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What is the most heinous Republican lie?

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One of the more disgusting charges Republicans made against Barack Obama was that he was weak on terrorism. Trump repeated endlessly that Obama couldn’t say the words “radical Islamic terrorism” although when he, Trump, was in the Middle East this week, he couldn’t say them either. Then there was the ever-delightful Sarah Palin, who accused Obama of “palling around with terrorists.”

It’s really a mark of cowards and swine that they have to stoop so low, but with Republicans, if the shoe fits… Besides, Republicans always are accusing Democrats of being weak on military matters. Now, down in that close Georgia House election, they’re going after Jon Ossoff, calling him “a mouthpiece for terrorists.” Never mind that it’s a ridiculous, outrageous lie; enough naïve voters will believe it to possibly salvage the election for Republicans.

Democrats are no less against terrorism than are Republicans, obviously. If there’s a difference, it’s that (a) Democrats want to spend Pentagon dollars wisely, not profligately, and (b) Democrats tend to use diplomacy as a life-saving alternative to force.

In the wake of Manchester—the first serious terrorist event to occur on Trump’s watch, even though it was in England, not America—Republicans are amping up the charge that Democrats are weak. Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal had an odious column by Daniel Henninger in which this apologist for all-things Trump blamed the attack on the Democratic Party. He accuses Obama of having presided over “four major terrorist attacks…inside the U.S.: Fort Hood, the Boston Marathon, San Bernardino and Orlando (conveniently forgetting that Sept. 11 happened under George W. Bush). Now that Obama’s no longer president, Henninger turns his fury on the Democratic Party, which ignores terrorism, he implies, in order to be the “Trump-Is-Russia Party.” Hillary Clinton tried to “duck the terrorism problem” in the 2016 election cycle, he rants, and the (allegedly pro-Democrat) New York Times underplayed Trump’s Riyadh speech.

These allegations are all lies, easily disproved; one expects a tea party point of view on the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal, but fabrications and innuendoes so unfair, so mean-spirited and vicious are rare, even for the Journal—and that’s saying a lot.

Let’s not blame Henninger alone. He’s just a GOP water carrier, doing his job the way Rupert Murdoch pays him to. The right wingers can never admit that Democrats do anything good or well; they have to pretend that Democrats have some sort of predilection in favor of anti-western, anti-capitalism violence. Those smears play well with their base, even though capitalism has largely failed those among them who have lost their jobs and gone from well-paid manufacturing jobs to be Wal-Mart greeters, if that. The fact that Trump’s proposed healthcare bill will throw tens of millions of them off their healthcare plans, and raise their premiums and out-of-pocket medical costs significantly, is further proof that the Republican Party doesn’t care about poor people, no matter how much they say they do. (When have Republicans ever stood for anything except cutting taxes on the rich?) Slandering Democrats is the perfect way of keeping Republican-voting poor people from turning against the GOP. “I don’t particularly like Trump for taking away my health insurance,” goes their thinking, “but at least he’s standing up to those damned commie-radical Islamic terrorism-loving Democrats.”

Well, it is, at least, a strategy, even if it depends on stupidity to work. The ironic thing is that Hillary Clinton was so tough on terrorism—she spoke a far tougher game than Obama—that the Left turned against her, for that and other reasons. Probably, Hillary felt she had to be a warrior woman, in order to deflect Republican anti-Democrat attacks but also because right wing gun-toting white men believe that women are weak. Women aren’t, of course, but Bible thumpers who think women should be barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen tend to be the same ones who think that Democrats love terrorists, and who voted for (and still support) Trump. And that, my friends, is what the modern Republican Party has become.

Have a great weekend, and happy Memorial Day!


What will Trump’s supporters do when he’s driven from office?

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Now that it seems like a foregone conclusion that Trump is toast–well, it’s my conclusion, anyway–we have to wonder: What will his fans do when he leaves the White House in disgrace?

We already know quite a lot about them. They’re white men, mostly. They’re heterosexual. They’re rural, generally didn’t go to college, and of lower income. They’re angry. They consider themselves Christian. They have guns. They don’t care what Trump did or does, no matter how bad it looks; all they care about is that he freaks liberals out, and that’s fine with them, since they hate liberals. At their most extreme, they’re potentially violent; we’ve seen them in places like Berkeley, where they showed up to “protect” Ann Coulter, wearing their black masks and camouflage outfits. They certainly seem very determined. Will they simply accept Trump’s departure when it happens, or will they refuse?

For that matter, what of Trump? Does he go gently into that good night?

