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!

In Trump’s Shadow

Shadow

Trump is at his Bedminster, N.J., property on a “working” vacation while the White House undergoes some needed renovation.

Meanwhile, the decay in the Republican Party grows more visible as its fissures and crumbling façade splash across the news every day. As I wrote last week in Countdown To Extinction, Trump is the Elephant Gun that may well bring down the GOP. Republicans are now agreeing with Bill James, saying that Trump “invaded and took over the party.” What could the GOP possibly have done?

At the same time, Republicans in Congress are beginning to assert some independence such as the bill to reign in Trump’s ability to fire Bob Mueller. Even the chief architect of alternative facts, Kellyanne Conway, had to admit Trump’s approval ratings among Republicans, conservatives and Trump voters is down.

Now the NY Times is reporting that Republicans are looking ahead at the 2020 Presidential Election.

“President Trump’s first term is ostensibly just warming up, but luminaries in his own party have begun what amounts to a shadow campaign for 2020 — as if the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue weren’t involved.

“The would-be candidates are cultivating some of the party’s most prominent donors, courting conservative interest groups and carefully enhancing their profiles. Mr. Trump has given no indication that he will decline to seek a second term.

“But the sheer disarray surrounding this presidency — the intensifying investigation by the special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and the plain uncertainty about what Mr. Trump will do in the next week, let alone in the next election — have prompted Republican officeholders to take political steps unheard-of so soon into a new administration.”

The whole article is worth a look, and while you’re reading about the shadow campaign, enjoy a Shadow Dreaming cocktail. After all, amidst a deteriorating GOP, for these shadow candidates, Dreaming is Free.

Via Kindred Cocktails, the Shadow Dreaming cocktail is:

2 oz Bourbon

.5 oz Carpano Antica Forumla sweet vermouth

.25 oz Zucca

.25 oz Demerara Rum 151

1 dash aromatic bitters (I used Dr. Adam’s Orinoco Bitters)

5 drops Bitterman’s Xocolatl Mole Bitters (as a float)

Build All except Mole Bitters in a mixing glass, stir until diluted, strain into a chilled, stemmed glass, and garnish with 5 drops Mole Bitters.

Cheers!

Permanent Vacation

Final Voyage

We have arrived at the first Friday in August, a high point for summer vacations. While many of us may dream of not coming back, we all might be better off if three items in the news today remained on permanent vacation.

The first has to do with the repeal of Obamacare. As Paul Krugman wrote today in the NY Times, it seems for now that the ACA is here to stay. That’s because it has made things better for people generally. What needs to go away is the BS behind the attempts to defeat it. From Krugman:

“What was Obamacare rage about?

“Much of it was orchestrated by pressure groups like Freedom Works, and it’s a good guess that some of the ‘ordinary citizens’ who appeared at town halls were actually right-wing activists. Still, there was plenty of genuine popular rage, stoked by misinformation and outright lies from the usual suspects: Fox News, talk radio and so on. For example, around 40 percent of the public believed that Obamacare would create ‘death panels’ depriving senior citizens of care.

“The question then becomes why so many people believed these lies. The answer, I believe, comes down to a combination of identity politics and affinity fraud.”

As Krugman pointed out, people are backing ACA today because truth eventually prevails. But let’s hope that our experiences of the past several years are making us better at spotting this type of propaganda, and we can use the defense of Obamacare as the going away party for fake news and faux outrage over nonsense like “death panels.”

Another item comes via Dana Milbank in his column “There’s no such thing as the Trump Democrat” in The Washington Post. Discussing a new analysis from the AFL-CIO, Milbank points out:

“The number of Obama-to-Trump voters turns out to be smaller than thought. And those Obama voters who did switch to Trump were largely Republican voters to start with. The aberration wasn’t their votes for Trump but their votes for Obama. 

“It follows for Democrats that most of these Obama-Trump voters aren’t going to be persuaded to vote Democratic in future; the party would do better to go after disaffected Democrats who didn’t vote in 2016 or who voted for third parties.”

For all of the flaws of Bernie Sanders as a person/candidate, many of his ideas sparked genuine energy among people who are a natural part of the Democratic Party base. As FDR did appropriating a number of Eugene Debs’ Socialist Party ideas to create the New Deal and build a lasting Democratic coalition, today’s Dems would be better off incorporating popular Sanders’ ideas than they would backing Pro-Life candidates in hopes of attracting Trump voters.

Hopefully this new AFL-CIO report will let us wave goodbye to faulty analysis that hurt the chances of pushing back against a regressive GOP, a party that already enjoys structural advantages making it difficult for Democrats.

