Banana Republicans

Banana Boulevardier

Democracy, the rule of law, and the competition of ideas were all once at the core of the belief system of people who called themselves Republicans and conservatives. There may still be some conservatives holding on to these concepts, but it is no longer a required — or even desired — dogma to be a Republican at any level.

It has been coming for a number of years, but after the 2018 midterm elections, the GOP has accelerated its anti-democratic, authoritarian tendencies to Ludicrous Speed. The voter suppression and hyper-gerrymandering practiced by Republicans in the 21st Century has now given way to an utter disregard of the electoral process.

In North Carolina, Republican congressional candidate Mark Harris has resorted to outright election fraud to steal the election by stealing ballots. Of course, NC also provided the playbook for other state Republican parties when they lost the governorship to a Democrat and changed laws to limit his power before the Democrat took office. In both Wisconsin and Michigan, the GOP is working overtime to make sure newly elected Democrats will not be able to take actions they campaigned on, with regard to health care, for example..

In Wisconsin, this power grab comes amid aggressive gerrymandering that saw Democrats receive 54% of votes for the state assembly, but only get 37% of the seats.

This disregard for the will of the people can also be seen in Washington, where very clear signs the President* has committed crimes — potentially including treason — are dismissed by Republicans in Congress. They simply don’t care.

Republicans have gone bananas, doing anything to hold on to power, satisfy their greed, and deliver for their patrons (Trump or Putin or both?), turning the U.S. into a Banana Republic.

As you try to navigate the streets of the crazytown our politics has become, have a Banana Boulevardier cocktail. Then we can get about making sure to return Democracy to the USA.

I got this surprisingly tasty drink via Frederic Yarm @cocktailvirgin. The Banana Boulevardier is a variation on one of my favorite cocktails, the Boulevardier, essentially a Negroni with whiskey. It is:

1 oz Bourbon (Bulleit)
1 oz Sweet Vermouth (Dolin)
1/2 oz Campari
1/2 oz Giffard Banane du Bresil

Stir with ice and strain into a coupe glass (or a rocks glass with a large ice cube). Garnish with an orange twist.

Cheers!

Why America Is Polarized

3-1

In the wake of Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court by a 50-48 vote in the Senate, one of the narrowest margins in history according to The Washington Post, “an increasingly polarized nation” is pushed to the brink.

The words polarized and divided have become shorthand for these type of party line votes that end up almost evenly split. But this shorthand misses the bigger picture that helps to explain the polarization — America is not evenly split. Even before the allegations of sexual assault, Kavanaugh was one of the most unpopular Justice nominees ever. He was “rammed through” and installed on the highest court by a group of 51 Senators representing states with 46% of the U.S. electorate. Here are the seeds of the polarization.

It is difficult to admit, but Trump was right about something. In 2016, when he said the election was being rigged, he was right — just not in the way he meant it (unless he meant the Russian meddling).

Putting aside Russian meddling, the election was rigged to maintain a minority rule in our government. In an interesting parallel with the Kavanaugh vote, Trump became president with 46% of the vote, but won the electoral college because of 78,000 votes across three key states.

More importantly, 2016 was another year of a Republican “seat bonus” in the House. After winning just under 50% of the congressional vote, the GOP picked up a little more than 55% of the seats. I have written about this before, including here and here. This has been happening for the past several cycles. Gerrymandering is a part of this, but so, too, is the fact the representation is still based on the 1910 Census. This is increasing the power of rural, lightly populated — and generally Republican leaning — states.

The Senate is different, as it is meant to represent states, while the House represents people. Part of the concern around the disappearing norms of Senate behavior over the past decade or so is the way it has heightened partisanship in what was once a place of comity, that rose above narrow interests for the greater good, that embodied country over party. But that came from the traditional practices of the Senate, not Constitutional mandate. The Founding Fathers warned us about factions.

Now, the minority faction rules and it has stoked the “polarization” the press likes to talk about because the will of the people is not being met. Whether it’s on healthcare, regulating banks, paying to fix infrastructure, or many other key issues of the day, the position of the ruling Republican Party is the opposite of the majority opinion in the country.

For example, look at some of the hot button issues that Kavanaugh may decide on the Court, abortion and gun control. According to Pew Research, by a nearly 60-40 margin Americans believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases. That stat is about the same as it was 20 years ago. On gun control, Gallup polling shows an even starker difference with 67% in favor of more strict laws, while 32% say keep as it is now or make it less strict (28% and 4% respectively).

