Weekly News Roundup & Mulled Wine

We’re back after a hiatus because damn this week was a doozie. Here are four things, among many, that had us grabbing for the bottle.

One Drink: Trump Puts His Foot In His Mouth on CNN

The Trump administration DOJ this week said they would seek to halt the mega-merger of Time Warner cable and AT&T. The sticking point? CNN.

The only reason the DOJ wants to block this deal is because Trump is trying to lash out at CNN. Unfortunately for him, his lack of message control is likely to be a problem— just as Bowe Bergdahl got a light sentence after arguing the president had prejudiced his case, litigators for the two companies are likely to argue that the Trump administration can’t fairly block the deal due to Trump’s frequent negative comments about CNN’s coverage of him.

Some background: antitrust regulators (when they are actually doing their jobs) generally scrutinize horizontal mergers, i.e. mergers of direct competitors (think Rite Aid and Walgreens), but don’t usually block vertical integrations, i.e. a company buying further down or further up the supply chain (think CVS and Aetna).

Two Drink: Dismantling Higher Education

The more analysis gets done, the worse the tax plan the GOP is trying to shove through congress before the end of the year looks. The most recent revelation: the plan stands to cripple graduate education (analysis from Forbes).

Quick reminder on how many PhD programs work: candidates get tuition wavers from universities, ranging anywhere from around $12k to over $50k. They then fund their program through stipends for teaching or research work, generally around $20k-$30k per year. They pay tax in line with someone in that income range, because the tuition waivers are deductible and not considered taxable income.

The GOP tax plan repeals that exemption, meaning a PhD candidate attending a top private school would be making between $20k-$30k per year, but get taxed as if they were earning $70k-$80k per year, a tax burden few students would be able to bear.

Our higher education system is one of this country’s biggest strengths. Attacking it is short sighted in the extreme.

Red Drink: Removing the Tumor

GOP Leadership is finally condemning Roy Moore this week, the Alabamian senate candidate running to fill Jeff Session’s seat. You remember, the man who has been removed from the Alabama Supreme Court for judicial ethics violations not once, but twice. The first time for refusing to remove the ten commandments from the state court house (you know, separation of church and state), and the second for refusing to honor the Federal Supreme Court’s decision on same sex marriage (federal law does trump state law in the constitution).

What it took? Allegations of statutory rape.

Apparently this is where Republicans draw the line against unacceptable behavior these days. Not supporting white supremacy. Not abetting the NRA to perpetuate a culture of mass murder. Not sexual violence against an adult. Not distinguishing between legitimate and illegitimate rape. Not assaulting a reporter. Not rank transphobia or homophobia. Statutory rape. Not making a judgement call, just an observation.

Roy Moore says he is not stepping down. He has no shame, but we already knew that.

Blue Drink: Slamming The Self Destruct Button

What a week for Democrats. On the verge of two major symbolic elections, the Democratic theme dominating the news cycle last week running up to Tuesday’s elections was not the gubernatorial races in New Jersey and Virginia, but Donna Brazile’s new book.

Her book, which came out on Election Day, is the second eye-roller of a memoir, after Hillary Clinton’s book re-opened the wounds of the 2016 election. Brazile called the primaries rigged, said she considered replacing Clinton on the ticket with Joe Biden after her fainting incident in 2016, called joint fundraising agreements a cancer on the party, and singled out Obama, Clinton, and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (former DNC chair) as “titanic egos.”

Pot, kettle, black. Ms. Brazile didn’t exactly come out of the last election cycle squeaky clean herself, either. Slate published a great review of the book, lambasting it. Dorothy Parker’s quote “This is not a book that should be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force” comes to mind.

As Republican leadership is actively imploding on cable television, it seems that Democratic leadership is beginning to actively implode through the publishing world. Let’s hope the victories in New Jersey and Virginia are a sign that the party doesn’t need its current leadership to find a way to victory in 2018.

Silver Linings: Karma in Virginia

The first transgender woman won a seat in Virginia’s state legislature, beating an opponent who styled himself as Virginia’s chief homophobe, who refused to debate her, called her “him,” and introduced the state’s bathroom bill. When asked about her victory, she said “I don’t attack my constituents. Bob is my constituent now.” Finally, a politician with some grace.

Another piece of good news: the Senate passed legislation requiring sexual harassment training for all Senators, staffers, and interns.

Drink of the Week: Mulled Wine

It’s the first truly freezing day of winter here in New York City, so we’re drinking mulled wine. You’ll need:

  • 1 bottle red wine (we use Cabernet)
  • 1/4 cup brandy
  • 1/2 cup sugar (we use turbinado)
  • 1 large orange, cut into wheels
  • Spices: 6 whole cloves, 6 allspice berries, 2-3 cinnamon sticks, One star anise pod, 2 cardamom pods

Put the spices into a cheesecloth or tea strainer, except the cinnamon sticks. Put everything into a pot and slowly warm until the mixture starts to steam, but don’t let it boil. Serve immediately.

Do Something About It

As always, we at Red Drink, Blue Drink encourage you, our devoted readers, to not only have a good drink, but to put that subsequent energy spike and loosened inhibition to good use! Our Take Action! page links to organizations we believe can help those affected in our stories above (especially victims of non-existent terrorist attacks), and we encourage you to be active in your own way to support causes that are important to you.

No, It Is Time To Talk Gun Control

Sarah Huckabee Sanders came out on Monday and said that now was not the time to talk about gun control.

Under normal circumstances, I would take this at face value to mean the administration wanted to serve as the comforter-in-chief to the nation to help families through their grief.

But the abdication of compassion from this administration is so absolute the only explanation is the Trump administration is trying to buy time to let this shooting, like so many others, blow over in the news cycle until peoples’ passions are no longer enflamed by another massive loss of life.

Now especially is the time to talk about gun control. We owe it to the victims. There is no reason to own a semi-automatic gun. If you want to justify owning a rifle to shoot deer for venison, fine, but don’t tell me you need a semi-automatic weapon or a high capacity magazine to hunt food for your family— their only purpose is to kill other human beings. They serve no purpose in a civilized society. We see the evidence all too frequently.

