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Joe Biden Victory Cocktail – The American 46

Joe Biden Victory Cocktail – The American 46

The results of all 50 states were called on November 7th, and the Electoral College count was Biden 306 and Trump 232, so everyone but Donald Trump and is henchmen have recognized that Joe Biden is now President Elect Joseph R. Biden and soon to be the 46th president of the USA. To celebrate this Democratic triumph, I have created a bright blue cocktail somewhat based on the famous French 75 cocktail and named it the American 46.



Combine the gin, blue curacao, lemon juice, and bitters in a shaker with five or six ice cubes. Shake for twenty seconds or so and then strain into a chilled champagne flute. Top it off with some good American sparkling wine, garnish with a lemon wedge and an American flag – and voilà!

The quantities of ingredients in this recipe are set for an 8 oz. champagne flute, so if you are using something bigger, adjust accordingly.

You’ve got some time to experiment with this one between now and inauguration day or the day that Trump finally concedes. I’m betting inauguration comes first, because Trump will never concede.

More of the Best New Music of 2020 so Far

More of the Best New Music of 2020 so Far

Many people are not familiar with Terry Allen and the Panhandle Mystery Band. I think I first heard him on KEXP’s Swingin’ Doors show around twenty years ago when Don Slack played “Gimme a Ride to Heaven” from the the 1983 album Bloodlines. I bought that album and have been following him ever since. No Depression describes his new album, Just Like Moby Dick, like this;

Instead of a voyage on the Pequod, Allen takes his listeners on a journey that covers a lot of ground, from Houdini facing death after life in “Houdini Didn’t Like the Spiritualists” to a town lamenting the loss of its last local dancer in “Death of the Last Stripper.” Allen brings clown-killing vampires into the light on “City of the Vampires” and delivers the storytelling masterpiece “Pirate Jenny,” which serves as a nod to Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht’s original of the same name.

Here is “Sailin’ on Through”. Enjoy!

Drive By Truckers have been putting out great southern rock music for decades now. They are not shy about expressing their political views, so it’s no surprise that during this year of a presidential election they have released their most political album ever, The Unraveling. Here’s their response to the nutjob, Christian, second-amendment crowd who won’t do anything about the epidemic of mass killings committed with ridiculously powerful automatic weapons except offer up their “Thoughts and Prayers”.

Stephen Malkmus has put out several solo albums, and they all sound a little different – some sound similar to his seminal band Pavement, some a little like Sonic Youth, some are bit electronic, and this new one titled Traditional Techniques is less rock, less electric, more acoustic, and maybe sounds a little bit like Wilco.

This next one is the title track from Tré Burt’s new album, Caught it From the Rye. You will probably find that the instrumentation and vocals sound very much like someone you know. Sean Jewell over at American Standard Time, in a somewhat amusing fashion, goes to great lengths not to name that singer/songwriter, because well… Sean has his own set of principles to which he must adhere.

I, on the other hand, will name that person. He happens to be an artist I have been listing to quite a bit lately. Bob Dylan has released two new songs on YouTube in the past three weeks. I won’t post the actual videos, because they are already ubiquitous on the internet. “Murder Most Foul“, about the assassination of President Kennedy and what it means to the American psyche, was released a few weeks ago. Today he released “I Contain Multitudes” which seems to be about all the things that have influenced his work.

President Obama’s Selma Speech, March 7, 2015

President Obama’s Selma Speech, March 7, 2015

Last week the US Department of Justice released a scathing report on the racist practices of the Ferguson Police Department. The Atlantic covered the story in great detail here. And here by Ta-Nehisi Coates.

One should understand that the Justice Department did not simply find indirect evidence of unintentionally racist practices which harm black people, but “discriminatory intent”—that is to say willful racism aimed to generate cash. Justice in Ferguson is not a matter of “racism without racists,” but racism with racists so secure, so proud, so brazen that they used their government emails to flaunt it.

The emails including “jokes” depicting President Obama as a chimp, mocking how black people talk (“I be so glad that dis be my last child support payment!”), depicting blacks as criminals, welfare recipients, unemployed, lazy, and having “no frigging clue who their Daddies are.” This humor—given the imprimatur of government email—resulted in neither reprimand, nor protest, nor even a polite request to refrain from reoffending. “Instead,” according to the report, “the emails were usually forwarded along to others.”

The best response the issue of racism in Ferguson and everywhere else in America where the problem festers was the speech President Obama delivered yesterday to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Selma March.

You can read the transcript here.

