Reuben Sportsbar
Cold comfort and warm beer

Monday, July 28, 2003  

What would Jesus drive? Survey says!

posted by JD | 5:30 PM

Sometimes PETA irritates the piss out of me - like when they try make us feel like assholes for eating meat. But I love them when they try to make sure that the animals we will eventually eat are treated better.

So far they've had successes with McD's, BK, Wendy's and now KFC. Nice work. Now hands off my rump roast.

posted by JD | 5:16 PM

Shit on a shingle? If only! What kind of a sleazeball do you need to be to consciously sell rotten meat for human consumption? This isn't even like the extreme end of drug dealing, where at least you can argue that users know what they're getting and made the initial choices that led to their addictions. This is selling rotten meat to unwitting mothers, fathers and children.

All the more reason to be sure you know where your meat is coming from. Which, unfortunately, means yet less business for local shops - except for the high end ones.

posted by JD | 5:10 PM

Two wheelies good. Over at CalPundit, there's a discussion of the Tour de France that brings up a couple of thoughts.

First, in a discussion of what Lance Armstrong's political positions might be, someone asks:

And atheist???
Does that change your perception of him?

And is answered with this:
No, why should it? I'm an American and respect Lance's right to believe whatever he wants or doesn't want to believe in.

What I wonder is this:

Are you saying that: a)You're an American who happens to respect Lance's right to believe whatever he wants, or b)You're an American and thus inherently respect Lance's right to believe whatever he wants?

I recognize that internal US politics currently necessitate that American liberals state their patriotism at every turn, but it's a bit aggravating for Western Europeans to read this sort of thing - as if respecting others' rights is a uniquely American phenomenon. Europe is used to conservative American exceptionalism - "I'm American so I'm right" - but since 9/11 American lefties have joined the fray, though in far a gentler manner. Just something to keep in mind. (But to be honest, with the political situation in the US right now, if you've got to mildly insult a few Swedes and Brits to win the battles at home, by all means insult away. In the long run, it's most definitely for the best.)


In the same comments section, there's a discussion of the so-called silliness of watching sports instead of competing in them. Come on, ya shmucks, they're two different things. I like to run and play baseball (though my poor hitting means I rarely do both at the same time) and don't like riding bicycles, but I loved watching the tour de france. It's about drama - the kind you can't find anywhere else. As everyone and my mother has pointed out, in theatre or the movies you know the result in advance, or at least know that it's scripted. In sport, this isn't the case.

It's particularly thrilling to watch the best in the world go at each other - and to know that only one of them can win. You can learn a lot about humility and acceptance from listening to a guy like Jan Ullrich admit that though he may be the second best in the world at what he does, in some respects he's just not get enough to defeat the number one. In our achievement obsessed culture, it's important to see people lose, accept what that means and move on. It's important to see people admit their weaknesses. And it's important to see them live with them.

Because we're all weak in one way or another. Hell, we're all weak in a lot of ways. But we're afraid to admit it - most of all to ourselves. That's partly why you see people hurtling themselves into one or another aspect of their life that they're particularly good at - making money, partying, looking after someone else - while neglecting the ones that come harder. The danger for particularly talented people like top athletes is that they are nothing but athletes - after all, that's all they've ever had to be to win social rewards. Christ, some of them end up as emotionally stunted as comics, if you can believe it.

I have no way of knowing what kind of people the top cyclists are. Who knows, maybe they're a bunch raving EPO freaks who are even now celebrating the end of the Tour by throttling their wives with bicycle pumps, en masse.

What I do know is that I love the humility I saw from Ullrich and even Armstrong, and love the sportsmanship I saw when a lead rider would go down. Brilliant stuff.

And any sport that allows you to sip champagne while competing is alright by me.

posted by JD | 5:01 PM

Britain bumbles nature. An informative review of Britain's realtionship with wildlife since 1950. A compelling review, beginning with:
The British are reputed to love wildlife at least as much as the French enjoy food, or the Americans worship money. So why have we made such a catastrophic mess of looking after it?
To take a random sample from the past 50 years: arable farming policies; the blanket afforestation of Britain's uplands; six-lane motorways cutting through chalk downlands; the ploughing of ancient meadows; the destruction of hedgerows; the draining of marshes; and finally, the insidious spread of piecemeal development throughout lowland Britain.

posted by JD | 4:55 PM

Friday, July 25, 2003  

Whence the maillot jaune? Paul Lukas'll tell ya.

posted by JD | 5:51 PM

Schoolkids are getting shit. In this article from the not-so-recent-anymore Guardian three-part feature on the hows and whys of what we eat now, we learn about school sausage, in which the good stuff (we call it meat) is replaced by lots of bad stuff (preservatives, colourings, jowls) so the local authority can afford to purchase it. That's wrong on every level.

posted by JD | 5:29 PM

France is getting fat. In the land of svelte gourmands, obesity is now shooting up like a baguette out of a basket. What to do? Funny you should ask. In my last a said that food do-gooders need to accentuate the positive. This observation on fast food chains, from French retaurateur Marc Veyrat, is a good start. Et voila:

"These firms produce odourless, colourless food, but from a marketing point of view they have a 50-year lead on us and this is why they are so successful and make our people fat," he says. "If we in France can convince people that we make the best sandwiches because we bake the best bread, churn the best butter and cure the best ham, I don't think the consumer will think twice before going back to more traditional options."

Appeal to our gluttony, appeal to our desire to really fucking enjoy ourselves. It's more complex than what fast food chains do, which is appeal to our desire to kind of enjoy ourselves without having to expend any effort, but it probably can be done with a large enough percentage of the population to make a difference.

posted by JD | 5:16 PM

Get the message? I've been looking at some materials over at Sustain, whose stated purpose is to "advocate food and agriculture policies and practices that enhance the health and welfare of people and animals, improve the working and living environment, enrich society and culture and promote equity."