Update from RDBD

We’re now just over six months through Donald trump’s first term as president. For many Americans with a deep love of country and a desire for a better future, this has been a trying time of dysfunction.

Participation in governance is the duty of every citizen, but following the daily court drama of the west wing can lead to burn out. An acute case of overstimulation here at RDBD has led us to re-think our approach. So we’re looking for new ways to do what we do. Please reach out if you have any suggestions. We’ll be back with renewed vigor soon.

Weekly News Roundup & Liar’s Cocktail

One Drink: Harvard, Free Speech, and Private Institutions

This week, Harvard revoked the admissions of ten incoming members of the class of 2021 after admissions officials discovered the group had shared racist and sexually explicit Facebook messages, and the right wing media went crazy over perceived censorship at the liberal universities.

The core issue is free speech on campus, and whether or not universities are censoring dissenting views in a march toward imposed liberal orthodoxy. People have written volumes about this debate, but, at least in this instance, I don’t understand the volume of outrage here. Listen, Harvard is a private, albeit influential, institution, and they’re free to run their admissions however they like within the law. If their actions violate terms attached to federal funds, the funds can be revoked. But otherwise they’re free to make their own policies– it’s their reputation to lose. Government should not be intervening in how private educational institutions, left or right, admit students. If Harvard wants to damage its standing by being perceived as an institution that mandates conformity of thought, that’s their problem, and if you don’t like it, then don’t go to Harvard. Most people can’t get in anyway.

Two Drinks: The Comey Hearing

Oh, the Comey hearings. What, at various points during the week, was described as the Superbowl of American politics, a live-Tweeting extravaganza, a drinking game, the potential end of the Trump administration, and a non-event, turned out to be more of the latter. Trump comes out of the testimony looking like a mob boss, a bad leader, and incompetent, but that’s not new. The biggest loser from Thursday’s hearings was Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who Comey said had been a person of interest from the beginning.

Yet Democrats are painting this as a victory (hint: It’s not), and Republicans are saying Comey cleared Trump (hint: he didn’t), emphasizing the gap between how both sides are looking at two very different issues; whether Trump personally was complicit in some as-yet-undetermined misconduct versus finding out the extent of Russian interference in the election and who from Trump’s team knew what, when.

This story is not over yet, as investigations continue in the House and Senate. Although, between going after former Attorney General Loretta Lynch, the unmasking of Americans’ identities in intelligence reports under the Obama administration, and Hillary Clinton’s emails, what exactly these committees are investigating is unclear. The investigation also continues at the FBI under Robert Mueller, an investigation Comey emphasized would not be affected by his firing. So all this media circus has done is to further cement the partisan politics that have ground Washington to a halt. Where are the centrists? There’s enough absurdity here to want all of these people out, Republicans and Democrats.

Red Drink: It’s Infrastructure Week, Y’all!

While the Senate was bogged down preparing for the Comey hearing and the House was busy passing a bill to repeal Dodd Frank regulations (spoiler alert: like the health care bill, it just sent a draft to the Senate, which is working on a totally different Dodd Frank overhaul), the White House was busy promoting Infrastructure Week.

The core of Infrastructure Week was Trump’s proposal to privatize the nation’s air traffic control system, which is overdue and has support from both parties and every airline industry body, from airline operators to unions. This would bring the US in line with many other developed countries, including the UK, Canada, Australia, Germany, France, and Italy in creating a user-fee based non-profit corporation in charge of air traffic control, stabilizing funding and making the system more responsive to technological change and industry needs.

So why are we drinking about this? Because, like everything else in Trumpland, the timing was terrible. By choosing this week, the climax-to-date of the Russia investigations, Trump has managed to take Infrastructure spending, one of his few campaign promises that has wide bipartisan support, and turn it into a polarizing issue, just by virtue of his having touched it.

Oh, and that document Trump signed during a ceremony in the White House? It was a memo to congress. Basically an opening salvo. We’re a long way from any actual action on infrastructure spending. So, to put it in business terms, now every Republican priority, from infrastructure to health care to tax reform, has seen a letter of intent, but no subsequent contract. As any businessman knows, signing an LOI is the easy part, going from an LOI to a signed contract is the hard part.

Blue Drink: Get Her Off The Stage

We’re a little bit late here, but Hillary Clinton made an appearance at Recode last week, coming out swinging at Russia, Facebook’s fake news problem, and her email scandal, proving that Trump is not the only candidate from the 2016 presidential election who can’t move on.

Perhaps most importantly, having Hillary Clinton acting sour in defeat, instead of going high, like Michelle Obama would do, cements the image of Clinton as an entitled establishmentarian in the minds of moderate Republicans who, like me, voted Democratic in the last election, not because we supported the candidate, but because we didn’t want Trump to win. If the center of the country keeps seeing videos of Clinton pandering to her base and wallowing, it will push moderate votes Democrats need in 2018 further away. Get her off the stage and out of the spotlight, ASAP, and find someone new (i.e. without baggage) to be the party’s standard bearer.

Silver Linings: Melania Goes to DC

Next week, Melania will finally be moving to into the White House with Baron. Commenters seem to think she’ll be a stabilizing force in the White House. We can only hope. At a bare minimum, it’ll save some taxpayer dollars on travel and security.

Drink of the Week: Liar’s Cocktail

Get it? Because Comey accused Trump of lying. You’ll need:

  • 1½  oz gin
  • ½ oz dry vermouth
  • ¼ oz Cointreau
  • ¼ oz sweet vermouth

Stir in a mixing glass with ice, and strain into a cocktail glass

Do Something About It

As always, we at Red Drink, Blue Drink encourage you, our devoted readers, to not only have a good drink, but to put that subsequent energy spike and loosened inhibition to good use! Our Take Action! page links to organizations we believe can help those affected in our stories above (especially victims of non-existent terrorist attacks), and we encourage you to be active in your own way to support causes that are important to you.

Weekly News Roundup and Smog Cutter Cocktail

Fighting climate change with denial, ordering federal agencies not to talk to Democrats, and Joe Biden starting to take Democratic limelight again. Oh, and Covfefe. This week was like being stuck through the looking glass, where time runs backwards, and democracy means autocracy because the Walrus and the Carpenter said it’s opposite day.