It was very powerful, and it was the most pro-American speech I’ve heard by any politician in decades. Unlike his detractors (I’m thinking of the despicable Rudy Giuliani), Obama truly gets what this country is about and what really makes it exceptional. The final third of the speech was the best.

There’s nothing America can’t handle if we actually look squarely at the problem. And this is work for all Americans, not just some. Not just whites. Not just blacks. If we want to honor the courage of those who marched that day, then all of us are called to possess their moral imagination. All of us will need to feel as they did the fierce urgency of now. All of us need to recognize as they did that change depends on our actions, on our attitudes, the things we teach our children. And if we make such an effort, no matter how hard it may sometimes seem, laws can be passed, and consciences can be stirred, and consensus can be built.

Fellow marchers, so much has changed in 50 years. We have endured war and we’ve fashioned peace. We’ve seen technological wonders that touch every aspect of our lives. We take for granted conveniences that our parents could have scarcely imagined. But what has not changed is the imperative of citizenship; that willingness of a 26-year-old deacon, or a Unitarian minister, or a young mother of five to decide they loved this country so much that they’d risk everything to realize its promise.

That’s what it means to love America. That’s what it means to believe in America. That’s what it means when we say America is exceptional.

For we were born of change. We broke the old aristocracies, declaring ourselves entitled not by bloodline, but endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights. We secure our rights and responsibilities through a system of self-government, of and by and for the people. That’s why we argue and fight with so much passion and conviction — because we know our efforts matter. We know America is what we make of it.

Look at our history. We are Lewis and Clark and Sacajawea, pioneers who braved the unfamiliar, followed by a stampede of farmers and miners, and entrepreneurs and hucksters. That’s our spirit. That’s who we are.

We are Sojourner Truth and Fannie Lou Hamer, women who could do as much as any man and then some. And we’re Susan B. Anthony, who shook the system until the law reflected that truth. That is our character.

We’re the immigrants who stowed away on ships to reach these shores, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free –- Holocaust survivors, Soviet defectors, the Lost Boys of Sudan. We’re the hopeful strivers who cross the Rio Grande because we want our kids to know a better life. That’s how we came to be.

We’re the slaves who built the White House and the economy of the South. We’re the ranch hands and cowboys who opened up the West, and countless laborers who laid rail, and raised skyscrapers, and organized for workers’ rights.

We’re the fresh-faced GIs who fought to liberate a continent. And we’re the Tuskeegee Airmen, and the Navajo code-talkers, and the Japanese Americans who fought for this country even as their own liberty had been denied.

We’re the firefighters who rushed into those buildings on 9/11, the volunteers who signed up to fight in Afghanistan and Iraq. We’re the gay Americans whose blood ran in the streets of San Francisco and New York, just as blood ran down this bridge.

We are storytellers, writers, poets, artists who abhor unfairness, and despise hypocrisy, and give voice to the voiceless, and tell truths that need to be told.

We’re the inventors of gospel and jazz and blues, bluegrass and country, and hip-hop and rock and roll, and our very own sound with all the sweet sorrow and reckless joy of freedom.

We are Jackie Robinson, enduring scorn and spiked cleats and pitches coming straight to his head, and stealing home in the World Series anyway.

We are the people Langston Hughes wrote of who “build our temples for tomorrow, strong as we know how.” We are the people Emerson wrote of, “who for truth and honor’s sake stand fast and suffer long;” who are “never tired, so long as we can see far enough.”

That’s what America is. Not stock photos or airbrushed history, or feeble attempts to define some of us as more American than others. We respect the past, but we don’t pine for the past. We don’t fear the future; we grab for it. America is not some fragile thing. We are large, in the words of Whitman, containing multitudes. We are boisterous and diverse and full of energy, perpetually young in spirit. That’s why someone like John Lewis at the ripe old age of 25 could lead a mighty march.

And that’s what the young people here today and listening all across the country must take away from this day. You are America. Unconstrained by habit and convention. Unencumbered by what is, because you’re ready to seize what ought to be.

It was expertly delivered and very well received, and because of that, I’m sure I’ll soon be hearing about all the Obama haters who will say it was a terrible speech.

Cathy McMorris Rodgers’ response to President Obama’s 2014 SOTU: Let us pray

Cathy McMorris Rodgers’ response to President Obama’s 2014 SOTU: Let us pray

Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) responded to President Obama’s State of the Union speech last night with a vague outline of “hopeful” plans the Republicans have to “form a more perfect union”.

She said the plan “helps working families rise above the limits of poverty and protects our most vulnerable”. Obama has a plan for that too.

She said she “came to Congress to help empower people, not politicians; To grow the working middle class, not the government; And to ensure that everyone in this country can find a job”. Obama is trying hard to do that too.

