Friday, February 18, 2011

A Global Discussion

In an attempt to look at both sides of this issue, I have compiled some video regarding climate change. I summarize my view at the end of the post.

First, an overview on Global warming from National Geographic



Next, the opposing argument from Glen Beck on CNN.




Is this really an issue?

The below post was used by me before, regarding the same issue, but the points he makes are relevant ones. Is there something we can do about this, or is the whole issue an enormous exercise in political ego-gratification?



I don't know enough about this issue to debate the scientific merits of the two arguments, but it seems to me that this is an issue we should continue looking at. It's not the sort of thing we want to be wrong about. At the same time, as our economist points out, there may not be much we can do about it at this time. This debate extends beyond the science (which is muddled enough) and beyond the special interest groups on both sides (who throw millions at research and counter-research). Are we even able to affect the climate positively at this phase?

I've often heard that it's easier to break something than it is to fix it. Perhaps we're at that point on this issue. Even if we were affecting the climate, can we do anything positive to repair the damage?

Comments welcome. Disapprobation expected.

The Editor can be reached for comment at liquidether@live.com

La Aurora 1495 Series

La Aurora is one of the world’s oldest cigar brands, originating in the Dominican Republic in 1903. The Leon Jimenez family, who has been making these cigars there for over three generations, is the preeminent cigar family in a country that makes more cigars than any other country in the world. It is a tested and proven commodity for cigar aficionados around the world, and has a well-deserved reputation for quality and taste. The exclusive 1495 line was developed to commemorate Columbus expedition and discovery of the new world and the cigars which came with this discovery.

To begin with, the cigar itself is quite handsome and well-made. It contains five different types of tobaccos from Ecuador, Peru, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic (which is the source for the binder as well as one of the filler tobaccos), so it is no surprise that the cigar is complex, but what is most impressive is the balance that this complex blend maintains.

This cigar is a fine Medium - body smoke, lasting about 25- 30 minutes.  The pre-light draw was earthy and rich - a suitable prelude to what proved to be a spectacular smoke.  The flavor has a deep leather mixed with the earth that becomes richer as the smoke continues, without becoming smothering. The stick burns evenly and retains a long, firm, ash - hallmarks of fine construction.  I would pair this cigar with a glass of rum - my favorite is Captain Morgan's Private Stock, but there are higher quality ones that would pair wonderfully as well.

I rate this cigar a 3.5 on a four-point scale.  It is a worthy addition to your humidor.

Origin : Dominican Republic
Format : Robusto
Size : 5 x 50
Wrapper : Sumatra Ecuador
Filler : Dominican, Nicaraguan, Peruvian
Binder : Corojo


The Editor regrets that he only had three of these cigars - they were gifts from a friend, and his present tobacco shop doers not carry them.  He urges you to smoke a 1495 Series on his behalf.

Our Difference Engine is Still a Few Years Away

Because there is little to do during the week except Jeopardy after dinner, I watched the Watson vs. Humans matches, and found them interesting.  But were they merely a Potemkin village, a dog-and-pony show, a lie?  Was what we saw a genuine achievement, or a Public Relations stunt designed to get more funding for similar projects?

The author below seems to think so.

From:http://gcn.com/articles/2011/02/17/ibms-watson-cheated-on-jeopardy.aspx


So the big news this week in the land of computers is that IBM’s Watson beat two accomplished “Jeopardy!” champions at their own game. Even more impressive was the fact that this was a two-game competition played over three days and the computer won both games.


You would think that a techie like me would be overjoyed at seeing a glimpse into the rise what show loser Ken Jennings called “our new computer overlords.” But actually I was disappointed by the whole dog and pony show, which was set up in a blatantly unfair way to favor the computer.

Although Jennings did well (I think the other contestant, Brad Rutter, played a bad game), there was never any question who would win once I understood the rules – which both “Jeopardy!” and IBM were pretty vague about.

Now, first off, I will say that this is a great moment for computers. It really showed what they can do in certain circumstances. But would we be similarly impressed if a desktop PC running Microsoft Excel could crunch 50 pages of numbers faster than a math whiz? Because it could.

