Archive for the ‘The Campaign’ Category

Daily Office: Wednesday

Wednesday, September 10th, 2008


¶ Matins: Ms NOLA was kind enough to slip me a link to Leon Wieseltier’s magisterial call to brawn, yet another mandarin voice urging liberals to sock it to ’em. If only we knew how! — even as we digest Mr Wieseltier’s fine talk (and it is fine!) of “the teleological suspension of the ethical.” Who knew that the thickest plank in the Republican Party platform had such a fancy name?

“You remember the teleological suspension of the ethical,” Mr Wieseltier writes with absurd optimism. Happily, he does not count upon the strength of our recollections.

¶ Lauds: Although I’m not sure that I’d like to sit through The Fly — now it’s an opera, with music by Howard Shore (Silence of the Lambs) and book by David Henry Hwang (M Butterfly) — I’d sure like to hear it.

¶ Tierce: While Americans struggle to deal with a resurgent but definitely post-Soviet Russia, separatists within Russia take heart from the formal recognition of new breakaway states in the Caucasus. The interesting thing about Ellen Barry’s story is the refrain of “20 years from now.” Nobody’s talking about anything’s happening tomorrow. Instead, the talk is of death warrants and planted seeds. 

“In the long term, they could have signed their own death warrant,” said Lawrence Scott Sheets, the Caucasus program director for the International Crisis Group, an independent organization that tries to prevent and resolve global conflicts. “It’s an abstraction now, but 20 years down the road, it won’t be such an abstraction.”

Mr Sheets is speaking of Russia.

¶ Nones: If JMW Turner’s watercolor of Merton College, Oxford goes missing, I will insist that I know nothing about it. Having just paid my nth visit to the Turner show at the Museum — easily the sixth, I think — I’m beginning to fall in love with a few paintings just as they’re about to wrenched away, but I fell for the Merton watercolor the moment I saw it. Why?

¶ Compline: Thomas P Campbell, a 46 year-old curator of tapestries, will become the ninth director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art at the start of the New Year. As a card-carrying Old Fart, I’m happier with Mr Campbell than I would have been with Gary Tinterow, the strong and clever curator of — you have to love this tripartition — 19th Century, modern, and contemporary art.


Daily Office: Tuesday

Tuesday, September 9th, 2008


¶ Matins: Even if you have already come across the Kilkenny letter, I urge you to consider it as a model memorandum that, in an ideal democracy, every voter would be sufficiently informed to compose. Anne Kilkenny is a resident of Wasilla, Alaska, who has known Sarah Palin for many years, and who opposed her attempt to fire the local librarian. She is definitely an “interested” observer. But her letter seems candid and level-headed. Her take on Trig, as well as on some of Ms Palin’s political positions, suggests a scrupulous determination not to demonize. The main thing is that she sat down and composed her thoughts. (via Suz at Large.)

¶ Tierce: As someone who ingested a good deal of LSD back in the day, I read today’s Times report on Salvia divinorum with great interest. The recreational aspect of drug use doesn’t interest me very much anymore, but I remain curious about altered states of mind. Overall, though, the story has me spluttering with rage, at the drug’s troglodyte opponents.

¶ Sext: Thank God for France! Nowhere is pleasure more expertly rationalized. From Le Figaro, a review of Mamma Mia! that talks of Shakespeare and “postmodern irony.”

¶ Nones: How big is New York City? As big as the populations of Idaho (Manhattan), Maine (the Bronx), Nevada (Brooklyn), New Mexico (Queens), and Wyoming (Staten Island). (via JMG > Gothamist)

¶ Vespers: Times columnist Bob Herbert enjoins liberals to hold up their heads. It’s a great idea, but he has no suggestions about what to when the wingnuts start shooting at it.

Troglodytes on the right are no respecters of reality. They say the most absurd things and hardly anyone calls them on it. Evolution? Don’t you believe it. Global warming? A figment of the liberal imagination.

