Weekly News Roundup & Brandy Milk Punch

Join us this week as the Trump campaign whines about delegitimization, interference in the election cycle seemingly goes unresolved, North Carolina continues to be a national disgrace (shocker), and the Electoral College vote goes exactly as expected, seemingly to everyone’s surprise.

One Drink: Delegitimization, Pots, Kettles, and the color Black.

This week, Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s campaign manager, most visible surrogate, and case study in the importance of conditioning your hair, blamed the left for attempting to delegitimize Trump’s presidency before it began, even as Trump’s electoral college victory was being confirmed. Conway clearly doesn’t understand the concept of irony, after Trump spent eight years relentlessly attempting to delegitimize Obama’s presidency by claiming he was unfit for office because he was born in Kenya and wasn’t actually an American. To be clear: Trump’s claim was absurd and disproved, the left is raising legitimate concerns about Russian hacking and Trump’s conflicts of interest. Political dissent legitimizes our process, and Trump’s advisors should get used to it, because it’s either going to get a lot worse as the cabinet nomination hearings get underway, or the President-Elect is going to have to repeal the first amendment.

Two Drink: Election Interference

We wrote earlier this week about how potentially damaging the politicization of the National Security Apparatus is, but what’s equally concerning is how dismissive Trump has been about CIA intelligence regarding Russian hacking into political institutions and efforts to help the Trump campaign, and how many red flags have come up in the FBI’s handling of both the Russian hacking investigation (where the CIA came to a conclusion quickly, the FBI was more hesitant) and potential interference in the election process itself by dissenting elements within the New York bureau and James Comey in the Clinton email investigation (which, if true, should meet the definition of an attempted coup).

The prospect of any interference in our elections, from Russia or FBI agents, should unite the entire political establishment in calling for a full investigation into what happened, determining the appropriate response, and figuring out how to prevent it from happening again.

Unfortunately, we don’t live in a world of upstanding decency, we live in the twilight zone.

Some Republicans have joined Democrats and Obama in calling for an immediate investigation and response. Obama has ordered intelligence agencies to deliver to him before he leaves office on January 20th. But a surprising number of Republicans and Trump supporters, who until recently were fiercely calling essentially for a purge of all foreigners and foreign influence in our country, seem not to be concerned about any of this.

Let’s be clear: involvement in or acquiescence of foreign or military interference in our country’s elections should be treated as treason, full stop.

Red Drink: North Carolina. Again. It Gets Worse.

On Wednesday, the North Carolina state senate convened another one of their special sessions, which have such a great track record, to repeal HB2, the “controversial” (read: universally panned) knee-jerk homophobic spasm by Republican lawmakers to impose a statewide ban on LGBT protection ordinances after Charlotte passed a totally reasonable non-discrimination ordinance to ensure the safety of gay, and particularly transgender people living and working in the city.

The special session was convened after Charlotte agreed to repeal the nondiscrimination ordinance that “started” the whole HB2 fiasco, on the understanding that the state senate would then repeal HB2, leaving the situation in North Carolina the same as before any of this started (no non-discrimination ordinance, but also no HB2). But instead of repealing HB2, the North Carolina Republican party changed the deal at the last minute, adding a six-month sunset clause to HB2, which would essentially leave it fully intact, and then blamed Democrats for not abiding by their original agreement (which the NCGOP had changed at the last minute).

Meanwhile, Governor McCrory and the NCGOP severely curtailed the Governor’s power in a blatant power grab to weaken the incoming Democratic governor, and HB2 is still on the books. This is beyond ridiculous.

Blue Drink: Faithless Electors

In Monday’s Electoral College vote, more Democrats defected from Clinton than Republicans defected from Trump. The lack of dissent within the Republican party over Trump has been a concerning trend throughout the last campaign, but what’s potentially more concerning is the lack of cohesion in opposition to Trump from Democrats.

Admittedly, five is a relatively small number compared to the 538 total electors who voted in the Electoral College on Monday, but it’s a sign of deeper rifts within the party. One elector voted for Bernie Sanders, one voted for Faith Spotted Eagle (a surprise vote for a member of the Sioux tribe for President- it would be spectacular to see a Native American president, but that’s a discussion for another day), and the three “Hamilton Electors,” who voted for Colin Powell in a Democratic effort to unite Republicans against an alternate candidate (which received only Democratic support).

All of this serves to emphasize the fact that the electoral college system is a joke. If it had worked as designed by the founding fathers, the electoral college would have had more power to select and elect a presidential candidate regardless of the popular vote or state pledges. If our system worked on the will of the people, Hillary Clinton would have won the presidency by the largest margin in recent history. Instead, we get the worst of both worlds.

