Old Enemies and New Friends

Friend

It is amazing to see just how much the GOP has changed in less than 10 years.

Heading in to the 2008 presidential election, John McCain’s running mate Sarah Palin was trying to make hay out of Barack Obama’s association with William Ayers, co-founder of the 1960s radical group Weather Underground. Palin, as awful as she was, tried to play the patriotism card saying Obama “is someone who sees America it seems as being so imperfect that he’s palling around with terrorists who would target their own country.”

Now, however, it is the republicans who seem to see America “as being so imperfect” that they’re willing to pall around with authoritarian leaders of foreign adversaries. Roy Moore, Alabama GOP Senate candidate, became the latest example the other day.

Saying that the U.S. was a “focus of evil” in the world – largely due to same sex marriage – he admired Vladimir Putin’s “morality.” The accused pedophile was not new in this line of thinking, echoing Trump from last year.

Denigrating America and praising Putin now seems to be the Republican Party policy. To honor this budding relationship, I suggest the New Friend cocktail. It’s not as bitter a drink as would seem appropriate, but they’re just palling around for now.

This variation on the Old Pal is from Serious Eats:

1 oz rye

1 oz Aperol

1 oz Cocchi Americano

orange twist

Stir over ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass, garnish with an orange twist.

Cheers!

All In The (Crime) Family

Family

There are many distractions at the top of the news today, from Al Franken and Roy Moore to Trump’s Jerusalem decision, but this week is also seeing the noose tighten on America’s First Family of grifters.

On the heels of the Dec. 1 revelation of Michael Fynn’s guilty plea and cooperation with the Mueller investigation, the big news this week is that Mueller has apparently subpoenaed records of Trump and his family from Deutsche Bank. This might clarify issues around Trump’s $300 million debt to the bank and real estate deals involving Russian oligarchs.

The Flynn plea, which said a senior transition official had directed Flynn to contact the Russian Ambassador, pulled Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner deeper into the Russia investigation when he was identified as that official.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump Jr again proved to be the Fredo of the Trump crime family when he tried to not answer Congressional questioning about a conversation he had with his father regarding the infamous Trump Tower meeting by claiming attorney-client privilege (despite the fact that neither he nor his father are attorneys).

First daughter Ivanka Trump has largely been out of the news this week. Actually she has had a much lower profile since stories came out last month on her involvement in potential money laundering real estate schemes with Trump Organization affiliated properties, like the Trump Ocean Club in Panama. Shockingly, there are ties to Russian organized crime alleged as part of those investigative reports.

As we watch the world (hopefully) come apart for the Trumps with Mueller continuing  to build his case, have an Against the Family cocktail.

Via Kindred Cocktail, the Against the Family recipe is:

2 oz Rye

.5 oz sweet vermouth (Punt e Mes)

.5 oz Amaro Montenegro

Combine rye, vermouth, and amaro in a mixing glass and stir with cracked ice. Strain into a coupe glass and express orange oil over the top.

Cheers!

VIP America

Rope

The Senate is preparing to vote on changes to the U.S. tax system that promise to fundamentally alter how we operate as a nation.

No one really knows what is in the Republican bill (they’re still making changes in the hours before the vote) but the outlines from all analyses so far indicate massive benefits to the rich at the expense of the poor and middle class. This was certainly true of the bill passed in the House that I noted recently.

With the GOP approach that gives tax credits for owners of private jets and the removes credits to teachers buying classroom supplies we will see inequality explode. We are moving to an America where a small number of people at the top are Executive Platinum frequent flyers and everyone else is down below, riding the dog, stuck in traffic.

Have you earned enough status to receive all of the perks in the Republican tax bill?

As Ronald Brownstein put it in the Atlantic, if you’re a white Baby Boomer, have a better chance to get your seat upgrade and bottle service. “The baby boom is being evicted from the penthouse of American politics. And on the way out, it has decided to trash the place,” he wrote. He noted that while the Boomer VIP status was ending, we’ll still be stuck behind their velvet rope for the next several years at least.

In the meantime, enjoy a Velvet Rope cocktail. Via Kindred Cocktails, the Velvet Rope is:

2 oz Rittenhouse Rye

.5 oz Velvet Falernum

2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters

Orange twist

Stir over ice, strain into a chilled coupe, garnish with an orange twist

Cheers!

 

Dancing With Fox News Stars

Waltz

The battle between truth and lies, between news and propaganda, has reached a crucial and personal period for most Americans; the Holidays.

Beginning today and running for the next month or so, there will be much more time spent with family, particularly those who get the news and opinions from Fox. We are about to hit a spike in awkward conversations.

At a time when the GOP can’t even seem to disavow a child molester, there is some sign of rational Republicans, though. The Hill reported yesterday that Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas) has called for more to be done to counter the Russian disinformation campaign now being waged against us.