There are all kinds of scenarios. Trump could call in the National Guard, federalizing them and instructing them to surround the White House, and barricading himself inside, where he would still have his finger on the nuclear codes. This would pose a unique problem for Secretary of Defense Mattis, often described as a grownup and a moderating influence on Trump. Would Mattis stand up for the Constitution, or for his boss? What could he do anyway? The president is commander-in-chief. Troops are pledged to obey him. If he were to be impeached, or indicted, and senior Republicans urged him to resign, Trump might simply settle into the obstinacy he often demonstrates when he’s proved wrong, as for example when he refuses to back away from his claim that Obama wiretapped him, or that his inaugural crowd wasn’t a record. He might just make the White House his last stand.

It would make for great television. The revolution, as it turned out, would be televised. Can you imagine the T.V. cameras up and down Pennsylvania Avenue, broadcasting 24/7? The breaking news stories, the talking heads, the floor of the Congress? Pandemonium, which may be exactly what Trump—a show boater and television celebrity—wants.

And his supporters? They would rally. There would be huge pro-Trump crowds in right wing places like Oklahoma City, Virginia Beach, Colorado Springs and Jacksonville, among the most conservative cities in the U.S. They’d be wearing their little MAGA hats and waving their Trump banners, and the more aggressive of their spokesmen would be calling for civil disobedience and an absolute resistance to removing Trump. Meanwhile, in liberal cities, like New York, San Francisco, Portland OR and Los Angeles, the anti-Trump demonstrations would be gigantic. When and where the two opposing groups met in physical proximity, there are bound to be clashes that police could not control.

And Trump, from his safe haven, might easily whip them on. The T.V. networks would give him unfettered access, amplified by his tweets. He’d issue all kinds of inflammatory statements: Protect our democracy. Don’t let the liberals destroy America. Stand with me against the evil-doers. And, in an ironic twist, #resist–the slogan of his opponent. Frantic, behind-the-scenes negotiations would be happening at the highest levels: Reince Priebus, Jared Kushner, Don McGhan for the administration, Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi for Democrats, Defense Department personnel, Federal judges, F.B.I. officials, D.C. police. At issue would be: How do we end this while avoiding bloodshed? But it may not be possible.

It’s easy to see it spinning out of control. The American Civil War ended only 157 years ago, a mere blink of the eye of history. The tensions of 1860—state’s rights versus federal rights, conservative values versus liberal ones, white privilege—remain today; instead of the Confederacy we have Trump’s supporters, loosely allied, not really Republicans so much as white nationalists, like the South was. With the Internet connecting them (as it connects ISIS sympathizers), Trump’s tribe could communicate plans, share resources and encourage each other. So too would the anti-Trumpists. The business of the nation would continue, at first, but if this unsteadiness continued for long, the trains would stop running on time, or come off the track—choose your disaster metaphor. Were armies of gun-toting Trump supporters to march on, say, liberal enclaves in red states (Austin TX, for instance), how would the anti-Trumpists respond? Could the police handle it—or would they take sides?

On the other hand, it could all end peacefully. Trump supporters could rest easy in the knowledge that Pence—one of their kind–had taken over. Anti-Trumpists could celebrate the fact that they had accomplished their most fervent goal: driving him from office. Then the nation could get back to good, old-fashioned partisan politics. It would be a relief after these first four months of chaos.


How Trump thinks: Inside the mind of POTUS

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You have to wonder what’s going through Trump’s head these days.

It must be a relief to get away from America and the constant scandals swirling around him and his administration. It must feel good to go places—Israel and Saudi Arabia—where he’s admired, if not necessarily loved. The Saudi royal family—those paragons of democracy–rolled out the welcome mat, and Netanyahu praised him to the skies.

But traveling to friendly countries for this president is like taking medication to ease pain. It doesn’t really solve the underlying sickness; it just masks it. Trump will be back soon enough, and will have to face up to his mounting legal and political problems.

I’ve been awfully tough on him for a long time, so let me try to see this from his point of view. First, he doesn’t acknowledge the personal faults in himself that many of us perceive: the arrogance, mendacity, narcissism, bullying, insults, threats, intellectual laziness and faux-religious pandering. It seems obvious to his critics that, character-wise, he’s deplorable; but to himself, he’s just “me,” the way all of us think of ourselves. And being “me” has worked out pretty well for Donald J. Trump. So, even though he reads the criticisms in the press and on social media, he’s able to convince himself that it’s not “me” they’re accusing. The critics don’t know the real “me” because, if they did, they’d see what a kind, good, loving, regular guy I am, and how hard I’m working to accomplish things for the American people.

