in which a secret is revealed

If you’re prepared for the taste sensation of your sweet, young lives, today I shall deliver it to you, like a tiny robot with a silver tray, your small mechanical servant.

Perfection does not come easily or without toil. It is the culmination of years of scientific testing and refinement, asymptotically approaching that which refreshes most completely and delights the palate unerringly.

If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants, and the Giants of this beverage, nay liquid banquet, take the mortal forms of deb and shaver, who laboured and suffered beside me those long years, testing and improving with each tortuous iteration. To them I give thanks, indeed, we all must give thanks.

THE AUTHORITATIVE BLOODY CAESAR

small lime wedge; about 1/8th
celery salt to coat
vodka
Worcestershire sauce
Tabasco
celery salt
ground pepper
grated fresh horseradish
tomato-clam juice
pickled green bean or asparagus

Wet the rim of a glass — these ratios are for the traditional pint glass serving size — with the lime wedge. Dunk the rim in celery salt to coat.

For those of you already skipping this critical instruction, listen carefully: each step and every ingredient is important. Do not treat this with the same disdain for order and slipshod craftsmanship that you apply to the rest of your life. Do not trifle with your destiny.

If you like ice, add it now; cubes, never crushed. Squeeze the rest of the lime wedge into the glass and toss the spent wedge in.

For a pint-glass caesar, add one shot of vodka, 45-50ml. You’re old enough to decide for yourself, but this is serious refreshment for serious people. Pay no heed to the Government of Australia: a single shot is not, nor has it ever been, 30 ml, and it’s an insult to the nation to assert otherwise. shaver informs me that certain flavoured vodkas, such as lime or pepper, constitute a permitted substitution, but do not materially move the needle.

Add 5 splashes of Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce, being careful not to substitute an inferior product. This libation requires a sauce certified and produced by appointment to Her Majesty Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and Her other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith.

Add 5 splashes of original red Tabasco. Do not add it “to taste”. This is what you’ll taste, and you’ll like it.

1/2 tsp celery salt and five healthy turns of a pepper grinder are now required.

If you enjoy your caesar in the style of Big Daddy’s oyster bar, and you do if you know what’s good for you, grate a teaspoon or so of fresh horseradish into the glass. This is the one regard in which you may deviate from the ordained scripture before you.

Top the glass off with Clamato, or your favourite tomato-clam cocktail mixture. Let it be known that clam juice is essential. Without clam juice, you’re just making the best bloody mary in the hemisphere. A respectable concoction, but not one to be mentioned in the same reverent tones as the elixir that you will soon hold in your trembling hands, palsied with anticipation.

Finally, and without exaggeration, the unifying element so often overlooked in centuries of mixology: a single pickled green bean or asparagus spear. This is an area in which shaver is more willing to compromise than I, but when it comes to the authentic experience, celery is not a substitute. If you put a celery stalk in that glass and say it’s your best effort, you insult not only me, and of course yourself, but the very fabric of society. You are committing an offense against nature, and there is no place for you on this Earth.

shaver asserts that by your ninth or tenth pint, celery provides a welcome contrast in texture and a refreshing cleanse to the palate. I am in no position to contradict, and I will concede that although the one true recipe has no room for this weak cousin of the vegetable kingdom, celery may be permitted in subsequent efforts subject to the conditions that it be trimmed, clean, and impeccably fresh.

To return to the critical matter at hand, because of its singular importance I can say with some certainty that you will not have an acceptable brined legume on hand, and will not able to acquire ready-made one of sufficient quality through any means, licit or otherwise. You must therefore prepare your own.

When you have obtained your pickled spear, stir very well and sip carefully, then with great enthusiasm, and finally respectable restraint. Practice until you can make ten or fifteen of unerring consistency in a long afternoon’s session. Question your life to this point, and how you can now make the most of your remaining time.

PICKLED BEANS / ASPARAGUS

a pint of green beans or asparagus
1 cup vinegars
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp ground mustard or crushed mustard seeds
2 tsp crushed red pepper
2 crushed garlic cloves

Trim the vegetables as usual. If you’re using asparagus, thinner stalks are better.

Simmer until just cooked, about 4 minutes for green beans. Beans should still have crunch, and asparagus must not droop. Drain, then directly into an ice water bath.

Bring the remaining ingredients to a boil, stirring occasionally, then let cool. For my vinegars, I like to use 1/3 red wine, 1/3 white wine, and 1/3 cider.