But, as the holidays will remind us, there was a reason the Russian fake news effort was successful. (Yes, that’s why it is President Trump despite 3 million fewer votes. Well targeted effort in key states for EC win.) Timothy Egan noted it in the NY Times last week in his piece We’re With Stupid:

“But the problem is not the Russians — it’s us. We’re getting played because too many Americans are ill equipped to perform the basic functions of citizenship. If the point of the Russian campaign, aided domestically by right-wing media, was to get people to think there is no such thing as knowable truth, the bad guys have won.”

As you try to decide whether your uncle or father-in-law is on the side of supporting child molesters as long as they’re Republicans or is willing to question Russian interference with our election — doing the dance of family peace around the Thanksgiving dinner table — I suggest preparing with a Winter Waltz cocktail.

This warming seasonal drink should put a chill on the political discord. Via Punch, the Winter Waltz is:

2 oz rye

.5 oz ounce Averna

.25 oz St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram

2 dashes Dale DeGroff’s Pimento Bitters

Shake over ice (yes, shake, gives it a nice foaminess), strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with star anise.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Cheers!

Moore Bitterness

Something Bitter

In the state of Alabama, 49 percent of the population identifies as an Evangelical Christian. In polling this week, 37 percent of Alabama Evangelicals said charges of sexual misconduct with teenage girls made them more likely to vote for Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore.

Alabama Republicans are saying they prefer to send a child molester to the U.S. Senate to represent them over a Democrat (Doug Jones in this case, a man who prosecuted two Klansmen for the 1963 16th Street Baptist Church bombing that killed four girls). This is party over country, a sentiment not confined to Alabama, and the source of many of our problems today. It’s a big reason why Moore’s election is not something I would vote against, as much as I hope Jones can hold on to his current lead in the polls.

Thanks to the voters of Alabama, we will soon have a man at the highest levels of governing the country who has twice been removed from office for violating his oath of office. A man who claims to govern in the name of Christianity, but who — as Rev. Dr. William Barber says — espouse not Christianity but extreme Republican religionism.

This is troubling enough, but it is worse when you realize these same Alabama voters have more influence on the governance of the nation than voters elsewhere.

Based on the 2010 Census, Alabama has seven members of the U.S. House of Representatives for a population of 4.9 million people. That is one representative per  700,000 people. The 12 reps for New Jersey’s 8.9 million people, or the 53 for California’s 39.3 million people, means one representative per 742,000 people.

I have written about the problems we encounter with our representation capped at 1911 levels, most recently here, and how it is even more fundamental to fixing our democracy than reforming Gerrymandering. That does not mean we shouldn’t fix the gerrymandering problem, and former Attorney General Eric Holder is working on that. Hopefully SCOTUS will rule the right way on the Wisconsin case and not make the effort harder.

Beyond the structure of electing our representatives, Timothy Egan pointed out in the NY Times the other day there are other issues to address as well.  This is not just about dealing with Russian interference (though we need to do that too), but why it was effective.

“We’re getting played because too many Americans are ill equipped to perform the basic functions of citizenship. If the point of the Russian campaign, aided domestically by right-wing media, was to get people to think there is no such thing as knowable truth, the bad guys have won,” Egan wrote. “We have a White House of lies because a huge percentage of the population can’t tell fact from fiction. But a huge percentage is also clueless about the basic laws of the land. In a democracy, we the people are supposed to understand our role in this power-sharing thing.”

For most of us around the country, watching as the voters of Alabama plan to send a child-molesting extreme religionist to the U.S. Senate, we’ll have to look to 2018 to try to make sure Moore is in the minority party.

In the meantime, have a cocktail. I suggest a Something Bitter This Way Comes cocktail via Kindred Cocktails. It is:

1.5 oz Rye

1 oz Amaro CioCiaro

.5 oz Cocchi Vermouth di Torino

.25 oz Fernet-Branca

2 dashes Bittermens Xocolatl Mole Bitters

Pinch of kosher salt

Stir over ice for at least 30 seconds, strain into a chilled cocktail glass, garnish with an orange twist.

Cheers!

 

Darkness Turning to Light

Solstice

The past year has seen things get increasingly dark in America. Since Trump’s election on November 8, 2016, the traditions that defined America as a beacon of freedom were under attack and in danger of being snuffed out.

Nazis marched in our streets and the President of the United States said there were many very fine people among them. Nazis! And not just Illinois Nazis, who everyone hates.

There is very little doubt at this point that Russia interfered with our 2016 election and the evidence has grown suggesting Trump and his campaign were involved in that effort. Still, however, Republicans in Congress don’t seem interested that American democracy was attacked.

But then came Tuesday’s off-year elections. It was not simply a good night for Democrats, it was a repudiation of Trumpism large and small.

New Jersey and Virginia governorships were won by Democrats, and Virginia was expected to be much closer, with Steve Bannon all but declaring victory for the Trump-supported Republican candidate.

