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!

Panic at the Congress

Panic

President Very Stable Genius is not the only one who is, like, really smart. Republican members of Congress realize they can use the Michael Wolff book, its Trump v. Bannon storyline, and the President’s full-Fredo response as cover for their actions.

The last several days have seen Congressional Republicans across the board step up their assault on the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and the possibility of co-conspirators in the Trump campaign. The GOP now stands for the Grand Obstruction Party according to Brian Beutler.

House speaker Ryan has backed Devin Nunes’ attempts to further cover up Trump’s actions and denigrate investigators and the FBI. Meanwhile, in the Senate, the Judiciary Committee has recommended that the only investigation into potential criminal activity should focus on Christopher Steele, the former British intelligence agent who provided evidence of Russian involvement in the Trump campaign.

Paul Krugman has a theory for this action, that Republicans have made a deal with the devil, and now they’re stuck and can’t back out.

More specifically, Trump’s very awfulness means that if he falls, the whole party will fall with him. Republicans could conceivably distance themselves from a president who turned out to be a bad manager, or even one who turned out to have engaged in small-time corruption. But when the corruption is big time, and it’s combined with obstruction of justice and collaboration with Putin, nobody will notice which Republicans were a bit less involved, a bit less obsequious, than others. If Trump sinks, he’ll create a vortex that sucks down everyone involved.

Krugman has a point, and it may be the reason many Republicans are willing to go with the flow right now, but there seems to be something more at work. To watch the turnaround in Sen. Lindsey Graham, in the way he spoke about Trump until recently, really raises the question of whether he has been compromised in some way. No one knows, but stories of Russian oligarch money sloshing through our political system in the wake of Citizens United clearly raises the possibility of kompromat on any number of GOP officials.

Whether because of their deal with the devil or kompromat, Republicans certainly look to be putting party over country a lot lately. Krugman made another very true point about Republican complicity in Trump’s crimes: “Massive electoral defeat – massive enough to overwhelm gerrymandering and other structural advantages of the right – is the only way out.”

This is not lost on the, like, really smart Republicans. They have sounded the alarm about this trap and their actions from now until November to hold onto power are likely to be as un-American as anything we have seen. Trump may have a big nuclear button on his desk, but we are seeing that congressional Republicans are already pressing the panic button over the next elections.

In a rare moment of sympathy with the GOP, I suggest we all reach for the Panic Button tonight. This cocktail from the Dewberry Hotel in Charleston via Imbibe (that I found via Kindred Cocktails) contains:

1.5 oz bourbon
.75 oz Averna
.5 oz Campari
.5 oz Cheery Heering liqueur
.25 oz fresh lemon juice

Shake, strain into a chilled cocktail glass over a large ice ball (the button), express and discard lemon peel.

Cheers!

 

Puttin’ On The Ritz

Millionaire

The House has passed their Ayn Rand wet dream version of “Tax Reform” and now we wait to see what the Senate will do. Their plan is different and not as certain to pass as the House bill. But again, we are left counting on Republican dysfunction to avoid the disastrous effects of legislation.

The Republican tax reform provides exemptions for owners of private jets, but eliminates one for teachers buying school supplies for their classrooms.

Every analysis has said this benefits the rich at  the expense of the poor and middle class. Only America’s oligarchs-in-waiting benefit, finally getting on equal footing with their Russian counterparts. Even the non-partisan and non-fake news Associated Press came out with this lede the other day:

WASHINGTON (AP) — The ultra-wealthy, especially those with dynastic businesses — like President Donald Trump and his family — do very well under a major Republican tax bill moving in the Senate, as they do under legislation passed this week by the House.

Senators Orrin Hatch v. Sherrod Brown got into a very heated exchange over the bill during a Senate Hearing, with another Republican explaining how his hardscrabble roots mean he couldn’t be for the rich against the poor.

The bill would work to fulfill the longstanding GOP goal of destroying Obamacare, throwing some 13 million people off of their health insurance and making premiums more expensive for everyone else. It would also tax tuition waivers in a way that would severely damage graduate-school education. There are so many ways this bill weakens America, it almost seems it was planned by a foreign adversary. Fortunately none of them have any influence in our government.

While calling on your Senator to vote against the measure, have a classic Millionaire cocktail. This way, you can say you’re calling with a millionaire and maybe get your Senator on the phone quicker. Besides, if they’re only taking calls from billionaires, at least you have this pretty tasty cocktail.

I began with the classic recipe found in Ted “Dr. Cocktail” Haigh’s book Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails and modified for ingredients on hand.

1.5 oz Myers’s Dark Rum

.75 oz sloe gin (I used Greenhook Ginsmith’s version made with beach plums)

.75 oz apricot brandy (I used Rothman & Winter Orchard Apricot liqueur)

Juice of 1 lime (1-1.5 oz)

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

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!

 

In Trump’s Shadow

Shadow

Trump is at his Bedminster, N.J., property on a “working” vacation while the White House undergoes some needed renovation.

Meanwhile, the decay in the Republican Party grows more visible as its fissures and crumbling façade splash across the news every day. As I wrote last week in Countdown To Extinction, Trump is the Elephant Gun that may well bring down the GOP. Republicans are now agreeing with Bill James, saying that Trump “invaded and took over the party.” What could the GOP possibly have done?

At the same time, Republicans in Congress are beginning to assert some independence such as the bill to reign in Trump’s ability to fire Bob Mueller. Even the chief architect of alternative facts, Kellyanne Conway, had to admit Trump’s approval ratings among Republicans, conservatives and Trump voters is down.

Now the NY Times is reporting that Republicans are looking ahead at the 2020 Presidential Election.

“President Trump’s first term is ostensibly just warming up, but luminaries in his own party have begun what amounts to a shadow campaign for 2020 — as if the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue weren’t involved.

“The would-be candidates are cultivating some of the party’s most prominent donors, courting conservative interest groups and carefully enhancing their profiles. Mr. Trump has given no indication that he will decline to seek a second term.

“But the sheer disarray surrounding this presidency — the intensifying investigation by the special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and the plain uncertainty about what Mr. Trump will do in the next week, let alone in the next election — have prompted Republican officeholders to take political steps unheard-of so soon into a new administration.”

The whole article is worth a look, and while you’re reading about the shadow campaign, enjoy a Shadow Dreaming cocktail. After all, amidst a deteriorating GOP, for these shadow candidates, Dreaming is Free.

Via Kindred Cocktails, the Shadow Dreaming cocktail is:

2 oz Bourbon

.5 oz Carpano Antica Forumla sweet vermouth

.25 oz Zucca

.25 oz Demerara Rum 151

1 dash aromatic bitters (I used Dr. Adam’s Orinoco Bitters)

5 drops Bitterman’s Xocolatl Mole Bitters (as a float)

Build All except Mole Bitters in a mixing glass, stir until diluted, strain into a chilled, stemmed glass, and garnish with 5 drops Mole Bitters.

Cheers!