Daily Office:


Matins: The Justice Department has decided, provisionally, that the Bush Administration lawyers who okayed torture, while “serious lapses of judgment,” ought not to be prosecuted. Meanwhile, Christopher Hitchens explores the unnecessary folly of those lapses. (via  The Morning News)

Lauds: The first “Madoff” art sale? The co-founder of Nine West, Jerome Fisher, one of the fraudster’s investors, has consigned one of  Picasso’s “Mousquetaire” paintings to Christie’s. (via  Arts Journal)

Prime: If you liked that article with the spaghetti on the back page of the Book Review, there’s more, at Psycho Gourmet.

Tierce: Geriatrician Howard M Fillit testified yesterday that, without her ample support staff, Brooke Astor would have been tagged with Alzheimer’s at least three years earlier.

Sext: First the good news: “China cigarette order up in smoke.” Now the good news:

The authorities in Gong’an county had told civil servants and teachers to smoke 230,000 packs of the locally-made Hubei brand each year.

Those who did not smoke enough or used brands from other provinces or overseas faced being fined or even fired.

Nones: The truly interesting detail in Carlotta Gall’s Times story about the impending government assault on Taliban forces in the Swat valley of Pakistan is the absence of two words: “civil war.”

Vespers: DG Myers has written up an Orthodox and (culturally) conservative reading of Zoë Heller’s The Believers that all serious readers of the novel, I expect, will have to consider.

Compline: Making the New Yorker Summit rounds yesterday was Jason Kottke’s appreciation of Milton Glaser’s Rule #3 (“Some People Are Toxic Avoid Them“)


§ Matins. However:

The report by the Office of Professional Responsibility, an internal ethics unit within the Justice Department, is also likely to ask that state bar associations consider possible disciplinary action, including reprimands or even disbarment, for some of the lawyers involved in writing the legal opinions, the officials said.

Disbarment looks to me like the appropriate sanction, and not because I want to go easy on the lawyers. Disbarment contains the lawyers’ offenses within an inarguably sound professional framework. Besides, they were only lawyers telling their clients what they wanted to hear. The actual offenses against American integrity were demonstrably committed by others, most notably former Vice President Cheney.

Mr Hitchens’s piece, although it carries more than a whiff of Mrs Miniver-era “There’ll Always Be An England,” carefully acknowledges the distinction between spies and terrorists. Somehow, thought, it doesn’t seem to help the Bushies’ case.

To give you some of the flavor of this prohibition, I ask you to consider the case of the German agent codenamed “TATE,” who was parachuted into England in September 1940, at a time when almost all of continental Europe was under Hitler’s control and when neither the United States nor the Soviet Union had entered the war. Taken to Camp 020, TATE stubbornly maintained that he was a Danish refugee. An external interrogator unused to the rules of Ham Common was exasperated by this initial stubbornness and “followed TATE to his cell at the close of that first interrogation and, in flagrant violation of the Commandant’s rigid rule that no physical violence should ever be used at Ham, struck the agent on the head. The incident led, on immediate representations by the Commandant, to the instant recall of [the offending officer] from the camp.” One blow to the head at a time when undefended British cities were being blitzed every night, and the brute was out of there for good.

On top of everything else, Dick Cheney is just a hick from Wyoming whom only Nixonians could love.

§ Lauds. While not exactly a fire sale, the auction is intended to guarantee proceeds.

Fisher isn’t taking a gamble with the slumping art market. He made a financial arrangement with Christie’s, according to the auction catalog, that provides him with either a guaranteed amount of money regardless of the outcome of the sale, or an advance loan secured by the painting. The amount is not known.

Christie’s confirmed that a third party is backing the deal but declined to disclose the name. This is the only painting in the 50-lot sale with any guarantee, indicating how fervently Christie’s wanted it for auction.

It’s funny, but we haven’t heard a lot about “moral hazard” from conservative thinkists since the Madoff scandal burst.

In related news: eleven buildings in search of nomenclatural rehabilitation.

§ Prime. Geoff Nicholson lives up to his tagline — “Ruminations on the Weirder and Wilder Shores of Food and Food Culture” — with a taste test comparing tinned pâtés and canned pet food. PS: his cat wouldn’t touch any of it.