The point of a game show, or any contest really, is that all contestants are on the same footing and the best person, or computer in this case, wins. But Watson had an unfair advantage: It was being fed the questions electronically.

I wanted to see Watson hear the questions using speech recognition and process them the way humans do. But Watson was instead fed the words that made up the question in ASCII text and then went about searching a database, albeit a good one, looking for patterns and coming up with the proper response. All very rudimentary work for a computer, actually, and not much different than what Google and Bing do everyday right now.

The fact that Watson had a buzzing device is irrelevant. It already knew how it would answer before the question was finished being read, and the humans were still gathering input. And considering that the questions on last night’s show were actually pretty easy for “Jeopardy!” and that Jennings and Rutter obviously knew most of the answers, what Watson really excelled at was buzzing in faster than the humans.

What do you think?  Comments welcome.  Disapprobation expected.

The Editor may be reached at liquidether.live.com

Thoughts on Education

Since I am an educator, I found these lectures particularly enlightening. Let me know what you think of them.










I found the last one to be most disturbing. I think he is wrong, but that may be because I'm deeply invested in the cultural belief system he's challenging.

Comments welcome.
 
The Editor may be reached at liquidether@live.com.

Speech: Free and Complicated



For some reason, this clip from Anamaniacs got me thinking about the use and power of exclusivity in language. Every subset of people in a society creates its own dialect, almost instinctively. Part of this is out of necessity, because some concepts they are dealing with are unique to their occupations. But it has another use too.


It excludes the layman.

I worked for MCI at the height of the tech boom. During that time, the gap between the people who understood computers and the people who simply used them was much smaller than, say, in 1988, but it was still much larger than it is now. One of the most frustrating parts of running logistics for the tech guys was their infuriating tendency to talk in lingo, and to type in "l33t sp34ek." When I would ask on more information on their operations, so I could better anticipate their needs, I was snidely informed that it would take too long to explain.

I wasn't a tech guy, you see. I wasn't a code monkey. I couldn't build a computer from scratch components. I didn't know Perl. I wasn't in the club. And my inability to understand the tech lingo was one of the ways I was kept at arms length from the elite few in our department that were.

I don't think that this was an intentional conspiracy. I'm not so paranoid as to think that all the world's tech people got together and wrote a dictionary of computer lingo just to exclude me. But the existence of that new language kept me and others at a distance, and those in the know worked to maintain that distance by casting scorn on my ability to learn their new language, and by extension, their trade.

Because communicating with these people and supplying them was my job, I gained a certain amount of proficiency in their speech. I learned the basic of their trade too. It's not as complicated as many tech people like to make it sound.

The mystique of slang exists in all subsets of life, and it exists to make those included feel included, while setting them aside from the "normal" man. Among the goths I travelled with in High School, non-Goths were called "mundanes" and were scorned. Among role-players and card gamers, there exists a massive slang vocabulary, including Munchkin, Twink, Broken, Min-Max, Manaburn, Cheesy, and Ping. People who don't understand the lingo single themselves out, and are scorned (not by everyone, it should be noted, but that falls outside the scope of this essay).

Ultimately, this kind of exclusive language is one of the many rituals that social groups use to establish their identity and hold power over the disenfranchised. Another lesson in power politics among individuals, and proof that politics is life, not just government.

Polititico- Histronomics

Ok, time for a little history lesson, fused with economics.


The housing crisis began in earnest in the summer of 2007. At that point, thousands of people were losing their homes as a result of the real estate slowdown. A sudden need for liquidity led to a drop in the stock and bond markets.

CNBC aired this discussion in August, when the crisis had become a noticeable problem.



His proclamations led to this response, also in August 2007



So it wasn't like people couldn't see this coming. This "unexpected" market correction was predicted at least a year out.

So why wasn't anything done about it?

