MAGA? Nah, MACAA!

Hound

All eyes will soon be on the Senate Intelligence Committee and the testimony of ousted FBI Director James Comey. However, we must not overlook today’s testimony the Committee heard from several of the top intelligence officials in the administration.

On one hand, their refusal to answer questions should sound the alarm about what is going on. On the other hand, as conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin put it at The Washington Post, that refusal puts our intelligence officials in contempt of Congress.

“None of these witnesses invoked executive privilege or national security. They just didn’t want to answer,” she wrote. “This is nothing short of outrageous. …their behavior was contemptuous and frankly unprecedented.”

While these professionals knew exactly what they were doing (and I’ve heard cogent argument of how they were protecting the independence of foreign intelligence gathering), supporters of the administration seem likely to miss the significance. These self-proclaimed lovers of the Constitution have always been a bit fuzzy on the details, however.

Beyond the 2nd Amendment, the Gadsen-flag waving Tea Partiers would be hard pressed to describe any of the other 30 Constitutional Amendments (or even realize there are only 27). And, their 2nd Amendment Solutions™ have always been selectively applied.

The administration of George W. Bush spied on Americans and not only listened in on the calls home from our military stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan, but made jokes about those calls between our soldiers and their wives and sweethearts. Crickets from the NRA members, but when the black guy in the White House suggested improving health insurance, time to show up at protests with sidearms and semi-automatic weapons.

But I digress. Our problem today is that too many people lack a basic understanding of how our government works. That goes for Trump, who thinks he’s Don Corleone reincarnate, to the members of Congress who think they work for Trump.

This includes voters, as well. We just had a primary election in New Jersey yesterday and we heard again the usual complaints. Lamentations about the low voter turnout, anger over the lack of voting choices, and hand-wringing over the fate of our democracy. Too many people forget, however, that general elections are about democracy but primaries are about party organization. Back when most people identified with one of the two major parties, choosing the candidates for the general election was taken away from party bosses in smoke-filled back rooms and given to “rank-and-file” party members via primaries.

But today, lines are blurred. We’ve gone from those smoky rooms filled with party bosses giving us FDR and Ike, to primaries giving us presidents from Jimmy Carter to Trump. And now people who would refuse to declare themselves a party member want undue voice in deciding a party’s slate and direction. (Looking at you Bernie Bros.) If you want to change a party, either party, you have to get involved, convince people, build a slate and take over functions. It won’t happen by sitting back and waiting for an election.

As we’ve lost sight of the separation between primary and general elections, we have also overlooked the separation between the levels and branches of government.

Therefore, the hearings going on now will truly test whether our current crop of Congresscreatures understand they are a separate and co-equal branch of government. The future of our democracy may depend on this. Forget Trump’s MAGA slogan, we need MACAA, Make American Civics Accessible Again!

While we contemplate the educational effort ahead, and the need to keep Texas from determining the content of school books, to ensure basic knowledge of the workings of our democracy, have a Constitution Hound cocktail.

An appropriately bitter drink for our times, the recipe from Kindred Cocktails calls for:

1 oz rye

1 oz Campari

1 oz Fernet Branca

.5 oz Bigallet China-China

1 barspoon absinthe

3 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters

1 twist Grapefruit peel

Shake, strain, rocks, garnish

Cheers!

Revelations 2017

Revelation

Monday evening saw The Washington Post pick up its running competition for scoops with the New York Times all pointing toward time running out for the Trump Administration.

The latest revelation finds that Trump reportedly asked the top U.S. intelligence officials to deny any collusion between his campaign and Russia in an effort to push back on the FBI. The story follows on after two big pieces on Friday where the Post reported the probe is now looking at a current White House official as part of the Russia investigation (rumored to be his son-in-law Jared Kushner), and the Times piece on how Trump told the Russians (during their visit to the Oval Office) that firing the “nut-job” Comey relieved great pressure on him.

All of this has prompted another piece in the Post headlined “Trump is practically begging to be accused of obstruction of justice right now.”

One problem we face now is too much information that threatens to bury other important stories, like Trump’s budget proposal to gut Medicaid.

To help stay vigilant as the revelations keep streaming in, I suggest the Revelation cocktail. This nice Manhattan variation from Kindred Cocktails is:

1.75 oz rye

.25 oz Fernet Branca

.25 oz sweet vermouth (I went with .5 oz and it was quite tasty)

1 dash orange bitters

1 Luxardo cherry as garnish

Stir, strain into a chilled cocktail glass, garnish

Cheers!

 

Pledge Allegiance to ?

Pledge

After Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, the person in charge of investigations his campaign colluded with the Russians to influence the election, it was revealed Trump had asked for Comey’s loyalty on several occasions.

It was also revealed that Trump’s barely plausible reason for the firing was a lie when he told Lester Holt he did it because of the Russia investigation.

The best some Republican members of Congress could do was express concern, while their leaders Ryan and McConnell essentially said nothing to see here.

As this was unfolding, white nationalist supporters of Trump rallied in Charlottesville, VA, to protest the removal of monuments honoring traitors to the United States. They did this while carrying citronella tiki torches from Wal-Mart and chanting “Russia is our friend.”

