Monday, November 29, 2004

More cheese

To follow the recent cheese post, news that cheese prices are rising on the back of Atkin's diet influenced demand. Pizza companies in particular are suffering because the cheese accounts for between 40 and 60% of production cost.
Domino's chief executive David Brandon said: "Cheese prices are up about 22 cents year against year, so we’re heading through a market that's stronger than what we would normally experience." Demand for cheese in the US rose 4.9pc in the two years to 2002 and has increased 30pc since 1993. (Telegraph)

Amazing what influence one man's whacky idea can have in the marketplace.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

UN scandal

The Sunday Times has a good report on the UN oil for food scandal.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Recipe of the week

Ginger caramelised pears, lime yoghurt

Ingredients (for 2)
3 firm pears
Fresh ginger (about an inch or two)
Greek yoghurt

Zest lime and mix with 2 tbsp sugar to taste, rubbing the mixture together to get the oils out. Mix into yoghurt. The flavour will improve if made in advance.
Make about 250ml sugar syrup (50/50) with the ginger
Peel, halve and core pears
Cook pears in syrup - they should absorb most of the syrup.
When they have absorbed most of the syrup and are nearly cooked, turn the heat up high and start to caramelise them. After a minute or so, add a few tablespoons of butter to make a sauce.

Food photo of the week

Ginger caramelised pears, lime yoghurt

Friday, November 26, 2004

The smelliest cheese in the world is...

Thursday, November 25, 2004

The not so bella figura

Despite the much-vaunted Mediterranean diet and the importance to Italians of presenting a “bella figura” (cutting a fine figure), surveys show that most Italian children are as addicted as their counterparts in other Western societies to crisps, snacks and fizzy drinks.
Sixty per cent of all Italian children under the age of eighteen are overweight, a figure which has doubled “in four or five years”, says Letizia Moratti, Minister of Education.
(The Times)
A typical Italian diet (if we ignore the big differences between the regions) is high in calories because of the reliance on cheap carbohydrates (pasta, rice, potatoes) and big portions. I have eaten meals in Italy where there are two pasta courses followed by meat and potatoes and then dessert (usually piles of pastries from the local baker) and I am constantly surprised at the portion size in restaurants. This type of diet combined with a sedentary lifestyle is bad news.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Webcam of Ukranian protest

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Welfare woes

Recently finished The Welfare State We're In by James Bartholomew and attended a talk by the author at the IEA. I was very impressed with the breadth of research, and the historical context provided for current welfare debates. If you were to complement it with The Voluntary City and Affirmative Action, you would have a very good idea of the problems of welfarism.
That said, there were a few points that sat less well:

1 - The constant reference (sometimes tacit) to a golden age of morality, sometime between 1850 - 1950. For example, it does seem to be the case that single parent households are not good places to be brought up in. Bartholomew links this to the incentive structure created by welfarism, such as the replacement of marriage and family as social support structures by state bureaucracy. I am not disputing this, but I would not dismiss modern morality so quickly. That gays, minorities, women,... have over time gained more say in society is surely a welcome trend, as is the meritocratic dilution of strict hierarchical structures (I believe Lord Bauer gave his personal history as validation of this last point - see here for more on Lord Bauer). I can see an argument that this is a continuation of the link between economic growth and a growing middle and merchant class. Indeed, the rise of the merchant class was an important component of the growth of capitalistic institutions. I would like to see examples of rich countries, with minimal welfare states (or similar to Britain pre 1945 or 1911), that have maintained the "correct" morality whilst they have undergone economic growth.
I think there is a tension between economic growth and such morality, but I would like to be proved wrong. I am not saying that free market economic growth is immoral, and whilst I accept that its relative amorality will be a problem for conservatives and modern liberals alike, I think marketplace activity promotes a type of morality which is preferable to pretty much any other, based as it is on voluntarism and the internalisation of responsibility.

2 - Bartholomew argues that democracy promotes the growth of welfarism because it enables politicians to buy votes with the promise of more benefits. I strongly agree with this point (and argued it in my thesis last year) but I would have liked to see more about how we can get around this problem. The author suggests reform can come by persuasion of the elites, from the failure of the system and from more localised democracy that discourages the growth of welfare by focusing the costs of welfaristic rent seeking. To be fair, this is probably the subject of another book, and I hope someone writes that book (or someone can recommend such a book).

