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Post Beer vs Wine, UK vs Italy
Created by John Eipper on 06/06/16 11:00 AM

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Beer vs Wine, UK vs Italy (John Heelan, -UK, 06/06/16 11:00 am)

Tor Guimaraes (6 June) shows excellent taste. I was a frequent visitor to our Galway plant. "Guinness Heaven" for me was an old thatched restaurant way out on a country road in Galway Bay called "Morans of the Weir" (aka Moran's Oyster Cottage) that serves, for me, the best salmon and seafood (even beats Boston!) I have ever tasted, with properly served pints of the only drink needed to accompany the feast--draft Guinness.  See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moran%27s_Oyster_Cottage

For his part, Eugenio Battaglia (also 6 June) is correct. English wine is atrocious, nearly as bad as the overhyped Prosecco (a poor man's champagne or cava). Italian whites are generally excellent and we drink a lot of them at home. Italian reds are mixed with great ones like Barolo and headache-makers like Bardolino. Czech beer is excellent, as are red wines from the old USSR satellites. Perhaps the less said about US beers (even Coors) and wines (apart from some boutique vineyards and breweries), the more tactful.

In the US I normally drink Mexican imports, or in extremis, Heineken.

JE comments: Much is at stake in this debate.  I'll just say that the days are long past when "sex in a canoe" brews were the only thing available in the US.  (For those who don't know this classic beer riddle, look it up.)  Sales of traditional American lagers (think Budweiser, Pabst, Coors) have been declining for years.  Now nearly every town in the US has its own microbrewery--even Adrian.

Maple Bacon Porter?  Why not?


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  • Beer Fatigue (Robert Gibbs, USA 06/07/16 8:56 AM)
    In spite of everything going on in this world--or because of it--don't WAISers think we have just about run the "Best Beer" debate to the ground?

    When we get right down to it, it is just personal preference and taste--even how it is served and temperatures, etc., as well as "breathing." On this subject, no one will be convinced and no minds will be changed. His or her favorite is best.

    Our colleague Yusuf Kanli and I even know some who actually like and have similar serious discussions regarding fermented mare's milk!

    I am just suggesting that we try something different.

    JE comments: But who can ever grow tired of...beer? OK, Bob, advice well taken. I've also been reprimanded (thanks, Ed Jajko and Francisco Wong-Díaz!) for publishing a very silly Top Ten list of history's most famous people.  Today, by the way, would have been Prince's 58th birthday.  He was probably #11 on that list.

    I do have one more potable post from Tor Guimaraes (Xingu, yeah!), which I'll publish later today. And then, like in 1920, we'll turn off the taps. 

    Prohibition always works in principle, but in practice?

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    • One More Round of Beer (Tor Guimaraes, USA 06/07/16 2:05 PM)
      To my friend Eugenio Battaglia's fondness for red wine, I have to say, absolutely! However, sometimes there is nothing like a cold glass of beer.

      My other friend John Eipper commented, "I need more educating. By 'stout,' does Tor Guimaraes mean the Guinness that comes in a bottle or can?" I never had a Guinness from a can but I noticed that in editing my post, John changed the word drought [sic] to draft, indicating some confusion. No, by stout I mean Guinness stout beer that comes in bottles similar but different from Guinness drought beer. The bottle labels state one or the other. The bottles are slightly different but the taste difference is too much for me. Also, over the years I have had many pints from the tap from many pubs everywhere and the quality seems to be consistently fine.

      John also asked, "Has Tor Guimaraes tried the Brazilian dark beer Xingu? For this amateur palate, it has a Guinness-like flavor." Yes, I had the excellent Xingu and many other Brazilian darks. My love affair with Brazilian beers started at a very early age. My home town Ribeirão Preto used to have two major (regional) German breweries (Antartica and Paulista).  I believe they merged many years ago.

      When I was a young boy (12) my friend was the son of the president of one of the breweries. The two of us used to visit it after school and hit the taps the brewmeister used to check the beer quality. That was fun, but not Guinness stout.

      Regarding dark beers, my hometown used to make my favorite stout called Niger and they hurt me deeply by discontinuing it some years ago. Country-wide, Brazil has had and still has many black beers: Caracu (which macho men used to put in the blender with two raw eggs, shell and all, and gulp it down), Maltzbier (folk-prescribed for lactating women with a slightly sweet taste), Baden Baden (excellent stout similar to Guinness and Xingu), etc. The only bad thing about Brazilian beer is that foreign money slowly took over and steadily introduced cheaper light beers (very Americanized), tasting like water mixed with cheap alcohol--aka cat piss.

      JE comments: I never tried cat piss, but if the world acquires a taste for it, this house (3 cats) has found a new "revenue stream."  I am excited.

      Jokes aside, the difference in Guinness is between "Draught" (not drought) and Stout.  The latter is also known as "Original," while the former is an attempt to mimic the draft (US spelling) brew available in pubs.  I may still be confused, but here's an explanation:


      Regarding the Americanization of Brazilian beers, a case could be made for the other way around:   Anheuser-Busch InBev is now run by a Belgian-Brazilian conglomerate, which used to be known as AmBev in Brazil.  Ambev was founded in 1999 upon the merger of Brahma and Antarctica.  Although some WAISers have become weary of our beer discussion, it's actually a lesson on the impact of globalization.  Canada's Labatt, Belgium's Stella Artois, Brazil's Brahma, good ol' red-blooded American Budweiser, and countless other world beers are all the same multinational behemoth.

      Tor, wow:  I wish I had a friend like that when I was 12!  This leads to my final question:  I have read that in Brazil, beer is still considered more or less a "soft" drink, and it is distributed and sold in much the same context as Coke, Pepsi, or Crush.  Is this an accurate understanding?