One Drink: Covfefe

On Wednesday, the Internet, cable news, and humanity at large, was convulsed with one singular driving question: what is “covfefe?”

The brouhaha started after President Trump, close to midnight on Tuesday, tweeted “despite the constant negative press covfefe.” It would seem like this was obviously a typo, as the president was interrupted while typing “coverage,” fell asleep on his phone (hey, it happens), or something similar, and posted the tweet by mistake.

Under normal circumstances, the White House communications team could immediately jump in and say, “The president meant to say coverage, got interrupted, we’re sorry for the confusion and hope you enjoyed guessing what ‘covfefe’ meant” (ignoring the obvious questions of a. why is the president tweeting at midnight and b. why can nobody in the White House delete an obviously erroneous tweet for six hours).

Of course, nothing is normal anymore, and Sean Spicer didn’t clarify a thing when, in response to a question at the daily press briefing, he said, “the president and a small group of people know exactly what he meant.” Excuse me, what? How hard are you actively trying to incite conspiracy theories at this point?

Of course, several normally respectable news outlets immediately began questioning whether this incident betrayed Trump’s unfitness to serve, which is, of course, hogwash. At this point, I think if Trump sneezed on camera, MSNBC would be sending out push notifications saying the president had contracted bronchitis. Whatever this tweet was, it was mildly amusing, and betrays nothing about Trump’s mental health. But the six hour delay between the tweet going out and being deleted, and then Sean Spicer’s botched explanation, do emphasize that the White House has no ability to control the messages it sends out, and that inability starts at the top.

Two Drinks: Trump vs. the Paris Accords: Tilting at Windmills

Continuing to actively fight the inevitable, Donald Trump on Thursday gave a much anticipated speech “outlining” his half-baked plan to withdraw the United States from the 2015 Paris Accords to combat climate change. Saying he was representing the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris, surprised the city of Pittsburgh, which voted 80% for Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Trump’s confused speech hinted at an intent to renegotiate the accords or the inception of a new climate negotiation altogether. Keep in mind, this was a deal that took 194 countries a year to negotiate and was 20 years in the making. Trump has shown repeatedly he has zero patience and has said that he doesn’t do multilateral deals, so who is going to lead this renegotiation? Angela Merkel has said flat out that the deal will not be renegotiated. Didn’t your bro friends ever teach you that once you pull it out and take the condom off, you can’t put it back in? Also, let’s remember this deal has no teeth. The non-binding better deal Trump wants is exactly what the Paris climate agreement already is.

In response, 30 mayors, 3 governors, 80 universities, and over a hundred companies, led by Michael Bloomberg (god, why couldn’t he be our president?) are attempting to basically re enter the Paris Climate Accords on behalf of the United States by committing hit the targets Trump is abandoning on their own. I wonder if Republicans will appreciate this state’s rights push for climate action.

Red Drink: Party over Country

This week, I was going to write about how conservative groups are targeting Rachel Maddow in a tit for tat attempt to bully advertisers on perceived left-leaning shows after liberals (or just decent folk) put pressure on advertisers to remove their sponsorships of Bill O’Reilly’s show after serial sex abuse allegations surfaced and Sean Hannity’s show after he promoted a harmful conspiracy theory on air about the death of a Democratic staffer. Don’t get me wrong, Rachel Maddow is not a saint, and is prone to hyperbole (as we’ve written before), but the sins are not equivalent.

But then Friday morning a new story emerged that made me want to throw my computer monitor out of the window. Politico is reporting that the White House has ordered all federal agencies to ignore oversight requests submitted by Democrats in an attempt to shut down the release of information that could be harmful to the president.

Something I have noticed in conversations with several conservatives over the last year is a fundamental misunderstanding of the concept of degrees of severity. Partisan bickering has long played a part in agencies responses to requests from the other party– just think about the IRS’s targeting of Tea Party groups and how unresolved that issue was. But Republicans and the Trump Administration in 2017 continue to take partisanship to new levels blatant obstructionism that put Party over the national interest. This is going to come back to bite Republicans in the ass when they eventually lose control of the House, the Senate, and/or the Presidency, and they will only have themselves to blame.

Blue Drink: Joe Biden for… Something 2020

On Thursday, Joe Biden launched a political action committee called “American Possibilities.” While the direction and platform of this PAC is still unclear, it was widely received as an opening bid for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, and Biden was ready, responding to questions about whether or not he was planning to run by saying “Could I? Yes. Would I? Probably not.”

Part of Biden’s statement when he announced the PAC referenced Hillary Clinton, saying “I never thought she was a great candidate. I thought I was a great candidate.” Then you know what you should have done, sir? Run for office. But you publically stated you were not going to. Coupled with Clinton’s lashing out this week, Democratic grandees are looking almost as sour and vindictive as Donald Trump. Snap out of it.

It’s like the Democratic party is so rage blind with their #Resistance that they’ve lost all connection to reality. If the 2016 election had one lesson for Democrats, it should have been that a political insider was not the right choice. Could Biden do a great job rebuilding the party? Of course. Should they be putting him forward now as a 2020 presidential candidate? Of course not.

Silver Linings: Subpoenas

Jim Comey, now a private citizen, is set to testify to the House committee investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election next week on June 8th, and rumor has it he is going to say Trump attempted to interfere with the FBI’s investigations. So that’s going to get interesting. That’s also the same day as the British election, so have a couple of smog cutters to calm your nerves before you tune into the news Thursday evening/Friday morning (depending on where you live).

Drink of the Week: Smog Cutter

Get it? Because we’re going back to coal power lol. You’ll need:

  • 1 cucumber slice
  • 0.5 oz fresh lime juice
  • 0.5 oz Tonic
  • 0.5 oz sweetened ginger juice
  • 0.75 oz mezcal
  • Beer, preferably Negra Modelo

Combine all ingredients except for beer in a shaker, and shake the shaker like you would like to shake Paul Ryan to his senses. Strain into an ice filled Collins glass while topping with beer at the same time. (from Punch)

Do Something About It

As always, we at Red Drink, Blue Drink encourage you, our devoted readers, to not only have a good drink, but to put that subsequent energy spike and loosened inhibition to good use! Our Take Action! page links to organizations we believe can help those affected in our stories above (especially victims of non-existent terrorist attacks), and we encourage you to be active in your own way to support causes that are important to you.

