Quotulatiousness

January 29, 2018

QotD: Churchill’s drinking habits

Filed under: Books, Britain, Politics, Quotations — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

In the not so distant past around the sodden precincts of Westminster you were as likely to spot a yeti as a sober politician. The level of drinking that went on among MPs and their leeches for most of the last century was prodigious and was by and large expected. It was, as Ben Wright describes in his breezy, anecdote-rich and instructive survey of booze and politics, part of a culture which was tolerated and, to a degree, encouraged.

It was not without justification, for instance, that Adolf Hitler, who might have been a nicer fellow had he not been a teetotaller, described Winston Churchill as an “insane drunkard”, a “garrulous drunkard”, and “whisky-happy”.

If Order, Order! has a star it is undoubtedly Churchill who rarely let a day go by able to pass a breathalyser test. On occasion he would have a glass of wine at breakfast followed by a liquid lunch which invariably included Champagne and brandy. At tea-time he would progress to whisky. Then he would wash down dinner with more Champagne and brandy after which he had at least another whisky. According to one loyal aide who may have been sight impaired he was never the worse for wear for this intake and he “never felt the slightest ill-effects in the morning”.

Alan Taylor, “Lush tales of our political classes’ drinking exploits”, The National, 2016-06-20.

January 26, 2018

QotD: Britain’s boozy parliamentarians

Filed under: Books, Britain, Politics, Quotations — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

It is Wright’s contention [in his book Order! Order!] that alcohol has as many benefits as it does drawbacks. Not only does it help loosen ties and tongues it also boosts confidence and dilutes stress. Most prime ministers drank, many to excess. Herbert Asquith went by the nickname “Squiffy Asquith” and regularly appeared in the Commons three sheets to the wind. Margaret Thatcher did her best to promote the whisky industry, the uncapping of a bottle of Bell’s marking the end of the working day. She believed that whisky rather than gin was good for you because “it will give you energy”, which I fear could be a hard fact to prove scientifically.

Tony Blair, whose reign ushered in an era of 24-hour drinking, thought his relatively modest drinking was getting out of control because he calculated it exceeded the government’s weekly recommended limit. This did not impress Dr John Reid, Bellshill’s finest, who once drank like a navvy. “Where I come from,” Reid told GMTV, “a gin and tonic, two glasses of wine, you wouldn’t give that to a budgie.” Blair, of course, did not have to look further than next door to find an explanation why his consumption increased over the years. Gordon Brown, his nemesis, was fond of Champagne – Möet & Chandon no less – which he did not nurse but washed down in a gulp. “He was like the cookie monster,” recalled one aide. “Down in one, whoosh!” Drinking is of course one of those areas in which we Scots have long punched above our weight and Wright’s pages are replete with examples of intoxicated Jocks carousing nights away and causing mayhem. Former Labour leader John Smith was one such. Occasionally I encountered him on the overnight train that carried Scottish MPs home from Westminster on a Thursday night. Known as “the sleeper of death”, it was a mobile pub that never closed until it reached Waverley, whereupon politicians were disgorged red-eyed and pie-eyed among bemused early morning commuters.

Alan Taylor, “Lush tales of our political classes’ drinking exploits”, The National, 2016-06-20.

January 9, 2018

QotD: Moderation

Filed under: Humour, Quotations, Wine — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Three kraters [bowls used for wine] do I mix for the temperate: one to health, which they empty first, the second to love and pleasure, the third to sleep. When this bowl is drunk up, wise guests go home. The fourth bowl is ours no longer, but belongs to hubris, the fifth to uproar, the sixth to prancing about, the seventh to black eyes, the eighth brings the police, the ninth belongs to vomiting, and the tenth to insanity and the hurling of furniture.

Eubulus, attributing the words to the god Dionysus

January 7, 2018

QotD: The Whiskey Rebellion

Filed under: History, Liberty, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Ninescore and fifteen years ago, with the ink only just sanded on the United States Constitution, President George Washington and Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton decided it was time to try out their shiny brand-new powers of taxation.

Their first victims would be certain western Pennsylvania agricultural types long accustomed to converting their crops into a less perishable, more profitable high-octane liquid form. Unfortunately for the President and the Secretary, many of these rustics, especially near the frontier municipality of Pittsburgh, placed a slightly different emphasis than high school teachers do today on the Revolutionary slogan regarding “taxation without representation”. In their view, they’d fought the British in 1776 to abolish taxes and they weren’t interested in having representation imposed on them by that gaggle of fops in Philadelphia, the nation’s capital. They made this manifestly clear by tarring-and-feathering tax collectors, burning their homes to the ground, and filling the stills of those who willingly paid the hated tribute with large-caliber bullet holes.

