Daily Office:


Matins: Read the terrorist prototype composite storyline and then give us a call if it describes anybody you know. (via The Morning News)

Lauds: While I agree with Anne Midgette and Jackie Fuchs about the Teen Spirit of grand opera, I’m afraid that they’re overlooking one important detail about teen life. 

Prime: James Surowiecki takes a look at the Argentinian coin shortage (who knew?) and makes a connection with financial problems in the United States: it’s what puts the “con” in “economy.” 

Tierce: Tony Marshall’s defense strategy continues to bewilder me. Unless, that is, a case is being built (without the defendant’s knowledge, to be sure) to cut Charlene loose.

Sext: I couldn’t make up my mind about this story, until I mooted it by saying: Improv Everywhere got the right couple.

Nones: In a very sensible first step toward restoring sanity after the Cold War (yes! it’s really over!), the Organization of American States voted today to re-admit Cuba.

Vespers: For maximum effect, you must read Elizabeth Benedict’s review of Christopher Buckley’s Losing Mom and Pup all the way to the end:  The Not So Discreet Charm of the Haute Goyim.

Compline: Although I have no idea of the provenance of this YouTube clip of retired Episcopal bishop John Shelby Spong (incontournable!), I can vouch that it is indeed the bishop. Although this saint of liberal Christendom never mentions Augustine’s name, he drives stakes through core Augustinian inventions.

Bon weekend à tous!


§ Matins. In a follow-up entry at The Monkey Cage, John Sides examines the murder of George Tiller for signs of a key terrorist trigger: threat.

However, I’m not sure what the threat is in the case of Roeder and Tiller. Some have suggested that Bill O’Reilly’s criticism of Tiller is to blame. Again, the timing seems off. O’Reilly has been criticizing Tiller for several years. And we don’t know whether Roeder even watched O’Reilly. And if he did, what was O’Reilly saying that Roeder didn’t already believe?

Others have suggested that Tiller became newly salient because he was a controversial part of Kathleen Sibelius’ nomination at HHS. That seems tangential at best. If one is as single-minded as Roeder apparently was about this issue, it’s probably not the case that he needed to be reminded of Tiller’s existence.

Again, explaining Roeder’s actions is difficult. There may never be a clear answer. And, ultimately, we would want to base our understanding of this kind of violence on a systematic inquiry, not on a single case. But we can perhaps identify factors that are likely to matter more, or at least ones that are likely to matter less.

§ Lauds. The very thing about opera that makes grown-ups wonder why opera doesn’t appeal to adolescents — its raw, unmediated passions — is precisely the factor that keeps kids at a distance. Being a teenager may entail feeling like Mimi and Rodolfo, but it strictly prohibits behaving like them.

Opera is far too hot to be cool.

§ Prime. The fundamental operating principle of any economy, anywhere, is credit — doctors call it “faith.”

But the Argentine experience actually underscores the degree to which all modern financial systems depend on confidence, and the problems that erupt when that confidence disappears. In the U.S., after all, the chaos of last year both led to and has been exacerbated by a shortage of its own: credit. As people became worried about the health of the system, they took money out of any investment that smacked of risk and put it into cash (bank deposits have soared in the past six months) or government bonds. That, in turn, made others more anxious: less willing to lend and more interested in holding onto their money. Fear bred a credit crunch, which, in turn, bred more fear. And if fear has left the Argentines with too few coins, it has left us, paradoxically, with too much cash (and too little credit). This isn’t to say that financial crises are all in our head; certainly our own was sparked by problems that were very real. But there is an irreducible psychological dimension to both crises and recoveries. And if it’s hard for people in Buenos Aires to give up their pennies, think how much harder it will be for Americans to start taking risks again.

§ Tierce. Of course, it’s entirely possible (probable!) that Mr Marshall’s lawyers know something about criminal-case juries that I don’t.

Brooke Astor’s accused-swindler son had a good day in court yesterday when a witness testified that his mother mulled multiple big-bucks bequests to her only child years before she got Alzheimer’s.

Astor’s estate lawyer, Henry “Terry” Christensen’s, testified in Manhattan Supreme Court that in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s, she wanted tens of millions of dollars to go to her son, Anthony Marshall.

Only after Marshall’s marriage to a woman 20 years his junior — whom Astor despised — did Marshall get cut out.

So they prove that Brooke Astor used to want to give her son piles of money? So what? She changed her mind when he married the vicar’s wife: end of story. And he was such a klutz that he persisted in asking her to leave Charlene well provided-for in the event of his death!

§ Sext. As the father of a City Hall bride, I hate to think how I’d have responded to the offer of a surprise wedding reception given by complete strangers. It wouldn’t have been up to me to decide, but I’d have found it difficult to play along. Maybe not! The one detail that makes me uncomfortable is the misrepresentation, by Agent Todd, that the reception was a gift of the Mayor’s office. I do hope that that was cleared up later.

§ Nones. For the time being, of course, Cuba’s position will be that it has “no interest in returning to an organization they consider a tool of the United States,” but, guess what, that could change, too!

§ Vespers. Or perhaps I’ll just snip it for you now.

Ten years ago, while married, young Buckley fathered a son with a book publicist. He has never seen him and refuses to see him, though he contributes to his support. William F. excluded the boy from a share of his $30 million estate. In the last year, the child’s mother has sought more child support. Though Buckley’s wife Lucy is often mentioned and thanked in Losing Mum and Pup, for the last several years he has had a girlfriend 25 years his junior with whom he is often photographed at posh New York parties.

Should a reviewer say anything or let this lie? If Buckley’s book were a novel instead of a memoir about filial love and parental (ir)responsibility, I would give the outside story a pass. But given the subject, I’d argue that the rest of his life – alas, on display all over the Internet – is fair game. (The fairness of that is another story for another time.)

Losing Mum and Pup is a quick, ultimately tenderhearted look back, not a deep look inside. The many references to Lucy – they’re often in touch by cell as he travels to see his parents – suggest an intact family, though I wondered why she never accompanied him. I don’t fault Buckley for not getting into all of this. But the omissions answer the question of what comic writers do with material that is so deeply not funny, so truly unflattering. Material that would back them into a corner with little room to move – to charm or entertain. Another kind of writer might plumb the depths and see what he comes up with. Mr. Buckley prefers the ultimate safety of silence, at least for now.

We may just have to wait until one or more of his three children tell the story of what kind of father he was.

§ Compline. My favorites:

People don’t need to be born again. They need to grow up.


Maybe salvation needs to be conveyed in terms of enhancing your humanity, rather than rescuing you from it.

One Response to “Daily Office:

  1. Fossil Darling says:

    Nones : Finally some sense about Cuba.

    The desperation for the Florida vote overwhelmed common sense for half a century, giving new meaning to the phrase “responsible government.” Hah!

    We lost what, 60,000 men and women in Vietnam?? — yet have long had diplomatic relations and trade.

    But no, not wiith Cuba.. All so the rich landowners could go home to their plantations…….Now many are dead, never get home, and hopefully are turning in their graves.