What things? Like trying to protect America against terrorism. Don’t his enemies see that? And the Flynn thing. Jeez, all he was trying to do was shield the good reputation of an American patriot. What’s wrong with that? And helping dispossessed workers who have lost their jobs. Who could be against that? If you’re Donald Trump, you think, “Yes, I may be a billionaire, but I feel a greater affinity for the unemployed coal miner in West Virginia than I do for George Soros, Bill Gates or Michael Bloomberg. I really do want to help those Rust Belt folks, and I can do it by making America great again.”

We—his critics—think this is arrant nonsense. But, from Trump’s point of view, he’s entirely serious. He’s serious, too—in his own mind—about wanting to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which, if he did, would win him a Nobel Peace Prize. He sees no reason why things have to be the way they are in the Middle East: As a New Yorker, he understands that people from different backgrounds can live together in peace, and as the negotiator he is, he believes he’s the right guy to bring all sides together. Given the importance of that goal, he can’t understand why his critics aren’t rooting for him.

He knows that he never intentionally tried to derail any investigation. Oh, sure, he might have been inept in his handling of things—he is, after all, an outsider, not privy to the ways of Washington–but there was certainly no collusion, no obstruction of justice. The tweets were just how he felt at the moment, not some conscious effort to mislead. He knows that the Russian thing is fake news. From his sources—Breitbart, InfoWars, Fox—as well as in his own mind, he knows the truth, and it baffles and frustrates him that CNN, MSNBC, The New York Times, The Washington Post and the rest of the liberal media are out to get him, for purely partisan reasons. He’s not particularly paranoid (he tells himself), but just because you know you have enemies doesn’t mean you’re paranoid.

And besides, he won the election! He is POTUS! If he has any self-doubts at all (and who doesn’t?), they’re crushed by that overwhelming fact. America likes him! He tuned into the national mood—not Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio, not Ted Cruz or John Kasich, not Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders. That is proof that History is on his side. And when History favors you, you know you’re right, and can be confident you’ll be vindicated.

So, yeah, he has a fight on his hands. He’s aware of that, and his White House legal team is telling him to get outside counsel. Meanwhile, he’ll move forward, backed by his Republican base, and knowing that Ryan and McConnell—those assholes—won’t dare oppose him. Bring it on, Democrats! He’s never shied away from a fight—he loves a good brawl—and he’s not about to back down now. Whatever else he may be, Donald J. Trump is not a loser! As he said in his Coast Guard Academy speech, “Never, never, never give up. Things will work out just fine.” Won’t they?


How History will view Trump

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I believe Trump will not make it through 2017 as President. He’ll either be impeached, or will quit—possibly citing health reasons.

History will not treat him kindly. Of course, in the short term, right wing historians will argue that he was “driven” from office by a partisan left, aided and abetted by a complicit liberal media. That narrative will appeal to tea party types and evangelicals, who saw in Trump their Great White Hope, and they will endlessly repeat the narrative in their echo chamber and especially on Fox “News.”

But right wing historians don’t get the final word. They will have to contend with serious presidential historians and scholars, who will see the brief Trump regime as an aberration, a period when America lost its mind and descended into insanity.

The main charge against Trump, apart from his pathological lying and narcissistic personality disorder, will be his mauling of the Office of the President. They’re going to have to de-louse the Oval Office when he’s gone. To call him “unprepared” for the presidency is an understatement. Bad as that is, his bloated ego cannot admit—even to himself—that he doesn’t know what he’s doing. That makes him doubly deplorable, and the fact that no one around him—neither his aides nor senior Republicans—is able to have a sit-down with him, telling him the emperor has no clothes, makes them all complicit in this dirty deed.

What we can expect next, as the scandals pile up, is that those aides and senior Republicans will start scrambling to cover their rear ends. We saw it during Watergate; we’ll see it again. As Mueller’s investigation, and those in the House and Senate, pick up steam, more facts will leak out (and thank God for the leakers; Trump wants the FBI to arrest them and the reporters who publish the information, but these leakers are true American patriots and ought to be thanked). The media will become ever more obsessed with the winding down of the Trump regime; you’ll know the sea change has occurred by seeing the Wall Street Journal editorials become increasingly critical. Fox “News” will never get beyond their cheerleading for a sinking Trump administration; they’ll go down with the ship, stirring up the tea party to violent indignation, lashed on by the chicken-hawk likes of Hannity and the odious Tucker Carlson. None of their propaganda will suffice; nothing can prevent this president from being forced from office, one way or another, and sooner rather than later.