Weekly News Roundup and a Deep Throat Cocktail

Lies. Lies everywhere. Ivanka Trump is “not promoting” her new book. Comey got fired, and it had nothing to do with the Russia investigation. Rachel Maddow is leading the new Red Scare. Oh, and Republicans continue to put party politics uber alles. Next week’s going to be interesting. 

One Drink: Ivanka’s Book

Yes, she wrote a book. And yes, the book is even worse than your wildest dreams.

Women Who Work, which Ivanka says she wrote before the election and would not use her position to promote (guess what, she did anyway), has been described by the New York Times as a “strawberry milkshake of inspirational quotes,” and by NPR as “like eating scented cotton balls.” This book is what would happen if you added concentrate of basic bitch to a slurry of liquified gold in a Baccarat champagne flute and topped it off with fake champagne. But you know what really takes the strawberry shortcake? Using a Toni Morrison quote from Beloved to encourage you to be the master, not the slave, of your email.

Two Drink: Learning The Wrong Lessons from Nixon

Lies, lies, Liza Minelli. Lies. Lies everywhere. The lies are coming so fast and so thick now I think our bernaise sauce is about to burn.

On Tuesday, Trump surprised the nation by firing Director of the FBI James Comey, supposedly for his mishandling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails, an investigation for which Trump had repeatedly praised the former Director.

Trump fired Comey with no grace and no courtesy. Trump’s personal bodyguard delivered a letter of termination to FBI headquarters while Comey was in California on business. A little mob-like, no?

I’m not surprised by anything anymore, but it was amusing to see how massively the White House underestimated how huge the public blowback would be from this Non-Nixonian misadventure. Spicer was hiding in the bushes of the White House lawn to get away from the press. Kellyanne Conway came out of hibernation (and is now apparently the victim of a sexist incident, not a totally warranted eyeroll). Sarah Huckabee Sanders (of Mike Huckabee’s esteemed, totally not homophobic and bigoted family line) emerged as a principal spokesman from seemingly nowhere to complete the three stooges dynamic of Trump administration communications spin team. The attempts to control the narrative spiraled out of control hours later as Trump gave an interview to Time magazine blatantly stating he fired Comey because of the Russia investigation. 

As of this writing, a lot is still up in the air as to where the Russia investigations go next, but rumor has it the FBI is pissed off, and you don’t want to piss off the FBI. A mobster wannabe should know that. Look at how they got Al Capone. In Trump’s words to Comey, good luck in your future endeavors, Mr. Trump. It looks like you’ll need it.

Red Drink: Partisan Politics- Not Even On The Same Planet

I watched an hour of the Sally Yates hearing in the Senate Intelligence Committee on Monday, and all I could think was “God, I need a Xanax.”

The purpose of the hearing was to learn from Sally Yates and James Clapper, former Director of National Intelligence, what they knew about Michael Flynn’s contacts with foreign governments, and what the Trump administration was told about him before they hired him. What did every Republican on the committee, save Lindsey Graham, use their time to ask Sally Yates about? Not Russia. Each used his time (they were all men) to try to trap Ms Yates, an accomplished lawyer who is clearly not easy to fool (ask Ted Cruz), into implicating herself in leaks, improper unmasking of Americans by Obama Administration officials, or dereliction of duty in her failure to defend Trump’s Muslim ban. 

The whole thing was a farce, and every Republican, save Lindsey Graham, should feel ashamed for prioritizing partisanship over the national interest time and time again. And I say this not as a liberal, but as a card carrying Republican disgusted by what the party has become.

Blue Drink: Rachel Maddow and The New Red Scare

Not exactly known for her cool head, Rachel Maddow on Monday shouted fire in the proverbial crowded theater regarding the newly promoted acting director of the FBI Andrew McCabe. Her assertion? He was already compromised by the Trump administration and would immediately scuttle any ongoing investigations. The reality? McCabe testified in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday and did a bang up job defending the FBI’s integrity and Comey’s reputation as a man who, despite major recent missteps, was widely popular within the FBI.

Don’t get me wrong, Comey’s firing is a major political story that we’re going to be hearing a lot more about in the next few weeks, but this kind of overreaction, only to then backtrack sans acknowledgement of overreaction or apology, has characterized a lot of the left’s responses to Trump’s actions, whether warranted or not. The Democrats need to get better at picking their battles and acting on strategy, not on impulse or on contrarian principle, if they want to woo the centrist voters they’re going to need to take back the House in the midterms. 

Silver lining: Some Action on Climate Change

The Senate on Wednesday voted down a resolution to repeal an Obama era regulation restricting methane emissions on drilling projects on public lands. An estimated $330 million in natural gas was lost yearly through burning off methane, and this regulation required oil companies to capture rather than burn it. Besides the public health and taxpayer benefits, an optimistic person can also hope the way this resolution was voted down is a sign of better things to come.

While GOP senators Lindsey Graham and Susan Collins had already publicly opposed it, John McCain surprised pretty much everyone by casting the resolution killing vote. While he said that he didn’t like that the resolution also banned any future ‘similar’ regulations to be enacted, rumors are swirling that the real reason is his displeasure over Comey’s firing earlier in the day. Fingers crossed he finally puts his votes where his mouth is!

Drink of the Week: the Deep Throat

Get it? Because Nixon. You’ll need:

  • 1.5 oz vodka
  • 0.5 oz Creme de Cacao
  • 0.5 oz cream
  • 1 Hershey’s Kiss

Place the Kiss at the bottom of a chilled cocktail glass. Shake all liquid ingredients on ice in a cocktail shaker while chanting “please let there be more leaks from the FBI, please let there be more leaks from the FBI” to focus your karmic energy into helping the Washington Post figure out what the hell is going on. Strain into the glass. From Cocktail Calendar.

Do Something About It

As always, we at Red Drink, Blue Drink encourage you, our devoted readers, to not only have a good drink, but to put that subsequent energy spike and loosened inhibition to good use! Our Take Action! page links to organizations we believe can help those affected in our stories above (especially victims of non-existent terrorist attacks), and we encourage you to be active in your own way to support causes that are important to you.

