Waiting Is the Hardest Part

Purgatory

Just a few weeks out from the election and the anxiety is intensifying. What direction will America be headed on November 7?

Polls go back and forth, including one today that says a low turnout could mean Republicans hold the House by one seat. Reports of GOP voter suppression activities are now a part of each news cycle. Voting systems across many states are so insecure that children have hacked them in minutes, and Congress has done nothing to strengthen our defenses while the Russians are up to their same tricks from the 2016 election.

It does seem the anti-Trump part of the country is more motivated to vote, and there are many people working to get out the vote in big numbers for Democrats. Still, the waiting for election day won’t be easy. This is particularly true as the propaganda from the right has been turned up to 11.

No matter, how the election goes, there will be a lot of work to do when it’s over. Whether it’s Congress getting back to normal oversight duties if Democrats win or potential reactions that might come as a result of interference or corruption, November 6 is more of a beginning than an end.

As we face the final three weeks to the midterm elections, now would be a good time for a Purgatory cocktail. Via Kindred Cocktails, the Purgatory is:

2.5 oz Rittenhouse Rye

.75 oz Bénédictine

.75 oz Green Chartreuse

Stir over ice, strain into a chilled coupe, lemon twist garnish

Cheers!

Why America Is Polarized

3-1

In the wake of Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court by a 50-48 vote in the Senate, one of the narrowest margins in history according to The Washington Post, “an increasingly polarized nation” is pushed to the brink.

The words polarized and divided have become shorthand for these type of party line votes that end up almost evenly split. But this shorthand misses the bigger picture that helps to explain the polarization — America is not evenly split. Even before the allegations of sexual assault, Kavanaugh was one of the most unpopular Justice nominees ever. He was “rammed through” and installed on the highest court by a group of 51 Senators representing states with 46% of the U.S. electorate. Here are the seeds of the polarization.

It is difficult to admit, but Trump was right about something. In 2016, when he said the election was being rigged, he was right — just not in the way he meant it (unless he meant the Russian meddling).

Putting aside Russian meddling, the election was rigged to maintain a minority rule in our government. In an interesting parallel with the Kavanaugh vote, Trump became president with 46% of the vote, but won the electoral college because of 78,000 votes across three key states.

More importantly, 2016 was another year of a Republican “seat bonus” in the House. After winning just under 50% of the congressional vote, the GOP picked up a little more than 55% of the seats. I have written about this before, including here and here. This has been happening for the past several cycles. Gerrymandering is a part of this, but so, too, is the fact the representation is still based on the 1910 Census. This is increasing the power of rural, lightly populated — and generally Republican leaning — states.

The Senate is different, as it is meant to represent states, while the House represents people. Part of the concern around the disappearing norms of Senate behavior over the past decade or so is the way it has heightened partisanship in what was once a place of comity, that rose above narrow interests for the greater good, that embodied country over party. But that came from the traditional practices of the Senate, not Constitutional mandate. The Founding Fathers warned us about factions.

Now, the minority faction rules and it has stoked the “polarization” the press likes to talk about because the will of the people is not being met. Whether it’s on healthcare, regulating banks, paying to fix infrastructure, or many other key issues of the day, the position of the ruling Republican Party is the opposite of the majority opinion in the country.

For example, look at some of the hot button issues that Kavanaugh may decide on the Court, abortion and gun control. According to Pew Research, by a nearly 60-40 margin Americans believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases. That stat is about the same as it was 20 years ago. On gun control, Gallup polling shows an even starker difference with 67% in favor of more strict laws, while 32% say keep as it is now or make it less strict (28% and 4% respectively).

The installation of Kavanaugh is the culmination of a decades long effort by Republicans to undermine democracy in favor of a “permanent majority” that I wrote about last month and looks to be a similar subject of the new Steve Kornacki book The Red and the Blue: The 1990s and the Birth of Political Tribalism that I am looking forward to reading. For noted conservative Tom Nichols, Kavanaugh represented the “situational ethics” of the GOP that showed the “Republican Party now exists for one reason, and one reason only: for the exercise of raw political power,” as he put it in The Atlantic today as he announced his “divorce” from the party.

As the GOP thwarts the will of the American people and looks to cling to power by any means possible — Gerrymandering, voter suppression, etc (including Russian help?) — it is a good time to remember who is in the majority, make a plan to vote in November, and have a Three To One Cocktail.

This pre-Prohibition drink from the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel comes via Dr. Cocktail Ted Haigh’s Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails book. It is:

1.5 oz 100-proof gin (I used Hayman’s Royal Dock Gin)

.75 oz apricot liqueur

Juice of half a lime (.5-.75 oz)

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

Cheers!

 

Drink of Laughter and Forgetting

Laugh

Dear Cheeto Mussolini, they’re not laughing with us, they’re laughing at us.

The UN General Assembly rightly scoffed at Trump’s claim to have accomplished more than any president of the US today. Even Fox News would have had trouble keeping a straight face for that one.