Feeling their authority challenged, George and Alex dispatched westward a body of armed conscripts equal to half the population of America’s largest city (Philadelphia once again, later famous for air-dropping explosives on miscreants charged with disturbing the peace). Four hundred whiskey rebels, duly impressed by this army of fifteen thousand, subsided. The miraculous process by which the private act of thievery is transubstantiated into public virtue was firmly established in history. The results — chronic poverty and unemployment, endless foreign wars, and reruns on television — are with us even today.

L. Neil Smith, “Introduction: A Brief History of the North American Confederacy”, The Spirit of Exmas Sideways: a “novelito” by L. Neil Smith.

December 24, 2017

Hilarious History: That Time Cadets at West Point Rioted Over Eggnog

Filed under: Education, History, Military, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Today I Found Out
Published on 6 Dec 2017

In this video:

From the beginning, heavy drinking was fairly commonplace among the cadets at the United States Military Academy at West Point (founded in 1802). In an attempt to stem this in 1826, the academy’s strict superintendent and the “Father of West Point,” General Sylvanus Thayer, began a crackdown by prohibiting alcohol on campus. As Christmas approached and the cadets realized that the prohibition would put a damper on their traditional Christmas Eve festivities that included consumption of a fair amount of eggnog, a bold few began to plan away around the problem.

Want the text version?: http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.p…

December 5, 2017

Happy Repeal Day!

Filed under: Government, History, Law, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Eighty-four years ago today, the US repealed Prohibition. Baltimore’s own H.L. Mencken was among the first to publicly celebrate the demise of the hated legislation:

HL Mencken celebrates repeal of Prohibition, December 1933

Reason‘s Baylen Linnekin celebrates the federal anniversary, but points out that devolving powers to the various states hasn’t been quite a libertarian panacea:

[December 5th] will mark the 84th anniversary of the ratification of the Twenty-First Amendment, which repealed alcohol Prohibition. The repeal of Prohibition is worth celebrating, even if the amendment was (and remains) a deeply flawed vehicle.

The chief flaw with the Amendment is, as I wrote earlier this year, that it “simply shifted much of the power to prohibit and incessantly regulate alcohol from the federal government to the states.”

States have truly made the most of their teetotalitarian authority for decades, to the detriment of both alcohol producers and—much more so—consumers.

Much of the negative impacts of states’ approach to alcohol regulation can be tied to what’s known as the three-tier system, a Prohibition relic under which states generally prohibit direct alcohol sales from a brewer, vintner, or distiller to a consumer. The three-tier system mandates these alcohol producers first sell to a distributor or retailer — a mandatory middleman — who can then sell to actual drinkers.

Laws that require this approach create a host of problems, including, for one, that they drive up consumer costs dramatically and needlessly. States’ plenary control over alcohol has been controversial for decades, as this 1987 article in the Journal of Public Health Policy makes clear, noting that “the idea of a government monopoly of a consumer product seems odd and even bizarre[.]”

Great arguments in favor of scrapping the dreaded three-tier system are often countered by those who claim doing so will bring about the end of days, or worse.

Reposted from 2013:

ReasonTV
Published on 5 Dec 2012

In honor of Repeal Day, which celebrates the end of America’s “noble experiment” in banning alcoholic beverages, Reason TV is happy to introduce you to George Cassiday, a man whose life and work should be taught to every schoolkid — and to every member of Congress hell-bent on legislating the nation’s morals.

From 1920 through 1930 — the thick of the Prohibition era — Cassiday supplied illegal liquor throughout the halls of Congress. Known as “The Man in the Green Hat,” Cassiday was the Capitol’s highest-profile bootlegger, with a client list that included senior members of the Republican and Democratic Parties. How instrumental was he to the D.C. power elite? He even had his own office in the House and Senate office buildings.

Cassiday gave up the liquor trade after his arrest in 1930, but gained notoriety by penning a series of front-page articles for The Washington Post about his days as Congress’ top bottle man.

Though he never named names, Cassiday’s stories detailed every aspect of his former business — and the depths of hypocrisy in Washington. By his own estimation, “four out of five senators and congressmen consume liquor either at their offices or their homes.” Appearing days before the 1930 mid-term elections, Cassiday’s revelations caused a national stir and helped sweep pro-Prohibitionist — and ostensibly tee-totaling — congressmen and senators out of power.