The answer to that question is complicated. Both sides of the political aisle would have you believe that the other side was entirely at fault for this crisis. Part of the reason for this is that they believe it, but mostly they are hoping to gain a political advantage off this crisis, using it as a way to bolster their control. Both sides are looking for a way to turn this setback into an advantage.

That's what politicians do.

The reason this crisis was allowed to fester had a political angle, one that made correcting the problem almost impossible for either side.

The reason Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac existed was to provide home mortgages for lower-income families. This kind of legislation does not exist in a vacuum. Creating organizations to allow easier home mortgage loans was a result of the average low-income voter demanding it. Wasn't it the American Dream to be able to have a home of your own? Our founding fathers cited the right to own property as one granted by God. Didn't every American have the right to own a home?

The short answer to that question is no. Only people who can afford a home should have one.

But in a American culture dominated by credit and consumerism (as it had been trending since the 1980's), the concept of waiting to afford something didn't exist in the same manner that it had before. You could always buy it on credit, and credit was always available. Shouldn't that be the same for houses too?

Again, the short answer is no. Don't put the money down if you can't make the payments.

Low income families were high-risk loans for a reason. They weren't guaranteed to be able to pay. That's why banks were refusing them. But rich or poor, they could still vote, and they made their displeasure known to their representatives in congress.

Politicians are, as I previously stated, always looking for a political upper hand. They found one here. If the government were to cover the loan, many more people would be able to buy their own home. This would make them happy, and they would remember who it was that had made that possible. Their gratitude would be demonstrated by votes to keep the incumbent Representatives in power.

So - Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

The mortgage industry was deregulated in the 90's removing the "old laws" that had been around since after the Great Depression. These safeguards were unnecessary, the politicians claimed, because of the new financial reality.

The truth was that financial reality had nothing to do with it. The political capital to be gained by increasing the volume of investment (leading to increased infusions of cash into the market) was too valuable to pass up. Rich Americans were happy Americans, and happy Americans voted to re-elect instead of "throwing the bums out."

When the crisis began to show itself in 2007, it was fear that stopped the government from doing anything. These low-income, high risk loans had become an entitlement. The American people expected them. Who would be able to stand for reelection if they voted to take homes away from low-income families? Your opponent would be all over that, claiming that you don't care about the working class, that you would happily deny them the American Dream.

So, seeing no political profit in it, the politicians did the other thing they do best - they waited. Sure the crisis was bad, but maybe it wouldn't implode - at least not when they were up for reelection. Maybe they would luck out. The few people who did want to do something hit the brick wall. It wasn't in the government's self-interest to do anything, so it didn't.

It's that simple.

Polititico- Histronomics 101: People can be relied upon to act in their own self-interest.

Comments welcome. Disapprobation expected. Debate encouraged.

The Editor may be reached for disaprobation at liquidether@live.com.  Comments should be made below, for the benifit of all readers.

The Car Bailout

Even as GM teeters toward bankruptcy and begs for billions in government aid, its forthcoming plug-in hybrid continues to destroy a big chunk of the company's development budget. This is a car that, by GM's own admission, won't make money.


The first subsidy has already been written into law - a $7,500 tax handout for every buyer. Another one is in the works, in the form of a mileage rating of 100 mpg. This allows GM to make and sell more low-mileage SUVs under the "fleet average" mileage rules.

So before the Volt even debuts, it will allow the company to cheat its way out of existing "green" regulations, and offer free money to anyone who buys the car.

Even so, the Volt will lose money for GM.

Why?

Because the car is terrible.

It's a $40,000 car that will have to be recharged for six hours to give 40 miles of gasoline-free driving. What if you park on the street or in a public garage? Then you're out of luck. It also has a small gas engine onboard to recharge the battery for trips of more than 40 miles. Don't believe anyone that that tells you it will get 50 mpg in this mode - Submarines and locomotives have operated on the same principle for a century. If it were so efficient in cars, they'd clog the roads by now.

Not to mention the fact that gasoline goes bad after a few months. If the Volt is used as intended, for daily trips of 40 miles or less, the car's tank will have to be drained periodically and the gas disposed of.

