MAGA? Nah, MACAA!

Hound

All eyes will soon be on the Senate Intelligence Committee and the testimony of ousted FBI Director James Comey. However, we must not overlook today’s testimony the Committee heard from several of the top intelligence officials in the administration.

On one hand, their refusal to answer questions should sound the alarm about what is going on. On the other hand, as conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin put it at The Washington Post, that refusal puts our intelligence officials in contempt of Congress.

“None of these witnesses invoked executive privilege or national security. They just didn’t want to answer,” she wrote. “This is nothing short of outrageous. …their behavior was contemptuous and frankly unprecedented.”

While these professionals knew exactly what they were doing (and I’ve heard cogent argument of how they were protecting the independence of foreign intelligence gathering), supporters of the administration seem likely to miss the significance. These self-proclaimed lovers of the Constitution have always been a bit fuzzy on the details, however.

Beyond the 2nd Amendment, the Gadsen-flag waving Tea Partiers would be hard pressed to describe any of the other 30 Constitutional Amendments (or even realize there are only 27). And, their 2nd Amendment Solutions™ have always been selectively applied.

The administration of George W. Bush spied on Americans and not only listened in on the calls home from our military stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan, but made jokes about those calls between our soldiers and their wives and sweethearts. Crickets from the NRA members, but when the black guy in the White House suggested improving health insurance, time to show up at protests with sidearms and semi-automatic weapons.

But I digress. Our problem today is that too many people lack a basic understanding of how our government works. That goes for Trump, who thinks he’s Don Corleone reincarnate, to the members of Congress who think they work for Trump.

This includes voters, as well. We just had a primary election in New Jersey yesterday and we heard again the usual complaints. Lamentations about the low voter turnout, anger over the lack of voting choices, and hand-wringing over the fate of our democracy. Too many people forget, however, that general elections are about democracy but primaries are about party organization. Back when most people identified with one of the two major parties, choosing the candidates for the general election was taken away from party bosses in smoke-filled back rooms and given to “rank-and-file” party members via primaries.

But today, lines are blurred. We’ve gone from those smoky rooms filled with party bosses giving us FDR and Ike, to primaries giving us presidents from Jimmy Carter to Trump. And now people who would refuse to declare themselves a party member want undue voice in deciding a party’s slate and direction. (Looking at you Bernie Bros.) If you want to change a party, either party, you have to get involved, convince people, build a slate and take over functions. It won’t happen by sitting back and waiting for an election.

As we’ve lost sight of the separation between primary and general elections, we have also overlooked the separation between the levels and branches of government.

Therefore, the hearings going on now will truly test whether our current crop of Congresscreatures understand they are a separate and co-equal branch of government. The future of our democracy may depend on this. Forget Trump’s MAGA slogan, we need MACAA, Make American Civics Accessible Again!

While we contemplate the educational effort ahead, and the need to keep Texas from determining the content of school books, to ensure basic knowledge of the workings of our democracy, have a Constitution Hound cocktail.

An appropriately bitter drink for our times, the recipe from Kindred Cocktails calls for:

1 oz rye

1 oz Campari

1 oz Fernet Branca

.5 oz Bigallet China-China

1 barspoon absinthe

3 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters

1 twist Grapefruit peel

Shake, strain, rocks, garnish

Cheers!

Who’s Minding the Store?

Buster

A consistent theme has developed during the Reign of Error in which, when the number of scandals or problems seem impossible to keep up with, Trump will take to Twitter to create or highlight another one.

Such was the case today, when Cheeto Mussolini complained in a tweet to Fox News: “Dems are taking forever to approve my people, including Ambassadors. They are nothing but OBSTRUCTIONISTS! Want approvals.”

Surprisingly, reality begs to differ. Of the 559 positions requiring confirmation, Trump has not even announced a nominee for 442 of them. At this point, 39 have been confirmed, 63 are awaiting confirmation, and another 15 have been announced but not yet nominated.

This has led to headlines like Newsweek‘s “Trump Not Doing His Job?” in reference to the lack of nominations, to Jennifer Rubin saying in The Washington Post that Trump is courting disaster by not fully staffing the government.

Worse, he depleted the ranks of long-time government staff, particularly in the Foreign Service, and continues to do so. Today, the acting ambassador to China, a 27-year State Department veteran, resigned over Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Accord. With all the problems in the world, he may just need an envoy, but maybe he doesn’t really want things to work.

It’s almost as though he is destroying the ability of our government to function, the way our primary foreign adversary might wish.

