It’s Complicated

Harvard

Nine weeks into the Reign of Error, and the party that holds power in Washington continues to work to prove government doesn’t work.

Today, the Republicans in the House – who have voted to repeal Obamacare something like 6,000 times over the last few years – pulled their Trumpcare replacement bill because they couldn’t get enough of their members to vote for it. The bill had Trump’s backing and fulfilled Speaker Paul Ryan’s college dream of kicking people off Medicaid, but only had 17% approval in polls.

A few weeks ago, Trump lamented “Nobody knew health care could be so complicated.” Of course, everybody but Trump knew this. Turns out pulling the bill was just another brick in the wall for Trump this week with treason bubbling under the surface of investigations of Russian collusion in the election and a pending filibuster of his SCOTUS nominee.

Trump may feel he don’t need no education on health care, but he got one today. In honor of all that potential learning, tonight let’s toast the death of this Trumpcare bill with a Harvard Cocktail. The recipe from Philip Greene’s The Manhattan calls for:

1.5 oz cognac (Pierre Ferrand 1840 Original Formula)

1.5 oz sweet vermouth (Carpano Antica Formula)

3 dashes Dr. Adam’s Bokers Bitters

Lemon peel garnish

Stir with ice, strain into chilled cocktail glass, garnish

Happy Friday!

Cheers!

Dammit Jim, I’m a doctor, not a…

Doctor

As Republicans in the House prepare to vote on the Obamacare replacement tomorrow, the American Health Care Act, I am continually drawn to the words of America’s most famous physician, Dr. Leonard H. “Bones” McCoy.

I would love to hear how the Chief Medical Officer for the USS Enterprise would describe the AHCA. The estimate that even more people will end up without health insurance under AHCA than would result from a simple repeal of Obamacare has me thinking he’d come in along the lines of Dark Ages, barbaric, or Spanish Inquisition.

Of course, there are plenty of current members of Congress also giving the AHCA a similar review (and those who don’t think it goes far enough). The reporting ahead of tomorrow’s vote paints a grim picture for Paul Ryan and his college dream to throw people off Medicaid. With headlines like The Washington Post’sGOP health-care plan, facing conservative revolt, lacks the votes for House passage,” we may need to start quoting Dr. McCoy’s most used line; “He’s dead, Jim.”

The difficulties are happening even as Trump threatens and cajoles House Republicans. This, of course, brings up McCoy’s other most famous line, I’m a doctor, not a (fill in the blank). Most appropriately, in Episode 41 “The Deadly Years,” which aired on 8 December 1967, Bones uttered, “I’m not a magician, Spock, just an old country doctor.”

So tonight, in honor of Dr. McCoy and functioning health care, I’d prescribe a simple Doctor Cocktail. And let’s hope there’s no need tomorrow to quote Dammit Jim! Taken from Ted Haigh’s (aka Dr. Cocktail) Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails book, this 1936 classic is:

2 oz Jamaican rum

1 oz Swedish Punsch

1 oz fresh lime juice

Shake, strain into a chilled cocktail glass, garnish with a lime twist.

Cheers!

Fairytale of New York

Jamo

St. Patrick may have driven the snakes from Ireland, but eight weeks into Trump’s swamp-draining administration, Washington D.C. is slithering with more vipers than ever.

We need to take every precaution that this encounter with the serpent doesn’t leave us all longing for a lost Eden (flawed as that garden may be). We’ll need to stay even more focused. Like the Original, our current snake has spent quite a bit of time making out with the Blarney Stone.

The Fairytale of New York mogul Trump is a con. From the steaks and the university, to the developer who doesn’t build anything, just slaps his name on for a price. Jennifer Rubin at The Washington Post nailed it pretty good today in her piece “Trumpism is losing, again and again.”

Maybe Trump and Trumpism in practice are a lot less impressive than voters believed in the campaign. After all, Trump’s career has been defined by hyping shoddy products (steaks, vodka, airlines, chocolate, etc.). Once the sales pitch ends and the product must stand on its own, the results can be underwhelming as Trump University students found out. In business Trump has always gone on to the next new thing, never acknowledging failure but never proving success.”