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      • Jorge Paulo Lemann, Brazil's Richest Man (Henry Levin, USA 06/08/16 5:13 AM)
        It should also be mentioned that Anheuser-Busch InBev (formerly AmBev) is largely owned by the richest man in Brazil, Jorge Paulo Lemann. He is said to be worth about $32 billion. Unlike the normal description of a man of such wealth, he is a kind and astute individual devoted to the improvement of society and the situation of the poor. His foundation gives considerable philanthropy, including a devotion to public education and social development in Brazil.

        Martin Carnoy and colleagues (WAISer Chiqui Ramírez can give more detail) at Stanford have received about $20 million devoted to upgrading Brazilian education through a program of research and Fellows (includes females) from Brazil. Jorge Paulo stays on top of these endeavors through detailed visits and involvement. His foundation has also established centers at Harvard, Columbia, and Illinois with different foci.

        See: http://www.fundacaolemann.org.br/lemann-foundation/


        His name is pronounced like lemon.

        JE comments: Wikipedia tells us that Lemann divides his time between São Paulo, Switzerland (his parents were of Swiss origin), and St Louis, where he oversees the A-B empire.  He is also the former national tennis champion of Brazil.

        Jorge Paulo Lemann:  truly the King of Beers.  ('Tis a good thing, by the by, that he didn't decide to make cars.  Imagine driving a "Lemann.")

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    • Martin Luther Liked Beer (John Heelan, -UK 06/08/16 6:19 AM)
      As a coda to the WAIS bierfest, I offer the following:

      "Whoever drinks beer, he is quick to sleep; whoever sleeps long, does not sin; whoever does not sin, enters Heaven! Thus, let us drink beer!"

      --Martin Luther

      JE comments:  This one sounds apocryphal, but I think it's real.  Another ML non-K classic:  "Beer is made by man, wine by God."

      How does this jibe with the classic Protestant work ethic?  Sloth is of the Devil.

      The 500th anniversary of Martin Luther's 95 Theses is next year, on October 31st.  The next WAIS conference, Havana '17, should be going on at that time.  A request for suggestions:  how can we tie "Reformation" into the conference theme?

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      • Martin Luther Liked Beer? Apparently, Yes (Robert Whealey, USA 06/08/16 11:34 AM)
        Luther is right about 1 or 2 classes of beer for sleep. How often did he get drunk?

        John Calvin had more to say about sobriety.

        JE comments: What do we know about Martin Luther's drinking? This, for me, is unexplored territory, but sources say he was very German for his times. See the following, in which ML describes drunkenness as a minor, "daily" sin--nothing God worries much about.  Luther even apparently recommended drinking as a tactic to scare off the Devil.


        The Protestant Johns--Calvin and especially Wesley, put the "T" in teetotal.  "I tell you there is poison in it [wine]!" quoth Wesley.

        I've often heard that Temperance logically arose during the Industrial Revolution, because powerful machines made it extremely dangerous to drink during the day.  A peasant, on the other hand, can work the fields in a lesser state of sobriety.  For Wesley, abstinence from alcohol also had a social benefit, as Dad would no longer squander his wages at the pub, and then go home and beat his wife and children.

        The United States was a hard-drinking nation until the "Second Great Awakening" of the middle decades of the 19th century, when men around the nation were encourage to sign temperance pledges.  This is fascinating social history.

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        • John Wesley and Wine; from Ric Mauricio (John Eipper, USA 06/09/16 5:24 AM)
          Ric Mauricio writes:

          "I tell you there is poison in [wine]!" quoth John Wesley.

          This is yet another contradiction in the teachings. Why then, my dear Wesley, did Jesus turn water into wine (lots of wine from what I gather ... and very good wine). Why then, my dear Wesley, did Jesus use wine as the symbol of his blood during the Last Supper?

          I am sure that the Apostle Paul has something to say about drunkenness. I find it interesting that man will categorize "sin" as venial, mortal, or cardinal, with the penance commensurate with the ranking. I am sure God's ears must be ringing with all these Our Fathers, Hail Marys and Glory Bes. Amen.

          Why then do I listen to pastors who logically do not make any sense? Or the Apostle Paul? Or government leaders? Or economists? Or talking heads?

          JE comments: Faith needs no logic; that's why it's called faith. I posed the same "wine" question to my Methodist Sunday School teacher at a tender age of 9 or 10. Her answer: clearly the Bible means grape juice, as Jesus would never drink something as dead and rancid as (fermented) wine.  I was not convinced, but Mrs Deverger may have inspired me to become a hermeneutics guy.

          A tribute to Betty Jean Deverger, who passed away two years ago at 91:


          It's also time to remember the great Dr Welch:


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      • Thoughts on the Drinking Age: US and Spain (Enrique Torner, USA 06/08/16 3:14 PM)

        Regarding the beer topic, and following Robert Gibbs's advice of 7 June, I would like to turn the subject to the pros and cons of the US drinking age, versus that of other countries.

        I am very interested in finding out the drinking age around the world, taking advantage of the diverse WAIS population. Tor Guimaraes's comment about his starting drinking beer at 12, in addition to our dear editor's reply, made me think of this matter, which tends to be a common topic of discussion in my Spanish classes.

        Interesting enough, after I Googled drinking age in Spain, I found out that it was changed from 16 to 18 not long ago as a result of a recent, popular phenomenon called "el botellon," which is a street party where lots of people drink "more than they should," causing all kinds of public disturbances. A long time ago, when I was kid and lived in Spain, I'm not sure if the drinking age was 14 or 16, but it didn't matter: any kid of 10 to 14 years of age could buy and/or consume alcohol (usually beer or wine) at any bar or similar establishment, and nobody ever asked the kid's age. I still remember my dad telling me at home one day, when I was about 10-12 years old, that I should start getting used to the taste of wine, which my family drank at every meal. Beer followed a little later. I also remember going to the bar regularly at that age to get tobacco for my mom, who smoked quite a lot.