An important function, but how does one accomplish it without the public feeling like they're being lectured? In the past, this was one of the left's weaknesses. People - tired from jobs and commutes and kids and maybe poverty - don't want to be lectured, and they especially don't want to be told to have less fun, whether it's through drinking beer or eating chocolate bars.

I know a tiny bit about antipathy between American social reformers and the people - generally immigrants - whose lives they were trying to improve. A lot of the trouble there was the result of condescending, teetotal Protestants lecturing grubby, hard-working and hard-drinking Southern Europe Catholics on the evils of having a good time in the bar or at the nickelodeon. My suspicion is that, despite the perhaps similar legacy of the Victorian reformers, the UK doesn't have as staunch a resistance against being encouraged to be a bit more sensible. After all, despite all its shortcomings, this really is a more sensible country. Don't believe me? Homosexuality was effectively made acceptable in the '60s, for chrissake. And don't even get me going on abortion. (Hello, Ireland!)

As for general principles when you're trying to market your ideas, I'd have to say that you need to downplay the negatives (less saying "This is bad for you, you fat idiot") and up-play the positives, sort of in the Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall mode of "seasonal food tastes so much better than non-seasonal" but without his mystico-etheral, airy-fairy tendencies.

posted by JD | 4:59 PM

David Adesnik of OxBlog is damn glad to show his back to Britain, because his heart's in America. He's got a long post on the subject, and though it desperately needs editing (his words, and I couldn't agree more) I'm going to paste it below. No permalink, ya see.

Like David, I'm American, but unlike him I'm happier here than in the US. Maybe that has a lot to do with political leanings: he's a good deal to the right of me, and being a right-leaning, pro-war American in Britain couldn't have been a constant barrel of laughs over the last few months. Perhaps a lot of it has to do with what he describes as the American sense of being on a mission. Is it really so all-pervasive as he implies? I do tend to agree with him that it's a lot stronger in the US. Does it permeate every aspect of American life? Perhaps it's the reason rap stars feel like they've got to become richer than JP Morgan, and that parents who each work 55-hour weeks feed Ritalin to their seven-year-olds.

As for why there's no great sense of mission in the UK, well all you need to do to answer that one is stroll over to the graveyard and have a look at the tombstone marked Empire: 1700 - 1944 (or whatever the years would be). Once America goes into its own decline, will it lose its urgent sense of mission too? On the one hand, arguing that it won't makes it seems like you've got a dose of the Exceptionalisms. On the other, America's origins and development are unique, so maybe its destiny is too.

Whatever its destiny, my own seems more likely to unfold on this side of the Atlantic. Though the one thing I really miss (besides burritos and baseball) is that feeling that the politics really matter. Not that they're any less serious here. In fact, it could well be argued that this is a more mature culture which seems to respond better to the concerns of its people - witness government tractability on food labeling and GM. It's just that politics here seem a bit distant to me, a lot less visceral. I hope that will change, because this is where my life is likely to unfold.

Who knows, maybe in the long run I'll get the best of both worlds: a passionate interest in the politics of America and the UK. Maybe even Europe too.

Anyway, here's that post:

Anyway, I'm posting this below in the hope that I'll have more to say the next time I read it.

Posted 1:39 AM by David Adesnik
GOING DOWN: No, this isn't another post about erotica. It is a post about leaving Oxford, an act known in Oxonian parlance as "going down".

First and foremost, let me say this: Thank God I am home. It feels really damn good. Because it isn't just a visit. I am now back in the United States for good (unless Paul Bremer decides that OxDem ought to establish a chapter in Iraq ASAP).

For the first time in three years, I truly feel that I am where I belong. I am not a guest. I am not an observer. Three years ago, I did not fully understand what it meant to belong. Nor did I understand what it meant to be out of place.

Before coming to Oxford, I had visited foreign countries ranging from Canada to Germany to Hong Kong to Argentina. Perhaps because I never intended to live in any of those places for more than a matter of months, I never felt that I had overstayed my welcome. I never felt that I had to fit in.

But fitting in is the challenge laid before us at Oxford. We are warned that Britain has a very different culture from the United States in spite of having striking similarities. We are told that our response to this difference should not be to retreat into the protection of the American community, but to reach out and truly learn what it means to live in Britain.

Instead, I learned what it meant to live in America. The longer I spent in the UK, the more out of place I felt. This is not to say that all the differences are negative. Much of Britain is incomparably charming and civilized in a way that America simply cannot be. But I never felt that I was a part of that Britian either.

It was not a lack of British friends that made me feel separated. In fact, I had more British friends than many of the other American Scholars. But in the presence of every bus driver, every homeless man and countless other strangers, I preferred to put on my Australian accent.

Because every encoutner is an international relation. Because the curiosity, awe and resentment that American provokes transforms every encounter into a social experiment. Like it or not, every American has to stand in for America.

Not every. But enough that it begins to feel like every. It reminds me of the paranoia that our teachers so conscientiously instilled in us in our Jewish elementary school. Every time we stepped out of that building, we became representatives of the Jewish people. Our teachers told us that if we were loud or obnoxious that those around us would decide that the Jewish people are loud and obnoxious.

Interestingly, I don't remember ever being told that if we behaved as model citizens that those around us would come to see the Jewish people as model citizens. We had nothing to gain and everything to lose.

Looking back, it is painfully evident that we were being taught to systematically underestimate the intelligence and open-mindedness of our fellow Americans. In fact, it made it hard to even think of them as our fellow Americans. While no one questioned that 20th century America had been better to the Jews than any other time and place on earth, it was never thought of as a final destination.

Nor was Israel. It was uncivilized. It was dangerous. A nice place to visit but I wouldn't want to live there. The Israelis were far tougher than their American cousins and they wouldn't let you forget it. They had survived five wars and countless terrorists attacks but didn't have cable television. (That was in the 1980s.)

