Daily Office:


Matins: “The athlete is on the floor”: listening to Warren Buffett discuss the credit crunch with Charlie Rose. The American economy is a great athlete, but it has suffered cardiac arrest. The only thing to do is to get it back up and running. That will involve convalescence in the form a two-year recession.

I piously wish that everyone in the country could listen to Mr Buffett’s remarks and, wherever necessary, have them explained just as clearly.

Tierce: Brent Staples writes concisely about the flummery surrounding college-entrance exams. Schools aren’t the only institutions whose reliance on test scores is lazy.

Sext: Except for brief and urgent messages, I refuse to have cell phone conversations with people who are driving. Here’s why.

Vespers: David M Herszenhorn files an interesting report about senatorial dissent to the rescue package, “A Curious Coalition Opposed Bailout Bill.”  


§ Matins. To Kathleen and me, Mr Buffett sounds like the purest stream of common sense. But Kathleen wonders if, for example, listeners really know what commercial paper is, and how important it is. That’s not to say that the term ought to be avoided, just that we’re working at the upper limit of common sense — where it isn’t really very common.

The fun take-away: Mr Buffett’s “Three ‘I’s”: Innovators, Imitators, and Idiots. The big disappointment: no placement of Alan Greenspan in that parade.

§ Tierce. Numbers make it fatally easy to ignore contexts.

The commission deals bluntly with the parties it blamed for inflating the importance of college entry exam scores. It calls on college guides and bond-rating agencies to stop using test scores as proxies for academic quality or financial health. And it wants an end to the increasingly common practice of using minimum admissions test scores to determine eligibility for merit aid. The commission insists that the tests have not been validated for that purpose and often rule out applicants based on a single missed item.

Mr Staples notes that a scholarly critic of the National Merit Scholarship Program, which as we all know relies on an examination, has denounced the Program as “bogus.”

§ Sext. One of these days, we will look back on the word “multitasking” as if it were “hoopskirts,” through a faint mist of bemused incomprehension. What were they thinking? 

§ Vespers. Almost every one of the Senators’ complaints about the package is extremely reasonable.

Taken together, the speeches of the 25 senators who voted against the plan on Wednesday amount to the Congressional equivalent of a dissenting opinion by the Supreme Court — impassioned, well reasoned, carefully articulated views on a landmark question of public policy that ultimately reflected the position of a minority of their fellow arbiters. If the bailout plan flops, they are the lawmakers who will be positioned to engage in a chorus of “I told you sos.”

But the bill is not intended to provide a solution. It’s intended to acknowledge the seriousness of the problem in a manner that restores liquidity. As a practical measure, the rescue is an indispensable first step.

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