The Daily Blague

Daily Office Archives

Daily Office:


3 December 2009


Matins: Andrew Sullivan, still a loyal Tory, abandons the GOP. From his list of objections to right-wing outlook, the final two:

I cannot support a movement that refuses to distance itself from a demagogue like Rush Limbaugh or a nutjob like Glenn Beck.

I cannot support a movement that believes that the United States should be the sole global power, should sustain a permanent war machine to police the entire planet, and sees violence as the core tool for international relations.

As thinking people abandon the Republican Party to virtual fascists, the need for a Center Party intensifies. There must be a viable political alternative to leftism, if only for the sake of the latter's health. (Daily Dish)

Lauds: Ingrid Rowland writes richly (if with a rambling touch) about an important new book about Andrea Palladio, Francesco Borromini, and a modern Roman who has studied them both, Paolo Portoghesi.

But more emphatically, Portoghesi, in all his writings, reflects his lifelong experience of Rome: its streets, its golden light, its architecture, its ravishing beauty. A native of the Eternal City, he takes its layers of history and its endless surprises as the normal setting for any life in the present, and that immanent presence of the past makes him write with uncommon vividness, engaging with architects long dead as if they were still alive. It is easier to proclaim the triumph of the modern in New York or L.A. than it is in Rome, in part because the ruins make a mockery of all human proclamations, but most of all because the ruins give life among them a depth and poignancy that no utopia can match. The timebound aspects of Portoghesi's writing are more than counterbalanced by his clear sense of what is timeless in great architecture and great cities.

Ms Rowland also laments "the contemporary state of things" called Italietta. (NYRB)

Prime: Thanks to Tyler Cowen, we've discovered a blog that looks to be congenial: Economists For Firing Larry Summers. We like the subtitle very much: "This blog is devoted to seeing to it that Larry Summers gets to spend more time with his family." As Mr Cowen notes, however, the pseudonymous author has turned his attention to Ben Bernanke. From an entry dating from early November:

But had I been Fed Chairman, I would not have shrunk the balance sheet from January into March. I would have started buying buying long-term Treasuries in November rather than March, and I would have bought $3 trillion rather than $300 billion. I'd have printed money until it obscured the sun. I'd have pumped money into the system until... until we have actual employment growth or inflation. What is the logic of stopping when we have neither? (And for all those who are worried that once the economy does rebound, we'll have to deal with the problem of having all this excess money floating around, I say, once there is a strong recovery, that money can be taken out, and banks' reserve requirements need to be increased anyway, why not do it while there's a trillion sitting around in excess reserves anyway?)

But I digress. The main point is that Ben Bernanke is God, not Larry Summers. Had Summers done more, who can say that the yahoos at the Fed wouldn't have done even less? And when Ben "inflation-fighter-extraordinaire" Bernanke talks to Macroeconomists outside the Fed, such as Alan "Ben,-you're-hitting-nuthin'-but-bulls-eyes" Blinder, what kind of a message is he getting? Is anyone telling him he's messing up, save a few fringe bloggers like Ryan Avent? That's not clear to me.

(via Marginal Revolution)

Tierce: Geoffrey Fowler, writing at the Wall Street Journal, joins the still-hushed chorus of e-reader skeptics: "Books are having their iPod moment this holiday season. But buyer beware: It could also turn out to be an eight-track moment." (via Arts Journal)

But e-reader buyers may be sinking cash into a technology that could become obsolete. While the shiny glass-and-metal reading gadgets offer some whiz-bang features like wirelessly downloading thousands of books, many also restrict the book-reading experience in ways that trusty paperbacks haven't, such as limiting lending to a friend. E-reader technology is changing fast, and manufacturers are aiming to address the devices' drawbacks.

In other words, unless you're hot to own a new doodad, keep vooks in mind.

Sext: Eric Patton concludes his account of a recent trip to Rome and to Sicily with a characteristical hopeful melancholy. (SORE AFRAID)

When I landed in Newark, I called my parents and told them about the flight diversion.  They had had a bad experience on their flight as well, fighting with a crazy American woman about their seats.  They had flown through Heathrow airport.  Then my father said, "When we were waiting for our flight from London to the U.S., I started looking around for you... For a second I had forgotten that you weren't with us anymore.  Mom and I really missed you!"

I developed a temporary breathing and swallowing problem upon hearing this.

"So," he continued, "we want to go to Cornwall next spring.  Any interest in coming with us?"

How could I refuse?  I couldn't.

Nones: South Africa rejoins the communion of the sensible with a reality-based anti-AIDS program, thus overturning the notorious misrule of former leader Thabo Mbeki on this point. (NYT)

President Jacob Zuma, taking a concrete step away from the South African government’s previous delays in providing drugs to treat AIDS and prevent women from infecting their newborns, declared Tuesday in a national address on World AIDS Day that drug therapy for H.I.V.-positive pregnant women and babies would be broadened and start earlier.

Vespers: By placing a disk over the crime itself, Brooks Peters reveals the richly-detailed corolla that emanates from the so-called "crime of the century" — the Leopold-Loeb case — which Mr Peters rightly labels "an inept fiasco." Who knew, though, that Leopold was eventually released on parole, and thanks to the efforts of none other than Perry Mason's creator? And that Erle Stanley Gardner left behind a correspondence with the murderer that our Mr Peters may have been the first to remark upon? (An Open Book)

The symbiosis throughout the correspondence between Gardner and Leopold is revealing too of Leopold’s uncanny people skills. In all his letters, Leopold is a master at flattery and charm. He downplays his talents and paints Gardner as an extremely generous man who risked his reputation to take on Leopold’s case. Leopold constantly criticizes his own prose style and laughingly admits that he only wanted Gardner to write the introduction so that the reader wouldn’t be too disappointed in the final product. It’s a clever ploy to win over the immensely successful author (who never really achieved literary recognition for his immense output, and only won an Edgar award for his non-fiction book The Court of Last Resort). Leopold must have known that by stroking Gardner’s ego he was nudging the door open to his own freedom.

Compline: Tony Horwitz traces fascinating parallels between 12/1/59 and 9/11/01. On the earlier date, abolitionist and insurrectionist John Brown was hanged.  (NYT)

In 1859, John Brown sought not only to free slaves in Virginia but to terrorize the South and incite a broad conflict. In this he triumphed: panicked whites soon mobilized, militarized and marched double-quick toward secession. Brown’s raid didn’t cause the Civil War, but it was certainly a catalyst.

It may be too early to say if 9/11 bred a similar overreaction. But last night President Obama vowed to increase our efforts in Afghanistan — one of two wars that, eight years on, have killed nearly twice as many Americans as the hijacked planes. The nation, beset by the wars’ burden, will continue to find its domestic and foreign policy options hobbled.

Show trial or no trial, terrorists sometimes win.

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