        Anyway, the debate at hand is the following: which do you think is better? Starting to drink at an early age, so drinking is no big deal in life, or later in life, at 18 or 21, the latter being the drinking age in the US? My experience in the US tells me that kids become so obsessed with wanting to drink because of the late legal age that, when they reach the age, they go crazy and start getting drunk for the sake of "revenge" and/or entertainment. In Spain, in my old days, getting drunk was not only rare, but not well looked at. However, the problem in Spain was alcoholism. Has Spain changed in this regard? I have been living in the US for almost 30 years, so I would appreciate comments from my fellow Spanish WAISers about this too. So let the discussion start!

        JE comments:  This topic gets my students talking, too.  Michigan is different from most of the US due to its proximity to Ontario, where the drinking age is 19.  The drinking road trip is thus a rite of passage in these parts, although most students I know are careful to designate a sober driver.

        Enrique Torner brings up the "forbidden fruit" argument I've often heard from Europeans:  US youth find alcohol so attractive because it is naughty.  Also, one's 21st birthday leads to much ritual drunkenness.

        Wikipedia gives us the drinking ages around the world.  Germany--Martin Luther's influence?--leads (trails?) the pack among developed nations, at 16.  Many other European nations, such as Italy, have no minimum age at all for purchase.  My experience in Latin America is the same:  children are allowed to buy beer and wine, presumably for their parents, although the legal age for consumption is 18.

        In Iran, religious minorities are allowed to purchase small amounts from shops owned by the same religious minority.  I wonder if they monitor the Christian liquor stores.

        China is 18 for purchase and consumption, but it is "weakly or not enforced."

        Here's the list:


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      • WAIS '17, Havana: a "Reformation" Theme? (Tor Guimaraes, USA 06/09/16 7:52 AM)
        John Eipper requested suggestions for the 2017 WAIS conference in Havana:  "How can we tie 'Reformation' into the conference theme?"

        Since Communism has not worked and Capitalism is clearly not working either, there is an urgent need for "reform." What should be the main ideological pillars for a more successful social, political, economic system?  What are the basic principles likely to work in practice, priorities that policymakers must keep in mind if the world is not to regress back to aristocracy, plutocracy, corruption, poverty, unlivable environments, slavery, etc?

        JE comments: Excellent suggestions, although I'm concerned that a conference with "Reformation" in its title will alarm our Cuban hosts. Moreover, Lutheranism made very few inroads in Cuban society.

        "Aristocracy, plutocracy, corruption, poverty, unlivable environments, slavery"--Tor Guimaraes has come up with the perfect description of Capitalism. Or is it Communism?

        Don't forget the old Soviet joke:  Capitalism is when Man exploits Man. Socialism is the other way around.

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        • WAIS '17, Havana: a "Reformation" Theme? (Rodolfo Neirotti, USA 06/11/16 2:35 PM)
          I propose the following title for the conference in Havana: "What should be preserved, what needs improvement and what we must transform."

          I believe that it could be useful to discuss reformation without giving the impression that we are suggesting that everything is wrong and therefore talking about a wholesale change.

          JE comments: I like it! And Rodolfo:  I hope you'll join us in Havana. Here are the tentative dates: October 13th through 15th, 2017. Why not kick off the conference on Friday the 13th?

          Mark your calendars...now!


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          • WAIS '17, Havana: a "Reformation" Theme? (Tor Guimaraes, USA 06/13/16 10:24 AM)
            I am getting a little bit excited about the "reformation" theme that John Eipper proposed for the WAIS '17 Havana meeting.

            In my 9 June post I proposed that since Communism has not worked and Capitalism is clearly not working either, there is an urgent need for "reform." What should be the main ideological pillars for a more successful social, political, economic system? What are the basic principles likely to work in practice, priorities that policymakers must keep in mind if the world is not to regress back to aristocracy, plutocracy, corruption, poverty, unlivable environments, slavery, etc?

            John thinks that this perspective might scare our Cuban hosts, even though my view was fairly even-handed, reflecting John's assertion that "Tor Guimaraes has come up with the perfect description of Capitalism. Or is it Communism?" Precisely; it's time to think beyond this useless dichotomy and get to the why both have failed us.

            Last, the term reformation can also be interpreted as organizational and/or social/political/economic innovation. In the case of organizational innovation and innovativeness, we have a large number of research articles published in academic and practitioner journals, hence my perked-up interest about the theme.

            I hope this will be the topic WAIS chooses to pursue.

            JE comments: WAIS '17 is sixteen months away, and interest is growing. Tor--I count on you joining us! We've WAISed together for far too long without ever meeting.

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            • Communism, Capitalism, and Vietnam; from Ric Mauricio (John Eipper, USA 06/15/16 4:54 AM)
              Ric Mauricio responds to Tor Guimaraes (13 June):

              In Vietnam they call it the "American War" or the "Resistance War Against America." Most of us call it the Vietnam War. It left millions dead, and millions more wounded over a nearly two decades long conflict.

              It caused catastrophic medical and environmental damage from over 75 million liters of the cancer-causing Agent Orange, courtesy of the Monsanto Corporation (yes, a product of capitalism). And of course there's all the unexploded ordinance that still exists across the countryside here, which continues to maim and kill civilians year after year (another product of capitalism).

              Financially, when adjusted to 2016 dollars, the war in Vietnam cost American taxpayers over $1 trillion in direct military costs alone. So what exactly did Uncle Sam get for this exceptional investment? Nothing. Certainly nothing positive.

