Daily Office:
Monday

j0622

Matins: A trio of guest bloggers at Good write about the replacement of “conspicuous consumption” with “conspicuous expression.”

Lauds: It’s as if Petrus Christus and Rogier van der Weyden had taken up photography — also, recycling. Hendrik Kertens photographs his daughter, Paula. (via Purest of Treats)

Prime: Alan Blinder explains why (in his view) inflation — that bugaboo of the propertied classes — is not much of a risk right now. Find something besides inflation to worry about, he advises.

Tierce: Did the prosecutors in the Marshall trial jump the shark? To compute the value of an estate, it is necessary to venture a date of death. This is not a legal correlative of sticking pins in a voodoo doll.

Sext: Orthodox couple in Bournemouth claims false imprisonment, owing to motion-sensor lightswitch that obliges them not to leave their apartment on the Sabbath lest they turn on the lights.

Nones: Why theocracy cannot work in the modern world: “In the Battle for Iran’s Streets, Both Sides Seek to Carry the Banner of Islam.”

Vespers: It’s increasingly apparent that the book that we ought to be reading is the Bible. Americans think that they know it, but they don’t. (via reddit)

Compline: Is Prince Charles cruising for a bruising?

Oremus…

§ Matins. The piece, by Stephen Linaweaver, Michael Keating, and Brad Bate, consultants with GreenOrder, has more than a whiff of eau de tarte-en-ciel, but I detect some real sinew in the piece.

One hundred years on, both here and in the developing world, the “conspicuous” portion of Veblen’s theory is as strong as ever. But “conspicuous consumption” is being replaced by “conspicuous expression” as the driver of identity. This new paradigm emphasizes the conspicuousness of ideas, interests, and opinions rather than accumulating more stuff than your neighbor. This is not insignificant. How billions choose to distinguish themselves from one another will be just as important to global sustainability as how they power their homes, what they eat, and how they commute to work, making online social networking a critical “leapfrog” technology in the developing world and a surprisingly powerful source of behavioral change in the developed world. 

So, from now on, instead of vying to spend our money is flashily as possibly, we’ll compete to tie up everyone else’s time.

j0622a§ Lauds. These images are far more magical than they are funny, possibly because the photographer’s daughter has precisely the face of a Fifteenth-Century Netherlandish portrait sitter. Anyone familiar with the art of that period and school will take a moment to “read” the headgear for what it is, don’t you think?

§ Prime. Just keep repeating this until it makes sense:

The mountain of reserves on banks’ balance sheets has, in turn, filled the inflation hawks with apprehension. But their concerns are misplaced. To understand why, start with the basic economics of banking, money and inflation.

In normal times, banks don’t want excess reserves, which yield them no profit. So they quickly lend out any idle funds they receive. Under such conditions, Fed expansions of bank reserves lead to expansions of credit and the money supply and, if there is too much of that, to higher inflation.

In abnormal times like these, however, providing frightened banks with the reserves they demand will fuel neither money nor credit growth — and is therefore not inflationary.

Rather, it’s more like a grand version of what the Fed does every Christmas season. The Fed always puts more currency into circulation during this prime shopping period because people demand it, and then withdraws the “excess” currency in January.

§ Tierce. That the Post and the Daily News would have a field day with Warren Whitaker’s routine exercise doesn’t surprise me, but I had come to expect less lurid reporting from John Eligon.

It occupies but a single line in box No. 5 of a tax document regarding Brooke Astor’s estate, and so small one might have to squint to see it. But the message is glaring: “Date of death: 2/7/2006.”

But it was not until a year and a half later that Mrs. Astor died, at age 105, and that discrepancy was a focus of testimony on Thursday in the trial of her son, Anthony D. Marshall, 85, in State Supreme Court in Manhattan.

The prosecution needs to calm down a bit, if it’s not going to toss the case to the defense.

§ Sext. How not to laugh? And then to scream!

Dr Dena Coleman and husband Gordon claim they cannot leave their holiday flat on the Sabbath because when they do they automatically trigger the light in the communal hallway – contravening a religious ban on turning on electrical items from sunset on Friday to sunset on Saturday because it constitutes ‘creating fire’.

They say their human rights are being breached and are now suing the flats’ management company – their neighbours – for failing to accommodate their religion.

The other 35 owners of the seaside flats are liable to pay court costs if the claim is successful.

Dr Coleman, a 56-year-old headteacher at a Jewish orthodox school in , has been visiting the £200,000 holiday flat in Bournemouth, Dorset, with her husband for six years.

