Daily Office:
Tuesday

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Matins: Bubbles beget bubbles: the housing-price bubble appears to have inspired some pipe dreams of easy divorce that burst along with the market, at least according to John Leland’s report, “In Housing Fall, Breaking Up Is Harder to Do.”

Tierce: The other day, Fossil Darling urged us to read one of Bob Herbert’s columns in the Times last week, “Stop Being Stupid.” I’ll have more to say about that anon, but I thought of it this morning — and hopefully, too — when I read Joe Sharkey’s “In Flight” column this morning. It would appear that Kip Hawley, the outgoing director of the Transportation Security Administration, has actually been learning on the job. I like heaps of scorn as much as anybody, at least if I’m doing the heaping; but the TSA is an organization that I would almost desperately like to praise.

Nones: Now it’s the red shirts who are trying to gum up the Thai government. The new Prime Minister managed to make his maiden speech today, in a different venue. But taking to the streets in the colors of your party is tantamount to suiting up for civil war.

Compline: Bob Herbert’s column today, “Add Up The Damage,” argues for some sort of formal condemnation of the Bush Administration’s attack on the Republic. I especially agree with Mr Herbert that the president “would give the wealthy and the powerful virtually everything they wanted. He would throw sand into the regulatory apparatus and help foster the most extreme income disparities since the years leading up to the Great Depression.” But I would refer Mr Herbert to his last Op-Ed piece, referenced earlier today. It’s more important to stop being stupid Americans than to punish the officials who were empowered by that stupidity.  Oremus…

§ Matins. When I was growing up, and even when I myself went through the ordeal, divorce was a wreckage, a failure — a disaster. Not anymore, it seems. What struck and almost stung me about Mr Leland’s story was the idea that a divorce might yield the proceeds with which to begin a new life: a starter sum, so to speak.

Dee Dee Tomasko, a nursing student and mother in suburban Cleveland, expected to leave her marriage with about $200,000 in starter money, primarily from the marital home, which was appraised at about $1 million in 2006. By the time of her divorce last year, however, the house was appraised at $800,000; her share of the equity came to about $105,000.

Though she is relieved to be out of the marriage, if she had known how little money she would get “I might have stuck with it a little more; I don’t know,” Ms. Tomasko said, adding, “Maybe it would’ve made me think a little harder.”

I wouldn’t wish the ugly pain of divorce on anyone, but I’m nevertheless more than a little creeped out by that phrase, “expected to leave her marriage with about $200,000 in starter money.” Inappropriate “oops.”

§ Tierce. Here’s a lesson that might have been learned from any number of Hollywood thrillers — but the point is that it is being learned.

Depending on more technology, better intelligence and more intensive training of screeners to “think and engage with customers,” the agency is working on what it calls a “checkpoint evolution.” Part of that evolution is to maintain a calm, orderly environment at checkpoints — because disruptions themselves provide opportunities for a would-be terrorist, he said.

Of course, I have to hope that Joe Sharkey wouldn’t simply reprint Mr Hawley’s assertions about improvements in TSA training if he didn’t believe that they ring true.

§ Nones. I couldn’t help wondering what Abhisit Vejjajiva’s Old Etonian classmates are making of his chances of success. The playing fields and all that…

Thailand is a far-away country to most Americans, but in political terms it is as close as Japan or Taiwan, forming with them a trio of East Asian liberal democracies that, from a Western viewpoint, seem not to be either very liberal or very democratic. Such as they are, they also compose a serious counterweight to more overtly authoritarian China.

(Indonesia and Malaysia are very important East Asian nations as well, but their Islamic makeup yokes them differently.) 

Don’t miss Sonia Legg’s concise report for Reuters at the Times page.

§ Compline. I also believe that the demographic moment that this country has been waiting for since the Sixties has arrived. Young people today — the ones I know, anyway — are no longer cynical and unacquainted with ideals. They are also smart, serious, and clear about boundaries. (We boomers may have been just as smart, but we ran from “serious” like the plague; the idea of boundaries not only did not exist but was contradicted by hierarchical authority that we overthrew.) Most of all, they’re the first human beings to have grown up with an understanding of secular stewardship.

Best to write Bush & Co off as the last of the Bourbons and be done with it.