She says that our mission as Americans is “to ensure that we are not bound by where we come from, but empowered by what we can become”. I’ve heard the same sentiment expressed by Obama in many speeches before and since he became president.

She said “We’re working on a step-by-step solution to immigration reform by first securing our borders and making sure America will always attract the best, brightest, and hardest working from around the world”. I’ve heard Obama say nearly the exact same thing.

She said that the real gap we face today is not one of income equality that the president spoke about but of “opportunity equality”, and that the gap keeps getting bigger. She did not define “opportunity inequality”. What did she mean? Was she talking about how kids born to the super wealthy one percent have way more opportunities than kids born into poverty? Maybe and, if so, that is a problem that Obama recognizes and addressed in his speech.

She said the Republican’s plan to close that gap is to “focus on jobs without more spending, government bailouts, and red tape…” and that they have “plans to improve our education and training systems so you have the choice to determine where your kids go to school…so college is affordable…and skills training is modernized.”

Obama has been focused on jobs, and yes he does want to spend government money to jump start the economy because there’s a whole lot of infrastructure that needs rebuilding, and now is a great time to do it. Money is cheap and the projects would create jobs. He also wants to improve our education system. Sometimes that takes more money too.

On healthcare reform, she said “we shouldn’t go back to the way things were, but this law is not working”. Obama certainly doesn’t want to go back to the way things were, and, contrary to her declaration, the law is working. It’s not perfect, but over ten million citizens that didn’t have coverage before now have coverage under Obamacare.

McMorris Rodgers tossed in some key words like “compassionate” and “exceptional” because if you refer to Americans with lesser terms, you can’t be a Republican, and you probably aren’t a real American, or human for that matter.

At this point I was expecting to hear some policy proposals for how Republicans will help people get out of poverty; create new jobs; empower people regardless of race or class; reform immigration laws; and improve our healthcare system by finding ways to cover everyone and lower costs; but she did not introduce even one policy proposal.

Instead of offering policy details, she became more patriotic and much more ambiguous:

But all of us will wake up and do what is uniquely American…

We will look forward to the boundless potential that lies ahead. We will give thanks to the brave men and women who have answered America’s call to freedom, like Sgt. Jacob Hess from Spokane, who recently gave his life to protect all of ours.

How is looking forward to “the boundless potential that lies ahead” uniquely American? Does she really think that the billions of people who don’t live in the USA don’t think about what lies ahead of them? And how will she and her party capitalize on the “boundless potential that lies ahead” to improve the lives of all Americans?

She didn’t say. All she could do was:

…simply offer a prayer…

A prayer for Sgt. Hess’s family, your family, and for our larger American family.

That, with the guidance of God, we may prove worthy of His blessings of life … liberty … and the pursuit of happiness.

For when we embrace these gifts, we are each doing our part to form a more perfect union.

So if I interpret this right, she’s praying to God for guidance on how to make our country better. Okay then, so what did God tell her? We’d like to know if they’re good ideas.

America may be Exceptional but not always in a Good Way

America may be Exceptional but not always in a Good Way

Being a naturalized United States citizen, I don’t pretend to understand everything about the Americans. That said, I’ve never really thought of Americans as being particularly inscrutable except when it came to two issues: universal healthcare coverage and the unfettered availability to any Tom, Dick or Harry of guns, about which I confess I have been completely stumped for some 33 years.

When I left the United Kingdom I left behind what many ignorant Americans on the right refer to pejoratively as socialized medicine. In fact, that system provides universal health coverage to all residents; primary and emergency care is first-rate, and while there may be waiting times for non-emergency surgeries these have decreased in the last several years with extra funding. No Brit pays out-of-pocket expenses for medical care (dentistry is a different matter) and statistically health outcomes compare favourably with this country. And all of this is achieved with an expenditure of a bit less than 9% of GDP compared to more than 16% in the US. And among industrialized countries, the UK represents the rule not the exception.

By way of contrast, at any given moment between 40 and 50 million residents of the US are without health care insurance. Thousands die every year of treatable conditions for which they did not seek timely treatment because they lacked insurance. Out-of-pocket medical expenses are the leading cause of personal bankruptcy in America. Under the current system insurance companies can refuse to cover people with pre-existing conditions; many are so underinsured that limits on coverage can be reached quickly in the event of expensive and long-term treatments for conditions such as cancer.

A delightful illustration of why Americans should be ashamed of this state of affairs comes with the news that some of the wounded victims of the Aurora movie theatre shooting lack insurance and will have to depend on the charity of friends and relatives, and perhaps a national whip-round to pay their hospital and rehabilitation bills.