I think this is an overlooked aspect of Trump’s Russian ties because he fits so seamlessly with “the surreal heart of the new Russia” that Peter Pomerantsev described in his 2014 book Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible. Near the end of “Act I: Reality Show Russia,” Pomerantsev talks about balancing professional and personal lives in Putin’s Russia.

“‘Over the last 20 years we’ve lived through a communism we never believed in, democracy and defaults and mafia state and oligarchy, and we’ve realized they are illusions, that everything is PR.’ ‘Everything is PR’ has become the favorite phrase of the new Russia; my Moscow peers are filled with a sense that they are both cynical and enlightened. When I ask them about Soviet-era dissidents, like my parents, who fought against communism, they dismiss them as naive dreamers and my own Western attachment to such vague notions as ‘human rights’ and ‘freedom’ as a blunder. ‘Can’t you see your own governments are just as bad as ours?’ they ask me. I try to protest – but they just smile and pity me. To believe in something and stand by it in this world is derided, the ability to be a shape-shifter celebrated.”

Pomerantsev published the book two years before Trump was elected, but for our Shape-Shifter-In-Chief, his non-stop PR puts this mindset in practice in the U.S. We can see it when Trump tweets something ridiculous or presents a budget proposal beyond the hopes of the most right-wing Republican talk radio host all for maximum controversy. As we all argue whether celebrities having political opinions or the merits of feeding the elderly, the grifting continues.

Of course all those extra billions of dollars for Defense, or fetishization of military power as Jim Wright more aptly put it, flow into the Pentagon’s less-than-stellar accounting process for the military-industrial complex. Money being thrown at the DoD that it never asked for presents a much greater opportunity to skim than a Meals-on-Wheels program.

Yet again this weekend, Trump will head to his Florida home at a cost of about $3 million of taxpayer money. And now the new Mar-a-Lago Club heliport has passed inspection and is ready for use by Marine One.

Meanwhile, NYC is paying $150,000 per day for securing Trump’s estranged third wife holed up in Manhattan. And just coincidentally, the family of son-in-law Jared Kushner just scored a $4 billion deal with a shady Chinese company.

In this Trump/Putin era where everything is PR, avoid the swindle of green beer and celebrate St. Paddy’s with a nice authentic shot of Jameson and a pint of Guinness. And yes, I know that’s a Christmas song. Here’s a more appropriate choice from the Pogues for the night.

Sláinte!

A New Health Plan

Painkiller

After a pretty mild winter, from a meteorological standpoint, March is working overtime to deliver as much snow and cold as possible before the arrival of spring. Much of the country  is recovering from the inclement weather of the past few days, which will lead to recovering from colds, ice slipping trauma, and injuries sustained shoveling and sledding.

Fortunately, Obamacare has not yet been repealed. A lot fewer Americans will have insurance to deal with the effect of winter in March, among other things, according to an analysis of Paul Ryan’s Obamacare replacement American Health Care Act from the Congressional Budget Office.

While that analysis does provide good news for Republicans because the plan “would reduce federal deficits by $337 billion over the 2017-2026 period,” it does so because of “reductions in outlays for Medicaid and from the elimination of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA’s) subsidies for non-group health insurance.”

The CBO also found that by 2026 the number of uninsured Americans would be about 56 million, nearly double the estimate under the current law. Adding to the people who will lose their health insurance (many of them Trump voters), is the huge tax break to the wealthy.

Meanwhile, throwing gasoline on the class fire, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) says people just have to decide whether they want an iPhone or health care! So yes, if this passes, sell AAPL. Meanwhile his comments have sparked a fundraising boom for his Democratic opponent, Dr. Kathryn Allen.

Although Chaffetz may be on board, there is plenty of dissension in GOP ranks. Republican senators are not thrilled with the plan, while the Tea Party Republicans are also not happy, but more because they don’t think it goes far enough. And now Ryan is realizing the bill will have to change.

Of course Democrats are united against repealing Obamacare, and given the reaction Republican congressmen got in their town hall meetings, so is a large portion of America.

So, to help with this health care headache (and to think tropical thoughts in this extension of winter), I am prescribing Painkiller cocktails. Take 2 and call your congressional representatives in the morning.

Created at the Soggy Dollar Bar on Jost Van Dyke in the British Virgin Islands, I played with the recipe I pulled from Kindred Cocktails.

