Daily Office:


Matins: For what it’s worth, I support the mortgage bailout that President Obama is expected to unveil in Phoenix later today. Helping those who can’t afford to pay their mortgages is the right thing to do. Helping homeowners whose mortgages are simply “underwater” — worth more than the home’s likely sales price — is a different problem that ought to be addressed in some other way, and not right now.

Lauds: The whole town’s talking — or so it seems — about Trovatore at the Metropolitan Opera, with the one (1) singer who has ever given me pleasure in an opera house, Sondra Radvanovsky. Steve Smith gave the show such an enthusiastic review that I had to get a ticket. 

Prime:  No Sh*t, Please; We’re British: R*tard Rids Reptile Researcher’s Reserves of Reclusive Retrosaur’s Refuse. Okay, I made up “retrosaur.” But it’s pretty cool as neologisms go, don’t you think? In case you’re wondering what it means, a “retrosaur” is a lizard that everyone thought was extinct — which is what this exceedingly English story is all about.  (via Brainiac)

Tierce: More good news from Washington: stepped-up merger scrutiny, and this time with brains. Rob Cox reports.

But there is a growing movement in the antitrust community to challenge this rational choice theory of neoclassical economics in favor of behavioral economics. Under this school of thought — loudly espoused by Obama’s chief economic adviser, Lawrence H. Summers — economists examine how real people actually make decisions.

Applying behavioral economics to antitrust “risks expanding the scope of agency review to transactions that were previously unassailable,” two lawyers with Skadden Arps, Neal R. Stoll and Shepard Goldfein, wrote in The New York Law Journal last month. It would, among other changes, require the retention of psychologists alongside the economists, marketers and industry experts currently reviewing deals.

Sext: Does anyone remember Lady Fanny of Omaha? (The great Barbara Harris, in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.) Now we have Robert Allen Stanford, Texan financier and alleged swindler, dubbed Sir Allen by the government of Antigua in gratitude for his benefactions, which ranged from cleaning up the state balance sheets to sponsoring a cricket league.  

In Texas, Robert Allen Stanford was just another wealthy financier.

But in the breezy money haven of Antigua, he was lord of an influential financial fief, decorated with a knighthood, courted by government officials and basking in the spotlight of sports and charity events on which he generously showered his fortune.

I know that it’s silly, but I already think of him as “Sir Allen of Obama.”

Nones: The crucifix crisis has flared up in Italy again. A teacher has been sacked for removing the (non-compulsory) crucifix from his classroom, and the supreme court has let stand the conviction of  Jewish judge who refused to serve in a courtroom adorned with a cross.

Vespers: In a classic case of the deadly short-circuiting that can occur when book publishers have other interests — as, being components in media empires these days, they all do — Brian, at Survival of the Book, comments on Barry Ritholtz’s problems with McGraw-Hill, which didn’t like what he had to say about Standard & Poor’s, a McGraw-Hill property.

It’s also interesting to note yet another example of an author going right online with his case, and with a whole lot of material, to prove his innocence. On this post, he includes revised versions of pieces of the manuscript and footnotes, all of which he has every right to post. He’s making the case the he himself did not expose this story to the media but now that it’s out there, he can explain himself and his position as an author at a massive corporate publisher. As more such cases emerge and more authors speak out and get attention for it, perhaps publishers will work more in partnership with authors rather than seeing them as disposable manufacturers churning out products they depend on. As authors are expected to do more marketing, more publicity, more leg work all around on behalf of their books, then publishers must also know that they are armed with tools to broadcast their complaints.

Compline: Now, this is fun: in a new Pew poll, respondents were asked if they were happy where they lived or if they’d like to move.

Seven-in-ten rural men are content where they are, compared with just half of rural women.

Hmmm . . . how mysterious! (via Snarkmarket)


§ Matins. I don’t know how many “underwater” homeowners took out home equity loans in order to buy stuff, but people who did so ought to be made to find it very, very painful to walk away from their obligations.

§ Lauds. The last time I went to the Met, I heard Ms Radvanovksy in Cyrano, and the time before that, she wowed me in I Vespri siciliani. Trovatore is about the dopiest opera going, except for Verdi’s other Spanish opera, La Forza del Destino, which, unlike Trovatore, is unpleasant to listen to.

How well I remember that Vespri! The applause for her first-act aria was astonishingly tepid; it took the house a while to wake up to the fact that a great Verdi singer (a rare commodity) was pouring her all out. Typical Met audience. My dream production at that misbegotten house will be Khovanshchina: at the end, it will be burned down with all of its claptrap. We’ll watch from outside. (Inside, they’ll actually be performing La Gioconda to a house full of musical misfits.) Then I will join in the triumphal dance upon the ashes (à la Capriccio) as Opera is reclaimed for Music.

§ Prime. This item really belongs in Sext, but I made a deal with Kathleen that I’d be back in the bedroom by 11:**, in time to watch the “kitchen sink” classic, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning.

§ Tierce. There was only one course in law school that I had any conceptual trouble with: antitrust. I see now that the trouble wasn’t with me. The trouble was with the mechanistic idea of business combinations operated by “rational men” that I didn’t get. As an older law student, I was no longer gulled by the proposition that man is a rational animal.

§ Sext. Meanwhile, Mini-Me ModelWorks is selling Smash-Me Bernie dolls, at $100 a pop.

Here’s the deal: newly-discovered fraudsters are Nighted and then Smashed in Effigy. Why, I feel better already!

§ Nones. A bit of reflection leads me to conclude that, while the judge is quite right to protest the presence of the cross in his courtroom, the teacher is a bit of a ninny. Given Italy’s pathetic Mass-attendance figures, it is difficult to see the crucifix as anything but a cultural symbol.

It’s precisely for this reason, however, that neither the crucifix nor any other religious tokens belong in any courtroom, except as evidence in a case. Justice alone can be symbolized in the forum.

§ Vespers. Publishing is a business, sure — but it’s a small business.

§ Compline. Most startling finding (not):

People who live in a city — as well as people who want to live in a city — are more open than others to the idea of living with neighbors who are of different races. They are also more open to living among immigrants.

One Response to “Daily Office:

  1. Fossil Darling says:

    Lauds : I went to the opening night hesitantly, came away very happy. The last two productions premieres, which I unfortunately attended, were, in 1987 silly, in 2000 plain stupid. The last one convinced me yet again that the Met’s Music Director would not stop a misguided production from going on-stage, even if he were conducting. (the most famous disaster was the Macbeth in 1982 which Sir Peter Hall mis-directed and which featured rubber masks suspended from the rafters mouthing curses….the laughter was non-ending.) Anyhow, this time out it was a great success, and I am sure the performances will get even better over the run. The curse of the Marx Bros has been banished!!