The media has been terrible in explaining how the homegrown car companies got in this shape when other U.S. manufacturers (Boeing, GE, Caterpillar) continue to thrive among global competition. Critics scream and shake their fists at Detroit for building SUVs (which make money) and ignoring fuel-efficiant vehicles (which don't).

The Carter administration gave out loan guarantees to keep Chrysler out of bankruptcy. Reagan imposed quotas on Japanese imports to prop up GM. Both parties used the fuel-economy loophole that allowed the passenger "truck" boom that kept Detroit's solvent during the '90s.

Now Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi want to bail out Detroit again, while ordering the Big Three to build "green" cars. If consumers really wanted "green" cars, the government wouldn't need to order them to be built. The Democrats are just pushing Detroit deeper into an unsustainable business model, which will require even more interventions in the future.

Detroit will not become solvent until they're free to buy labor in a competitive marketplace, just as their rivals do. In the meantime, private money, even in bankruptcy, will not be available to save GM. Nationalization, with or without Chapter 11, is probably inevitable - but still won't make them competitive. The free market works better than a controlled one - just ask the Russains.

The simplest step forward would be to get rid of the "two fleet rule," invented by Congress to keep auto makers producing small eco-friendly cars in high-cost union-controlled factories. Dumping the rule would force the UAW to compete directly inside each company for jobs against cheaper workers abroad.

Or better yet, dump CAFE entirely. If Congress really thinks consumers should use less gas, replace it with a gas tax. Forcing auto makers to produce cars that no one wants at prices no one will pay is not a smart way to run a business - a perfect example that the government should leave business to the private sector. Even when "the suits" make a mistake, they're better than the alternative.

Comments welcome. Disapprobation expected.

The Editor may be reached for comment at liquidether@live.com

The Dean

This drink is the favorite of Lord Magna, and was posted here so he would stop harassing me about the inclusion of "proper" drinks.  It is perfect for evenings with friends in autumn, and is well-complimented by the The Editor's favorite cigar and mine, the Africa.

Ingredients
• 1 ounce Scotch
• 1 ounce Brandy
• 1 ounce light rum
• 1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
• 1 ounce simple syrup
• Dash of Angosturra bitters

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously and deliver to ice-filled highballs. Serve.

Bruce Kingsford hopes that serving this drink at your next gathering will add a level of sophistication and style.  If he is wrong, he hopes it will be pretentious enough that no one will notice. 

Brutality

I have a real problem with police overstepping their boundaries and tyrannizing citizens of our republic just because they think they can.


This shouldn't have to be stated. Everyone should have a problem with that. Our police force exists to enforce the law, not to act as a pack of lunatics who feel they can do as they please with their granted authority.

And Yet....

I first read this article in the Washington Post News Magazine on Sunday. For those of you who don't want to read the whole thing, allow me to summarize:

-The PG county police delivered a box of marijuana to a house in an upscale neighborhood. They did this because they believed that drug dealers were using this MO to transport drugs through the mails system, intercepting the packages before the resident could receive them.

-The house they chose to deliver this box to happened to be the residence of the mayor of Berwyn Heights. No one on the police force knew this, even though the information is readily available.

- Arriving to the house with no warrant, the PG county and the Sheriff's Department raided the mayor's house, forcibly restrained the mayor and his wife, and shot their dogs.

-This was done in order to get the box of drugs that the PG county police had sent to the house themselves.

- No one in the PG county police force will be punished. They claim they had every right to do what they did.

Let's recap:

The police delivered drugs to a man's home - not even knowing who lived in the house when they did it. They instituted a no-knock raid with no warrant, attacked and subdued two perfectly innocent people (they had to know they had done nothing, because they sent the drugs to the house without even knowing who the residents were).

They then proceeded to ransack the resident's house, looking for drugs (presumably drugs other than the ones they had delivered there, even though they had no reason to believe that this house had drugs in it, since they had chosen the house themselves, and didn't even know who lived there, let alone their criminal records) and guns (which they would have a perfect right to, thanks to our Second Amendment). They didn't find anything except their own drugs, which makes sense, since they had no reason to target this house, no evidence of wrongdoing, and no probable cause.