Tonight The Washington Post revealed just how good a friend Trump thinks the Russians are as he revealed highly classified information to the Russian Foreign Minister and U.S. Ambassador in the Oval Office.

Serious questions must be asked about where the allegiance of the President, his supporters, and Republicans in Congress lies. We need to record the answers, as they may be important when the allied powers begin their de-Republicanification efforts.

As you re-affirm your allegiance to the United States, have a Pledge cocktail. Via Kindred Cocktails, it is:

1.5 oz rye

.5 oz yellow chartreuse

.5 oz Averna

2 dashes aromatic bitters ( I prefer Dr. Adam’s Orinoco Bitters)

Lemon peel garnish

Stir, strain, garnish

Cheers!

Perfect Manhattan: No Trump

Perfect

On the eve of Trump’s first visit to NYC since becoming president, all of us in the vicinity could use a drink.

Presidential visits create massive disruptions as a rule, but rarely do you get the added snarl of citywide protests. From his arrival at JFK airport to his dinner on the Intrepid aircraft carrier in midtown, the area will be a mess for much of the day.

Fortunately, his Orangeness will spare the metro area from a lengthy visit and immediately hightail it to his golf resort in rural New Jersey after dinner.

As a reminder of how nice NYC is when Trump is not here (or signing executive orders that cost, demean or otherwise fuck over New Yorkers) I suggest fortifying with a Perfect Manhattan.

No better source than Philip Greene’s book The Manhattan: The Story of the First Modern Cocktail.

2 oz rye (or bourbon)

.5 oz dry vermouth

.5 oz sweet vermouth

2 dashes aromatic bitters

Cherry for garnish (lemon peel also suggested, real Americans use real cherries)

Stir over ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass, garnish

Cheers! (He’ll be gone soon)

All Blown Up

Philabuster

As the smoke clears on week 12 in the Reign of Error, we survey the damage from bunker busters in Afghanistan to the filibuster in the Senate. Clearly the most explosive week yet.

Employing his “Bomb-the-shit-out-of-them” strategy for defeating ISIS, Trump ordered the use of the GBU-43/B MOAB, which stands for Massive Ordinance Air Blast, or more popularly as Mother Of All Bombs. It is the most powerful non-nuclear bomb ever used by the U.S. in combat, and was dropped on Islamic State tunnels in Nangarhar province. The $314 million weapon reportedly killed 36 militants.

Shortly after dropping the MOAB, Trump scurried off to Mar-a-Lago for yet another round of golf, and perhaps to contemplate nuking North Korea over chocolate cake. He also faces the tightening noose after the bombshell report about campaign aid Carter Page.

The Washington Post reported that the FBI got a FISA warrant to monitor Page last summer as part of an investigation into possible links between Russia and the campaign.

The Page news had come quickly on the heels of the Sean Spicer implosion while attempting to use a Hitler analogy to defend the ineffective airstrikes in Syria.

On Monday, Neil Gorsuch was sworn in as a Supreme Court Justice to complete the GOP theft of this seat. The heist began about a year ago when Senate Majority Leader McConnell and the Republicans refused to even meet with President Obama’s nominee. Before they could get to Monday’s ceremony, however, McConnell had to use the “Nuclear Option” to get Gorsuch approved. Last Friday, McConnell dropped the Mother of All Bombs in the Senate and killed the filibuster so Gorsuch could be confirmed by a simple majority.

Of all the explosions over the past week, killing the filibuster and confirming Gorsuch is likely to have the greatest impact. This is true both for the way the Senate has historically  operated (though the filibuster had been abused for some time), and for the country at large as a relatively very young right-wing ideologue now has a lifetime appointment to the highest court.

To wash away that Nuclear Senate residue and try to forget that the patriotic Republicans have just handed a stolen Supreme Court seat to a corporation-favoring tool, chosen by a puppet of the Russian government, I suggest a Philabuster cocktail via Kindred Cocktails.

1.5 oz rye, Rittenhouse 100

.5 oz Aperol

.5 oz Cocchi Americano

.25 oz Cynar

.12 oz Fernet Branca

1 dash grapefruit bitters

1 twist grapefruit peel as garnish

Stir, strain over rock, highball, garnish

Happy Friday!

Cheers!

Drive On, Don’t Mean Nothing

Maine

The Reign of Error has reached week 10, and once again this week we have been overwhelmed by details of scandal, malfeasance and just outright stupidity. Before it slips down the memory hole under much bigger news, it is worth mentioning comments the Grifter-in-Chief made about Iraq this week.

On Tuesday, Trump made comments about things going well in Iraq to a group of Senators at the White House, saying “our troops are fighting like never before.” The near universal response, particularly from veterans, was: Asshole!

Among others, Montel Williams took to social media to respond:

“Mr. President, you signed up to be the Commander in Chief, HAVE YOU NO DECENCY SIR. Thousands of troops paid the ultimate price on Iraq while you were on the NY social circuit and hosting a reality TV show. Many more thousands came back badly wounded, more still came back with invisible injuries they may well bear for life. Their sacrifice, their blood, sweat and tears in battle, should not be denigrated by a television star, now President whose only military experience was dodging the draft.