On the heels on my last cocktail post, The Truth, today called for something to note our laughingstock leader. The Truth came from Frederic Yarm at Cocktail Virgin, and the best choice tonight also comes Frederic, just from seven years earlier.

Today will be much easier to swallow if you wash it down with the Drink of Laughter and Forgetting cocktail. Hailing from Cure in New Orleans, and created by Mike Yusko, the cocktail makes a nice follow up to The Truth as it is also a low-alcohol drink with a Cynar base.

Adding to the fun is its play on The Book of Laughter and Forgetting by Czechoslovakian writer Milan Kundera…and it was written in 1980 behind the Iron Curtain around the time the Russians began cultivating Trump as an asset.

This is actually a great drink for a Tuesday night, especially when trying not to think about the orange buffoon. The Drink of Laughter and Forgetting is:

1.5 oz Cynar

.5 oz green Chartreuse

.75 oz lime juice

.5 oz demerara syrup (I used .25 oz demerara gum syrup)

14 drops of Angostura bitters (Orinoco bitters)

Shake with ice, strain into a coupe glass, garnish with a spritz of Angostura

Cheers!

A Moment of Truth in the Age of Lies

Truth

“The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those who speak it.” – George Orwell

Truth in America has been under assault for some time now, but in the past several months we have seen the fight become frenzied as the president of the United States tells his supporters not to believe what they see, only what he tells them.

Of course, lying politicians is not a new phenomenon. It is why we have the myth of George Washington chopping down the cherry tree, and Honest Abe. Where we find ourselves today, however, is the result of 30 years of sustained attack by those on the right, starting with the Republican Party.

Around the time of Newt Gingrich’s “Contract With America,” the GOP really began its effort toward a “permanent majority.”

The problem Republicans had in trying to create a permanent majority is that their ideas were not (are not) particularly popular. To overcome this existential flaw in achieving their goal, they set out on a two-pronged strategy of lies and rigging the structure of government and politics.

On the structural side, the effects of their efforts are clear, particularly when you look at their aggressive Gerrymandering that I have written about before. In 2016, for example, Republicans received a plurality of votes cast for Congress nationwide, 49.9%, but they received a greater share, 55.2%, of the seats. Democrats, as a result, won a smaller share of seats than they did votes: 44.8 percent of seats as compared to 47.3 percent of the votes.

Creating their world of alternative facts, while a long-term process, may have been easier. The Nixon “Southern Strategy” and Reagan and the Moral Majority were precursors to this effort. Building off of the Know Nothing movement-like racism and anti-immigrant sentiment (not just in the south), and the politicized evangelicals’ rejection of science (that they see as hostile to a literal reading of the Bible), the GOP set off a new anti-intellectual era.

This effort was aided by the end of the Fairness Doctrine, the rise of right-wing talk radio and especially the new Republican propaganda machine Fox News, and decades of attacks on the traditional “mainstream” media. Of course, the MSM itself was in a weaker position after Watergate, economically, with the corporatization of news outlets and in the “professionalization” of journalists leaving homogenous press pool to cover an increasingly diverse country. The digital age has not helped either.

By the time the Bush Administration had left the “reality-based community” behind, we were well on the path to Trump. We don’t yet know to what extent our Russian enemies were able to exploit this GOP strategy in 2016, but it certainly made their job easier.

But we are now at the point where the president regularly states provable lies. The president and congressional Republicans work against efforts of the FBI and the intelligence community to discover the truth about the 2016 election — actively seeking to ruin the careers of senior officials deemed in their way. And the GOP has reached the point of completing a takeover of the third branch of government, the court.

Republicans senators are trying to rush through the Supreme Court nomination of of Brett Kavanaugh by burying thousands of documents, of looking away from the potential he is compromised by whoever has paid his massive debts (they don’t want to know who), and is potentially a rapist. They want him on the Supreme Court to complete the coup and deliver the permanent Republican majority.

While the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing this week on the accusation of sexual assault by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford against Kavanaugh may turn out to be just another battle against truth by the GOP, it also holds the possibility of being a decisive turning point, perhaps exposing this last grasping effort by the GOP.

It feels like we are at a pivotal point in history. We are trying to run our country on such an accumulation of lies that it seems unsustainable. A long, long time ago, my evangelical mom used to say “the truth will always find you out.” Let’s hope so.

Start this week with The Truth cocktail. This very tasty bitter cocktail (yes, the bitter truth) comes via Frederic Yarm at the Cocktail Virgin.  The Truth is:

2 oz Punt e Mes
1/2 oz Cynar
1/2 oz Strega
2 dash Orange Bitters (Regan’s)

Stir with ice, strain into a cocktail coupe, and garnish with an orange twist.

Cheers!

 

Democracy Dies In Darkness

Paperwork

Republicans in the Senate appear to be taking the slogan of The Washington Post — Democracy Dies In Darkness — as a plan of action.

