Slip Slidin’ Away

Slope

The Russian operative in the White House continues his efforts to destroy American democracy with the latest ploy being the National Emergency declaration.

Even while announcing the need for extraordinary means to secure the southern border from the menace in his head, he made clear how much of a non-emergency the situation is, daring anyone to try to put a check on powers he feels entitled to wield. Immediately, a number of sycophantic, and/or compromised, Senators pledged fealty to Emperor Orange I. And Trump may not be wrong about his Supreme Court Justice picks backing up his unConstitutional actions when it gets there (see: Muslim Ban).

For the GOP to not push back on this presidential power grab and the precedent it sets is just one more of the jaw-dropping, head-scratching, WTF?!? moments from Republicans in the past few years. Some of them do recognize the power this will give the next Democratic president to declare a national emergency on guns, health care, or climate change to get around a GOP Senate (whose control is so structurally baked in as to be near certain).

Of course, precedent setting and unprecedented is the hallmark of the unPresidented age we are living through. Trump has sent us speeding down so many slippery slopes that America would sweep any Winter Olympics medal count. Forget about making America great again, we will have our hands full just making America functional again. Restoring the rule of law alone will require many difficult steps back up those slippery slopes.

Trump is golfing his way through the National Emergency, ensconced on his own property in Florida, while the rule of law is slip sliding away. Time for a Slippery Slope cocktail.

The drink comes from Tona Palomino. I found the recipe via Kindred Cocktails while looking for new ways to use Cherry Heering. The Slippery Slope is:

2.5 oz rye

.75 oz Cherry Heering

.5 oz Cynar

Stir over ice, strain into a cocktail glass

Cheers!

Hunting (and Finding) Witches

Rye Witch

The Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker would not answer questions from Congress today about whether he still considers the Mueller investigation to be a “witch hunt.”

Before Trump named the “Big Dick Toilet Salesman” (h/t @emptywheel) to the role that oversees Mueller’s efforts, Whitaker had echoed the witch hunt sentiments regularly spouted by Trumpists. While he may not own up to the words now, we can see that “Hot Tub Crime Machine” Whitaker (h/t @MollyJongFast) was just another attempt to disrupt and/or end the investigation.

Now that Democrats have control of the House of Representatives, real oversight can begin on the Trump administration and their swampy crime wave. Congressman Adam Schiff, Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee is also planning on looking beyond the administration to find those who have tried to interfere with Mueller (looking at you former chairman Nunes).

It will be interesting to see how the recent revelation from Jeff Bezos over the extortion attempt from Trump friend and National Enquirer owner David Pecker factors in to what Shiff is looking into. Some of Trump’s support in Congress seems a normal extension of the cliff Republicans have driven off. But, maybe he can uncover how others, like Senators Ted Cruz and Lindsey Graham, went from such big Trump opponents to orange-stained lapdogs.

The tendrils of the corruption in Washington have spread massively (reaching all the way to South Dakota where former GOP/NRA operative — and Russian spy Maria Butina’s boyfriend — Paul Erickson was just hit with 11 felony counts). At this point (and this stat is a couple weeks old now) there have been 199 Criminal Charges; 37 People/Entities Charged; including 6 High-level Trump Associates; 7 People have pled Guilty; 4 People Sentenced to Prison; 1 Convicted by a Jury.

Whitaker may have avoided talking about the witch hunt because his boss seems to be changing the talking point to “Presidential Harassment.” At this point finding witches in and around this presidency is like finding hay in a hay stack.

The way things are going, we are likely to hear about more witches being found any time now. While you wait, have a Rye Witch cocktail.

Created by Jim Meehan, the Rye Witch is a riff on an Improved Old Fashioned. I pulled the recipe from Talia Baiocchi’s great book Sherry. The Rye Witch is:

1 dash Fee Brothers orange bitters

1 dash Regan’s orange bitters

1 cube of Demerara sugar

2 oz Rittenhouse Rye

.25 oz Strega

.25 oz palo cortado sherry

Muddle the bitters and sugar in a mixing glass, add rye, Strega, sherry and ice, stir and strain into a chilled rocks glass, garnish with an orange twist. (Yes, not a rocks glass pictured. Needed to do dishes. Don’t judge.)

Cheers!

Time to Carve Up Some Trump Steaks

killing floor

Hard times is here and everywhere you go

Times are harder than ever been before

                                          — Skip James, “Hard Time Killing Floor Blues” (1931)

The continuing government shutdown means Federal employees are about to miss another paycheck. Every passing day puts our national security, food safety, and even our scientific understanding of the changing climate more at risk as workers can’t do their jobs – or are doing them without pay and wondering how to buy food or pay the rent.