Yes, and that’s the problem. Consider:

Daily Office: Monday

Monday, September 8th, 2008


¶ Matins: One thing that I thought about all weekend was how much I agreed with Arianna Huffington about Sarah Palin: Democrats must forget that she exists.

¶ Tierce: Even though you probably don’t want to read about mortgages — especially on a Monday morning —the refreshingly cogent Floyd Norris assesses Feddie Fran.

¶ Nones: Cake Wrecks goes meta: readers are creating their own disasters! “We ‘read’ your ‘blog’,” says one, highlighting Jen’s pet peeve, inappropriate quotation marks.  

¶ Vespers: Thanks to JR at Mnémoglyphes, I’ve discovered a new blog, Project Sidewalk. Don’t miss the Procrastination Flowchart (with its chuckling plethora of foreclosed alternatives.


Daily Office: Thursday

Thursday, September 4th, 2008


¶ Matins: You have to wonder, how much did it hurt Carly Fiorina to choke out these words:

“This is a well-qualified candidate for vice president and well-qualified to be a heartbeat away from the president,” said Carly Fiorina, a top McCain campaign adviser and former chief executive of Hewlett-Packard.

Without wishing Ms Fiorina any ill, I hope that it hurt a lot.

¶ Tierce: The lead editorial in this morning’s Times highlights the growing weirdness of Republicans: they’re running against themselves. They can do this because, for many of the Party faithful, Democrats and “liberals” are not so much an opposing political faction as a collective bogeyman right out of the Stalinist toybox. What could Mitt Romney meant by “liberal Washington,” if not some spectral equivalent of “international bourgeois financiers”?

¶ Sext: Patricia Storms collects two tales of library crime, at Booklust.

¶ Vespers: Looking for an intriguing, end-of-summer pop movie quiz? Try this one, from Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule. (more…)

Daily Office: Tuesday

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2008

The new Brie Cloister, at the Cloisters.

¶ Matins: Ah, the Chinese mists in this paragraph:

Although the McCain campaign said that Mr. McCain had known about Bristol Palin’s pregnancy before he asked her mother to join him on the ticket and that he did not consider it disqualifying, top aides were vague on Monday about how and when he had learned of the pregnancy, and from whom.

¶ Tierce: The long weekend continues chez moi. I’m hosting a luncheon at one. Not that you’d know it — I haven’t even done the shopping. Katie Zezima’s story about lobster makes me wish that I could change the menu (a breeze from Mrs Crum), but Fossil Darling hates the king of crustaceans.

Daily Office: Friday

Friday, August 29th, 2008



¶ Grace: Watchinig Barack Obama deliver (most of) his acceptance speech last night, I was struck by the man’s physical aptitude for leadership, and I conclude that it is his command of the pulpit that allows him to preach bedrock values without sounding old-hat.

Joe has a link to a video of the speech, and there’s a crisp, concise Editorial in the Times. But all I could think of, strangely, was Roy Jenkins’s biography of Gladstone, the most memorable political biography that I have ever read.

A very satisfying experience, that speech was, to kick off the Labor Day weekend. Enjoy it!


Daily Office: Tuesday

Tuesday, August 26th, 2008



¶ Golden Rule: If I wanted to be “hilariously misogynistic” (a controdiction in terms that only frat boys miss), I’d remind Democrats that it’s not too late to nominate Hillary Clinton! Why? Because unattractive, power-mad executives are never assassinated in this country. Only the appealing idealists, such as Lincoln and Kennedy, draw the shooters’ malice. Why, they’re already out to kill Barack Obama!


¶ Rich: Richard Reeves reviews a new hate-the-rich book, in the Telegraph.


¶ Faber Finds: They’re here! As predicted years ago, by Jason Epstein: books on demand. You may have to wait a couple of weeks — and I don’t know if the titles are available here at all. But if Faber & Faber is doing it, the serious American publishers will follow suit. (via (more…)

Daily Office: Monday

Monday, August 25th, 2008



¶ Denver: We can’t say what the most interesting thing about the Democratic Conventional will have been, but we can expect that it might have something to do with the media and the unmediated. On Friday, the MSM scooped (and thereby foiled) Barack Obama’s attempt to name his running mate directly to supporters’ cell phones.