The unprecedented withholding of Supreme Court Justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s records is designed to ram through the choice of the unindicted co-conspirator president. Among the documents unavailable to Americans, and most of their representatives in the Congress, are the judges’ views on executive authority. Besides overturning Roe v Wade, Kavanaugh seems willing to allow his sponsor to pardon himself of his crimes.

Oh, and those documents may contain evidence that Kavanaugh has lied to Congress. I guess that would allow some future Congress to impeach Justice Kavanaugh, if future Congresses are allowed to exist.

The Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee are putting up an uncharacteristically stiff resistance and have aimed their fire (effectively?) at turning the two Senate Republican votes they need to stop the nomination. This has included releasing documents the GOP has decided to term Committee Classified.

As the Democrats say Bite Me to the GOP’s classification, tonight have a Just the Paperwork cocktail. This is another recipe from Sother Teague’s great new book I’m Just Here for the Drinks that I’m sure you all have bought by now. I’m not sure I was all that familiar with the scaffa cocktails before, always neat and unchilled. The Just the Paperwork is:

.5 oz water

2 dashes orange bitters

1 oz Cocchi Americano

1 oz cognac

1.5 oz Amaro Nonino

Build in a rocks glass, serve neat, garnish with an orange twist

Cheers!

Parting Shot

My Word

Donald Trump is fighting with a dead guy, and losing.

The death of Senator John McCain this past week set off the final spat between the patriotic ex-POW war hero twice defeated in his bids for the presidency, and the current president, a traitor who gained office with the help of Russia. While Trump plays games with flags at the White House, it is clear McCain prepared a brilliant parting shot from beyond the grave.

Beyond the fact that Trump is explicitly not invited to his funeral, McCain has asked George W. Bush and Barack Obama — the two men who thwarted his attempts at the White House — to speak. On Twitter, @Stonekettle put it best:

“McCain asked these men to eulogize him because he knew they would put aside any differences and take the high road, that they would speak to the nation and to the world about duty and service and sacrifice above self.

“And Trump would not.”

In a — what may or may not be — final dig at Trump, McCain has asked Russian dissident and Putin opponent Vladimir Kara-Murza to be a pallbearer. Kara-Murza has survived two poisoning attempts, both believed to have come from the Kremlin.

At this point you may be expecting a suggestion of a Last Word cocktail. However, in a nod to McCain’s chess master level of play to Trump’s checkers game, we need a good Last Word variant. I offer the Oh My Word cocktail.

The recipe comes from the fantastic new book I’m Just Here for the Drinks by Sother Teague @CreativeDrunk. This is an absolutely beautiful book that is personal and accessible, filled with knowledge and wisdom that flows in an easy going style, like a great conversation across the bar. Oh, and a lot of very good recipes from one of the best in the business.

The Oh My Word cocktail is:

2 dashes of orange bitters

.75 oz Maraschino liqueur

.75 oz green Chartreuse

.75 Amaro Montenegro

.75 oz OldTom gin

Stir over ice, strain, serve up, no garnish

So as the band plays Danny Boy for McCain, raise your Oh My Word. And when the funeral is over, to avoid the Trump tantrum designed to regain attention, turn off the TV and curl up with I’m Just Here for the Drinks, cover to cover, this is one of the best cocktail books to come along.

Cheers!

 

An Offer He Can’t Refuse

Privilege

The dominoes are falling. Trump’s long-time fixer Michael Cohen has taken a plea deal and is headed to prison, while his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort has been found guilty in the first of his two trials.

Whether Cohen decides to cooperate with the Mueller investigation on his way to jail remains to be seen. But the Russia investigation is heating up, and both events today may play a role. We are 10 weeks from the midterm elections and today we have news that the same hackers indicted for attacking the 2016 election and linked to the Russian military have attacked conservative groups critical of Putin. The attack was stopped by Microsoft.

Everybody knows Cohen was knee deep in Trump’s dealings with Russia, so he could potentially shed light on any collusion/conspiracy. He did say about a month ago that he would put family and country first. Unlike Republicans in Congress, this former GOP finance co-chair may be able to put aside being partisan long enough to fight for democracy in the USA. So perhaps there is some patriotism in the extra from the Sopranos, or maybe it was something else.

Cohen’s plea comes only a week after a special master overseeing reams of paper and millions of electronic files removed from his office determined only a small fraction could be classed under attorney-client privilege. Perhaps he got an offer he couldn’t refuse.

Whatever it was, toast these developments tonight with an Attorney Privilege cocktail. From Imbibe Magazine, the Attorney Privilege is:

2 oz bourbon

.5 oz orgeat

2 dashes Angostura bitters

Stir over ice, strain into a chilled coupe, lemon twist garnish

While enjoying this Japanese Cocktail variant, I will also toast Michael Cohen for giving me reason to link to a bunch of Leonard Cohen videos.

Cheers!