Which leaves us with Pence—assuming that he, too, isn’t thrown out. There’s a meme going around in Democratic circles that we really should go light on Trump because Pence is worse. I agree that Pence is a horrible, awful person, as insane as Trump, but in a different way. Pence’s insanity comes from his unthinking belief in Christian superstition: he is a homophobe of the first order, anti-science, anti-woman, a fundamentalist who would throw America back to the mid-1800s, when white men made the rules and everyone else obeyed.

So, yes, it’s true we’ll be stuck with Pence. But I think, in the 2018 election cycle, it will be easy to make Americans fear him, because there’s so much to fear. He’ll always have the 25%-30% of evangelical crazies, but he’ll scare the hell out of moderates; he’ll be easy to beat in 2020 (if he runs again), and Democrats can use him (and the still-fresh memory of Trump) to take back the Senate, and possibly the House, in 2018. Even if Pence doesn’t run again, whomever the Republicans choose will be stained with the tar of Trump, with one possible exception: Jeb Bush.

And what of Trump and the zoo he surrounds himself with? Some of them will go to jail, including, possibly, Jared and Flynn. Others will be disgraced, and able to get jobs only in reactionary organizations (Fox “News” always needs right wing analysts). The Trump children can live out their lives playing with their cohort, other lucky-sperm brats. Melania, who seems to hate being first lady, can go back to what she does best—dressing up and being a hostess (although I wouldn’t be surprised if she divorced Trump as fast as she can). And The Donald? There is no doubt that historians will rate him the Worst President Ever; they will add that America did an awful thing electing him, but redeemed herself by dumping him before he could bring the nation to ruin.


Hillary dementia is alive and well in the People’s Republic of Bernistan

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I know quite a few Bernie Sanders fans, and I feel sorry for them. They’re having difficulty accepting the role they played in getting Trump elected and so are becoming increasingly irrational and even reactionary in their politics.

What Bernistas have in common are the following behaviors and attitudes:

  1. They were strong Bernie supporters in the primaries.
  2. They hated Hillary Clinton. Maybe “hate” isn’t a strong enough word. We’re talking foam-at-the-mouth loathing, the kind where the mere mention of her name sends them into childish tantrums.
  3. When Trump was elected, Bernie people went into deep denial, insisting that the defection of Bernie supporters like themselves (who either didn’t vote, or voted for a third party candidate) had no impact on the results of the election, even though the rest of us know that it did.
  4. To this day, and with all we know of the catastrophe that is the Trump administration, they continue to loathe Hillary Clinton and deny any responsibility for what happened.

I was for Hillary during the primaries, but, as I constantly pointed out to my Bernie friends, if Bernie had won the nomination, I would have happily supported him. But if Hillary won the nomination, Bernie supporters insisted, they would never support her; they frequently resorted to personal invective (the c-word, b-word, murderer, liar, Wall Street tool, etc.) to underscore their hatred of Hillary.

But why? I always asked. Would you rather see Trump get elected? Yes, they replied. Anybody but Hillary.

None of my Bernie friends was a crazy tea party right winger. As residents of the People’s Republic of Bernistan, they described themselves as leftists, or liberals. They wanted single-payer healthcare, higher taxes on the rich, more environmental protection, breaking up the big banks—the whole gamut of liberal policies. Of course, I wanted those same things, and I tried to convince my friends that Hillary did, too, or could be pushed in those directions. But in their blind fury, they wouldn’t buy it.

Now here we are, in late May, and the weird thing is that my Bernie friends remain stuck in the same psychological space. They still hate Hillary (and they still have difficulty explaining why, beyond parroting Fox News propaganda), and they still insist that they had no responsibility for electing Trump. Well, let me explain why they did.

When it comes to politics, I don’t care what people say, I care about what they do; as the old saying goes, actions have consequences. Bernie supporters can insist that they’re liberals, and that the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton weren’t liberal enough for them. But the end result of what they did—the real-world, actual development—was to elect Trump. Who else elected Trump? The tea party, obviously. So we have two groups—Bernie supporters and the tea party—whose actions both resulted in the same result, a Trump presidency. If a=c and b=c, then a=b. Therefore, when I describe Bernie supporters as being crypto-tea party, I mean that, by their actions, Bernie supporters enabled the tea party’s aims, and helped achieve them. In 12-step theory, Bernie supporters have yet to undergo the searching self-examination that forces them to admit to themselves that they’ve done something terribly wrong. Such an admission can be uncomfortable, even embarrassing, but until they get there, Bernie people will remain caught in cognitive dissonance.

