Hunting (and Finding) Witches

Rye Witch

The Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker would not answer questions from Congress today about whether he still considers the Mueller investigation to be a “witch hunt.”

Before Trump named the “Big Dick Toilet Salesman” (h/t @emptywheel) to the role that oversees Mueller’s efforts, Whitaker had echoed the witch hunt sentiments regularly spouted by Trumpists. While he may not own up to the words now, we can see that “Hot Tub Crime Machine” Whitaker (h/t @MollyJongFast) was just another attempt to disrupt and/or end the investigation.

Now that Democrats have control of the House of Representatives, real oversight can begin on the Trump administration and their swampy crime wave. Congressman Adam Schiff, Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee is also planning on looking beyond the administration to find those who have tried to interfere with Mueller (looking at you former chairman Nunes).

It will be interesting to see how the recent revelation from Jeff Bezos over the extortion attempt from Trump friend and National Enquirer owner David Pecker factors in to what Shiff is looking into. Some of Trump’s support in Congress seems a normal extension of the cliff Republicans have driven off. But, maybe he can uncover how others, like Senators Ted Cruz and Lindsey Graham, went from such big Trump opponents to orange-stained lapdogs.

The tendrils of the corruption in Washington have spread massively (reaching all the way to South Dakota where former GOP/NRA operative — and Russian spy Maria Butina’s boyfriend — Paul Erickson was just hit with 11 felony counts). At this point (and this stat is a couple weeks old now) there have been 199 Criminal Charges; 37 People/Entities Charged; including 6 High-level Trump Associates; 7 People have pled Guilty; 4 People Sentenced to Prison; 1 Convicted by a Jury.

Whitaker may have avoided talking about the witch hunt because his boss seems to be changing the talking point to “Presidential Harassment.” At this point finding witches in and around this presidency is like finding hay in a hay stack.

The way things are going, we are likely to hear about more witches being found any time now. While you wait, have a Rye Witch cocktail.

Created by Jim Meehan, the Rye Witch is a riff on an Improved Old Fashioned. I pulled the recipe from Talia Baiocchi’s great book Sherry. The Rye Witch is:

1 dash Fee Brothers orange bitters

1 dash Regan’s orange bitters

1 cube of Demerara sugar

2 oz Rittenhouse Rye

.25 oz Strega

.25 oz palo cortado sherry

Muddle the bitters and sugar in a mixing glass, add rye, Strega, sherry and ice, stir and strain into a chilled rocks glass, garnish with an orange twist. (Yes, not a rocks glass pictured. Needed to do dishes. Don’t judge.)

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!

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!

 

Space Madness!

Moonage

This has been quite a news filled week: elections; Manafort trial; new tariffs; swampy behavior by Cabinet officials; immigrations; racism; Nazis; Russians; the demise of our democracy; etc.

But it is Friday, so maybe it’s a little OK to allow ourselves to be distracted. This week gave us the Mother of All Distractions — Space Force!

Vice Colluder Pence made the announcement of a new military branch at the Pentagon, a Space Command. Problem is, this pointless distraction doesn’t even seem to realize that it already exists (in a more sensible manner). As @amvetssupport pointed out on Twitter:

The USAF Space Command has 38,000 members of the USAF working in the Command. They are in almost 90 bases throughout the world.

The Trump-Pence version was roundly mocked, according to the distraction plan. But while Space Madness has captured some attention, real patriots won’t succumb to the Killing Moon. We’ll pause a moment to laugh at their Moonage Daydream, and then get back to resisting until they take their stinking paws off our democracy.

So while you’re watching Spaceballs tonight, enjoy a Moonage Daydream cocktail. Via Gaz Regan’s 101 Best New Cocktails (2015), the Moonage Daydream is:

1.5 oz Zacapa 23 rum (El Dorado 12)

.75 oz Punt e Mes

.25 oz Luxardo Fernet (Fernet Branca)

3 dashes of Dr. Adam’s Aphrodite Bitters

Build over a large rock in an Old Fashioned glass, stir until cold and add orange twist garnish.