Today, with the rise of cocktail culture and prohibition-vogue in full swing, Cassiday’s life and legacy are being re-discovered. Through books such as Garrett Peck’s Prohibition in Washington, D.C.: How Dry We Weren’t to New Columbia Distillery’s Green Hat Gin, the remarkable story of George Cassiday — “The Man in the Green Hat” — is again being told.

Reason TV spoke with Cassiday’s son, Fred, author Garrett Peck, and New Columbia Distillery’s John Uselton to discuss George Cassiday and the end of Prohibition.

November 25, 2017

There are all kinds of sensible recycling … this isn’t one of them

Filed under: Australia, Business, Wine — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 04:00

In the Guardian, Calla Wahlquist reports on a recycling initiative that we almost certainly don’t need:

At the close of the Rootstock sustainable wine festival in Sydney last year, Tasmanian distiller Peter Bignell looked around the tasting room at the carefully-spaced spittoons and thought: what a waste.

Together the spit buckets contained about 500 litres of discarded wine, which had been swilled then dumped during the two-day event.

Some wine had been dutifully spat out by responsible tasters keen to get to the end of their extensive list with tasting notes intact, but the majority was the largely untouched leavings of an overly generous pour.

It’s nothing new in the idea of using spit to make food
Peter Bignell
For Bignell, whose Belgrove distillery in Kempton, Tasmania, is the only one in Australia that runs entirely on biodiesel, all this wasted wine was hardly in keeping with a sustainable event.

The obvious solution was to drink it again.

After 12 months at Poor Tom’s gin distillery in Marrickville, the spit bucket wine has been transformed into an 80-proof clear spirit that tastes something like an unaged brandy.

It is, reportedly, quite nice.

H/T to Tim Worstall, who rightly comments “Distillation will obviously have thoroughly cleaned it. But still. It’s not as if the world is short of crap wine to turn into cooking brandy now, is it?”

November 24, 2017

Not Guided by Policy: Hunter S. Thompson and the Birth of Gonzo Journalism

Filed under: History, Media, Politics, Sports, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Today I Found Out
Published on 6 Nov 2017

In this video:

“We were somewhere around Barstow, on the edge of the desert, when the drugs began to take hold.” This is the opening line from the highly acclaimed roman à clef Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream written by Hunter S. Thompson, one of America’s most countercultural and anti-authoritarian writers. The untamed master of his own self-titled genre, “gonzo journalism,” Thompson set ablaze the American standards for journalism during the 1960s and 70s with a cornucopia of drugs, alcohol, gun toting, and most notably, his exemplary writing.

Want the text version?: http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2015/07/not-guided-policy-act-gonzo/

September 16, 2017

“Mead” – The Drink That Fell From Favor

Filed under: History, USA, Wine — Tags: — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 31 Aug 2017

Mead was a very popular drink during the 17th century and before, but fell out of favor by the 18th century due to the rise of Beer and Ale. Nevertheless, recipes for Mead can be found in books written in the 1700’s and today Jon goes in depth on this fascinating drink.

August 13, 2017

QotD: The measurement problem in government

Filed under: Britain, Government, Health, Quotations — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Now take health insurance. (Or, if you live, like me, in a country with a national healthcare system that has a single comprehensive payer, the health system.) There are periodic suggestions that we should punish bad behaviour, behaviour that increases medical costs: Scotland has an alcoholism problem so we get the Alcohol (Minimum Pricing)(Scotland) Act, 2012. Obesity comes with its own health risks, and where resource scarcity exists (for example, in surgical procedures), some English CCGs are denying patients treatment for some conditions if they are overweight.

It should be argued that these are really stupid strategies, likely to make things worse. Minimum alcohol pricing is regressive and affects the poor far more than the middle-class: it may cause poor alcoholics to turn the same petty criminality observed among drug addicts, to fund their habit. And denying hip replacements to overweight people isn’t exactly going to make it easier for them to exercise and improve their health. But because we can measure the price of alcohol, or plot someone’s height/weight ratio on a BMI chart, these are what will be measured.

It’s the classic syllogism of the state: something must be controlled, we can measure one of its parameters, therefore we will control that parameter (and ignore anything we can’t measure directly).

Charles Stross, “It could be worse”, Charlie’s Diary, 2015-10-09.