This kind of disruption must be a dividend Putin never thought he’d get with his purchase of Trump. Of course, this isn’t only on Individual 1, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell could end the shutdown anytime by allowing a vote on house measures (that already passed the Senate).

McConnell, who wouldn’t let news of Russian interference in 2016 on behalf of Trump come out until after the election, is now keeping the government closed and just lifted sanctions on a key Russian oligarch. It is almost as though he doesn’t want his suspicious activity to be overshadowed by the growing revelations of Trump’s dealing with Russia.

While Trump and his GOP enablers in Congress bring hard times to America, the newly Democratic-led House of Representatives is preparing to begin its oversight work. The recent Buzzfeed report on Trump directing Cohen to lie to Congress, its brief elevation of impeachment talk, and Mueller’s pushback notwithstanding, the docket of Democratic inquiries would be enough to take down several administrations.

The list of Trump swamp creatures and their questionable (if not illegal) activities could have House committee rooms looking like the slaughterhouses of Chicago. This will all be warmup to the main event, when Trump himself makes it to the House killing floor. Between obstruction of justice, violation of the emoluments clause and possibly treason, he is likely to get carved up into the best Trump steaks yet.

While waiting for the Hearings to begin, have The Killing Floor cocktail. Via Frederic Yarm at Cocktail Virgin, The Killing Floor is:

1.5 oz James E. Pepper Rye (I used FEW Spirits Rye, the Chicago connection seemed right)
.5 oz Bigallet China China Liqueur
.5 oz Cocchi Sweet Vermouth
.5 oz Bonal Gentiane-Quinquina

Stir with ice and strain into a rocks glass. Garnish with an orange twist.

Cheers!

Waiting Is the Hardest Part

Purgatory

Just a few weeks out from the election and the anxiety is intensifying. What direction will America be headed on November 7?

Polls go back and forth, including one today that says a low turnout could mean Republicans hold the House by one seat. Reports of GOP voter suppression activities are now a part of each news cycle. Voting systems across many states are so insecure that children have hacked them in minutes, and Congress has done nothing to strengthen our defenses while the Russians are up to their same tricks from the 2016 election.

It does seem the anti-Trump part of the country is more motivated to vote, and there are many people working to get out the vote in big numbers for Democrats. Still, the waiting for election day won’t be easy. This is particularly true as the propaganda from the right has been turned up to 11.

No matter, how the election goes, there will be a lot of work to do when it’s over. Whether it’s Congress getting back to normal oversight duties if Democrats win or potential reactions that might come as a result of interference or corruption, November 6 is more of a beginning than an end.

As we face the final three weeks to the midterm elections, now would be a good time for a Purgatory cocktail. Via Kindred Cocktails, the Purgatory is:

2.5 oz Rittenhouse Rye

.75 oz Bénédictine

.75 oz Green Chartreuse

Stir over ice, strain into a chilled coupe, lemon twist garnish

Cheers!

The Aging of Reason

Reason

“We’re on a mission from God.” — Elwood Blues

Have you seen the Light? America today is seeing its fundamental values — a birthright of the Enlightenment — being squeezed from two sides.

On the one side is the Religious Right. It has been building for quite a long time, but it does seem different today. For all of the faults of George W. Bush, he was a Believer who tried to live as (his version of) a good Christian. Trump, on the other hand, obviously prefers to spend his Sundays on the golf course (preferably one of his own). Nevertheless, the Religious Right is the strongest part of his base.

Plenty of evidence has sprung up just in the past week, from Trump’s anti-abortion moves to moving the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. The new generation of evangelical leaders, including Franklin Graham, Jerry Falwell Jr. and Texas megachurch pastor Robert Jeffress, heap praise on Trump (and VP Pence), but raise questions whether their aim is power rather than piety.

The influence of the Religious Right on the policies of the U.S. government is not what the founders intended. When Thomas Paine published his Age of Reason pamphlets attacking organized Christianity, he was arguing the church was corrupt and overly institutionalized. What would he think of today’s situation?

As obvious as the Religious Right squeezing from one side is, the other pressure point is really just coming into focus. Shedding some light on this point is (of all people) Henry Kissinger in The Atlantic this month. While his piece, “How The Enlightenment Ends,” is aimed at how humans are not prepared intellectually, philosophically, or ethically, for the rise of artificial intelligence, it definitely touches on some topics that have become more visible in the Age of Trump.

The Enlightenment sought to submit traditional verities to a liberated, analytic human reason. The internet’s purpose is to ratify knowledge through the accumulation and manipulation of ever expanding data. Human cognition loses its personal character. Individuals turn into data, and data become regnant.

