VIP America


The Senate is preparing to vote on changes to the U.S. tax system that promise to fundamentally alter how we operate as a nation.

No one really knows what is in the Republican bill (they’re still making changes in the hours before the vote) but the outlines from all analyses so far indicate massive benefits to the rich at the expense of the poor and middle class. This was certainly true of the bill passed in the House that I noted recently.

With the GOP approach that gives tax credits for owners of private jets and the removes credits to teachers buying classroom supplies we will see inequality explode. We are moving to an America where a small number of people at the top are Executive Platinum frequent flyers and everyone else is down below, riding the dog, stuck in traffic.

Have you earned enough status to receive all of the perks in the Republican tax bill?

As Ronald Brownstein put it in the Atlantic, if you’re a white Baby Boomer, have a better chance to get your seat upgrade and bottle service. “The baby boom is being evicted from the penthouse of American politics. And on the way out, it has decided to trash the place,” he wrote. He noted that while the Boomer VIP status was ending, we’ll still be stuck behind their velvet rope for the next several years at least.

In the meantime, enjoy a Velvet Rope cocktail. Via Kindred Cocktails, the Velvet Rope is:

2 oz Rittenhouse Rye

.5 oz Velvet Falernum

2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters

Orange twist

Stir over ice, strain into a chilled coupe, garnish with an orange twist



Dancing With Fox News Stars


The battle between truth and lies, between news and propaganda, has reached a crucial and personal period for most Americans; the Holidays.

Beginning today and running for the next month or so, there will be much more time spent with family, particularly those who get the news and opinions from Fox. We are about to hit a spike in awkward conversations.

At a time when the GOP can’t even seem to disavow a child molester, there is some sign of rational Republicans, though. The Hill reported yesterday that Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas) has called for more to be done to counter the Russian disinformation campaign now being waged against us.

But, as the holidays will remind us, there was a reason the Russian fake news effort was successful. (Yes, that’s why it is President Trump despite 3 million fewer votes. Well targeted effort in key states for EC win.) Timothy Egan noted it in the NY Times last week in his piece We’re With Stupid:

“But the problem is not the Russians — it’s us. We’re getting played because too many Americans are ill equipped to perform the basic functions of citizenship. If the point of the Russian campaign, aided domestically by right-wing media, was to get people to think there is no such thing as knowable truth, the bad guys have won.”

As you try to decide whether your uncle or father-in-law is on the side of supporting child molesters as long as they’re Republicans or is willing to question Russian interference with our election — doing the dance of family peace around the Thanksgiving dinner table — I suggest preparing with a Winter Waltz cocktail.

This warming seasonal drink should put a chill on the political discord. Via Punch, the Winter Waltz is:

2 oz rye

.5 oz ounce Averna

.25 oz St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram

2 dashes Dale DeGroff’s Pimento Bitters

Shake over ice (yes, shake, gives it a nice foaminess), strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with star anise.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Puttin’ On The Ritz


The House has passed their Ayn Rand wet dream version of “Tax Reform” and now we wait to see what the Senate will do. Their plan is different and not as certain to pass as the House bill. But again, we are left counting on Republican dysfunction to avoid the disastrous effects of legislation.

The Republican tax reform provides exemptions for owners of private jets, but eliminates one for teachers buying school supplies for their classrooms.

Every analysis has said this benefits the rich at  the expense of the poor and middle class. Only America’s oligarchs-in-waiting benefit, finally getting on equal footing with their Russian counterparts. Even the non-partisan and non-fake news Associated Press came out with this lede the other day:

WASHINGTON (AP) — The ultra-wealthy, especially those with dynastic businesses — like President Donald Trump and his family — do very well under a major Republican tax bill moving in the Senate, as they do under legislation passed this week by the House.

Senators Orrin Hatch v. Sherrod Brown got into a very heated exchange over the bill during a Senate Hearing, with another Republican explaining how his hardscrabble roots mean he couldn’t be for the rich against the poor.

The bill would work to fulfill the longstanding GOP goal of destroying Obamacare, throwing some 13 million people off of their health insurance and making premiums more expensive for everyone else. It would also tax tuition waivers in a way that would severely damage graduate-school education. There are so many ways this bill weakens America, it almost seems it was planned by a foreign adversary. Fortunately none of them have any influence in our government.