Of course the biggest news was the start of a 17-day vacation for Cheeto Mussolini. It has been feeling like it’s the end of the world for both the Resistance and Trump (especially with Mueller’s Grand Jury news), but the next few weeks are unlikely to be restful.

Lazy is the word of the day when it comes to Trump. GQ is out with a story headlined “Laziest President in American History Departs for 17-Day Golf Resort Vacation.” While Newsweek is making its own headlines with its cover story coming out referring to Trump as “Lazy Boy.”

So as we wish his Orangeness bon voyage in his travels to exotic New Jersey, we can sip the very tasty Final Voyage cocktail in hopes he decides not to come back when vacation is over.

This terrific variation on a Last Word cocktail from Cocktail Virgin is:

3/4 oz Smith & Cross Rum
3/4 oz Rothman & Winter Apriot Liqueur
3/4 oz Green Chartreuse
3/4 oz Lime Juice

Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass

Cheers!

Countdown to Extinction

El Gun

The past week has been the worst week for Republicans since the election of Donald Trump. The amount of GOP infighting, whether between the White House and Congress, within the White House, or within the Senate, is clear evidence party discord is boiling over.

The dysfunction and chaos of the Trump administration, combined with Republican majorities in both the House and the Senate, has rapidly metastasized a cancer that has been growing in the GOP for decades. Whether this cancer turns out to be terminal is not yet clear, but many Republicans are certainly growing concerned.

His Royal Orangeness was faced with more defiance from his own party in the past several days than he has seen since the most contested point of the Primaries. From Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who Trump would like to get rid of because he has recused himself from the Russia investigation but won’t resign (and was sent to El Salvador as potential target practice for the MS-13 gang); to Alaskan Senator Lisa Murkowski’s refusal to give in to attempted mafia intimidation from Trump capos; to the refusal of military leaders to take orders via tweet when it comes to personnel matters; Cheeto Mussolini has had a lot of middle fingers raised in his direction.

New revelations on the Russia story and dismissal of the Mooch notwithstanding, the biggest event in a week full of major news stories was the Senate healthcare vote. Arizona Senator John McCain joined with Murkowski, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, and all Senate Democrats to spectacularly put an end to the current round of attempts to kill Obamacare revealing fissures within the GOP.

That the healthcare vote even got that close to passage is an example of how far from the norms of governing the Republicans have gotten. This wasn’t about policy, it was about making a point (and perhaps giving donors a tax cut). The proposals were crafted in secret, outside of regular procedure, and what was known was immensely unpopular. Republican voters were not in favor of the proposals, and neither were many elected Republicans outside of Washington, D.C.

Being this far out of line from normal governing process was easier for Republicans when they could simply throw bombs without being in power, staging meaningless votes they knew would not become law.

The GOP now, however, controls the government. They cannot hide behind symbolic votes. Snarky comments that put the libtards in their place are no substitute for policy. They are learning (or not) that slogans are not ideas. Now they risk alienating their electoral support, both from their base and from swing voters. They definitely fear that their inability to fulfill the “repeal and replace” slogan will cost them with the base, while those swing voters more interested in effective governance than slogans have no reason to back them (and a growing number of reasons to oppose them).

Power for Republicans was gained by structural advantages, such as gerrymandering and voter suppression efforts, not through the strength of their ideas/slogans. A look at how vote tallies for President and Congress have come out points to this structural advantage. Clinton got 3 million more votes than Trump while Congressional voting saw the GOP get 50% of the vote but 55% of the seats last year.

However, the disaster of Trump combined with GOP toxicity and recent court rulings on gerrymandering and vote suppression could hold the potential to negate those structural advantages.

Although today’s incarnation of the Republican Party (not Teddy Roosevelt’s) stands in opposition to most conservation and environmental concerns, it may soon find itself on the Endangered Species list. From now until the midterm elections, the Republican soundtrack should be Megadeth’s album “Countdown to Extinction.” The track list is their Symphony of Destruction.

Republicans have been focused on an unsustainably shrinking portion of the population for some years. But instead of death by demographics, Trump may be the weapon that brings down the GOP. While pondering this extinction level event, best to have an Elephant Gun cocktail.

Via Kindred Cocktails, the Elephant Gun is a simple, but tasty drink:

2 oz Demerara Rum (recipe calls for El Dorado 15, I used the 12 year old)

2 dashes Bitterman’s Xocolatl Bitters

1 rinse Creme de Cacao

Stir the rum and bitters over ice, strain into the Creme de Cacao rinsed glass over a rock.

Cheers!

Empire Drinks

Imperial

Democracy is feeling a little weak these days.

