One blogger’s personal bridge to nowhere

Anglo-American nuclear cooperation

Turns out the idea of putting Pakistan’s nuclear weapons up on the auction block may not have been that far-fetched after all.  If Britain can do it, why not Pakistan?


December 22, 2008 Posted by | Brittania, India/Pakistan | , , | Leave a comment

Stupid article of the day

Right here.

As far as I could suffer it, it basically amounts to this: Britain is cowardly for leaving Iraq; George Bush is a hero for sticking to “victory” in Iraq; Britain failed because it tied itself too obsequiously to America; Britain failed because it was not enough like America; Brits are cowardly, weak, and lack moral fibre; and if Britain couldn’t stick it out in Iraq, it doesn’t deserve nuclear weapons.

Real Brits not only would have kept fighting to the bitter end in Iraq; they would have used their nuclear weapons to make the bitter end in Iraq.

December 21, 2008 Posted by | Brittania, Iraq | Leave a comment

Britain’s parliamentary circus

I — unlike, I’m sure, every other politically well-informed American — had never previously watched an episode a session (oops, I guess I’ve used that one already) of British parliament before.  Flash Gordon Brown’s “save the world” quip tempted me too much to resist, though.  The actual gaffe is not that noticeable; what is most ridiculous is the scene of the parliamentarians behind him hooting and waving newspapers up and down.

I can only assume that every session goes just about like this.

UPDATE: At least Brown didn’t get a shoe thrown at him.

December 12, 2008 Posted by | Brittania | , | Leave a comment

Pub bailout

The Guardian knows what England is all about.

english-pubIt is perhaps too much to expect a government pub strategy, to complement the burgeoning policies for all the other troubled sectors. But as well as providing much-needed local employment, pubs are part of our heritage and an essential part of the vibrancy of life. Politicians don’t often have an opportunity to increase or preserve happiness. They will ignore the plight of pubs at their peril.

Oh contraire On the contrary, my good British friends. Instead of cutting back happy hours (what could more obviously decrease happiness?), the British government should invest some more pounds in pubs. More happy hours = more spending = more happiness. A simple economic equation.

(image from flickr user nicasaurusrex under a Creative Commons license)

December 11, 2008 Posted by | Brittania | | Leave a comment

Brewing bitterness

A look inside a German barracks

A look inside a German barracks

Reporting findings that German troops in northern Afghanistan drank 1.7 million pints of beer and 90,000 bottles of wine on the wall, London’s Daily Mail bitterly declares that “German soldiers are ‘too fat to fight’ Taliban because they drink so much (while our boys go dry).”

The New Atlanticist‘s James Joyner, speaking from experience, says that that’s bunk, and that if German soldiers are huffing and puffing, it’s because they need to work off the “beer and sausages” with a little more exercise.

While it’s been quite some time since I last wore a uniform, I can attest that the 0.77 liter daily average beer consumpton — or even the full liter per day that the soldiers are authorized — would not have been considered inordinate.  Or, at least, not inordinately high.  And we adhered to rigorous physical training and weight monitoring standards, with expulsion from the Army mandatory for those not meeting standards. To the extent that Bundeswehr soldiers in Afghanistan are out of shape, then, it’s a function of lack of PT rather than having a couple pints of beer.

(Or they could just take one of these fantasy pills.)

Clearly, it seems the Brits are just upset that they might not be able to get good happy hour specials at home for too much longer.  If the Russians can make do without find cheap and dangerous substitutes to vodka, then the Brits can too.

(image — not actually a German barracks — from flickr user ifranz under a Creative Commons license)

December 5, 2008 Posted by | Brittania, Russia | , , , , | 1 Comment

Please remove your liquid shoe bombs

Gideon Rachman has had enough of inconsistent airport security measures.

The Americans are shoe-fetishists. It is impossible to go through an American airport without being asked to take off your shoes. The British go through shoe phases – but are permanently obsessed with liquids. So at Heathrow, sometimes they ask to x-ray your shoes, and sometimes not. But they always want to take a look at your toothpaste and deoderant…

There is little easier to mock than seemingly arcane airport regulations, and also little easier to get annoyed at.  The solution to the latter is generally to simply smile, walk through the metal detector, and subject yourself to the system’s arbitrariness.  Given all that Jeffrey Goldberg was able to carry through security, though, there clearly is something wrong with our airport detection methods.

Rachman correctly identifies the root of this silliness, but I am not entirely sold on his proposed solution.

First, there is a distinct stable-door aspect. It seems unlikely that the same methods will be tried twice, although I suppose you can’t risk it. Second, since airline travel is international – perhaps the various regulators could put their heads together and standardise what they are looking for. Then, at least, one could go through security on autopilot.

The bomb-free airport shoe?

The conveniently bomb-free airport shoe?

En bref, someone puts a bomb in their shoe, we start searching for shoe bombs.  Someone makes a bomb out of toothpaste, we start searching for toothpaste bombs.  Et cetera.  This is a disturbingly ex post facto arrangement, and one that does little to anticipate new threats.

That said, I’m not sure I want to be able to go through security entirely “on autopilot.”  Presumably, this would mean that not only could grumpy but ultimately undangerous passengers like Rachman go through security relatively painlessly, but that actual terrorists would also know what to suspect.  If the failure of airport security policies is that they are not predictive, then I don’t think the solution is to make them more predictable.

(image from flickr user zen under a Creative Commons license)

November 13, 2008 Posted by | Brittania | | Leave a comment

Happy criminal hours


A group of MPs has called for a ban on cheap drink promotions in bars and pubs. They claim the ban would reduce drunken misdemeanors, as police forces are currently diverting significant resources into alcohol-related crime.

This is Prohibition-esque folly at its worst.  Happy hour specials are responsible for crime about as much as a sale on shoes is responsible for jaywalking.  Memo to MPs from a far more puritanical country: let honest pub-going Brits stay happy and keep drinking their pints.

(image from flickr user Bejan under a Creative Commons license)

November 10, 2008 Posted by | Brittania | 2 Comments

Institutions are institutions are institutions

I have very little familiarity with racism in British society or politics, but I have a difficult time believing the contention of the head of the UK’s “equality watchdog” that conditions in the Isles are so distinct that a “British Barack Obama” would be impossible.

“The parties and unions and think-tanks are all very happy to sign up to the general idea of advancing the cause of minorities but in practice they would like somebody else to do the business. It’s institutional racism,” he told the Times.

It seems that this is articulating precisely the problem that minority candidates face in the United States and, probably, every culture in the world.  Overt racism by individuals is simply not as great a barrier in organized politics as is a more subtle, but pervasive and at times structurally well-entrenched, sociological form of racism.  A party boss will not expressly reject a candidate because s/he is black, but, in numerous studies, managers looking at paper applications with equal qualifications tend to hire applicants with “white”-sounding names, rather than those more commonly associated with African-Americans or other minorities.

The relevant variable here is not the specific nature of different institutions, but the institutional nature of the phenomenon.  Therefore, it wouldn’t matter much that the internal dynamics of the British Labour Party differ from those of the American Democratic Party, for both are similar enough in their composition qua institutions that the same sociological tendency toward racism would apply.

Guardian readers seem to agree.

November 8, 2008 Posted by | Brittania, U.S. politics | , | Leave a comment

Headline of the day

Is this just some sort of Scottish British expression with which I am not familiar?

“Barack could teach Brown to say boo to the goose”

November 8, 2008 Posted by | Brittania | Leave a comment