¶ Safe Conduct: Anna Post, great-great-granddaughter of Emily Post, offers sensible rules of order at The Etiquette Effect, in collaboration with Hyatt Place hotels. On “Using Technology Appropriately”:

Just because you can bring your phone with you wherever you go, doesn’t mean it’s appropriate to use it. Don’t walk into a meeting or building while still on the phone and don’t bring your cell phone into a business meeting unless you are expecting an urgent call. If a client starts using their PDA during a meeting, you may choose to ignore it. A riskier proposition would be to confront him and say, “Bill, should we reschedule? This doesn’t seem to be a good time for you.” But this is the best way to send the message that you’re not going to tolerate this breach of manners.


¶ Teach: David Olivier (that’s Slimbo to you) has embarked on a truly heroic adventure: teaching math to middle-schoolers in New Orleans. The (first) Week in Review.

Daily Office: Wednesday

Wednesday, August 6th, 2008



¶ Abandon Hope, Ye Who Can’t Enter Here: The big moment, the major rite of passage in the life of an upper-middle-class child in Manhattan (and parts of Brooklyn and even the Bronx) occurs long before the agonies of adolescence: it’s the move from preschool to kindergarten. An old story! Now, at last, a few of the elementary schools are expanding. Winnie Hu reports.


¶ Introvert: A quick glance at Jonathan Rauch’s essay on introversion in The Atlantic suggests that the Blogosphere might be the hidden-in-plain-sight venue in which the introverts of the world — “a minority in the regular population but a majority in the gifted population” — conspire to take over the world.


¶ Split: From next Sunday’s Times Magazine, Matt Bai’s report on the reservations that prevent the elder statesmen of the Civil Rights movement from more forthrightly supporting Barack Obama.


Daily Office: Tuesday

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008



¶ Junk: For me, the political problems attending the Beijing Olympics have taken second place to the terrible air pollution that has bedeviled the city ever since — well, I don’t know for how long, but certainly since the easing of economic constraints in the 1980s. How would you like to run a mile in this?*


¶ What’s the Worst That Could Happen?: Want to know why I have trouble getting to sleep? Worrying about doofuses who ask the referenced question. Because the worst that could happen is often catastrophe, the question is not a very intelligent one. Adam Brown reports, at Cracked.  


¶ Faculty: Here’s an interesting article in the Times — if you know what I mean by interesting — that appraises Barack Obama’s career as a law school professor (actually he was a “senior lecturer”).

Daily Office: Thursday

Thursday, July 24th, 2008



¶ Reserves: Help me out here: While Times Op-Ed writer Timothy Egan hails T Boone Pickens for his windfarming campaign against the idea that drilling for oil will lead to lower gasoline prices, Jad Mouawad reports, in Business Day, that the “Arctic may contain as much as a fifth of the world’s yet-to-be-discovered oild and natural gas reserves,” according to the United States Geological Survey. Which way are we going, here?


¶ Pathetic: We interrupt our non-political coverage to link to Jacob Heilbrunn’s comment at HuffPost: “Bush Bans State Department Officials From Obama Rally.” 


¶ Manipulation: If you read just the top of the story, it looks as though the pipe dreams of demagogues have come true, and speculators are making fortunes by manipulating the price of oil. (more…)

Daily Office: Monday

Monday, June 23rd, 2008



¶ Murcans: Send this clip to every friend that you have. Every enemy. Every body! A vote for the Democratic Party is a vote against the Republican Star Chamber. 


¶ Carlin: Social critic and funny man George Carlin dead of heart failure, aged 71.

¶ Housebroken: Even the House at Goodwood is a course — something of a steeplechase.


¶ The Awful Truth: As Avenue Q taught us, the Internet is primarily good for porn. With Google as a yardstick of community standards, expect a lot of bugs-under-a-rock-squirming.

