Reuben Sportsbar
Cold comfort and warm beer

Thursday, November 27, 2003  



posted by JD | 8:10 PM

Tuesday, November 25, 2003  


Silent Spring and all that? I'm willing to go out on a limb and say that hundreds of thousands of Africans dying of malaria is worse.

posted by JD | 9:59 PM

Monday, November 24, 2003  


Ricketts is making a comeback.

Soon there'll be a bowlegged fat kid on every corner. I warned women that this would happen if they stopped wearing whale bone corsets.

posted by JD | 11:19 PM


According to What's Brewing, the very quaint Campaign for Real Ale newspaper, Budvar, the wonderful Czech lager that I can buy for a stunningly cheap £1.09/500ml at my corner shop, may be in trouble. Budvar is made by a Czech company named Budweiser, and because Anheuser-Busch wants sole ownership of that name in the beer world, there are fears of intimidatory and harassing litigation. The Czech government currently owns Budweiser Budvar and has recently decided not to privatise it, reportedly in part because fears of litigation are driving its potential selling price down.

Please god, don't take this beer from me.

posted by JD | 10:58 PM

Thursday, November 20, 2003  


Or whatever it's called when you type [word] + [otherword] into google and manage to return only one page. After hitting three with inveigle + lunchbox, I got two with inveigle + lunchmeat, then hit paydirt with inveigle + munchkin.

And they said I'd never accomplish anything.

UPDATE: He does it again on his very next try, ladies and gentlemen! Inveigle + Lichtenstein - who could have imagined it? (The page is a tourist's discussion of a visit to Washington Mall, of course.)

posted by JD | 11:09 PM


Talking the talk on American attitudes to nationalised health care. Basically, way too many people believe in the myth that the American system is ipso facto more efficient because it's not socialised.

posted by JD | 10:52 PM


Sideshow points to consertative studies showing that, if anything, American print media is more conservative than liberal.

The stuff he cites is from Joe Conason's Big Lies, which I definitely should read.

Have I mentioned yet that it's nice to be in a part of the world where culture wars don't rage non-stop?

posted by JD | 10:46 PM


Matt does the math.

But wait, there's more.

posted by JD | 9:25 PM

Wednesday, November 19, 2003  



posted by JD | 10:44 PM

Saturday, November 15, 2003  


A US Forest Service study shows that in 93% of the FSA's cases, it's cheaper to let the government do the work.

Not that this is stopping the FSA from doing it. Looks like this is part of the administration's cynical bid to be able to saypretend that they've reduced big government by reducing the government payroll - even when that means spending more government money because private contractors cost more than government workers. Very cynical. Good to see some hard evidence of government work not being as inefficient as it's conservatives inevitably claim it to be, though.

posted by JD | 5:55 PM


The 2002 World Cup, for instance, was incredible. And right now I'm enjoying Russia v Wales in the qualifying playoff for Euro 04. There's a certain frisson knowing how much national games mean to the men on the field.

But god I wish British announcers could try not to be such homers. All game long they've been fairly criticising bad calls that have gone against Wales, but when Ryan Giggs just threw an elbow into a Russian's cheek, I could hear nothing but the chirping of crickets. Funny thing was, they wanted to criticise the Russian for diving after the elbow, but that would have meant admitting that Giggs had thrown it.

The sound, it was of silence.

That being said, Go Wales!

posted by JD | 5:39 PM


Bumped into a owrk colleague today, and as we walked past a bunch of folks protesting against Bush's impending visit, she expressed her condolences to me: all this anti-Americanism has to be tough to deal with, doesn't it?

Really, though, how much anti-Americanism is out there? Sure there's that idiot Pinter, and there's Pilger, but besides them, just how much genuine anti-Americanism is there in the UK? (I can't speak for other countries.) I've experienced it twice in three and a half years: once from a drunken bum shouting something on a bus the day after September 11, the other time from a disgruntled uni twat angry that I'd pointed out that he'd jumped the queue. Not exactly a constant barrage, and certainly not representative of the rest of the British public - including my Guardian-reading friends, none of whom is anti-American.