So perhaps I was being disingenuous when I wrote above that until now I did not understand what it meant to be out of place. Because I was never in it. Then in college, America became my unequivocal home. When making friends, it didn't matter what state we were from, how much our parents income was, or whether we were black, white, Hispanic or Asian. Of course those things mattered. But if you found out that you both liked skiing or history or Led Zeppelin, then those things started to matter a helluva lot less. It was precisely because Yale was so diverse that I was able to see how little one's identity mattered.

I felt in place because I no longer had to decide between being Jewish and being American. Yet at the same time, it was no longer apparent that I had to decide between being American and being anything else. In college, I spent two summers in Germany and never felt that being American was a bad thing at all.

After graduating from Yale, I spent a year working in Washington at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. In the fall of 1999 and spring of 2000, globalization was everything. Hundreds of thousands of protesters were against it, even though most of us at Carnegie were for it.

But so what? On both sides, we were American. The question at hand was to what degree we should also be international or global. In that sense, being American was a good thing, since it meant being national.

As a pundit-in-training, I decided to write an op-ed about the protest movement. According to conventional wisdom, globalization bore more than a passing resemblance to Americanization. Therefore, protests against one were tantamount to protests against the other.

I disagreed. If the protesters were against American power, why were they more concerned with transparency at the IMF than with the fact that the United States had just bombed Milosevic into submission? Since the protesters were explicitly for human rights, they silently decided to recognize that the United States was fighting their battles for them.

Before sending my column off to the editors, I decided to run it by my supervisor, who happened to be Robert Kagan. While generally supportive of my writing projects, Bob thought that this one should go in the garbage. It was pretty clear that Bob was asking himself how someone relatively smart could have written something that was much more than relatively stupid.

The answer was naivete. I just didn't understand that the anti-globalization movement had within it the potential to become an anti-American movement just a few years later. Not that protesting against the war in Iraq was, in and of itself, anti-American. But the simplistic and cynical arguments made by so many of those protesters demonstrated that their opposition to the war was an extension of their anti-American worldview (and not vice versa).

While I had the good sense to throw my op-ed in the garbage after getting Bob's comments on it, I was still a long way from recognizing how wrong I was. Even September 11th was not enough to change that. After all, Le Monde's headline the next day was "Nous Sommes Tous Americaines". Who says one has to decide between being American and being anything else?

The attacks on New York and Washington coincided with the beginning of my thesis research. Thus, the growth of my own knowledge of American politics paralleled the growth of the anti-American hostility around me.

The political differences that divided Britian and America after September 11th helped me to place all sorts of other Anglo-American differences in context. For example, my occasional Australian accent was a product of my first, pre-Sept. 11 year at Oxford. But the anonymity it provided became something entirely different after the Towers fell.

The more I read about America, the more I identified with its historical sense of mission. I began to recognize that I had always had that sense of mission, but did not understand the degree to which it was part of my American heritage. Over the past two years, that degree became apparent precisely because there was no comparable sense of mission on the far side of the Atlantic.

Again, one cannot reduce the question of invading Iraq to cultural differences. But that was a part of it. Even before Sept. 11, I had begun to sense Britain's nation discomfort with the concept of a mission.

At Yale, the President and the Dean could not give a speech to any number of assembled undergraduates without waxing eloquent about their role as the leaders of the next generation and about their obligation to give back to the society that gave them so much. While the rhetoric was sometimes excessive or hollow, the students seemed to take for granted that it was the expression of a shared ideal.

In contrast, Oxford seemed to have no message for its undergraduates. When I told my British friends about Yale, they said that no one at Oxford would take that sort of rhetoric seriously. Oxford encouraged intellectual excellence. But the purpose of such excellence was not apparent. Personal fulfillment? Social sophistication? A job at an investment bank? I don't know. My friends didn't either.

I have come to believe that Americans' frenetic obsession with taking action is inextricably tied up with our sense of mission. We have to always be making everything better. It goes without saying that we often fail and that our obsessive activism is the cause of our failure. That might even turn out to be the case in Iraq. But without that activism and that sense of mission, we just wouldn't know what to do with ourselves.

God, I'm glad to be home.

[NB: This post could really use some editing, but I'm jet-lagged and losing it, so sleep is going to have to come first.]

posted by JD | 3:45 PM

Great thread on GM and soil. Right here at Crooked Timber. It's good to see the Brits having their say in the America-dominated blogosphere. D Squared is a bright person, but Back40 is like some kind of superalien from the future who's come here to make us feel like we should read a whole lot more before we flap our lips. Colour me impressed.

posted by JD | 1:06 PM

Thursday, July 24, 2003  

Food and charity - some links.

UN World Food Program
Oxfam's Fair Trade section (very unprofessional site, but has some links)

posted by JD | 6:17 PM

What do you do with a degree from what I think is the world's only department of food policy? Are there third sector jobs out there? Journalist, perhaps? A combination of the two?

I wonder, do all the food writing commissions go to professional chefs, ala HFW, or palateers, with more academic or journo types left in the dust?

Would this sort of a degree be too specialised for a real world job market?

posted by JD | 6:02 PM

Perfect skin. From the Observer, a fairly tepid article on
how fruit and veg is bred to look perfect, with taste but an afterthought

The supermarkets say we won't buy the stuff if it doesn't look this way, and as much as I'd like to have more faith in humanity, I tend to think they're right. A big part of that problem is that if we've never tasted really good fruit and veg we don't know what we're missing. That was certainly the case for me in America.

So what's the solution? Are slightly self-righteous and creepy proselytisers like Hugh Fernaley-Whittingstall going to reverse the tide? I suppose it's possible, but I tend to doubt it. A better chance might come from somone like Tim Lang, Professor of Food Policy at London's City University. A guy like this (who, to be fair, is probably influenced by HFW) can affect national food policy by bending the right government ears.