Trump’s tweet on nominees came on the heels of a slight Twitter meme that pointed out we have started Hurricane season without a head of FEMA or NOAA. That calls for a Hurricane Buster cocktail to ease all the various storm surges we are currently enduring as well as those to come.

The recipe, via Beachbum Berry’s Potions of the Caribbean, calls for:

1.5 oz gold Puerto Rican rum

.75 oz applejack

.5 oz Curaçao

3 oz guava juice

.75 oz lime juice

Shake well over ice, strain into a glass with crushed ice, garnish with sugar cane stick, cocktail cherry, pineapple and orange slices (I was out of garnish material, still tasty)

Cheers!

Deepest Condolences

Rites

After a painful and declining battle since November, American global leadership has succumbed to years of toxic rhetorical exposure and come to a sticky end.

The signs of imminent demise were pretty clear after Cheeto Mussolini’s disastrous first presidential trip where he dissed allies and praised dictators. But historians will mark June 1, 2017, as the day that America’s role in creating and leading the post-WWII world order went to live on a farm upstate.

On that day, Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Paris Accord for pointless and petty reasons. And on that day, China moved another step closer to filling the vacuum we are unilaterally creating.

President America First was mentally incapable of grasping that the accord was another way to exert U.S. leadership and highlight American ingenuity and innovation to help solve problems facing the entire planet. Instead, Trump perceived slights from the politically correct opposition rather than recognize the science behind the dangers we face. So the spoiled brat decided to take his toys and go home. Unfortunately, he already was home, and everyone else lives there too. So now someone else (China) will step into the lead role.

To add an exclamation point and make sure everyone knew that American leadership is now pushing up daisies and pining for the fjords, Trump was allowed to get on Twitter as a terrorist attack was taking place in London.

The “leader of the Free World” bypassed all the massive intelligence capabilities at his disposal and simply retweeted an early unsubstantiated bit of news from The Drudge Report. From there he used the attack to again call for his travel ban, and he falsely attacked the Mayor of London.

As most world leaders delivered messages of resilience, Trump spouted fear and division. At this point, any Trump supporter displaying the slogan “Keep Calm and Carry On,” or any of its many variants, should be facing felony charges of fraud with mandatory jail time. Trump is proving a devil undeserving of sympathy.

As U.S. leadership goes the way of all flesh, who knew the idea of the American Century would be so literal. In 1917, with its entrance into WWI, the U.S. began taking on its role in the world. Now, one hundred years later, we can mark its passing with a Last Rites cocktail.

Last Rites is a tasty variant on the Last Word. The recipe via Kindred Cocktails is:

.75 oz blanco tequila

.75 oz yellow chartreuse

.75 oz lemon juice

.75 oz maraschino liqueur

Shake, strain, up

Cheers!

 

Earth Died Screaming

Corn

Nothing about the news that Trump is likely to pull the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Accord actually changes Tom Waits’ prediction of the Earth’s fate.

Really, we’ve been at the End of the World as We Know It since November. But mostly, the damage being inflicted by Cheeto Mussolini is political. While significant, we could recover politically in a relatively short time (key word being “could”). But when it comes to climate change, everyone alive today will be dealing with it the rest of their lives. (And we already are dealing with its effects, don’t kid yourself.)

Whether Trump makes it official by pulling us out of the Accord, or simply doesn’t fulfill the actions we’ve agreed to take, the climate will continue on its path. The short-sightedness of Trump and the climate deniers is that they think making changes necessary to mitigate the effects of climate change will hurt the economy. Also, their fear of the black President caused them to kill off the Republican idea of a carbon market and the Chicago Climate Exchange was suffocated at birth.

The opposite effect on our economy is the more likely outcome as Germany and China stand to reap the benefits with green technology. In the meantime, we are beholden to the fossil fuel and agriculture interests who want to maintain the status quo.

So, as we take Bluto’s advice while awaiting word from the White House, tonight’s cocktail is the Corn and Oil. Taken from Smuggler’s Cove, the Corn and Oil is:

.5 oz John D. Taylor’s Velvet Falernum

2 oz Barbados Rum

2-4 dashes Angostura bitters

Add ingredients to an old-fashioned glass and fill with crushed ice. Stir to combine until frost forms on the glass.

Cheers!

Never Forget

Elephants

Memorial Day weekend is here, signifying the unofficial start of summer. Amidst the barbecues and ball games, many people will take time to recognize the real reason for the day off work; a time of remembrance for the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice for our liberty.

