Daily Office:


Matins: Citizens United v Federal Election Commission: that’s the case to watch. A special hearing before the Supreme Court took place yesterday. Do corporations have the right to free speech?

Lauds: The other day, we discovered a Web site that we expect to visit regularly: ARTCAT. Not only will we stay up-to-date on gallery openings, but we’ll get to read some priceless press releases.

Prime: The Timothy Mayopoulos story will probably not be told by Mr Mayopoulos himself — not, at least, without permission from his former client, Bank of America — which summarily dismissed him just when you’d have thought that it needed him most. Why?

Tierce: A wake-up call that few Americans will heed. “United Nations Conference calls for new global currency.” (via Joe.My.God)

Sext: Alex Balk diagrams yesterday’s Maureen Dowd.

Nones: Good to know: “Brazil in ‘fugitive haven’ fight.”

Vespers: Ellen Moody considers Paul Scott and his fiction — with pix from the mini-serial adaptation of The Jewel in the Crown.

Compline: How do we forget? It seems that we don’t. Rather, we mislay. Jonah Lehrer on “persistent memories.”Oremus…

§ Matins. We believe that American democracy will never thrive until a stake has been driven through the heart of the Santa Clara case that, in 1886, recognized corporations as artificial persons, under the Fourteenth Amendment.

Yet the word “corporation” appears nowhere in the constitution or Bill of Rights. “It is scarcely conceivable that the drafters of the constitution had anything resembling corporate entities in mind when they drafted the Bill of Rights,” argue Robert Monks, a veteran corporate-governance activist, and Peter Murray, in a recent essay. All the individuals with a stake in a company have the right to express their views freely, the argument goes, so there is no need for the legal fiction of the corporate person to have such rights.

We were unaware that late Justice Lewis Powell was a driving force behind the Court’s approval of corporate spending on politics.

Shortly before he was appointed Powell wrote a private letter to the head of the US Chamber of Commerce (a business lobby that is supporting Citizens United on September 9th), calling on corporate America to play a bigger role in politics. As he put it, “One should not postpone more direct political action, while awaiting the gradual change in public opinion to be effected through education and information. Business must learn the lesson, long ago learned by labour and other self-interest groups. This is the lesson that political power is necessary; that such power must be assidously (sic) cultivated; and that when necessary, it must be used aggressively and with determination—without embarrassment and without the reluctance which has been so characteristic of American business.”

This is black-hearted stuff, indeed.

§ Lauds. For instance: “Off the Grid,” at Kumukumu Gallery.

The photographers in Off the Grid undermine this undifferentiated mass of images, introducing nuance and difference into supposedly comprehensive visual archives. Andrew A. Lucas and Troy Paiva emphasize history in their work, venturing into abandoned factories, industrial wastelands, and highway rest stops to revisit abandoned models of industrial and utopian thinking. They chronicle the human histories of their sites, and literalize Roland Barthes’ experience of viewing photograph, crafting “a catastrophe which has already occurred.”

Luis Mallo investigates furtive zones within corporate and bureaucratic buildings, exploring storage rooms, research labs, and construction or demolition sites – functional spaces that are often passed through rather than studied. Obscuring direct views behind fences or through netting, he forces spectators to look more carefully and navigate the image more closely. Viewership becomes an intimate act. Michel Campeau, meanwhile, engages other areas of production usually concealed from public view, documenting the darkrooms and studios of analog photographers, which, with the ascendancy of digital technologies, are becoming increasingly outmoded.

You have to wonder if any of this blather occurred to the photographers themselves.

§ Prime. Felix Salmon is brisk:

What’s clear is that the upper echelons of the largest bank in the country have been in a state of chaos for some time, and that Bank of America’s board, in particular, is doing absolutely nothing to rectify the situation. Where the board has failed, regulators have to step in: this can’t continue indefinitely.

§ Tierce. Here’s why Americans have been sleeping so unsoundly:

“[The] dominance of the dollar as the main means of international payments [has] played an important role in the build-up of the global imbalances in the run-up to the financial crisis,” the report says. “Another disadvantage of the current international reserve system is that it imposes a greater adjustment burden on deficit countries (except if it is a country issuing a reserve currency) than on surplus countries.”

A deficit country issuing a reserve currency — now, who might that be?

§ Sext. A sample reconstruction:

President Obama is so wrapped up in his desire to be a different, more conciliatory, beer-summit kind of leader, he ignores some verities. (Dime store psychoanalysis.)

Sometimes, when you’ve got the mojo, you have to keep your foot on your opponent’s neck. When you’re trying to get a Sisyphean agenda passed, it’s good if people in the way — including rebellious elements in your own party — fear you. (Jumbled collection of cliched aphorisms and classical references.)

Civil discourse is fine, but when the other side is fighting dirty, you should get angry. Don’t let the bully kick sand in your face. The White House should have impaled death panel malarkey as soon as it came up. (More of the same.)

By the time the president got feisty in a speech on Monday, the inmates had taken over cable TV, much like the spooky spirits swarming up over Bald Mountain in “Fantasia.” (Continued restatement of conventional wisdom finished off with pop culture reference [dated].)

Even Steve Hildebrand, the strategist who helped shape Obama’s historic win in the Iowa caucuses, complains that his former hero “needs to be more bold in his leadership.” Disenchanted at Obama’s disengaged approach on health care and gay rights, Hildebrand told Politico’s Ben Smith that he was “losing patience.” (Fairly recent quote which supports position of column and conveys a sense of currency).