On this sort of "freedom to fuck up while some people get very very rich" issue, I can't imagine the US changing. But things like this do seem to happen in the UK - and the sense of hopefulness that fact gives me on a day-to-day level is one of my favourite things about living here. Right now, for instance, the government is looking into banning food adverts aimed at the under-6's. (Parents say that food adverts are a far bigger bane than those for toys.) This sort of common sense responsiveness doesn't seem even remotely possible in the US.

posted by JD | 5:59 PM

Is it ok to hire a cleaner? Barbara Ehrenreich, bent and bowed from the miseries of the physical labour she eloquently describes in Nickel & Dimed, thinks it's a big no-no.

I disagree with her, and for several reasons. I'll try to go into them in more detail this weekend, but my main problem is with her squeamishness at paying someone to do something both personal and icky. If we're going to say we shouldn't pay nearly invisible people to clean our toilets, then should we not pay completely invisible people to clean our dirty plates when we eat out, or to pick our vegetables and slaughter our meat, or to make our shirts? In all three cases, we're paying someone to do something we don't have the inclination to do.

To her credit, she mentions the shirt-making example in her article, acknowledging that the only real difference between clothes and crud removal is that it's more personal to have someone come into your home and clean up after you than to have them sweat in a factory over a sewing machine. Or, presumably, to have them sweat in your favourite restaurant's kitchen.

This is just squeamishness. A big part of freedom is the ability to negotiate with other people, to trade off tasks. I do things I don't want to at work, but that's part of the bargain, and in exchange for that I'm able to pay other people to grow my food, make my clothes and, yes, clean my toilets. And while my cleaner doesn't pay me to do anything that she either doesn't want to or doesn't have the time to, she certainly pays plenty of others: cooks, grocery clerks, bus drivers, etc. We're in a web of service exchange.

Ehrenreich seems to fear that the higher you're positioned in that web - that is, the easier it is for you to pay other people to do your unwanted tasks - the more likely you are to become like Gatsby's rich, making messes and never noticing that other people have to clean them up. Fair enough: a lot of people are assholes, and the more money they get the more asshole-ish they become. And yes, being a jerk to your cleaner (or nanny) is more personal and thus more nasty than being an jerk to your waiter or to the lady who takes your change at the toll booth. But we're not all assholes, or even jerks. A lot of us are really nice to bus drivers and waitresses and to the guys who sell us our evening papers. And we're nice to our cleaners, too - even though we still expect them to do their job.

I'd feel guilty if I was a jerk to my cleaner. But I don't feel guilty for having a cleaner.

MORE ON SQUEAMISHNESS: I think that when people hire cleaning services rather than individuals, they often do so because they want to avoid the uncomfortableness of the hierarchical relationship. Schmucks. By going through a service rather than hiring a freelancer, they're ensuring that the cleaners get paid less - and they're doing it because telling another human to clean up their dirty toilet offends their liberal sensibilities. Far better to acknowledge the unpleasant truth - "someone poorer than me is scraping my pubes off my toilet" - and then do what you can to make sure that whoever's doing that scraping gets as good a deal as possible. Otherwise you're like those idiots who buy factory-reared chicken, but think hunting for meat is unacceptable.

posted by JD | 5:34 PM

Tuesday, July 22, 2003  

Free trade? Fuck that shit! That's what the big boys say when free trade is in the little boys' interest. Now the American catfish lobby(!) is bitch slappin' the food out of the hands of ten thousand Vietnamese babies. Awesome! That's what those stupid Vietnamese get for being too lazy to be born Anglo-Amero-European.

Sassy pants Mr Atrios has a thread going on this too.

posted by JD | 10:00 AM

Friday, July 11, 2003  

For those of you keeping score at home:

Jan 20 2001 / Jul 10 2003 (from SKBubba):

Unemployment 4.2% 6.4%
Uninsured 39M 43M
DJIA $10,578 $9036
NASDAQ $2757 $1715
S&P 500 $1342 $988
Budget Surplus/Deficit +$230B -$400B
Trade Deficit $210B $435B

Are we better off today than we were on Jan. 20, 2001? Maybe we need more tax cuts!

posted by JD | 10:55 PM

Bush says the US will cut subsidies - if Europe and Japan do. According to Newsday, the United States and the European Union spend a combined $150 billion a year on agricultural subsidies, which keep prices artificially low and place small farmers in poor countries at a huge disadvantage.

posted by JD | 10:44 PM

Wisdom d'Electrolite.

Sisyphus Shrugged had a particularly fine rant today. Notable bit:
We may be the children of this country, but we’re also its parents.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from being a parent, it’s that it’s worth the effort to raise a child you can live with, because you’re going to have to live with the child you raise.

I’m reminded, not for the first time, of an observation made by Teresa eight years ago:
My own personal theory is that this is the very dawn of the world. We’re hardly more than an eyeblink away from the fall of Troy, and scarcely an interglaciation removed from the Altamira cave painters. We live in extremely interesting ancient times.
I like this idea. It encourages us to be earnest and ingenious and brave, as befits ancestral peoples; but keeps us from deciding that because we don’t know all the answers, they must be unknowable and thus unprofitable to pursue.

Or, to put it another way, “Work like you were living in the early days of a better nation.”

posted by JD | 10:33 PM

Fwee Twade Good. Now let's practice what we pweach:

"After too many years of Africa's being pushed to the global background, it's heartening to see the world's attention being focused on our continent. International support — both financial and otherwise — is certainly needed to help combat the severe poverty and disease gripping our nations. But first and foremost, Africa needs to be allowed to take its destiny into its own hands. Only self-reliance and economic growth and development will allow Africa to become a full member of the world community...

In the period from 2001 to 2002, America's 25,000 cotton farmers received more in subsidies — some $3 billion — than the entire economic output of Burkina Faso, where two million people depend on cotton. Further, United States subsidies are concentrated on just 10 percent of its cotton farmers. Thus, the payments to about 2,500 relatively well-off farmers has the unintended but nevertheless real effect of impoverishing some 10 million rural poor people in West and Central Africa.

