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Monday’s Food and Travel Tidbits

Here we go ! A few links that might perk up your weekly cooking and eating adventures! BTW, over the weekend, I made some excellent sous vide Venison with my Anova. Truly awesome!


Why Trump is in Trouble Now

There are lots of reasons why Donald Trump is in trouble. And he is in more trouble today than he was a few days ago. The reason goes to the Michael Cohen sentencing hearing.

In that hearing, Judge Pauley made certain findings of fact based on what he was presented by the prosecution and defense. And in those findings, the judge says that Michael Cohen intentionally made the hush money payments that violated federal campaign finance law at the direction of the president.  In other words, the judge concluded that the president was part of a conspiracy to commit a criminal act.

There is a legal subtlety here that bears mention. An innocent mistake that leads to a violation of campaign finance law would be a civil violation. Not that big a deal. This is what the jury found in the John Edwards case – that  Edwards did not intend to violate the law, but did so accidentally.  Essentially that Edwards was so swept up by his passions that he became  a boob who didn’t understand what was going on. But unlike the Edwards case, if the underlying action is taken with the intention of violating the law, it is a crime. -And JudgePawley found that Cohen and Trump had that illegal intent.

One more subtlety. The above does not mean that the prosecution must show actual knowledge of the law itself.  It is enough to show that the defendant acted with the intention to do something that he or she believed was illegal, even if he or she did not know the details of the law. Evidence of trying to cover up the act is generally enough to show that belief and thus intent. Thus Trump’s lies about what happened are relevant to show criminal intent.

Judge Napolitano brings this out very nicely in his appearance in Fox and Friends. It is worth watching both for his clear description of the law, as well as for the attempts by the panel to present the president’s side. In short, they are blown out of he water.

These findings by the judge would not be binding if Trump were brought to trial. The president could still make arguments that they are wrong — that like Edwards, he is a boob who simply didn’t understand what was going on.  But we now know that at least one judge who looked at facts presented to him by lawyers — including facts that the public has not yet seen — concluded that there is sufficient evidence to find otherwise — that Trump knew what he was doing, and tried to conceal it using Cohen. That is ominous for the president.

BTW, this takes me back to a comment made to Lawrence O’Donnell a few days ago by Tim O’Brien. You might recall that Trump sued O’Brien for statements that O’Brien wrote inn his book “TrumpNation”. That suit was thrown out.. O’Brien said to O’Donnell  that in trying to understand what Cohen and Trump do and say, we should keep in mind that they are not the smartest people around. I would put it this way — all bluster, no brains.

I mention this because we have seen and still see lots of bluster. But brains? Not so much. So what would  blustering Trump say in court? So far he has said that it is all Cohen’s fault , and that he did not direct Cohen to violate the law. Hmm … ok, I suspect that Trump never did say “Michael, I want you to go out and violate the law!”But did Trump direct Cohen to make the payments? Cohen says that Trump did just that and he may have physical evidence to back it up. And we know that Cohen was not acting on his own. Trump repaid Cohen for advancing the hush money payments (plus a hefty fee). So Trump’s initial lie that he knew nothing about it has already been exploded. Bottom line — it is highly likely that Cohen made the payments at Trump’s direction. So Trump’s defense boils down to the notion that Cohen allegedly failed Trump by not telling him that making the payments would violate the law.

Let’s assume that Cohen indeed did not advise Trump that this would be a violation. Would that be enough to get Trump off the hook? It might work if Trump could show that Cohen had said the opposite — that he assured Trump that paying the hush money would be fine, and that Trump had reason to believe that advice. But even that would be a hard sell to the jury, given how bad the whole thing smells.  And of course, Trump would still need to explain away the lies he told to cover up what happened.

But if Cohen had been merely silent? Could Trump argue that he was justified in concluding that Cohen’s silence was the same as positive legal advice? That would be an even tougher sell to the jury. And selling it might depend on selling the nature of their relationship at that time. Trump would have to show that he was in the habit of relying on Cohen to steer him to the “straight and narrow”. Only then might Trump have assumed that silence meant approval.  But in light of comments Trump himself has made about Cohen — essentially that Cohen was not competent — that would also be a very tough sell to the jury.  Yes, it would appear that Trump has shot himself in the foot yet again as his official story now boils down to “Cohen was such an idiot that I relied on him totally.” Errr … see anything wrong there?