1.5 oz Pussers rum

.5 oz Lemon Hart 151 rum

2 oz pineapple juice

2 oz orange juice

.5 oz Coco Lopez

Pinch of nutmeg for garnish

Fill low-ball with ice, build, stir, grate nutmeg as garnish.

Cheers!

Scofflaw!

Scofflaw

A little more than 90 years ago, Henry Irving Dale and Kate L. Butler separately supplied winning entries in a national contest held by prohibitionist Delcevare King to coin a term for describing someone who drinks illegally. Kate and Henry split the $200 prize for the word “scofflaw.”

The definition of scofflaw has moved beyond simply someone who drinks illegally to a person who habitually flouts or violates the law, especially one who fails to pay debts or answer summonses.

The Scofflaw Cocktail was created, shortly after the word was coined, by a bartender named Jock at Harry’s New York Bar in Paris. While the fashionable drinkers in Paris, unaffected by Prohibition, could sip on delicious Scofflaw Cocktails, actual scofflaws in the U.S. looking for a drink were more often stuck with bathtub gin and rotgut rye. Scofflaws have always had a bit of a class distinction.

Every locality had its own enabler of scofflaws, or a scofflaw-in-chief, who supplied the booze, while often keeping the “good stuff” for themselves.

Although he may not drink, the current resident of the White House certainly fits the modern definition of scofflaw, and he’s hard at work steering the “good stuff” his own way. Even if you agree with Cheeto Mussolini that the President is the law, you can’t deny he is in violation of the lease on his DC hotel and, therefore, the foreign emoluments clause of the Constitution. The list of laws Trump has scoffed at over the years is a long one.

Back in Paris, however, in the birthplace of the Scofflaw Cocktail, our current scofflaw-in-chief proved a lot less popular than the drink, losing an election day tally in Harry’s New York Bar to Hillary Clinton 513 to 188.

Not long after the cocktail was created, one of the most notorious scofflaws of the era, Al Capone, started taking over Chicago. It took a good 70 years and the advent of Michael Jordan to finally separate the association of the word Chicago with a machine-gunning Al Capone re-enactment. New York is praying to avoid such a stain with Trump.

Hopefully, one thing these Scofflaws-in-chief might share in common is their undoing over taxes. For all of his murders, racketeering , etc., Capone was brought down on charges of tax evasion. Trump has been evasive about his taxes. Would they reveal extensive ties to Russia proving his collusion? Perhaps they would reveal how badly he has avoided paying taxes (though he says that makes him smart, and he’s already won, so it’s not clear his supporters would have a problem).

Even again today, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said that President Donald Trump is still under audit and he wouldn’t say whether Trump will release his taxes for the current year.

So as we ponder the tax evading potential of a gratuitously law flouting Administration, it’s time to have a Scofflaw Cocktail.

Following along with Dr. Cocktail Ted Haigh in his book Vintage Spirits and Vintage Cocktails, the Scofflaw is:

1.5 oz rye

1 oz dry vermouth

.75 oz lemon juice

.75 oz real pomegranate grenadine

Shake, strain into a cocktail glass with a lemon twist

Cheers!

Make Americanos Strong Again

few-negroni

As the story goes, around 1920 in Florence, Count Camillo Negroni was at his regular joint Bar Casoni when he decided he needed to beef up his usual Americano cocktail by replacing the club soda with gin. Thus was born one of the best drinks ever made, the Negroni. (Gaz Regan has a whole book on it that is a great read.)

At about the same time as Count Negroni was making Americanos stronger, a fellow Italian was writing down ideas that would help make Americans stronger nearly a century later. Julius Evola came home after fighting in World War I and rejected the church, bourgeois institutions and developed a worldview with an overriding animosity toward the decadence of modernity, according to the NY Times. He was one of the intellectual leaders of Italian Fascism and a favorite of Il Duce, and today he influences our very own Cheeto-Mussolini and his key advisor Steve Bannon.

The combination of Trump’s Corporatist/Kleptocracy ethos and Bannon’s Evola-inspired Traditionalist worldview has had an unexpected effect on a great many Americans. Across the country many Americans are taking to the streets, the airports and filling Congressional constituent meetings to protest the actions and proposed actions of Trump and the GOP.