The installation of Kavanaugh is the culmination of a decades long effort by Republicans to undermine democracy in favor of a “permanent majority” that I wrote about last month and looks to be a similar subject of the new Steve Kornacki book The Red and the Blue: The 1990s and the Birth of Political Tribalism that I am looking forward to reading. For noted conservative Tom Nichols, Kavanaugh represented the “situational ethics” of the GOP that showed the “Republican Party now exists for one reason, and one reason only: for the exercise of raw political power,” as he put it in The Atlantic today as he announced his “divorce” from the party.

As the GOP thwarts the will of the American people and looks to cling to power by any means possible — Gerrymandering, voter suppression, etc (including Russian help?) — it is a good time to remember who is in the majority, make a plan to vote in November, and have a Three To One Cocktail.

This pre-Prohibition drink from the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel comes via Dr. Cocktail Ted Haigh’s Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails book. It is:

1.5 oz 100-proof gin (I used Hayman’s Royal Dock Gin)

.75 oz apricot liqueur

Juice of half a lime (.5-.75 oz)

Shake over ice, strain into a cocktail glass, garnish with a lime wedge.

Cheers!

 

A Moment of Truth in the Age of Lies

Truth

“The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those who speak it.” – George Orwell

Truth in America has been under assault for some time now, but in the past several months we have seen the fight become frenzied as the president of the United States tells his supporters not to believe what they see, only what he tells them.

Of course, lying politicians is not a new phenomenon. It is why we have the myth of George Washington chopping down the cherry tree, and Honest Abe. Where we find ourselves today, however, is the result of 30 years of sustained attack by those on the right, starting with the Republican Party.

Around the time of Newt Gingrich’s “Contract With America,” the GOP really began its effort toward a “permanent majority.”

The problem Republicans had in trying to create a permanent majority is that their ideas were not (are not) particularly popular. To overcome this existential flaw in achieving their goal, they set out on a two-pronged strategy of lies and rigging the structure of government and politics.

On the structural side, the effects of their efforts are clear, particularly when you look at their aggressive Gerrymandering that I have written about before. In 2016, for example, Republicans received a plurality of votes cast for Congress nationwide, 49.9%, but they received a greater share, 55.2%, of the seats. Democrats, as a result, won a smaller share of seats than they did votes: 44.8 percent of seats as compared to 47.3 percent of the votes.

Creating their world of alternative facts, while a long-term process, may have been easier. The Nixon “Southern Strategy” and Reagan and the Moral Majority were precursors to this effort. Building off of the Know Nothing movement-like racism and anti-immigrant sentiment (not just in the south), and the politicized evangelicals’ rejection of science (that they see as hostile to a literal reading of the Bible), the GOP set off a new anti-intellectual era.

This effort was aided by the end of the Fairness Doctrine, the rise of right-wing talk radio and especially the new Republican propaganda machine Fox News, and decades of attacks on the traditional “mainstream” media. Of course, the MSM itself was in a weaker position after Watergate, economically, with the corporatization of news outlets and in the “professionalization” of journalists leaving homogenous press pool to cover an increasingly diverse country. The digital age has not helped either.

By the time the Bush Administration had left the “reality-based community” behind, we were well on the path to Trump. We don’t yet know to what extent our Russian enemies were able to exploit this GOP strategy in 2016, but it certainly made their job easier.

But we are now at the point where the president regularly states provable lies. The president and congressional Republicans work against efforts of the FBI and the intelligence community to discover the truth about the 2016 election — actively seeking to ruin the careers of senior officials deemed in their way. And the GOP has reached the point of completing a takeover of the third branch of government, the court.

Republicans senators are trying to rush through the Supreme Court nomination of of Brett Kavanaugh by burying thousands of documents, of looking away from the potential he is compromised by whoever has paid his massive debts (they don’t want to know who), and is potentially a rapist. They want him on the Supreme Court to complete the coup and deliver the permanent Republican majority.

While the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing this week on the accusation of sexual assault by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford against Kavanaugh may turn out to be just another battle against truth by the GOP, it also holds the possibility of being a decisive turning point, perhaps exposing this last grasping effort by the GOP.

It feels like we are at a pivotal point in history. We are trying to run our country on such an accumulation of lies that it seems unsustainable. A long, long time ago, my evangelical mom used to say “the truth will always find you out.” Let’s hope so.

Start this week with The Truth cocktail. This very tasty bitter cocktail (yes, the bitter truth) comes via Frederic Yarm at the Cocktail Virgin.  The Truth is:

2 oz Punt e Mes
1/2 oz Cynar
1/2 oz Strega
2 dash Orange Bitters (Regan’s)

Stir with ice, strain into a cocktail coupe, and garnish with an orange twist.