Weekly News Roundup and a Swamp Water Surprise

One Drink: Changes to Trump’s trust (The Financial Trust, Not The Credibility Trust. That’s Already Gone.)

If there was ever any doubt that Donald Trump is willfully using the presidency to turn a profit for his private businesses, changes to the trust that serves as a barrier between Trump and his business empire serve to emphasize that he intends to use his position for private financial gain (as an aside, this is the definition of an obscure and rarely-discussed term called “corruption”).

Reporting done by Pro-Publica (a non-partisan, non-profit investigative journalism publication, not the left-wing conspiracy blog Sean Spicer has tried to portray it as), found that changes made in February to the trust state that the trustees (his family) “shall distribute net income or principal to Donald J. Trump at his request.” What’s really important here is the words “shall” and “principal” – instead of a blind trust that distributes net income on investments to the president to fund his expenses at regular intervals, they must give Trump any of his assets at any time.

So, Trump Junior is reporting the performance of the Trust to Trump Senior every quarter, and Trump Senior can interfere at any time in the running of the trust. This fosters, rather than inhibits, conflicts of interest. This man is a crook.

Two Drink: Blackwater, DeVos, Russians and Nepotism Oh My!

Oh the nepotism! This week we learned of a meeting in the Seychelles, orchestrated by Dubai, between the Eric Prince, founder of the “controversial” private security firm Blackwater (of Iraq infamy), who happens to be brother of Betsy DeVos, the billionaire philanthropist and sudden education expert now running the Department of Education, and Russian diplomats.

We’re at the point here where this is just ridiculous. How many Russian backchannel connections in third party countries by “unofficial” administration spokespeople do we have to find before we just take it for granted that, where there’s smoke, there’s fire? If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it’s probably not a Democratic left-wing media conspiracy to defame you, it’s a fucking duck.

Red Drink: Blaming Susan Rice (i.e. The Democrats, i.e. Obama, i.e. Anyone Else)

It’s really shocking to me that the collective heads of the news media haven’t figured out how this works by now. Over the past week, and without any evidence, the Trump administration has been kindling the flames of a story that, according to Trump is “one of the biggest stories of our time” about the Obama administration treating him unfairly. Yet it follows the exact same pattern of the Obama wiretapping story: shocking allegation, widespread condemnation in all but the farthest right wing media, and a week with zero evidence to back up the claim. 

So quick summary. As far as anyone has shown evidence, Susan Rice was doing her job within the framework of the checks and balances in the National Security Apparatus asking for American individuals to be identified by name in transcripts of conversations relevant to her work. Intelligence officials “unmasked” those people to her, which they could have refused to do if they thought it was improper. This all happened after the election. If her investigations had been politically motivated instead of being done in the course of her duties, then this would be a scandal on the magnitude of an American presidential candidate colluding with Russian spies to influence an election, but, again, there is no evidence. You know what there is evidence of? Trump officials lying about taking money and aid from Russian state actors. Let’s focus on that.

Blue Drink: The Nuclear Option and the Government Shutdown

Senate Democrats this week secured the votes to block a yes/note vote on ending debate on SCOTUS nominee Neil Gorsuch. Dems could’ve let debate end and then voted no on the actual confirmation in order to signal their displeasure at this nominee while still keeping the high ground and showing they can behave like adults . Instead, salivating at  to poking the bear yelling “NOT FAIR NOT FAIR” (because of that whole Merrick Garland thing) and placating the ravaging horde that is the left flank of the blue base, Chuck Schumer and co instead decided to filibuster. Perennial schoolyard bully Mitch McConnell has already signalled that he will invoke the so-called “nuclear option”- procedurally changing the rules so that a simple majority will be enough to end debate Gorsuch and all future SCOTUS nominees.

Now you might think this is the blue drink because Dems are forcing the end of a storied Senate tradition which arguably helps the Senators stay above the partisan bickering that the House has descended into. So before you start ranting about how all the blame should land at McConnell’s feet for invoking the nuclear option, may I remind you that the Harry Reid of the Dems was the first to go down this path (for all appointments but SCOTUS) and people in the know didn’t think it would take long for SCOTUS appointments to go the same way.

The reason this qualifies for blue drink is because the Dems just keep circling back to the same indefensible whinings month after month. Anyone who thought they were getting their mojo after the ACHA debacle as the party that might actually give a small damn about the average American has been fooled yet again. Instead of showing that when the chips are down they’re not going to behave in the same disgraceful way as the GOP did, they roll over and let McConnell blame them.

I really believe that America wants people who behave like adults representing them. Every time the Democrats throw a temper tantrum that they know won’t get them what they want (especially when the big playground bully can legitimately say “well you started it!”)  instead of making real arguments with their big boy words, America knows they’re not the adults we’re looking for.

Silver Lining: Draining the Swamp

Finally, the swamp is starting to drain! It just turns out Trump is draining the swamp he created, rather than the one that was already in Washington. Devin Nunes recused himself from the House investigation into Russian connections with the Trump campaign on Thursday, after the deepening controversy over his mishandling of classified information (#lockhimup), and President Steve Bannon was removed from the Principles committee of the National Security Council, apparently precisely because Puppet Trump hates it when you call him President Bannon.

Of course, the spin the administration is now trying to put on Bannon’s demotion is that he was only put on the NSC in order to keep an eye on Mike Flynn, but that prompts more questions than it answers, because a) why would the administration have had the poor judgement to name Flynn as National Security Advisor if he needed a minder and b) it has now been twice as long as Flynn’s tenure on the job since he resigned, so… the timing doesn’t make sense. Anyway, we’ll take both pieces of news for what they are: progress.

Drink of the Week: Swamp Water Surprise

  • 2 oz rum
  • ½ oz blue curacao
  • 1 oz orange juice
  • ½ oz lemon juice
  • 1 package Jell-O
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • ¾ cup vodka

Ahead of time, prepare the jello shot mixture. Dissolve Jell-O in boiling water, stir and allow to cool slightly, and then stir in vodka – if you add vodka while the water is too close to boiling, you may boil off some of the alcohol, which, after this week, would be no good.  Just before the Jell-O gels up, whip it with a whisk to get small chunks, and let sit for 5 minutes to set.

