Daily Office:


Matins: Sounds like a great idea, but probably isn’t: “As Voter Disgust With Albany Rises, So Do Calls for a New Constitution.”

Lauds: Sounds like a great idea, and probably is: “Scottish laser pioneers lead way in preserving world heritage treasures.”

Prime: Robert Rubin, Citigroup, and Glass-Steagall: a brief entry by Felix Salmon (with help from Charlie Gasparino) snaps the pieces of the puzzle right where they belong.

Tierce: Meg Hourihan administers First Aid/CPR without doing anything more than holding an elderly lady’s hand and keeping her talking. (via  Mr Hourihan)

Sext: And here we thought of England as a green and pleasant land! “Pubs warn over plastic pints plan.” 5,500 customers are year are stabbed with broken pint glasses! (via The Awl)

Nones: What happens when a sovereign power violates its own laws in the interest of self-defense? Barack Obama is willing to think twice.

Vespers: Carlene Bauer reviews the reissue of Elaine Dundy’s The Old Man and Me, at Second Pass.

Compline: Matthew Fleischer writes provocatively about the death of a squirrel in Los Angeles. (via The Morning News)


§ Matins. And guess who really wants one: now that their lock on the State Senate has been broken, conservatives seek new ways (or ways imported from fabulously well-governed California) to stymie state government.

Those calling for a convention say it would be an opportunity to wipe clean Albany’s greasy political slate. Some conservative backers hope to create a process for citizen-initiated referendums in New York, similar to that of California and other states, that would provide a permanent check on new taxes. Liberal proponents have other priorities, like new constitutional guarantees of health care or abortion rights.

Others would go even further: Rick A. Lazio, the former congressman, has called for using a convention to abolish the State Senate entirely, leaving New York with a unicameral Legislature.

The heart of the state government’s dysfunction seems to lie in morass of procedural rules that lie, and ought to lie, beyond the reach of a constitution. These rules can be changed in Albany, without calling for a convetion.

The sad fact is that New York State is a state in name only, comprised of two utterly dissimilar constituencies with little common ground and Niagaras of mutual hostility.

§ Lauds. If they’d only got round to it sooner:

Digital scanning might have saved some of the historic buildings destroyed in the L’Aquila earthquake in Italy in April. They include Santa Maria di Collemaggio, the church that was the site of the coronation of Pope Celestine V in 1294, and Porta Napoli, Naples’s oldest gate, built in 1548 in honour of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. David Mitchell, director of the technical conservation group at Historic Scotland, cites the Buddhas of Bamiyan in Afghanistan – blown up by the Taliban in 2001 – as another example of what could have been saved by the new technology.

Although the Japanese government has pledged to help rebuild the giant monuments, carved from sandstone cliffs, it will be difficult to replicate the originals. “If only they had been scanned, we could have helped rebuild them to their original state,” said Mitchell.

Better late than never is our principal rule of thumb.

§ Prime. And here’s a point on which we’ve shifted, from the Gasparino to the Salmon position:

What interests me is that although Gasparino concedes that Rubin’s actions as Treasury secretary were instrumental in creating the monster that was Citigroup, he still says that Rubin “served this country well while in government”.

My view of Rubin is harsher: that from the very beginning of his career he amassed vast stores of both fiscal and reputational capital by making huge bets that things would go right. And so long as things went right, Rubin became ever richer and more powerful. When things went wrong, however, he was blindsided with enormous force. Rubin was so used to things going his way that he lost sight of the possibility that there was any other potential outcome.

This good-times hubris seems also to be a characteristic of Mr Rubin’s protégé, Larry Summers.

§ Tierce. Ms Hourihan exhorts us all to get Red Cross certification —

It’s kind of crazy, I was certified in first aid and CPR for years back in the eighties and early nineties and never used it once. I got re-certified a little over a month ago and it sounds weird to say, but I’m happy I was able to use it. I’m happy I was able to arrive in the crowd and know what to do. Walking home, I realized being certified isn’t necessarily about providing the aid. I didn’t stop the bleeding, though it subsided on its own. I didn’t try to examine her. This was in part because she refused my help initially but also because I knew the ambulance would be along soon. Mostly it was about providing comfort to someone in a difficult situation, helping them feel ok, and letting them know they weren’t alone. The certification gave me the confidence to do that: to kneel on the sidewalk, holding an old woman’s hand, and to help make those scary few minutes hopefully just a little bit better.