The truth is, I think most Americans, for all our tough guy John Wayne swagger, are really thin-skinned. September 11 was truly terrible, but to read right-wing bloggers' account of the effect it's had on "we Americans", you'd think that no one else had ever suffered so much. Look, it was horrific, but the countries of Europe have had two world wars fought on their land in the last hundred years. In African, up to 40% of some nations' population is dying of Aids right now. The world is full of starvation, cruelty, immense suffering. The Twin Towers attack was horrible, and created a hell of a lot of pain - but it wasn't a patch on what most other nations in the world have suffered - even if it did look really really horrible on tv. Yet to hear many of my countrymen bleat, you'd think that true suffering was invented on that day.

Another thing: I wonder if our lack of a figurative head of state makes us uncomfortable with criticism of the president. As I mentioned a few posts down, an entire football stadium of Aussies recently booed Prime Minister John Howard over his Iraq prevarications. Here, opponents of Blair's stance feel no compunction about tearing into him in the most forceful of terms. But in the US there's the notion that even if you diagree with the president, you shouldn't cross the line in criticising him. (Not that the Republicans stuck to this with Clinton. Remember Jesse Helms hardly veiled threat on the president's life when he visited North Carolina, or the constant attacks on teenage Chelsea's looks?) You can disagree, people say, but you shouldn't be disrespectful. I wonder if part of the discomfort with disrespecting the president has to do with the fact that he is both the nation's political leader and, in absence of any type of manarchy, the figurative embodiment of our nation. Do Americans believe that attacking the president is attacking the nation?

Or is it more than this? American policies do come under frequent attack, and Americans don't seem to take well to it. My feeling - and I wouldn't have agreed with this before living overseas - is that the other developed nations of the world are far less envious of the US than Americans imagine. I also think that most Americans are so isolated from other nations' opinions on international issues that we don't realise that when they criticise our policies, they are doing so in the context of our geopolitical decisions, not just because we're America.

posted by JD | 3:17 PM

Friday, November 14, 2003  


The World Economic Forum's 2003 Global Competitiveness Report is out, and by placing second the US proves yet again that low taxes are absolutely essential to robust economic performance.

By placing first, third and fourth, Finland, Sweden and Denmark prove that what I just wrote is a fat load of hairy bollocks.

posted by JD | 6:35 PM


I'm always annoyed when people moan about how antideluvian the electoral college system is. Would they complain if their candidate won? And in such a large nations, is it a good idea to proceed solely by popular vote? Today's Independent has a good letter explaining why the electoral college makes sense for the US (but then the writer has to go and spoil it with his final statement):

"Sir: In his article about George Bush, Rupert Cornwell writes: "A President... who, but for the archaism of the electoral college, would have lost to Al Gore, who clearly defeated him in the popular vote."

"This statement reflects how misguided this article was. The Electoral College ensures that our constitutional freedoms are secure for as many walks of life as the United States represents. Without the Electoral College, presidential candidates need only campaign in the 10 largest cities to gain the popular vote, or the five most populous states. Meanwhile, farmers, ranchers (like myself) and retirees, would not be solicited for their vote, nor would they and their interests be defended by the Executive Branch of our government.

"Without the Electoral College, you can assume that most presidential elections would fall in favour of the Democratic ticket. Our country ails from a primarily two-party system as it is. Imagine only one! The United States is a republic, not a democracy. It's a shame that our politicians need more lessons in civics, as do you and yours, about this uniquely American ideal: fairness."

Uh, yeh. Fairness is a uniquely American ideal. Why our history is practically built on fairness. Just ask the Indians and the descendants of slaves how uniquely American fairness is.