Then prepare the cocktail by shaking rum, blue curacao, orange and lime juices in a shaker with ice. Strain into a cocktail glass and ladle in some of the “surprise.”  Drinking this boozy mixture while reading the news will help the universe give you little bits of jello shot to calm your nerves every time you read a particularly rough article. (source: The Spruce)

Do Something About It

As always, we at Red Drink, Blue Drink encourage you, our devoted readers, to not only have a good drink, but to put that subsequent energy spike and loosened inhibition to good use! Our Take Action! page links to organizations we believe can help those affected in our stories above (especially victims of non-existent terrorist attacks), and we encourage you to be active in your own way to support causes that are important to you.

 

Weekly News Roundup & The Northern Spy Cocktail

What a week! The UK is making bad decisions, so for once we look less bad, but not by much! This week Trump rolled back LGBT protections after promising not to, took major steps to undo Obama’s climate change policies, the Republicans voted to sell your soul I mean data to pretty much anyone, and rant about whether Democrats offer a real answer to our current political strife.

One Drink: Undoing Climate Change (the evidence, not the problem)

On Tuesday, Trump, surrounded by miners he continues to con into believing their coal jobs will return (remember, market forces killed coal, not climate regulations) reversed Obama’s Clean Power Plan, ceded global leadership of clean power to the Chinese, and told American allies that the US will not meet Paris Climate Accord targets.

The House Science committee also held a hearing on climate science and the scientific method on Thursday that was an absurd farce. I highly recommend watching it if you have low blood pressure, screw salt or Orvaten.  The panel comprised of one respected climate scientist and three quacks, the hearing was presided over by a representative with a clear anti-science agenda, and the whole thing served as a carefully constructed echo chamber for extremists to hear their own views repeated back to them. At no point were solutions to real problems discussed.

What does all of this mean for you? If you live on the coast, buy a bathing suit. Or maybe scuba gear. It may also be a great time to look into boat living. I recently fell down the rabbit hole on YouTube watching videos about people who live full-time on all types of boats, and it looks awesome. Plus, when New York floods, your home won’t!

Two Drink: Rolling back LGBT protections

Candidate Trump made a lot of noise during the campaign to try to reassure the LGBT community that he was an ally. It didn’t work then, and it doesn’t work now.

On Monday, Trump signed a very targeted order that removed requirements for federal contractors to provide documentation of their compliance with various laws, an important one of which was the Obama era Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces order requiring non-discrimination against LGBT employees and equal treatment of LGBT spouses in benefits packages.

Trump also proposed cutting $350 million from HIV/AIDS research and prevention efforts, which is in line with Mike Pence’s established history of supporting conversion therapy over HIV prevention, but contradicts Trump’s earlier budget proposal, which had not proposed cuts to the same programs, which were developed under the Bush administration.

It should come as no surprise to LGBT people that the fight for equality is not over, even as North Carolina partially removes the “controversial” bathroom bill, although that may come as news to the many fair-weather allies who assumed that, just because we won marriage equality, the subject was now settled. I plan to go support my local drag queens this weekend. What do you plan to do?

Red Drink: Selling Your Privacy

This week, Congress voted to repeal several internet privacy regulations, due to go into effect put in place under the Obama administration, that would have required ISPs to ask your permission before they sold your data, from geolocation information to browser history, to third parties (advertisers).

This doesn’t make sense for two reasons. First, ISPs are not Google and Facebook, they provide a product in return for monetary payment from the end user. Facebook provides a product in barter for your data, and then sells your data to advertisers. If ISPs were lacking a revenue stream and facing unfair competition from Facebook or Google due to government regulation, this might make sense. It might also make sense if ISPs were proposing to reorganize their business to provide Internet access to end users for free, in exchange for their data to sell to advertisers. But neither of these is the case, so ISPs just want to have your cake and eat it, too.

The second reason is that the explanation given by the ISP providers lobbying for the measure said the privacy regulations were anti-competitive, despite the fact that ISPs, like phone and energy companies, operate as regional monopolies, so don’t face competition anyway since most consumers don’t have a choice between ISPs. They have a choice between having internet access and not having internet access.

If you want to know whether your representative voted to sell you out, here’s a list of who voted for the measure, and how much they were paid in lobbying money to vote that way. Call them. I’m sure they’d love to hear from you.

Blue Drink: Is the Democratic Party Up to the Challenge?

This is less a specific gripe than a general lamentation, but how have we gotten to this point? Most of the ridiculous nonsense that has happened this week has to do with the fact that Obama acted unilaterally through executive order, so now a new president can single handedly undo most of his legacy. The ceding of power from Congress to the Executive is dangerous for our republic, especially if we’re going down a path where, every eight years, the new president seeks to undo everything accomplished over the previous eight.

Hyper-partisanship has been driven by a motivated far-right Republican base gaining victory after victory at the state and district level that incentivizes them to pander rather than to legislate. Where are the Democrats? Even after all of the “resistance” since Trump’s inauguration, voter turnout in Los Angeles for the mayoral election was at eleven percent. ELEVEN PERCENT.

We, as moderates, should be questioning whether the Democratic party is worth investing our efforts in to combat anti-scientific and anti-fact policies by an increasingly extremist Republican party, or whether there’s an alternative here, since Democratic leadership at every level of government has abjectly failed the American people.

Some Good News: Manatees are Recovering

Some good news this week, manatees were removed from the endangered species list, downgraded from endangered to threatened, as populations in Florida have blossomed over the last decade. Let’s hope they keep recovering as cutting science and environmental funding continue to be in vogue in Washington.

Drink of the Week: Northern Spy

Get it? Because Russians. And Yankees. But mostly Russians. You’ll need:

  • 1 oz Applejack
  • 0.5 oz fresh apple cider
  • 0.25 oz fresh lemon juice
  • 0.25 oz apricot liqueur
  • Bubbly of any variety

Add all ingredients to a shaker with ice, shake out all of your hopes we’ll stop climate change, and strain into a coupe glass. Top with bubbly.

