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“There are three ways in which we may rule,” said Charles Aycock, then the soon-to-be governor of North Carolina, to his supporters in 1900. “By force, by fraud or by law. We have ruled by force; we can rule by fraud; but we want to rule by law.”

Aycock was rallying his fellow white supremacists not only for his own election, but also to pass a state constitutional amendment that would, in effect, disenfranchise most black voters. By modern standards, this was a startlingly revelatory admission: Whites were willing to govern under the rule of law, Aycock was saying, but only if they could dictate its terms. But they were also willing to use force or fraud to dictate those terms.

Indeed, white supremacists had used recently used force to accomplish that goal, during the November 1898 Wilmington coup, overthrowing a municipal government deemed too friendly to African Americans and murdering at least 60 black men. They used fraud, too: Aycock and the so-called Suffrage Amendment both prevailed that November by a roughly 60–40 spread—according to the unlikely tallies of Democratic clerks.

For the next 70 years, having cheated and bullied their way to absolutely power, white supremacists got to write the laws.

I thought of Aycock’s quote—captured in David Zucchino’s forthcoming book, Wilmington’s Lie—and the sense of entitlement behind it, when I read the letter the White House dispatched to the House of Representatives last week, calling the impeachment proceedings illegitimate and saying the administration wouldn’t participate.

“You have designed and implemented your inquiry in a manner that violates fundamental fairness and Constitutionally mandated due process,” White House counsel Pat Cipollone told House leaders on Oct. 8. Since the White House judged the case against Trump “baseless,” the president “cannot participate in your partisan and unconstitutional inquiry.”

From a legal perspective, Cipollone’s letter is patently absurd. Impeachment is spelled out in the Constitution; it, by definition, cannot be unconstitutional. The administration can’t simply declare the president innocent and therefore ignore congressional subpoenas. As Gregg Nunziata, the former chief counsel for Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans, put it, the letter was a “barely lawyered temper tantrum” and a “middle finger to Congress.”

It was the latest in a string of them.

That same day, Trump’s Department of Justice was in federal court arguing that the courts had erred four decades ago by allowing Congress to review transcripts of Watergate grand-jury proceedings. The House Judiciary Committee now wants to review Robert Mueller’s grand jury materials, and—for some unfathomable reason—the DOJ is desperate to stop that from happening.

Also that day, the State Department ordered Gordon Sondland—the U.S. ambassador to the European Union and now a key player in the Ukraine scandal, who also owns Provenance Hotels, which includes Palm Springs’ Villa Royale—not to appear for a scheduled congressional deposition. Text messages between Sondland and former special envoy for Ukraine Kurt Volker released by Congress appear to show that the administration was withholding military aid from Ukraine unless the country indulged Trump’s conspiracy theories about Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election and reopened an investigation into Joe Biden’s son—except for one, in September, in which Sondland assured the head of the embassy in Kiev that he was “incorrect about President Trump’s intentions” and that there was “no quid pro quo.”

Sondland was awarded the ambassadorship after giving Trump’s inauguration committee $1 million; his appointment was championed by U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina, to whom he gave $17,900, and his wife gave $57,900, according to Open Secrets.

In addition, Rudy Giuliani announced that he would disregard a House subpoena for documents and dared Congress told hold him in contempt.

It didn’t take long for dominoes to begin falling. Two of Giuliani’s henchmen were arrested boarding one-way flights out of the country, accused of routing hundreds of thousands of Russian dollars into Republican political campaigns in an effort to, among other things, oust the American ambassador to Ukraine—which Trump did. Giuliani himself is said to be under investigation.

Meanwhile, Sondland is testifying over the State Department’s objections, and The Washington Post reported that he plans to say that Trump dictated his “no quid pro quo” message to the Ukrainian embassy. And according to The Wall Street Journal, in August, Sondland had told U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin that Ukrainian aid was directly tied to these investigations.

The White House knows the direction in which this is going. The only recourse is to paint the exercise as illegitimate—to assert, as Richard Nixon did, that “when the president does it, that means it’s not illegal”—and to hope the president’s supporters, cheered on by the president’s propaganda machine, choose not to care.

Charles Aycock was a white supremacist, but that’s not the thing that most tightly binds him to Donald Trump. Instead, it’s the authoritarian sense that that the rule of law exists to further their interests and can be ignored when it restrains them.