May 12, 2017

“Maybe this is creeping privatization after all. It’s certainly worth a shot”

Filed under: Business, Cancon, Wine — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Chris Selley on the neither one thing nor the other state of alcohol retailing in Ontario:

On Tuesday the government enumerated 76 new Ontario supermarkets where, by Canada Day, you will be able to buy beer. That will make a total of 206 Ontario supermarkets where you can buy beer — an artificially limited selection of beer, only in six packs and singles and only during the same bankers’ hours as the LCBO and Beer Store. But still. That’s about one-third as many supermarkets selling beer as there are LCBO outlets selling beer; add in the 212 rural agency stores that sell wine, liquor and beer, and you’ve got almost two-thirds as many private enterprises selling beer as you have government bottle shops.

This could help prove several useful concepts that deserve much wider acceptance in Ontario. One is that it’s very easy for the government to make money off liquor sales without retailing liquor itself. Indeed, it’s easier; that’s why so many governments do it. The supermarkets buy the beer wholesale from the LCBO; the LCBO doesn’t have to worry about paying civil servants to sell that beer or running the stores.

Another is that the private sector can be counted on to keep liquor out of children’s hands. Indeed, with inspections and draconian fines in place, it can probably be trusted more. My observations suggest LCBO employees certainly card everyone who should be carded, but it’s nothing like it is in the U.S. I’m almost 41, not in especially good nick, and I still get asked about half the time.

Might Ontarians develop a taste for all this convenience? The hard cap on beer-in-supermarket licences is 450; having doled them all out, including agency stores, that would mean about half the liquor outlets in Ontario were privately run. And people might start to notice the bizarre inconsistencies: why can the Walmart on Bayfield Street in Barrie sell only beer, and only in six packs, while the Walmart on Hays Boulevard in Oakville can sell beer and wine, and meanwhile Hope’s Foodland in Novar, Mac’s Milk in Craigleith, Redden’s campground in Longbow Lake and Lac des Mille Lacs Bait and Tackle in Upsala can sell beer, wine and hard liquor — and smokes and fireworks and beef jerky and bread and eggs? Why can scores of convenience stores sell everything alcoholic as agency stores, but other convenience stores aren’t even eligible to apply for the new wine and beer licences?

May 6, 2017

Supreme Court to review Prohibition-era inter-provincial alcohol regulations

Filed under: Cancon, Law, Liberty — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Alan White reports that the Supreme Court of Canada has agreed to hearing an appeal of a New Brunswick court decision:

The Supreme Court of Canada has agreed to hear an appeal of a New Brunswick court ruling that declared it unconstitutional to limit the amount of alcohol someone can bring into the province.

At the centre of the case is Gerard Comeau of Tracadie, N.B. He was acquitted by a provincial court judge of exceeding provincial importation limits on beer and liquor that can be brought into New Brunswick.

Comeau was charged in 2012. RCMP had stopped him after he entered New Brunswick from Quebec with 14 cases of beer and three bottles of liquor. New Brunswick’s Liquor Control Act sets a personal importation limit of 12 pints of beer or one bottle of alcohol or wine.

Provincial court Judge Ronald LeBlanc ruled the liquor restriction was unconstitutional because Sec. 121 of the 1867 Constitution states products from any province “shall … be admitted free into each of the other provinces.”

Lawyer Ian Blue, who acted as part of Comeau’s defence team on behalf of the Canadian Constitution Foundation, says the case stands to have major implications.

Blue said the federal and provincial governments are currently discussing trade matters pertaining to NAFTA, milk marketing boards, softwood lumber tariffs, but “they’re not looking at this Comeau case.”

“This Comeau case, with the Supreme Court decision, could have more profound effects on interprovincial trade barriers than President Trump could,” said Blue. “That’s how important this case is.”

March 29, 2017

QotD: The humble vodka soda

Filed under: Business, Humour, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

My favourite drink? Vodka soda on the rocks, no lemon. Unpretentious, dependable, easy to slap together, gets the job done. It’s basically the Ford F-150 of cocktails. And clear as rain, so it won’t stain my wife’s dress if some good-time Charlie slaps me on the back at a party. For years, it has been my odourless, tasteless, ten-ounce refuge of gastro-utilitarian sanity in a world full of foodies gone mad.

But those days are over: the vodka soda has gone the way of wine, Scotch, and gourmet hot sauce. Order one at any velvet-rope bar or restaurant, and the waiter follows up by asking your preferred brand of hooch — under the demonstrably false conceit that the human tongue can distinguish between what are effectively different varieties of windshield-wiper fluid.