While calling on your Senator to vote against the measure, have a classic Millionaire cocktail. This way, you can say you’re calling with a millionaire and maybe get your Senator on the phone quicker. Besides, if they’re only taking calls from billionaires, at least you have this pretty tasty cocktail.

I began with the classic recipe found in Ted “Dr. Cocktail” Haigh’s book Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails and modified for ingredients on hand.

1.5 oz Myers’s Dark Rum

.75 oz sloe gin (I used Greenhook Ginsmith’s version made with beach plums)

.75 oz apricot brandy (I used Rothman & Winter Orchard Apricot liqueur)

Juice of 1 lime (1-1.5 oz)

Shake over ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass, garnish with a lime wedge.


Moore Bitterness

Something Bitter

In the state of Alabama, 49 percent of the population identifies as an Evangelical Christian. In polling this week, 37 percent of Alabama Evangelicals said charges of sexual misconduct with teenage girls made them more likely to vote for Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore.

Alabama Republicans are saying they prefer to send a child molester to the U.S. Senate to represent them over a Democrat (Doug Jones in this case, a man who prosecuted two Klansmen for the 1963 16th Street Baptist Church bombing that killed four girls). This is party over country, a sentiment not confined to Alabama, and the source of many of our problems today. It’s a big reason why Moore’s election is not something I would vote against, as much as I hope Jones can hold on to his current lead in the polls.

Thanks to the voters of Alabama, we will soon have a man at the highest levels of governing the country who has twice been removed from office for violating his oath of office. A man who claims to govern in the name of Christianity, but who — as Rev. Dr. William Barber says — espouse not Christianity but extreme Republican religionism.

This is troubling enough, but it is worse when you realize these same Alabama voters have more influence on the governance of the nation than voters elsewhere.

Based on the 2010 Census, Alabama has seven members of the U.S. House of Representatives for a population of 4.9 million people. That is one representative per  700,000 people. The 12 reps for New Jersey’s 8.9 million people, or the 53 for California’s 39.3 million people, means one representative per 742,000 people.

I have written about the problems we encounter with our representation capped at 1911 levels, most recently here, and how it is even more fundamental to fixing our democracy than reforming Gerrymandering. That does not mean we shouldn’t fix the gerrymandering problem, and former Attorney General Eric Holder is working on that. Hopefully SCOTUS will rule the right way on the Wisconsin case and not make the effort harder.

Beyond the structure of electing our representatives, Timothy Egan pointed out in the NY Times the other day there are other issues to address as well.  This is not just about dealing with Russian interference (though we need to do that too), but why it was effective.

“We’re getting played because too many Americans are ill equipped to perform the basic functions of citizenship. If the point of the Russian campaign, aided domestically by right-wing media, was to get people to think there is no such thing as knowable truth, the bad guys have won,” Egan wrote. “We have a White House of lies because a huge percentage of the population can’t tell fact from fiction. But a huge percentage is also clueless about the basic laws of the land. In a democracy, we the people are supposed to understand our role in this power-sharing thing.”

For most of us around the country, watching as the voters of Alabama plan to send a child-molesting extreme religionist to the U.S. Senate, we’ll have to look to 2018 to try to make sure Moore is in the minority party.

In the meantime, have a cocktail. I suggest a Something Bitter This Way Comes cocktail via Kindred Cocktails. It is:

1.5 oz Rye

1 oz Amaro CioCiaro

.5 oz Cocchi Vermouth di Torino

.25 oz Fernet-Branca

2 dashes Bittermens Xocolatl Mole Bitters

Pinch of kosher salt

Stir over ice for at least 30 seconds, strain into a chilled cocktail glass, garnish with an orange twist.



Reversing the Curse


I am a lifelong Chicago Cubs fan. I was happy beyond words on November 2, 2016, when the Cubs won the World Series and ended 108 years of frustration.

Many of us Cubs fans feared there would be a heavy price to pay for this victory, and less than a week later, Donald Trump was elected President of the United States. On the bright side, the sun didn’t go super nova and destroy the Earth. Still it’s been a rough year.

On November 1 this year, the Houston Astros defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers to become World Series Champions. One week later — with the Cubs no longer the reigning baseball champs — the forces allied with Trump suffered major electoral defeats.

Coincidence? I don’t think so.