              Saigon fell on April 30, 1975, and the North and South were merged to form the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. So the US government's containment agenda to prevent the spread of communism was a total failure. But then something completely expected happened: Vietnam went broke. Under communist rule, Vietnam suffered some of the worst economic conditions imaginable: soaring debt, inflation, corruption, unemployment, rampant poverty, and even famine.

              The central planners created extraordinary mismatches in supply and demand and production inefficiencies. It was just like those old stories from the Soviet Union--too many factories making left boots without any factories making right boots. This lunacy lasted for years, resulting in mass migration and a full-on refugee crisis. Things finally started to change after the Soviet Union collapsed--a giant warning sign that socialism and central planning simply don't work.  (Hillary, please pay attention ... government running everything doesn't work.)

              By the late 1980s, China, Vietnam, and other Asian socialist states were among the most impoverished countries in the world. Yet market-oriented Hong Kong and Singapore were right next door... and thriving. Eventually they saw the light, and nearly all of these socialist countries started a long, slow conversion to embrace capitalism. It really started in earnest about 15 years ago, after Vietnam signed a trade deal with the United States. And since then the changes have been extraordinary. Vietnam is now consistently one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. In Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), the skyline constantly has new additions with office towers and condo buildings. The dramatic increase in standard of living has been astonishing. All you have to do is walk down any one of the city's streets and see locals driving their new motorbikes, pulling up to a trendy air-conditioned café for a cup of coffee and high-speed Internet on their smart phone.

              One can still see the dilapidated headquarters of the local chapter of the Communist Youth Organization. And next door is the Young Businesspeople Association. Across the street is a luxurious new shopping mall. And a block away you'll find McDonalds and Dunkin' Donuts. That pretty much sums it up: Capitalism won. Rather than fight the war, the US government would have been a lot better off saying, "Oh you want to be Communist? Wonderful! You go ahead and enjoy that, and give us a call in 20 years once you're totally impoverished..."

              It would have saved a hell of a lot of time, money, and lives. Capitalism wins because people want the comfort and lifestyle that become possible when talented people have the incentive to work hard and innovate. It doesn't even really require too much to create these incentives. The recipe is simple: property rights, financial reward, and limited bureaucracy. Just bear in mind that all three are critical.

              If it takes 4 years and 600 permits to start a business, for example, it won't matter if tax rates are low and property rights are sacred; there will still be too many disincentives to produce. So when governments start redistributing wealth and property and creating mountains of regulations to "protect" the people, they degrade all three factors. For my business in California, I had to fill out 14 tax forms ... many of them were redundant, but it drove me, a master tax advisor, crazy.

              The Universal Law of Prosperity is "You have to produce more than you consume." So when there are disincentives that destroy production, prosperity suffers and everyone is worse off. It's so simple. Amazingly enough, though, so much of the West seems to be sprinting in the direction of central planning. The amount of regulations created every single day by the US government is just shocking--another 507 pages of rules and notices were published the other day. It's also astounding to see how prominent socialism is becoming in the Land of the Free. There's this pervasive fantasy that people can get a bunch of free stuff. The reality, of course, is ending up like Venezuela with shortages of toilet paper and hyperinflation. What I find so striking, however, is that while the West seems to be moving faster and faster towards this fantasy of socialism and central planning, while in Asia (yes, including China, but not Japan) they're going in the opposite direction.

              Vietnam has already had its horrible socialist experiment. They learned their lesson. And though Vietnam is starting from a much lower base, and they have a long way to go, they're pushing to become more market-oriented, and hence, much more prosperous.

              It's really not rocket science. Where you have freedom, you have prosperity. Where you don't, you have Venezuela and Cuba. I would call the WAIS theme in Cuba "La Revolución," because it calls for one, another one. But also it would confuse our hosts. They would have no idea what Revolution we are talking about. They would probably think ... oh, a cultural study of our revolution.

              JE comments:  Ric Mauricio describes Vietnam as if he were there--are you there, Ric?  I was thrown off by your "here" and "walk down any of the city's streets."

              Imagine if Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon had simply followed Ric's wise counsel:

              "You want to be Communist? Wonderful! You go ahead and enjoy that,
              and give us a call in 20 years once you're totally impoverished." 

              Mauricio for Secretary of State!  I'd add Treasury to his portfolio for good measure.

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              • Vicarious and Virtual Tourism: Vietnam (from Ric Mauricio) (John Eipper, USA 06/16/16 5:33 AM)
                Ric Mauricio follows up on his post of 15 June:

                In response to John E's question, I could only dream of visiting Vietnam. When I research a region, I often transport myself to that region by not only analyzing all the statistics I can lay my hands on, but actually seeking out writers who are there or have been there.

                A couple of my friends actually went to Vietnam, but failed to bring back the t-shirt that says "Green light, it's go; Yellow light, go faster; Red light, I can still go." I study maps, pictures (including videos), and language--OK, so I learn only how to say hello (vin chao, or chao em for younger people, or chao anh for elders), goodbye (ten biet), thank you (xin cam on), yes (vung), no (khang) and too expensive (mac qua). I learn where in the city not to go. Ha, the tourist guides always seem to paint a safe picture of each area in a city. For example, if one digs a little deeper, there are areas in Paris one may want to avoid. But the tourist guides don't tell you that. The 13th, 14th and 15th, in the south are purely residential. If you want to check out the "rich" parts of the city (not just tourist attractions), go to the 16th (Auteuil, Passy, Trocadero). Montmartre is nice, in the 18th. Actually, the most dangerous parts of Paris are the suburbs.

                The biggest danger to tourists in Paris, as well as New York, San Francisco, and Beijing, are pickpockets. Make a copy of your passport and put the passport in the safe. In your pocket, keep the passport copy, a few folded currency, and a credit/debit card, and possibly in a very thin wallet to avoid the bulge. My jeans have front pockets so cut, I even have trouble taking stuff out of it. Never put anything in a back pocket. Do not carry a purse or fanny pack (oh, fanny packs are so passé).