3 - His argument relies on extrapolating historical trends something like this: if the state hadn't displaced private welfare post 1911, the gradient of this graph suggests that by now we would have a far better welfare system provided privately. Scientifically, this is close to conjecture, although I think as part of a larger argument, it is sound. Unfortunately, there seem to be a lack of natural experiments because most rich democracies have state welfare. It would be interesting to know how Hong Kong and Singapore have developed their welfare, if at all. He does talk about pensions in Hong Kong but it would be useful to know about their medical system (he told me in person he doesn't know about this).

4 - Last and least, I didn't like the numerous quote bubbles in the text, which is a bit too tabloid for me. But that's just me being a snob.

Monday, November 22, 2004

The cost of big government

The Telegraph reports that red tape is costing British business £7bn a year, up £1bn from last year.
The official report by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales is here.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Food photo of the week

Quince tarte fine, lime syrup

Recipe of the week

Quince tarte fine, lime syrup

Puff pastry
Poached quinces (slightly undercooked)

Preheat oven to 220C
Roll pastry out to desired thickness and cut to desired shape. Prick with fork.
Slice quinces and arrange on pastry, leaving an edge of a few mm. Rest in fridge for 15 minutes.
For the lime syrup, zest and juice lime(s), add to some of the poaching liquor. Boil hard for 3 minutes. Strain and check taste.
Bake tartes for about 20 minutes or until golden and crispy.
Whilst tartes are baking, melt jam with a tablespoon of poaching liquor and brush this over the tartes when they have finished cooking to give them a nice glaze.
Serve with lime syrup.
Would go well with vanilla ice cream or some whipped cream.

Ban fish and chips

An extremist animal rights organisation wants to ban fish and chips: Dawn Carr, the director of Peta in Europe, said: "We are not pulling any punches on this one. We don't think people should eat fish at all - and if that means they do not eat fish and chips, then so be it. People should go on a fishing boat and see the amount of suffering a fish goes through when it is caught."

Well, if "we" are going to ban hunting because it is cruel, why not fishing? Mainly because hunting has been banned because posh people do it, and fishing is unlikely to be banned because non-posh people enjoy it. If cruelty really was the reason, the argument would presumably proceed on utlitarian grounds, so factory farming would be the first to be banned, perhaps followed by fishing, then keeping birds as pets, and last and least, hunting.
That this has not happened is proof enough of the not so hidden agenda of ban supporters.

Terrorism and the media

Two articles on the use of global media by terrorists - Michael Ignatieff and in the Observer.

The perils of competition

Please support Elite Designers Against Ikea. (More here)

Saturday, November 20, 2004


The impotency of the UN continues, but that is sort of the point, isn't it?
If they don't do anything, then they can't make mistakes, and can sit back and accuse those who actually try to help people. I would rather a hidden agenda that accidentally helps people than a holier-than-thou bureaucracy that does little more than talk about helping.

As well as the shamefully under-reported corruption of the Iraq/UN oil for food programme (here, here, here), there is internal staff discord.

Here is a blog devoted to the scandal.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Anarchy Somalian style

An interesting BBC account of life in Somalia (the only country in the world without a government):

"Somalia is a pure free market," one diplomat told me.
And the central Bakara market certainly looks to be thriving. Some businesses, such as telecoms, are also doing well, with mobile phone masts and internet cafes among the few new structures in Mogadishu, a city where many buildings still bear the scars of the heavy fighting between rival militias of the early 1990s.
But is a pure free market a good thing?
Speaking from a theoretical point of view, some economists might say so, but in the very harsh reality of Mogadishu, it means guns and other military hardware are freely available in a market not far from the city centre.

Although Somalis are able to survive and some are even prospering, everyone I spoke to in Mogadishu is desperate for a return to some semblance of law and order - schools and hospitals can only follow security on the new government's to-do list.
"I just want a government, any government will do," one man told me.