Do Something About It

As always, we at Red Drink, Blue Drink encourage you, our devoted readers, to not only have a good drink, but to put that subsequent energy spike and loosened inhibition to good use! Our Take Action! page links to organizations we believe can help those affected in our stories above (especially victims of non-existent terrorist attacks), and we encourage you to be active in your own way to support causes that are important to you.

Weekly News Roundup & The Wolf Cocktail

This week we delve into some pretty uninteresting tax returns, blaming England (which I support in general, but not in this instance), the CBO score, and a rumor of an impending government shutdown by… wait for it… Democrats. And we’re crying into our wolf cocktail as Trump ruins relationships with our allies, because that’s exactly what the Trump administration is doing. Crying wolf.

One Drink: Finally, Some Tax Returns: Confirmed, then Denied, Still Legal, and Generally Uninteresting

On Tuesday, Rachel Maddow revealed two pages of Donald Trump’s 2005 tax returns. Her reveal was overly dramatic and not well received. The two pages were uninteresting, showing Trump made a lot of money, and paid a lot of taxes. We knew he was rich. Rich people do pay taxes. 

The White House preempted her story by releasing a statement confirming the numbers in the returns, and then saying it was illegal for Maddow to publish the returns. It’s not. But then Trump called the returns fake news. So it’s his real 1040, but a fake story. Whatever.

There are also many rumors that Trump himself was behind the leak. An attempt to distract from the serious scandals plaguing his presidency? Maybe. An attempt to drip out a return from a year he did pay taxes so he won’t have to reveal years he didn’t? Possibly. Do I really care, when faced with the prospect of widespread involvement with various elements of the Russian state during the campaign and transition? Nope.

Two Drinks: Blaming Britain, Missing Deadlines, Still No Evidence of Wiretapping

The week began on Monday with the White House and Justice Department missing a deadline to produce evidence of Trump’s claim that his wires were tapped during the election to the House Intelligence Committee. Sean Spicer said he is confident that “evidence will emerge,”  although whence such evidence will emerge if not from the White House has not been made clear. Maybe Wikileaks? Trump loves Wikileaks.

Oh, and then it got worse. Sean Spicer, who for once in his life had a plausible excuse for his wardrobe when his horrible tie choices coincided with St. Patrick’s day, then claimed that Obama had instructed GCHQ, the British NSA, to tap his phones. A justifiably enraged GCHQ issued a rare public statement flatly denying the claim, and the White House was forced to make a formal diplomatic apology over the issue, promising not to repeat the claim. Then Trump repeated the claim.

Trump’s defense here? It was all Fox News’s fault. Because obviously the man doesn’t have agency and can’t be held responsible for what comes out of his mouth, and since he was channeling Fox News during a seance using his body as a vessel, he can fully pass the blame. Am I getting that logic right?

The explanations coming from senior advisors at the White House are that there are variable meanings of the words “wires,” “tapped,” “my,” “phones,” and “Obama.”

As the head of the executive branch, Trump can release any information about a wiretap by instructing the Department of Justice to do so. There is no need for a Congressional inquiry. He’s burning his bridges (along with his credibility), and when Trump actually does need congress to investigate something in the future, they’re going to point to this and say “why should we believe you?” just like Trump was asking “why should we believe the intelligence community after there were no WMDs in Iraq?” God, isn’t Karma a bitch?

Red Drink: The CBO Has Spoken

The Congressional Budget Office, an independent congressional agency, came out with forecasts for Ryancare, and the response offers a masterclass in the art of spin.

The key takeaway from the report is that 24 million Americans will lose health coverage if the bill is enacted as is. Republicans are claiming it’s not that 24 million people will lose their access to health care per se, it’s that 24 million people will chose not to buy healthcare because they won’t be forced to (you could already chose to not have health care, you just had to pay a tax, which given that hospitals have to treat you in an emergency regardless of coverage or ability to pay, seems pretty reasonable to me, but I digress). I also chose not to buy a Lamborghini.

The other key takeaway is that the bill will reduce the deficit by some $337 billion dollars. If we’re talking about cutting the deficit, as a millennial, I would love to see entitlements that I’m paying for an probably won’t receive on the chopping block first. Entitlements are also a much bigger affront to the traditional Republican view of Government. But keep in mind that Trump and the Republicans have basically been throwing spaghetti at the wall when it comes to ways to cut the deficit, from eliminating block grants to Meals on Wheels, funding for PBS and NPR, after school programs, health care, and anything else that doesn’t affect the 65+ demographic or Lockheed Martin, in hopes of finding what will stick as the least offensive option to their voting base. This bill isn’t predicated on ideology, it’s feeling in the dark for a light switch.

Various Republican senators have stated outright that the bill in its current form is dead on arrival in the senate, Trump has said it’s the opening salvo in a negotiation. Republicans of various ideological alignments have a lot of complaints. So watch this space, and don’t get too worked up yet, since a lot is going to change before this bill goes anywhere.

Blue Drink: Now Look Who’s Shutting down the Government

The New York Times ran a story on Monday suggesting that Democrats were hinting at a government shutdown over funding the border wall that Mexico will not be paying for. Democrats have the opportunity here to show that they are more responsible than Republicans, who, and I can say this as a long-time Republican, have abdicated their platform of fiscal responsibility multiple times over the Obama years.

Shutting down the government would be a short-term win in showing the far left base that Democrats are fighting Trump’s xenophobic rhetoric. But the Democratic party is getting too involved in this silly “#resistance” nonsense. The way to regain control of Washington is at the ballot box in 2018 and 2020, and involves voter outreach to win back a large share of moderate and rural white voters from Republicans. Pandering to the obstructionist base is not going to do that.

Drink of the Week: Wolf Cocktail

Get it? Because the administration keeps crying wolf. You’ll need:

  • 6 slices fresh jalapenos
  • 1 oz simple syrup
  • 3 oz tequila
  • 1 oz fresh orange juice
  • 1 oz lime juice

Muddle 3 jalapeno slices and simple syrup until jalapenos are broken down. Add tequila, orange juice, lime juice, and ice, and stir. Garnish with remaining jalapeno slices. (Source: Billy Parisi)

Do Something About It

As always, we at Red Drink, Blue Drink encourage you, our devoted readers, to not only have a good drink, but to put that subsequent energy spike and loosened inhibition to good use! Our Take Action! page links to organizations we believe can help those affected in our stories above (especially victims of non-existent terrorist attacks), and we encourage you to be active in your own way to support causes that are important to you.