And we wonder why some non-Americans consider us arrogant. Maybe it's because we're convinced we invented every human virture and are the only ones who embody them! This thoughtless rhetorical chest thumping is truly one of our worst national habits.

posted by JD | 5:57 PM


This article argues that SUVs are only a small part of America's energy problem - buildings are really to blame. No idea as to how correct this is.

posted by JD | 5:06 PM


City Comforts on whether or not supercentre-based redevelopment schemes can revitalise urban districts. I guess that crazy Disney stuff has got all the kids talking, don't ya know. As ever it seems, time for me to read and learn. Really, how the hell am i supposed to get any work done?

posted by JD | 4:28 PM


Trolling through his archives, I find this post from Back40 on why he thinks subisdies are needed in developed countries and why removing them would hurt poor nations.

One day I'll know enough to have an opinion on agricultural subsidies. In the meantime, I'll just try to understand all the big words.

posted by JD | 3:14 PM


The Guardian's letters section today has a good
representative sample of the gamut of opinions regarding Bush's state visit to the UK

I bet it seemed like a great idea 17 months ago, didn't it Tony - a little post-war parading? Funny thing is, at the moment the papers can't find anyone in governement or at the Palace (not that they have much say in these things) to take credit for the invitation.

Among the letters, a few bits stick out. In one, an angry American castigates the British public for not supporting Bush. "This is treatment," says Peeved of Portland, Maine, "one would expect from the French." Oh those perfidious French! The ending of Peeved's letter shows a major difference between Americans and Brits. He writes: "It is one thing to disagree with our president, an entirely different matter to be disrespectful. Shame on you. I would have expected better."

I'm not going to argue that most Americans believe you should get behind the president in times of trouble. That's a canard. The truth is, most Americans believe you should get behind the president in times of trouble if the president is the one they support; otherwise, he's fair game with a bad leg.

Most Brits, I think, find it a bit asinine to be told that they can loathe someone's politics yet musn't show that person disrespect. Look at Minister's Question Time, or, as I mentioned yesterday in the comments at Yglesias, the ferocity of carictarisations in British political cartoons. As I said there, quarter is not given. It seems far less hypocritical a position than that occupied by so many pro-Bushies, with their insistence that no matter how they treated Clinton, Bush should be held in honour. Rubbish.

Another letter, while criticising what it sees as "adolescent anti-Americanism", makes the sensible point that when criticising US policies, we need to remember what the US has done for Europe in the last hundred years and to put our current beefs in context. To my mind, this in no way means that the US need be excused for anything it's doing right now. After all, stupid acts are stupid acts, even if committed by those who have done many great things. (Speaking of context, it's very fair to point out the many negative politically selfish acts the US has engaged in since WWII, and it would do kneejerk supporters of the US good to reflect on them.) But people need to keep a sense of perspective. If you want to argue, as Monbiot once did, that the US has caused more suffering than Nazi Germany ever did - he was tallying up slave and Native American deaths, among other crimes - you also have to be willing to admit that the US has stimulated far more happiness and goodness than the Nazis ever did. Obviously, that's not exactly the most compelling boast - I'm just saying that it's dishonest to only focus on one side of the tally sheet, no matter whose team you're on.

UPDATE: Brits aren't the only ones not afraid to show a li'l disrespect. From This Modern World, where (imagine my surprise) I find Bob rhapsodising about rugby:

"At the opening ceremonies a few weeks ago, Aussie Prime Minister John Howard, recently censured for lying about Iraq, stepped out to declare the games officially open -- and the entire stadium of cheering fans suddenly unleashed a cathartic chorus of boos. Howard looked humiliated, and didn't even speak for about ten solid seconds. Dishonesty actually being treated as dishonorable -- a national leader actually being held accountable, face-to-face, by the public -- oh man, that was something to see."

posted by JD | 2:55 PM

Thursday, November 13, 2003  


CalPundit has a very provocative question about the push to bypass that nasty, negative liberal media and tell the American public the happy truth about Iraq. His question is, given that it's surely taken several weeks for the CIA to write its recent, very negative report - meaning that the CIA has known for weeks that the situation is very negative - why has the administration been making itself look foolish by singing songs of birds and posies? Part of me says that this is just one more example of how this administration is truly post-modern, believing that there is no such thing as truth and that there is thus no reason to relate what one says to what one knows to be fact.

