Daily Office:


Matins: Robert Pear’s story about the latest squabble in health care reform is well worth thinking about. “Doctor Shortage Proves Obstacle to Obama Goals” is the title of his story, but I’m afraid that the editor who came up with it was having a senior moment, even if he’s only twenty-six.

Lauds: Norman Lebrecht inveighs against artists who collaborate with nasty regimes — creative types who go along to get along. I couldn’t disagree more with his conclusion, but I recognize that he has, by far, the easier argument.

Prime: Manfred Ertel’s Spiegel story about the recknoning in Reykjavik will make deeply satisfying reading to anyone who, like me, believes that the past fifteen years’ free market follies betray a pre-adolescent want of perspicuity. Having the gals take over so that they can fix things seems only right. But what about the reaction?

Tierce: For some reason, I thought that Texas could subdivide into six entities, not five — but I do remember (from my Houstonian captivity) that subdivision was a standard plank in gubernatorial platforms until 1920.  

Sext: In his search for bizarre LP album covers, Muscato unearths the even more bizarre optimism of LP consumers back in the days when new technologies promised to deliver information not only more palatably but more effectively than conventional media (ie books).

Nones: Two stories about Hungary at risk in the ongoing slump. First, and very predicatable, violence aimed at Roma (gypsies). Second, and more impressionistic, Budapest’s fragile prosperity, considered by someone just old enough to remember the city in 1989.

Vespers: A faux-anxious story, nominally about Kazuo Ishiguro’s having only so many more book projects in his quiver, alerts us to the impending arrival (in the UK, anyway) of a new book — not a novel.

Compline: Erik Hare’s essay on seizing opportunity, on being ready to take advantage of favorable winds when they blow — and on the tendency of liberals to dismiss such a skill as “opportunism” — makes for thought-provoking reading. “Eyes on the Prize,” at Barataria.


§ Matins. What the story is really about is a slice-of-pie argument between internists and specialists. It’s a major issue, actually, and you ought to think about it until you escape its very artificial constraints.

Family doctors and internists are pressing Congress for an increase in their Medicare payments. But medical specialists are lobbying against any change that would cut their reimbursements. Congress, the specialists say, should find additional money to pay for primary care and should not redistribute dollars among doctors — a difficult argument at a time of huge budget deficits.

Blah! A personal note: First of all, my internist is a genius. But he is an endocrinologist — even he has a specialty — and endocrinology happens to be one of the very few areas of medicine in which I haven’t developed a pathology. My body is maintained by three dead-serious specialists (not including the ophthalmologist!) to whom I am something of a used car. They’re geniuses, too; but they I don’t expext any of them to evaluate symptoms outside their specialty. My internist, endrocrinologist though he be, is great at exactly that.

But does he need to be a physician? Right now, yes; of course he does. But it seems to me that, at least when he’s dealing with me, he is a magnificent information technologist — probably without having been trained to be one. What if we trained “specialists” like him?

§ Lauds. The basic idea is that all men are moral, and that Richard Strauss “flunked” his humanity test when he sipped tea with Goebbels. This is precisely wrong: without the ability to sip tea with monsters, Strauss would have been a lesser humanist. Art is utterly and profoundly amoral.

I can’t “win” the argument, though, so long as it is conducted on a plane of values, verities, and ideals that, as it happens, I don’t happen to believe in.  

How could these sensitive, intelligent men claim they did nothing wrong? Who can possibly say they were not taking sides? The choice was theirs, and they flunked it. For us, today, how art behaves in evil times requires a code of practice, an ethical consensus of what to do when a ruler with blood-stained hands calls for cultural distraction. The lesson of the Hitler era is that artists must take responsibility for their actions, and inaction.

Nobody who really believes this nonsense is truly interested in what art (via whatever artists) has to tell us about ourselves. Mr Lebrecht’s is as juvenile a position as that taken my most nine year-olds about sex; they can’t believe that lovers would ever do such things! Is it okay for an artist to steal and to kill? No. But is it all right for an artist to stunt his own creative prospects in the insterests of gold-star behavior? No — he might as well steal and kill as compromise on that front.

Unless art is allowed to exist independently of politics, Stalin wins.

§ Prime. I really had no idea what I was going to offer as an example of “the reaction,” so I googled “male reaction to feminism.” This is what came up first.

Hertzog’s reaction is natural. However we need to look at the big picture. Writing American women off only furthers the elite agenda. The best answer is to establish strong marriages with those women that still can be salvaged.

American women deserve our compassion and help. They are victims of feminist brainwashing and are suffering the consequences. As Hertzog observes, most are dysfunctional.

Go to Blockbuster and rent Henry James’ The Bostonians starring Christopher Reeves. The movie demonstrates how a very strong and very patient man can help a feminist become feminine again. Now that’s real love!

Mr Makow must have seen some other Merchant/Ivory butchery.

