He Went to Jared

Manhattan Transfer

It was not a good week for the Russian asset in the White House, and the Michael Cohen testimony to Congress was only one aspect of the walls closing in on Trump.

The NY Times broke the story that Trump overruled intelligence officials and ordered the security clearance for his son-in-law Jared Kushner. While there is nothing particularly unexpected or shocking in this news, it does prove — once again — that Trump lied.

House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) has already requested information related to granting Kushner a clearance as Congress moves to investigate the matter. Between his request that the Russians provide a secure backchannel communications avenue outside of the reach of U.S. intelligence agencies, to high debt levels (tied largely to overpaying for Manhattan real estate), the FBI and CIA had deemed Jared “unclearable.”

In today’s NY Times, Nicholas Kristof ties together a nice deal for solving Kushner‘s money problems, Saudi Arabia’s quest for a nuclear program and a company that wants to supply the Kingdom with reactors. It is so much more refreshing here now that the swamp has been drained.

By going to Jared, Democrats may be on to a more fruitful path that does not even need to involved the Mueller investigation. While debates rage around the ability to prosecute a sitting President and whether it is wise for the House to impeach Trump if it is unlikely the Senate will convict, there may be easier ways to attack the corruption of this administration.

Trumpworld presents a target-rich environment, and the past week offered several high priority targets of opportunity. The security clearance for Jared is one, but also the clearance for his wife, first daughter Ivanka, as well. Cohen’s testimony also provided another direction with Don Jr. and the Trump Organization. Federal prosecutors from the Southern District of New York are already on the case in several instances Cohen told the Committee, but his testimony also gave Congress a roadmap for further investigations and witnesses.

The unprecedented Presidency* of Trump sees an almost hourly progression of abnormal and illegal behavior (check the Weekly List from Amy Siskind), but shifting the focus to those around him could be a way to begin dismantling this regime. Whatever reasons Republicans have for defending Trump, those reasons may not carry over as easily to people like Jared and Don Jr.

As the investigations turn the spotlight on people around Trump, have a Manhattan Transfer cocktail. A Phil Ward creation I pulled from “Death & Co: Modern Cocktail Classics,” The Manhattan Transfer is:

1.5 oz Rittenhouse 100 Rye

1 oz dry vermouth

1 oz Ramazzotti

1 dash orange bitters

Stir over ice, strain into a coupe, no garnish

Cheers!

Slip Slidin’ Away

Slope

The Russian operative in the White House continues his efforts to destroy American democracy with the latest ploy being the National Emergency declaration.

Even while announcing the need for extraordinary means to secure the southern border from the menace in his head, he made clear how much of a non-emergency the situation is, daring anyone to try to put a check on powers he feels entitled to wield. Immediately, a number of sycophantic, and/or compromised, Senators pledged fealty to Emperor Orange I. And Trump may not be wrong about his Supreme Court Justice picks backing up his unConstitutional actions when it gets there (see: Muslim Ban).

For the GOP to not push back on this presidential power grab and the precedent it sets is just one more of the jaw-dropping, head-scratching, WTF?!? moments from Republicans in the past few years. Some of them do recognize the power this will give the next Democratic president to declare a national emergency on guns, health care, or climate change to get around a GOP Senate (whose control is so structurally baked in as to be near certain).

Of course, precedent setting and unprecedented is the hallmark of the unPresidented age we are living through. Trump has sent us speeding down so many slippery slopes that America would sweep any Winter Olympics medal count. Forget about making America great again, we will have our hands full just making America functional again. Restoring the rule of law alone will require many difficult steps back up those slippery slopes.

Trump is golfing his way through the National Emergency, ensconced on his own property in Florida, while the rule of law is slip sliding away. Time for a Slippery Slope cocktail.

The drink comes from Tona Palomino. I found the recipe via Kindred Cocktails while looking for new ways to use Cherry Heering. The Slippery Slope is:

2.5 oz rye

.75 oz Cherry Heering

.5 oz Cynar

Stir over ice, strain into a cocktail glass

Cheers!

Air Raid Destroys the Wall

aviation

After 35 days, Trump’s government shutdown over funding for his border wall (that Mexico was supposed to pay for) ended yesterday when air traffic controllers (who had now missed two paychecks) called in sick in great enough numbers to impact air travel.

Pressure had been building on Trump and the Republicans as stories of safety and national security issues grew alongside tales of human tragedies due to the shutdown, a problem which the public put squarely on their shoulders.

That pressure became too great, however — especially for some Republican senators — when flights began being delayed and cancelled, and a ground stop was called at New York’s LaGuardia Airport. Trump appeared at the White House to announce a “deal” to reopen the government for three weeks, but came away with nothing (except, perhaps, pleasing Putin).

Though it did prove once again that fixed barriers, such as walls, are no match for airpower.

The only potential benefit Trump got out of this humiliation at Nancy Pelosi’s hand was its potential to distract from the news of the arrest of his long-time friend and advisor Roger Stone who was indicted by Robert Mueller in the Russia probe.

The seven-count indictment against Stone clears for takeoff the connection between the Trump campaign and the WikiLeaks dissemination of the Russian-hacked DNC and Podesta emails.

Between the right-wing Trump base fuming over the complete cave he pulled on the wall and the ever-tightening Mueller noose, Trump has become such a lame duck he may only have one more flight left in him, the one seeking asylum in Moscow.

To celebrate the job action by air traffic controllers, who finally got a bit of payback for Reagan busting PATCO nearly 38 years ago, have an Aviation cocktail.

Although it has fallen out of favor a bit, the Aviation helped kick off the cocktail renaissance when Eric Seed at Haus Alpenz brought back the liqueur Creme de Violette.