Cheers!

 

Back to Basics

Martini

There was a time when the President and members of Congress would put the interests of the United States above those of other nations — especially avowed adversaries.

Unfortunately, the summer of 2018 is not that time. Instead we have a President determined to make enemies of friends while doing the bidding of enemies. Trump tears apart our allies at meetings with the G7 and NATO while talking of ending sanctions on Russia for invading Ukraine. Meanwhile, a flock of GOP Senators spent the 4th of July (Independence Day FFS!) in Moscow sucking up to Putin.

Those Senators are part of a group — that includes a great many House Republicans — that seeks to end the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether the Trump campaign participated in that interference. With elections coming up in November, the GOP has spent a lot more time denigrating the FBI and the intelligence community than it has in ensuring our election is protected against interference.

I’d like to go back to that time when the basic approach of our elected officials was to protect the integrity of our democracy rather than looking at holding on to power through the help of hostile foreign powers.

This corrosion of American values also appears to have spread to a third branch of our government, where Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy — who’s son loaned Trump $1 billion while employed at Deutsche Bank — resigned. This has given Trump an opportunity to name someone more likely to take the Executive’s side in disputes with the Mueller investigation.

The labyrinth of unethical behavior in our government right now is mind boggling, and that is just in the bits we learn every day (hourly). To best approach the complexity of corruption, it is time to simplify your cocktail. I suggest a classic Martini. I like mine as follows, but don’t complicate things. Stick with what you like.

2.5 oz Plymouth Gin

.75 oz Dolin dry vermouth

1 dash of Regan’s Orange Bitters

Stir over ice, strain into a chilled Martini glass, lemon twist

Cheers!

 

 

This Ain’t No Disco…

Burning

May you live in interesting times.

This alleged ancient Chinese curse (more likely of European origin in the past century) seems fitting amid today’s turmoil. Between Trump pulling out of the Iran deal and Israeli rockets target Syria, I find lyrics from Warren Zevon’s song The Envoy playing in my head (Nuclear arms in the Middle East…).

On one hand, however, it is worth remembering that for all the geopolitical crises mentioned, Zevon released that song 36 years ago this summer and that was still five years before R.E.M. sung about the end of the world. The War Pigs aren’t new.

On the other hand, in the those other interesting times Donald Trump was not the U.S. President. Now we have entered a mad world where the insane becomes commonplace. For example, German Chancellor Angela Merkel today remarked that Europe can no longer count on the United States to protect it, but must take its destiny in its own hands.

As the evidence mounts daily (sometimes seemingly hourly) that Russia compromised the 2016 election, the President, and increasingly it appears the Republican Party, the world has come apart. Vice President Mike Pence and Congressional Republicans continue call for — and work toward — ending the Mueller investigation. Meanwhile, reports mount of the corrosion of bribes from Russian oligarchs and U.S. corporations funneled through Trump lawyer Michael Cohen that reveal the den of thieves running the government. For all Americans who truly put country first, this ain’t no party, this ain’t no disco, this ain’t no fooling around.

So, as we face the possibility that Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu may look to military actions to wag the dog and keep investigations at bay, we have to hope they don’t light the fuse that sets the world on fire. But following Monty Python’s advice to Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life, we have gin, so in these Burning Times then, have a Burning Times cocktail.

Via Kindred Cocktail, the Burning Times cocktail is:

2 oz Plymouth Gin

.75 oz Strega

.25 oz Fernet Branca

2 dashes Dr. Adam’s Bokers Bitters

lemon twist

Stir, strain, garnish

Cheers!

Gerrymander & The Top Bananas

Clipper

As El Caudillo Trump dreams of his military parade, the Republican Party is going about the more fundamental work of undermining American democracy and our electoral process.

Leaving aside for the moment the way Republicans are doing nothing about clear evidence that Russia interfered with the 2016 election — and appear to be ready to do so again this year — last week saw another GOP authoritarian outburst on gerrymandering. When the Pennsylvania Supreme Court held that the Republican drawn electoral map violated the state’s constitution and a fairer map must be drawn, a GOP state legislator called for the Justices to be impeached.

Meanwhile, over in Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker is refusing to hold special elections for two open state legislature seats after another special election in January saw the Democratic candidate win a heavily Republican district.

Of course, Walker’s move is strategic, at the core of GOP efforts to gerrymander the Karl Rove vision of a permanent Republican majority. He can’t let those Wisconsin seats fall to Democrats and endanger the Republican ability to draw the electoral map.