Despite all that, no one will be punished. The police maintain they have every right to do this.

Pay attention. Depending too much on institutions for your personal safety is dangerous. Things like this tend to happen.
 
The Editor hopes that infractions on citizen liberty will be taken seriously, and monitored carefully.  Citizens have a right to freedom, but it can be traded away for perceived safety, with predictable results.

Scientology: Religion or Cult?

I am always surprised when I find a YouTube video that contains references, including primary sources. So I checked this out. The sources are legitimate, the events appear to have happened exactly the way the poster claims.

I have also included some other clips that explain Scientology to the layman (although I admit a decidedly anti-Scientology bias).

Enjoy.

First, the claim made with sources.



Next, a rather funny (but accurate) look at the church by the cast of Boston Legal (a show I suggest everyone watch)



And lastly, a view of Scientology from one of its own most prominent members: Tom Cruise.




The floor is now open for discussion on this matter. Comments welcome, disapprobation expected.

The Editor falls squarely into the "Cult" opinion, but is willing to entertain opposing views if presented thoughtfully and rationally.  Comments may be sent to liquidether@live.com

Thursday, February 17, 2011

How to Make a Layered Drink

Layered drinks were very popular at the turn of the 20th century, with many multi-colored and complex drinks being served in major establishments.  The more layers you could add, the more impressive the drink was, and the more money it could make.  In the hopes that your next party would benefit from a little extra something in the presentation department, here is the method to building your own layered drinks.

Layering is density dependent. Any solution has a specific density. Those with higher density sink through those with lighter densities, and the lighter density solutions will tend to remain floating above the high density liquids. Thus the key to knowing how the layers will turn out is by consulting a density chart.

The problem with alcohols is that many of them have densities that are very similar. This means that layers won't form if there is too much mixing or turbulence, and therefore, layering has to be done very slowly and very carefully.

The common technique today is to pour the liquor slowly over the back of a spoon, touching the side of the glass. This allows the liquor to trickle into the drink without too much downward disturbance, and settle nicely upon the top of the drink.


Density Chart


Everclear (95% ABV) 0.80
Everclear (75% ABV) 0.84
Southern Comfort 0.97
Tuaca 0.98
Water 1.00
Green Chartreuse 1.01
Cointreau 1.04
Peach Schnapps 1.04
Sloe gin 1.04
Kummel 1.04
Peppermint schnapps 1.04
Benedictine 1.04
Brandy 1.04
Midori melon liqueur 1.05
Rock and Rye 1.05
Apricot brandy 1.06
Blackberry brandy 1.06
Cherry brandy 1.06
Peach brandy 1.06
Campari 1.06
Yellow Chartreuse 1.06
Benedictine 1.07
Drambuie 1.08
Frangelico 1.08
Orange Curacao 1.08
Triple sec 1.09
Tia maria 1.09
Apricot liqueur 1.09
Blackberry liqueur 1.10
Amaretto 1.10
Blue Curacao 1.11
Cherry liqueur 1.12
Galliano 1.11
Green Crème de Menthe 1.12
White Crème de Menthe 1.12
Strawberry liqueur 1.12
Parfrait d'Amour 1.13
Coffee liqueur 1.13
Crème de Banana 1.14
Dark Crème de Cacao 1.14
White Crème de Cacao 1.14
Kahlua 1.15
Crème de Almond 1.16
Crème de Noyaux 1.17
Anisette 1.17
Grenadine 1.18
Crème de Cassis 1.18

Add your most dense ingredient first. Then place a teaspoon upside down into the glass, up against the edge of the glass and close to the surface of the drink. Slowly pour the next heaviest liqueur over the back of the spoon. Raise the spoon slowly if necessary. Continue with each ingredient, ending with the least dense.

Bruce Kingsford is a fan of layered drinks.  He hopes that the knowledge given here will make you a fan as well.  The Editor applauds this endeavor, but wishes it had been more timely, as always.