The diplomat knows more about how to give a good soundbite than basic political economy. As de Soto has shown, markets are extremely inefficient in the absence of institutions such as property rights and the rule of law. There seems to be no rule of law in Somalia so it is incorrect to say there is a free market, and therefore false to infer from the Somalian situation that free markets are undesirable. Whilst Somalia does prove, unfortunately for the people living there, that anarchy is not necessarily a libertarian utopia, there are other examples of markets and other institutions working in the absence of government.
(more here)

UPDATE (21.11.04): Via Tom Palmer, a World Bank article that details where and how the private sector is providing a surprisingly good service. From the conclusion:
The achievements of the Somali private sector form a surprisingly long list. Where the private
sector has failed—the list is long here too— there is a clear role for government interventions.
But most such interventions appear to be failing. Government schools are of lower quality
than private schools. Subsidized power is being supplied not to the rural areas that need it but
to urban areas, hurting a well-functioning private industry. Road tolls are not spent on roads.
Judges seem more interested in grabbing power than in developing laws and courts.
A more productive role for government would be to build on the strengths of the private
sector. Given Somali reliance on clan and reputation, any measures allowing these mechanisms to function more broadly would be welcome; credit and land registries would be a good start. And since Somali businesses rely heavily on institutions outside the economy, international and domestic policies supporting such connections would help.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Nanny knows best

Polly Toynbee in the Guardian: The nanny state is the good state. A nanny is what every well-off family hires if it can afford it. So why do the nanny-employing Tories use the word as an insult?

Unfortunately for Polly, the analogy is false, because unlike a State, a family does not employ nannies for other families. The State, on the other hand, employs nannies for everyone, irrespective of individual needs and wants. This is a strange type of nanny.

Furthermore, her example could be taken to undermine her argument if we define the function of a nanny as satisfying the desires of parents as clients. They want a nanny to look after their children - the functions involved here are unambiguous: cooking safe food, not abandoning the child...etc. Therefore, for a nanny state to be the good state, it would have to satisfy the desires of its citizens. Or in large, heterogeneous societies, the desires of as many people as possible. The State that most clearly fulfils this function is the minimal State because whilst it is far from perfect, it attempts to satisfy no more than those desires (police, law, security...) common to pretty much everyone. Here’s what I wrote in my thesis:

The liberal State cannot be neutral between all preferences ( Tomasi), but in minimising the need for the State to take sides, its relative amorality is everybody’s second-best preference (Barnett, pp. 303 – 308).

‘Everybody probably has more to gain from a system in which his decisions would not be interfered with by the decisions of other people than he has to lose by the fact that he could not interfere in turn with other people’s decisions’ (Leoni p. 164).

Leoni's argument, powerful as I might find it, is unconvincing without empirical evidence, and for that evidence, see Thomas Sowell's latest book which proves what harm affirmative action has caused all over the world. Other similar examples here and here.
I am not saying nanny does not know best, only that the spheres in which nanny does know best, are for the most part no larger than a family, and certainly far smaller than a State with hundreds of millions of citizens.

Unhinged legislation

Why in the UK you can go to jail for failing to obtain an ID card for your pony, whilst stealing might only result in a fine.

Why the EU sucks part 7

The European Union's financial watchdog refused to sign off the Brussels budget yesterday for the tenth year in a row, finding that 93.4 per cent of spending was either unsafe or riddled with errors (Telegraph)

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Growth of farmers' markets

From the Telegraph: The phenomenon of farmers' markets – the "real food" movement that has grown from nothing in seven years – is poised to make the break into the mainstream, according to producers....According to research from Farma, households spent £1.5 million last year in Britain's 4,000 farm shops and another £120 million in farmers' markets. Around a third of people have used a farmers' market or food shop in the last 12 months.

This is interesting because it proves that the growth of nasty, evil, supermarkets does not cause the displacement or crowding out of nice farmers' markets.
Over the last seven years, both farmers' and super markets have grown considerably. However, £121,500,000 pales beside the £33,557,000,000 spent last year at Tesco alone. High growth rates are not without significance, but pretty much any growth from nothing over a seven year period is probably going to beat Tesco's rates, even if Tesco makes as much in a week or so as farmers' markets do in a year.

I hope that the farmers' markets continue to grow and improve the quality and range of produce on offer, but it will take a very long time for them to come anywhere near Tesco, and they still remain the preserve of the relatively wealthy few.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Post election depression

Democrats are apparently seeking medical help to relieve post-election blues, and thousands of people have taken to posting pictures of themselves intelligently expressing their horror that the votes of apparently less intelligent people have equal weight.

My favourite is: I'm so...LIKE...fucking sorry and stuff...for serious.