Silver Linings:

I’m late to the party here, but this week I read a really fascinating article in Forbes magazine about Jared Kushner’s data-driven approach to helping Trump get elected, his running the campaign from behind the scenes as a scrappy start-up, and the apparently grounded, rational tone he brings to Trump’s inner circle that is obviously lacking in Trump himself. While it’s concerning that Kushner has been doing so much in the shadows rather than in the open, it’s a small silver lining that one seemingly-rational person, at least, has the president’s ear.

Merry Christmas (because there are no other holidays this time of year and I will not succumb to the war on Christmas).

The Bartender

Brandy Milk Punch

I love a good eggnog, but store-bought eggnog is never as good as you wanted it to be, and home-made eggnog is a serious labor of love. Luckily, a New Orleans classic can give you the creamy goodness of eggnog without all of the hard work! It can be made for one, or in a large batch, just adjust according to how many you want to serve.

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 oz good brandy
  • 2 oz half-and-half
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • Drop of vanilla extract
  • Freshly Grated Nutmeg
  • Ice cubes

Combine the bourbon, half-and-half, sugar, and vanilla into a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake thoroughly until the mixture is cold and frothy. Strain into a highball glass filled with ice, and top with a grating of nutmeg. (via Garden and Gun)

Politicization of the National Security Apparatus & French 75

As Trump’s cabinet begins to take shape, key positions are being filled by generals who have not spent the customary (and sometimes legally mandated) gap time between military and political service, raising concerns of politicization down the ranks of military command.

The past week has seen President-Elect Trump nominate an unprecedented group of businessmen, right-wing politicians, and lobbyists into his Cabinet, leading to what many are calling the wealthiest and most controversial Presidential administration in history. A less-discussed but equally important group of Trump’s nominations are his choices for the leadership of the military and civilian intelligence organizations of the government for the coming years. As of this writing, Trump has selected Gen. Jim Mattis, USMC (Ret.) as Secretary of Defense, Gen. Michael Flynn, US Army (Ret.) as his National Security Advisor, and Maj. Vincent Viola, US Army (Ret.) as Secretary of the Army. All of these positions are significantly influential in terms of advising and directing the foreign policy of the United States, both through the Executive branch of government, and through the military/intelligence apparatuses themselves. Several other Secretary and advisory positions within the Trump cabinet are being filled with retired military figures, but have little or no influence over foreign policy or overseas operations.

It is not the fact that retired military officers are being called to serve in a cabinet, as the United States has a long and proud history of continued service by retired military figures, but rather the acceleration of their nomination so soon after retirement, that is unusual. This is especially true in the case of Gen. Mattis, as any former-military candidate for the Secretary of Defense position is mandated by law to to have at least a seven year gap between the end of their active military service and appointment to a senior civilian leadership position. Gen. Flynn (nominated for National Security Advisor) retired as Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (a military position within the DoD) in 2014, though he is an Executive appointee, and not subject to Congressional approval. By elevating both to civilian leadership positions without a sufficient “cooling-off” period, the Trump administration runs the risk of A) politicizing the offices to which these men are being nominated, and B) degrading the cornerstone principle that US foreign policy is civilian-controlled. Both are dangerous for a multitude of reasons, but ultimately conclude in a less-effective foreign policy and increased risk to Americans both at home and abroad.

By creating a pipeline that leads from military service to civilian cabinet positions, the Trump administration sets a precedent for the active military leadership to act not necessarily in the best tactical or strategic sense, but to include partisan political considerations in their planning. Not only is this against Department of Defense regulations, it is demonstrably detrimental at every level to the conduct and execution of operations in the field. The American military remains a long way from embedding political officers with individual units, but general officers who attempt to curry political favor in the hopes of securing a future cabinet position directly undermines the trust the American people have that the military acts in their interests, under their oath to (and only to) the Constitution.

Similarly, Trump’s selective disdain for the intelligence apparatuses of the country (except for when they agree with his own aims) is equally dangerous, with perhaps broader implications for safety of Americans abroad and at home. If the Trump administration begins to eschew objective analysis of gathered intelligence in favor of partisan politics and internal jockeying, much of the advanced warning methods used by these organizations to predict and prevent attacks (not just terrorist, but clandestine, cyberspace, and overt military) may atrophy to the point of uselessness. The key to effective analysis and dissemination of national intelligence is the apolitical, non-partisan nature of the organization. These organizations do not, and should not make policy decisions on behalf of the President or other branches of government. They exist to provide the most accurate informations to support and inform separated and unattached policy makers. By injecting “his own people [into the intelligence community] as well”, the Trump administration undermines the foundational tenant of the national intelligence apparatus to put the needs of the country before all others.