The truth is, the residents of the People’s Republic of Bernistan allowed the perfect to be the enemy of the good. Hillary Clinton may not have given them everything they wanted (although I would argue she gave them much more than they admitted). It was fine for Democrats to have a spirited debate during the primaries, and it was fine for people to support Bernie.  But after the primary season was over, Hillary was the nominee of the Democratic Party, Trump was the Republican nominee, and it was obvious that neither Jill Stein nor Gary Johnson nor Evan McMullin could possibly win. All that the third party candidates could do was to be spoilers—siphoning votes from the two major candidates. And I believe (and I think the evidence supports me) that the third party candidates stole a lot more votes from Hillary than they did from Trump. This is why it’s appropriate to call many Bernie supporters “Trump trolls,” “troll” meaning a person who claims to be one thing but is in fact (and perhaps inadvertently) the opposite.

I’ve pissed off a lot of Bernie supporters by telling them that they were useful idiots for the tea party. They hate hearing that: they go ballistic, and take it as a personal insult to their integrity. But it’s true. You have to stand up and accept the consequences of your actions: that’s the meaning of being a grownup. Sadly, to this day, too many Bernie supporters refuse to do that. They still hate on Hillary, more furiously than ever, they still are in deep denial over what they did in the election, and, more troublingly, they’re now set to do the same dumbass thing heading into the 2018 elections and beyond.


New wine reviews

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Steven Kent 2013 Lineage (Livermore Valley); $155. I’ve long had a fondness for Steven Kent’s Bordeaux-style wines, of which Lineage is the best. (He also makes the Ghielmetti Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon.) Lineage is a meritage-style wine; this ’13 is 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Cabernet Franc, 15% Merlot, 3% Petit Verdot and 2% Malbec. It is, in a word, superb. The mélange of flavors fascinates me; there’s fresh fruit (cherries, blackberries, blueberries), dried fruit (currants), liqueur (cassis), sweet dried leather, milk chocolate, smoky oak (cedar, vanilla, toast) and licorice (anise). The texture is mind-blowing: so smooth and velvety, so seamless. For all the richness, there’s a structural control, courtesy of the acid-tannin balance. I don’t know if it will age; it’s pretty soft now, but it’s so balanced, it might. You never know, but then again, it’s so good, so complete and wholesome and delicious, there’s no reason not to drink it now or over the next year or two. The alcohol is 14.4%. Only 275 cases were produced. The wine spent two years in French oak, most of it new. I can’t praise this wine enough. It’s really expensive, but compared to the price of many Napa Cabs, it’s a bargain. Score: 97 points.

 

Chateau Smith 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon (Washington State): $20.This is a succulent, juicy Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s rich in black currants, with firm, rich tannins and the most lively acidity that really gets your mouth watering. It’s from Charles Smith, and I’m not sure if they mean for the “Chateau Smith” to be a different brand, or a proprietary name under Charles Smith. The technical notes state it’s from the Columbia Valley; the label simply says “Washington State.” Why, oh why can’t these wineries get their story straight? Whatever, it’s quite a fine red wine, robust, bone dry and moderate in alcohol, clocking in at 13.5%. It strongly suggests a grilled steak. Score: 91 points.

 

Steven Kent 2016 LOLA White Wine, Ghielmetti Vineyard (Livermore Valley): $24. A classic blend of 70% Sauvignon Blanc and 30% Semillion, this wine demonstrates why Livermore Valley was famous long ago for white Bordeaux-style blends. It’s really lovely, with citrus, tropical fruit, apricot and fig flavors cut through with a trace of pyrazine-inspired green grass. The finish is dry, although there may be a little residual sugar to give it a round, mellow mouthfeel. Meanwhile, the acidity is racy, and the alcohol is a refreshingly low 13.4%. The wine is entirely unoaked. I might have given it a touch of wood to bring that fancy edge of vanilla smoke, but nonetheless it’s a super-nice wine, at a good price. Score: 91 points.

 

Charles Smith 2014 The Velvet Devil Merlot (Washington State): $13. This is so good for the price, I’m almost shocked. It’s translucent ruby in color, suggesting a light- or medium-bodied wine, which it is, with only 13.5% alcohol. The aroma is red cherries, red currants and espresso, with a sprinkling of cocoa dust, a suggestion of beet root, and just a whiff of violets and dusty earth. So pretty. In the mouth, it’s entirely dry, but rich and complex. The spicy finish is longer than you’re think in a thirteen dollar wine. And, yes, it does feel velvety in the mouth. This is not an ageable wine, but it is a beauty for drinking now. Although the label doesn’t say so, the grapes are from the Columbia Valley. Buy this one by the case. Score: 91 points.

