Never Forget

Elephants

Memorial Day weekend is here, signifying the unofficial start of summer. Amidst the barbecues and ball games, many people will take time to recognize the real reason for the day off work; a time of remembrance for the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice for our liberty.

It was 149 years ago the day, then called Decoration Day, was officially recognized, formalizing a tradition that began almost immediately after the Civil War. It was designated as May 30, as it was not the anniversary of any specific battle. After World War I, like they did across Europe, poppies became a symbol of the day of remembrance, a reference to the poem “In Flanders Fields.” In 1971, Decoration Day became Memorial Day, and in 2000 a National Moment of Remembrance was designated for 3 p.m.

Although it grew from the division of the Civil War, Memorial Day has united Americans for generations. But today our divisions are again at a heightened level. For that first “Memorial Day,” the commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, General John Logan, issued an order that read in part:

“We are organized, comrades, as our regulations tell us, for the purpose among other things, ‘of preserving and strengthening those kind and fraternal feelings which have bound together the soldiers, sailors, and marines who united to suppress the late rebellion.’ What can aid more to assure this result than cherishing tenderly the memory of our heroic dead, who made their breasts a barricade between our country and its foes? Their soldier lives were the reveille of freedom to a race in chains, and their deaths the tattoo of rebellious tyranny in arms. We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. All that the consecrated wealth and taste of the nation can add to their adornment and security is but a fitting tribute to the memory of her slain defenders. Let no wanton foot tread rudely on such hallowed grounds.”

Unfortunately, two weeks ago, the would-be heirs to that rebellion took to the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia, with torches (OK, Wal-Mart tiki torches, but still) to protest the removal of monuments to the treason that ended 150 years ago while chanting “Russia is our friend.” (In perhaps the speech of the year, New Orleans Mayor Landrieau spoke of the need to remove those Confederate monuments.)

The chant, of course, was meant as a show of support for President Trump who is facing growing investigations into whether his campaign worked with the Russians to influence the 2016 election. Much has happened since those chants, but it was quite clear then that — with or without Trump collusion — the Russians had attacked us and our electoral process through at least some role in hacking the DNC and through a coordinated disinformation campaign using social media.

Since then, and particularly in the past week, there have been many new troubling revelations. Most damning was The Washington Post story that Trump son-in-law and top advisor Jared Kushner had tried to set up a secret communication channel with the Russians in a way designed to evade U.S. intelligence during the transition.

Also in The Washington Post, columnist Jennifer Rubin outlines the past week and the rot at the core of Trump and Congressional Republicans.

“Conventional wisdom says that Trump executed a hostile takeover of the GOP. What we have seen this week suggests a friendly merger has taken place. Talk radio hosts have been spouting misogyny and anti-immigrant hysteria for years; Trump is their ideal leader, not merely a flawed vehicle for their views. Fox News has been dabbling in conspiracy theories (e.g. birtherism, climate-change denial) for decades; now Republicans practice intellectual nihilism. Nearly every point of criticism raised against the left — softness on foreign aggressors, irresponsible budgeting, identity politics, executive overreach, contempt for the rule of law, infantilizing voters — has become a defining feature of the right.”

Even today, the Post reported the Trump family ostensibly outside of government is working with GOP leaders to discuss strategy.

The dysfunction all of this this has caused in our government is beyond what Vladimir Putin could have asked for. It was one thing to see a weakening of NATO, a Russian aim for more than half a century, but the utter chaos in Washington today is paying dividends we may not fully understand for years.

Don’t get me wrong, we still have much more to learn to know whether the Trump campaign actively worked with Russia and whether there are traitors in the White House. This could be a continuation of Russian disinformation. What is troubling, however, is the way Republicans, particularly in Congress, seem more concerned about power than getting to the bottom of Russian interference in our elections.

Perhaps it should not be surprising from a party that has worked for years to suppress the vote of anyone who might be considered an opponent. As we saw again this past week when the Supreme Court struck down North Carolina’s racially Gerrymandered districts.

In The Washington Monthly, John Stoehr wrote that Mitch McConnell and Vladimir Putin want the same thing. He said that the GOP will have to be held accountable:

“Trump’s sins are their sins. If he is Putin’s useful idiot, it stands to reason that so are the Republicans.

And they can start by leaning on Mitch McConnell. Former CIA Director John Brennan told a Senate panel Tuesday that: ‘I was aware of intelligence that revealed contacts and interactions between Russian officials and US persons involved in Trump campaign.’ Under testimony, he told lawmakers that he informed leading Senators from both parties about what was happening. From that discussion, according to a December Washington Post story, the Obama administration hoped to present a bipartisan united front against Russian interference. But McConnell said no.

The Post reported that: ‘He would consider any effort by the White House to challenge the Russians publicly an act of partisan politics.’ McConnell’s decision was partisan politics. And the Russians were made part of the Republican Party.

Quite literally, Putin’s priorities were the Republicans’.”

There are some Republicans concerned about the direction of the party under Trump. Joe Scarborough, for example, called Trump’s NATO speech a “love letter to Putin” and went on a rant Friday about how the GOP has lost its way.