By force, by fraud or by law.

Contact Jeffrey C. Billman at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Published in National/International

Purple Room Palm Springs Launches ‘Frank’s Bourbon Bar’

Since it’s an oddly slow month as far as restaurant news is concerned, I am going to take some space to discuss something near and dear to my heart: delicious, heart-warming bourbon. Specifically: The Purple Room Palm Springs, at 1900 E. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, has introduced Frank’s Bourbon Bar, with more than 50 premium bourbons on offer.

The bar—named after Frank Sinatra, a well-known lover of bourbon—is offering bourbon flights starting at $25. The crown jewel of flights, however, will set you back $55: It includes Old Rip Van Winkle 10 Year, Van Winkle Special Reserve 12 Year, and the Pappy Van Winkle 15 Year bourbons. (You can sub in other premium bourbons if you so choose.) That’s actually a pretty good deal.

If you’re a fan of whiskeys that aren’t bourbon, two things: 1. Get your head examined, because something’s wrong with you; and 2. Head to the Purple Room anyway, as the good folks there are offering non-bourbon whiskey flights, too, also starting at $25.

Get the full list of Frank’s Bourbon Bar offerings at www.purpleroompalmsprings.com/liquor.


New: The Del Rey Restaurant Inside the Villa Royale

New to Palm Springs: The Del Rey restaurant, which is already gaining some fantastic buzz inside the Villa Royale hotel, at 1620 S. Indian Trail.

The former Europa Restaurant has been transformed into a gorgeous dinner/bar space, featuring food from chef Louis Martinez. Check out this amazingly flowery description on the Del Rey website: “Housed inside stucco walls accented with original, large format oil paintings produced by Juan Casas, Villa Royale’s intimate bar and eatery, Del Rey, offers up a 12-seat oak and marble bar, tufted green vinyl booths and an outdoor patio equipped with a firepit for long nights under the desert moonlight. Inspired by Spanish and Mediterranean flavors, Del Rey’s playful menu is served in a small-plate format akin to taperías that flourish near the Mediterranean Sea.”

Fun! More info at delreypalmsprings.com.


In Brief

Last month, we reported that Bongo Johnny’s—closed by a fire that destroyed the kitchen at 214 E. Arenas Road back in March—“could be open by January” in its new digs at 301 N. Palm Canyon Drive (which was recently occupied by Café Europa/jusTapas). Well, here’s a shocking development: As of our press deadline, Bongo Johnny’s was planning a soft opening earlier than we expected, on Dec. 29. Watch www.facebook.com/bongojohnnys for more information, including a date for the “official” grand opening. … New to Palm Springs: Monster Shakes, at 425 S. Sunrise Way, No. H-7, in the spot formerly occupied by Yogurt at Its Best. If you like big shakes served in mugs, dairy-free desserts or Dole Whip, head on over to the Ralph’s shopping center to check it out; more info at www.monstershakesps.com. … Wexler’s at Arrive, located at 1551 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, just began dinner service. You’ll find some of the offerings from the breakfast and lunch menus, plus brisket, schnitzel, matzo ball soup and more. Watch wexlersdeli.com/wexlers-arrive-palm-springs for updates. … Tipper’s Gourmet Marketplace, at 276 N. Palm Canyon Drive, has closed. The proprietor, the fabulous Felix Tipper, sold the storefront to focus on his catering business. I am already missing his amazing breakfast sandwiches. … L’Atelier Café, at 129 La Plaza, in Palm Springs, has new owners. Charlotte and Raphael Farsy, the original proprietors, decided to move back to France—but only after handing off the restaurant to new French owners, Angelique and Christophe Robin, who are tweaking the menu and hours, but keeping the spirit of the lovely spot alive. Watch www.facebook.com/Lateliercafe for updates. … New to downtown Palm Springs: Lolli and Pops, a fancy chain candy store, at 111 N. Palm Canyon Drive. Details at www.lolliandpops.com.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

Tinto at the Saguaro Downsizes a Bit

Tinto, the Basque-style restaurant owned by Iron Chef Jose Garces that calls the Saguaro Palm Springs home, will reopen Wednesday, Dec. 3, after a lengthy closure during much of the summer and fall.

