Daily Office:


Matins: The Cutup-in-Chief is unflappable: ““I’m pretty good at ducking, as most of you will know…”

President Bush ducked — and didn’t get it. He seems to have thought that Muntader al-Zaidi’s outrage was a party prank gone awry, and certainly not representative of any widespread feelings about Duckya’s screwups in his homeland. Who knows what kind of an afterlife the episode is going to take on? Will Mr al-Zaidi one day head Iraq, in the manner of dissident playwright Vaclav Havel?

Tierce: In yesterday’s “Deal Book,” there was a squib about what John Kenneth Galbraith’s study of the 1929 Crash has to tell us about the Madoff Fraud: the first is not the worst.

Vespers: Joseph O’Neill writes! Well, of course…but don’t hold your breath between publications. How exciting, then, to read, at Maud Newton, that Mr O’Neill is a contributor to the current issue of Granta! I rush to yesterday’s mail, and there it is, “Fathers.” Turn to page 76, “Portrait of My Father” — a common title in the book. But what’s this, only three pages! 


§ Matins. No president of the United States has ever been so grossly affronted/insulted, but Mr Bush’s failure to recognize this fact makes me extra glad that shoes were thrown. I wouldn’t want to the world to think that mockery of this ridiculous (but dangerous) personage is limited to Americans who wouldn’t have elected him dogcatcher.

Not since the kid pointed out the problem with the emperor’s new clothes has there been such a blast of brisk good sense.

§ Tierce. (Now that I track it down, “The Return of the Bezzle” is an extract from a Times story, by Hugo Dixon and Rob Cox, that appeared on Sunday.)

For students of Galbraith’s seminal account of the 1929 stock market, “The Great Crash,” Mr. Madoff’s suspected fraudulent accomplishments shouldn’t come as a great surprise. In the Galbraith model of a speculative cycle, good times spawn the excess and corruption that eventually bring them to an end. The last good times were especially profitable, fertilizing the ground for especially large frauds.

If history is any guide — and if the late economist’s theory is to be believed — the first frauds to be discovered are not the largest. Mr. Madoff’s losses could be just a foretaste of what will eventually be exposed.

§ Vespers. A great three pages, though. No one who read Blood Dark Track, Mr O’Neill’s book about his grandfather, will be surprised to see that Kevin O’Neill, the writer’s dad — still with us— is surrounded by a palpable cordon of discretion. And what a three pages. We’re given a cursory CV, listening the projects (oil refineries and such) that Mr O’Neill père has worked on around the world. He speaks in the footnotes.

Coolio detail: Kevin O’Neill and my father-in-law worked at Bechtel at the same time! Even cooler, Mr O’Neill has worked on the vital Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline.

Also palpable: Joseph O’Neill’s pride.

(For those of you who just came in, Kevin O’Neill met his wife — and the author’s mother — when he was stationed in her home town, Mersin, Turkey.)

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