Kevin has some interesting thoughts; read on, MacDuff.

posted by JD | 7:24 PM


Via Crooked Timber, who appear to be stalking him, I see that Adam Swift has yet another article on the ethics of private schooling. Ho hum, except that it's in the Telegraph. As I always, the commentary at CT should be quite informative.

posted by JD | 6:34 PM


This is getting very surreal. Bush is now parroting what the French and Germans were saying at the last UN meeting and claiming it as his own. The Iraqi people are now saying they want to play a bigger role in governing their country, he says, and we want to give it to them. As if we've not been saying all along that the handover was going to go at our pace rather than the Iraqis'. Operation Cut and Run has truly begun. It's too bad the American public isn't going to be keeping a "lies and the lying liars who told them" factsheet.

Can we expect any climbdown from the blogosphere chickenhawks who've been whining about liberal media bias? Probably not. Credit, however, to the boys at Oxblog, who must right now be feeling as young and optimistic as they've long been looking to the rest of us. Bright boys, but still boys nonetheless.

Was this Saddam's plan all along? Creepy - I don't like the idea of Hussein as some wily bogeyman. "The enemy is waging a campaign against the occupation," said retired Army Col. Andrew J. Bacevich, who teaches strategy and security issues at Boston University. "In some respects, their campaign manifests greater coherence and logic than does our own."

posted by JD | 5:51 PM

Wednesday, November 12, 2003  


England has more than 360,000 listed buidlings, writes Jonathan Glancey in this old article I just stumbled across. A lot of them should be listed, he believes. In fact, he says, "It really is hard to find an ugly or unlikeable building from the period between 1660 and 1830." (Though he doesn't say that they should all be listed.) But a lot of the others, including much of what the late Victorians produced, are craptastic. Why are so many on the books? According to Glancey, it's mostly because too many hobbyists have too much damn time on their hands. Wonder if we could get them picking up litter instead?

At Images of England, they're compiling photos and descriptions of every listed edifice in England. What was that about too much time on one's hands? (Actually I think it's a worthwhile project, though I wish densely-packed areas such as mine were browsable. That would allow us to see and understand the listing process from, as it were, the street rather than the library.)

posted by JD | 5:44 PM


I've always thought travelling would be just that little bit easier if I could rent a mobile while in country. And when Brennan was here, for instance, it would have been great to be able to lend him a phone. Last night while on a long and rambling stroll I saw a shop with mobiles for rent. It was in the Edgeware Rd area if I remember correctly, north of Marble Arch but maybe further east than Edgware Rd. I walked on Connaught, I recall, and Craven... Not sure if it was so far as Craven though.

posted by JD | 4:58 PM


When I met Jonah Goldberg a year or so ago, I didn't yet know who he was so I didn't have any preconceptions. (If only I could meet the bloated wanker now.) What irritated me most about him was his obvious belief that war and nation-building was some sort of intellectual game. It was obvious that he believes that because he did a great job in his school debating society, he always knows better than those who disagree with him. As if war is an argument.

The neocons, I've since realised, are just like the Marxists. They believe that because theyäre bright they are always right, and because of who they are they can acomplish anything. Actually, maybe they don't believe they can accomplish anything. the sense I got from Jonah was that Iraq was a great big debating society game, and that if it all did go tits up, well, I'm pretty sure that wasn't going to effecting the Goldbergs too much. Just those far away Iraqis.