Fill the jar 1/3 of the way with the brine and garlic, then pack it with your vegetable of choice. Asparagus tips up for safety. If the rest of the liquid doesn’t quite cover, top it up with vinegars. If you’re going to can them for real, remember to leave headspace.

If you want to properly process the jars in boiling water, a topic outside the scope of this singularly driven and focused memorandum, they will keep for a very long time.

Otherwise, refrigerate and allow them to embark on their private journey to Flavour Towne for at least a week before using. They’ll probably keep for 2-4 more after that; you’re on your own there.

Comments (2)

I wish that I were as happy as others appear to be

The Hope is very contagious, no? Everyone, including me, wants to be optimistic, particularly during such uncertainty, and particularly after the last eight (twenty? fifty?) years.

But the nearly religious exuberance covered in the media, and to a lesser degree among friends, is sickly sweet, cloying. It’s almost painful to watch, and I almost feed bad calling it out.

He deserves a chance to deliver, and he will, no doubt, execute on some high-profile promises, like the closing of Gitmo, and ending our shameful policy of torture. These are important, and I salute him.

On the other hand, he will probably also be given a free pass, for a long time, on equally serious issues where there is the merest illusion of Change, or indeed none at all. A pass that another administration would never receive.

Remember, despite everyone’s attempts to complicate the issue, spending a trillion dollars isn’t actually the goal; the goal is a strong economy. I hope that America doesn’t throw a party next week when we embark on the former, to the detriment of the latter.

When the Senate confirms Obama’s Drug Czar to continue policies that destroy lives, waste money, and trample liberties, I hope people acknowledge that the behemoth of government rarely changes course without sustained pressure beyond one man and a single election.

When we withdraw from Iraq, yet leave thirty, fifty, seventy thousand troops indefinitely, I hope the protests continue as they would have under a Bush administration.

As we continue to spend unsustainable, unconscionable amounts on global empire, even as our economy crumbles, I hope people seriously question their blind trust in government to do the right thing when it doesn’t even sink the easy buckets.

For those satisfied to welcome anyone but Bush into government’s highest office, yesterday was a celebration for the ages. For those who seek peace, freedom, and sound fiscal policy, it still feels like a wake.

Comments (1)

re: mathematically impossible

Thanks, George!

While Spitzer and I agree that if the money is going to be spent we might as well spend it on smart things, I don’t agree with the premise that it must be spent, or that spending it will in some way help America.

The core point is that a single large investment (e.g. the trillion dollars that apparently so frightens you) can so completely transform certain conditions that it has a much greater effect than the same wealth invested piecemeal

Except that it can’t, for two reasons.

First, even $1 trillion is a drop in the bucket. It may be only 7.5% of GDP, as Spitzer points out, but it’s nothing compared to the effects of the deflationary credit destruction we’re experiencing. The credit bubble of the last eight years was massive in scale, and its unwinding will be massively destructive.

American households alone lost almost ten trillion dollars in paper wealth in 2008. That’s 75% of GDP, with a lot more to come in 2009. Government can’t even come close to replacing that, and consumers were 75% of the economy.

Second, government doesn’t create jobs or wealth, it only moves it around. At the very best, stimulus just shifts demand forward, to buy things today that we would otherwise buy next year. (What do you do next year?)

But even that implies that economic central planning works, which we know is false. In reality, it creates malinvestment on an epic scale, building things we don’t want or need (at a much higher cost). And doing it entirely with debt, guaranteeing that we continue paying forever for that which we don’t need in the first place.

To use your example: what, exactly, would a trillion dollar high-speed rail network get us? The fastest and most expensive empty trains in the world, I predict, at the expense of redirecting $1 trillion from the productive economy into what can only be called a boondoggle.

As for comparing the US economy to Japan’s, I think there are some key differences. Zero percent interest rates in Japan, for instance.

We’re already at zero, and have effectively been at (sometimes below) zero for more than a month.

Even worse, from the perspective of people who want banks to lend — of whom I am not one, to be clear — is that ZIRP is entirely counterproductive to that effort. The Fed has made it clear that they’ll loan money to anyone, and this is crowding out private lending.

What bank would be insane enough to lend at near-zero interest rates, given the current economic climate? Interest rates should be rising, not falling. When faced with the choice between making a high-risk loan at insanely low interest rates or hoarding cash (indeed, getting an absurd guaranteed return from the taxpayer, courtesy of the Fed), banks are wisely choosing not to lend.

The only major difference that comes to me at the moment is that the US dollar’s continuing status as the world’s reserve currency saves us from the idiocy of having our central bank trying to intervene in the currency markets.