 

Trentadue 2015 Estate Bottled La Storia Petite Sirah (Alexander Valley): $TK. Alc. 14.8%. I’ll give this wine kudos for its sheer mass. It’s just what you expect a modern, warm-climate Petite Sirah to be. Dark in color, full-throttle in body, and humungous in flavor. Waves of chocolate, black cherry jam, mocha, anise, white pepper and smoke, wrapped into thick but ultra-soft tannins, and brightened by just-in-time acidity. This is the kind of wine I always call a barbecue wine, meaning its practical usage is limited because of the size. But if you’re grilling up those old babybacks, go ahead and slurp away. Score: 91 points.

 

Charles Smith 2015 Kung Fu Girl Riesling (Washington State): $13. Such a deal! This is a super price for a Riesling of this purity. I love the apple, orange marmalade, petrol, nectarine and white flower flavors, and the way the acidity makes it all so lively. There’s also a tangy minerality, like cold metal. The alcohol is a refreshingly low 12%, and yet the wine tastes just off-dry (I’m sure it has a little residual sugar to round it out). Really a delight to drink. I would buy this by the case. Score: 91 points.

 

Steven Kent 2014 BDX Collection Ghielmetti Vineyard Cabernet Franc (Livermore Valley); $48. The first duty of Cabernet Franc is to be different from Cabernet Sauvignon. Otherwise, what’s the point? This small production (249 cases) bottling certainly is. While it has weight, it’s lighter in color and silkier than Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s also redder in fruits: not black currants and cassis, but cherries and kirsch. Thoroughly dry, it exhibits quite a lot of complexity, showing earthy tea notes, dried mushrooms and smoky new oak. User alert: it’s very tannic. We’re talking palate lockdown, although a great steak might prove a worthy opponent. Will it age? I don’t think it will beyond five years. My advice to Steven Kent is to figure out a way to manage those tannins in future vintages. Score: 90 points.

 

Charles Smith 2015 Boom Boom Syrah (Washington State): $18. Boom Boom is the right terminology. This is a big, rich, dense, robust Syrah. It’s jam-packed with flavor: blackberries, mulberries, shaved dark chocolate, coffee and teriyaki beef, with black pepper accents and a smoky oakiness. The color is inky black, the tannins dense but fine, and there’s a welcoming bite of acidity. With a totally dry finish and an alcohol level of just 13.5%, it’s quite food-friendly. Drink now. Score: 90 points.

 

Geyser Peak 2015 River Ranches Sauvignon Blanc (Russian River Valley): $22. Aromatically, heaps of lemongrass and freshly-mown hay characterize this bone dry, crisp 100% Sauvignon Blanc. If there’s any oak at all (the tech notes don’t say, unfortunately), it’s not evident. In the mouth, juicier notes of figs and spearmint emerge, but it’s still a rather severe wine, and quite a good one in that style. I think of Chinese food, or shellfish, or feta cheese, or drinking it as a stylish appetizer. The alcohol is a refreshingly low 13.5%, and 1,590 cases were produced. Score: 91 points.

 

Geyser Peak 2013 Walking Tree Cabernet Sauvignon (Alexander Valley): $30. This is a very nice Cabernet, rich and delicious. It has a ripe Cab’s classic flavors of crushed blackberries and mocha, while the addition of 7% Petite Sirah seems to add a peppery mushu plum sauce taste. The tannins are ultra-smooth and the wine is a little on the soft side, suggesting immediate drinkability. Thirty bucks is the suggested retail price, but I’ve seen this wine for $20 or less. If you can get it for that price, it’s a lovely sipper for summer steaks. Score: 90 points.

 

Miro 2014 Coyote Ridge Vineyard Reserve Petite Sirah (Dry Creek Valley): $TK. This delivers just what you’d expect from a Dry Creek Petite Sirah. It’s dry, heady and incredibly rich in blackberry jam, brown sugar and coffee flavors. The tannins are thick and hard, and there’s a nice burst of acidity. A big, big wine, dark and voluptuous, ideal for barbecue. The official alcohol level is 14.5%. Score: 88 points.

 

Geyser Peak 2015 Water Bend Chardonnay (Sonoma County): $26. Oaky and superripe, with vanilla, sweet cream and honey-infused tropical fruit and apricot jam flavors. It’s the kind of Chardonnay you either like or don’t. I do. It’s rich, soft, a little sweet and eminently drinkable. The alcohol is 14.5%, and 632 cases were produced. Score: 87 points.

