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!

Would You Believe…

Smooth

The most frequently used word in headlines over the past week has been chaos.

Between tariffs, North Korea, staff defections, the Russia investigation, and legal actions around Trump’s porn star hush money, to name a handful of the top stories, the disarray at the White House has been more than usual.

As Dan Balz notes in The Washington Post today, however, Trump promised just this kind of presidency. But for all the commentary that tries to liken the Trump presidency to a reality show, this week may point to a different TV genre and show.

We may be in an episode of Get Smart. Nevertheless, the past year and definitely the past week, has certainly been a battle between CONTROL and KAOS. Trump is absolutely the Mr. Big of KAOS right now, and Sebastian Gorka is straight out of Mel Brooks’ central casting for KAOS agents. (Not saying Mueller is Agent 86, btw.)

All of the chaos of the past week has led to a nearly universal feeling of being on the road to ruin. On one side are people fearful of the negative effects of a trade war, destruction of our democratic norms and atomic annihilation, on the other side are Republicans facing this fall’s elections.

While we watch Trump walk back meeting with Kim Jong Un and maybe not impose tariffs on allies, adding to the long list of erratic policy behavior, have a Smooth Operator cocktail.

Via Kindred Cocktails, the Smooth Operator is:

2 oz Plantation Stiggin’s’ Fancy pineapple rum

.25 oz orgeat

.25 oz Allspice Dram

2 dashes aromatic bitters (I used Dr Adam’s Orinoco)

orange twist

Stir, strain into a chilled cocktail glass, garnish

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!

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!

Swindler-In-Chief

Super

Amazingly enough, it is a Saturday and Cheeto Mussolini is in the White House and not at one of his properties. (He’s probably just too engrossed with his military parade autoerotic fantasies.)

During his first year in office, Trump wasn’t in the office much, spending one-third of his time at one of his own properties. And, according to trumpgolfcount.com, this has cost taxpayers more than $52 million so far. Much of that, of course, goes right into Trump’s pocket as the government pays Trump’s businesses.

As Swindler-In-Chief, Trump is leading by example as we watch our democracy slide into kleptocracy. A couple of weeks ago the Ben Carson nepotism news broke, Jonathan Chait wrote that was only one of four new corruption stories coming out of the trump administration that day. “Donald Trump is a grifter who paid a massive fraud settlement shortly before assuming office. He has surrounded himself with like-minded grifters,” Chait wrote in New York magazine.

Not that any of this is a surprise. In October, Margaret Carlson wrote a piece in The Daily Beast titled: “Trump’s Not a ‘Moron’—He’s a Grifter, and He’s Created an Administration of Grifters.” A month later, The Nation published the article: “Trump Is Creating a Grifter Economy.” There seems to be a theme here.

The Trump Organization hotel businesses remain at the heart of the issue. Earlier this month was the report that Trump’s DC hotel was caught directly benefiting from taxpayer money. Just today, Newsweek reports that the Trump Organization’s Dominican Republic projects could be grounds for Trump’s impeachment.

There are many distractions right now, like wife beaters in the White House and the drama around the fate of John Kelly, but we can’t lose sight of the foundational scandal of Trump and Russia. At the same time, as Caroline Orr (@RVAWonk on Twitter) noted in her report on Trump’s DC hotel: “While the Russia investigation is rightly making headlines, it’s more important than ever not to overlook the rampant corruption happening right under our noses.”

So tonight would be a good time for a cocktail from a hotel not affiliated with Trump. Several good ones can be found in Beachbum Berry’s Potions of the Caribbean. I suggest the Queen’s Park Hotel Super Cocktail. This cocktail from Trinidad simply tastes like the Caribbean, which is helpful in early February.

1.5 oz gold Trinidad rum

.5 oz sweet vermouth

.5 oz lime juice

.5 oz grenadine

4 dashes Angostura bitters

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

Cheers!

Of Assholes and Shitholes

Haitian

The Racist in Chief has denigrated the office of the Presidency of the United States to an unprecedented level this evening. I’m sure Putin considers him an amazing bargain.

Calling Haiti, El Salvador, and African nations shithole countries while discussing immigration policy with a Senate delegation and saying we need more from places like Norway instead is yet more proof the Oval Office is occupied by a white supremacist.

Trump reportedly said, “Why do we need more Haitians?” according to people familiar with the meeting. “Take them out.” Besides the the fact this statement smacks of ethnic cleansing, it belies an ignorance of history, of the fact that Haitian soldiers came to fight in the American Revolution to free us from Britain. MAGA my ass.

While watching the news and considering how these racist views will impact our foreign policy, immigration policy, and relations with a number of our neighbors, have a Haitian Witch cocktail. (You could also stick pins in a Donald Trump voodoo doll available at Amazon.) I know whoever the American is that gets the duty to answer the summons from the Haitian government to explain Trump’s remarks could use one (or both).

Via Kindred Cocktails, the Haitian Witch is:

2 oz Barbancourt 8 Haitian Rhum

.75 oz lime juice

.5 oz Cheery Heering

2 t agave syrup

1 dash Peychaud’s bitters

Shake, strain over rocks in a lowball glass.

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!