Bottom line — I think O’Brien nailed it. All  bluster, no brains.

Cavorting About in Mayfair

If you could afford it … and I mean that money is no object  … where would you like to spend your time?

You might want a palatial home somewhere, and perhaps a place to escape to. But you probably also would like a “pad” in town. What town? Historically, London was one of those places that offered pretty much everything to those who could afford it. And where in London? Hmmm …

Younger folks might go for trendier areas. Places where hipsters, foodies, digital nomads, etc. gather and party. These days, perhaps Peckham? But if you are beyond that sort of scene, and are looking for the creature comforts of big city living,  Mayfair has to be considered.

Mayfair,(is) synonymous with luxury and elegance, where the shopping meccas of Old Bond and New Bond streets converge, where a dinner tab at Claridge’s or the Connaught can set you back a week’s wages (but where the people-watching is worth the price of admission), and where “putting on the Ritz” means more than checking into the luxe Piccadilly hotel.

Hmmm … remember in this fantasy episode, money is not an issue.

And where in Mayfair?  Shepherd Market?

Shepherd Market is a square developed between 1735 and 1746 by Edward Shepherd from an open area called Brook Field, through which flowed the Tyburn, and where a May fair was held, from which the surrounding area of Mayfair derives its name.[3] Shepherd, a local architect, was commissioned to develop the site and work was completed in the mid-18th century. It contained paved alleys, a duck pond, and a two-storey market topped by a theatre.

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It has a roguish history

During the 1920s, Shepherd Market was a rundown area, popular with writers and artists such as Michael Arlen and Sophie Fedorovitch.[4] Arlen rented rooms opposite The Grapes public house and used Shepherd Market as the setting for his best-selling 1924 novel The Green Hat, which prompted Anthony Powell to move into the area in 1926

And it was known for upscale prostitution, and rock stars. In a weird coincidence, both Cass Eliot and Keith Moon kicked the bucket  at Flat 12, 9 Curzon Place. Not at the same time, mind you. If you want to walk around Shepherd Market, and a peek in the Shepherd Market Wine House, check out this link!

But Mayfair has a lot more to offer! Lot’s, lot’s more. We will look at just two streets – Curzon Street and Half Moon Street.

Image result for Half Moon Street Mayfair map

As you can see from the map, Curzon Street is parallel to Piccadilly, whil Half Moon intersects it.

Oscar Wilde’s Lord Goring had a house on Curzon Street.  Rather grand! Roald Dahl’s character Henry Sugar lives on Curzon Street, and causes a disturbance by throwing large amounts of money down into the street from his balcony. In the real world, among other luminaries, Disraeli lived there.

You also will find Crockford’s Club on Curzon Street. BTW, this is not the original Crockford’s. That establishment, founded in 1823, then closed in 1845, then re-opened in 1928 was finally closed in 1970.. It was located on St. James’s.  Old man Crockford was quite the character

He fleeced the aristocracy by taking a charge on every bet laid, and in the process amassed a fortune estimated at the time of his ‘retirement’ in 1840 to have been £1,200,000 in the currency of the time,[citation needed][4] certainly enough to establish homes at 11 Carlton House Terrace at which he died (later to become Prime Minister William Gladstone’s home) and at Panton House, Newmarket

Just for fun, here is the original site, which became the Devonshire Club. More recently, the site at 50 St. James’s was bought by a Russian billionaire who has redeveloped it into another exclusive club.

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The new Crockford’s Club aspires to the original idea that made the original Crockford so rich.  It s decor is not understated.

Curzon Street offers a treat that is more to my taste which is more understated— the Heywood Hill bookshop.

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But let’s move on! What about Half Moon Street?

Although Half Moon Street is now one of London’s most luxurious and sought after addresses, back in 1880s Victorian London it was a highly colourful and bohemian place, where “confirmed bachelors,” artistic types and theatre people lived and socialised.