As it stands, the incoming administration is already seeking to undo Obama’s legacy of the past eight years, and yet most of these are matters of policy that naturally ebb and flow with the political zeitgeist. Where Trump makes himself unique, and most dangerous, are his apparent attempts to influence and subsume the very entities that ensure the safety and sovereignty of the United States. By design, the military and intelligence organizations are kept separate from the government branches they advise, in order to prevent selfish political concerns overriding the priorities of the country. To weaken the barriers between the tools of the state and its leadership threatens not only the integrity of the organizations in the eyes of the people, but also the security of the country and its citizens outright. It behooves the American people, through the other branches of Government designed to check and balance the Executive, to ensure that the tools of American foreign policy remain tools, and not in turn wield themselves.

 

French 75 (Makes 1 cocktail)

For this week’s drink, The International is turning to some more military cocktails that were repurposed for civilian life, and in keeping with the season’s festivities, we’re adding champagne! Contemplate the muddling of the American foreign policy toolbox while this French 75 cocktail muddles your head. But beware: it’s not named after an artillery piece for nothing. Fire for effect.

  • 1-1/4 ounce Hennessy Cognac
  • 3/4 ounce Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice
  • 1/2 ounce Simple Syrup (or a tad less)
  • Brut Champagne
  • Lemon Twist for Garnish

Combine Hennessy, lemon juice, and bar syrup in a cocktail shaker filled one third full of ice. Shake thoroughly for ten to fifteen seconds. Strain into a chilled champagne flute. Top off with champagne. Garnish with lemon twist. (From Business Insider)

American Brain Drain Under a “Post-Truth” Regime & Mind Eraser Cocktail

It’s official, everyone, we live in a ‘post-truth’ world! Everything is made up and the facts don’t matter! How did we get here? What happens now? What will a future America devoid of objective certainty look like? History might hold a clue, but at this point, there might not be anyone left to listen.

It’s become increasingly apparent in American politics that facts, those snippets of objective, evidence-based, indisputable information, no longer hold sway over the public discourse.  To hear some tell it, we live in a ‘post-truth’ world where “there are no such things as facts.”  America, and indeed the world, is currently experiencing an upswell in populist sentiment that rejects, amongst other things, elitist institutions and organizations that appear to dictate policy and societal direction. The image of a cold, unfeeling elitist who speaks unto the masses and drags them kicking and screaming into their future has been used for decades to stoke anti-intellectual sentiment in America. Caught up in this wave, though, are the researchers, developers, and innovators who advance the frontiers of scientific knowledge and in many cases are dependent on public money (in the form of government grants or institutional budgets) to fund their activities. When the electorate is disdainful of, or actively hostile towards, these so-called ‘scientific-technological elites’, so too are the government officials they elect, and consequently the purse strings are slowly drawn closed. What happens then is an exodus of academic and creative human capital, commonly known as ‘brain drain’. Researchers, innovators, and other developers end up relocating themselves, their research, and in many cases their businesses, to friendlier countries.

Throughout modern history, that friendlier country has been the United States of America, and consequently the country has been at the forefront of every major scientific, technical, and industrial advance that influences how we live today. America’s policies have allowed everyone from Albert Einstein to Elon Musk the opportunity to grow their field and develop unprecedented technologies, not to mention contribute significantly to the US economy in the form of patent licensure and direct commerce. Today in America, major fields of research and innovation are the target of scepticism, indifference, or outright hostility even as they seek to improve the world we live in. Medical research using fetal tissue, green technology to reduce global warming, even funding to explore space have all been the victims of a growing distrust in the intellectual process and scientific fact. Even in fields that are well-regarded and -supported, Immigration policies are making it increasingly difficult for qualified students and innovators to learn and remain in the United States. Combined with the fact that many other countries now have systems and infrastructure in place to support similar fields of study, America faces an unprecedented period of brain drain where it stands to lose its position as the most innovative, creative, and scientifically capable nation in history.

Where could all these academics and innovators go, do you ask? China and India, for a start. Currently the majority of Chinese- and Indian-born college graduates (many of them in STEM fields that are shrinking in the US) are returning to their home countries to start research opportunities and businesses not available to them in America. The resultant leaps in innovation, science, and development have generated not only massive corporations like Alibaba and Biocon, but are driving global scientific and technological progress at a rate to soon overtake the United States.  The trend is also apparent in immigrants from other countries, such as those in Latin America and Eastern Europe, though presently China and India are the closest runners-up. Regardless of their destination, each scientific emigrant from the US represents a significant loss of human capital and economic contribution at a time when the US is not educating enough scientifically-minded Americans to fulfill the existing demand. This trend is not likely to reverse under a society and administration that do not value scientific fact.

The loss of American human capital is not restricted only to developing economies.  Canadian universities of late have been actively courting American scientists and researchers, unveiling hundreds of millions of dollars and world-class facilities ready for immediate use. The Canadian government has similarly declared support for fields of research and innovation that are threatened or unsupported under US policies.  So when your friend says “I’m moving to Canada”, it might be because her research proposal just got funded by the Canadian government.  