                I am looking forward to the day VR can have me virtually traveling through a city. By the way, my Blu-ray HD 4k shows parts of the world clearer than if I were really there. The Great Wall in 4k HD looks better than it is. Even San Francisco looks better in HD than it is. Not to mention New York, London, or Paris.

                I am sure Cuba looks better in HD than in real life. Machu Picchu is spectacular as is the Pyramids.

                I am not sure if I can make it to the WAIS conference in Cuba, but I am hoping that someone can film it in HD and link it to the WAIS website.

                JE comments: Virtual tourism will never equal the real thing--although many friends, such as Ric Mauricio and our IT Czar Roman Zhovtulya, might disagree. Machu Picchu is a case in point. I had "visited" many times via books, film and television, but there was nothing like the sounds and smells of really being there, of lying in the grass, getting bitten by little critters, and contemplating Huayna Picchu across the valley.  One final advantage of non-virtual travel:  llamas.  'Nuf said.


                Yet VT (virtual tourism) is the future.  A thought:  Until tourism became accessible to middle-class folk about 150 years ago, one could visit exotic lands only via books and lectures.  With virtual reality, we will come full circle.  Will the Age of Pleasure Travel become just a blip on the radar screen of history?

                (I'm still counting on you joining us in Havana, Ric.)

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              • What Would Ben Franklin Have Said about Vietnam War? From Gary Moore (John Eipper, USA 06/17/16 3:47 AM)

                Gary Moore writes:

                Re Ric Mauricio's enlightening rethinking of the Vietnam War (15 June), suggesting we could have a lot more
                cheaply and mercifully just let them go communist and then go broke in 20 years: Didn't Ben Franklin
                exclaim in dismay, when he found out how much the Revolutionary War had cost: "I could have
                bought the entire British Parliament for that"?

                JE comments:  The "Franklin Principle" would have averted countless wars.  In particular, consider how cost effective it would have been to bribe Saddam Hussein and his minions into exile.

                Greetings to WAISworld from tiny Fremont, Michigan, not far from Grand Rapids in the western part of the state.  We've booked a rafting tour on the Muskegon River for later today.  The sun is out, so why not scratch an item off the Bucket List?

                It was in Fremont, in 1927, that one of the most culturally significant consumer products in history was developed.  Anyone care to hazard a guess?  (I'm sure Michigan historian Pat Mears knows.)  As always, no cheating allowed--and no chewing necessary.

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            • WAIS '17, Havana: Sign Me Up (Tor Guimaraes, USA 06/15/16 7:42 AM)
              John Eipper commented on my last post: "WAIS '17 is sixteen months away, and interest is growing. Tor--I count on you joining us! We've WAISed together for far too long without ever meeting."

              Be careful what you ask for my friend, particularly now that I have become such an old man. Nevertheless, given that I have always wanted to visit Cuba but never had a good excuse and took the necessary time, given that the WAIS conference theme has always been of great interest to me, given that on this topic it is time for me to put my mouth where my mind has been, I have a strong feeling that I will be at the conference, that only God can stop me from being there but no human artifact. With any luck they might even have Guinness stout or something equivalent in Havana.

              Meanwhile, I am already chewing on my own words "What should be the main ideological pillars for a more successful social, political, economic system? What are the basic principles likely to work in practice, priorities that policymakers must keep in mind if the world is not to regress back to aristocracy, plutocracy, corruption, poverty, unlivable environments, slavery, etc?" This should provide a fertile ground for an exciting WAIS discussion. God, I love that.

              JE comments:  Guinness might be a stretch, Tor, but how about a smooth sip of Havana Club Añejo?  It's as complex as a fine cognac, and still not available for purchase here in the US.

              I can now announce the exact dates for the conference:  October 6-8, 2017, Friday through Sunday.  (This is a week earlier than I had originally announced.)  Mark your calendars!  Tell your friends!  I'm going to begin work on the preliminaries very soon.

              Next year in Havana!

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              • World's Best Rum, Of Course... (José Ignacio Soler, Venezuela 06/15/16 10:13 AM)
                John E. has been promoting the WAIS '17 meeting in Cuba. It is a perfect place for me to attend, as it is close. Also, I would like to go back to Havana, and the topics proposed so far are very attractive. I must say that it is my current intention to participate.  However Venezuela's difficult future and uncertainty might make it difficult for me to go for certain. We´ll see.

                John also responded to Tor G's last post with "Guinness might be a stretch, Tor, but how about a smooth sip of Havana Club Añejo? It's as complex as a fine cognac, and still not available for purchase here in the US." I have tried this rum several times. It is good, but compared with Venezuelan rums it is low on the quality scale.

                It is a well-known fact, that among the few quality things this country produces is rum. Apparently the sugarcane´s excellent sugar quality content and a very long, old, manufacturing tradition are the causes.

                For several years this country's rums have qualified as the best rums in the world. For three years in a row, Ron Carúpano (a small eastern town) has been prized "The Best Rum of The World" in the IV Edición del Congreso Internacional del Ron de Madrid, where more than 300 worldwide labels participated.

                Of course, as with food, I believe the individual subjective criteria to qualify the quality of a drink must be "the one I like best." But in my experience, I am almost pretty sure, the Venezuelan rums are the best I have ever tried anywhere.

                In fact, right now I am tasting a cup of this rum. ¡Salud!

                JE comments: Salud, Nacho!  Wish I could join you.  And even more importantly, how might I score an invitation as the Official WAIS Emissary to the Fifth International Conference on Rum?