I can't wait until voting is limited to the obviously superior minority because all our problems will be solved. Islamic ideologues won't murder people who challenge their views, there will be no more crime, there will be full employment, there will be unlimited pollution free energy. WOW.
Why haven't we ringfenced voting by IQ before? Instead of limiting political participation by race, sex, or property for the last 2000+ years, we should have been doing it by intellectual and rhetorical criteria. The world would have been a better place.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Food photo of the week

Lime and chilli dip (recipe below)

Recipe of the week

Lime and chilli dip

Ingredients - approximate
1 lime (juice + finely chopped zest)
3 large thai red chillis (finely chopped)
3/4 tbsp white sugar
150ml white vinegar (rice, wine...)
50 - 100ml water

Put all ingredients in a pot, + bring to a boil.
Boil on medium / high until the mixture has reduced and become sticky. Adjust sweetness/sourness as required.

Use as a dip for crispy, deep fried things, or let down with a little water for a quick sauce.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Independent food special

Today's Independent food special is online (although I don't know for how long), which saves you wasting your money on the rest of the paper. Articles on Giorgio Locatelli, posh party catering, Tom Aikens and recipes by Mark Hix, inter alia.

In the main bit is an article on the new trend of so called 'molecular gastronomy'. It is quite informative, mentioning Harold McGee, but there seems to be definitional problems arising as to what constitutes this new trend. Heston Blumenthal of the Fat Duck is quoted: In fact, molecular cooking is not about unusual combinations or difficult dishes, it's about chemical and physical combinations.

I am a bit puzzled by this - cooking is all about science (how to make custard, mayonnaise...) so there is nothing new here except it has become more explicit. There are of course novel techniques but the main buzz about this style is the unusual flavour combinations (white onion risotto with parmesan air and espresso for example) but again, this is a continuation of a general trend. The combination of flavours is based on science - on how and why certain flavours do and don't taste nice. In this sense, as long as something tastes nice, it shouldn't be seen as mad. From a scientific point of view, I don't think there is any reason why vanilla and not thyme is the default ice-cream flavour. They work equally well in my opinion - it is more a tradition that favours one over the other.
It is little coincidence that certain flavour combinations are so popular (tomato + basil / chocolate + orange) and the new "wacky" flavours are but extensions of underlying scientific principles.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Debunking environmentalism

Prof Philip Stott is back with a bang: Paradoxically, where 'global warming' is concerned, it is the liberal European elite left that is 'evangelical' and 'fundamentalist', not much-abused Middle America. LEELs are desperate for 'global warming' to be 'true'.
Moreover, ‘global warming’ has been turned into the number one evil of the world by Sir David King and his like, terrorism notwithstanding. It is seen as the ultimate product of the Mordor of the present age, George W. Bush starring as Sauron, ‘Lord of the Rings’, with his genetically-modified orcs and spouting smokestack industries. It is the inevitable outcome of a Faustian pact with the devils of capitalism, industrial growth, and profit. It is Christ tempted down from the High Places to the ruin of the modern world. It is the ‘Shire’ of Europe pitted against all the metal, mills and miasmas of Erin Brockovitch's America. It is Harry Potter versus the Voldemort of greed and gas-guzzling.
Dangerously, we have allowed this myth-making to lead to the authoritarian, but totally impractical, Kyoto Protocol, to the foolish assumption that we can create a stable, ‘sustainable’, unchanging climate (an oxymoron of the First Class), and to the viewpoint that climate change must be ‘bad’ for everybody. Sadly, there are going to be some extremely disappointed people. The Kyoto Protocol is a scientific and economic nonsense that will cost the world dear in economic terms while doing absolutely nothing the stop an ever-changing climate.

Prof Stott's Tropical Rain Forest is one of the best books I have read on the fallacies of environmentalism, and interestingly, a productive employment of post-modernist deconstructionist method (or whatever you call it).

Inter think tank rivalry?

John Blundell, boss of the IEA, responds to a Guardian piece that insinuated, inter alia, that the Adam Smith Institute is less a think tank and more a political lobbyist.

In my opinion, you might compare the IEA to the FEE and less so to Cato, and the ASI to The AEI Brookings Center.

The ASI and IEA both produce publications by experts on topical issues, but the ASI seems to have a more policy orientated output. Nothing wrong with that, and plenty to commend, but receiving government money is dodgy for a free-market think tank. However, if the government is going to enlist the private sector, they might as well get the right people, so why not the ASI. De Soto does good work with governments, and I think the Global Prosperity Initiative at Mercatus has received government money.