“On the issue of the civilians apparently killed in a coalition airstrike, while likely just
imprecise words, I certainly hope the death of civilians doesn’t constitute ‘fighting like never before’ in this President’s mind. It’s for the military to figure out what happened, but one thing I know for sure, for certain is none of the troops involved joined to kill civilians.”

I agree with Williams, particularly on the point that Trump may be making good on the GOP carpet bombing talking point from the Primary with the civilian deaths from this airstrike. However, I remember a time before any mention of military service was not reflexively met with “thank you for your service.” I enlisted around the time Magnum P.I. began changing the image of Vietnam vets from being a deranged baby-killing criminal to a cool badass. So with everything going on, I will apply that lesson I learned long ago; Drive on, don’t mean nothin’, not a thing.

The language Trump uses is often questionable, self-aggrandizing and propagandistic. This seems to fit that pattern. The problem with Trump’s language is that he leads a party with control of the executive and legislative branches of government, so just how far will the sycophant Fortunate Sons in the GOP go to please what they believe are the boss’ wishes.

At a time when some half-baked slogan from Trump could have history-altering impacts, it seems only right to toast the weekend with a Remember the Maine cocktail.

Remember the Maine was the slogan pushed by the fake news purveyors of the late 1890s, mostly the yellow journalists working for William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer, proprietors of the New York Journal and the New York World. Based on the mysterious sinking of the battleship USS Maine in Havana harbor, the slogan helped push the U.S. into war with Spain. The result of the brief Spanish-American War of 1898, as History Today tells us, was the “independence” of Cuba and American control of the Philippines and Puerto Rico. It also signified the arrival of the U.S. as a great power.

So, as we approach the nadir, pour a Remember the Maine for all of those who “fought like never before.”

From Brad Thomas Parson’s book Bitters:

2 oz rye

.75 oz sweet vermouth (preferably Carpano Antica)

.25 oz Cherry Heering

2 dashes Angostura bitters (or Dr. Adam’s Orinoco Bitters)

Splash of absinthe (as rinse)

Stir all but the absinthe over ice until chilled. Add the absinthe to a chilled cocktail glass, roll the glass to coat and discard excess absinthe. Strain chilled ingredients into the prepared glass.

Cheers!

 

Scofflaw!

Scofflaw

A little more than 90 years ago, Henry Irving Dale and Kate L. Butler separately supplied winning entries in a national contest held by prohibitionist Delcevare King to coin a term for describing someone who drinks illegally. Kate and Henry split the $200 prize for the word “scofflaw.”

The definition of scofflaw has moved beyond simply someone who drinks illegally to a person who habitually flouts or violates the law, especially one who fails to pay debts or answer summonses.

The Scofflaw Cocktail was created, shortly after the word was coined, by a bartender named Jock at Harry’s New York Bar in Paris. While the fashionable drinkers in Paris, unaffected by Prohibition, could sip on delicious Scofflaw Cocktails, actual scofflaws in the U.S. looking for a drink were more often stuck with bathtub gin and rotgut rye. Scofflaws have always had a bit of a class distinction.

Every locality had its own enabler of scofflaws, or a scofflaw-in-chief, who supplied the booze, while often keeping the “good stuff” for themselves.

Although he may not drink, the current resident of the White House certainly fits the modern definition of scofflaw, and he’s hard at work steering the “good stuff” his own way. Even if you agree with Cheeto Mussolini that the President is the law, you can’t deny he is in violation of the lease on his DC hotel and, therefore, the foreign emoluments clause of the Constitution. The list of laws Trump has scoffed at over the years is a long one.

Back in Paris, however, in the birthplace of the Scofflaw Cocktail, our current scofflaw-in-chief proved a lot less popular than the drink, losing an election day tally in Harry’s New York Bar to Hillary Clinton 513 to 188.

Not long after the cocktail was created, one of the most notorious scofflaws of the era, Al Capone, started taking over Chicago. It took a good 70 years and the advent of Michael Jordan to finally separate the association of the word Chicago with a machine-gunning Al Capone re-enactment. New York is praying to avoid such a stain with Trump.

Hopefully, one thing these Scofflaws-in-chief might share in common is their undoing over taxes. For all of his murders, racketeering , etc., Capone was brought down on charges of tax evasion. Trump has been evasive about his taxes. Would they reveal extensive ties to Russia proving his collusion? Perhaps they would reveal how badly he has avoided paying taxes (though he says that makes him smart, and he’s already won, so it’s not clear his supporters would have a problem).

Even again today, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said that President Donald Trump is still under audit and he wouldn’t say whether Trump will release his taxes for the current year.

So as we ponder the tax evading potential of a gratuitously law flouting Administration, it’s time to have a Scofflaw Cocktail.

Following along with Dr. Cocktail Ted Haigh in his book Vintage Spirits and Vintage Cocktails, the Scofflaw is:

1.5 oz rye

1 oz dry vermouth

.75 oz lemon juice

.75 oz real pomegranate grenadine

Shake, strain into a cocktail glass with a lemon twist

Cheers!