Daily Office: Thursday

Thursday, June 12th, 2008



¶ Cosmopolitan: It is difficult to know what to expect of people who genuinely lack cosmopolitan aspirations.

¶ Tracking: My very peachy son-in-law has let me in on a way of following my daughter’s flight from Amsterdam to New York. I must be the last guy on the block to know how to know about


¶ Satrap: All morning, I’ve been thinking about James A Johnson, the Obama campaign aide who just resigned in mild disgrace. What is it with the Democrats? Republicans do the same thing, but that’s their religion…


¶ Flippi: Does anyone have one of these Vornado Flippi fans yet? They are the  coolest! (more…)

Daily Office: Wednesday

Wednesday, June 4th, 2008



¶ DC: Kathleen is off to Washington this afternoon. She’ll be participating in a panel discussion of the history of exemptive orders. Don’t you wish you could be there?


¶ Fat Lady Yet To Sing: With a headline like this, you know that the story is still not over: “Top Democrats Press for Unity After Obama Secures Victory .” 

¶ Sparkle Plenty: Happily, I don’t have to hire a service such as this. (A window washer’s blog! What will they think of next?)


¶ Aria: Finally.


Daily Office: Thursday

Thursday, May 29th, 2008



¶ Che bella giornata!: Another fine day. Good weather really gets better with age.

¶ Gérance dissausive: If you can’t read French, tant pis pour vous. JR’s crime analysis of the massacre of his sister’s chickens by a fox (or some other prédateur forestier),* would make a sort of sense in English, but the loss of  je ne sais quoi would be fatal.

Except that I know perfectly well what the quoi is: the French willingness to call a spatula a spatula. Just because a spatula is more or less a spade is no reason to be imprecise.

¶ Wings: When I grow up, I want to write just like Gail Collins.


¶ Art: My neighbor, Stash, went to an art show in the quartier. On the basis of his photos, better him than me is all I can say.


¶ Cinderella: Far and away the most exciting object on exhibit at the Cooper-Hewitt’s “Rococo” Show is Jeroen Verhoeven’s Cinderella Table.

Daily Office: Thursday

Thursday, May 15th, 2008


¶ Matins: After a marvelous evening of theatre — Itamar Moses’s The Four of Us, the very first play that I have ever felt captured by, as in, “it was about me”; it was really just about creative, brainiacky young men generally, if you can generalize about such a demographic, and the prickly, clandestinely competitive arrangements that take the place of friendship in their lives. (If they’re lucky, they outgrow this awkwardness, but I’ve met many who didn’t.) Hey, enough about me! — what do I come home to find but an email responding to an old blog entry from over three years ago:

If anybody out there knows a sixtyish Greek woman née Katerina Koini, tell her to give me a shout. Kathy (as we called her) was a vibrant exchange student at Bronxville High when I was in tenth grade, and I’m still profiting from the things she taught me, such as, for example, Lawrence Durrell’s Alexandria Quartet.

¶ Sext: Every time the pundits predict that Mrs Clinton is hors de concours, I remember the words of M le Neveu: “These are people” — the Clintons — “who come back from the dead.”


Friday Front: Whether or Not to Vote Against

Friday, January 4th, 2008

The three façades of One Gracie Square. Can you tell which one is Neocon? Theocon? Anti-tax?

On the eve of the Iowa caucuses, a little focus won’t hurt you. I’ve tried to put Michael Tomasky’s election-in-a-nutshell into an even smaller nutshell.

¶ Michael Tomasky on the Republican Faction, in The New York Review of Books.

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New Year's Wish (Hint)

Tuesday, January 1st, 2008

If Michael Bloomberg runs for prexy and wins, will he treat the White House as he has treated Gracie Mansion?

The reflexive inclination to wish everyone a Happy New Year! is muted somewhat by the recollection that 2008 brings a presidential election. After all that we’ve been through in the past seven years, the elation that one might normally feel is difficult to summon. I dare not express my fondest wish, beyond hinting that it would be great if the ceremonial occupant of the modest mansion shown above won the right to pass up another, rather more famous home on an avenue beginning with the letter “P.” The man likes town houses, it seems; didn’t the Truman’s live at Blair House?