Happy Friday!

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!

 

On The Same Team?

Army

Go Army, Beat Navy! And they did last week by the score of 14-13. This college football rivalry goes back to 1890. As fun as the friendly rivalry is, everyone knows when the game is over, they play for the same team.

Our partisan rivalry may not be as friendly as Army v. Navy most of the time, but our traditions hold that everyone was playing for the same team once the elections were over. Lately, however, that doesn’t seem quite as clear.

In the past week since the football game we have had a number of reasons to wonder what team the Republicans are playing for. First, the Republican Party — minus a few prominent defections — was fully behind Roy Moore for Senate in Alabama. Even before credible allegations of child molestation came out, this is a man who has twice been removed from the bench in Alabama, believes the country was better during the days of slavery, and believes his interpretation of the Christian Bible supersedes the U.S. Constitution. Despite party backing, Moore lost in one of the most Republican states.

In the meantime, Trump and the GOP appear to be trying to dismantle the ability of government to work by either not filling positions (especially in the State Department), or nominating unqualified personnel as we saw again this week, or not letting those in place do their jobs. (Personally, I’d feel better if the Center for Disease Control findings were “science-based” or evidence-based.”)

The GOP has also wrangled its members so it now has the votes to pass sweeping tax “reform” that by all estimates benefits the rich at the expense of the poor and middle class. While maybe that doesn’t seem out of character for Republicans who have a tradition of being fiscal hawks. However, this bill will not cut the deficit or the debt, quite  the opposite adding $1 trillion to the latter. I’m not sure how traditional Republicans can say this is good for the country.

One thing that definitely is not good for the country is the way this week saw Congressional Republicans ramp up efforts to support Trump in killing investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 election. The Mueller investigation in particular, that has already resulted in two guilty pleas, has had Republicans trashing the FBI. Let that sink in. Republicans trashing the FBI.

The best possible outcome for the long-term health of our democracy is that Trump and his enablers actually are acting on behalf of Russia. Every other alternative is disheartening for the future of the United States.

So while you’re being nostalgic for the pre-Newt Gingrich days of partisanship, have an Army & Navy cocktail in honor of rivalry among teammates.

From Dr. Adam Elmegirab’s great new Book of Bitters, the Army & Navy is:

2 oz gin

.5 oz lemon juice

.25 oz orgeat syrup

2 dashes Dr. Adam’s Boker’s Bitters

Shake, strain into a chilled cocktail glass, lemon twist

Cheers!

VIP America

Rope

The Senate is preparing to vote on changes to the U.S. tax system that promise to fundamentally alter how we operate as a nation.

No one really knows what is in the Republican bill (they’re still making changes in the hours before the vote) but the outlines from all analyses so far indicate massive benefits to the rich at the expense of the poor and middle class. This was certainly true of the bill passed in the House that I noted recently.

With the GOP approach that gives tax credits for owners of private jets and the removes credits to teachers buying classroom supplies we will see inequality explode. We are moving to an America where a small number of people at the top are Executive Platinum frequent flyers and everyone else is down below, riding the dog, stuck in traffic.

Have you earned enough status to receive all of the perks in the Republican tax bill?

As Ronald Brownstein put it in the Atlantic, if you’re a white Baby Boomer, have a better chance to get your seat upgrade and bottle service. “The baby boom is being evicted from the penthouse of American politics. And on the way out, it has decided to trash the place,” he wrote. He noted that while the Boomer VIP status was ending, we’ll still be stuck behind their velvet rope for the next several years at least.

In the meantime, enjoy a Velvet Rope cocktail. Via Kindred Cocktails, the Velvet Rope is:

2 oz Rittenhouse Rye

.5 oz Velvet Falernum

2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters

Orange twist

Stir over ice, strain into a chilled coupe, garnish with an orange twist

Cheers!