Although John Blundell notes the independence of the IEA, not long ago, the Institute (and the CPS) was not such a stranger to power as Margaret Thatcher used to take bags of IEA books home to read at the weekends, and returned with heavily marked copies, and numerous questions.

To roll out a cliche, it is a sign of our times that, judging by his policies, Blair is perhaps more likely than Howard to have read the IEA's publications.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Socialised medical care

From the Telegraph, why the establishment of the NHS may have been unnecessary: Healthcare in Britain was very substantial and impressive prior to 1948. Even the Labour Party pamphlet, which recommended a "National Service for Health" in 1943, could find little to criticise. There is mention of only one waiting list, for "rheumatic diseases". That implies that there were no waiting lists for all the other specialties and no waiting lists to see consultants. There was no mention of any shortage of doctors (which is so chronic now) or, indeed, of nurses. There was no complaint either, about the quality of care.
Why, then, was this system thrown out, to be replaced by a socialist model? Because, said the pamphlet, a good medical service should be "planned as a whole".
It is certainly true that pre-NHS medical care was not "planned as a whole". On the other hand, it worked.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

French food problems

According to the Telegraph, the French may be sacrificing gastronomic excellence for convenience: Figures from the food companies and the French National Economic Statistics Institute, INSEE, confirm this. They all say that the French, unable to escape the globalisation wave, are dropping grandmother's apron in favour of an easy life in the kitchen. Even if the French take the trouble to cook, they will often use processed ingredients, such as canned sauce, prepared meat and vegetables and industrial cheese.
"The way French people eat today is quite appalling; it's all ready-made, straight into the microwave," says French-born Eric Chavot, Michelin-starred chef at the
Capital restaurant in London. "I'm shocked every time I go back to France - they don't cook any more."

The article quotes people on both sides, variously saying things are and aren't getting worse, but this quote is the most interesting: French restaurateurs, who work in a highly competitive environment, say they are under constant pressure to squeeze costs, due to the 35-hour working week and high taxes. For them, it becomes cheaper to use "cooking helps" (as those products are called) [bought in prepared food] than to employ more staff to do the ground work. "In terms of restaurant business, we feel totally paralysed in France," one restaurant owner says.

I don't know how French restaurants get around the 35 hr week. At the restaurant I used to work in, roughly 1/2 AA Rosette standard food, I would sometimes exceed 35 hours in three days. And as for top Michelin starred establishments, you might exceed 35 hours in two days. They might employ more staff to do the same amount of work, but this runs into training and continuity problems. Perhaps the staff "volunteer" to work overtime and are paid extra for their official hours. Or perhaps restaurants have an opt out from the law.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Last word on Michael Moore

Michael Moore finally comes out and says what lots of self-appointed important people have been saying sotto voce: You have to feel sorry for the millions of Yanks in the big cities like New York, Washington, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco who voted to kick him out. These are the sophisticated side of the electorate who recognise a gibbon when they see one. As for the ones who put him in, across the Bible Belt and the South, us outsiders can only feel pity.

I don't think Moore has gone as far as the idiots who compare Bush to Hitler (Bushitler...etc), some of whom are even employed by newspapers (see the Guardian's psychologist Oliver James), but I do think that he has no respect for democratic pluralism. I admire him as a brilliant self publicist who has developed a movement completely empty of substance, but he has gone too far.
Some of the electorate are no doubt stupid and poorly informed - does it follow that they should not be allowed to vote? What is the endpoint for Moore? He is creating a picture of the US as a country divided between the stupid and intelligent. What is he trying to achieve? Obviously he is attempting to undermine Bush and cheapen his victory. But this makes me worry about what he would do if he had political power.
I just hope someone is recording the slandering of Republicans going on because come 2008, Karl Rove will have a very easy job - he just has to remind the majority what the minority thinks of them.

For men only

From the Times, academics analyse how men compete for the fairer sex.

Tip to the ladies: go for the quiet ones - they may have evolved to a higher level and moved beyond the crude simian stage.

Recipe of the week

Pasta with broccoli. Very simple + fairly healthy one pot meal, but timing is important.

