Lawyers, Guns, and Money

Russian

The arrest, indictment, and denial of bond for Maria Butina certainly has any number of Republicans and NRA officials asking “how was I supposed to know she was with the Russians, too?”

The shit is now hitting the fan for those caught in the Russian spy’s honey pot. The 29 year-old suspect spy funneled Russian money through the NRA to the GOP, had a romantic relationship with a 56 year-old American, a long time Republican operative with ties to the NRA and the media.

Donald Trump may be able to take some comfort that he is not the only American ensnared by the Russians. The rest of us, however, will find no comfort in how extensively the Russians seem to have integrated themselves into our political and governing system. And this parasite continues to feed.

Trump’s own Director of National Intelligence has said the lights are blinking red like they were before 9/11, whether the Orange Whipped believes the Russians are looking to interfere in the midterm elections or not.

To get rid of the bitter taste of treason, I suggest beginning with a Russian cocktail. A classic dug up from the 1930 edition of the Savoy Cocktail Book, the Russian is equal parts of gin, vodka, and Creme de Cacao.

Shake well, strain into a chilled cocktail glass, and, as the book says, “Tossitoff quickly.”

Cheers!

At Least We Still Have Alaska!

Alaska

The Treason Summit in Helsinki showed Trump’s true colors (not just orange) as a stooge of Vladimir Putin. His pathetic attempt to walk away from his comments, saying he meant to say would’t instead of would, is to believe people did not watch the full press conference.

It was, of course, of a piece with Trump’s method of berating allies (as he did at NATO just before Helsinki) while praising dictators. This was not our first example of the world coming apart, but it may have finally gotten through to at least some portion of MAGAts. Even Fox News was aghast at his performance.

We can’t be sure what was agreed to in the private meeting between Trump and Putin, but at this point the best thing that can be said about the summit is that at least we still have Alaska. After Trump’s turn as supplicant to the Russian strongman (did he say his name was Reek?), toast the preservation of our 49th state with an Alaska cocktail.

From Brad Parson’s book Bitters, the Alaska is:

1.5 oz gin

.75 oz Yellow Chartreuse

1 dash of orange bitters

Stir over ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass, garnish with a lemon twist

Cheers!

Breast-feeding, Ecuador, and Treason

Sanctuary

In today’s fire hose news cycle, the story about the U.S. aggressively opposing a U.N. breast-feeding resolution elicited one of those “WTF is up with that?!?” reactions before it was lost in the torrent of corruption, scandal, and crazy.

Yesterday on Twitter, @HoarseWisperer provided a very plausible potential explanation for the story, one that is gaining even more plausibility today. It is well worth the trip to Twitter to get it straight from the “Hoarse’s” mouth, but I’ll provide an overview.

The U.N. resolution encouraging breast-feeding seemed an easy and uncontroversial action until the unexpected opposition by the U.S. The NY Times headline talked of stunning world health officials. The U.S. threatened retaliatory action if the sponsor, Ecuador, did not withdraw the resolution. Even if it was doing the bidding of the infant formula industry, this was a bit over-the-top for the U.S. It ultimately passed after Russia took over sponsorship from Ecuador.

The Hoarse Whisperer explanation looks at the push against Ecuador in light of Friday’s indictments, where it seems Mueller may have Julian Assange and Wikileaks in his sights.

Ecuador, of course, has provided asylum for Assange in its London Embassy for years. The new President of Ecuador seems less thrilled with that arrangement and has expressed an openness to discussing a resolution with the U.K. As @HoarseWisperer put it:

“So, here we have:

1) Ecuador expressing openness to potentially turning over Assange

2) The Trump Admin threatening Ecuador about an unrelated matter; and

3) Mueller indicting an array of suspects on crimes leading straight to Assange

Assange is the middleman in an array of criminal activity related to Trump’s illegitimate election. He is the direct connection between members of Trump’s inner circle and now-indicted Russian intelligence operatives. Assange is directly or indirectly connected to everyone in the Trump orbit from Roger Stone to Steve Bannon to Cambridge Analytica to the Mercers…”

Today, shortly after the @HoarseWisperer thread was posted, The Sunday Times in London published a story that Ecuador is beyond open and actually talking with U.K. ministers about evicting Assange.