 

Moore Bitterness

Something Bitter

In the state of Alabama, 49 percent of the population identifies as an Evangelical Christian. In polling this week, 37 percent of Alabama Evangelicals said charges of sexual misconduct with teenage girls made them more likely to vote for Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore.

Alabama Republicans are saying they prefer to send a child molester to the U.S. Senate to represent them over a Democrat (Doug Jones in this case, a man who prosecuted two Klansmen for the 1963 16th Street Baptist Church bombing that killed four girls). This is party over country, a sentiment not confined to Alabama, and the source of many of our problems today. It’s a big reason why Moore’s election is not something I would vote against, as much as I hope Jones can hold on to his current lead in the polls.

Thanks to the voters of Alabama, we will soon have a man at the highest levels of governing the country who has twice been removed from office for violating his oath of office. A man who claims to govern in the name of Christianity, but who — as Rev. Dr. William Barber says — espouse not Christianity but extreme Republican religionism.

This is troubling enough, but it is worse when you realize these same Alabama voters have more influence on the governance of the nation than voters elsewhere.

Based on the 2010 Census, Alabama has seven members of the U.S. House of Representatives for a population of 4.9 million people. That is one representative per  700,000 people. The 12 reps for New Jersey’s 8.9 million people, or the 53 for California’s 39.3 million people, means one representative per 742,000 people.

I have written about the problems we encounter with our representation capped at 1911 levels, most recently here, and how it is even more fundamental to fixing our democracy than reforming Gerrymandering. That does not mean we shouldn’t fix the gerrymandering problem, and former Attorney General Eric Holder is working on that. Hopefully SCOTUS will rule the right way on the Wisconsin case and not make the effort harder.

Beyond the structure of electing our representatives, Timothy Egan pointed out in the NY Times the other day there are other issues to address as well.  This is not just about dealing with Russian interference (though we need to do that too), but why it was effective.

“We’re getting played because too many Americans are ill equipped to perform the basic functions of citizenship. If the point of the Russian campaign, aided domestically by right-wing media, was to get people to think there is no such thing as knowable truth, the bad guys have won,” Egan wrote. “We have a White House of lies because a huge percentage of the population can’t tell fact from fiction. But a huge percentage is also clueless about the basic laws of the land. In a democracy, we the people are supposed to understand our role in this power-sharing thing.”

For most of us around the country, watching as the voters of Alabama plan to send a child-molesting extreme religionist to the U.S. Senate, we’ll have to look to 2018 to try to make sure Moore is in the minority party.

In the meantime, have a cocktail. I suggest a Something Bitter This Way Comes cocktail via Kindred Cocktails. It is:

1.5 oz Rye

1 oz Amaro CioCiaro

.5 oz Cocchi Vermouth di Torino

.25 oz Fernet-Branca

2 dashes Bittermens Xocolatl Mole Bitters

Pinch of kosher salt

Stir over ice for at least 30 seconds, strain into a chilled cocktail glass, garnish with an orange twist.

Cheers!

 

Greatest Show On Earth

Barnum

Exactly seven weeks from today, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus will bring an end to nearly a century and a half of entertainment as its tours conclude and it folds its tents one last time.

Never fear, though, the calliope plays on in Washington D.C. After the GOP primary clown car of 17 major candidates, we elected Donald Trump to make sure the circus would continue.

Trump can draw a line from the great showman P.T. Barnum, who started with his American Museum in downtown New York City in 1841 and revolutionized the circus by adding the freak show. Meanwhile, Trump continues to fill out his cabinet. As Trump settles the $25 million lawsuit over Trump University, we can be reminded of the saying P.T. Barnum is famously credited with, “There’s a sucker born every minute.”

And as we see Nick Kristof’s report in the New York Times today, “In Trump Country, Shock at Trump Budget Cuts, but Still Loyalty,” the obvious drink tonight is the Barnum (Was Right) Cocktail.