Ingredients (for 2)
200/300 g pasta (any type of shells)
1 medium head broccoli, cut into florets only a bit bigger than the pasta shapes
1 clove garlic, 1 dried red chilli - finely chopped
half glass white wine
150ml double cream

Cook pasta.
With 3/4 minutes of cooking time left, add broccoli to pasta pot.
Drain pasta + broccoli, saving 1 cup of the water
Put pot straight back on high heat, fry garlic + chilli in lots of butter.
Add wine + boil. Add cream + boil for 30 seconds.
Return pasta to pot + mix. Break up some of the broccoli to make a green sauce. Add pasta cooking water if too dry + check for seasoning.
Serve with lots of parmesan cheese.

Food photo of the week

Home made mince pies

Saturday, November 06, 2004


The Times on an extraordinary year for democracy in which more people [> 1.1 bn] went to the polls around the world than ever. (graphic here)

The limits of multiculturalism

The murder of Theo van Gogh is indicative of a problem with consequences further afield than Holland. Peaktalk has a translation of the murder note on the body (I don't know if this is genuine) and links to other articles.
Freedom of speech is vital to a free society but free action is not. There are limits, and if you cannot respect these limits you ought to be removed from society.
Whether it is a thief who ends up in prison or a fundamentalist who seeks to forcefully convert society to his ideology and ends up deported or in prison, the benefits of a free society are conditional on adherence to the values of that society.
A political ideology that trumps the coherence of a free society with unthinking pluralistic respect and deference is dangerous.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Michael Moore responds

Moore has begun his recovery from public humiliation. On his site he lists 17 reasons not to get too depressed following the election, not all of them serious, most of them as dishonest as his films.
#17 Finally and most importantly, over 55 million Americans voted for the candidate dubbed "The #1 Liberal in the Senate." That's more than the total number of voters who voted for either Reagan, Bush I, Clinton or Gore. Again, more people voted for Kerry than Reagan.

I presume this is true, but like his films, it leaves out the more important fact - more people voted for Bush than voted for Kerry.
Apropos my last post, Moore and his ilk cannot get their heads around the fact that they lost, fair and square. They continue to blame their defeat on stupid white middle American voters or focus on spurious claims of division to cover up their own inadequacies. They played the personality card and found that it was their own pompous liberalism that more people disliked.

Moore continues with a list of all the servicemen killed in action and their faces merged with Bush's. No doubt this is effective propaganda. I have family serving in Iraq, so I am not unsympathetic here, but there is no draft. Bush did not force these men and women to go to Iraq. They joined the army voluntarily and a career in the army is not a safe option. It is completely duplicitous for Moore to directly link grieving families with Bush (or any politician) as he does here and so shamefully in his last film.
I can’t say I am surprised that Moore has not conceded gracefully, given the huge hole he dug for himself, but if there is such a dreadful division in America, Moore is as much to blame as Bush. His "I am but a humble servant of the people" charade is belied by a lack of humility and decency.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

US election fallout

On balance, I am pleased Bush won, although I will admit that most of this satisfaction is derived from the suffering of the pompous, elitist left-liberal media elite here and in the US.

All I can say to Michael Moore, is that you are in the minority. How pompous to base most of your campaign for Kerry on the cry "Let's take our country back", assuming that he and his supporters were not only numerically superior, but also on the side of the angels. The latter assertion is unverifiable, but the former has been well and truly falsified. I look forward to his reaction, beyond the infantile picture on his website.
Similarly, the Guardian's Letters to Clark County has left that paper humiliated. It would have been far easier to accept defeat if they had campaigned on policy issues instead of personality.

As to reaction elsewhere, the majority of the liberal media and elitists have focused on "how to unite a divided America".
Robin Cook is quoted in the Times: I'm not sure whether the Bush team have got the skills to heal a divided America. Not only do we have a divided America but also a president who is highly polarising...
Stephen Pollard comments on other media reaction, including the BBC's continuation of the theme that because the country is so divided, Bush's mandate is to unite it.

The focus on a divided country is understandable to some degree because the anti-Bush crowd obviously had a very strong anti-Bush preference, but the strength of your preference is democratically irrelevant. (I think is one of the many weaknesses of democracy, but this is a discussion for another time)
Furthermore, by definition, post-election, America was always going to be divided, unless 100% voted for one candidate. Why would the US have been less divided if Kerry had won with the same figures? To some in the media, there is an underlying view that Kerry was the correct choice, and therefore the result must be explained away by inferring that Bush supporters are wrong or misinformed...