                Perhaps I can entice Nacho to take a bottle of Carúpano to Havana for a taste test.  Sometimes Newcastle needs extra coal.

                October 6th through 8th, 2017.

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              • WAIS '17, Havana: More on "Reformation" (Tor Guimaraes, USA 06/17/16 5:43 AM)
                In preparation for the next WAIS conference to be he held in Havana on October 6-8, 2017, I have been formalizing my highly participative presentation/discussion. I would like to propose a small panel to the conference organizers and invite Cameron Sawyer, Ric Mauricio, and some right-wing Trump supporter or equivalent to join me on this panel.

                Within the "reformation" conference theme proposed by John Eipper, my original idea is that since Communism has not worked and Capitalism is clearly not working either, there is an urgent need for "reform." What should be the main ideological pillars for a more successful social, political, economic system? What are the basic principles likely to work in practice?

                In other words, based on the historical evidence to date, what are the ingredients for a "perfect" social political system implementable in practice by people of goodwill? For example, we know that democracy is the best way of government so anything that threatens democracy must be eliminated: no vote suppression of any kind, no gerrymandering, etc. Another example, we know that free markets are important for a healthy society, so we must have intelligent, flexible, enforceable government regulation to ensure that.

                JE comments: There we have it: the first panel of WAIS '17. Thanks, Tor! We are getting an early start on our next conference, but it's trickier to organize a meeting in Havana than one in Adrian or Palo Alto.

                October 6-8, 2017. Save the dates.  Nota bene:  by that time, Donald Trump will either be a curious footnote in history, or the most powerful person in the world.

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                • Trump's Wealth, and Brexit Vote; from Ric Mauricio (John Eipper, USA 06/19/16 5:02 AM)

                  Ric Mauricio writes:

                  I sincerely hope that Tor Guimaraes (17 June) is not placing me in the same bucket as a right-wing Trump supporter.  [I did not read Tor's post that way--JE.]  Perhaps he is placing me on the panel as a counter to a right-wing Trump supporter.

                  You see, I view the bombastic, racist, misogynistic, thinks-he-knows-it- all Trump as a very poor example of capitalism or perhaps as an example of how a good thing can indeed be made into a bad thing. Forbes places Trump at #121 with an estimated $4.5 billion net worth, but one wonders if he is even worth that much. OK, so he says he's worth more, but even seasoned New York realtors say that Trump often unrealistically overestimates the value of his investments. Trump even admitted in an interview that the value of his properties depends on how he feels that day. In fact, many of the properties that we see with Trump's name are not even owned by Trump, but he collects a licensing fee for using his name. I read, though, that Trump properties' revenues are down around 60% since he started his presidential run.


                  Oh, if one values the properties at today's revenues, that would mean he's worth around $2.5 billion. Not good for a guy who borrowed a billion plus from his dad over the years starting in the 1970s. Everyone mentions his four bankruptcies, but isn't it now at five, with the loss of the casinos in Atlantic City to Carl Icahn? Michael Bloomberg is worth a whole lot more, and he is a self-made billionaire.

                  The key to making capitalism an ideal system is balance. Bringing back the Glass-Steagall regulations will remove the conflict of interests between banking and investment firms. Yes, a Reformation.

                  As for the Brexit vote, I predict that there will be no Brexit. And what do I base this on? Ladbroke's odds. The money is overwhelmingly saying that there will be no Brexit. In which case, if you are a betting person on this side of the Pond, bet on the Euro rallying. And the stock markets as well.

                  JE comments:  Interesting.  The link above shows how Trump-branded hotels have experienced a vertiginous decline in bookings since The Donald launched his presidential bid.  Look for some really good deals on rooms, although lodging Chez Trump would make me feel unclean.  No doubt some of these properties are considering a name change.

                  After a weekend's thought, I'll second Ric Mauricio's prediction of a "Brimain" victory on the 23rd.

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                  • Ric Mauricio is Not a Trumpeteer (Tor Guimaraes, USA 06/20/16 4:16 AM)
                    I had a few chuckles from Ric Mauricio's imagining (19 June) that I thought he was a Trumpeteer. Ric, the reason why I think you would be a great conference panel member is that, despite being a capitalist pig like me, you are smart enough to know that there must be a balance. As you wrote, "the key to making capitalism an ideal system is balance. Bringing back the Glass-Steagall regulations will remove the conflict of interests between banking and investment firms. Yes, a Reformation."

                    I agree completely, but I might be more radical and think what is needed is unattainable, since people with power/capital will not give it up without a huge fight. The evidence seems to be critical that the last decades of rampant capitalism are destroying our nation and making us look more and more like a totalitarian communist country, except that the capital now is being accumulated in the hands of the huge companies in just about every sector. The results seem to be pretty much the same. Perhaps nations are like any organism, by nature they are born, exist, may be able to accomplish great things or not, and sooner or later decay and disappear into something else.

                    JE comments:  If we apply the "Organism Theory" to the United States, and if we accept Tor's claim that this nation is already in decay, our lifespan has been very brief:  barely two centuries.  That pales in comparison to most of the empires of yore, with the exceptions of the Mongols and the Aztecs, both of which last about 200 years.

                    Others might say there is a lot of life left in the ol' American Dream.  We'll make this the topic of WAIS 2065, the Centennial.  Should we meet in...Pyongyang?


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                    • "Organism Theory" of Empires (Tor Guimaraes, USA 06/21/16 8:17 AM)
                      Commenting on my post of 20 June, John Eipper stated, "If we apply the 'Organism Theory' to the United States, and if we accept Tor's claim that this nation is already in decay, our lifespan has been very brief: barely two centuries. That pales in comparison to most of the empires of yore, with the exceptions of the Mongols and the Aztecs, both of which last about 200 years. Others might say there is a lot of life left in the ol' American Dream."