The management company fitted the motion-sensing lights six months ago in a bid to save energy and money.

 It is very, very difficult to feel anything but contempt for people who seek to impose their Iron Age taboos on neighbors in the name of human rights — a concept utterly foreign to the Hebrew Bible.

§ Nones. Martyrs make unfortunately Founders.

The dawn of the Shiite faith can be traced back to the death of Hussein, the Prophet Muhammad’s grandson; his killing at the hands of a far larger force in 680 has long infused the faith with a sense of being the underdog. Hence, both sides in Iran portray themselves as ready to be martyrs to their cause — Ayatollah Khamenei suggested it in his sermon, and Mr. Moussavi was quoted as saying that he was also ready to give his life.

The argument on both sides has stayed narrowly within the bounds of Islam, with the opposition even deftly using green, the color of Islam and the family of the prophet, as a subtle symbol that its protests are rooted in the faith. Both sides say they are the true heirs of the revered revolutionary patriarch, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, in trying to carry out Islamic principles.

§ Vespers. Ordinarily, the disconnect between American christianism and Biblical fluency would be more appropriately considered at Compline. But I thought that I would remind everyone that the Bible is a book. You read  books. You do not wave them in front of people like talismans: that is precisely what distinguished Judaism from all contemporary religions by the Fifth Century BCE.

David Gibson quote a Congressman who claims to regard the Bible as “the manufacturer’s handbook.” What typically American impudence! The Bible — the first five books of the Hebrew Bible, in any case — is a law book, not a handbook. Very, very few (if any) American Christians would consider for instant governing their lives with the prescriptions of the Torah, but all too many are happy to tell you that, “according to Scripture,” marriage is a union between a man and a woman. There is nothing in the Bible, however, that prescibes picking and choosing the laws that you want to live by.

So rather than relying on free-market capitalism, perhaps biblical literacy needs a stimulus package. And maybe liberals ought to get on board. In fact here’s a modest counterproposal: Don’t just proclaim a “Year of the Bible,” but a “Decade of the Bible.” After all, it would take at least that long to get Americans up to a biblical literacy level that could get them out of my Sunday School. It could only help Democrats as well. If Howard Dean decides to run for office again, for example, maybe he wouldn’t name Job as his favorite New Testament book, as he did during the 2004 presidential primaries.
On the hot-button social issues, from homosexuality to abortion, Scripture is invoked without any real understanding of the context or true meaning. Nor is there a recognition of the timber in our own eye even as we criticize the mote in our neighbor’s.
Moreover, how do we expect to understand-or critique-Barack Obama, the most religiously literate chief executive in many a year? Obama can barely get through a policy speech without citing at least one Beatitude.
The bottom line is that if Americans really knew the Bible, and, God forbid, put its teachings into practice, both conservatives and liberals might be unsettled. Which is reason enough to start a federal Bible education program. Call it “No Believer Left Behind.”

Whether or not the United States is a nation founded “under God,” it behooves all American to know the Good Book. You want to play Leviticus, let’s play Leviticus!

§ Compline. The Chelsea Barracks imbroglio seems definitely impolitic. Charles the would-be III looks a lot like his decapitated (collateral) ancestor, Charles II, for having written to the Qatari site owners to denigrate the designs of Sir Richard Rogers.

And the Qataris didn’t just ditch Mr. Rogers. They abandoned the whole plan and announced they were going back to the drawing board with the help of The Prince’s Foundation for the Built Environment — which, despite its grand name, is effectively a fee-earning urbanism and architectural practice devoted to promulgating Charles’s views in real-life projects. It could be argued that Charles has usurped one architectural firm in order to hand a fat commission to another — his own. Whether Mr. Terry will be involved is unclear.

All of this means that the prince is sailing closer to the wind than he has done in years. The British system of constitutional monarchy, following the Restoration of 1660 after the republican interlude, is that the king or queen is head of state but effectively powerless. He or she rules by the consent of the people and Parliament. Heirs to the throne — indeed, all members of the royal family — are bound by the same rule. And this is what has brought Mr. Rogers out fighting.

It’s difficult not to worry a bit that, one of these days, a simple Act of Parliament is going to bar Charles from the succession. Not that it would be the worst thing in the world — but it would probably spell the end of the monarchy, at least after the present ruler’s demise.

Constitutional politics aside, however, the Prince of Wales seems to have the rising generation of architects on his side.