It is an odd name, don’t you think?

The street was named after the raucous “Half Moon” public house which stood on the corner with Piccadilly. It was where Oscar Wilde spent his free time.

Wilde again! Sadly, the Half Moon public house  is no more. But all is not lost. There are other options nearby

the Audley on South Audley St and Mount St, … is good. It … was built back in the 1890s to superior specifications as the most luxurious public house in the area. Food is a bit expensive, but this is the most expensive part of town

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(a) favourite in the area is the Red Lion in Waverton Street, which a lot of people find hard to find as it’s away from the busy areas:

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While talking about Half Moon Stree,t, you would have to mention Flemings.

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It opened in 1851, making it one of London’s oldest hotels.

Flemings Mayfair London was founded by Robert Fleming in 1851. A stained glass window in the hotel celebrates this date, portraying the Great Exhibition of 1851 at Crystal Palace.

Robert Fleming was born in 1820. His father, William Fleming, was a victualler. Robert worked for the Marquis & Marchioness of Angelsey, serving them at their house at 1 Old Burlington Street in Mayfair.

In 1851 Robert Fleming owned and ran a lodging house at number 10 Half Moon Street (believed to have originated in 1730). Robert Fleming started running what he called a ‘private hotel’ in 1855, at 9 & 10 Half Moon Street

Flemings has recently had a serious upgrade, and like the area, it has a posh feel.

Indeed, the residences on Half Moon Street  are targeted to those whose monthly credit card bills tend towards the six digits. This address was advertised a few years back for £14 million

Here is the promo

The historic Grade II listed house which inspired Oscar Wilde’s play “The Importance of Being Earnest” (1895) is on sale for £14 million ($18.2 million).

Wilde (1854 – 1900) based one of the play’s main characters, Algernon Moncrieff’s bachelor pad on the property, which is at 14 Half Moon Street in London’s Mayfair.

Wilde yet again!  He placed at least two major characters from his plays in Mayfair – on Curzon Street and on Half Moon Street and apparently fancied a tipple at the Half Moon public house. BTW,  to my knowledge, Wilde never actually lived in Mayfair, though it is written that he was a regular visitor to Brown’s Hotel on Albermarle Street.

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Brown’s is for those who want a grand hotel, but not the pomp that you get at nearby Claridges. Here is a peek at their lobby

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Claridges was founded in 1812 under another name. But the current building dates from 1894.

The reputation of (Claridges) was confirmed in 1860 when Empress Eugenie made an extended visit and entertained Queen Victoria at the hotel.

In fact, Wile is best known for  a residence that he bought on Tite Street in Chelsea.  And yet, you cannot blame the marketers for associating Wilde with Mayfair The ambiance just sort of fits, don’t you think?

That is an ambiance that is hard not to like.

Identity Politics and The Rise and Fall of Niche Clubs

In the bad old days, very rich and prominent folks joined clubs. Why? The reason was obvious. To exclude people who did not fit in. Put another way, to create environments that celebrated elevated identity standards. To do that, one must exclude those who cannot not or choose not to engage in that kind of celebration. So, for the socially prominent, the goal was to exclude those who might have money but lacked breeding. So, conservatives excluded liberals And so on and on.

Here we have a gent entering his favored club Boodles in the 1820’s

Image result for Boodles London characteur

Boodles is the second oldest club still in existence. The oldest, btw, is White’s. And what was its allure?

Boodle’s started as a political club (for Whigs), but soon became known as a very proper, scandal-free establishment, quite refined and somewhat stodgy. Members were expected to dress properly for dinner, servants wore black knee breeches, and coins were reportedly boiled before being handed to members.

Boiled coins? White’s Club, on the other hand

… quickly made the transition from teashop to exclusive club and in the early 18th century, it was notorious as a gambling house; those who frequented it were known as “the gamesters of White’s.” The club gained a reputation for both its exclusivity and the often raffish behaviour of its members. Jonathan Swift referred to White’s as the “bane of half the English nobility.”