Unlike the actors cheering Trump’s announcement of his presidential run, those marching today are not paid, but deeply concerned about the future of the country. The hostile crowds greeting Republican Town Halls today are often compared to the raucous Town Halls of 2009 when the Tea Party came out against Obamacare. The difference here is that the Tea Party was stoked by partisan (if not racial) animosity, lies about death panels, and misrepresentations of costs and a private insurance program as “socialized” medicine. Today, Republican Congressmen are facing angry constituents because those constituents are facing the reality of improvements in their quality of life being taken away.

In fact, the Republicans in Congress have accomplished something heretofore unimaginable, they have become even more spineless than Congressional Democrats. Their craven disregard of the truth and reality in the service of their donors may now be a step over the line since republicans control all the levers of government.

The reaction to Republicans that many in the pundit class are missing is something that every Chicagoan/Illinoisan understands. We expect a certain level of corruption in our politicians (hey, everybody’s gotta make a living), but when you become an embarrassment, it’s time to go. See Dan Rostenkowski and the long list of former IL governors who moved on to license plate manufacturing.

There is action and organizing across the country to counteract the embarrassment that our leaders have become. And yes, this includes the yet-to-be-determined potential treason at the highest level of our government. Real aiding a hostile power type of treason, too, not fake Ann Coulter treason because of a liberal food stamp program.

As Michelle Goldberg put it recently in Slate, “To talk about Trump as a menace to our democratic way of life understates the crisis.” So as you get ready for this weekend’s protests, have a strengthened Americano to fortify.

Negronis are easy and contain ingredients every American should have. It is equal parts gin, sweet vermouth and Campari, with an orange twist and/or a dash of orange bitters. Build over ice or one nice cube, stir with your finger.

It is hard to screw up a Negroni. Any type of gin will work, I typically prefer Plymouth Gin but FEW Spirits American Gin seemed appropriate tonight. You can use vodka if you don’t like gin, but that becomes a Negroski and there’s enough Russian influence right now. Any sweet vermouth will do as well, each making the drink a little different, but all good. Campari is the one constant.

Happy Friday!

Cheers!

Evening Edition

nocturnal

The Washington Post unveiled its new slogan a little more than a week ago, with the phrase “Democracy Dies in Darkness” appearing under its name.

And yet, for the eternity that has been the first six weeks of the Trump presidency (and stretching back into the transition, too, I guess), darkness seems to be bringing a good deal of activity in defense of democracy. It has been hard to sleep, in fact, because of the light being shed after dark. This is not simply the blue light emanating from glowing rectangles interfering with slumber, but the words within that glow.

I’m not talking about the 3 a.m. words from the Tweeter-in-Chief here either. Unlike his Orangeness, I don’t grab the phone for that 0’dark-thirty bathroom trip.

I am talking about the increasing occurrence of major stories breaking In The Evening. I’m almost afraid to look at Twitter after 9 if I have a particularly early morning the next day. If, like me, you have wondered what is going on, then today’s story in The Atlantic is for you. In her story “Why Do the Big Stories Keep Breaking at Night?” Adrienne LaFrance lays out the case for why the rhythms of print publication are still impacting the news cycle.

The piece takes off from the major reports that hit last night. First was The New York Times story about how Obama administration officials worked to preserve intelligence on Russia in their final days. This was followed shortly, and overshadowed by, the Washington Post article reporting that Attorney General Jeff Sessions did not disclose communications he had with the Russian ambassador to the United States, despite saying there were no contacts when asked at his confirmation hearings in the Senate.

As LaFrance notes, print deadlines are creating publishing targets, and in effect creating evening editions of the newspapers. (As someone who once worked at an evening newspaper, this makes me smile.) So, to keep making sure that all of those major investigative news stories make the deadline to be in your morning papers, it may remain difficult to get to bed at a decent time if you are easily distracted by breaking news.

As the Post and the Times go about their nightly, Tonight, Tonight, news war, may I suggest a cocktail to help counteract the rays of blue light and disturbing information about our purported leaders; The Nocturnal cocktail. This one comes from Kindred Cocktails.

1.5 oz Bourbon

.75 oz Fernet Branca

.5 oz Maraschino liqueur

.5 oz Cointreau

1 dash of Angostura (or my favorite alternative, Dr. Adam’s Dead Rabbit Orinoco bitters)

Orange twist

Stir over ice, strain into a chilled coupe

Cheers!