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!

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!

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!

Tasty Brexit bargains recover nicely

Negroni

Negroni at  Harry’s Cafe NYC

A couple of weeks ago I shared a link from CNBC in which Mario Gabelli, Chairman and CEO of Gamco Investors, mentioned several buying opportunities in the wake of Brexit, including Diageo (DEO) and Davide Campari Milano (DVDCY). So far, both have recovered quite well from their Brexit dip.

Diageo is up nearly 9% from its June 27 low, closing at $112.80 on Friday. Since the UK referendum, Diageo has invested in the British non-alcoholic spirits distiller Seedlip. It is reported to be the first time Diageo—which is typically invested in 8-10 businesses according to the Financial Times—has taken a stake in a non-alcoholic beverage company. In a world of consumers growing ever more health conscious and drinking less, with UK alcohol consumption down 26% 2002-2012, it seems to be a pretty logical extension of their business. Seedlip had a nice write-up at Tales Of the Cocktail last October, and worth a read here. That announcement was made at the beginning of last week and, after a slight initial decline, by the end of the week Diageo was trading at levels last seen in mid December.

Campari finished last week at $4.80, up 6.4% from the June 27 Brexit low. Gabelli noted they had recently added Wild Turkey and were buying Grand Marnier, details of which hit around the same time. Campari stock jumped in early March and has maintained a steady range between $4.75 and $4.90 since. While the current level is about 4% off the early June peak, it remains 25% above the end of February level.

In the US, the aperitif Campari has seen growing popularity, moving from a long-standing case volume of around 50,000 to 100,000 cases the past five years, according to Fortune Magazine. No better example of this heightened interest that with the Negroni – the go to cocktail at Gin & Bitters. Negroni Week itself provides some evidence as the June week-long charity event keeps getting bigger. Started in 2013, Negroni Week last year raised $321,000 from 3,500 venues. The amount raised last month has yet to be announced, but the number of venues alone was up 71% to 6,000 in 61 countries and 47 states.

Once again, market turmoil provided some very good buying opportunities, and in this case also brought the ingredients to toast your success.

Cheers!