Last month, when a waiter launched into an especially long list of unpronounceable Russian and Scandinavian words apparently corresponding to fashionable vodka brands, I felt as if I were in a scene from “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” I really can’t tell the difference. Just give me the cheapest one on the list were the words on my lips.

Of course, I said nothing of the sort, because I didn’t want to come off as a rube. So instead, I declared emphatically, “Oh, Grey Goose, please” — recalling at random the last brand I’d seen advertised in an upscale travel magazine.

Moments later, the waiter returned with my drink, and it tasted fine. Which is to say, it tasted exactly like every other vodka soda I had ever tasted — or, indeed, that had ever been tasted by any other human in the history of fermented spud juice.

This, more than anything else, is what I have come to resent about foodie culture: Not just that it is pretentious and expensive. Not just that it makes me feel guilty about the Cheez Whiz sandwiches I put in my kids’ lunch boxes. But that it turns us all into liars.

Jonathan Kay, “Lies My Waiter Told Me: Foodie culture has invaded my vodka soda. It’s time to fight back”, The Walrus, 2015-08-17.

March 17, 2017

QotD: No True Irishman

Filed under: Europe, Humour, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

I speak for every true potato-loving mick on the planet when I say that St. Patrick’s Day is a genuine Irish holiday that’s been corrupted into Amateur Drunk Day by us filthy Americans. Nobody in Ireland really cared much about it until dumb American tourists started going over there every March, demanding green beer and tunelessly bellowing “Danny Boy” out of their vomit-encrusted cakeholes. St. Paddy’s Day is fake. It’s Kwanzaa for white people.

Jim Treacher, “No True Irishman Loves St. Patrick’s Day”, The Daily Caller, 2016-03-17.

February 6, 2017

The “beer before bread” theory gains strength

Filed under: History, Wine — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

The received wisdom about the transition from hunter-gatherer to agrarian societies is that clans or tribes stopped being nomadic in order to grow crops and secure their food supply more consistently … that growing grain for bread was one of the strongest underlying reasons for the change in lifestyle. That theory is being challenged by researchers who believe the real reason was to produce grains for brewing instead:

The story of humanity’s love affair with alcohol goes back to a time before farming — to a time before humans, in fact. Our taste for tipple may be a hardwired evolutionary trait that distinguishes us from most other animals.

The active ingredient common to all alcoholic beverages is made by yeasts: microscopic, single-celled organisms that eat sugar and excrete carbon dioxide and ethanol, the only potable alcohol. That’s a form of fermentation. Most modern makers of beer, wine, or sake use cultivated varieties of a single yeast genus called Saccharomyces (the most common is S. cerevisiae, from the Latin word for “beer,” cerevisia). But yeasts are diverse and ubiquitous, and they’ve likely been fermenting ripe wild fruit for about 120 million years, ever since the first fruits appeared on Earth.

From our modern point of view, ethanol has one very compelling property: It makes us feel good. Ethanol helps release serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins in the brain, chemicals that make us happy and less anxious.

To our fruit-eating primate ancestors swinging through the trees, however, the ethanol in rotting fruit would have had three other appealing characteristics. First, it has a strong, distinctive smell that makes the fruit easy to locate. Second, it’s easier to digest, allowing animals to get more of a commodity that was precious back then: calories. Third, its antiseptic qualities repel microbes that might sicken a primate. Millions of years ago one of them developed a taste for fruit that had fallen from the tree. “Our ape ancestors started eating fermented fruits on the forest floor, and that made all the difference,” says Nathaniel Dominy, a biological anthropologist at Dartmouth College. “We’re preadapted for consuming alcohol.”

[…]

Flash forward millions of years to a parched plateau in southeastern Turkey, not far from the Syrian border. Archaeologists there are exploring another momentous transition in human prehistory, and a tantalizing possibility: Did alcohol lubricate the Neolithic revolution? Did beer help persuade Stone Age hunter-gatherers to give up their nomadic ways, settle down, and begin to farm?

The ancient site, Göbekli Tepe, consists of circular and rectangular stone enclosures and mysterious T-shaped pillars that, at 11,600 years old, may be the world’s oldest known temples. Since the site was discovered two decades ago, it has upended the traditional idea that religion was a luxury made possible by settlement and farming. Instead the archaeologists excavating Göbekli Tepe think it was the other way around: Hunter-gatherers congregated here for religious ceremonies and were driven to settle down in order to worship more regularly.

H/T to Tamara Keel for the link.

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