It was 149 years ago the day, then called Decoration Day, was officially recognized, formalizing a tradition that began almost immediately after the Civil War. It was designated as May 30, as it was not the anniversary of any specific battle. After World War I, like they did across Europe, poppies became a symbol of the day of remembrance, a reference to the poem “In Flanders Fields.” In 1971, Decoration Day became Memorial Day, and in 2000 a National Moment of Remembrance was designated for 3 p.m.

Although it grew from the division of the Civil War, Memorial Day has united Americans for generations. But today our divisions are again at a heightened level. For that first “Memorial Day,” the commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, General John Logan, issued an order that read in part:

“We are organized, comrades, as our regulations tell us, for the purpose among other things, ‘of preserving and strengthening those kind and fraternal feelings which have bound together the soldiers, sailors, and marines who united to suppress the late rebellion.’ What can aid more to assure this result than cherishing tenderly the memory of our heroic dead, who made their breasts a barricade between our country and its foes? Their soldier lives were the reveille of freedom to a race in chains, and their deaths the tattoo of rebellious tyranny in arms. We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. All that the consecrated wealth and taste of the nation can add to their adornment and security is but a fitting tribute to the memory of her slain defenders. Let no wanton foot tread rudely on such hallowed grounds.”

Unfortunately, two weeks ago, the would-be heirs to that rebellion took to the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia, with torches (OK, Wal-Mart tiki torches, but still) to protest the removal of monuments to the treason that ended 150 years ago while chanting “Russia is our friend.” (In perhaps the speech of the year, New Orleans Mayor Landrieau spoke of the need to remove those Confederate monuments.)

The chant, of course, was meant as a show of support for President Trump who is facing growing investigations into whether his campaign worked with the Russians to influence the 2016 election. Much has happened since those chants, but it was quite clear then that — with or without Trump collusion — the Russians had attacked us and our electoral process through at least some role in hacking the DNC and through a coordinated disinformation campaign using social media.

Since then, and particularly in the past week, there have been many new troubling revelations. Most damning was The Washington Post story that Trump son-in-law and top advisor Jared Kushner had tried to set up a secret communication channel with the Russians in a way designed to evade U.S. intelligence during the transition.

Also in The Washington Post, columnist Jennifer Rubin outlines the past week and the rot at the core of Trump and Congressional Republicans.

“Conventional wisdom says that Trump executed a hostile takeover of the GOP. What we have seen this week suggests a friendly merger has taken place. Talk radio hosts have been spouting misogyny and anti-immigrant hysteria for years; Trump is their ideal leader, not merely a flawed vehicle for their views. Fox News has been dabbling in conspiracy theories (e.g. birtherism, climate-change denial) for decades; now Republicans practice intellectual nihilism. Nearly every point of criticism raised against the left — softness on foreign aggressors, irresponsible budgeting, identity politics, executive overreach, contempt for the rule of law, infantilizing voters — has become a defining feature of the right.”

Even today, the Post reported the Trump family ostensibly outside of government is working with GOP leaders to discuss strategy.

The dysfunction all of this this has caused in our government is beyond what Vladimir Putin could have asked for. It was one thing to see a weakening of NATO, a Russian aim for more than half a century, but the utter chaos in Washington today is paying dividends we may not fully understand for years.

Don’t get me wrong, we still have much more to learn to know whether the Trump campaign actively worked with Russia and whether there are traitors in the White House. This could be a continuation of Russian disinformation. What is troubling, however, is the way Republicans, particularly in Congress, seem more concerned about power than getting to the bottom of Russian interference in our elections.

Perhaps it should not be surprising from a party that has worked for years to suppress the vote of anyone who might be considered an opponent. As we saw again this past week when the Supreme Court struck down North Carolina’s racially Gerrymandered districts.

In The Washington Monthly, John Stoehr wrote that Mitch McConnell and Vladimir Putin want the same thing. He said that the GOP will have to be held accountable:

“Trump’s sins are their sins. If he is Putin’s useful idiot, it stands to reason that so are the Republicans.

And they can start by leaning on Mitch McConnell. Former CIA Director John Brennan told a Senate panel Tuesday that: ‘I was aware of intelligence that revealed contacts and interactions between Russian officials and US persons involved in Trump campaign.’ Under testimony, he told lawmakers that he informed leading Senators from both parties about what was happening. From that discussion, according to a December Washington Post story, the Obama administration hoped to present a bipartisan united front against Russian interference. But McConnell said no.

The Post reported that: ‘He would consider any effort by the White House to challenge the Russians publicly an act of partisan politics.’ McConnell’s decision was partisan politics. And the Russians were made part of the Republican Party.

Quite literally, Putin’s priorities were the Republicans’.”

