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!

 

Extremism In Defense of Lunacy

Vieux

The public square has been overrun by the village idiots.

We are trying to function at a time when right-wing fringe propagandist Steve Bannon is a close advisor and confidant to the President; when the President goes on the InfoWars show with extremist screamer Alex Jones; when the right-wing media environment spews nonsense like Hillary Clinton running a child porn ring out of a D.C. pizza parlor and an armed N.C. man opens fire while investigating.

This environment has been building for years. When many Americans believed that a President of the United States was using a military exercise to declare martial law in Texas as a pretense to seize people’s guns, we really shouldn’t be surprised to find ourselves in our current situation.

Arizona  Senator Jeff Flake, in his broadside against Trump as he announced his retirement from the Senate identified it as “a sickness in our system — and it is contagious.”

E.J. Dionne addressed this in a recent Washington Post column, “The mainstreaming of right-wing extremism.”

“Why have our politics gone haywire, why have our political arguments turned so bitter, and why was Donald Trump able to win the Republican nomination and, eventually, the presidency? A central reason has been the mainstreaming of a style of extremist conservative politics that for decades was regarded as unacceptable by most in the GOP…

“The extremist approach is built on a belief in dreadful conspiracies and hidden motives. It indulges the wildest charges aimed at associating political foes with evil and subversive forces… Ordinary political acts are painted as diabolical. Dark plots are invented out of whole cloth. They are first circulated on websites that traffic in angry wackiness, and are eventually echoed by elected officials.”

This extremism has both fed and been nourished by the digital and social media culture of the past decade or so.

It is important to understand this context and background, this idea that the John Birch Society-types have become mainstream. That understanding helps to see the deeper extent of Russian meddling in our election. They very effectively used our divisions against us. The question remains whether they had any internal help in this.

The absolute must read here is “What Facebook Did to American Democracy; And why it was so hard to see it coming,” in The Atlantic. The extent to which ads could be/were targeted, and the way that advertising and targeting could be hidden is essential knowledge to prepare for our elections in the future. Mother Jones had covered the topic earlier as well.

The Atlantic also gave us some hope that maybe our fellow Americans aren’t as bad as they seem on social media, reminding us “Don’t forget to adjust for Russian Trolls.”

Even the guy who’s administration told us the world doesn’t really work as part of a reality-based community anymore has had enough. In a speech George W. Bush delivered earlier this month he said, “We have seen our discourse degraded by casual cruelty.”

Senator John McCain spoke to the lunacy of extreme rhetoric when he accepted the National Constitution Center’s Liberty Medal.

“To fear the world we have organized and led for three-quarters of a century, to abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe, to refuse the obligations of international leadership and our duty to remain ‘the last best hope of earth’ for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems is as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history.

“We live in a land made of ideals, not blood and soil… We will not thrive in a world where our leadership and ideals are absent. We wouldn’t deserve to.”

This is not a “MAGA” statement, but we need to bring a civility back to our politics. This won’t be easy. Politics is adversarial by nature, but we can’t let forces like homegrown Nazis or hostile foreign powers like Russia use our disagreements to create divisions that tear us apart.

We need to return to an old way of politics, where a dispute over health care policy is unlikely to involve treason, but helping a foreign power meddle in our elections probably does and should at least be vigorously investigated.

While we contemplate ways to return sanity to our public forum, enjoy a Vieux Carré cocktail. The translation of Vieux Carré is appropriately “Old Square” even though it technically referred to the French Quarter in New Orleans, the birthplace of the cocktail.

Via Brad Thomas Parsons in his book Bitters, the Vieux Carré  is:

1 oz rye

1 oz Cognac

1 oz sweet vermouth

.25 oz Bénédictine

2 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters

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

Garnish: lemon peel

Stir over ice and strain into a double old-fashioned glass over a large ice cube.

Cheers!

 

 

Return of the 20th Century

20th

The past week has seen headlines dominated by the KKK, Nazis and the threat of nuclear annihilation. Who knew that #Winning and Making America Great Again meant replaying all the worst bits of the previous century?

The U.S. entered WWI exactly 100 years ago, adding a chronological element to the possibility of the end of the American Century I wrote about here and here. At yesterday’s press conference Trump defended Nazis with his “Both Sidesism” comments and false equivalencies between monuments to Founding Fathers George Washington and Thomas Jefferson with those of traitorous scum Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. Now other foreign leaders are speaking out and saying we must stand up to Nazis.

These Confederate statues themselves are primarily a part of the last century, and not from the more immediate post–Civil War days. The two big periods of monument construction in the early 1900s, at the time of Jim Crow laws and the formation of the KKK, and then again during the Civil Rights Movement were clearly a 20th Century phenomenon. Also, as the NY Times put it in an editorial, this is not just a Southern problem either:

“The president of the United States has unleashed a new generation of domestic terrorists. During the presidential campaign, and now from the seat of power in the White House, Mr. Trump’s talk of building a wall, his denigration of women, his ban on transgender soldiers and his circle of nationalist advisers embolden the very people who showed up in Charlottesville chanting, ‘Jews will not replace us.'”

These would be the “very fine people” Trump spoke of at the press conference that even the conservative Weekly Standard called a disgrace.

This hardly feels like the Shining City on a Hill that Ronald Reagan spoke of in his farewell address in January 1989.

