VIP America

Rope

The Senate is preparing to vote on changes to the U.S. tax system that promise to fundamentally alter how we operate as a nation.

No one really knows what is in the Republican bill (they’re still making changes in the hours before the vote) but the outlines from all analyses so far indicate massive benefits to the rich at the expense of the poor and middle class. This was certainly true of the bill passed in the House that I noted recently.

With the GOP approach that gives tax credits for owners of private jets and the removes credits to teachers buying classroom supplies we will see inequality explode. We are moving to an America where a small number of people at the top are Executive Platinum frequent flyers and everyone else is down below, riding the dog, stuck in traffic.

Have you earned enough status to receive all of the perks in the Republican tax bill?

As Ronald Brownstein put it in the Atlantic, if you’re a white Baby Boomer, have a better chance to get your seat upgrade and bottle service. “The baby boom is being evicted from the penthouse of American politics. And on the way out, it has decided to trash the place,” he wrote. He noted that while the Boomer VIP status was ending, we’ll still be stuck behind their velvet rope for the next several years at least.

In the meantime, enjoy a Velvet Rope cocktail. Via Kindred Cocktails, the Velvet Rope is:

2 oz Rittenhouse Rye

.5 oz Velvet Falernum

2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters

Orange twist

Stir over ice, strain into a chilled coupe, garnish with an orange twist

Cheers!

 

Dancing With Fox News Stars

Waltz

The battle between truth and lies, between news and propaganda, has reached a crucial and personal period for most Americans; the Holidays.

Beginning today and running for the next month or so, there will be much more time spent with family, particularly those who get the news and opinions from Fox. We are about to hit a spike in awkward conversations.

At a time when the GOP can’t even seem to disavow a child molester, there is some sign of rational Republicans, though. The Hill reported yesterday that Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas) has called for more to be done to counter the Russian disinformation campaign now being waged against us.

But, as the holidays will remind us, there was a reason the Russian fake news effort was successful. (Yes, that’s why it is President Trump despite 3 million fewer votes. Well targeted effort in key states for EC win.) Timothy Egan noted it in the NY Times last week in his piece We’re With Stupid:

“But the problem is not the Russians — it’s us. 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.”

As you try to decide whether your uncle or father-in-law is on the side of supporting child molesters as long as they’re Republicans or is willing to question Russian interference with our election — doing the dance of family peace around the Thanksgiving dinner table — I suggest preparing with a Winter Waltz cocktail.

This warming seasonal drink should put a chill on the political discord. Via Punch, the Winter Waltz is:

2 oz rye

.5 oz ounce Averna

.25 oz St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram

2 dashes Dale DeGroff’s Pimento Bitters

Shake over ice (yes, shake, gives it a nice foaminess), strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with star anise.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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!

 

Reversing the Curse

Fist

I am a lifelong Chicago Cubs fan. I was happy beyond words on November 2, 2016, when the Cubs won the World Series and ended 108 years of frustration.

Many of us Cubs fans feared there would be a heavy price to pay for this victory, and less than a week later, Donald Trump was elected President of the United States. On the bright side, the sun didn’t go super nova and destroy the Earth. Still it’s been a rough year.

On November 1 this year, the Houston Astros defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers to become World Series Champions. One week later — with the Cubs no longer the reigning baseball champs — the forces allied with Trump suffered major electoral defeats.

Coincidence? I don’t think so.

In the best baseball tradition, this calls for a beer. I am going with the very appropriate Chicago beer Fist City from Revolution Brewing. Like good anti-fascists everywhere, raise a Fist (City) and toast the hard work that has been done, and the hard work to come as the Cubs’ curse is out of the way and we can rid ourselves of these grifters and traitors.

And as for the Cubs, they had a good season and made it to the NLCS for the third year in a row, but now the curse is over and penance has been paid. We’re good. And the last time the Cubs lost the NLCS, they won the World Series the next year. Go Cubs Go!

Happy Friday!

Cheers!

Electoral Hanky-Panky

Hanky

It has been known for some time that the 2016 election was the target of questionable and underhanded activity brought on by Russian intelligence services. Our Intelligence Community has been telling us this for a year.

However, the past week saw the picture around this interference get clearer. On Monday came indictments of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his aide. But the more surprising news of the day was that former campaign foreign policy advisor George Papadopoulos had pleaded guilty to lying about contacts with Russia (and was cooperating with Mueller).

The week ended with the NY Times revelation that another Trump campaign foreign policy advisor, Carter Page, has told Congressional investigators that he met with Russian officials. This is contrary to many denials he has made to the media.

In between, it became clear that Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions were in a meeting when Papadopoulos talked about setting a meeting between Trump and Putin. This has a number of Senators questioning the truthfulness of comments Sessions made under oath.

Congress also heard from attorneys for Facebook, Twitter, and Google this week about the use of their platforms for Russian-linked groups to run very targeted campaign ads. This meeting did not leave members of Congress feeling very confident about what did happen in the election, or what might again in future elections.

Business Insider also revealed that Russian hacker Guccifer 2.0 had altered hacked DNC emails before making them public. The timeline of Guccifer’s appearance on the scene has an interesting correlation with things we are learning about the Trump campaign and its contacts with Russia. It has been noted online today (not completely confirmed yet) that Guccifer’s Twitter account began on June 9, 2016. That was the day of the Trump Jr, Kushner, and Manafort meeting with Russians in Trump tower. Either way, the first comment on DNC hack from Guccifer was June 15.

The jigsaw puzzle Mueller is working on began to take some shape this week. There was clearly some hanky-panky between Trump’s people and the Russians last year. While we wait for more pieces of the puzzle to get filled in, sit back with a Hanky-Panky cocktail.

This classic from the Savoy Cocktail Book has gotten a nice update in the fantastic new Meehan’s Bartender Manual by Jim Meehan. Using Meehan’s recipe, the Hanky-Panky is:

2 oz Tanqueray gin

1.5 oz Cocchi vermouth di Torino

.25 oz Fernet-Branca

Stir with ice, then strain into a chilled coupe. 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!