                      Indeed, some historians could say that, for example, the Roman Empire lasted close to 800 years. Also, it is true that there is a lot of life left beyond the 200 years of the great USA. However, can anyone honestly believe that the living standards, the social economic conditions of the American people, compare favorably to the conditions in the past since the 1950s? Unfortunately, the answer must be unequivocally no!

                      Furthermore, I haven't yet heard a good argument against my statement that there is clear evidence that the last decades of rampant capitalism are destroying our nation and making us look more and more like a bankrupt totalitarian communist country, except that instead of the central government, now the capital is being accumulated in the hands of the huge companies dominating just about every sector.

                      If you combine the overwhelmingly bad news mentioned above with the international picture, where our old communist enemy China has grown enormously in social and economic terms, our nation looks unsuccessful and poor in relative terms. In comparison, while our beloved nation's infrastructure rots, our greatest accomplishment seems to be the squandering of trillions of dollars fighting wars for a wide variety of poorly explained reasons, concurrently accumulating increasingly more difficult problems, like large war refugee migrations and worldwide terrorism, on top of a global financial crisis.

                      Yes, as JE stated, "others might say there is a lot of life left in the ol' American Dream." On the other hand, while for some lucky like me the old dream might continue for many more decades, for increasing numbers of Americans the dream looks more like a nightmare. That is clearly not what the Founding Fathers had in mind.

                      JE comments: The Founding Fathers pretty much envisioned a nation of yeomen farmers--the Jeffersonian ideal.  One thing that is new for the 2016 election cycle, which has already shaped up to be historic (and bizarre):  inequality is now part of the political rhetoric.  We can thank two populists for this:  Sanders from the Left, and Trump from the Right.

                      Yet will inequality be brushed aside, as the election degenerates into little more than a character-smearing smackdown between Hillary and The Donald?

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                      • "Organism Theory" of Empires; the "Britannia" Faction (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 06/21/16 2:16 PM)
                        Excellent post from Tor Guimaraes, 21 June. However, we may even say that this degeneration started more than a century ago.

                        In April 1907, Woodrow Wilson said at Columbia University: "Since trade does not recognize national boundaries and manufacturing insists on having the world as a market, the flag of this nation must follow it, and the doors of the nations which are closed must be battered down. Concessions obtained by financiers must be safeguarded by ministers of state, even if the sovereignty of unwilling nations is outraged in the process."

                        Is this an enlarged project of the (later Nazi) Lebensbraum, as pointed out years before by John Hay in his "Open Door note"?

                        Referring to Italy, beside the military occupation, the high point of economic domination/exploitation was decided on 2 June 1992 on board the vessel Britannia, where the "great economists" chose the the huge privatizations through Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs and Salomon Brothers under the direction of the IMF.

                        From this plan the economic-financial elite (Morgan, Schiff, Harriman, Kahn, Warburg, Rockefeller, Rothschild) could completely, even if not openly, dominate Italy.

                        The plan as I said is very old, and it was well understood by Mussolini, who on 7 February 1944 said: "The American project (really the great economic corporations), can be summarised in a few words, all the nations will bring their savings to the American Treasury (economic corporations).

                        "The Washington government through the proposed [at that time] IMF will stop any decision contrary to its interests. In such a manner, besides the hoarding of military bases in the world, the US will have all other nations at their mercy."

                        The long opposition to such capitalist plan by Mussolini was the main reason for destroying him, all other reasons are politically correct smokescreens.

                        Unfortunately, as pointed out by Tor, the project has now degenerated so badly that is hurting also the average citizen of the US.

                        JE comments:  What do we know about the "Britannia Faction"?  I understand it was a secret accord among London City bankers and Italian businessmen to privatize Italy's public-sector businesses.  Sounds like a cabal of cigar-smoking zillionaires, but not Americans per se.

                        Most would say that Mussolini was destroyed because he was on the losing side of a world war, one which also involved Hitler.  Is this too obvious an interpretation?

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                      • Is the American Dream Dead? Trump in the Bible (from Ric Mauricio) (John Eipper, USA 06/22/16 5:10 AM)
                        Ric Mauricio responds to Tor Guimaraes (21 June):

                        It's quite a relief to know that I am not considered a Trumpeteer.  (Mouseketeers wear mouse ears, so Trumpeteers must wear Trump hair.)

                        But commenting on Tor's and John's discussion, I look back at my life in the 1950s and my life now in the 21st century.  I cannot in all honesty declare that my standard of living today is inferior to my standard of living in the '50s. When asked if I am happier today because I have more (larger house and a larger net worth), I can say that unequivocally that I am equally as happy today as when I was growing up. My wife calls me an optimist (and an incurable romantic). I supposed I consider myself lucky (or blessed, if religious) that I grew up in a lower middle-income neighborhood, with a mom who raised me by herself when my dad was killed in the Korean War when I was five months old, went to a school that supposedly was inferior to other public schools, although I later transferred to a Catholic school, both elementary and high school. I suppose I am lucky that in one generation, my family, both my in-laws and my cousins, were able to pull themselves up by the bootstraps into the million-dollar status.

                        I suppose I can consider myself lucky that while other grammar school classmates turned to dealing drugs, I was able secure an accounting job and work myself up into a management position. I suppose that I am lucky to have grown up in Silicon Valley, where the American Dream is still being realized every day. One of my ongoing consulting clients is a school where the students each get their own personal iPad. This school is mainly attended by children of the Sand Hill venture capital community. There is no impending doom here. There is no feeling that the United States is going the way of the Mongols or the Aztecs. Shhh. Don't tell the immigrants (legal or not) that the ol' American Dream is dead. They won't believe you anyway.