This weekend, as we take time to remember those that put our country above everything else to secure our freedoms, we hope that the leaders of the GOP put country over party to defend the U.S. against foreign aggression.

We must never forget the sacrifices made on our behalf, but tonight I am drinking an Elephants Sometimes Forget cocktail. Via Kindred Cocktail, it is:

1 oz gin

.75 Cherry Heering

.75 lemon juice

.25 dry vermouth

1 dash orange bitters

Shake, strain into a cocktail glass straight up.

Cheers!

Vive la France!

75

Today, France delivered a major victory in the fight against resurgent fascism with the landslide election of Emmanuel Macron over Marine Le Pen.

The Washington Post set the scene well, saying:

The anti-E. U. French leader Marine Le Pen’s larger-than-expected defeat Sunday in her nation’s presidential election was a crushing reality check for the far-right forces who seek to overthrow Europe…Given one choice after another since Trump’s U.S. presidential victory, Western European voters have delivered mainstream candidates to office despite a post-November sense that an anti-immigrant populist wave was washing over the Western world. Far-right candidates in Austria, the Netherlands and France have faltered.

Many battles remain, but in keeping with yesterday’s post, let’s have a drink to keeping the world safe for democracy for another day. In this case, the World War I inspired cocktail is the French 75.

In yesterday’s post, I quoted from President Wilson’s address to Congress seeking a declaration of war against Germany, using the famous part about making the world safe for democracy. However, Wilson’s closing is also important, and also echoes the aspirations we need today:

It is a fearful thing to lead this great peaceful people into war, into the most terrible and disastrous of all wars, civilization itself seeming to be in the balance. But the right is more precious than peace, and we shall fight for the things which we have always carried nearest our hearts—for democracy, for the right of those who submit to authority to have a voice in their own governments, for the rights and liberties of small nations, for a universal dominion of right by such a concert of free peoples as shall bring peace and safety to all nations and make the world itself at last free.

To such a task we can dedicate our lives and our fortunes, everything that we are and everything that we have, with the pride of those who know that the day has come when America is privileged to spend her blood and her might for the principles that gave her birth and happiness and the peace which she has treasured. God helping her, she can do no other.

This speech was 100 years ago, yet here we are again.

The origin story of the French 75 varies between being developed at Harry’s New York Bar in Paris, or by soldiers in the field looking for something refreshing to drink. Like its namesake cannon (the one used by Harry Truman’s outfit) the drink is smooth, but packs a wallop.

The recipe as taken from Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails by Ted Haigh, aka Dr. Cocktail, is:

2 oz gin

1 oz lemon juice

2 tsp sugar or 1 tsp simple syrup

Champagne

Shake gin, lemon juice and sugar over ice, pour into a champagne flute or collins glass, top with Champagne, stir gently and add lemon peel garnish.

Cheers!

Demonize and Distract

Satan

Quite a day for Trump spokesman Sean Spicer yesterday. While attempting to defend Trump’s ill-conceived and ineffective airstrikes in Syria, Spicer (in the way only NPR could describe it) “overlooked the Holocaust.”

Saying that Hitler didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons in World War II as proof of the need to bomb Syria drew a response from the White House briefing room. As the New York Times reported:

Asked to clarify his remarks, Mr. Spicer then acknowledged that Hitler had used      chemical agents, but maintained that there was a difference.

“I think when you come to sarin gas, he was not using the gas on his own people the same way that Assad is doing,” Mr. Spicer said, incorrectly, before mentioning “Holocaust centers,” an apparent reference to Nazi death camps.

This brought about a clamor on social media that threatened to drown out the United Airlines re-accommodated passenger story, and brought calls for Spicer to be fired. Spicey, though, wasn’t finished. He went on CNN to apologize for the remarks, but he said he did not want his comments on Hitler to distract from Trump’s attempts “to destabilize the region.”

It just feels like there’s a Freudian slip in here. It is hard to believe the level of stupidity and incompetence we have seen from the Administration, so it is only natural to believe this is part of some master plan of deception and distraction.

The Washington Post story that the FBI obtained a FISA warrant to monitor former Trump adviser Carter Page only fed the idea that Trump needs to distract us from what is seeping out about his campaign’s collusion with Russia during the election.

Applying Occam’s Razor, however, the more likely explanation is that Spicer simply bungled his Hitler reference (owing to an already apparent tentative grasp on history), which was made in service of justifying a bungled response to Assad’s use of chemical weapons by using the well-worn playbook of demonizing your enemy.

The author of that playbook, Lucifer, just kicked back, twirled his mustache, and awaited some new arrivals. As the demonizations continue, the rest of us can kick back with a Satan’s Whiskers cocktail to see whether Spicer gets fired, or was just following orders. The recipe via Brad Thomas Parson’s Bitters is:

.5 oz gin

.5 oz sweet vermouth

.5 oz dry vermouth

.5 oz orange juice

.25 oz orange curaçao

3 dashes orange bitters

Shake over ice, strain into a chilled coupe or 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!