Gerrymandering isn’t new. It comes from the 1812 redistricting map of Massachusetts where one redrawn district was likened to a salamander which, when combined with Gov. Elbridge Gerry’s name gave us a new word.

However, this effort has accelerated and been refined with technology. After the 2010 census and the new maps it created, the 2012 election saw 1.4 million more Americans vote for Democrats for Congress, but Republicans won a 33-seat majority. Then, in 2016, despite winning fewer than half of all votes for Congress, Republicans again won a 33-seat majority.

The problem of gerrymandering spurred former Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr., with support from President Obama, to create the first-ever strategic hub for a comprehensive redistricting strategy, the National Democratic Redistricting Committee. The NDRC is working to ensure the next round of redistricting is fair and that maps reflect the will of the voters.

The importance of this effort cannot be understated, and was highlighted by an important piece in the NY Times over the weekend. Patrick Kingsley’s piece on Hungary’s slide toward autocratic rule is a very important look at the danger liberal democracies face around the world today.

To understand how Prime Minister Viktor Orban has reshaped Hungary, start with the private meetings in 2010. Fidesz had just won national elections by a margin that qualified the party for more than two-thirds of the seats in Parliament, even though it had only won a slim majority of votes… Weeks later, Mr. Orban and his lieutenants began a legislative assault on the Hungarian Constitution, curbing civil society and, to less fanfare, diverting billions of euros in European Union and federal money toward loyal allies.

First, he moved simultaneously to curb the Hungarian media and the judiciary. Next came the erosion of the country’s checks and balances, which has helped Mr. Orban share the spoils of power with close friends and important businessmen.

And then, came the electoral process. The restructuring of Hungary’s election system, including a redrawing the electoral map, has helped him remain in power, even as his party has won fewer votes.

The electoral foundation of American democracy is in peril not because of Trump, but because of the GOP’s long-term attacks on the electoral system that can be accelerated under Trump’s general disregard for the rule of law.

In fact, the GOP acquiescence in Trump’s attacks on the rule of law prompted Jonathan Rauch and Benjamin Wittes to write in The Atlantic a call to boycott the Republican Party from top to bottom in this year’s election. They have come to regard the GOP as an institutional danger because “it has proved unable or unwilling (mostly unwilling) to block assaults by Trump and his base on the rule of law. Those assaults, were they to be normalized, would pose existential, not incidental, threats to American democracy.”

That is where we are now with Republican efforts to restructure our electoral process. While their gerrymandering and voter suppression efforts may have once been incidental threats to our democracy, they have now become existential.

The instability and tin pot dictator approach of Trump and the Republicans is steering the ship of state dangerously close to banana republic territory. So while you’re thinking about how much to donate to the NDRC, have a Banana Clipper cocktail. Via Kindred Cocktails, the Banana Clipper is:

1.5 oz Barbancourt 8 rum

.5 oz Plantation Stiggin’s Fancy pineapple rum

.66 oz Cynar

.25 oz Giffard Crème de Banane

1 dash Bittermens Xocolatl Mole bitters

lemon twist (expressed and discarded)

Stir over ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass, twist

Cheers!

A Fool and His Memo

Fool

Congressman Devin Nunes’ foolishly dangerous memo is out, proving nothing except perhaps things that don’t help his buddy Trump.

Trump, being advised by Fox News fool Sean Hannity, of course, thinks the memo will help him do away with the Russian Conspiracy Investigation. It won’t. And Jennifer Rubin, The Washington Post conservative columnist, nails a truth about  Trump’s declassification of the memo allowing its release of information around intelligence gathering tools.

“This appears to be the second time (the first in the Oval Office with Russian officials) that Trump has handed the Russians classified material. If Trump is not a Russian agent, he surely is acting as effectively as one.”

Trump is being Trump, like the good Russian asset he is. However, what is the excuse for Nunes, Speaker Paul Ryan, and most of the rest of the GOP? As Obi-Wan Kenobi said: “Who’s more foolish, the fool or the fool who follows him?”

As we learn about all the things the release of this memo compromises (and how #MemoDay is the top trending hashtag for the Russian bots), it is best to have one of the worst named drinks according to the staff at New York’s Death & Co, Le Bateleur.

Le Bateleur is French for The Fool, and let’s face it, tagging these idiots with foreign-named drinks would annoy them. From the Death & Co book, it is a tasty concoction of:

2 oz London Dry gin

.75 oz Punt e Mes

.5 oz Strega

.25 oz Cynar

1 dash Angosturra bitters

Orange twist garnish

Stir, strain, garnish

Cheers!