 

Stanton Vineyards 2014 Petite Sirah (St. Helena); $45. This is textbook Petite Sirah, in the black color, the massive extract and the solid tannins. The flavors are blackberries, ripe and sweet and rather liqueur-like, due to 15.3% alcohol. There’s a milk-chocolate richness, too, but the wine actually is dry. The tannins are evident, but they’re in the modern style: soft and finely-ground. The oak overlay shows up in the form of smoky vanilla. I am bothered by something “off” in the aroma. It could by pyrazine, indicating a celery unripeness; it could be a bit of mold. Score: 87 points.

 

Parducci 2013 Small Lot Petite Sirah (Mendocino County): $?. This is a decent sipper for stews, barbecue and such. It’s dry, smooth and easy to drink, with blackberry, tea, tobacco, cocoa dust, anise and pepper flavors. The acid-tannin balance is gentle. Try it as an alternative to Zinfandel or Merlot. Score: 87 points.

 

Zin-Phomaniac 2015 Old Vine Zinfandel (Lodi): $15. The price is the main attraction on this Zinfandel. The connoisseur crowd will object that it’s too ripe and plummy, too chocolatey, too hot, and has some unevenly ripened fruit. That’s all true, but it is a savory mouthful of wine, with a flood of raspberry jam, caramel, vanilla and spicy flavors. I call it a barbecue wine, and for fifteen bucks or less, there’s nothing wrong with that. Score: 86 points.

 

Steven Kent 2014 Ghielmetti Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon (Livermore Valley); $65. I find this 100% Cabernet too brawny for my tastes. If you’re a fan of fruit, you’ll like the blackberry jam, chocolate macaroon, spice and toasty oak flavors. The tannins are very fine and smoothly-ground, and there’s a nice bite of acidity. The year 2014 was of course a drought year, and while the official alcohol here is a modest 13.9%, I also detect overripe prune notes. Don’t bother aging it. Score: 86 points.

 

Charles Smith 2014 Eve Chardonnay (Washington State): $13. The winery says this Chard has no new oak and was aged in barrel for only five months, but it tastes oaky to me. Either that, or it’s tired, with the fruit dropping out and the oak sticking out. The tropical fruits are turning apricotty. It’s okay, but I can’t really say I like it, even at this price. Score: 84 points.

 

Tie Dye 2014 Red Wine (North Coast); $15. This is a pretty bland wine. Comprised of Syrah, Petite Sirah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Grenache, it’s soft, dry and dull, with vegetal overtones. You’ll find enough flavor to make it acceptable for drinking with simple fare. Score: 82 points.


A letter to a tea party Republican who thinks I’m an “elitist”

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“Cockney patriotism,” they used to call it back in the 1890s and early 1900s in Britain: conservative, uneducated working class men, a lumpen proletariat of dispossessed souls, mostly failures in their own lives, whose injured pride sustained itself through identifying with England’s position as the world’s great colonial power. “Hooligan imperialism” they also called it: the yahoo-jingoistic patriotism of slum-dwelling Londoners who flew the Union Jack and roared for more colonies in India, South Africa, Afghanistan, Iran, Egypt, Ceylon, West Africa—wherever British military power had pounded subject peoples into submission.

Why the cockneys—the poor denizens of East London’s slums—should have supported the imperialist efforts of the landed aristocracy that exploited and despised them has never been satisfactorily explained, but we can look to our own modern example of “cockney patriotism” in the tea party and its affiliated side-groupings. Here, too, we see uneducated, laboring people expressing a jingoistic patriotism that loves to watch Donald Trump drop the Mother of All Bombs on foreign countries where dark-skinned “terrorists” threaten American values; laboring people who clamor for tax cuts for the tax-dodging plutocrats who cheat them every day of their lives; white hooligans whose angry and often violent lives can find no greater cause than to celebrate that notorious working-class hero, Donald J. Trump.