Something has to be done. Along with the countries of Benin and Chad, we have submitted a proposal to the World Trade Organization — which is meeting in Cancún, Mexico, in September to discuss agricultural issues — that calls for an end to unfair subsidies granted by developed countries to their cotton producers. As an interim measure, we have also proposed that least-developed countries be granted financial compensation for lost export revenues that are due to those subsidies.

Our demand is simple: apply free trade rules not only to those products that are of interest to the rich and powerful, but also to those products where poor countries have a proven comparative advantage. We know that the world will not ignore our plea for a fair playing field. The World Trade Organization has said it is committed to addressing the problems of developing countries. The United States has convinced us that a free market economy provides the best opportunities for all members of the world community. Let us translate these principles into deeds at Cancún."

Borrowed from the generally venomous Joe Cole, who found it in the NYT, which I can't be bothered to register on this computer.

posted by JD | 10:18 PM

NGOs working for fair trade. From the CSM, an article on NGOs trying to craft a kinder capitalism.

posted by JD | 5:01 PM

Why don't we give it all away? Barbara and Ray Wragg, a roofing supervisor and underpaid nurse (all nurses are underpaid), won £7 million in the lottery - and gave most of it to charities.


posted by JD | 4:57 PM

Twisting words while twisting in the wind. The Independent traces the evolution of what the Labour governement has been saying about the war.

There's also a front page (subscriber only) rebuke of Blair by Robin Cook that begins with a strong paragraph:

In March Tony Blair dismissed the claim that Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction as "palpably absurd". This week it was admitted that the Government now accepts that claim is true. It is the justification for war that begins to look "palpably absurd".

posted by JD | 1:24 PM

Thursday, July 10, 2003  

Ari rocks! Because he uses his tongue to say things like this:

"I think the burden is on those people who think he didn't have weapons of mass destruction to tell the world where they are."

posted by JD | 2:07 PM

Assault on a sausage! God loves nothing like he loves the Sausage Races at Brewers games. It's too bad that criminally-minded first baseman Randall Simon hates God and all He loves.

As the hypercompetitive racing sausages (in the rest of the world, meat products just lie around, wating to be eaten or sliced onto beans) raced past the visitors' dugout, ne'er-do-well (and I'm not just talking about his hitting) Simon hit the italian sausage across the back with his bat, sending it toppling. In the near-tragic melee that followed, the hot dog came down too. Both sausages, I must report, were off the female persuasion.

Incidentally, the bratwurst won.

posted by JD | 1:19 PM

Wednesday, July 09, 2003  

If you can't prove the story is true, then find me someone who can. That's what Bush said to an intelligence consultant when told that claims that Iraq was pursuing uranium were questionable. This from
Daily Kos
, who also notes that Blair is now saying we'll find evidence of "WMD programmes". Dangerous programmes, that could have been launched at us in 45 minutes?

Now in a report from Capital Hill Blue, if true, shows exactly how George Bush made his decisions on Iraq:

An intelligence consultant who was present at two White House briefings where the uranium report was discussed confirmed that the President was told the intelligence was questionable and that his national security advisors urged him not to include the claim in his State of the Union address.

"The report had already been discredited," said Terrance J. Wilkinson, a CIA advisor present at two White House briefings. "This point was clearly made when the President was in the room during at least two of the briefings."

Bush's response was anger, Wilkinson said.

"He said that if the current operatives working for the CIA couldn't prove the story was true, then the agency had better find some who could," Wilkinson said. "He said he knew the story was true and so would the world after American troops secured the country."

He didn't want to hear the truth, he knew Saddam was guilty, regardless of the facts, which were murky at best.

And now an increasingly pressed Tony Blair is admitting as such:

He went on: "I have absolutely no doubt at all that we will find evidence of weapons of mass destruction programmes."

Excuse me, but I was under the clear impression that Saddam had weapons poised to launch at our allies within 45 minutes of an order being given. That their arsenals were poised to be launched at the US and that the use of chemical weapons were part of their doctrine.


posted by JD | 4:43 PM

We're number 7! At least according to the UN's newly released Human Development Index. And seven ain't too bad.

This is of course a very, VERY rough valuation, based only on a combination of literacy, life expectancy and adjusted real income. It doesn't take into account quality of life factors that might work against the US - factors such as vacation time, hours worked per year, health insurance and time spent commuting. Not to mention the pissy beer.

It also doesn't take into account factors that might work in the US's favour. Not sure what those might be, though. Cost of consumer goods versus average income might be one. Not sure though.

The UK, by the way, finishes an unlucky 13th, with France 17th, Spain 19th and Italy 21st. I include these because several months ago the Guardian ran a feature on a "quality of life" comparison amongst these four countries. That comparison focused on economic well-being more subtly than most surveys, asking how many hours we have to work in each country to buy a home, feed ourselves, etc. Also, how much holiday time we had and how many hours we work. What it found was that Spain, Italy and France, in that order, offer far more QOL bang for your buck than the UK does.

posted by JD | 1:25 PM

Public, not private. Or so say Jon Ronson and Fiona Millar, in their G2 rejoinders to DD Guttenplan's lament about feeling the need to send his daughter to private school.

posted by JD | 1:06 PM

D'Souza's American exceptionalism. Too much Grade-A 4th of July celebrating over the weekend too comment much on this (my few surviving brain cells being concentrated on keeping me from wetting myself, at least at the office), but D'Stupid's 10 reasons to love America were even stupider than I imagined. I mean, "Americans live longer"? Well, yeah, longer than a lot of people, but certainly not longer than in most of the nations of "Old Europe".

His ten points are almost all exactly like this: Saying Americans have it better than the rest of the world, then pretending that "ther rest of the world" equals India, Pakistan, China and Africa, but does not include Europe.

Two questions: One, how can Jonah Goldberg live with himself? It's one thing to be a partisan intellectual, and it's one thing for a bunch of high school dropouts in Lower Alabama to believe that Europe lags half a century behind the US, but to combine the two is simply dishonest. Win your arguments through intelligent thinking and strong debating skills, people, not by telling lies that even you know aren't true. Why do so many conservative intellectuals and opinion formers seen to feel the need to do this?