BTW, Whie’s Coffee House became the setting for one of Hogarth’s “The Rake’s Progress”

Image result for History White's Club London

This story gives the flavour, so different than Boodles!

One midsummer’s day in 1750, a man had a seizure in front of the main gate to St James’s Palace and collapsed onto the pavement. Some passers-by promptly carried him into the nearest building which, unluckily for him, turned out to be White’s Chocolate House. For inside, through thick plumes of perfume, smoke, and chocolate steam, the rakish company of dukes, earls and lords showed scant concern for the man’s wellbeing. Instead, as Horace Walpole, who found the whole thing thoroughly entertaining, reported, they ‘immediately made bets whether he was dead or not.’ When some customers rushed to his assistance, ‘the wagerers for his death interposed, and said it would affect the fairness of the bet.’ The man died shortly afterwards. It was just an average day at White’s, ‘the most fashionable hell in London’, a hotbed of decadence, depravity, and destruction powered by a thick, luxuriant and exotically spiced glop called chocolate.

So what about these days? The staid old social groupings are not what they used to be. England is no longer a place designed for the enjoyment of a small upper class. Not only that, in the early 21st century, we all are supposed to feel empowered to be who we want to be. The urge to conform just to fit into a traditional grouping has faded. Or has it. This cartoon tells a more modern story

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As you can imagine, the club is far from dead. To the contrary, the urge to exclude is as strong as ever. So we get these new club types

… now there’s a club for every kind of member you can imagine: the anti-finance-bro finance bro (the Parlor), the wellness guru on a spiritual quest (Habitas NYC), even the networking woman with a penchant for pink (the Wing).

Too bad for you if you go for blue! Robb Report offers a list of clubs that have some claim to justifiable exclusion rights.

This one is not on the list

Image result for satire clubbing it London

Does it speak to you?

Sipping From the Modern Life of Plants at the Best Bar in the World

The first question on your mind, no doubt, is “what is the best bar in the world?`”  And of course, that is a matter of opinion. The verdict from the “World’s Fifty Best Bars” for 2018 is … drum roll please … Dandelyan, in London.

Dandelyan? Yop. And when you check out this review, you might understand the logic. This is no ordinary chug’ ’em down brew pub.  And the “Modern Life of Plants”`? That is the cocktail menu theme.

Here is a peek inside.

Image result for Dandelyan London

That gives a sense of the color scheme, but not the spectacular view.

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I am not totally sold on this. It is a bit over the top for me. But I woul check it out if my rich uncle was footing the bill!

What to Think about Putin’s Russia

Some years ago, Russia morphed from emerging democracy to emerging authoritarian, expansionist regime. That was an alarming transition, and one that I watched close up here in Estonia.

There are at least two ways of thinking about what happened. One view (taken by Prof. Stephen Kotkin) is that the transformation was inevitable given Russia’s political culture and history. The other view is that the transformation was engineered in order to secure power for a few rather opportunistic operatives. In other words, history was a drier or an excuse.

Either way, there are numerous open questions about how America and the world should deal with Russia. And Professor Kotkin offers in this presentation a coherent view of how this might be structured. Check it out! Errr …and you might discount the good professor’s last conclusion where he tries to get Trump et al off the hook for “collusion”. Kotkin is playing lawyer there without the benefit of  a law degree But the rest of the talk is of interest.


Help! My Plants Don’t Trust Me!

I love plans. Bu plants do not love me. The reason is simple. I have no idea how to nurture them. I either over water and drown them, or I forget to water and they shrivel.

There are products out there that are supposed to sole this problem for me. All you need, apparently, is a sensor that is inserted into the dirt that has a wifi or bluetooth link to an app on your phone. Simple, right? And these folks seemed to have nailed the basic idea. They did a kickstarter campaign, and here is the video.

But the kickstarter campaign was cancelled. Hmmm … something went wrong. Did the prototype not work? I don’t know.

Too bad! But there are other options, right? I looked around and sadly, I was not thrilled by the other options.

So my question — my plants’ question  — when are we going to get a simple, cheap, easy to use product that will help me keep my plants alive?