Pulled from Dr. Cocktail Ted Haigh’s book Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails: From the Alamagoozlum to the Zombie and Beyond, the drink was clearly in reference to Barnum’s sucker quote. As the cocktail is a slight variation on a Pegu Club cocktail, and similar to others such as the Barbara West Cocktail, Haigh said cocktail patrons inevitably would find themselves muttering; “Hey! This is nothing but a blah blah cocktail with a little blah blah in it! Barnum was right!

2 oz gin

1 oz apricot brandy (Haigh suggests Marie Brizard’s Apry)

.5 oz fresh lemon juice

2 dashes Angostura Bitters

Shake over ice, strain into a cocktail glass, garnish with a lemon twist.

Cheers!

Drive On, Don’t Mean Nothing

Maine

The Reign of Error has reached week 10, and once again this week we have been overwhelmed by details of scandal, malfeasance and just outright stupidity. Before it slips down the memory hole under much bigger news, it is worth mentioning comments the Grifter-in-Chief made about Iraq this week.

On Tuesday, Trump made comments about things going well in Iraq to a group of Senators at the White House, saying “our troops are fighting like never before.” The near universal response, particularly from veterans, was: Asshole!

Among others, Montel Williams took to social media to respond:

“Mr. President, you signed up to be the Commander in Chief, HAVE YOU NO DECENCY SIR. Thousands of troops paid the ultimate price on Iraq while you were on the NY social circuit and hosting a reality TV show. Many more thousands came back badly wounded, more still came back with invisible injuries they may well bear for life. Their sacrifice, their blood, sweat and tears in battle, should not be denigrated by a television star, now President whose only military experience was dodging the draft.

“On the issue of the civilians apparently killed in a coalition airstrike, while likely just
imprecise words, I certainly hope the death of civilians doesn’t constitute ‘fighting like never before’ in this President’s mind. It’s for the military to figure out what happened, but one thing I know for sure, for certain is none of the troops involved joined to kill civilians.”

I agree with Williams, particularly on the point that Trump may be making good on the GOP carpet bombing talking point from the Primary with the civilian deaths from this airstrike. However, I remember a time before any mention of military service was not reflexively met with “thank you for your service.” I enlisted around the time Magnum P.I. began changing the image of Vietnam vets from being a deranged baby-killing criminal to a cool badass. So with everything going on, I will apply that lesson I learned long ago; Drive on, don’t mean nothin’, not a thing.

The language Trump uses is often questionable, self-aggrandizing and propagandistic. This seems to fit that pattern. The problem with Trump’s language is that he leads a party with control of the executive and legislative branches of government, so just how far will the sycophant Fortunate Sons in the GOP go to please what they believe are the boss’ wishes.

At a time when some half-baked slogan from Trump could have history-altering impacts, it seems only right to toast the weekend with a Remember the Maine cocktail.

Remember the Maine was the slogan pushed by the fake news purveyors of the late 1890s, mostly the yellow journalists working for William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer, proprietors of the New York Journal and the New York World. Based on the mysterious sinking of the battleship USS Maine in Havana harbor, the slogan helped push the U.S. into war with Spain. The result of the brief Spanish-American War of 1898, as History Today tells us, was the “independence” of Cuba and American control of the Philippines and Puerto Rico. It also signified the arrival of the U.S. as a great power.

So, as we approach the nadir, pour a Remember the Maine for all of those who “fought like never before.”

From Brad Thomas Parson’s book Bitters:

2 oz rye

.75 oz sweet vermouth (preferably Carpano Antica)

.25 oz Cherry Heering

2 dashes Angostura bitters (or Dr. Adam’s Orinoco Bitters)

Splash of absinthe (as rinse)

Stir all but the absinthe over ice until chilled. Add the absinthe to a chilled cocktail glass, roll the glass to coat and discard excess absinthe. Strain chilled ingredients into the prepared glass.

Cheers!