The Aging of Reason

Reason

“We’re on a mission from God.” — Elwood Blues

Have you seen the Light? America today is seeing its fundamental values — a birthright of the Enlightenment — being squeezed from two sides.

On the one side is the Religious Right. It has been building for quite a long time, but it does seem different today. For all of the faults of George W. Bush, he was a Believer who tried to live as (his version of) a good Christian. Trump, on the other hand, obviously prefers to spend his Sundays on the golf course (preferably one of his own). Nevertheless, the Religious Right is the strongest part of his base.

Plenty of evidence has sprung up just in the past week, from Trump’s anti-abortion moves to moving the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. The new generation of evangelical leaders, including Franklin Graham, Jerry Falwell Jr. and Texas megachurch pastor Robert Jeffress, heap praise on Trump (and VP Pence), but raise questions whether their aim is power rather than piety.

The influence of the Religious Right on the policies of the U.S. government is not what the founders intended. When Thomas Paine published his Age of Reason pamphlets attacking organized Christianity, he was arguing the church was corrupt and overly institutionalized. What would he think of today’s situation?

As obvious as the Religious Right squeezing from one side is, the other pressure point is really just coming into focus. Shedding some light on this point is (of all people) Henry Kissinger in The Atlantic this month. While his piece, “How The Enlightenment Ends,” is aimed at how humans are not prepared intellectually, philosophically, or ethically, for the rise of artificial intelligence, it definitely touches on some topics that have become more visible in the Age of Trump.

The Enlightenment sought to submit traditional verities to a liberated, analytic human reason. The internet’s purpose is to ratify knowledge through the accumulation and manipulation of ever expanding data. Human cognition loses its personal character. Individuals turn into data, and data become regnant.

Users of the internet emphasize retrieving and manipulating information over contextualizing or conceptualizing its meaning…Truth becomes relative. Information threatens to overwhelm wisdom.

When it comes to politics, Kissinger sees the velocity of data having a negative impact on understanding and on building consensus. He says this is due to the greater ability to micro target based on “specialized purposes or grievances.” A quick look at the social media effect on the 2016 election gives plausibility to this idea. “The digital world’s emphasis on speed inhibits reflection; its incentive empowers the radical over the thoughtful; its values are shaped by subgroup consensus, not by introspection,” Kissinger writes.

Perhaps like Jake and Elwood, it is time to get the Band back together — Locke, Kant, Voltaire, Adam Smith, etc. — to spark a new Enlightenment for the 21st Century, one that energizes a new generation to tackle the philosophical and ethical questions unimaginable in the 18th Century.

But before you going looking for that copy of Rousseau’s The Social Contract you had in college, you may want to make yourself an Age of Reason cocktail.

Via Bittermen’s, the Age of Reason is:

2 oz rye

.5 oz cognac

.5 oz Cocchi Americano

1 bar spoon green Chartreuse

1 bar spoon yellow Chartreuse

10 drops Bittermen’s ‘Elemakule tiki bitters

lemon twist

Stir over ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Run the lemon twist around the rim of the glass and discard.

Cheers!

 

You Scratch My Back…

Clear

News of another Trump campaign, Trump Tower, meeting for the purpose getting illegal (and shady) foreign assistance — this time from the Middle East — comes on the heels of the Senate Intelligence Committee report confirming that Russia interfered in the 2016 election in favor of Trump.

The New York Times is reporting emissaries from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates met with Donald Trump Jr and others three months before the election to discuss ways to help Trump win.

A few days ago the report from the Senate Intelligence Committee was released that backed up the intelligence community assessment that “The Russian effort was extensive, sophisticated, and ordered by President Putin himself for the purpose of helping Donald Trump and hurting Hillary Clinton.” The bipartisan report is at odds with the House Intelligence Committee Republicans who are working overtime to block any attempts to understand what happened during the election.

Also last week, Trump strangely came to the defense and sought to bolster Chinese telecom ZTE after it was sanctioned for the security threat it posed to America. Then we found out the Chinese government was giving $500 million to a Trump project in Singapore.

In fact, whether it’s Saudi Arabia, U.A.E., or Russia, Trump was (and is) willing to sell out the interests of the United States to advance his own interests, and it’s pretty transparent at this point.

As we learn more about this administration’s corrupt approach, have a Clear Intentions cocktail to wash away the swampiness.

Via Kindred Cocktails, the Clear Intentions is:

2 oz gin (Sipsmith in my case)

.75 oz Cocchi Americano

.25 oz Amaro Montenegro

1 dash celery bitters

Stir over ice, strain into a chilled coupe

Cheers!