It was one thing for Obama to delegate freely when he was on the Harvard Law Review, but it’s madness to go play golf and delegate freely to Congress, letting Nancy Pelosi make your case. After signaling that there was nothing he’d fall on his sword for on health care; after dropping Van Jones at the first objection from Glenn Beck — a demagoon who called Obama a “racist” — the president is getting to be seen as an easy mark. (Further restatement of conventional wisdom fleshed out with names in the news.)

If Obama didn’t have a knife-thrower like Rahmbo in the Oval, Democrats would be totally convinced that the president would fold in a heartbeat. (Secret message to secret crush about how tough he is.)

Maureen Dowd has always reminded us of girls that we knew who went to the Ursuline Academy: smart as hell, with that new-car smell.

§ Nones. We’ll be changing our “flight” plans.

The perception of South America’s largest country as a destination for international fugitives has featured widely in Hollywood movies stretching as far back as 1946 and the Alfred Hitchcock thriller “Notorious”.

The Brazilian newspaper Estado de Sao Paulo says that in the 1990’s alone at least 60 films featured a storyline in which a seemingly successful criminal either escaped to Brazil, or as the final credits rolled headed off to the airport smugly holding plane tickets to take them there.

It is not the first time that the authorities here have tried to counter this impression, but they appear to be approaching the task with renewed determination.

In South America, nothing is renewed as often as determination.

§ Vespers. Is a long novel about the Raj “relevant”? (We don’t like such questions, but they do get asked.)

Like, why spend such inordinate time over this dullard whose idealism is a function of a set of naive prejudices, prejudices which make him ideally fit to be a lower ranking British officer in a British colony. Surely, we don’t need to be told what are the densities and naiveities of this kind of mindset at this point.

Well in part I think we may do — colonialism is more than alive and well; it’s making horrifying wars. The rhetoric justifying these calamities in the US (whose government representing a cabal in the US with other governments representing cabals in other European countries) is often the same mix of naive idealism and supposed pragmaticism.

But it’s more than that. Like Trollope, Scott wants to go into male psychologies he is alien from, watch their delusions, their mistakes. Scott is much more fascinated by their impaired sexuality (as he sees it), the not-so-hidden secrets of vulnerability and hurt ego. Scott was bisexual so he has subrisive tone towards Susan Layton’s way of controlling Teddy Bingham’s sexual aggression (such as it is). (She marries him.) What a jackass is this heterosexual male Scott seems to suggest; look at him. The equivalent in Trollope is Fawn. Class, class, class, how it is at the heart of this. Susan Layton can keep Teddy off since he perceives her as a white upper caste female.

Scott’s way is to intersperse the first person narratives: speeches, letters, meditations, reports interwoven with the subjective story rehearsed repeatedly from different angles, each one identifiable not only as an individual but a member of a class, a race, an ethnic group, sexually (her position there whether daughter, wife, mother, sister, and of whom — for Scott knows women are connected to the public world still through men mostly).

Now we’ve got to see Staying On. And to read it, too!

§ Compline. That nothing is forgotten isn’t the most interesting detail in this story. The fact that memories seem to be constructed as pathways is.

Here’s where things got interesting: When the students demonstrated a strong recollection of the task details, their brain produced a pattern of activity that was nearly identical to that produced during the task itself. In other words, the memory was a facsimile of experience. However, when the students failed to recall the task details the brain scanner still revealed a recognizable pattern of activity. (The pattern was weaker, but persistent.) Although the students had no memory of the task, their brain clearly did.

2 Responses to “Daily Office:

  1. Fossil Darling says:

    And good morning. A couple of things.

    Our Chief Justice couldn’t have been clearer where his feelings lie when he asked pointedly about the “rights” or corporations. Astonishing. I agree this needs a stake thru its greedy, malevolent heart.

    And as for Obama, why is it we want to be conciliatory? Is the loyal (hah!) opposition conciliatory when it is in power? Hardly. The lie about “compassionate conservatism” should have killed off (see above, re: stake) any idea that the Democrats need to play nice. And not with a 20 vote majority. Strike while the iron is hot, dammit. A year from now, if the economy remains intractable, that majority may wither some. I could just f**&^g scream.

  2. Ellen Moody says:

    Dear RJ,

    Thank you for quoting my blog on Scott’s Raj Quartet. Now I’ve taken the books off the shelf and begun reading the first as well as re-listening to all four (which will take some time 🙂 ). I was fascinated by them as vast political texts which are great realistic novels too, now I’ve seen they fit in with my new area of reading and research towards a paper: the use of rape in novels. I went back to the blog and added a still of Daphne (Woolridge) crawling up the stairs and an important early sentence on the first page of the first novel.

    I thought Jim’s question about why spend such time with Teddy Bingham a good one as it elicits a central answer. To that I’ll add that volume 4 gives us a good deal narrated by Guy Perron, an intelligent compassionate man, but also (importantly) someone who stands for a common point of view. The unusual point of view (Bronofsky) is closer to Scott’s, and interestingly this one is optimistic.

    I wish Obama would just get that bill out of congress and sign it. I agree he’s wasting _our_ time with this reconciliatory stance.