Second question: Why aren't my fellow Americans content to say (and believe) that we are a great country? Why must we always tell ourselves that we are the greatest, even when we have to lie to do so?

I'm not say America isn't the greatest nation in the world (though I don't think it is). What I'm saying is: If we're going to argue that it is, why won't we argue honestly?

posted by JD | 11:09 AM

Tuesday, July 08, 2003  

Not exactly a brier patch? From today's Toronto Sun, via

"Back in the 1980s, Osama bin Laden preached that the only way to drive the U.S. from the Muslim world was to bleed it in a score of small guerrilla wars," writes Eric Margolis. Now, by sticking the U.S. into the "twin quagmires in both Afghanistan and Iraq...Bush is falling right into bin Laden's strategic trap."

posted by JD | 4:59 PM

Monday, July 07, 2003  

How the US government spends your tax dollars. The National Priorities Project has this and more.

posted by JD | 12:29 PM

Cost of war clock. Check this every day.

posted by JD | 12:25 PM

Grafitti. I know we're supposed to like this stuff, but I really find that grafitti gets under my skin. (Not literally, or it would be called tattoos.) I like architecture, and really enjoy seeing how the parts of a building work together to create a coherent whole. A plash of grafitti, while it may look good itself, adds an extra and inevitablyl clashing element to the building, throwing its visuals completely off. Especially on all the Georgian and Victorian buildings here in London - a scrawled tag really mars their beauty.

I guess this is in some ways a metaphor for how kids see the world versus how adults do. (Some kids, some adults.) Kids don't notice the big picture, just what's interesting to them, what's right in there face. And adults tend to be very willing to forego one moment of beauty or brilliance for a larger sense of aesthetic coherence, equanimity and order.

That reminds me. Sometime last year I read a Guardian article on adult taggers. In it there was an interview with this "hot shot city boy" in his late 20s who had this secret existence as a night time tagger. He said he did it because he needed to express himself. We were supposed to feel some admiration for this guy, but all I could think was screw you - you're old enough to know better. If you're sticking to shitty old warehouses and abandoned buildings in industrial areas, fine, but if you're "expressing yourself" by ruining the aesthetic coherence of decent-looking buildings, screw you. You're a selfish, short-sighted twerp convinced that your own need to "express yourself" outweighs everyone else's right to not have to have their city's beauty defaced.

posted by JD | 11:32 AM

Saturday, July 05, 2003  

Stand and deliver. From Atrios, quoting a BBC news item from late March 03:

The White House asked if President Bush could address the European Parliament, Baroness Williams revealed on BBC One's This Week show on Thursday. But, she said, Euro-MPs were told there was a condition attached to him making the speech: a standing ovation should be guaranteed. The speech has never taken place.

posted by JD | 5:36 PM

Yo mama so fat, the back of her neck looks like a pack of hot dogs. You wanta know why she so fat? 'Cause the bitch eat too much!

And she's not alone. But it's not her fault - it's the sea cucumbers. Here's the story. According to some learned schmo I heard once on the radio, there are two basic types of animal body: the polar bear and the sea cucumber. Because polar bears have to suffer through periods of extreme privation, their bodies have adapted an A-1 safety mechanism: fat. When cute little baby seals can't be found and the local dump has run out of trash, a nice layer of blubber helps keep Mr Bear ticking.

Sea cucumbers have no such problems. They pretty much just plop themselves down, open their mouths and sit there while literally a sea of food flows into them. Since they are rarely if ever in danger of running out of grub, their bodies don't need to store fat. (I wonder if they even have fat cells.)

Now, humans are a hell of a lot more like polar bears than sea cucumbers. (That's especially true of your big fat mama.) But what's happened in modern wealthy societies is that food has become so omnipresent and cheap that our fat-hording polar bear bodies are plopped down in a veritable sea of soda, crisps and chips - pre-packaged plankton. When all this food washes in it latches on to those eager little fat cells. And we get biger, and bigger, and...

Now shove off, fatty, you're hanging into my seat.

posted by JD | 4:45 PM

DD Guttenplan, The Nation's London correspondent, sent his daughter to public school - and then pulled her out. What he found was that even at a good hampstead state school, birght pupils like his daughter were
left to languish, primarily because the school was so focused on make sure it met its testing targets that teachers focused almost all their energies on the struggling pupils, largely ignoring those who were sure to do well. So his daughter was left to grow disgruntled and bored.

He doesn't blame the school - they were doing the best they could within the parameters defined for them. But he does complain about the choice parents are forced to make: Do I send my children to state schools and watch them suffer academically, or do we go private, turning our backs not only on broader society but also denying our children the social advantages of growing up with peers from many different backgrounds? And he's angry that this choice is one only afforded to those, like him, privileged enough to afford it.

An excellent article. (And one in which he compares Brooklyn's schools favorably to those of Hampstead.)

posted by JD | 4:04 PM

Right little, tight little island.DD Guttenplan looks at the UK's long history of refusing to aid asylum seekers.

posted by JD | 3:50 PM

Is infantilism on the rise? Justin Cartwright says you bet your booties it is. Not sure I agree with his truculent assertion that pancakes with syrup, eggs over easy or sunny side up, juice, milk and milkshakes are "kiddies' food", though. Aren't these adult foods that kids also like to eat? The rampaging Mongol hordes drank their fair share of milk; will future historians discover that instead of ferocious warriors they were actually just a school group on a field trip that got a little out of hand? And what are "adult foods"? Brussel sprouts, broccoli and beer?