Morning News: the Biden-Cooper Rule

Friday, November 30th, 2007

The Duce of Duck? (Darren McCollister/Getty Images)

Senator Joseph Biden quipped last month that there are only three components in a Rudy Giuliani sentence: a noun, a verb, and “9/11.”

To that formulation, Times reporter Michael Cooper suggests that we qualify the former mayor’s statistical claims as “incomplete, exaggerated, or just plain wrong.”

Call it the Biden-Cooper rule for short: every claim by Rudy Giuliani involving 9/11 is wrong.

In the Same Sentence

Tuesday, November 6th, 2007

In her Huffington Post piece this morning, Nora Ephron complains that it is hard to be a Democrat these days. I agree with her, and I share her reasons for being a Democrat. But at the top of the list of “what’s wrong with Democrats today” I would put, not Hillary or Barack or John or anybody in Congress but – Democrats like Nora Ephron.

It’s hard to a Democrat these days because Democrats like Nora Ephron make me carry on as if I were David Brooks, and I hate that about me.

Sure, it would be nice to get an unequivocal denunciation of torture from the prospective attorney general – although I’m not sure that it would be entirely grown-up. “Unequivocal” and “lawyer,” see, are not words that belong in the same sentence, and it’s childish (and nothing but childish) to refuse to see that lawyers, including the Attorney General, are supposed to be equivocators. Michael Mukasey says that he doesn’t like waterboarding, but he refuses to tie his hands regarding agreements and contracts that he won’t be able to read until he’s actually Attorney General. Congressional Democrats who happen to be lawyers, just like lawyers across the board in the United States, have recognized the acceptability – the decency, even – of Mr Mukasey’s position. As Ms Ephron quotes Senator Charles Schumer as saying, Mr Mukasey is probably the best candidate that the Bush Administration is going to present to Congress. This is not a meaningless observation. In Alberto Gonzales, we saw the worst. There is a difference.

Except there isn’t, not to the Nora Ephrons. To moralistic Democrats, there is only one tiny shining issue, and it must be resolved before we can sleep at night. You would think it was 1968 – especially if, like me, you were there in 1968.

If I have stayed out of the Mukasey debate so far, though, it’s because I am offended – claiming even higher moral ground – that there are Democrats who put torture, which may be gravely immoral but which affects only a handful of people in uncertain situations, ahead of the economy, which affects everybody, especially including every child in the United States. The Bush Administration has done what it could to screw up the economy, but it has had a lot of help from Congress, from Wall Street, from the think tanks and the media – in short, from everyone who has stood up for unfettered free-market capitalism. The result is a looming financial meltdown – a seizing-up of the engines of market liquidity – accompanied by the collapse of two major investment banks, Citigroup and Merrill Lynch. This is what we should be paying attention to right now – this and the blood-curdling fall of the dollar – not the scholasticisms of “torture.”

Once upon a time, during the New Deal that Ms Ephron claims to venerate, there was a piece of legislation that made it impossible to put “Citigroup” and “Merrill Lynch” in the same sentence. Citigroup was a commercial bank, while Merrill Lynch was a broker-dealer, and the Glass-Stegall Act of 1933 made sure, for sound hygienic reasons, that the twain did not meet. Before it was even repealed, Glass-Stegall was dismissed by the arrogance of Sanford Weill, the man who put Citigroup together in defiance of then-current law. My bet is that the saner heads at both embattled institutions – unlike Enron, Citigroup and Merrill are companies of enormous vitality and substance, and we can’t really afford to do without them – wish that they could scurry back behind what were essentially the protective prohibitions of the 1933 act.

Let’s talk about the New Deal, then. Let’s get off the high horses of Right and Wrong – leaving Jacobinism to the Republican rump – and roll up our sleeves about the economy. Can we manage to control it again, before it goes into the tailspin against which New Deal legislation provided such effective safeguards?

I wish that it were easier to put “Democrat” and “common sense” in the same sentence.