As for whether governments are more powerful than markets, I think this depends — what was WWII? But it’s a vacuous point for Newsweek to make, agreed.

You’re right that WW2 pulled us out of the Great Depression, and not, as is so frequently and bafflingly claimed, the New Deal.

But WW2 didn’t create wealth any more than the Iraq war is creating wealth; it was destructive on an almost inconceivable scale. It was possible because of national fervor and sacrifice: productivity and savings shot up, as did the national debt. Even so, it’s hard to call war anything but malinvestment, and American households are in no position to finance our government the way they were in the 1930s and 40s. They’re totally tapped out.

But why worry? None of this economy shit matters much unless you were planning on getting rich quick, delaying all your *actual* dreams until that moment when you could stop worrying about making money

I’m not especially worried for myself; there are opportunities in any market. If you keep your powder dry, there will no doubt be incredible deals to be had (though I don’t think the market is anywhere near cheap today, despite the bleating of the talking heads on CNBC). If you’re not in debt, and you’re holding cash, you’ll be in an excellent position once the government gets out of the way and lets the market correct.

Nonetheless, I see U6 unemployment, with or without Obama’s stimulus, reaching 17-20% in the next 18 months; housing continuing to crater at least well into 2010; another 30-40% drop in the Dow and the S&P 500; a massive shift from consumer spending to saving, debt service, and bankruptcy.

Are those bread-lines-and-riots numbers? I don’t know. They might be. I think if the average citizen had any concept of the enormity of the swindle being executed by the US government, Washington would already be ablaze. I expect Obama will continue to get away with it on account of his hope.

In our lifetimes, barring a policy shift of such a magnitude as to be almost unimaginable, I don’t see how the math permits the United States to avoid defaulting on its debt. I don’t think you want to be there when that happens.

Comments

mathematically impossible

As we careen wildly toward January 20 and a virtual guarantee to waste another trillion dollars, I can’t help but be disappointed (though hardly surprised) by how inevitable it feels.

Japan already tried this, of course, and as a result they’re wrapping up their second lost decade of productivity, with a debt to GDP ratio of almost 200%. If you’re too bored by the topic to understand why “stimulus” packages have not and can not possibly work — why it is mathematically impossible in the long run — feast your eyes:

Nikkei 1990-2009

That’s twenty years of Japanese decline, plowing new 25+ year lows with each passing month. Despite borrowing an amount equivalent to 100% of GDP trying to spend their way out of it. Money into a black hole.

For those who want to understand, I highly recommend Mish. Every day. He’s not high-volume, and he writes extremely well.

Naturally, he has made his own comparisons regarding Japan’s epic failure and our looming emulation thereof.

Last week he referenced a piece in Newsweek — I won’t even link to it, for fear of the liability to which I might expose myself if you were to read it and suffer a precipitous drop in IQ — but one bit cannot be resisted (emphasis mine):

As bad as it looks, the current financial crisis will end. I don’t know when or how, but the combination of government interventions will eventually work. Why do I say this? Because governments are more powerful than markets.

Quite apart from being one of the dumbest things that I imagine Newsweek has ever regretted printing, it is an apt opening for one of my favourite founding-father quotes:

Government is not reason, it is not eloquence, it is force; like fire, a troublesome servant and a fearful master. Never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action.

Who else? The G-man.

Update: the words were barely out of my mouth! Now it’s a trillion per year?

Comments (2)

zero improvement in two years, I assure you

Comments (1)

there are no easy buckets in this court

I think a lot of people, not unreasonably, believe that the United States Supreme Court has a monopoly on idiotic and tortured legal reasoning, in which the law is merely a complex sudoku en route to their predetermined conclusion.

Last week, however, it was Australia that was blazing new and extremely dubious legal trails in ruling that officers of the court may serve binding court notices via your Facebook wall.

This follows on the heels of the New South Wales high court ruling that cartoon drawings are people, too.

It makes me feel right at home.

Comments (1)

same old same old

I’ve been catching a lot of flack for not having written anything about the election. I am a busy man, so I have prepared five hundred words of Christmas cheer for you in near sound-bite form.

I gather that Obama won, but I don’t particularly care. I preferred him over McCain by the slimmest of margins: he’s a better orator (he’s so articulate!) and inasmuch as I care about international opinion, which is rather little, he is likely to improve it. The Republicans got the thrashing they deserved; as a party, they haven’t acted like Republicans for at least two decades. Not that either is acting in any way even approximating the national interest.