He has a great observation about American tv news, though:

"Every time I watched television, the presenters - coiffed, buffed and shining - were speaking to us as if to infants, cheerfully, full of encouragement, sometimes switching to a grave demeanour for the important stuff."

posted by JD | 3:46 PM

The Guardian reports on "the dark side of sexual tourism in Jamaica". And when they say dark side, they mean a dark side of meat - man meat. These sexual tourists are women, and they come to Jamaica for the same reason men go to Southeast Asia, to fuck better-looking people than they can back home.

posted by JD | 3:30 PM

Friday, July 04, 2003  

Is America the greatet country in the world ever (cont)? Dinesh D'Souza certainly thinks so, and to prove it he's just published a book called What's So Great About America. Over at the New Righteous Order, he's got a list, with commentary, of
"10 Great Things - What to love about the United States"
. Unlike Dinesh I'm a working man, so I'll have to read this later. It promises to be very good - perhaps even exceptional. Oh wait, I was thinking of "exceptionalist". My bad.

At Atrios, there's a link to this list and plenty of comments. Good fun indeed.

posted by JD | 1:46 PM

You know you're a polnerd when... From Matthew Yglesias:

In some ways, the Tuscan countryside is a good deal more beautiful than all the many works of art that they have on display here in Italy. The view from the tower in Lucca is especially recommended, though in truth it's all good. It also occurs to me that one good way to tell that you're a hard core politics nerd is when you gaze out upon a cute little farm and the first thing that comes to mind is the evils of the Common Agricultural Policy.

posted by JD | 1:30 PM

Are you bi? Or just semi? Biannually means occurring twice a year. But bimonthly means occurring every two months.

Semi-monthly means occurring twice a month. Biennially means occurring every two years.

When you have to explain what you mean after writing a word (as you do with these), your language (or at least this part of it) is letting you down. I blame it on the French.

posted by JD | 12:21 PM

Thursday, July 03, 2003  

Is it possible I'm actually right about something? The Wimbledon crowd is wildly behind Venus.

And now she's won.

Great, that sets up a final of one Williams sister against the other - and one of them is injured. Yet another in their long history of great matches?

posted by JD | 6:37 PM

More Wimbledon-inspired ranting. The referee, Alan Mills, seems a bit, um, not impartial. Yesterday he seemed very reluctant to stop Henman´s match even though rain was falling and Grosjean, aka The Stunner, was complaining that the court was dangerous. All credit to Grosjean on this one: he was playing well and had the chance to push Henman even further into his hole. But the referee seemed almost to be waiting on Henman to signal that he didn't want to go on. I don't know, maybe I'm reading too much into it.

But what about today? I was walking home so didn't see it, but did hear the commentary on the radio. Apparently, with Kim Clisters leading Venus Williams 5-4 and the game at deuce, the referee realz should have suspended play. According to the commentators, rain was falling quite hard. But it seemed to all of them that Mills was waiting on Clisters to win the set. This is completely inappropriate and potentially very dangerous.

The whiny-voiced Tracy Austin, who in her heyday contributed to mankind's sum total of sense and goodness by complaining about the sinister lesbian influence in women's tennis, raised an interesting issue. Pointing out that Venus didn't seem aggressive enough in pursuing a suspension of play, Austin postulated that after Roland Garros and Indian Wells maybe Venus was gun shy, afraid of giving the crowd amunition to use against her.

posted by JD | 6:12 PM

Poor Tim Henman. Not because he got knocked out of Wimbledon, but because England's expectations of him are so absurd. Here's BBC Online's headline immediately after Henman's defeat:

Grosjean stuns Henman

Stuns? Grosjean was only a number 13 seed, but what was Henman? 4? 5? No - he was number 10, for christ sakes. And Grosjean had walloped him only two weeks before in straight sets.

With the possible exception of Henman's gran, who could possible consider this stunning?

posted by JD | 4:16 PM

America is the greatest country the world's ever seen. Or so say a lot of people, including Ted Barlow. Is it? And by what standards?

I've put those questions to Ted's visitors as a 4th of July thought project. Hopefully it'll stimulate some interesting discussion. Stay tuned to the comments page of his July 2 post.

Uh oh. At least two hours have passed, and no one's taking the bait. Accursed holiday! Anyway, so that I don't lose it forever, here's the statement that piqued my interest, followed by a close approximation of my comment:

"it from me for a few days. Have a safe and enjoyable 4th of July, everyone. No matter what happens, we're still lucky to live in the greatest country the world has ever seen, so whoop it up."

Intelligent post, but can I ask how you are sure that America is the greatest country the world has ever seen? This isn't meant to be snarky. I'm American and love a great many things about my home country, and up until a few years ago firmly believed that, despite all those flaws that drive us good liberals crazy, America was the world's best place to live in. It has to be, right?

Or does it? I've lived in the UK for the last couple of years and am not so sure how we Americans can claim that the US is the greatest country in the world. I'm not saying the UK is, but I do want to know what standard is being used when thinking people do the written equivalent of chanting "We're Number 1!"

By what standards? If you're talking money generation, than hell yes, we're the best the world's ever seen. Military power? Check. But surely these can't be the standards by which liberals such as Ted are measuring our nation.

So what are we talking about? Social mobility? Freedom of choice? High income? Great education? A wide range of geographical features? The best work environments? The best food? Lots of really friendly cats and dogs?

I should repeat that I'm not being cynical or sarcastic here. But I am asking: If you think America is the greatest country the world has ever seen, explain why - in a way that an intelligent non-American would understand.

Not a bad 4th of July thought project, really.

posted by JD | 3:36 PM

Wednesday, July 02, 2003  

Crime time. In the last six weeks Jayne's had her car stolen and Neil has had his broken into - his window was smashed and his hidden stereo surgically removed. A lady who saw Jayne and I cleaning Neil's car up on Monday said her car had been broken into twice since April.

Not sure what to do about this. On a personal level, probably the best we can do is to park on the main street (uh, that's where Jayne's car was) and keep everything hidden (um, as it was in both their vehicles). What about on a sociopolitical level? I'll give it some thought and hopefully have something to publish in the not-so distant future.

