Eastern Promises

Eastern

The top national security officials in the U.S. held a briefing on Thursday where they “described Russian efforts to interfere in the 2018 midterm elections as deep, real and ongoing, showcasing their efforts to combat a threat President Trump has repeatedly dismissed and played down,” according to the Wall Street Journal.

This just makes this the latest Dog and Pony Show about election security from the Trump administration. As the WSJ story also noted:

“Mr. Trump didn’t attend the news conference and, later Thursday, didn’t mention his administration’s plans to combat Russian interference during an 80-minute campaign rally in Pennsylvania.

“Instead, he again criticized the probe. “We are being hindered by the Russian hoax. It’s a hoax, OK?” Mr. Trump said to cheers from the crowd.”

A bit of snark from the Journal, including a note about the lunatic fringe attending Trump’s rallies.

At this point, a few months from the mid-term elections, and ever since the Helsinki summit, Trump just seems to be overtly acting as a Russian intelligence asset and openly obstructing justice in the Mueller probe.

Of course, Trump is not alone as the GOP is full of people taking mind boggling measures to support him. The latest comes from Sen. Rand Paul who, apparently upset he missed the Fourth of July Moscow visit with other Republican senators, is headed to Russia next week.

In the meantime, we are getting a pretty good glimpse of Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s ties to Russian oligarchs from his trial, focused on his dealings in Ukraine. We are also hearing more about alleged Russian operative  Maria Butina, and her boasts to classmates of being a liaison between Russian intelligence and the Trump campaign.

It certainly seems that the vast majority of the Republican Party, and GOP-leaning groups (looking at you NRA) were in bed with the Russians, figuratively and/or literally.

The drink today is the Eastern Promises cocktail. I came across the drink on Kindred Cocktails while looking for a way to use my Cocchi Americano Rosa. Eastern Promises is:

1 oz gin

1 oz framboise (raspberry eau-de-vie, not liqueur)

1 oz Cocchi Americano Rosa

.25 oz orange liqueur (calls for Mathilde XO, I used Grand Marnier)

1 dash orange bitters

orange twist garnish

Stir, strain onto a big rock, garnish

A quick word on the ingredients. While I was able to use my Cocchi Rosa, which was nice as it is tasty stuff, the framboise delayed this cocktail for a bit. My first thought was to use Chambord, until I looked closer. The framboise did complicate things a bit (life is pretty complicated these days anyway) as raspberry eau-de-vie is harder to find, being one of the harder fruit brandies to make. I probably would have dropped it, but I have been a sucker for all things raspberry going back to those bright blue Mr. Misty floats from Dairy Queen when I was growing up.

The drink comes off as a slightly bitter orange-raspberry martini.

Cheers!

Breast-feeding, Ecuador, and Treason

Sanctuary

In today’s fire hose news cycle, the story about the U.S. aggressively opposing a U.N. breast-feeding resolution elicited one of those “WTF is up with that?!?” reactions before it was lost in the torrent of corruption, scandal, and crazy.

Yesterday on Twitter, @HoarseWisperer provided a very plausible potential explanation for the story, one that is gaining even more plausibility today. It is well worth the trip to Twitter to get it straight from the “Hoarse’s” mouth, but I’ll provide an overview.

The U.N. resolution encouraging breast-feeding seemed an easy and uncontroversial action until the unexpected opposition by the U.S. The NY Times headline talked of stunning world health officials. The U.S. threatened retaliatory action if the sponsor, Ecuador, did not withdraw the resolution. Even if it was doing the bidding of the infant formula industry, this was a bit over-the-top for the U.S. It ultimately passed after Russia took over sponsorship from Ecuador.

The Hoarse Whisperer explanation looks at the push against Ecuador in light of Friday’s indictments, where it seems Mueller may have Julian Assange and Wikileaks in his sights.