Yet, inexplicably, a plurality of Americans appears to prefer this awful status quo to the first meaningful reform effort to be signed into law: the Patient Care and Affordable Care Act or “Obamacare” as the preferred pejorative label this time from the ignoramuses on the right. While far from perfect (a public option would have been nice) the ACA promises to bring real and substantive benefits to both the insured and uninsured to address the flaws in the current system; but to most Americans it’s the policy equivalent of being forced to take castor oil.

And on the subject of guns, America again has taken a different path from other advanced nations. Unless one is to believe (which I do not) that Americans are inherently more violent than Europeans or Canadians, it is virtually impossible to escape the conclusion that America’s weak gun laws account for its murderously high homicide rate. And I’ve never understood why Americans on the one hand express shock and outrage at events such as the Aurora movie theater shooting-spree when, on the other, they have made such incidents inevitable by their refusal to vote for stronger controls and restrictions on the sale and possession of firearms.

The result, as with the lack of universal healthcare reform, is that thousands more Americans die or suffer grievously every year than would otherwise be the case if ordinary Americans and their political leaders made a different choice.

So is it Americans’ ignorance of the rest of the world which feeds their delusions that no matter their own travails they are better off than everyone else? Or are Americans simply a nation of masochists who suffer to be free or simply want to be free to suffer?

For me it continues to be a mystery and more than a little sad.

Buying American More Important Than Ever

Buying American More Important Than Ever

“Products made in China are cheap through the exploitation of the workforce. Every time we shop, we are driving the nail further into the coffin of American manufacturing jobs.” – Representative Joe Baca

To its great credit, ABC News in 2011 highlighted an important issue in this struggling economy that most Americans have thought little about. The series was titled: “Made in America” and began by demonstrating how clueless most of us are about where the stuff in our house, our driveway and garage and our workplace is made.

Selected families volunteered to have ABC news crews remove from their houses anything not made in the US. Predictably, the result was both funny but also quite poignant as nearly all of them found pretty much all their furniture out on the street and the occupants expressing shock, yes shock, that so little was American made.  In fact it shouldn’t have come as a surprise.

Most Americans simply don’t think about where their goods are made. They’re used to seeing their TVs made in Korea and everything else in China and to be honest they’re much more interested in the lowest price than where their wares are made. Yet, according to Dianne Sawyer, the ABC News anchor, studies suggest that over 10,000 new jobs would be created if every American spent an extra $3.33 on American-made goods.

With so many Americans unemployed this is one thing those of us fortunate enough to have a job and a half-way decent income can do to help a significant number of Americans in the manufacturing sector who might otherwise lose their jobs and we might even, perhaps, create some employment if enough of us make the effort. 

In our house we’ve always had some awareness of the value of buy-American (well, excluding the kids I have to say) and in 2011 we decided to do some things we might otherwise have put off or spread out a bit.  Unfortunately, we started the year on a misfire by thinking we were buying a US-made car in our new Ford Fiesta only to discover later that the thing is made in Mexico – something I could have ascertained easily enough with a quick Google check. Apparently, there’s even a sticker that tells you the US-made content. Duh! Well, at least it’s a US company!

Undeterred, we bought a US-made Shaw rug for our living room, and a cherry bookcase made right here in Seattle by McKinnon Furniture to go with two other lovely pieces we bought from the same company several years ago. In replacing two outside light fixtures and installing a third, we eschewed cheaper foreign-made alternatives and used, instead, handsome new hardware from Vermont-based Hubbardton Forge that we ordered on-line. We have two indoor light fixtures from the same firm for our entry and dining room.

And you can find US-made stuff where you least expect it. New Balance still makes some of their athletic shoes in the US and I bought a pair to add to the three I have already.  A particularly pleasant surprise was Juicy Couture’s cute and fashionable plain hoody jackets, made in America, which featured prominently in our girls’ birthday and Christmas presents.  And North Star Trading Company of Whidbey Island, Washington was the source for two pairs of beautifully made sheepskin bedroom slippers (with rubber soles, I might add, that allow you to walk outside in them!). And this doesn’t include the craft items we bought on the Oregon Coast and in Seattle this year.

Buying American is an issue that transcends political affiliation, race, gender, age or religion. It’s something we can all do for our country at a time when so many are suffering economic hardship. Of course, we can’t roll back the clock to 1960 when only 8% of our goods were foreign-made. But if we remind ourselves of the importance of buying American, where this is an option, and make it an integral part of our buying habits, together we will be performing a valuable service to our fellow Americans, to the larger economy and ultimately to ourselves.