Daily Office:


Matins: Is the Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound a template for health care reform?

Lauds: My friend Ellen Moody writes about the strange success of Ronald Colman.

Prime: According to Patrick Devedjian, the French stimulus minister, “The country that is behind is the U.S., not France.”

Tierce: Defendant Anthony Marshall called in sick today, and the jurors were excused. Vanity Fair comes to the rescue, with a slideshow of sketches by Jane Rosenberg.

Sext: It’s time for lunch: think I’ll cloud up my vital fluids.

Nones: Coup or clean-out? The fact that the Obama Administration can’t seem to decide upon a characterization of recent events in Honduras suggests to me that we’re going to support the new regime.

Vespers: Richard Crary writes about youthful reading and outgrowing writers.

Compline: Remember the “Peter Principle”? Italian researchers have confirmed it. (via reddit)


§ Matins. Kevin Sack’s piece in the Times is rather inconclusive, and Group Health Cooperative sounds like a big HMO. What stands out for us is this detail:

Dr. Shriver has the time because Group Health, one of the country’s few surviving health insurance cooperatives, has recently embraced electronic medical records and a collaborative model of primary care, allowing him to practice proactive medicine for the first time in years.

How “amazing” is that! Electronic records! Collaboration! Proactive medical care!

When President Clinton launched his ill-fated reform initiative, we thought that he was putting the cart before the horse, and we still do. What the United States needs is health cost reform. A good first step would be to conceive of a health care delivery system that is not inspired by military models.

§ Lauds. Ellen focuses on two of Colman’s movies, one of which we haven’t seen (Lost Horizon) and one of which we have (Random Harvest).

The real explanation it came to me as I watched these two films and remembered the others I have seen is that Colman himself refused to move further into the demonic, would not challenge himself yet further to reach troubling levels of angry brilliance. He limited the number of movies he’d do as well as kind: he would not play in pro-imperial films, not films which were pro-violence, nothing reinforcing injustice, and also chose roles where restraint, understatement, and a certain lightness and suavity combined with responsibility were parts of the role and enabled him to keep his guard up. He actually was offered (it’s said) the role of Rhett Butler in Gone with the Wind and refused (!). This means his movies are finally limited to show us a character who rises to a civilized response to others. Probably he saw he was not up to enacting the edgy-neurotic aspects of Rhett.

It does mean he determined to maintain a comforting presence, finally. Quiet. Honorable.

§ Prime. Not surprisingly, the factors that businessmen complain about in good times make it easier for France’s economy to weather the bad.

All told, Paris has set aside 100 million euros in stimulus funds earmarked for what the French like to call their cultural patrimony. It is a French twist on how to overcome the global downturn, spending borrowed money avidly to beautify the nation even as it also races ahead of the United States in more classic Keynesian ways: fixing potholes, upgrading railroads and pursuing other “shovel ready” projects.

“America is six months behind; it has wasted a lot of time,” said Patrick Devedjian, the minister in charge of the French relance, or stimulus. By the time Washington gets around to doling out most of its money, Mr. Devedjian sniffed, “the crisis could be over.”

Gallic pride aside, Mr. Devedjian has a point. While he plans to spend 75 percent of France’s stimulus money this year, the White House is giving itself until fall 2010 to lay out that big a share of the American expenditure. And many experts predict that Washington will fall short of that goal.

As it turns out, France’s more centralized, state-directed economy — so often criticized in good times for smothering entrepreneurship and holding back growth — is proving remarkably effective at deploying funds quickly and efficiently in bad times.

§ Tierce. Here we are in the tenth week of the trial — eleventh? — and the defense has not yet begun its case. I hope that Vanity Fair publishes a tabulation of the costs associated with the proceeding. How much taxpayer money, for example, has been spent in the attempt to put Tony Marshall away?

A better question: how much of the trial will be useful in future defenses of Alzheimer’s victims and their estates? This case seems to have everything, but what about its precedential value?

§ Sext. America’s bad-for-you food problem is reminiscent of what happened to Pacific Island populations when they were exposed to Western foods — or Native Americans to alcohol. It’s not the body that can’t handle strange substances, but the culture.

§ Nones. You have to love this line from the story, by Ginger Thompson and Mark Lacey:

While her husband flew over Tegucigalpa, Xiomara Castro de Zelaya said she was full of emotion.

The coup — for that’s what it is. plainly — adds a new wrinkle of legitimacy to the standard right-wing takeover. Instead of having “the generals” seize control on their own initiative, the generals seized control at the bidding of the Supreme Court.

Let’s hope that President Obama finds out what the new Honduran chancellor, Enrique Ortez, thinks of him: Ese negrito que no sabe nada de nada.

§ Vespers. It doesn’t matter whether you continue to admire the writers of your youth; they’ve permanently organized your brain.

Much of the anxiety I still have about reading what I want to read is not just that, being older, I fear I lack sufficient time to get to it all, but that the time has literally passed in which I could have most effectively learned to read it. In which my brain was being organized this way, as opposed to that. Bdr’s comment gives me space to flesh this idea out a bit. Nearly a year ago, I wrote somewhat vaguely on the topic of “the decline of symbolic language”. I was channeling a Thomas Merton essay I’d recently read which had spoken to me, but I didn’t elaborate much (nor did I reference him by name). The problem I sense is not just that I lack the time to play catch-up, given my age and the other demands on that time. The problem is that even if I had the time, given my age it’s too late. (And part of my frustration now is that when I had the time and was young enough, I was obsessed with baseball and Led Zeppelin, not to cast aspersions on either.)

Mr Crary focuses on Nietzsche and Dostoevsky, and I can’t deny that I read most if not all of both writers when I was an undergraduate. That would have been before Mr Crary was born. I re-read Demons recently, however, and this time, I felt that its riches were truly open to me.

§ Compline. In case you’ve forgotten, here’s the Peter Principle (launched by Laurence Peter and Raymond Hull in 1968):

In a Hierarchy Every Employee Tends to Rise to His Level of Incompetence.

According to Alessandro Pluchino and his colleagues at the University of Catania, there are two better ways of doing things.

The first is to alternately promote first the most competent and then the least competent individuals. And the second is to promote individuals at random. Both of these methods improve, or at least do not diminish, the efficiency of an organization.

It never occurred to me before, but why are promotions necessary in the first place? I’m all for salary increases and better perks, but why move people from jobs that they’re good at? Why not change the job itself, to keep up with the worker’s increased skill?

When a business is large enough to require an organizational chart, it’s time to break it up into components.

One Response to “Daily Office:

  1. Fossil Darling says:

    Ronald Colman has my heart for “The Prisoner of Zenda.” “I love you more than truth or life or honor.” And being in love with Madeline Carroll….lucky man……thanks for the link : it was a fascinating read about him.