§ Tierce. Nate Silver’s “Messing with Texas” assesses the prospect, at FiveThirtyEight. It’s an interesting issue, because it highlights the almost medieval nature of our internal boundaries (states and counties). To make real political sense, for example, “Gulfland” would include portions of western Louisiana. (New Orleans, in turn, might be the capital of a state bending round the other half of the Gulf of Mexico, as far, perhaps, as Panama City.)

“Gulfland,” at least, makes political sense. “Plainland,” the vast rump of Texas that would be left when all the interesting bits were taken away, does not. Containing a mere 2.5 million people, it would clearly be the rump (in reverse) of another entity, one comprising western Oklahoma (including its Panhandle) and southwestern Kansas.

§ Sext. Everything from DIY gracious living to wholesale valve promotion to “Music for Courage and Confidence.”

“Music for a Royal Wedding,” featuring handsome Mark Phillips and Princess Royal stand-in Deborah Kerr, will astound strollers down Memory Lane with the realization (impossible to have made at the time) that only eight years separated the weddings, so polarized in their world-historical significance, of the Queen’s elder children. (How old was Diana in 1973?

§ Nones. It reminds me of a time that I ate a piece of bad fish, but also drank a lot of brandy. I didn’t get sick until my intestines broke down the spirits, which, until that point, acted as a preservative in which the fish was cocooned, inert. Russia’s occupation of Central Europe seems to have had much the same effect: ancient problems were preserved, almost intact, in suspended animation, only to be reactivated by Western-style prosperity (and its instability).

§ Vespers. It’s called Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall (Faber & Faber). Interviewer Decca Aitkenhead ties the book to Mr Ishiguro’s writerly persona rather nicely.

“No, the bittersweet ‘can you hold on to a dream or can you not?’ isn’t to do with my feeling that there was a career I didn’t have, because what I wanted to be evolved into being a novelist. I always wanted to create certain atmospheres and stories, and by the time I was in my early 20s I was feeling the limits of what I could do as a songwriter.

“I couldn’t take it any further. Whereas then I found I could if I wrote fiction. So I feel I made a natural evolution from writing songs to novels – and that style I’ve still got, which is very evident in the Nocturnes, is very pared down, like a songwriter.”

§ Compline. The essay contains a nice parable about the Reichstag fire of 1933.

That’s why an alternative view is more likely. The Nazis were so focused on gaining power that they were ready for any event that allowed them to do it. They weren’t watching their enemies to decide how to scheme around them – they were watching events to figure out how to use them. Whatever happened, they were ready for it. They were organized enough to get their word out quickly and get their people on the streets. The message, no matter what happened, was bound to be a Nazi message already boiled down and easy. One guy set the whole fire, not a conspiracy, but that didn’t matter.

The take-away wisdom is worth its own card in the file:

The simple truth is that anyone can start a fire. Real power comes from putting out the fire, something even the Nazis understood. Being organized and focused on your goals is how you do that in politics. If your side is ready to put out the fire and take all the credit for doing so, you’ve probably already won.

2 Responses to “Daily Office:

  1. Popeye says:

    Matins:I am so sick of this I could just puke and that will not require a trained medical professional to attend me in my distress.

    In 2008, health care spending in the United States reached $2.4 trillion[1]

    As of 2007, there are about 138 million taxpayers in the United States. ….. in total earned 52.4% of all income and paid 82.5% of federal income taxes. …[2]

    Do the math folks

    2.4 trillion dollars divided by 138 million taxpayers is how much per tax payer? For you nerdier types that’s two point four times ten to the twelveth divided by one hundred thirty eight times ten to the sixth, or two hundred forty times ten to the tenth with the same divisor, so that’s two forty divided by one hundred thirty eight times ten to the fourth, or about two times ten to the fourth, nominally twenty thousand dollars per taxpayer.

    Everybody got that, Twenty Thousand Dollars per taxpayer, that’s it, that’s all it costs to provide medical care to everyone who got it last year at the same cost from last year. Duh! Does anyone think we can clean the system up with simple management and accounting practice? See reference one above again, please

    Experts agree that our health care system is riddled with inefficiencies, excessive administrative expenses, inflated prices, poor management, and inappropriate care, waste and fraud. These problems significantly increase the cost of medical care and health insurance for employers and workers and affect the security of families.

    But then I suppose our record lately with standard management and accounting practice hasn’t been good. Goddamnit! Give me the PA or NP exam and if I pass put me in the field. I would ask you to make me an MD but I’ve gotten too old to make any decent ROI. Oh, by the way, I just might be able to pass the PA or NP exam without any formal training, all I would need is administrative training. Well, that won’t work will it that just won’t do, now, will it. Seems you used to be able to “read the law” and take the bar and if you passed,and well, there you were. We had a President or two who did that as I recall. Alas, we live in a different age where competency, true competency and common sense along with a passion to do something are overridden and stifled by greed and power. Perhaps Mao was correct,”True power comes from the barrel of a gun.” The revolution will not be televised and physicians worried about their pay will only be on the battlefield as corpses.

  2. Bulbul says:

    Thank you for your site . I have been reading the book , Becoming Orthodox bteyper Gillquist recently and find it fascinating . I am Lutheran but this book is givingme a lot of food for thought .