Ecuador, of course, has provided asylum for Assange in its London Embassy for years. The new President of Ecuador seems less thrilled with that arrangement and has expressed an openness to discussing a resolution with the U.K. As @HoarseWisperer put it:

“So, here we have:

1) Ecuador expressing openness to potentially turning over Assange

2) The Trump Admin threatening Ecuador about an unrelated matter; and

3) Mueller indicting an array of suspects on crimes leading straight to Assange

Assange is the middleman in an array of criminal activity related to Trump’s illegitimate election. He is the direct connection between members of Trump’s inner circle and now-indicted Russian intelligence operatives. Assange is directly or indirectly connected to everyone in the Trump orbit from Roger Stone to Steve Bannon to Cambridge Analytica to the Mercers…”

Today, shortly after the @HoarseWisperer thread was posted, The Sunday Times in London published a story that Ecuador is beyond open and actually talking with U.K. ministers about evicting Assange.

While watching to see what happens to Assange, have a Sanctuary cocktail. A Classic from the Savoy Cocktail Book (1930 edition), it represents another London refuge from American law enforcement. The Sanctuary is:

.75 oz Cointreau

.75 oz Amer Picon (Bigallet China-China)

1.5 oz Dubonnet (Cocchi Rosa)

Shake well, strain into a cocktail glass

Cheers!

Back to Basics

Martini

There was a time when the President and members of Congress would put the interests of the United States above those of other nations — especially avowed adversaries.

Unfortunately, the summer of 2018 is not that time. Instead we have a President determined to make enemies of friends while doing the bidding of enemies. Trump tears apart our allies at meetings with the G7 and NATO while talking of ending sanctions on Russia for invading Ukraine. Meanwhile, a flock of GOP Senators spent the 4th of July (Independence Day FFS!) in Moscow sucking up to Putin.

Those Senators are part of a group — that includes a great many House Republicans — that seeks to end the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether the Trump campaign participated in that interference. With elections coming up in November, the GOP has spent a lot more time denigrating the FBI and the intelligence community than it has in ensuring our election is protected against interference.

I’d like to go back to that time when the basic approach of our elected officials was to protect the integrity of our democracy rather than looking at holding on to power through the help of hostile foreign powers.

This corrosion of American values also appears to have spread to a third branch of our government, where Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy — who’s son loaned Trump $1 billion while employed at Deutsche Bank — resigned. This has given Trump an opportunity to name someone more likely to take the Executive’s side in disputes with the Mueller investigation.

The labyrinth of unethical behavior in our government right now is mind boggling, and that is just in the bits we learn every day (hourly). To best approach the complexity of corruption, it is time to simplify your cocktail. I suggest a classic Martini. I like mine as follows, but don’t complicate things. Stick with what you like.

2.5 oz Plymouth Gin

.75 oz Dolin dry vermouth

1 dash of Regan’s Orange Bitters

Stir over ice, strain into a chilled Martini 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!

Never Forget

Elephants

Memorial Day weekend is here, signifying the unofficial start of summer. Amidst the barbecues and ball games, many people will take time to recognize the real reason for the day off work; a time of remembrance for the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice for our liberty.

It was 149 years ago the day, then called Decoration Day, was officially recognized, formalizing a tradition that began almost immediately after the Civil War. It was designated as May 30, as it was not the anniversary of any specific battle. After World War I, like they did across Europe, poppies became a symbol of the day of remembrance, a reference to the poem “In Flanders Fields.” In 1971, Decoration Day became Memorial Day, and in 2000 a National Moment of Remembrance was designated for 3 p.m.

Although it grew from the division of the Civil War, Memorial Day has united Americans for generations. But today our divisions are again at a heightened level. For that first “Memorial Day,” the commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, General John Logan, issued an order that read in part:

“We are organized, comrades, as our regulations tell us, for the purpose among other things, ‘of preserving and strengthening those kind and fraternal feelings which have bound together the soldiers, sailors, and marines who united to suppress the late rebellion.’ What can aid more to assure this result than cherishing tenderly the memory of our heroic dead, who made their breasts a barricade between our country and its foes? Their soldier lives were the reveille of freedom to a race in chains, and their deaths the tattoo of rebellious tyranny in arms. We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. All that the consecrated wealth and taste of the nation can add to their adornment and security is but a fitting tribute to the memory of her slain defenders. Let no wanton foot tread rudely on such hallowed grounds.”