 

Before the After

Max

For reasons long forgotten, two mighty warrior tribes went to war, and touched off a blaze which engulfed them all. Without fuel they were nothing. They’d built a house of straw. The thundering machines sputtered and stopped. Their leaders talked and talked and talked. But nothing could stem the avalanche. Their world crumbled… — “The Road Warrior” (1981) Opening Narration 

Every great (and not so great) dystopian movie or book sets its stage, providing background for how society, civilization, or the planet came to the state in which the story takes place.

This is often some time in the future, and works better in some stories than others. We are now only one year away from the Los Angeles of 1982’s Blade Runner. However, it is worth remembering that Roy Batty and his gang of Replicants all had incept dates in 2016. Coincidence?

Today, as every single person Trump picks for his administration seems chosen for their ability to dismantle the agency to which they are appointed — and Trump himself works to dismantle the world order that has existed for at least the past half century — it does feel as if we are living through the backstory of the next dystopian blockbuster.

The construct of “for reasons long forgotten,” like that in The Road Warrior, is often used for that backstory. However, it has me wanting to shout “No! The reasons were important. Don’t forget about us!” In a sense, though, Amy Siskind’s The Weekly List is documenting those steps toward wandering in a post-apocalyptic wasteland.

So before America is entirely the dominion of corrupt oligarchs, with our cities in dust, make time for one more kiss and have a Mad Max cocktail.

Just like Roy Batty, 2016 is the incept date of this cocktail, from Kingfish in New Orleans. Although I don’t recall having a Mad Max, I had a great time at Kingfish in July 2016 while in New Orleans for Tales of the Cocktail. The food and the drinks were terrific.

Via Kindred Cocktail, the Mad Max is:

1 oz rye

1 oz Cynar

1 oz Aperol

orange twist

Stir, strain, twist

Cheers!

The Gathering Storm

Stormy

The naming of John Bolton as Trump’s new National Security Advisor is a dark cloud over the White House. As the third sentence of Friday’s NY Times editorial says: “There are few people more likely than Mr. Bolton is to lead the country into war.”

Bolton’s penchant for warmongering comes at a time when Mueller’s Russia investigation is tightening the noose around Trump and porn star Stormy Daniels is set to reveal details of the affair Trump tried to keep secret. It is an extremely dangerous time and the risk of war as distraction is high.

In his first memoir about the events leading to WWII, “The Gathering Storm,” Winston Churchill called the Second World War a largely senseless but unavoidable conflict. Today we face the potential for catastrophic war that is both senseless and avoidable.

The revelation that hacker Guccifer 2.0 was a Russian intelligence agent points to Trump associate Roger Stone pretty clearly conspiring with Russia and WikiLeaks to win the 2016 election. As The Daily Beast put it:

Mueller is likely looking to see whether Stone or other members of the Trump campaign played a role in suggesting the timing of the release of the Podesta emails, which occurred on the same day as the release of the Access Hollywood tape in which Trump spoke in vulgar and disparaging ways about women. The release of the tape was a potentially campaign-ending event for Trump. Instead, that story competed for attention with the story of the Podesta emails. 

While this news broke on Friday to start the weekend (another in which Trump is at his Mar-a-Lago property in Florida), the weekend is set to end with the 60 Minutes interview of Stormy Daniels.

After a $130,000 hush money payment just before the election, Daniels has fought the validity of a Non-Disclosure Agreement about the affair. Trump has tried a number of ways to keep this story from coming out, possibly including threats.

The Stormy Daniels story is only one of several recent accounts of sexual affairs by Trump to come to light, including one from ex-Playboy Playmate Karen McDougal. Trump’s reaction to all of this pressure on multiple fronts with few familiar faces in the White House left is hard to gauge, but his behavior has been a bit more unhinged than usual lately.

Now the man Washington Post columnist George Will calls the most dangerous man in America will be advised by the person Will calls the second-most dangerous American on April 9, when Bolton joins the Administration.

There is really only one cocktail to have this weekend, a Dark ‘n Stormy. This is Gosling’s Black Seal Rum’s signature drink, and one it has held a trademark on since 1988. I was out at the time I wrote this and used Cruzan Black Strap rum instead (making it not technically a Dark ‘n Stormy, but still tasty).

So breathe deep the gathering gloom, and grab your rum and ginger beer before the light fades from every room.

1.5 oz Gosling’s Black Seal Rum

4 oz Ginger Beer

Lime wedge

Build on rocks in a highball glass, squeeze the lime and drop into the glass.

Cheers!

Leaks to Drain the Swamp

Bijou

We have struck a rich vein of leak gems.