                        I ask others to explain why some people make it and some don't. Why are some living the dream and others living the nightmare. One explanation was the decisions they make. So is it the greedy capitalists' fault that some people choose to spend the money they have on cigarettes (might as well roll their cigarettes in dollar bills and watch it go up in smoke), or spending more than they make, or not funding their retirement plans, or buying cars they can't afford, or not investing? Is it the greedy capitalists' fault that people blame others for their woes rather than take responsibility for their actions? We had a booth at the recent Women's Expo for our gym, and I noticed one thing. The women who were in shape (reasonably in good shape) would stop and talk to us, while those who needed to exercise would avoid eye contact. And they wonder why their medical bills are skyrocketing. I was showing some guys a core exercise and they commented that it was too hard. Really, you want easy? Aha, that's the key: people want easy. And it is way too hard to save money, to put aside something for a rainy day. Oh, and that carries over to government. And we'll just spend, spend, spend til her daddy takes her T-Bird away.

                        As for rampant capitalism destroying the US, remember that it was rampant capitalism practiced by Rockefeller, Vanderbilt, Morgan, and unfortunately Carnegie through Henry Frick, that made this country great. We needed a socialist idea of unions to protect the workers from such abuse by these titans of industry. Yes, I agree, there are abuses by big corporations today, aided and abetted by the government and the Federal Reserve (bankers and brokers). And unfortunately, these abuses will continue under a Clinton or a Trump administration. Knowing this, one just has to take advantage of the opportunities provided by the manipulators and their media cohorts.

                        By the way, my Republican venture capital associates are not voting for Trump. Like Meg Whitman, they are in favor of stopping his brand of politics, even if it means voting for someone they don't trust. One of my friends joked that the reason Donald Trump hasn't read the Bible (I guess that would be a good reason to pick Cruz as his running mate) is because he isn't mentioned in the Bible. Ha, but look it up. "Trump" has been mentioned twice in the Bible (not to be confused with "trumpets"), and each mention precedes the end of the world.

                        JE comments:  Google "Trump Antichrist" and you get 560,000 results.  Many of them focus on the "last trump" reference in I Corinthians.  I'll file this in the Uncanny drawer, but the doomsdayers overlook the little issue of translation.

                        Trump's ego is large enough to believe the prophecy.  Columbus was cut from a similar cloth:  his final years were occupied with his unfinished Book of Prophecies, where he sought to identify passages in Scripture that presaged his (CC's) efforts to carry Christ across the seas (Christo-ferens).

                        A final thought:  we may not be better off than we were 60 years ago, but we have more toys.  Compare, just for starters, how many hours of labor it took to buy a TV in the 1950s vs. today.

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                      • Are We Better Off Today? (Timothy Brown, USA 06/22/16 12:56 PM)
                        A fact, and two questions in response to Tor Guimaraes:

                        First, a fact: In 1950 the life expectancy of the average American was 68 years. In 2016, it's 79.

                        My question: Does this mean that today, the average American is worse than they were 66 years ago, or does this mean that they will have eleven more years to live in greater misery that they would have if they'd just curled up and died at the age of 68--as they would have done in 1950?

                        I just turned 78. And, having lived, worked and done political/economic analysis for at least two years in each of the following countries--in Europe (Spain, France, The Netherlands), Asia (Thailand, Israel), Latin America (Mexico, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Paraguay) and in the United States for the rest of my years--I venture to say that in my experience, the average person in each of those countries has been more prosperous and lived better in the United States than in any of the countries where I've lived.

                        And I'm quite happy to have lived to 78, ten years longer than the average American during my parents' generation, and am perfectly content to have outlived them, although I must admit that if I hadn't lived longer than they did, I wouldn't have as many aches and pains as I do today.

                        JE comments:  There are many factors.  Medicine has advanced enormously, but so has the cost.  We're smoking less and (possibly) exercising more.  Cars are safer.  We don't breathe as much asbestos, or eat lead like in the Old Days.

                        But Tim Brown gets to the heart of the matter:  if we're living longer but quality of life has decreased, this is a depressing scenario.

                        Happy Birthday, by the way, Tim!

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                        • Are We Better Off Today? (Tor Guimaraes, USA 06/24/16 8:06 AM)
                          I thank Timothy Brown (22 June) for his reply to my post. It is indeed quite impressive that scientists and the health care industry have been able to raise the life expectancy so significantly. Of course I am sure that Tim, as a retired diplomat, knows that despite America's most expensive health care in the world, American average longevity is below some other countries like Japan (particularly Okinawa).

                          Being an old man myself, I share Tim's gratitude to God (because I know I am not that smart) for a long healthy life despite increasing aches and pains. Nevertheless, this topic is only peripherally related to the subject of whether American living standards and quality of life are deteriorating or improving. Most Americans seem unaware that they have lost political control over their own country, special interests are the dominant political power using the media to manipulate public opinion on specific issues ranging from the merit of socialistic programs, to low taxes for indecent profits, to extensive abuse and destruction of the commons, all the way to whether or not genetically modified foods must be so labeled for sale to ignorant consumers.

                          The only bit of fact I could collect lately comes from a study showing that while sixty percent of the American people got poorer since the 1950s, the top forty percent is better off. Nevertheless the unquestionably massive income and wealth differential is not only indecent but it seriously undermines the basic pillars of our democracy. Without a strong democracy, kiss goodbye to justice, quality of life to most of the working population, etc.

                          If this is allowed to go on for a few more decades, Ric Mauricio may lose his false argument that America must be getting richer because of all the poor immigrants presently still knocking at our gates.

                          JE comments: One thing to be said about Brexit: it was a victory of "democracy" over Big Business, Big Banks, and oligarchy in general.

                          It remains to be seen whether the US electorate in November is going to deliver a similar nose-thumbing to the Establishment.  (Would electing Trump do that?)

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