When Tinto reopens, it will be just a fraction of its former self, size-wise: The restaurant will occupy what had previously been the Tinto bar—and that’s it. The rest of the former Tinto space, including the lovely patio, has been converted into what’s called the Palmetto Room and the Santa Rosa patio. Those spaces will be available for special events like weddings and holiday parties.

The Saguaro hosted an event for VIPs and media at the old-new space on Wednesday, Nov. 19, and here’s the spin Tinto/Saguaro reps were putting on things: The Tinto downsizing will allow the restaurant to return to the small, intimate tapas-bar roots of the original Tinto in Philadelphia; meanwhile, the Palmetto Room and Santa Rosa Patio will help the Saguaro keep up with a demand for more special-events spaces.

Make what you will of that spin. All I know is that I hope the downsized Tinto can succeed; although I’ve experienced inconsistent service and food during previous visits to Tinto, I’ve also experienced some of the best bites I’ve had in the Coachella Valley.

Get more details at garcesgroup.com/restaurants/tinto.

PS Underground Takes Up a Semi-Permanent Residency With Light

Over the last two years or so, Michael Fietsam and David Horgen have wowed local foodies with PS Underground, a series of intimate, details-secret-until-the-day-of themed dinners held at a variety of valley locations.

While PS Underground lives on—in fact, the next event, called “Wanderland,” takes place on Wednesday, Dec. 10 (more details at www.psunderground.com)—Fietsam and Horgen have also set down roots, of sorts, for a new experience called Light.

Fietsam told me that like the usual PS Underground events, the details of Light’s dinners—including the menu and the dining location—remain secret to diners until the day of the event. However, unlike PS Underground events, the Light experience will be accessible throughout the season—until May 2, to be exact.

Why did the duo add Light to the PS Underground menu of offerings? Fietsam explained that he and Horgen wanted to share the PS Underground experience with a wider variety of people; it was a logical expansion of the hobby-turned-business.

“We haven’t been able to tap into the market of tourists and (out-of-town) friends of people who live in the desert” thanks to the inconsistency of the PS Underground schedule, he said.

While Light’s venue will remain the same through May 2, chef Horgen’s menu, or at least portions of it, changes on a weekly basis, Fietsam said.

Light takes place at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday, through the season. The experience costs $150. Make reservations and get more details at www.lightps.net.

LuLu’s Rhine Joins Forces With Photog John Paschal for Eight4Nine

Willie Rhine has become a community icon as the general manager (and one of the public faces of) Barbara and Jerry Keller’s LuLu California Bistro, in downtown Palm Springs.

He’s so strongly associated with LuLu that his mid-November announcement that he was starting his own restaurant shocked many in the restaurant world.

Rhine is joining forces with John Paschal, of Snapshot Palm Springs Studios, to open a new-American cuisine restaurant called Eight4Nine Restaurant and Lounge, at 849 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. The new restaurant is slated to open sometime next summer.

After the initial announcement, Rhine took to Facebook to clarify his status with LuLu.

“I have the love and support of LuLu California Bistro owners, Barbara and Jerry Keller, who are excited about my new opportunity and equally thrilled and happy that I am staying on to continue the success of LuLu, where I remain both vested and the general manager, in charge of the day-to-day operations,” Rhine wrote. “I will continue to oversee our catering events with our amazing management team, including Lucy Kent and Francisco Plascencia.”

Congrats to Willie Rhine and John Paschal!

Follow the progress at www.facebook.com/eight4ninerestaurant.

In Brief

Figue Mediterranean Restaurant—the gorgeous La Quinta spot that was a solo effort by Lee Morcus, of the Kaiser Restaurant Group—is apparently no more. While no official announcement that we know of has been made, the closed restaurant’s Facebook page and website have not been updated in many months. ... The Villa Royale Inn and Europa Restaurant will hold a masquerade-themed dinner to benefit Angel View at 5:30 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 11. Europa is located at 1620 S. Indian Trail, in Palm Springs; call 760-327-2314 for reservations or more info. … The former Crave, the dessert joint and bar on the second floor at 301 N. Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs, is now known as Plate | Glass. Larry Abel and Raymond McCallister are the owners; they formerly owned Crave with Davy Aker, who is not part of Plate | Glass. Find more details by calling 760-322-2322, or visit plate-glass.com.

Published in Restaurant & Food News