While watching to see what happens to Assange, have a Sanctuary cocktail. A Classic from the Savoy Cocktail Book (1930 edition), it represents another London refuge from American law enforcement. The Sanctuary is:

.75 oz Cointreau

.75 oz Amer Picon (Bigallet China-China)

1.5 oz Dubonnet (Cocchi Rosa)

Shake well, strain into a cocktail glass

Cheers!

Back to Basics

Martini

There was a time when the President and members of Congress would put the interests of the United States above those of other nations — especially avowed adversaries.

Unfortunately, the summer of 2018 is not that time. Instead we have a President determined to make enemies of friends while doing the bidding of enemies. Trump tears apart our allies at meetings with the G7 and NATO while talking of ending sanctions on Russia for invading Ukraine. Meanwhile, a flock of GOP Senators spent the 4th of July (Independence Day FFS!) in Moscow sucking up to Putin.

Those Senators are part of a group — that includes a great many House Republicans — that seeks to end the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether the Trump campaign participated in that interference. With elections coming up in November, the GOP has spent a lot more time denigrating the FBI and the intelligence community than it has in ensuring our election is protected against interference.

I’d like to go back to that time when the basic approach of our elected officials was to protect the integrity of our democracy rather than looking at holding on to power through the help of hostile foreign powers.

This corrosion of American values also appears to have spread to a third branch of our government, where Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy — who’s son loaned Trump $1 billion while employed at Deutsche Bank — resigned. This has given Trump an opportunity to name someone more likely to take the Executive’s side in disputes with the Mueller investigation.

The labyrinth of unethical behavior in our government right now is mind boggling, and that is just in the bits we learn every day (hourly). To best approach the complexity of corruption, it is time to simplify your cocktail. I suggest a classic Martini. I like mine as follows, but don’t complicate things. Stick with what you like.

2.5 oz Plymouth Gin

.75 oz Dolin dry vermouth

1 dash of Regan’s Orange Bitters

Stir over ice, strain into a chilled Martini glass, lemon twist

Cheers!

 

 

Trump The Impetuous

Caprice

Trump has put in a lot of effort lately to dismantle the G7 alliance and destroy the American ethos as a nation of immigrants.

By tearing apart families who have come seeking asylum, Trump is trying to turn our beacon of hope into a No Vacancy sign. (Unless of course you happen to be white with money and connections.)

There are many problems with immigration under Trump, and ICE is proving to be one of the most disgusting examples of misuse of power in this administration. However, the removal of children from asylum seekers and the inhumane treatment they are receiving is a violation of our laws. When the Trump era is over, those responsible will find the Nuremberg Defense will be no more use to them than it was 72 years ago.

Meanwhile, the shit show of a G7 meeting began with Trump saying Putin should be a part of the meeting (Putin’s return on investment may the best ever), and ended with him straining relations with Canada (Canada!!!!).

As Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer put it on Twitter:

“Are we executing Putin’s diplomatic and national security strategy or AMERICA’s diplomatic and national security strategy? After the last few days, it’s hard to tell.”

Even Senator John McCain felt compelled to reassure our allies, tweeting:

“To our allies: bipartisan majorities of Americans remain pro-free trade, pro-globalization & supportive of alliances based on 70 years of shared values. Americans stand with you, even if our president doesn’t.”

Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin put it best when she wrote of Trump’s G7 antics:

To him, none of the benefits of the post-World War II international architecture matter. It’s about his pride, his demand for attention, his ability to create havoc — and if he needs to take a wrecking ball to the Western alliance to convince himself he’s smarter than all his predecessors, he’ll not think twice about it.

Without a doubt then, the drink tonight is the Caprice cocktail. As Merriam-Webster defines it:

caprice

1aa sudden, impulsive, and seemingly unmotivated notion or action  

  • policy changes that seem to be motivated by nothing more than caprice
  ba sudden usually unpredictable condition, change, or series of changes  
2disposition to do things impulsively
As Kindred Cocktails defines this classic:
1.5 oz gin
1.5 oz dry vermouth
.5 oz Benedictine
1 dash orange bitters
Stir over ice, strain into a chilled coupe, garnish with an orange twist
Cheers!

The Aging of Reason

Reason

“We’re on a mission from God.” — Elwood Blues

Have you seen the Light? America today is seeing its fundamental values — a birthright of the Enlightenment — being squeezed from two sides.

