Daily Office:


Matins: Is the Republican Party taking its marching orders from Rush Limbaugh. If so, why? From Frank Rich’s column, yesterday:

Obama no doubt finds Limbaugh’s grandiosity more amusing than frightening, but G.O.P. politicians are shaking like Jell-O. When asked by Andrea Mitchell of NBC News on Wednesday if he shared Limbaugh’s hope that Obama fails, Eric Cantor spun like a top before running off, as it happened, to appear on Limbaugh’s radio show. Mike Pence of Indiana, No. 3 in the Republican House leadership, similarly squirmed when asked if he agreed with Limbaugh. Though the Republicans’ official, poll-driven line is that they want Obama to succeed, they’d rather abandon that disingenuous nicety than cross Rush.

Most pathetic of all was Phil Gingrey, a right-wing Republican congressman from Georgia, who mildly criticized both Limbaugh and Sean Hannity to Politico because they “stand back and throw bricks” while lawmakers labor in the trenches. So many called Gingrey’s office to complain that the poor congressman begged Limbaugh to bring him on air to publicly recant on Wednesday. As Gingrey abjectly apologized to talk radio’s commandant for his “stupid comments” and “foot-in-mouth disease,” he sounded like the inmate in a B-prison-movie cowering before the warden after a failed jailbreak.

Lauds: Just what we need right now — and I’m not kidding. The warm and domestic light of late Bonnard, on exhibit until Kathleen’s birthday.

Prime: Get a cup of coffee and look around you. You are where you are, and everything is fine. It is clear that Tao Lin did not make you up. You can look at his blog now. (via Koreanish)

Tierce: The obvious lesson to be learned from the Geithner and Daschle tax imbroglios is that the nation’s tax system, devised principally for the aid and comfort of tax attorneys and accountants, ought to be scrapped. The very fact that the Senate Finance Committee is “trying to determine whether trips to the Bahamas and the Middle East provided to Mr. Daschle by the company should also have been reported as income” sounds the alarm: we’ve got to come up with something better — and much, much simpler.

Sext: Here’s one of those maps that goes out of its way to be difficult — only to schematize information that you couldn’t care less about: Friseurnamen at Strange Maps. Just for starters: the madness of composing a background from strands of hair. Funny, once you’ve gotten over the immediate unintelligibility.

Nones: As the pool of unemployed migrant workers in China swells, the prospect of widespread unrest looms, and the current regime appears to be no better-equipped to deal with it than its dynastic predecessors. The BBC’s Chris Hogg reports from Shanghai.

Vespers: There Are No Words Dept: John Grisham originally sent his most recent protagonist, in The Associate, to Princeton Law School. Unaware that there isn’t one. (via Brainiac)

Compline: Updating the liberal arts for Internauts: a refreshing topic of conversation in these disturbed times. Jason Kottke links to Snarkmarket, a site that’s new to me.


§ Matins. What gives Mr Limbaugh such power? I think that he has created an addiction in his listeners — an addiction to outrage. It’s just as somatic as a smoking or drug habit: his addicts need their fix.

Rush Limbaugh is a sore test of this country’s free-speech protections.

§ Lauds. An interesting follow up to the Morandi show, in the same space.

§ Prime. Here is Tao Lin’s review — recollection? — of Nicholson Baker’s U and I, a book that, with a promoter’s gift for timing, Mr Lin read just a few weeks before U died.

Sometimes Nicholson Baker feels like he and John Updike are friends or something though they have never met. Nicholson Baker talks about how he has fantasized about playing golf with John Updike. In one scene Nicholson Baker gets jealous at a party when Tim O’Brien (who just won the National Book Award, at the time, for Going After Cacciato) mentions that he golfs with John Updike. Nicholson Baker thinks that he, not Tim O’Brien, should be golfing with Updike (Baker had published something like two short stories in the Atlantic at that point in his career). There is a scene where Nicholson Baker goes to McDonald’s because there is a penny shortage and McDonald’s is offering a free Bic Mac or something to anyone who brings in 500 pennies. Nicholson Baker is excited and feels clever and productive and gets 500 pennies and goes to McDonald’s. But then feels really nervous when he gets there and feels stupid while the manager counts every penny even though there is a very long line and talks shit in his head about the manager for being stupid and counting the pennies instead of realizing there is a penny shortage and that it is more important to just get the pennies instead of making the line wait. I remember that scene well. I have a strong image of Nicholson Baker eating the Big Mac. He must have described the Big Mac well or something. I think he still felt clever while eating the Big Mac, the free Big Mac. I forget how that scene related to John Updike. Everything in the book related to John Updike, I think.

§ Tierce. And then there’s the lobbying. David Kirkpatrick writes,

Affiliated with the firm Alston & Bird, Mr. Daschle has operated in the gap between the popular understanding and legal definition of a lobbyist. There is no evidence that he directly sought to influence his former colleagues or other government officials in ways that would have required him to register as a lobbyist or could have run afoul of the restrictions on former lobbyists entering the Obama administration. But the rules still left plenty of room for him to advise businesses seeking to influence the government or to profit otherwise from the fame and insights he acquired in public life.

What intrigues me about this is not the impropriety vel non of Mr Daschle’s influence-peddling, such as it was. I’m amused by the thought that a former senator would be a better guide to the workings of Washington than his top aides would be.

Of course it’s ridiculous! You hire a celebrity such as Tom Daschle because you expect that critical thinking will diminish to the vanishing point the moment he walks into the room, smiles, and starts shaking hands.

§ Sext. I can’t decide which horrid pun I like better, Haargenau or Haareszeiten. (Haarmonie is very dim by comparison.) I wouldn’t patronize a barber shop with either name. Until it closed, I was a faithful customer of the Clermont Barber Shop, but I never got round to asking George, the proprietor, about the name. The barber — a Clermont alumnus — who clips my beard now has named his shop after himself, which certainly keeps things simple. Although you tell me how a Peruvian got to be named “Willy.”

§ Nones. Traditionally, Chinese government is an uneasy collaboration between high-minded ideocrats surrounding a powerful figurehead and local pooh-bahs who are more likely than not to traffic in every form of corruption. (One of the “problems” of Chinese culture is that it tends not to have a problem with routine corruption — see Confucius, Analects, 2.3.) Government by the Communist Party, at least since the time of Deng Xiao-Ping, has a very traditional cast, and appears to be just as brittle as that of the Ming or the Qing.

§ Vespers. I’d have gone ahead with it. Just imagine what Princeton lawyers would be like! All barristers, probably. They’d have their own Inns of Court in New York and Washington. Hell, why not run the law school as a law firm?

§ Compline. At the moment, I’m tongue-tied. Too many ideas to move through too small a brain. This is essentially a repackaging project, but so badly needed that its impact (if it is realized) will be hugely substantive.

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