Archive for the ‘White House Note’ Category

Editorial Note:
Blow It Up!

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

Fortunately, I was never a big fan of Barak Obama. He’s a smart guy, certainly, but even before he was elected — even before he campaigned for the presidency — he took prudence to the point of vice. Did anyone hear from him in the ethnic-cleansing aftermath of Hurricane Katrina? Let me know if you did.

No, all I cared about was his party affiliation, because all I cared — and care — about is fixing the Supreme Court, which is gushing toxic opinions at a clip to rival the Macondo well’s. As currently constituted, the Roberts Court poses a greater ecological threat to the United States than twenty broken wells. It won’t be happy, I think, until it has rearranged the population into two groups: wealthy rentiers and the people who service them. If you’re not working for somebody rich, you probably won’t be working at all.

Even so, although I’m not disappointed by President Obama, I am genuinely alarmed by his quiescence. The oil pours on and on and he does nothing. What can he do? He can order the Navy to demolish the well with conventional explosives, that’s what he can do. Or, in the alternative, he can explain to me why he doesn’t want to do that. But the proper course of action seems barred to him not because he’s unaware of unusual military solutions but because he still thinks that, as the private property of a group of corporations (each pointing fingers at the others), the well is beyond his reach. For him, that seems to be the end of the story. The well is dealing incredible damage to large swathes of this country, devastating livelihoods and destroying habitats — but he does nothing because, it seems, the well is private property. Nocando.

Correct me if I’m wrong, please! And please tell me how the president’s reaction is different from expecting homeowners to extinguish their own conflagrations in case of fire. Four alarm blaze : fire department :: Macondo disaster : naval intervention. Yes? Correct me if I’m wrong!

President Obama’s agenda is littered with murky problems — a monstrously uncertain war in Afghanistan, economic instability at home, an increasingly dysfunctional Congress — but this is not one of them. The only thing that’s murky about the Macondo well disaster is what it’s doing to the Gulf of Mexico.

Just ask Bill!

Daily Office:

Wednesday, September 16th, 2009


Matins: Given the lunatic tone of national discourse these days, it’s refreshing to hear the “P” word spoken with such vigor and clarity:

Obama is sometimes faulted for conducting government by speech. But this speech was part of a patient strategy that, despite August’s rough weather, is looking increasingly sound.

Hendrick Hertzberg in The New Yorker.

Lauds: Museum Director Thomas Campbell outlines his plans in an interview with The Art Newspaper’s Joshua Edward Kaufman.

Prime: President Obama’s Federal Hall speech yesterday elicits interesting responses from Felix Salmon and James Surowiecki.

Tierce: As deeply as our eidtor sympathises with Malcolm Gladwell, Sean Macauley’s totally high-school prank makes us laugh, even if it is a bit nasty. (What high school prank isn’t at least a bit nasty?)

Sext: All of a sudden, everyone’s a racist. Well, simmer down. As Abe Sawyer suggests at The Awl, it’s probably anarchism. Racism is just one of the “tools currently available with which to ‘win’.”

Nones: Mark Garlasco’s hobby — collecting Nazi military memorabilia — will probably cost him his job, now that it has “armed right-wing fanatics” critical of Human Rights Watch, the humanitarian organization which Mr Garlasco served as a military analyst.

Vespers: On the anniversary of David Foster Wallace’s death, Jean Ruaud writes about the rewards of struggling with Infinite Jest all the way through to the end. [fr]

Compline: An interesting, if not quite lucid, essay on the problem of giving unconditional love to a badly-behaving child, by Alfie Kohn. (more…)

Daily Office:

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009


Matins: Your weekend piece: Franklin Foer on governance by nudges: leave the market alone, but manipulate participants’ incentives.

Lauds: Which do you prefer? Richard Rogers’s modernist assemblage for the Chelsea Barracks site in London, or Quinlan Terry’s, which the Prince of Wales has explicitly preferred. (via  Things Magazine)

Prime: Another weekend piece: David’s Smashing Telly! reflections on Susan Boyle, the Great Depression, “the illusion of the benign long tail,” and Sasha Baron Chomsky.

Tierce: In record numbers, Americans are staying put. I’m not sure, though, that I agree with the drift of this headline: “Slump Creates Lack of Mobility for Americans.”

Sext: As a well-known curmudgeon, I will surprise no one by calling for a ticker-tape parade in honor of Madlyn Primoff.

Nones: Reading about the “existential” threat faced by Pakistan, as Taliban forces occupy ever more territory and eject the legitimate state apparatus, I hope that somebody somewhere is developing an efffective means of response. Conventional military reaction to the Taliban has never worked in the long run.

Vespers: Garth Risk Hallberg, at The Millions, kicks off a series of pieces about “The Future of Book Coverage: R I P, N Y T?” He goes back two years, to the closing of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution‘s book supplement — a “disaster” that now makes sense.

Compline: Do you think that President Obama ought to meet with the Dalai Lama, considering how insulting that will be to the Chinese government?

Bon weekend à tous!