I wanted to take the test. However one dog food sample out of 5 seemed way too easy. What if you had 6 samples, 3 pates of various qualities, alongside 3 samples of dog or cat food ditto? (Actually 2 cat and 1 dog) Wouldn’t that be far more of a challenge? My wife, a tolerant and experimental woman, set up the blind test for me.

§ Tierce. Indeed. Think about it:

Ordinary people would have trouble doing everyday things like shopping for themselves or paying bills, Dr. Fillit said. But Mrs. Astor was no ordinary person. When she died two years ago at age 105, she left behind a fortune upward of $180 million. She lived in a luxury duplex on the Upper East Side, and had homes in Westchester and Maine.

The prosecution case has been so strong that one wonder what sort of marvels the defense will be able to produce when it has its turn. Meanwhile, if you’ll excuse a bit of logrolling, I turn your attention to Estate of Denial‘s assessment of la Charlene:

Becoming Mrs. Anthony Marshall was a great opportunity for Charlene. She is quite a familiar figure. Many Involuntary Redistribution of Assets (IRA) cases in which probate instruments (wills, trusts, guardianships, powers of attorney) are used to loot assets of the dead and disabled/incapacitated have a “Charlene” figure – usually to the detriment of legitimate heirs and/or beneficiaries.

§ Sext. The idea was “to boost tax income” for the county.

Nothing quite this demented happens in Yiyun Li’s The Vagrants, but if the story softens you up a bit for what turns out to be a great read, just remember whom to thank.

§ Nones. I often think that the American appropriation of the term for what Southerners quite rightly call “The War of Northern Aggression” (not that I agree with them about anything else) has taken “civil war” out of the lexicon, at least for non-African applications.

Whatever the rights and wrongs on the American conflict, 1861-1865, “civil war” does not meaningfully describe it.

§ Vespers. Although I don’t share too many of Mr Myers’s sentiments, I do agree that he has a better understanding of the title than any of the mainstream reviewers.

This is one of the few times Heller refers directly to her title, and the reference is significant. For though Audrey replies to a friend’s encouragement by saying that she is “done,” the truth is that Joel’s “physical catastrophe” has freed her to begin again—by abandoning the false belief of independent self-fulfillment and deciding to become the keeper of her husband’s flame.

That the public occasion on which she unveils her decision is a pathetic imitation of a socialist rally—that her announcement is melodramatic, that Joel’s flame has been dimmed by exposure of his secret life—are finally irrelevant. The pattern is set. Each of the Litvinoff women becomes a “believer” by turning away from self-flattering delusion toward the embarrassing truth.

§ Compline. At Emdashes, Martin Schneider sees a connection to, of all people, Al Gore.

Shrewd words indeed. They reminded me of a passage from “The Wilderness Campaign,” a David Remnick Profile of Al Gore from 2004 (the bearded, liberated, post-2000 Al Gore), describing why, for all of Gore’s success in politics, it might have been an awkward fit for him. Here it is (emphasis mine; New Yorker don’t truck with no bold text):

Other aides were less harsh, saying that Gore was brusque and demanding but not unkind. Yet, once freed of the apparatus and the requirements of a political campaign, Gore really did savor his time alone, thinking, reading, writing speeches, surfing the Internet. “One thing about Gore personally is that he is an introvert,” another former aide said. “Politics was a horrible career choice for him. He should have been a college professor or a scientist or an engineer. He would have been happier. He finds dealing with other people draining. And so he has trouble keeping up his relations with people. The classical difference between an introvert and an extrovert is that if you send an introvert into a reception or an event with a hundred other people he will emerge with less energy than he had going in; an extrovert will come out of that event energized, with more energy than he had going in. Gore needs a rest after an event; Clinton would leave invigorated, because dealing with people came naturally to him.”

The difference between the two observations is huge. Milton Glaser pins the problem on the other person; for David Remnick, it’s the subject — you — who determines the net effect. The upshot is no rule at all.

One Response to “Daily Office:

  1. Quatorze says:

    My father and I, at probably my best, have been immortalized!