 

Weekly News Roundup & Death in the Afternoon

One Drink: Scott Pruitt denies basic climate change aspects

On Thursday the head of the EPA Scott Pruitt said in an interview with CNBC that he “would not agree that [carbon dioxide] is a primary contributor to the global warming that we see,” despite an overwhelming body of scientific literature suggesting the opposite. His words are an unwelcome reminder for those of us that hoped he would evolve his notoriously climate change denying views once in charge of the agency responsible for regulations designed to protect the environment. (I mean, come on, that’s the fricking title of his agency!)

Two Drink: Trump Invents Birtherism 2.0, “He Tapps My Phone!”

On Saturday morning, apparently seething that the Jeff Sessions’ Russia revelations overshadowed his glory at being able to speak in big boy sentences for an entire hour, President Trump tweeted that Obama had his phones at Trump Tower tapped prior to the election. Unfortunately, we have to put aside the more ridiculous aspects of this (like him not knowing how to spell tap, and immediately after this tweetstorm turning his ire to Arnold Schwarzenegger leaving the Apprentice, two items of similar importance) because OMG WTF. First of all, the president can’t order a wiretapping against a private citizen, as this requires a federal court to agree there is just cause. So if Trump is lying, he just invented a scandal bigger than Watergate, and if he’s telling the truth then an independent federal judge agreed there was credible evidence of Trump committing a federal crime or being a foreign agent.  Second, he offered no proof to back up his claim, and WH Press Secretary Melissa McCa-err  Sean Spicer responded to questions regarding the alleged wiretapping by asking Congress to investigate and see if they could find any evidence.

I could go on about how it now seems like Trump got the idea from a Breitbart article by conspiracy theorist Mark Levin, and how Devin Nunes, the chair of the House Intelligence Committee claimed that the news media was taking him literally (UM yeah, seriously, how can you take that accusation any other way than literally??) but good grief, I need a stiff drink.

Red Drink: GOP Finally Reveals Their Ryancare/Trumpcare Plan, And Nobody Likes It

After 7 years of promises that the GOP’s answer to Obamacare was right around the corner it’s finally here and….wow. No wonder they were keeping this a secret for as long as possible. The general consensus among everybody is that the long awaited American Healthcare Act is a total bust. Seeing as we’re not policy wonks unless we’ve had a couple of drinks, here is a quick summary of key similarities and differences between AHA and the ACA. A couple of key drinkable proposals in it are allowing insurance companies to charge older customers up to five times more, stripping the requirement to offer basic mental health and addiction recovery services, and providing upwards of $1 million in tax breaks to insurance company CEOs. In addition, something smells stinky about the GOP pushing this bill for committee review without official estimates from the Congressional Budget Office. You’d think that would be a bit more important for the people that talk so much about fiscal responsibility.

Oh, and when we say nobody likes it, we mean nobody. The conservative House Freedom Caucus want a complete repeal of the ACA, terming this “Obamacare-lite”, and in particular are objecting to the proposed tax credits and saying it creates a new entitlement system. On the other hand, liberals are not pleased at all about the millions of people expected to be kicked off health insurance and the proposed gutting of federal funds to Planned Parenthood. The elderly face higher insurance costs because of the aforementioned provision as well as changes in tax credits giving more assistance to younger people in low premium areas. We’ve got to hand it to Paul Ryan, it’s not every day that you see the AARP, AMA, Heritage Foundation, Americans for Prosperity and the Center for American Progress aligned on an issue.

So how are the GOP justifying it? Well, Jason Chaffetz said that people should just buy insurance instead of a new iPhone (sidenote: who knew people were buying several iPhones every year?). Sean Spicer pointed to the small size of the bill (clocking in at just 67 pages) compared to the ACA (2,700 in the most pared down sense) as proof that the replacement is better. Because one of the most complex predicaments facing the government and affecting the daily life of all American citizens should definitely be legislated in as few words as possible. Meanwhile, the director of the Office of Management and Budget Mick Mulvaney said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe that “insurance is not really the end goal here…one of the Republicans’ complaints about the Affordable Care Act from the very beginning, it was a great way to get insurance and a lousy way to actually be able to go to the doctor.” I’m sorry, so how will going to the doctor be cheaper if you don’t have insurance? Also, you’re not supposed to say the real plan so plainly, c’mon man! And lastly, Donald Trump, who famously stated that the ACA replacement would mean “health insurance for everybody” has rallied behind AHA and is reportedly leaning heavily on wavering congressmen to support the bill. You’d think he would realize that a large portion of his core base is set to be adversely affected by AHA, and a more cautious stance might be in order. But then you’d remember that 67 pages is way more than he’d stir himself to read.

Blue Drink: Dems Try, and Fail, to Play the Alternative Facts Game

Ok so if the Democrats are trying to position themselves as the tellers of truth and justice, opposed to the alternative facts miasma currently engulfing the White House, it might help if they actually…I don’t know…told the truth?? Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer tweeted this week that millions of women seek mammograms from Planned Parenthood every year. There’s a nice in depth discussion of why this is false here, but in short Planned Parenthood only refers people for mammograms elsewhere, and this is a very small portion of the total patient traffic. If you’re going to make a case that community health clinics can’t take on the caseload of Planned Parenthood, maybe try picking a statistic that actually holds up. Otherwise you’re participating in the alternative facts propaganda, and I gotta say, not very effectively.

Drink of the week: Death in the Afternoon

You’ll need:

  • 1 ½ oz Absinthe
  • Champagne

Pour absinthe into a champagne flute, fill the flute with champagne. Drink while contemplating the loss of your healthcare.

Do Something About It: 

As always, we at Red Drink, Blue Drink encourage you, our devoted readers, to not only have a good drink, but to put that subsequent energy spike and loosened inhibition to good use! Our Take Action! page links to organizations we believe can help those affected in our stories above (especially victims of non-existent terrorist attacks), and we encourage you to be active in your own way to support causes that are important to you.