After Prohibition, this ingredient went missing, which kind made the drink originated in the nineteen teens a bit of a head scratcher. It needs the blue tint from the Creme de Violette to make sense as an ode to the sky from the early days of flight.

From the recipe page at Haus Alpenz, the Aviation is:

2 oz London dry gin

.5 oz Maraschino liqueur

.5 oz lemon juice

.25 oz Creme de Violette

Shake over ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a cherry.

Cheers!

Time to Carve Up Some Trump Steaks

killing floor

Hard times is here and everywhere you go

Times are harder than ever been before

                                          — Skip James, “Hard Time Killing Floor Blues” (1931)

The continuing government shutdown means Federal employees are about to miss another paycheck. Every passing day puts our national security, food safety, and even our scientific understanding of the changing climate more at risk as workers can’t do their jobs – or are doing them without pay and wondering how to buy food or pay the rent.

This kind of disruption must be a dividend Putin never thought he’d get with his purchase of Trump. Of course, this isn’t only on Individual 1, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell could end the shutdown anytime by allowing a vote on house measures (that already passed the Senate).

McConnell, who wouldn’t let news of Russian interference in 2016 on behalf of Trump come out until after the election, is now keeping the government closed and just lifted sanctions on a key Russian oligarch. It is almost as though he doesn’t want his suspicious activity to be overshadowed by the growing revelations of Trump’s dealing with Russia.

While Trump and his GOP enablers in Congress bring hard times to America, the newly Democratic-led House of Representatives is preparing to begin its oversight work. The recent Buzzfeed report on Trump directing Cohen to lie to Congress, its brief elevation of impeachment talk, and Mueller’s pushback notwithstanding, the docket of Democratic inquiries would be enough to take down several administrations.

The list of Trump swamp creatures and their questionable (if not illegal) activities could have House committee rooms looking like the slaughterhouses of Chicago. This will all be warmup to the main event, when Trump himself makes it to the House killing floor. Between obstruction of justice, violation of the emoluments clause and possibly treason, he is likely to get carved up into the best Trump steaks yet.

While waiting for the Hearings to begin, have The Killing Floor cocktail. Via Frederic Yarm at Cocktail Virgin, The Killing Floor is:

1.5 oz James E. Pepper Rye (I used FEW Spirits Rye, the Chicago connection seemed right)
.5 oz Bigallet China China Liqueur
.5 oz Cocchi Sweet Vermouth
.5 oz Bonal Gentiane-Quinquina

Stir with ice and strain into a rocks glass. Garnish with an orange twist.

Cheers!

America Sbagliato

Sbagliato

As we leave 2018 behind, let’s hope we can begin to correct the wrongs we have been suffering through in 2019 — mistaken ideas of government, of policy, and of culture, that betray the ideals of what America is supposed to be.

Before you get to the fancy Champagne toast at midnight, warm up for the main event with a slightly bitter aperitivo, the Negroni Sbagliato cocktail.

Sbagliato means mistaken or incorrect in Italian. It was added to Negroni in the early 1970s when a happy accident at Bar Basso in Milan subbed prosecco for gin. You can get the whole story from Gaz Regan in his fantastic book Negroni. I pulled the recipe from the book Spritz, however, though it can be found easily in many cocktail books or across the internet.

It is much easier to find the recipe, apparently, than it is for the administration to find the traditional or ethical, or even competent, path to govern our country. From putting kids in cages, shutting down government over an ill-conceived wall, to betraying allies in favor of dictators and up-ending a world order we helped put in place after World War II (among many examples), we have clearly lost our way.

The aftermath of our current administration will take a lot of work to recover from and rebuild our standing in the world. However, if we can take this historic mistake and use it to renew our democracy, the rule of law, the engagement and participation of a majority of Americans across all demographic groups, then like a Negroni Sbagliato we will come away with something that is both familiar and different, and good.

My hope for 2019 is to begin working our way back and correcting the mistakes.

In a rocks glass over one big ice cube, build:

1 oz Campari

1 oz sweet vermouth

3 oz prosecco

Garnish with half an orange wheel.

Cheers and Happy New Year!

 

Brace for Impact

Tailspin

In the final days of his presidency, Nixon was brooding, unstable and alone in the White House. The parallels with Trump continue over this holiday season, with the “poor me” tweet being Exhibit #1.

Of course Trump is feeling all alone, just look at all of the close advisors in jail or under indictment, unprecedented turnover in the administration, and now he’ll have to deal with Democrats having some power in DC. Trump definitely seems to have lost control. It is hard to tell at this point whether it is due to incompetence, Russian/Turkish/Saudi design, or a combination.

The decision to pull out of Syria, with its ill-conceived and possibly foreign influenced origins, is not helping Trump with Republicans — adding to that lonely feeling. The resulting resignations, and the scathing resignation letter from Defense Secretary Mattis (and Trump’s late realization on the letter’s negativity) only deepened Trump’s spiral.

The one place Trump had tried to find solace, in the economy, is also turning south on him (by his own hand primarily). Shutting down the government to appease right wing commentators over his border wall, threats against the Treasury Secretary and Fed Chairman have created massive volatility in the markets and brought a wipe out of most of the gains for the year.

Trump is clearly in a tailspin and the ground is fast approaching, represented by the Democratic takeover of the House on January 3. While we keep our fingers crossed that the country can pull out even if Trump can’t, have a Tailspin cocktail.

From Death & Co. Modern Classic Cocktails the Tailspin is:

1.5 oz London Dry Gin

1 oz Carpano Antica Formula Vermouth

1 oz Green Chartreuse

1 dash Orange Bitters

Rinse a coupe with Campari and dump. Stir the ingredients over ice, strain into the coupe, garnish with a lemon twist

Cheers!

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!