If you’re not certified in first aid, I can’t recommend it strongly enough. It takes four hours of your time at your local Red Cross and with what you’ll learn, maybe you’ll be able to assist someone like Emily one day.

— but we wonder if, in New York City at least, her own handling of the little crisis wouldn’t be model enough.  

§ Sext. Why plastic, when there’s pewter!

Mr Verebelyi said his company, Design Bridge, was also looking at changing the pint altogether.

“We could do something more radical, by looking at the whole shape and substance of the pint – we could come up with something that is completely different to glass.

“Remember that years ago people used to drink out of pewter tankards. It could be quite a significant paradigm shift.”

§ Nones. At least there is a whisper of hope that the truly responsible bigwigs will be held accountable — if CIA Director Leon Panetta means what he says.

The recommendations to review some cases, which would reverse Bush administration policy, have been sent to US Attorney General Eric Holder.

He is set to announce soon whether he will appoint a prosecutor to investigate alleged abuse by CIA agents.

It is expected that he will go ahead with a new criminal inquiry.

Such a decision would pose problems for the CIA.

It would also have political ramifications given President Obama’s desire to leave questions over the Bush administration’s interrogation practices in the past, correspondents say.

CIA Director Leon Panetta said in an e-mail to employees on Monday that he would “stand up for those officers who did what their country asked and who followed the legal guidance they were given”.

We remember a rather shady doctrine from law school — “justification.” As we recall, the case involved a trespass complaint brought against some sailors who had tied up at a private pier during a raging storm; they’d have drowned otherwise. Somehow, the case doesn’t seem to fit the torture of detainees.

§ Vespers. The novel is at the top of our pile (probably because it’s the smallest volume in it). We looked into it a few weeks ago and were mildly put off by the whiff of fine writing — but it was late at night and we were tired.

The writing is sometimes a little aware of the fine figure it’s cutting, but, to borrow some tone from Dundy, why shouldn’t it be? Her comic timing is expert, and shines in such a way that one can see the book not as a mid-century artifact but as art. The occasional burst of purple prose and dated verbal tics, like “I mean gosh, I mean gee, I mean golly,” can be forgiven and forgotten when McKee rears up and demands this of a waiter who’s placed their drinks the wrong way round: “Who at this table looks young enough to risk a midday martini? Who looks wise enough to choose an aperitif?” After they leave the restaurant, he reports some remorse: “I feel like a big fat house with everybody dead inside it.” Betsy Lou, during a country weekend, upon discovering that an insufferable Bright Young Thing gets to have lunch with the older guests while she doesn’t, clocks McKee with this: “‘I see,’ I said. ‘It’s all a hideous plot. That girl’s not an hour older than me. I’ve seen her teeth and I know.’” Those were the days. It’s all cocktails, jazz clubs, barbiturates and repartee until Betsy Lou realizes she actually loves her target, at which point the book becomes unexpectedly moving. The last few lines, with Betsy Lou decidedly not ascendant, have the feel of someone blowing out the last candle of the evening.

Come to think of it, we’re not really happy with any other fiction that we’re reading at the moment. Later today, then!

§ Compline. And at first, we read this as the usual upended-priorities story.

It’s like the public sphere is so stunted in Los Angeles that the simplest connection with public life reduces people to children. I can’t think of many cities where an ailing squirrel would constitute a public spectacle. And where residents would admit to a reporter that if said ailing creature were a homeless person they’d step over it and walk away.

Mr Fleischer’s use of the word “children,” though, snagged our cortex. Watching a dying squirrel, and deciding whether or not to call for help, involves no real responsibilities — you won’t be punished if you do nothing, or (in most cases) if you make an innocent error. Not so with another human being!

It’s one thing for a homeless person to have the right not to want to be helped. It’s quite another to endow that person with the right to be helped in a correct, optimal manner — or, in the alternative, to be helped as he or she sees fit.

There is, indeed, a nanny state, and it has little to do with money.

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