When it comes to actual policy about issues that matter, however, I don’t expect we’ll be able to distinguish Obama from McCain, or indeed Bush, even with the aid of powerful microscopes. It is going to be a pretty rough year for the Obamaphiles, I predict, joy turning to ashes in their mouths, jaws slack with naïve incredulity.

Indeed, we don’t even need to wait for the inauguration. In naming Geithner and Summers as economic leaders he’s placed the very same foxes, chins still slick with blood, back in charge of the henhouse. I forecast more Keynsian garbage that’s utterly indistinguishable from Bush and Paulson.

When even The Nation is slamming your new Democratic president, you know he’s fucked up.

Of course, now the disasters will come at an even more fevered clip, spurred by a Democratic majority in both houses. Thankfully we don’t have to contend with a supermajority, except on matters over which a bipartisan idiocy can preside. We seem to have dodged the auto-bailout bullet but, to go along with the trillions that we’ve already wasted, I suspect it’s but a brief respite. As I was saying. Here we have the President, with the President-elect’s support, ignoring the will of the legislature and diverting funds appropriated for another purpose.

I guess Kucinich can expand his list of impeachable offences for Congress to ignore. Will he be keeping as diligent a list for President Obama?

OK, I better wrap this up:

Hopes for sensible drug policy are not looking good, but he’s been backpedaling on that one for a while. I expect eight more years of exactly the same policy: unconstitutional, directly against the expressed will of the people, and a failure by any measure.

You and I know what “end the war in Iraq” means, but to politicians, apparently including the President-elect, it means the continued presence of tens of thousands of troops, indefinitely. About as much change as I could credibly believe in.

Finally, more stimulus is asinine. The country is bankrupt. Our economy has been one debt-fueled asset bubble after another, a nation-sized Ponzi scheme, for decades. The sooner they stop trying to reinflate another bubble, stop diverting money from the few remaining productive sectors of the economy to the insolvent, the sooner the (painful) recovery can get underway.

Merry Christmas.

Comments (1)

I would have loved to be in that meeting

THE ACTUAL SET OF PROHIBITED ITEMS LISTED ON A TICKET TO PERTH’S BELVOIR AMPHITHEATRE I AM NOT EVEN MAKING THIS UP:

  • blankets
  • rugs
  • chairs
  • eskies
  • picnic baskets
  • large containers
  • food containers
  • pineapples
  • boats
  • spears
  • crocodiles
  • glass
  • gang colours
  • steel toecaps
  • umbrellas
  • animals

Comments (4)

seriously, The Economist?

SIR — Your article gets one thing right: this is capitalism at its worst, and it must not go forward.

Every prospectus for GSE debt for 30 years has included huge bold text on the cover making unambiguous its lack of government backing.

To bail out speculators and foreign governments — who collected billions courtesy of higher yields over Treasuries — at US taxpayer expense is not merely morally bankrupt, but treason.

Bailout or collapse are not the only choices. Sell the assets via receivership, like any other bankrupt company, and wind them down. If you believe your own rhetoric about asset values, the bondholders lose only a few percent. Either way, the responsible parties wear the loss.

Finally, the notion that this action reduces mortgage costs seems optimistic at best. More likely is that government borrowing costs rise, as the bond market punishes the US government for its profligacy. The spread may narrow, but nobody gets a cheaper mortgage.

Phil Schwan
Perth, Australia

Comments (4)

were you, sort of?

It may be the Democrats’ hypothetical message, but what about their actions?

bankers first, bailing out Fanny and Freddie, refusing to prosecute the fraud

war first, happy to go along with the Iraq adventure; keen for another in Georgia

debt first, selling out the next generation

inflation first, a tax that hits the poorest hardest

government first, even — perhaps especially — when it’s unconstitutional

To be clear: I’m no Republican apologist, and the last 20 years of GOP efforts have been one disaster after another.

But let’s stop pretending that the Democrats are any better, that there will be any kind of meaningful “change”. They just pick slightly different winners and losers:

Neither party stands for freedom; personal, social, or economic.

Neither party wants peace; both permit Iraq to go on. Both are eager for more war, be it in Afghanistan, North Korea, Iran, Syria, Georgia, Darfur, …

Neither party is economically responsible. They spend. They inflate the currency. They strangle any American business not large enough to buy favour. They bail out their friends.

Neither party upholds the constitution, in which the executive answers to Congress or the people. In which 50 states are allowed to compete for the best solutions.

In every way that matters, they are virtually identical.

Comments (4)

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