Unfortunately, two weeks ago, the would-be heirs to that rebellion took to the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia, with torches (OK, Wal-Mart tiki torches, but still) to protest the removal of monuments to the treason that ended 150 years ago while chanting “Russia is our friend.” (In perhaps the speech of the year, New Orleans Mayor Landrieau spoke of the need to remove those Confederate monuments.)

The chant, of course, was meant as a show of support for President Trump who is facing growing investigations into whether his campaign worked with the Russians to influence the 2016 election. Much has happened since those chants, but it was quite clear then that — with or without Trump collusion — the Russians had attacked us and our electoral process through at least some role in hacking the DNC and through a coordinated disinformation campaign using social media.

Since then, and particularly in the past week, there have been many new troubling revelations. Most damning was The Washington Post story that Trump son-in-law and top advisor Jared Kushner had tried to set up a secret communication channel with the Russians in a way designed to evade U.S. intelligence during the transition.

Also in The Washington Post, columnist Jennifer Rubin outlines the past week and the rot at the core of Trump and Congressional Republicans.

“Conventional wisdom says that Trump executed a hostile takeover of the GOP. What we have seen this week suggests a friendly merger has taken place. Talk radio hosts have been spouting misogyny and anti-immigrant hysteria for years; Trump is their ideal leader, not merely a flawed vehicle for their views. Fox News has been dabbling in conspiracy theories (e.g. birtherism, climate-change denial) for decades; now Republicans practice intellectual nihilism. Nearly every point of criticism raised against the left — softness on foreign aggressors, irresponsible budgeting, identity politics, executive overreach, contempt for the rule of law, infantilizing voters — has become a defining feature of the right.”

Even today, the Post reported the Trump family ostensibly outside of government is working with GOP leaders to discuss strategy.

The dysfunction all of this this has caused in our government is beyond what Vladimir Putin could have asked for. It was one thing to see a weakening of NATO, a Russian aim for more than half a century, but the utter chaos in Washington today is paying dividends we may not fully understand for years.

Don’t get me wrong, we still have much more to learn to know whether the Trump campaign actively worked with Russia and whether there are traitors in the White House. This could be a continuation of Russian disinformation. What is troubling, however, is the way Republicans, particularly in Congress, seem more concerned about power than getting to the bottom of Russian interference in our elections.

Perhaps it should not be surprising from a party that has worked for years to suppress the vote of anyone who might be considered an opponent. As we saw again this past week when the Supreme Court struck down North Carolina’s racially Gerrymandered districts.

In The Washington Monthly, John Stoehr wrote that Mitch McConnell and Vladimir Putin want the same thing. He said that the GOP will have to be held accountable:

“Trump’s sins are their sins. If he is Putin’s useful idiot, it stands to reason that so are the Republicans.

And they can start by leaning on Mitch McConnell. Former CIA Director John Brennan told a Senate panel Tuesday that: ‘I was aware of intelligence that revealed contacts and interactions between Russian officials and US persons involved in Trump campaign.’ Under testimony, he told lawmakers that he informed leading Senators from both parties about what was happening. From that discussion, according to a December Washington Post story, the Obama administration hoped to present a bipartisan united front against Russian interference. But McConnell said no.

The Post reported that: ‘He would consider any effort by the White House to challenge the Russians publicly an act of partisan politics.’ McConnell’s decision was partisan politics. And the Russians were made part of the Republican Party.

Quite literally, Putin’s priorities were the Republicans’.”

There are some Republicans concerned about the direction of the party under Trump. Joe Scarborough, for example, called Trump’s NATO speech a “love letter to Putin” and went on a rant Friday about how the GOP has lost its way.

This weekend, as we take time to remember those that put our country above everything else to secure our freedoms, we hope that the leaders of the GOP put country over party to defend the U.S. against foreign aggression.

We must never forget the sacrifices made on our behalf, but tonight I am drinking an Elephants Sometimes Forget cocktail. Via Kindred Cocktail, it is:

1 oz gin

.75 Cherry Heering

.75 lemon juice

.25 dry vermouth

1 dash orange bitters

Shake, strain into a cocktail glass straight up.

Cheers!