But these weren’t even the particularly important measures of the backlash against the kind of country Trump wants to build. The diversity of the successful candidates on Tuesday was amazing. The Virginia statehouse saw a transgendered woman defeat the state’s self-declared homophobe-in-chief, and the first Latina elected to the chamber.

In NJ, a Republican county freeholder was defeated by a woman who decided to run after his sexist comment about whether the Women’s March on Washington will be “over in time for them to cook dinner.”

Across the country there were victories for the first (Insert ethnicity here) mayors that said we reject the white supremacist Trump/Bannon agenda, while Maine voted for the ACA Medicaid expansion by referendum to get around lawmakers.

To celebrate Tuesday’s ray of hope that America does not really side with Trump, that light is returning to the world, a Solstice cocktail is most appropriate.

Via Kindred Cocktails, the Solstice is:

2 oz rye

.75 oz Cointreau

1 t Allspice Dram

Build over ice in a rocks glass glass, stir.

Cheers!

Extremism In Defense of Lunacy

Vieux

The public square has been overrun by the village idiots.

We are trying to function at a time when right-wing fringe propagandist Steve Bannon is a close advisor and confidant to the President; when the President goes on the InfoWars show with extremist screamer Alex Jones; when the right-wing media environment spews nonsense like Hillary Clinton running a child porn ring out of a D.C. pizza parlor and an armed N.C. man opens fire while investigating.

This environment has been building for years. When many Americans believed that a President of the United States was using a military exercise to declare martial law in Texas as a pretense to seize people’s guns, we really shouldn’t be surprised to find ourselves in our current situation.

Arizona  Senator Jeff Flake, in his broadside against Trump as he announced his retirement from the Senate identified it as “a sickness in our system — and it is contagious.”

E.J. Dionne addressed this in a recent Washington Post column, “The mainstreaming of right-wing extremism.”

“Why have our politics gone haywire, why have our political arguments turned so bitter, and why was Donald Trump able to win the Republican nomination and, eventually, the presidency? A central reason has been the mainstreaming of a style of extremist conservative politics that for decades was regarded as unacceptable by most in the GOP…

“The extremist approach is built on a belief in dreadful conspiracies and hidden motives. It indulges the wildest charges aimed at associating political foes with evil and subversive forces… Ordinary political acts are painted as diabolical. Dark plots are invented out of whole cloth. They are first circulated on websites that traffic in angry wackiness, and are eventually echoed by elected officials.”

This extremism has both fed and been nourished by the digital and social media culture of the past decade or so.

It is important to understand this context and background, this idea that the John Birch Society-types have become mainstream. That understanding helps to see the deeper extent of Russian meddling in our election. They very effectively used our divisions against us. The question remains whether they had any internal help in this.

The absolute must read here is “What Facebook Did to American Democracy; And why it was so hard to see it coming,” in The Atlantic. The extent to which ads could be/were targeted, and the way that advertising and targeting could be hidden is essential knowledge to prepare for our elections in the future. Mother Jones had covered the topic earlier as well.

The Atlantic also gave us some hope that maybe our fellow Americans aren’t as bad as they seem on social media, reminding us “Don’t forget to adjust for Russian Trolls.”

Even the guy who’s administration told us the world doesn’t really work as part of a reality-based community anymore has had enough. In a speech George W. Bush delivered earlier this month he said, “We have seen our discourse degraded by casual cruelty.”

Senator John McCain spoke to the lunacy of extreme rhetoric when he accepted the National Constitution Center’s Liberty Medal.

“To fear the world we have organized and led for three-quarters of a century, to abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe, to refuse the obligations of international leadership and our duty to remain ‘the last best hope of earth’ for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems is as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history.

“We live in a land made of ideals, not blood and soil… We will not thrive in a world where our leadership and ideals are absent. We wouldn’t deserve to.”

This is not a “MAGA” statement, but we need to bring a civility back to our politics. This won’t be easy. Politics is adversarial by nature, but we can’t let forces like homegrown Nazis or hostile foreign powers like Russia use our disagreements to create divisions that tear us apart.

We need to return to an old way of politics, where a dispute over health care policy is unlikely to involve treason, but helping a foreign power meddle in our elections probably does and should at least be vigorously investigated.

While we contemplate ways to return sanity to our public forum, enjoy a Vieux Carré cocktail. The translation of Vieux Carré is appropriately “Old Square” even though it technically referred to the French Quarter in New Orleans, the birthplace of the cocktail.

Via Brad Thomas Parsons in his book Bitters, the Vieux Carré  is:

1 oz rye

1 oz Cognac

1 oz sweet vermouth

.25 oz Bénédictine

2 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters

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

Garnish: lemon peel

Stir over ice and strain into a double old-fashioned glass over a large ice cube.

Cheers!