This view turns on whether you see democracy as a procedural or substantive process.
Most of the liberal elite saw it this time as a search for substantive legitimacy - ie: Kerry was the right choice and the electorate should have done the right thing by electing him. Therefore, the electorate made the wrong choice by electing Bush and Bush must try to placate the minority. This reasoning leads to front page headlines such as the Mirror's: How can 59,054,087 people be so dumb? Now if this is democracy, why not have a panel of experts run the country along the right lines? Or, better still, why not just let the non-dumb people vote?

That such views should feel repellent suggests there is an alternative, and more accurate view of democracy, as a procedural decision making process. It does not necessarily result in the correct policies (and I agree with those who argue that is mitigates against economically efficient policies - here and here) - instead it is a simple way for people to make a decision and to avoid costly unanimous decision making procedures. On this account, provided the election was fair and free (procedurally legitimate), which it seems to have been this time, there is little else to say.

To argue that substantive legitimacy somehow trumps procedural legitimacy is to argue against pretty much everything democracy stands for. It is to applaud the system when your guy wins, and cry foul when he loses. In short, it is cheating.

If all else fails, there is the Harold Pinter level of criticism: It's a black day for the world (Guardian).

UPDATE: round-up of left wing blog reaction at Instapundit.

Times global list of 50 top universities

Review of Butlers Wharf Chop House

Dinner for 3 at the bar (2 courses each, 1 bottle wine, side of chips, bread + water free) = about £50.
We ate off the set bar menu where 2/3 courses cost £9/11.
Morris gold black pudding, roasted apples and Celery & Stilton soup to start were good.
Mains of Beef stew, horseradish dumplings and a leek and mushroom pie were similarly good. The beef stew portion size was huge, so much so that I could't manage a dessert, which is very unusual. The chips on the side were of the proper, hand cut variety.
The free bread was excellent (from the same bakery that does all of Conran's restaurants in the complex) and the wine was English white (Bibbendum Ortega 2003 - medium dry + very fruity). Professional service.

All in all, excellent. And best of all, you have a ringside view of Tower Bridge, which opened as we were eating. Here is a photo of the view outside the restaurant.

If the prices were twice as high I would moan that the apples which came with the black pudding were too sweet, the less than crisp nature of the chips, possible overseasoning of the stew, the slight dryness of the dumplings and the intolerable heat of the room.
But, given you can have a very good meal for less than £15 a head with such a beautiful view of Tower Bridge, I can't really. I will definitely go back.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Pickle problems

A factory fire has lead to a shortage of Branston pickle, apparently. Not surprisingly, people are trying to cash in on E-Bay.

From the Telegraph: Sellers are cashing in on a predicted shortage of Branston Pickle as its maker warned of panic buying after a fire at the factory. Premier Foods said it only had enough stock to cover about two weeks of sales after a fire at its Bury St Edmunds factory last week. Jars of Branston Pickle were selling for as much as £16 on online auction site Ebay last night.

My brief search of E-Bay revealed that a large number of sellers had brought the price down from £16.

The Fat Duck

Heston Blumenthal, 3* Michelin chef, has won State funding for a culinary laboratory and research program at his restaurant. From the Telegraph:
Blumenthal, a self-taught chef, has been given money to take on a full-time PhD student to study "molecular gastronomy" and to help to create even more novel meals.
It will also allow him to convert an annexe into a laboratory complete with a "multi-sensory tasting room", to study the effects of sound, texture and vision on how food tastes.

Here's more on molecular gastronomy. I am all for this particular evolution of cooking, but I would rather it were done without the State's help. Blumenthal has a restaurant to run, and presumably this lab is going to improve the flavour of his dishes, and create new ones for him. This, and the associated publicity will probably increase custom, which seems a little unfair to his competitors, although, in the UK, there are only a few that do this type of cooking (such as L'Enclume, The Vineyard, and Anthony's).

Monday, November 01, 2004

Bin Laden the Federalist?

Jim Lingren at Volokh on the possibility that Bin Laden attempted to swing State votes in his latest video message - perhaps influenced by the success of the Spanish attacks in changing the course of the election.
Note the link to Michael Moore, not all of which I agree with. Moore famously suggested that the 9/11 murderers would have been better off attacking different cities/states, instead of those that are predominantly Democrat, so Bin Laden's message could be interpreted as a continuation of this theme. But there is enough to undermine Moore without going down this road.