The Big Con

Right Hand

“If this thing blows up, the Feds will be the least of our problems,” – Kid Twist, from The Sting.

It will be pretty disappointing if the Trump clan turns out to be the transparently petty grifters they seem and there’s not some deeper more interesting con going on. Several times a day, the Entertainer-in-Chief provides us with what would be considered a major scandal in most any other presidency.

One of those today was the news that his daughter Ivanka would become an unpaid federal employee. This comes after a bit of an uproar over her getting an office in the White House to be an informal advisor to her father. She will now join her husband as an unpaid advisor.

As The Reformed Broker Josh Brown said on Twitter today:

“We aren’t paying Ivanka for the same reason Facebook users aren’t paying Zuckerberg. Because we’re not the customer, we’re the product.”

So now daddy’s little girl is ensconced right next to him in the White House as an “employee.” May as well toast this play with a Right Hand cocktail since that’s where Ivanka sits now. Meantime, we can watch to see if there’s a bigger con going underneath the obvious conflict of interest riddled swindle happening in broad daylight.

The Right Hand was created by Michael McIlroy of Milk and Honey and Little Branch in 2007 according to the Bitterman’s website recipes page. It is:

1.5 oz aged rum

.75 oz Carpano Antica sweet vermouth

.75 oz Campari

2 dashes of Bittermens Xocolatl Mole Bitters

Stir, serve up in a cocktail glass.

Cheers!

Grounds for Separation

Grounds

Will Rogers famously said, “I’m not a member of any organized political party… I’m a Democrat.”

In the aftermath of the Trumpcare vote debacle in Congress, however, it is the traditional Republican Party unity that is being called into question. Today’s New York Times piece  “Trump Becomes Ensnared in Fiery G.O.P. Civil War” said that Trump now finds himself shackled to rules and consequences of fractious party politics he thought did not apply to him.

“Mr. Trump faces a wrenching choice: retrenchment or realignment. Does he cede power to the anti-establishment wing of his party? Or does he seek other pathways to successful governing by throwing away the partisan playbook and courting a coalition with the Democrats he has improbably blamed for his party’s shortcomings?”

I’m sure that’s exactly what is on his Orangeness’ mind as he spends yet another weekend at his golf course.

But this sense that fissures in the GOP threaten Trump’s agenda is a pervasive theme in the press now. If we can remember all the way to the days before November 8, 2016, most of the talk was about how the Republican Party was going to break apart after the election. Most of that talk went away after the Republican sweep of electoral power. However, as Barron’s pointed out a couple of weeks ago, the GOP is splintered into three groups despite the election. It classified those groups as the Chamber of Commerce Faction, the Tea Party Rebels, and the Steve Bannon Populists. The Washington Post today whittled that down to simply a GOP right flank and left flank.

As difficult as it may be for those groups to remain under one roof, the folks we find most in need of some space in Washington is the House Select Committee on Intelligence.

The Washington Post yesterday explained “The committee probing the Russia scandal has erupted into open warfare” as Republican Committee Chairman Devin Nunes appears to be acting on behalf of the Administration than running an independent investigation of it.

Committee Ranking Member Adam Schiff today called for an independent commission to investigate the facts on Russian interference in our elections.

Therefore, today is a good day for a Grounds for Separation, a less bitter variation on the Grounds for Divorce cocktail. From the Kindred Cocktails website, Grounds for Separation contains:

2 oz Bourbon

.5 oz Aperol

.5 oz Averna amaro

.5 oz Punt e Mes (sweet vermouth)

1 dash of Angostura bitters

Stir over ice and strain into a chilled coupe, no garnish (unless the drink and/or the world is still too bitter, then by all means add a nice Maraschino cherry, we all need more cherries)

Cheers!

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!