Anyway, here's something on the neocons as Trotskyites.

posted by JD | 4:40 PM


The funniest post I've ever read.

posted by JD | 4:07 PM

Sunday, November 09, 2003  


At Fistful of Euros, a very informative discussion on the pros and cons of privatisation.

posted by JD | 8:13 PM



posted by JD | 6:52 PM


Then who is China losing them to? A study shows that manufacturing jobs are disappearing everywhere, even in Brazil and China. The culprit? Higher productivity.

posted by JD | 6:29 PM


After reading the Thernstrom's No Excuses the Atlantic's Stuart Taylor argues that the biggest factor holding back black kids is culture. Even middle and upper class black kids tend to watch more television and have
less expected of them
than their white or Asian counterparts. Why?

More here.

posted by JD | 6:23 PM

Thursday, November 06, 2003  


Amazingly, it's from the Guardian's Opinion page. Some schmuck who wrote some book that inspired the Matrix tells us that those of us who just use computers, rather than really understand their workings, are
"technological peasants who are consigning ourselves to the evolutionary scrapheap
. Seriously. "In 50 years," he tells us, "perhaps much less, the ability to read and write code will be as essential for professionals of every stripe as the ability to read and write a human language is today. If your children's children can't speak the language of the machines, they will have to get a manual job - if there are any left."

Yes, just like in our grandparents' day, when those who didn't learn the new sciences of telephony and automobile mechanics found themselves unable to cope with the brave new world opening before them. And jeez, what about those poor fools who never figured out how to build a crystal radio receiver? Boy, didn't they drop out of the gene pool fast!

posted by JD | 1:53 PM

Wednesday, November 05, 2003  


Like these

posted by JD | 6:14 PM

Tuesday, November 04, 2003  


Again via CalPundit:

"Total U.S. troops: 133,000.
Excluding support troops, total combat troops available for security duty: 56,000.
Given normal sleeping/eating activities, total troops available at any given time for patrol: 28,000.

That may still sound like a fair number, but even if you count only the large urban areas in the Sunni Triangle, these guys have to patrol a population of roughly 15 million people. That means there's one soldier for every 500 people.

Still not convinced? Break it down again: it means that in, say, Fallujah, a city nearly the size of Pittsburgh, there are no more than a few hundred troops patrolling the streets at any given time."

posted by JD | 8:17 PM


Via just to remind ourselves, here are some of the predictions:

"Mr. Wolfowitz...opened a two-front war of words on Capitol Hill, calling the recent estimate by Gen. Eric K. Shinseki of the Army that several hundred thousand troops would be needed in postwar Iraq, "wildly off the mark." Pentagon officials have put the figure closer to 100,000 troops. Mr. Wolfowitz then dismissed articles in several newspapers this week asserting that Pentagon budget specialists put the cost of war and reconstruction at $60 billion to $95 billion in this fiscal year.

....."The idea that it would take several hundred thousand U.S. forces I think is far off the mark," Mr. Rumsfeld said....A spokesman for General Shinseki, Col. Joe Curtin, said today that the general stood by his estimate.

....In his testimony, Mr. Wolfowitz ticked off several reasons why he believed a much smaller coalition peacekeeping force than General Shinseki envisioned would be sufficient to police and rebuild postwar Iraq. He said there was no history of ethnic strife in Iraq, as there was in Bosnia or Kosovo. He said Iraqi civilians would welcome an American-led liberation force that "stayed as long as necessary but left as soon as possible," but would oppose a long-term occupation force. And he said that nations that oppose war with Iraq would likely sign up to help rebuild it. "I would expect that even countries like France will have a strong interest in assisting Iraq in reconstruction," Mr. Wolfowitz said. He added that many Iraqi expatriates would likely return home to help.

....Enlisting countries to help to pay for this war and its aftermath would take more time, he said. "I expect we will get a lot of mitigation, but it will be easier after the fact than before the fact," Mr. Wolfowitz said. Mr. Wolfowitz spent much of the hearing knocking down published estimates of the costs of war and rebuilding, saying the upper range of $95 billion was too high....Moreover, he said such estimates, and speculation that postwar reconstruction costs could climb even higher, ignored the fact that Iraq is a wealthy country, with annual oil exports worth $15 billion to $20 billion. "To assume we're going to pay for it all is just wrong," he said."