Evil

Longtime readers of this publication will remember that I am an avid fan of CAO's fine cigars, and that I feel that they are the finest quality smokes a gentleman can purchase.

I have been forced to reconsider that opinion in light of the Evil.

Gurkha cigars are considered some of the most super-premium blends in the world and are enjoyed by society's elite social groups, including heads of state and even the Sultan of Brunei.  I can see why - the Gurkha's Evil was one of the finest smokes I have ever had.  From the very beginning of the experience, I knew I was in for a treat.  The band is handsome, reminiscent of old prints and newsletters.  The outer wrapping is rich and dark, without veins or cracks.  The pre-light draw gave me a rush of flavors - pepper and clove, with a cloying hint of anise.  The binding wrapper was sweet and contrasted well against the spice - it was almost foreplay.

The Evil burns evenly and well, giving out about a 45-minute smoke (I had purchased the Torpedo), with the flavor and intensity building throughout, becoming stronger and richer every few puffs.  I was grateful That I had eaten recently, for this is not a cigar to be enjoyed on an empty stomach.  The smoke is thick and creamy, not as dense as the American, but satisfying and aromatic.  I would pair this drink with a Disaronno amaretto - the tastes compliment each other well. 

I would rate this smoke a 4 on a four-point scale.  This is the epitome of fine cigar smoking, and deserves a permanent place in your humidor.

Cigar: Gurkha Evil
Size: 6.5 x 53 Torpedo
Wrapper: Brazilian
Binder: Dominican
Filler: Nicaraguan

The Editor expects - nay, demands, that you try the Evil at your earliest convenience.  The experience would amply repay the cost. 

The Queen's Consent, Part II

Executive Mansion, Washington, District of Columbia, United States of America


3 May, 1829

“Her Majesty the Queen of England to see the President of the United States,” announced the Executive Mansion’s chief butler.

Catherine Seymour, the fourth of her name, was a handsome woman, English roses still abloom in her cheeks. Age had merely admonished her beauty. Her entrance into the sternly republican Executive Office was graceful as was her acknowledgement of the butler’s service. He closed the door behind the queen and her host.

“Mr. President Jackson, I am honored to meet you at last.”

“Madame, it is my pleasure,” rejoined the tall militia general and now chief executive. He bowed abruptly rather than gracefully, the gesture polite enough but bespeaking a scarcely concealed sense of power. Well, she thought, it is no secret why I am here. She sighed to herself. In a different – and better! – world, our roles might be reversed. He offered her a chair and refreshment courteously enough.

The conversation soon came to business. “Madame, the American people are always pleased to welcome our northern neighbor to our more temperate climes. However, your ambassador tells me that you have more weighty matters on your mind than our fine spring weather.” The presidential eyebrow arched inquiringly.

Catherine placed her teacup on the table separating their chairs to gain a few seconds of time. “Yes, Mr. President, I have come to request that the United States loan the Kingdom of England the sum of 100 million pounds, or….”

“Twenty million American dollars,” Jackson interrupted.

“Yes, Mr. President.” Her voice trembled despite herself. “We need….”

“Madame,” he interrupted again. “The answer must be ‘No.’ Your kingdom already owes the United States over a billion dollars in principal and interest. Your predecessors have been borrowing money from the United States since Napoleon Bonaparte drove your family out of England. Always there has been the promise of repayment… someday. But that day never arrives. My Federalist predecessors were more than generous with the People’s money.” Jackson openly sneered at the memory. “I must be a better steward of their funds. There will be no more loans. Thirty years of charity is enough.” He enunciated his stinging words carefully, clearly, almost savagely.

“‘Charity’!” exploded the queen, English phlegm giving way to pent up frustration. “‘Charity’? Is that what you call it? England is your Mother Country! And your ally against Bonaparte’s aggressions! Perhaps you have forgotten, sir,” she barely remembered to include the honorific, “that we fought together against Bonaparte in the Second Napoleonic War. A War in which this very elegant mansion was burned to the ground while he watched. We, English and Americans alike, fought together then and we, the English nation in exile, have fought against him on five continents since! Your money buys you safety while English men, and, yes, English women, sir, die in foreign lands and seas to keep Bonaparte in Europe rather than here!