On the one side is the Religious Right. It has been building for quite a long time, but it does seem different today. For all of the faults of George W. Bush, he was a Believer who tried to live as (his version of) a good Christian. Trump, on the other hand, obviously prefers to spend his Sundays on the golf course (preferably one of his own). Nevertheless, the Religious Right is the strongest part of his base.

Plenty of evidence has sprung up just in the past week, from Trump’s anti-abortion moves to moving the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. The new generation of evangelical leaders, including Franklin Graham, Jerry Falwell Jr. and Texas megachurch pastor Robert Jeffress, heap praise on Trump (and VP Pence), but raise questions whether their aim is power rather than piety.

The influence of the Religious Right on the policies of the U.S. government is not what the founders intended. When Thomas Paine published his Age of Reason pamphlets attacking organized Christianity, he was arguing the church was corrupt and overly institutionalized. What would he think of today’s situation?

As obvious as the Religious Right squeezing from one side is, the other pressure point is really just coming into focus. Shedding some light on this point is (of all people) Henry Kissinger in The Atlantic this month. While his piece, “How The Enlightenment Ends,” is aimed at how humans are not prepared intellectually, philosophically, or ethically, for the rise of artificial intelligence, it definitely touches on some topics that have become more visible in the Age of Trump.

The Enlightenment sought to submit traditional verities to a liberated, analytic human reason. The internet’s purpose is to ratify knowledge through the accumulation and manipulation of ever expanding data. Human cognition loses its personal character. Individuals turn into data, and data become regnant.

Users of the internet emphasize retrieving and manipulating information over contextualizing or conceptualizing its meaning…Truth becomes relative. Information threatens to overwhelm wisdom.

When it comes to politics, Kissinger sees the velocity of data having a negative impact on understanding and on building consensus. He says this is due to the greater ability to micro target based on “specialized purposes or grievances.” A quick look at the social media effect on the 2016 election gives plausibility to this idea. “The digital world’s emphasis on speed inhibits reflection; its incentive empowers the radical over the thoughtful; its values are shaped by subgroup consensus, not by introspection,” Kissinger writes.

Perhaps like Jake and Elwood, it is time to get the Band back together — Locke, Kant, Voltaire, Adam Smith, etc. — to spark a new Enlightenment for the 21st Century, one that energizes a new generation to tackle the philosophical and ethical questions unimaginable in the 18th Century.

But before you going looking for that copy of Rousseau’s The Social Contract you had in college, you may want to make yourself an Age of Reason cocktail.

Via Bittermen’s, the Age of Reason is:

2 oz rye

.5 oz cognac

.5 oz Cocchi Americano

1 bar spoon green Chartreuse

1 bar spoon yellow Chartreuse

10 drops Bittermen’s ‘Elemakule tiki bitters

lemon twist

Stir over ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Run the lemon twist around the rim of the glass and discard.

Cheers!

 

You Scratch My Back…

Clear

News of another Trump campaign, Trump Tower, meeting for the purpose getting illegal (and shady) foreign assistance — this time from the Middle East — comes on the heels of the Senate Intelligence Committee report confirming that Russia interfered in the 2016 election in favor of Trump.

The New York Times is reporting emissaries from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates met with Donald Trump Jr and others three months before the election to discuss ways to help Trump win.

A few days ago the report from the Senate Intelligence Committee was released that backed up the intelligence community assessment that “The Russian effort was extensive, sophisticated, and ordered by President Putin himself for the purpose of helping Donald Trump and hurting Hillary Clinton.” The bipartisan report is at odds with the House Intelligence Committee Republicans who are working overtime to block any attempts to understand what happened during the election.

Also last week, Trump strangely came to the defense and sought to bolster Chinese telecom ZTE after it was sanctioned for the security threat it posed to America. Then we found out the Chinese government was giving $500 million to a Trump project in Singapore.

In fact, whether it’s Saudi Arabia, U.A.E., or Russia, Trump was (and is) willing to sell out the interests of the United States to advance his own interests, and it’s pretty transparent at this point.

As we learn more about this administration’s corrupt approach, have a Clear Intentions cocktail to wash away the swampiness.

Via Kindred Cocktails, the Clear Intentions is:

2 oz gin (Sipsmith in my case)

.75 oz Cocchi Americano

.25 oz Amaro Montenegro

1 dash celery bitters

Stir over ice, strain into a chilled coupe

Cheers!