One of CalPundit's commenters argues that critics of the administration are bitching because Rumsfield, Wolfovitz et al couldn't predict the future. After all, who the hell can predict the future? Well, um, General Shenseki certainly seems to have been able to predict the future, as did numerous other military experts who argued that we'd need far more ground troops. That's right, they predicted the future.

But of course they didn't. Instead, they analysed all the data available to them, both positive and negative, and made informed projections. That's what our leaders are supposed to do, not ignore the bad and exaggerate or invent the good. Which is what the administration did.

posted by JD | 8:12 PM


One thing that's always shocked me about the British left is the venom with which some of its members attack apostasy. I often come away feeling that this left wing firebrands attach far more value to ideological correctness than on humane understanding.

This week's guest on the Acid & Venom Show is Hackney and Labour MP Diane Abbott, formerly a harsh critic of those who don't send their kids to the local comprehensive, now a self-avowed "hypocrite" for packing her son off to a fancy and exclusive private school.

What makes the case truly interesting is that Diane's son, like herself, is black. This seems to have been a significant factor in her decision: she's cited the abysmal lack of success of black boys in the Hackney system and clearly seems to fear that her son will be sucked down into the morass.

But by whom? Here's where the debate gets truly interesting. Not only do we have the "Are private schools acceptable" debate, we reignite the burning argument over where the fault lies for black boys' failure in school. On the "society sucks" side are people like this letter writer to the Guardian:

"The fire-storm engulfing Diane Abbott is a corollary of her status. But her choice of school arises from the private dimension of her life. On this basis, she has no obligation to explain or defend her choice. For it is the private, largely unregistered experience of institutional racism that drives choices for black parents. Most who can do make huge sacrifices for their children's education. Some send them to the Caribbean. Some compete for state grammar school places. Some opt for the private sector. Practically all will understand Ms Abbott's choice.

"No matter how much of the Puritan ethic a black family can embody, the power and pervasiveness of racism ensures a deadly lottery on life prospects. It is clear the variables of inner-city life involve the serial wastage of young men, black boys in particular. Institutions fail to reverse this. Black and other affected parents routinely experience lives of searing desperation in face of this. Should any parent place the development and education of their children on hold while awaiting "the long revolution" in provision?"

Now to me, this argument just doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Are our inner city schools really stocked full of racist teachers? This guy doesn't think so:

"The failure of black boys in London schools has little to do with racism. If this were the case, then Asian children would do badly and black girls would fail. But both do well. The schools try as hard as they can to overcome the real problem: working-class male, "urban" street culture - both black and white working-class boys do poorly.

"This culture rejects education so strongly that black and white teachers cannot, despite immense efforts, overcome it completely. It is this culture that Abbott and many middle-class Londoners are so desperate to keep their sons away from. This does not, however, rescue them from the charge of hypocrisy and selfishness when they send their children to exclusive, expensive, private schools. Until people like them, with status and influence, join with the teachers and others in the community, nothing will change."

Who's right? My guess is that there's some of each in the equation, but a whole lot more of what the second writer decries. And here's a question: how come the left always celebrates the strength and vibrancy and importance of (sub?)cultures, yet refuses to acknowledge that they can play a negative role too? What's up with that shit?

posted by JD | 1:21 PM

Monday, November 03, 2003  


That Idi Amin sure knew how to name 'em. Too bad that didn't keep his fifth wife, who he met when she was a go-go dancer with the aforementioned super troup, from getting busted for running a London cockroach cafe.

An old story, but too funny not to link to.

posted by JD | 10:38 PM

Saturday, November 01, 2003  


Answer to the first question - and an informed debate besides - via Big Bad CT. A very interesting subtext here is the conservatives' apparent willingness to leap on any topic - no matter how erroneously - as an example of how "big government" is spoiling it for all of us.

posted by JD | 8:38 PM


Yglesias really is a very bright boy.

posted by JD | 7:41 PM