As the Senate tries to ram through a secret health care bill that could hurt millions, Trump continues to use his position to enrich himself, and gerrymandering again seems too strong to overcome in the most expensive House race ever in GA06, these are dark days indeed.

We have heard more details on Russian attempts to interfere with our elections and evidence of cyber attacks on state election systems. Meanwhile Trump claims it is all a Democratic hoax and skirts with obstruction of justice to block any investigation.

The emperor may have no clothes, but he certainly has friends in Congress and the Kremlin. As hard as it is, now is the time to stay strong. The French elections remain a sign of hope against the global tide of nationalism and fascism. As the refrain goes in the French national anthem, La Marseillaise:

Aux armes, citoyens !
Formez vos bataillons !
Marchons ! Marchons !
Qu’un sang impur
Abreuve nos sillons !

For now, while we form our battalions, we can perhaps take a little power back with an Imperial Buck cocktail. From Kindred Cocktails, the recipe is:

2 oz Cruzan Blackstrap Rum

.5 oz lime juice

1 oz pineapple juice

3 oz ginger beer

Shake without ice all ingredients except the ginger beer, pour over ice into a Collins Glass, add the ginger beer.

Cheers!

The Poisoning of Democracy

Racer

The spectacle of Dear Leader Cheeto Mussolini receiving the sycophantic praise of his VP and Cabinet before the cameras yesterday raised serious questions about what alternate universe we’ve been beamed into.

Then the evening brought the trial balloon that Trump is considering firing Robert Mueller, the special counsel overseeing the Russia investigation (you know, the one that could potentially find that Russia interfered with the election to install Trump, who is now doing everything Putin could possibly want). This is a cause for concern not because of any doubt that Don Cheeto Corleone would do it, but rather that the GOP Congress would do nothing to stop or correct it.

Not to ignore the massive problems caused by our would-be naked emperor and his Russian patrons, but our representative democracy has some deep structural problems coming to a head right now.

In an encore to their utterly unprecedented stealing of a Supreme Court seat, Senate Republicans are now preparing to ram through some version of Trumpcare. There is no way to argue about its provisions specifically because no one knows what’s in it. However, if it follows the AHCA passed by the House GOP, then many Americans will suffer, many will lose their access to healthcare, most Americans will become that much more dependent on their employers for increasingly expensive healthcare, all while providing the wealthiest people in the country big tax breaks.

This breakdown in Congressional norms is the latest in a long string of anti-democratic actions that deny any real representation in our government. This certainly includes recent Republican voter suppression efforts around the country, but also the Gerrymandering work of both parties. In fact, it has been going on long enough that there is no false equivalence as both parties have undergone several changes in direction since it started. Those policies that were once the Democrats’ are now Republican, and vice-versa.

On Sunday, there was a vote that has the (unlikely) potential of exposing that structural flaw we are grappling with now. Once again, the voters of U.S. Territory Puerto Rico have voted for statehood. Now there are many problems with this vote, it was 97% in favor, but on 23% turnout, there was a voter roll purge before the election, etc.

However, despite its problems, half a million Puerto Ricans voted in favor of statehood, and that is about as many as the total population of a couple of states sending four Senators to Washington. Even Washington D.C. itself has more people than Wyoming, but Wyoming has 3 electoral votes and D.C. has none.

It is clear this Republican Congress is not going to give any real hearing to Puerto Rican statehood because that would add an awful lot of likely Democratic voters (the precise opposite of everything they have been working for) who are poorer, browner, and (worst of all) Spanish-speaking.

It is the fear of the other, the non-white invasion (that once included the Irish and Italians) that has kept our Congressional representation at the same number it has been since 1911 (with small variations).

The prospect of Puerto Rico becoming the 51st state reminds us of the question of representation. Sure, the Senate might move to 102 members, but the House would have to change a number it has had for more than 100 years with only temporary deviation for Alaska and Hawaii.

As the population of the U.S. has grown while the number in the House has remained 435, the power of smaller rural states has grown at the expense of larger urban areas. That is the poison at the heart of our system now, and the Puerto Rican vote has put it back in focus.

So the cocktail for today is the Puerto Rican Racer. Named for the island’s mildly venomous snake, this recipe from NYC’s Death & Co. calls for:

2 oz Puerto Rican Rum (Ron del Barrilito 3 Star)

.5 oz Laird’s Apple Brandy

.5 oz Yellow Chartreuse

1 tsp Grenadine

1 dash Peychaud’s Bitters

Stir over ice, strain into an old fashioned glass over a big rock, no garnish

Cheers!