity Fair magazine is fat with upscale ads, full of pictures of celebrities and runs 220 pages of dross.

But once in a while amid the dreck are gems like the articles buried in the May issue.

One article tells the painful truth of the huge gap between the wealthy and most Americans. Another extols the King James Bible. And one carries an interview with a great Shakespeare scholar.

The piece on wealth is written by Joseph Stiglitz. It is titled “Of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%.”

Its thesis: “The upper 1 percent of Americans are now taking in nearly a quarter of the nation’s income every year.”

Columnist Robert Scheer points out that the article by Nobelist Stiglizt shatters an American myth.

“The delusion of a classless America in which opportunity is equally distributed is the most effective deception perpetrated by the money elite that controls all the key levers of power in what passes for our democracy,” Reich writes.

He adds another depressing note: “Exxon, Bank of America, General Electric, Chevron and Boeing managed to avoid paying any federal corporate taxes last year.”

One villain: tax policy. Stiglitz writes that the lowering of tax rates on capital gains, “which is how the rich receive a large portion of their income, has given the wealthiest Americans close to a free ride.”

Another villain is Congress. It writes the financial rules and regulations for the rich. In turn members of Congress get big contributions to support their political campaigns.

When big banker Charles Keating was asked during a congressional hearing whether the $1.5 million he gave to key politicians in the 1980s could buy influence, he replied: “I certainly hope so.”

And this is how it works, Stiglitz writes: “the pharmaceutial companies received a trillion dollar gift through legislation prohibiting the government, the largest buyer of drugs, from bargaining over price.”

Such bribery was approved by the Supreme Court last year when it struck down limitations on campaign spending.                                               

KJV reigns supreme

Many versions of the Bible have been printed but none has the majesty, beauty and poetry of the King James Version.

Biblical versions have fixed mistranslations, corrected grammatical errors, dropped archaic usages and clarified passages. But none has produced literature.

Take just one example from the Christmas story in Luke. The KJV has Mary “great with child.” That’s literary.

But the New English Bible renders the phrase “expecting a child.” “The Gospels,” published in 1959, says Mary is “in the later stages of her pregnancy.” The “music” of the KJV is missing.

Matthew 4:10 in the KJV uses the poetical: “Get thee hence, Satan.” The Revised Standard version and the New English Bible make it read “Begone, Satan.” No poetry in those two versions.

Matthew 4:4 in the KJV says “Man shall not live by bread alone.” The New Revised Standard version is stilted: “One shall not live by bread alone.”

Christopher Hitchens flays such “pancake-flat translators” more suited to “a basement meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous.” He relates how T.S. Eliot ridiculed the New English Bible as “the vulgar, the trivial and the pedantic.”

Hitchens notes that the KJV Anglican conclave in 1611 adopted William Tyndale’s translation of the Bible almost wholesale.

 Tyndale was not just a genius with the language. He was so intelligent that he became a formidable adversary of Thomas More, exposing him as no saint and hardly the “man for all seasons.”

Even the English Revised Version of 1881 spoke of the KJV in glowing terms: “its simplicity, its dignity, its power, its happy turns of expression, the music of its cadences and the felicities of its rhythm.”

We who love the KJV agree.

Shakespeare as God

Harold Bloom, the foremost Shakespearean scholar and critic in the country, gave an interview with John Heilpern in which Bloom proclaimed: “If Shakespeare is not God I don’t know what God is.”

The quarrel is with the God part. But there is no question that Shakespeare is the greatest writer ever.

Bloom loves Falstaff. His reasons:  “More even than Hamlet — and that’s saying something — he’s the most intelligent person in literature. He has the best mind, the best wit, the most beautiful, laughing language.”

Moreover: “He sees through everything. He’s the best possible guide to the state of the world today. Can you think of anyone more antithetical to the fascism of the Tea Party than Sir John Falstaff?”

“Banish plump Jack and banish all the world!” Shakespeare says.


Jake Highton teaches journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno.
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