Who are these people? One commented to a post of mine yesterday on my Facebook feed, where I’d put up a map of red and blue counties in the 2016 election and pointed out the scary reality that many of those red districts are populated by furious white men with guns. My interlocutor, whom I’ll call Jocko, wrote: Hopefully you will wake up at some point. The people on the red parts of your map do not enjoy the elitist lifestyle of a wine critic. They are struggling to put food on their table and support their families. Trump offered to help them, Clinton called them deplorables. You keep that dialog going with your hateful posts and elitist bias. The Democratic Party needs to address the economic needs of these people or continue to lose easy to work elections. The Jobs That Weren’t Saved – TIME

Let me address Jocko, who is the millennial son of two old friends of mine. What exactly is the “elitist lifestyle” you refer to? You’ve stolen that maligning phrase from Rush Limbaugh (is he a favorite of yours?), but you right wingers never quite define what or whom you’re referring to—it’s just a stupid buzz word for “People I hate.” What is so objectionable about my “lifestyle,” Jocko? Am I an elitist because I live in the Bay Area? There are about 7 million of us in and around San Francisco. Are we all “elite”? Do you know anything about my “lifestyle”? I suspect it’s not much different than yours. I wake up in the morning, take a leak, brew some coffee, chow down some breakfast, brush my teeth, feed my dog, walk him, and get on with my day. But wait, you offer a clue to your resentment with your nasty smear that I am a “wine critic.” Aha! Now we’re getting someplace. I suppose if I were a brick layer, or a plumber, or even a beer critic, you would show me a little love. But a “wine critic”!!! I must be effete. I must consider myself “better” than others. I must be swirling and sniffing with my elite, effete, intellectual pals, sipping Chardonnay and nibbling on brie, while you workers suffer at your pitiful jobs and struggle to underwrite your miserable little existences. I and my elite friends sit around laughing at you slobs, with your lunch buckets and and snotty little children.

Is that what you think? That’s in your head, Jocko. Since when did you and your tea party become the god-given champions of “poor people struggling to put food on their tables”? Who the hell gave America social security, unions, unemployment insurance, Medicare, pensions, healthcare for all, the 40-hour work week, child labor protection laws, the minimum wage, anti-discrimination laws, gay marriage? The Democratic Party you insult, Jocko; you Republicans did all you could to oppose the slightest break for working people. It’s Democrats who help working people survive a system that is by, for and of the rich—the billionaire class your president is hell-bent on making even richer. Do you really think Rex Tillerson and Betsy DeVos are on your side, or on the side of working people? Do you really think Trump is? I have news for you: Donald Trump wouldn’t let you anywhere near Mar-a-Lago, with your calloused hands, unkempt fingernails and scruffy sneakers. Donald Trump’s numerous wives and mistresses—who knows how many he’s had and discarded?—were spoiled gold diggers who gladly took his money for designer clothes and lavish parties—parties to which you’ll never be invited, unless it’s as a serving boy.

My ”elite” friends are skateboard kids, tattoo people, surfers, Uber drivers, waiters, personal trainers, retired people living on pensions, commuters, school teachers, comedians, nurses, winemakers, secretaries, musicians. I don’t hang around with Eric Trump, going on African safaris to kill innocent beasts. I don’t party on Mykonos with Jared and Ivanka. I don’t belong to a Trump golf club where the Goldman Sachs crowd trades insider secrets while plotting out ways to fuck people like you. That’s Donald Trump and his family you’re thinking of, and the Republican party hacks like Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell, contriving to take away your grandma’s diabetes coverage while they con you into thinking they’re on your side (knowing that you’re gullible enough to believe them). Be angry with Republicans, Jocko, not with me and my friends, because we’re just like you.

How did they get to you, Jocko? I mean, the right wing. You’ve heard them denounce Hillary Clinton all your life and now you hate her too. What a coincidence! How did these Republicans infiltrate your mind and make you so angry and resentful? I knew your parents. They were loving people, hippies who believed in justice, peace, compassion and fairness. Now here you are, talking about physically assaulting people on the left. Perhaps we’ll see you in Berkeley, wearing your little MAGA cap, with brass knuckles and a chain, bashing liberal heads during the next Ann Coulter rally. That’s why you people are deplorable: not because you’re poor, but because you run on one gear: Hate of “the other.”

When did you turn into such a piece of work? You are America’s own “cockney patriot,” Jocko, a worker who props up his self-worth by identifying with a bully and sexual predator who makes more in one day than you’ll earn in your entire life—and doesn’t give a crap about you. Is Trump really what you admire? Would you leave your daughter alone with him? Does he really exemplify the values your wonderful parents instilled in you?

You tell me I hate “trailer trash.” No, Jocko, I don’t hate people who live in trailers. I hate people who are bigots, homophobes, xenophobes, people who countenance sexual assault, people who try to impose their religion on everybody else, people who bash Mexicans and Muslims, white people who think they’re God’s gift to the world just because they’re white, people who are so stupid that they vote for politicians who want to destroy them.

OMG. Talk about waking up, Jocko, my little Cockney patriot. #Sad.


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