Daily Office:
Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Matins ¶ The Nigerian Economic and Financial Crimes Commission’s suit against Dick Cheney is probably not going to cause the former vice president to lose any sleep. That KBR executives bribed Nigerian officials is not in dispute, and the Commission does not appear to be looking for money. Mr Cheney’s responsibility is purely constructive: he was the head of KBR’s parent, Halliburton, at the time of the crimes. It is highly unlikely that such charges could be made in an American court, at least under current law. Nigeria’s ranking as one of the most corrupt nations on earth would seem to invite a countercharge of hypocrisy, but its corruption is of course fed by improper payments from foreign corporations. The gesture is noteworthy, but we don’t expect it to amount to more than a gesture. (Christian Science Monitor; via The Morning News)

Lauds ¶ One easy target for the incoming Republican congressional majority looks to be the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The CPB has weathered Republican majorities before, but not like this one — a cohort almost entirely devoid of moderates. At The Wrap, Brent Lang also points to recent NPR gaffes, such as the firing of Juan Williams because of allegedly anti-Arab remarks made on Fox, and the defection of West-Coast public television station KCET. All in all, we think that it’s time for an overhaul of the 1970’s-era interface between elite broadcasting and government funding. Quite aside from big changes in American politics, we have entered the Internet Age. (via Arts Journal)

Prime ¶ Continuing its trend of confirming what attentive observers already suspected, the Wikileaks dump shows that Chinese leaders at a very high level are aware that the books are being cooked, especially at the provincial level. Chinese leaders are also continuing the much older trend of putting a happy face on things for as long as possible — until the country blows up in the next dynastic struggle. China today reminds us of the time when boilers were reliably dangerous. (Naked Capitalism)

Tierce ¶ Razib Khan’s response to the “replication woes” issue that we mentioned yesterday: Calm down. ” The answer is probably going to come down to a combination of the reality of randomness (regression to the mean falls into this category), individual bias, and the cultural incentives of the system of scientific production.” What he means by the last item is that the pursuit of fresh and exciting results can be intoxicating. (Gene Expression)

Sext Amy Larocca profiles Tyler Brûlé in the current issue of New York. Mr Brûlé’s magazine, Monocle, is so handsome to hold that we have to buy it a couple of times every year, but we could never justify subscribing, because the points of intersection between our world and Monocle‘s are vanishingly few. We do not travel, and, when we do, we prefer stodgy hotels to trendy ones; we don’t expect Monocle to tell us where to get a great BLT on the Upper East Side. But there is definitely something madly Henry Luce about Mr Brûlé, even if his cloth us cut to a much finer grain. Monocle depicts an alternate universe, but it’s a genuine, visitable universe for all that. (Thanks, Eric!)

Nones ¶ We’ve given up being surprised by the sites that Real Clear World links to, but we’d still like to know more about Today’s Zanam, an English-language site covering turcophone affairs. (“zanam” is Turkish for “time” or “epoch”) We say “turcophone” because of “today’s” story, by Amanda Paul: “Azerbaijan is nobody’s little brother.” Meaning: not Turkey’s. The piece is occasioned, as what isn’t these days, by the Wikileaks dump; Azerbaijani president and dynast Ilham Aliyev “harshly” criticized the Erdogan Administration in Turkey— and has since denied everything. The issue seems to be that Turkey is warming to Armenia, Azerbaijan’s mortal enemy. (Armenia straddles the mountains that divide the “one nation, two states.”)

Vespers ¶ Mario Vargas Llosa’s Nobel Lecture, “In Praise of Reading and Fiction,” been published online at Nobelprize.org. Corny as it is to say so, we can feel the Spanish ardor through Edith Grossman’s translation. Corny, too, to note, not without pleasure, that the old self-improvement justification for Victorian fiction has kept up with the times: now, fiction offers self-transcendence. Which is pretty much the same thing, no?

Sorcery, when literature offers us the hope of having what we do not have, being what we are not, acceding to that impossible existence where like pagan gods we feel mortal and eternal at the same time, that introduces into our spirits non-conformity and rebellion, which are behind all the heroic deeds that have contributed to the reduction of violence in human relationships. Reducing violence, not ending it. Because ours will always be, fortunately, an unfinished story. That is why we have to continue dreaming, reading, and writing, the most effective way we have found to alleviate our mortal condition, to defeat the corrosion of time, and to transform the impossible into possibility.

Compline ¶ Ryan Boudinot’s keynote address to a writing program in Washington State is nothing less than Step One of nurturing a purposeful environmental consciousness. “If we can agree that technology exists within the realm of human invention and that humanity exists within natural law, and that therefore technology is natural; if we can dispose of the naturally artificial distinction between “natural” and “artificial,” then we can argue that whatever happens to the planet bears no moral value outside that which is relative to our health as a species.”

Have a Look

We’ll take the stairs! (Scouting New York)


¶ Popcorn spills. (This is a test.) (Discoblog)

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