In the best baseball tradition, this calls for a beer. I am going with the very appropriate Chicago beer Fist City from Revolution Brewing. Like good anti-fascists everywhere, raise a Fist (City) and toast the hard work that has been done, and the hard work to come as the Cubs’ curse is out of the way and we can rid ourselves of these grifters and traitors.

And as for the Cubs, they had a good season and made it to the NLCS for the third year in a row, but now the curse is over and penance has been paid. We’re good. And the last time the Cubs lost the NLCS, they won the World Series the next year. Go Cubs Go!

Happy Friday!


Darkness Turning to Light


The past year has seen things get increasingly dark in America. Since Trump’s election on November 8, 2016, the traditions that defined America as a beacon of freedom were under attack and in danger of being snuffed out.

Nazis marched in our streets and the President of the United States said there were many very fine people among them. Nazis! And not just Illinois Nazis, who everyone hates.

There is very little doubt at this point that Russia interfered with our 2016 election and the evidence has grown suggesting Trump and his campaign were involved in that effort. Still, however, Republicans in Congress don’t seem interested that American democracy was attacked.

But then came Tuesday’s off-year elections. It was not simply a good night for Democrats, it was a repudiation of Trumpism large and small.

New Jersey and Virginia governorships were won by Democrats, and Virginia was expected to be much closer, with Steve Bannon all but declaring victory for the Trump-supported Republican candidate.

But these weren’t even the particularly important measures of the backlash against the kind of country Trump wants to build. The diversity of the successful candidates on Tuesday was amazing. The Virginia statehouse saw a transgendered woman defeat the state’s self-declared homophobe-in-chief, and the first Latina elected to the chamber.

In NJ, a Republican county freeholder was defeated by a woman who decided to run after his sexist comment about whether the Women’s March on Washington will be “over in time for them to cook dinner.”

Across the country there were victories for the first (Insert ethnicity here) mayors that said we reject the white supremacist Trump/Bannon agenda, while Maine voted for the ACA Medicaid expansion by referendum to get around lawmakers.

To celebrate Tuesday’s ray of hope that America does not really side with Trump, that light is returning to the world, a Solstice cocktail is most appropriate.

Via Kindred Cocktails, the Solstice is:

2 oz rye

.75 oz Cointreau

1 t Allspice Dram

Build over ice in a rocks glass glass, stir.


Electoral Hanky-Panky


It has been known for some time that the 2016 election was the target of questionable and underhanded activity brought on by Russian intelligence services. Our Intelligence Community has been telling us this for a year.

However, the past week saw the picture around this interference get clearer. On Monday came indictments of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his aide. But the more surprising news of the day was that former campaign foreign policy advisor George Papadopoulos had pleaded guilty to lying about contacts with Russia (and was cooperating with Mueller).

The week ended with the NY Times revelation that another Trump campaign foreign policy advisor, Carter Page, has told Congressional investigators that he met with Russian officials. This is contrary to many denials he has made to the media.

In between, it became clear that Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions were in a meeting when Papadopoulos talked about setting a meeting between Trump and Putin. This has a number of Senators questioning the truthfulness of comments Sessions made under oath.

Congress also heard from attorneys for Facebook, Twitter, and Google this week about the use of their platforms for Russian-linked groups to run very targeted campaign ads. This meeting did not leave members of Congress feeling very confident about what did happen in the election, or what might again in future elections.

Business Insider also revealed that Russian hacker Guccifer 2.0 had altered hacked DNC emails before making them public. The timeline of Guccifer’s appearance on the scene has an interesting correlation with things we are learning about the Trump campaign and its contacts with Russia. It has been noted online today (not completely confirmed yet) that Guccifer’s Twitter account began on June 9, 2016. That was the day of the Trump Jr, Kushner, and Manafort meeting with Russians in Trump tower. Either way, the first comment on DNC hack from Guccifer was June 15.

The jigsaw puzzle Mueller is working on began to take some shape this week. There was clearly some hanky-panky between Trump’s people and the Russians last year. While we wait for more pieces of the puzzle to get filled in, sit back with a Hanky-Panky cocktail.

This classic from the Savoy Cocktail Book has gotten a nice update in the fantastic new Meehan’s Bartender Manual by Jim Meehan. Using Meehan’s recipe, the Hanky-Panky is:

2 oz Tanqueray gin

1.5 oz Cocchi vermouth di Torino

.25 oz Fernet-Branca

Stir with ice, then strain into a chilled coupe. Garnish with an orange twist.