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!

Too Much, Too Little, Too Late

 

too-muchSaturday, fast approaching at this point, will bring the vote on a new Chairman for the Democratic National Committee. Leading contenders being the more establishment-backed frontrunner Thomas Perez (former Labor Secretary) and Representative Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), the Bernie Sanders camp candidate.

I don’t have a dog in this fight. Other than wanting someone strong leading the opposition party (in our two-party system) to stand up to the Kleptocrat-Fascist group that has now fully taken over the national GOP.

Of course, Democrats being Democrats, it is hard to get your hopes up. Even the Washington Post headline “Democrats brace for backlash as they vote on new party chairman” provides a glimpse of the petty infighting likely to derail organized resistance within the government.

Rehashing the Hillary-Bernie Primary is a luxury for a simpler time. People are in the streets, and at Republican Congressional Town Halls, vocally resisting this regime. We need Democrats to get with the people already motivated to stand against Trump and his GOP enablers. Those already in leadership position in the government and the party need to lead.

This will take some of that establishment organizational and institutional experience and know-how. This will need to be combined with the experience of the grassroots organizers who know something about insurgent campaigns. As EJ Dionne said about the DNC Chair race,”Whoever prevails will have an unusual opportunity and a large burden…The hard part will be convincing the newly mobilized that the Democratic Party knows what to do with their commitment.”

The leadership it will take to provide the direction people need and making the right decisions to turn back the worst of this regime will be critical.

Trump continues down his path and today’s banning of specific news organizations from a press briefing while again calling them enemies of the American people only takes this authoritarian tendency to another level. Hopefully we’re not too late.

So the nightcap to finish off week 5 of the Duke of Orange’s rule is Too Much Too Little Too Late from Kindred Cocktail.

1.25 oz gin

1 oz Cocchi Americano

.75 oz Gran Classico

.25 oz Apricot Liqueur

Dash orange bitters

Stir over ice, strain into a coupe

Cheers!

Time to Pay Up

tax

The big news today is, of course, the resignation of national security advisor Michael Flynn for inappropriate discussions about sanctions with a Russian ambassador prior to the inauguration. (Or lying about it, or lying about it and leading Pence to lie about it. So was it the treason or making the VP look bad that forced him out?)

Clearly, it is a good day to drink a Moscow Mule. I am out of ginger beer at the moment, however, and I think there will be plenty more opportunities to make Moscow Mule the drink of the day.

Like every other of the 25 days of this Administration, there is more than one story worth a drink.

In this morning’s headlines was news of yet another court “issuing a strong rebuke” to Trump’s travel ban, this time in Virginia. While the courts keep knocking down Trump’s Muslim ban, he is making progress in a related campaign promise attack on the “other,” in this case undocumented Mexican immigrants.

The ICE raids of the past week have been, as VOX put it today, “both fairly standard and newly terrifying.” It is true that such raids took place before His Orangeness took charge, but the expanded use of “Collateral Arrests” are a part of the way these raids were designed to send a message. (They also don’t seem to be targeting Poles in Chicago, Irish in Boston, or the random hotbeds of godless Canadians.)

Whether this is the first stirrings of Der Gropenfuhrer’s Deportation Force remains to be seen. Regardless, it is as misguided as most everything else this group of Thieves and Liars is trying to do.

Like many before him, Trump has demonized immigrants to his supporters (all descendants of immigrants) that they are both stealing jobs and leeching off the state. This has been debunked many times over the decades, including in a piece in today’s NY Times.

While Trump looks to actually try to make good on his campaign promise (don’t know why people don’t believe fascists until it’s too late) it is very un-Republican. For all of the usual sound and fury, the businessmen in GOP generally know that undocumented immigrants are a good deal.

In “The Truth About Undocumented Immigrants and Taxes” in the Atlantic last fall it was estimated that illegal immigrants pumped $13 billion into Social Security and only got about $1 billion in benefits. A USA Today story last year said illegal immigrants pay more than $11.5 billion in taxes, a total that includes more than $6.9 billion in sales and excise taxes, $3.6 billion in property taxes, and over $1 billion in personal income taxes.

With that kind of tax burden, those immigrants are a lot like the citizens of states like New Jersey, New York and Illinois who send a lot more tax money to the feds than they get back, essentially subsidizing all of those Trump-supporting states.

It is also annoying to have such rhetoric coming from our tax-cheat-in-chief. So, unless you are the Cheeto-faced, ferret-wearing shit gibbon, you’ve got 9 weeks from today to get those tax forms in.

In support of all of our neighbors from the south coming across the wire to pay into our system, today we’ll have an Income Tax Cocktail. Essentially a Bronx Cocktail with bitters, I pulled my recipe from Gary Regan’s The Joy of Mixology:

2 oz gin (Sacred, a London craft gin in this case, one that came in illegally)

.25 oz sweet vermouth

.25 oz dry vermouth

1 oz fresh orange juice

Angostura (or Dr. Adam’s Orinoco Bitter) to taste

Shake, strain into a coupe, orange twist

Cheers!