DC diary

I’m currently in a hotel just outside Washington, DC, en route to a couple of conferences in Dallas. Watching the news here, it’s striking how obsessed Americans seem to be with the Royal Wedding. NBC had a special on it last night, while MSNBC was broadcasting live from Trafalgar Square this mornng. I can’t help wondering if they think the whole of England is still a bit like Brideshead Revisited. Speaking of transatlantic misconceptions, I ordered the ‘English Club Sandwich’ for dinner last night. It was fantastic, and not just because it followed a day of airport and plane food. But, needless to say, I’ve never seen anything like it in England. Why can’t we make decent sandwiches? We did invent them, after all. I guess socialism must be to blame somehow.

***

The Spectator is always a great read, and I’m grateful to their Easter double issue for killing a couple of hours in the air yesterday. Matthew Parris’s column, bemoaning the regulated disappearance of the incandescant lightbulb, struck a particular chord with me. Energy-saving flourescent bulbs just aren’t an adequate replacement. They cast a horrible, cold light and tend to flicker. Yet the state forces us to use them. Anyone know how I can get hold of proper light bulbs?

***

On the other hand, I was astounded by an article by William von Raab arguing that the US should “get tough – really tough – with Mexico” and advocating “the same action toward the [drug] cartels in Mexico as… towards al-Qa’eda in Afghanistan”. What planet is he living on? As I wrote a while back: “Decades of bitter experience have shown that no amount of military might can win a ‘War on Drugs’. Indeed, all such interventions actually achieve is to raise the market price of these substances, and give the cartels an even greater prize to fight over. The human cost of this failure is enormous. Surely it is time to accept that the only sensible solution is to take narcotics out of the hands of gangsters, and legalize, licence and regulate their production and sale.”

***

Finally, the Washington Post reports (hat-tip to the Wall Street Journal) that Liu Zhijun, until recently China’s railways minister, was fired after embezzling tens of millions of dollars and running up $271bn in debt. Journalist Charles Lane concludes, “Rather than demonstrating the advantages of centrally-planned long-term investment, as its foreign admirers sometimes suggested, China’s bullet-train experience shows what can go wrong when an unelected elite, influenced by corrupt opportunists, gives orders that all most follow”. I can’t help wondering whether we’ll be applying that lesson to China as a whole before too long.

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