There are some Republicans concerned about the direction of the party under Trump. Joe Scarborough, for example, called Trump’s NATO speech a “love letter to Putin” and went on a rant Friday about how the GOP has lost its way.

This weekend, as we take time to remember those that put our country above everything else to secure our freedoms, we hope that the leaders of the GOP put country over party to defend the U.S. against foreign aggression.

We must never forget the sacrifices made on our behalf, but tonight I am drinking an Elephants Sometimes Forget cocktail. Via Kindred Cocktail, it is:

1 oz gin

.75 Cherry Heering

.75 lemon juice

.25 dry vermouth

1 dash orange bitters

Shake, strain into a cocktail glass straight up.

Cheers!

Revelations 2017

Revelation

Monday evening saw The Washington Post pick up its running competition for scoops with the New York Times all pointing toward time running out for the Trump Administration.

The latest revelation finds that Trump reportedly asked the top U.S. intelligence officials to deny any collusion between his campaign and Russia in an effort to push back on the FBI. The story follows on after two big pieces on Friday where the Post reported the probe is now looking at a current White House official as part of the Russia investigation (rumored to be his son-in-law Jared Kushner), and the Times piece on how Trump told the Russians (during their visit to the Oval Office) that firing the “nut-job” Comey relieved great pressure on him.

All of this has prompted another piece in the Post headlined “Trump is practically begging to be accused of obstruction of justice right now.”

One problem we face now is too much information that threatens to bury other important stories, like Trump’s budget proposal to gut Medicaid.

To help stay vigilant as the revelations keep streaming in, I suggest the Revelation cocktail. This nice Manhattan variation from Kindred Cocktails is:

1.75 oz rye

.25 oz Fernet Branca

.25 oz sweet vermouth (I went with .5 oz and it was quite tasty)

1 dash orange bitters

1 Luxardo cherry as garnish

Stir, strain into a chilled cocktail glass, garnish

Cheers!

 

The Paper Trail

Trail

Cracks have begun to open and expose structural problems for the Trump presidency.

That is not to say that the structural damage the Trump presidency has caused to democracy in the United States isn’t clear and profound. But Trump’s Reign of Error has never been in more jeopardy. All coming since he fired FBI Director James Comey.

The latest crack to open up is the appointment of former FBI chief Robert Mueller as Special Council to oversee the DOJ’s Russia investigation. This supersedes the crack that had opened a couple hours earlier with the markets experiencing their biggest drops of the year. The so-called “Trump Rally” is toast, and so is a fair amount of good will Wall Street and the investor class afforded to Trump while returns were high. This will not sit well with Republicans in Congress, either.

The market was reacting to last night’s news that Comey had written a memo shortly after a meeting with Trump, documenting Trump’s request that investigation into the just-resigned National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and ties to Russia be dropped.

This provided the clearest suggestion yet of Trump’s obstruction of justice. It has prompted an increased discussion about impeachment. In fact, shortly after the news broke on Tuesday, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, the GOP chairman of the House Oversight Committee, demanded that the FBI turn over all “memoranda, notes, summaries and recordings” of discussions between Trump and Comey, according to the NY Times.

While there is an element of “hear no evil” on the right as many conservatives act more concerned about prosecuting the leaks than the fundamental problems behind them, even right-wing nut job Erick Erickson is taking issue with the White House. Politico reported this morning that Erickson said:

“What sets this story apart for me, at least, is that I know one of the sources. And the source is solidly supportive of President Trump, or at least has been and was during Campaign 2016. But the President will not take any internal criticism, no matter how politely it is given. He does not want advice, cannot be corrected, and is too insecure to see any constructive feedback as anything other than an attack. So some of the sources are left with no other option but to go to the media, leak the story, and hope that the intense blowback gives the President a swift kick in the butt. Perhaps then he will recognize he screwed up. … I am told that what the President did is actually far worse than what is being reported.” 

We may not need to rely on leaks soon as Comey has been invited to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee. At this point even Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said there needs to be a public hearing with Comey.

Last Thursday, former DOJ spokesman Matthew Miller predicted what was coming in a Tweet saying Comey “leaves a protective paper trail whenever he deems something inappropriate happened. Stay tuned.”

While we watch the cracks begin to undermine the foundation of the Trump “presidency” we can sip a Paper Trail cocktail in honor of Comey’s documentation.

The recipe from the Cocktail Virgin calls for:

1.5 oz bourbon

1 oz Aperol

.75 oz Salers Gentiane

Grapefruit twist

Stir over ice, strain into a cocktail glass, garnish with a grapefruit twist.

Cheers!