From DO NOT CONGRATULATE to news of McCabe being fired by Jeff Sessions over “Lack of Candor” after he authorized a criminal investigation of Sessions for “lack of Candor” in his Congressional testimony, the leaks are flowing like a river.

Administration sources are fighting back against the corruption of this administration (or their enemies within it anyway) by staying in constant conversation with reporters.

Of course the news isn’t all coming from Washington. The whistleblower who broke the news of Facebook’s privacy and fake news “difficulties” (and the undercover sting on Cambridge Analytica) are helping to make 2016 a little clearer.

And, of course, with the mounting court cases against Trump heading toward the discovery phase, the flow of information is only going to get stronger. Stormy days ahead for Trump.

As these jewels of knowledge fall too fast to pick them all up, relax and treat yourself to a Bijou cocktail. A classic that first appeared in Harry Johnson’s 1900 edition of the Bartenders Manual, I took the recipe from Amanda Schuster’s excellent book New York CocktailsThe Bijou (French for jewel) is:

1.5 oz gin (Plymouth in this case)

.75 oz sweet vermouth

.75 oz green Chartreuse

1 dash orange bitters

Stir, strain into a chilled coupe, garnish with lemon peel or brandied cherry.

Cheers!

 

News Dump Bittersweetness

Symphony

It’s Friday evening, do you know where your Special Counsel is?

The last several days have been an onslaught of news. From gun control to trade wars to scandalous cabinet secretaries to Jared Kushner losing his security clearance and using his position as Trump son-in-law/Senior Advisor to secure massive loans to his family business, the past week has felt like months worth of major stories.

Even when you get outside of the White House, our institutions of government have run amok. The House Intelligence Committee is leaking texts of Senators for partisan gain. The end game of Mitch McConnell’s Senate obstruction is soon to play out in the Supreme Court with a union-busting case. Collective bargaining for public unions is hanging by a prayer.

We are definitely living the curse of interesting times. If Trump is draining the swamp, then we’re all in the sewer it’s running through.

Of course, some of this overwhelming pace of breaking news is not the kind that Trump wants to hear, either. Robert Mueller is tightening the noose around the Trump campaign and it ties to Russian election interference. Trump may have lost Hope (Hicks), but Mueller gives hope to the rest of us.

Whatever the news tonight, good or bad, it is sad we are even here. So while we wait, have a Bittersweet Symphony cocktail, put on some redemption songs, and think about how we might recover some of what we’re losing.

From Gaz Regan’s great book The Negroni, the Bittersweet Symphony is a tasty Negroni variation:

1.5 oz London dry gin

.75 oz Punt e Mes

.75 oz Aperol

Stir, strain into a chilled cocktail glass, lemon twist.

Cheers!

 

Hail To The Chief?

prez

As we celebrate 44 of the 45 U.S. chief executives on this Presidents’ Day, it is worth revisiting the El Presidente cocktail. It seems even more appropriate today.

When I posted the cocktail for Presidents’ Day 2017, Michael Flynn had just been dismissed as National Security Advisor because of his dubious ties to Russians and his lies (supposedly to Vice President Pence) about it. Now, of course, Flynn has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about those contacts and is cooperating with the Special Council investigation. The whole post from last year is here.

Today, “conservatives” are calling for Trump to pardon Flynn, but these Treason Weasels are fighting against the ever increasing flow of evidence of Russian interference in our electoral process. Just last week, Mueller’s indictment of 13 Russian nationals and three organizations laid out very detailed specifics on the “information warfare” campaigne that played out on social media.

While Trump initially claimed these indictments were vindication for him — “no collusion” — it is clear they were targeted at only one aspect of the investigation and much more is yet to come. Trump seems to realized this as well as his Tweeting has been even more unhinged than usual.

So raise your El Presidente cocktail this Presidents’ Day, Hail to the Chief and good health to Robert Mueller. A good recipe to follow comes from Beach Bum Berry’s Potions of the Caribbean. You can also get some history on how the cocktail was named for a Cuban president who cozied up to foreign business interests (U.S., not Russian, in this case, but you can also check out the New Yorker article on Trump’s ties to Russian business interests).

1.5 oz aged Cuban rum (Havana Club Añejo 7 Años)

.75 oz Dolin Vermouth de Chambéry Blanc

.75 oz curaçao (Pierre Ferrand Dry Orange Curaçao)

.5 teaspoon grenadine (Not part of Berry’s recipe, but a variant I enjoy)

orange twist

Stir on ice for 30 seconds, strain into a cocktail glass, twist.

Cheers!