“And, if you have money, sir, it is because you trade freely with our empire as the price of your loans. And because millions of European immigrants – even native Englishmen and women – prefer your ‘temperate climes’ to our northern ones. ‘Temperate climes’ that were once English as well!” She came to a sudden stop, horrified by the thought that years of hidden anger had carried her too far.

“Calm yourself, Madame,” ordered the President coldly. “I, too, fought the French in the Second Napoleonic War… as I fought the English in the Revolutionary War. I am not indifferent to Bonaparte’s military ambitions. What I object to is your English habit of always borrowing and never repaying.”

“We Have No Money!” Catherine shouted. “You Americans have taken the best lands, the best people and the best of what wealth escapes Bonaparte’s grasp for yourselves, leaving us nothing! Do you really think that we spent ‘your’ money on knickknacks and pastries?! No! We spent it to buy warships and weapons to fight the Master of Europe! We have repaid your ‘loans’ a thousand times over with the blood of our sailors and soldiers from North America to Australia while you sit here like some Shakespearean banker ready to foreclose on us and cast us out into the snow!”

Again she stopped, breathing heavily, choking in bitter rage, glaring at the arrogant President. There was a long silence, finally broken by the latter.

“Yes, Madame,” he spoke bitingly, his voice slowly gathering volume. “I, the representative of the American People, am your ‘banker.’ And I hereby call due all the loans that your predecessors have taken out and promised to repay. Madame, I hereby foreclose on the entire English Empire!” His hand swept upward and his fist crashed down on the small table, rattling the tea cups violently.

“‘Foreclose’? What do you mean ‘foreclose’? You are not Shylock and I am not Antonio. Nations do not foreclose on other nations,” rejoined the puzzled Queen.

“Do they not?” sneered Jackson. “Centuries of European history say otherwise. Consider Edward the Confessor’s promise to William of Normandy, better known as William the Conqueror. But I have something other that a Conquest in mind.” He leaned forward, a strange satisfaction on his rugged face.

“What?” she breathed.

“A union.” He paused for effect. Her eyes narrowed.

“A union somewhat like the one proclaimed between Scotland and England by Henry Stuart when Napoleon presented him with your family’s kingdom but on a grander scale and a more democratic basis. You as Queen of England and your other territories will sign a treaty of union with me. The entire English Empire – North America, the Caribbean, Australia, New Zealand, your protectorates in India, everything – will merge into the United States. Your subjects will gain full citizenship in the United States and the various states that we will create. In return, the government of the United States will assume all of your debts.” He leaned back into his chair in satisfaction.

Catherine was awestruck by the proposal…. No, this was not a proposal, this was an ultimatum. Jackson’s face brooked no argument. American troops already garrisoned parts of “her” empire….

“So you will be King Andrew I of England and America…,” she said listlessly.

“No, I will still be President of the United States. George Washington refused one crown and earned everlasting glory; I will refuse another. Instead, your people will become Americans.” His face radiated triumph.

The Queen shrank into herself. Did the Tudor kings and queens of England treat the Irish with this much magnanimity? “I seem to have little choice. I must agree to your proposal. We will need to work out many details….”

“Certainly. But, Catherine, there is one other thing.” His voice was no less powerful but now surprisingly gentle.

Surprised by his use of her personal name, the Queen asked, “And what is that, Mr. President?”

He leaned forward, supremely confident.

“Please call me ‘Andrew.’ Catherine, you are a widow. I am a widower. I suggest that we make our union closer yet.”

She suddenly remembered that an English officer had humiliated this man during the American Revolution. In the years that followed, she would often think of England.

Liquid Ether is proud to report that progress on Mr. Strong's forthcoming novel proceed apace.  Keep your eyes open for future developments.