Users of the internet emphasize retrieving and manipulating information over contextualizing or conceptualizing its meaning…Truth becomes relative. Information threatens to overwhelm wisdom.

When it comes to politics, Kissinger sees the velocity of data having a negative impact on understanding and on building consensus. He says this is due to the greater ability to micro target based on “specialized purposes or grievances.” A quick look at the social media effect on the 2016 election gives plausibility to this idea. “The digital world’s emphasis on speed inhibits reflection; its incentive empowers the radical over the thoughtful; its values are shaped by subgroup consensus, not by introspection,” Kissinger writes.

Perhaps like Jake and Elwood, it is time to get the Band back together — Locke, Kant, Voltaire, Adam Smith, etc. — to spark a new Enlightenment for the 21st Century, one that energizes a new generation to tackle the philosophical and ethical questions unimaginable in the 18th Century.

But before you going looking for that copy of Rousseau’s The Social Contract you had in college, you may want to make yourself an Age of Reason cocktail.

Via Bittermen’s, the Age of Reason is:

2 oz rye

.5 oz cognac

.5 oz Cocchi Americano

1 bar spoon green Chartreuse

1 bar spoon yellow Chartreuse

10 drops Bittermen’s ‘Elemakule tiki bitters

lemon twist

Stir over ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Run the lemon twist around the rim of the glass and discard.

Cheers!

 

Before the After

Max

For reasons long forgotten, two mighty warrior tribes went to war, and touched off a blaze which engulfed them all. Without fuel they were nothing. They’d built a house of straw. The thundering machines sputtered and stopped. Their leaders talked and talked and talked. But nothing could stem the avalanche. Their world crumbled… — “The Road Warrior” (1981) Opening Narration 

Every great (and not so great) dystopian movie or book sets its stage, providing background for how society, civilization, or the planet came to the state in which the story takes place.

This is often some time in the future, and works better in some stories than others. We are now only one year away from the Los Angeles of 1982’s Blade Runner. However, it is worth remembering that Roy Batty and his gang of Replicants all had incept dates in 2016. Coincidence?

Today, as every single person Trump picks for his administration seems chosen for their ability to dismantle the agency to which they are appointed — and Trump himself works to dismantle the world order that has existed for at least the past half century — it does feel as if we are living through the backstory of the next dystopian blockbuster.

The construct of “for reasons long forgotten,” like that in The Road Warrior, is often used for that backstory. However, it has me wanting to shout “No! The reasons were important. Don’t forget about us!” In a sense, though, Amy Siskind’s The Weekly List is documenting those steps toward wandering in a post-apocalyptic wasteland.

So before America is entirely the dominion of corrupt oligarchs, with our cities in dust, make time for one more kiss and have a Mad Max cocktail.

Just like Roy Batty, 2016 is the incept date of this cocktail, from Kingfish in New Orleans. Although I don’t recall having a Mad Max, I had a great time at Kingfish in July 2016 while in New Orleans for Tales of the Cocktail. The food and the drinks were terrific.

Via Kindred Cocktail, the Mad Max is:

1 oz rye

1 oz Cynar

1 oz Aperol

orange twist

Stir, strain, twist

Cheers!

Buddy System

Pal

National Friendship Day isn’t until August, but this week gave us a much deeper look into the circle of Trump besties. The one that made the biggest news, of course, was finding out that Trump lawyer Michael Cohen also has Trump TV host Sean Hannity as a client.

It was known that Cohen “represented” not only Trump but also his fellow RNC fundraiser Elliott Broidy, and apparently performed similar services. Not entirely clear was what Cohen did for Hannity, but Hannity’s regular defense of Cohen and Trump was much more obvious than their relationship.

Actually, it seems other regular guests on Hannity’s show, also Trump connected lawyers, were doing work for Hannity as well.

Trump, we’ve learned, has a history of not treating his fixer Cohen very well. Now Trump may need him more than ever after the FBI obtained Cohen’s files in a raid, and the possibility Cohen will flip has Trump concerned.

Beyond the issue of who Trump’s personal attorney has been palling around with we saw more evidence of the Trump-Putin relationship on Sunday. Soon after Nikki Haley announced new sanctions on Russia over Syria, Trump called his BFF to tell him not to worry. Then Trump canceled the planned sanctions.

I’m looking forward to the book when this is all over so we can get a clear picture of how all these people are connected and who has what on whom. In the meantime, have an Old Pal cocktail.

From Robert Simonson’s 3 Ingredient Cocktails the Old Pal is:

1 oz rye

1 oz dry vermouth

1 oz Campari

Orange Twist (other recipes call for lemon twist, which I did since I was out of oranges)

Stir over ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Cheers!