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!

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!