Daily Office:

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009


Matins: May I say that I support President Obama’s decision not to prosecute CIA agents for torture perpetrated in reliance upon Bush Administration legal advice.

Lauds: What a nice year it would be if Susan Boyle turned out to  be the woman of it. The very president of it. For her, that is. For the rest of us, a bit of a lesson is in order, as Colette Douglas Home reminds us. (via A Commonplace Blog)

Prime: A psychopathological breakdown of royals stalkers. (Not to be confused with “royal stalkers,” eg Jack the Ripper.) It made me wonder: how many of Trollope’s bad girls suffer from de Clérambault’s Syndrome? (via  The Morning News)

Tierce: Here’s a little story that, properly followed, will chart the health/malaise of the Italian state — which seems to have less and less to do with “Italy”: “Italy fears mafia quake fund grab.” 

Sext: A sizzling story from the Telegraph: Separate bedrooms keeps the romance alive.” [sic]

Nones: Spain leads the way in new high-speed rail transport. Not everybody’s pleased. (via  The Morning News)

Vespers: Geoff Dyer discusses his new book(s), Jeff in Venice/Death in Varanasi, with Asylum’s John Self.

Compline: On the occasion of QE2’s eighty-third birthday (the real one, not the “official” one in June), we turn to for instructions on writing a letter to Her Majesty.


Daily Office:

Thursday, April 2nd, 2009


Matins: There must have been other stories making the same point, but this is the one about libraries reminds me of what I know of the Depression.

Lauds: At least it’s free. Download John Cage’s celebrated composition, 4’33 at iTunes, and you won’t be charged. That’s because, well, you know….

Prime: Here’s a truly benighted project: “Make Your Own Morandi.”

Tierce: In an admirable move, Attorney General Eric Holder has dropped charges against former Alaska senator Ted Stevens — who would probably still be senator if it hadn’t been for his conviction of ethics violations. 

Sext: Maira Kalman glosses Tocqueville; attends town meeting in Vermont, also elementary-school student council meeting; illustrates beautifully. (via

Nones: Just in time for the weekend, a palatial clip showing the meeting of two Anglophone heads of state in a remote corner of Mayfair (or is it Belgravia?).

Vespers: Here’s a book that I would definitely read, if only I had time for such fun: Allegra Huston’s Love Child. Janet Maslin, mildly disapproving, makes it sound particularly delicious.

Compline: Gmail turned 5 yesterday. Seems like just yesterday… and yet, how did we live without it? Just thinking about it is a sort of April Fool’s joke. Michael Calore sends an ecard from Wired. (Via Snarkmarket)


Daily Office:

Monday, March 9th, 2009


Matins: As a big believer in the effectiveness of no-fly zones, I agree with this proposal for dealing with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.

Lauds: Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who is the fairest lady in the West End? The answer? A whole deck of baseball cards, leading with playwright Bola Agbaje as “The New Voice” but with plenty of room for “Queen Bee” and “Eternal Siren.”  (via Arts Journal)

Prime: Over the weekend I discovered a constellation of Web sites that seem to be keeping the preppie flame burning. The Trad, for example…

Tierce: A caption from the print edition: “Similarities (and differences) exist in David Axelrod’s relationship with the current president and Karl Rove’s with the past.”

Sext: Great news: Chuck Norris talks of running for President of Texas. (via Joe.My.God.)

Nones: Good news (sort of): Zimbabwe’s Prime Minister, Morgan Tsvangirai, insists that the collision that killed his wife, and sent him to the hospital, had to have been an accident.

Vespers: At Emdashes, Martin Schneider has a go at cutting Ian McEwan’s reputation down to size. What might have been an irritating exercise is rather worth reading.

Compline: Now that the “Consumer Society” is on its deathbed, it’s safe for critics to take hitherto unfashionable pokes at sacred cows, and Jonathan Jones, at the Guardian, has his needle out.   (more…)

White House Note:
Inaugural Chuckle

Thursday, January 15th, 2009


This just in, from Fossil Darling:

One sunny day in January, 2009 an old man approached the White House from across Pennsylvania Avenue, where he’d been sitting on a park bench. He spoke to the U.S. Marine standing guard and said, “I would like to go in and meet with President Bush.”

The Marine looked at the man and said, “Sir, Mr. Bush is no longer president and no longer resides here.” The old man said, “Okay”, and walked away.

The following day, the same man approached the White House and said to the same Marine, “I would like to go in and meet with President Bush.” The Marine again told the man, “Sir, as I said yesterday, Mr. Bush is no longer president and no longer resides here.” The man thanked him and, again, just walked away.

The third day, the same man approached the White House and spoke to the very same U.S. Marine, saying “I would like to go in and meet with President Bush.”

The Marine, understandably agitated at this point, looked at the man and said, “Sir, this is the third day in a row you have been here asking to speak to Mr. Bush. I’ve told you already that Mr. Bush is no longer the president and no longer resides here. Don’t you understand?”

The old man looked at the Marine and said, “Oh, I understand. I just love hearing it.”

The Marine snapped to attention, saluted, and said, “See you tomorrow, Sir.”