Defeating Hitler was certainly one of those times when America stood as beacon to the world, so tell some Nazi punks to fuck off and have a Twentieth Century cocktail as we try to figure out how we’ll restore that vision when Trump is gone.

This classic via Ted Haigh in Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails is:

1.5 oz gin

.75 oz Cocchi Americano (or Lillet Blanc)

.5 oz creme de cacao

.75 oz lemon juice

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

Cheers!

Shall We Play A Game?

Nuke Daq

In the hierarchy of distractions, Global Thermonuclear War tends to work better than most. (Made you look!)

As many Americans deal with an anxiety that has largely been absent for some 30 years, Trump keeps ratcheting up the provocative language around nukes in North Korea. Despite his “locked and loaded” rhetoric, much of the world doesn’t really believe the U.S. is on the brink of war with North Korea, and China has warned Kim Jong Un that his country is on its own if it starts something with the U.S. (but will intervene if the U.S. strikes first).

This is a serious situation, as well as a reminder of just how much Donald Trump is unsuited and ill-equipped to be president. At the same time, this does seem designed to draw our attention, and gathering attention is something Trump is suited for as he’s spent so much of his life honing those skills.

We cannot dismiss this distraction because there is no evidence that Trump wouldn’t start a war to cover his tracks.

The Washington Post reminds us today that amid all of the craziness of the North Korean brinksmanship and thanking Vladimir Putin for expelling U.S. diplomats from Russia, Trump continues to use the presidency to enrich his family. While the Post is primarily talking about the Trump Hotel, there are seemingly a deep web of financial interests at play.

The team of prosecutors assembled by special counsel Robert Mueller is loaded with specialists on financial crimes. The revelation that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s home was subject to a pre-dawn raid by the FBI serving a warrant for Mueller’s investigation suggests the vice is tightening.

Another interesting thread in the financial aspect came up today in a special report from Reuters detailing the ways in which Putin, via Russian state-owned energy firm Rosneft, is taking advantage of unrest in Venezuela to gain leverage over oil fields and access to U.S. markets (via CITGO) despite sanctions.

“Moscow has substantial leverage in the negotiations: Cash from Russia and Rosneft has been crucial in helping the financially strapped government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro avoid a sovereign debt default or a political coup. 

“Rosneft delivered Venezuela’s state-owned firm more than $1 billion in April alone in exchange for a promise of oil shipments later. On at least two occasions, the Venezuelan government has used Russian cash to avoid imminent defaults on payments to bondholders, a high-level PDVSA official told Reuters. 

“Rosneft has also positioned itself as a middleman in sales of Venezuelan oil to customers worldwide. Much of it ends up at refineries in the United States – despite U.S. sanctions against Russia – because it is sold through intermediaries such as oil trading firms, according to internal PDVSA trade reports seen by Reuters and a source at the firm.”

Republican Senators from several Gulf oil states are urging Trump to hold off on Venezuelan sanctions as they would send Maduro further into Russia’s arms, further harming U.S. energy interests.

How this plays out will be interesting to watch as there are a number of links to people in the Trump orbit. Of course there is Secretary of State and former Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson who has many connections to Rosneft. But there are also known targets of the Trump-Russia investigation with Rosneft ties, including Manafort and Carter Page. Adam Schiff, ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, outlined some of those ties back in March.

Without putting on the tinfoil hat, just some things to keep an eye out for while comfortable in the knowledge that Mueller’s team likely is all over this. So while we wait for things to blow up on one side or the other, enjoy the weekend with a Nuclear Daiquiri.

Via Cocktail Virgin, the Nuclear Daiquiri is:

3/4 oz Wray & Nephew Overproof Rum
3/4 oz Green Chartreuse
3/4 oz Lime Juice
1/3 oz Falernum (Velvet)

Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lime wheel.

Cheers!

The Madness of King Donald

Royalty

The Reign of Error hit its six month anniversary today, and in an interview with the NY Times, His Orangeness really lays bare what we are dealing with as a nation.

It is not so much that what Trump said was surprising as it was a confirmation of his cluelessness, his ignorance, and his deeply held belief that he has been anointed the absolute monarch of the U.S.

The Times interview is a must read, even if it is difficult to get past the periods of meaningless word salad gibberish to understand the amazingly un-American approach to the conduct of our government.

Trump’s misinformed conception that the head of the FBI is someone who is, or should be, directly reporting to the President was part of his whine that included the unfairness of Attorney General Jeff Sessions having to recuse himself from the Russia investigation (and the Russian Front has been very active this week).

The interview included elements of his astounding lack of knowledge on health care, saying insurance costs $12 per year, while threatening Senators that they must vote for the McConnell plan for Trumpcare or risk losing their seat (as though he were some two-bit gangster).

Meanwhile, the royal family nepotism runs deep, and was a primary source of the Russia investigation issues Trump had to deal with this week. During the Times interview, Trump even referenced the Don Jr. collusion meeting in Trump Tower last summer that likely caused the suicides of a few Trump communications people.

It has been 240 years since our Revolution to break free of an insane king, and it looks like that time has come around again. While we think about those things we’ll need to fix when the smoke clears, an American Royalty cocktail will help.

Taken from Kindred Cocktails, American Royalty is a variation on a Kir Royal, a bitter variant to match the bitterness the concept of American royalty should be to any true patriot.

1 oz Gran Classico

1 oz Creme de Violette

4 oz Champagne

Add the liqueurs to a flute, top with Champagne

Cheers!