Then I can email it to the politicians and crime'll be solved! Neato!

posted by JD | 4:56 PM

Okay, you've got me - teachers really should pack heat. Can't argue with this well-reasoned presentation, courtesy of Roger Ailes:

[CHRIS] MATTHEWS: It could happen-teacher is at the blackboard chalking up some math lesson, kid runs up real fast, grabs it out of her drawer, he knows it’s there.

[JOHN] LOTT: It’s not going to be in her drawer.

MATTHEWS: Where would it be?

LOTT: It would be on her in some way.

LEAR: How does a teacher in a summer dress carry a gun on her?
LOTT: You can carry it inside your thigh. There’s lot of places you can carry it where somebody is not going to see where it is.

The comments are worth a look too.

posted by JD | 4:41 PM

Fair Trade, foul smell. The Times reports that most of the profits from Fair Trade are going into the supermarkets' pockets, not, as I had assumed, to the farmers. (Because the Times' links are only valid for seven days, I've pasted the entire article:

Supermarkets take cut of Fairtrade cash for poor farmers
Robert Winnett, Consumer Affairs Correspondent

SOME of Britain’s biggest supermarkets have been accused of exploiting customers’ goodwill by overcharging for Fairtrade products.
The items will always be more expensive than their ordinary equivalents because the Fairtrade scheme, which has boomed in Britain in recent years, is designed to ensure that the farmers who produce them are paid more.

But an analysis of the pricing structure shows that only a part of the considerable premiums being charged by supermarkets is being fed back to producers. The bulk of the price hike is being pocketed by the stores in profits.

John McCabe, a retail pricing expert with the consultants Connector Global who has studied the Fairtrade market, said: “The supermarkets know that people do not go for the cheapest product when buying Fairtrade because they think the extra money is helping someone in the developing world.

“What they will be surprised to learn is that the lion’s share of the extra money appears in many cases to be going to the supermarkets.”

The price of Fairtrade products can be double that of the ordinary equivalents, leaving room for generous profits.

For example, under the scheme, supermarkets pay 24p extra to farmers for every kilogram of bananas on which they place a Fairtrade logo. But last week stores including Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Asda were charging a mark-up on Fairtrade bananas of between 59p and 89p. This means that Sainsbury’s — the most expensive — is making up to 65p extra on top of its normal profit.

“Much of the premium over and above the fixed price they must pay the farmers appears to be going straight into their profits,” said McCabe.

“It is a good scheme and it is helping the farmers but it is helping certain supermarkets a whole lot more.”

Waitrose appears to be the only major supermarket not to make extra profits from Fairtrade items. Its prices are higher for such products but only to reflect the extra money paid to farmers.

Sainsbury’s, in contrast, charges £2.49 for 8oz of Fairtrade coffee — 60p more than its regular premium coffee. Of the extra charged, only about 21p is thought to be paid to farmers.

Sainsbury’s and other stores are understood to be making similar gains on Fairtrade tea, chocolate and exotic fruits.

The Fairtrade scheme began as a small-scale operation, selling branded items in independent health food shops and through local churches. It now “licenses” supermarkets to use its name providing they agree to pay fixed premiums to the farmers. It does not, however, have control over the final price of the product — a loophole the supermarkets are exploiting.

Sainsbury’s already sells 1m Fairtrade bananas a week, while Tesco, which only joined the scheme earlier this year, sells more than 500,000.

Bananas are the bestselling “food line” in Britain and have recently been the subject of a fierce price war between supermarkets. Wal-Mart, the American company that owns the Asda chain, has been criticised by the prime minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines for driving down wholesale banana prices and bankrupting farmers.

Yesterday, the supermarkets declined to comment on their profit margins but pointed out that the scheme was still benefiting Third World farmers.

A spokesman for Tesco, which made more than £1 billion profit last year, said: “We are one of the biggest supporters of Fairtrade and the scheme has led to big improvements in education and health facilities in the Windward Islands.”

The supermarket chain will announce an 11p cut in the price per kilogram of Fairtrade bananas from today.

Fair trade?

Average price, £/kg:

Regular bananas: 80p

Fairtrade bananas: £1.54

Supermarket price difference* 74p

*of which just 24p is paid to third-world farmers and 50p is kept by supermarkets

posted by JD | 4:23 PM

Tuesday, July 01, 2003  

Hey Ralphy boy! Nader's thinking of running.

I can accept the argument that you should vote for positive reasons rather than negative ones - that is, vote for the ideal candidate, not the least miserable bastard who stands a chance of winning. Yeah, I can accept that argument - when following it doesn't mean helping drive your country straight into the fucking ground!

When Donkeys and Elephants are basically the same, yeah, vote for old Safety Belt. But for christ sakes, this tin-hatted Republican posse comprises the most socially reactionary and militarily radical government in our nation's history. If you vote for Nader, taking a vote away from the Democrats. And that means voting against abortion, voting against the environment, voting against the poor, voting against the middle class, and voting against global stability. All for some ego-tripping fucker and his seat belt.

posted by JD | 5:00 PM

The land that time pulled back? Over in Cali, there's a not incredibly interesting strand on whether or not America has stood still or even slipped backwards over the last 30 years. One comment did catch my eye though, by making two good points. From Demosthenes:

The problem, as others have pointed out here, is that not only are conservatives not giving up the past 30 years, they're trying to reverse the social changes of the past century, and liberals are essentially fighting a holding action to keep what they already have. What has changed is the willingness of these political warriors (especially Republicans) to redefine debates, ideologies, people, and organizations for their own purposes. Since nobody defines things similarly, the arguments simply go past each other.

(There's also the problem of a vast part of the "left" going postmodern/poststructural, giving up the very idea of progress, advocacy, truth, honest politics, good governance, equality and, well, anything other than criticizing the current system in the hope that their project of redefinition will take the place of real action. Of course, all it's really done is shown the right that the only power it really needs is power over discourse, but you try telling them that.)

posted by JD | 4:45 PM