What would the impact of brain drain be on the American economy? It would be difficult to estimate, especially as America has never been on the negative side of a human capital exchange. The impact could be something like never having Google or Tesla or Pfizer contribute to the US economy.  Instead, let’s look at what happens to those countries that have faced similar situations to the US right now and see how brain drain (or lack thereof) affected them.  Ireland is still recovering from the 2008 Great Recession, but suffered high emigration rates, including to Canada, especially among those with advanced degrees. This brain drain once threatened the recovery of the Irish economy to the point where a ‘double-dip’ recession seemed likely.  Recently, government support for advanced research and development has led to a net increase in Irish academic expatriates returning home, with a corresponding increase in economic growth and opportunity.  American policymakers would do well to learn from the Irish lesson as we at home still struggle to regain traction after the 2008 recession.

Conversely, we can also look at the impact supporting scientific progress and innovation have on an economy.  Poland’s support for innovation and entrepreneurship is credited for allowing it to emerge from the 2008 recession with net economic growth, with no years of net negative growth. Europe has also reaffirmed its commitment to fostering innovation and development in their respective economies, the net result of which is expected growth and recovery amongst every nation to do so. Europe currently faces many issues similar to America, especially in terms of immigration and a growing populist or far-right sentimentality, yet it seems apparent that the way out of economic and social turmoil, so often cited as the primary reason for populist movements, is the embracing of scientific discovery and technological innovation, not its rejection.

It becomes obvious, then, that America cannot afford to lose its best and brightest. The degradation and loss of the scientific infrastructure already present in America would be a major setback to the pace of scientific discovery as a whole, to say nothing of the immediate economic impact.  What can we as ordinary citizens do to stop this cycle? For a start, contact your federal, state, or local representative and tell them that you support increased funding for American scientific, innovative, and entrepreneurial institutions and organizations. Start with the Federal Committee on Science, Space, Technology and the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. Tell your state and local representative to support in-state funding for science and technology.  And when you can, support American small businesses, especially those working to create innovative and creative solutions for the world we live in.

Still not convinced? We’ve paired our story with a Mind Eraser cocktail, so you can see for yourself what America with ‘brain drain’ would be like!

Mind Eraser (makes 1 cocktail)

  • 2 oz. Kahlua coffee liqueur
  • 2 oz. vodka
  • Club soda

Fill a rocks glass with ice and pour in vodka. Next, layer in the Kahlua so it floats over the vodka. Top with a layer of club soda.

Drink by placing a straw in the glass and consuming as rapidly as possible, ideally all at once. It’s not called a Mind Eraser for nothing, you know! Disclaimer: one cocktail may not be enough if you’re trying to drink to forget.

Climate Change Skepticism & a Frozen Cranberry Cosmo

A recent report published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters shows a large rift in the Pine Island glacier, one of two glaciers in the West Antarctic Ice Sheet which are responsible for preventing large chunks of ice in the sheet from floating out to sea and melting. These two glaciers form a large part of the total ice in Antarctica, which accounts for about half of the fresh water on the entire planet. Why is this important? Well, scientists that study glaciers have some pretty compelling evidence that, when the surface ice exposed in these rifts comes into contact with liquid ocean water, melting accelerates, similar to how ice in your whiskey tumbler melts faster when you crack it before putting it in the glass.

When the West Antarctic Ice Sheet melts, sea levels will rise globally around 10 feet. Here’s how your community will fare when that happens. And yes, scientists who study global warming phenomena think it’s a WHEN and not an IF. Furthermore, these recent reports concerning the rift in the Pine Island glacier suggest that it will melt sooner than we expected, perhaps in many of our lifetime.

Now, we need to figure out ways of both minimizing the extent of glacier melting, and protecting the people that live in vulnerable areas when the sea levels do rise.  Back in the Nixon era, it was a commonly accepted belief that the world was warming, and the debate was over the best measures to counteract global warming. That’s how we ended up with the Clean Air Act, among others. But now the very existence of global warming is the subject of debate, as evidenced by the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology retweeting a debunked story from Brietbart. It’s ridiculous that climate change is again up for debate, given the solid body of work that scientists have assembled showing that the world is warming (and most of the data indicates that we humans have something to do with it), not to mention anecdotal evidence like intense droughts in California becoming more common.

So, what are we going to do about it? Saying “I told you so” will be a lot less satisfying when we’re all underwater, so if you have that relative who doesn’t think climate change is real, when you go home for the holidays, come armed with the facts and start a real conversation.  

Beyond discussions at the dinner table, I would argue that we have two issues that need to be a part of a national conversation about climate change. First, America must continue to be an integral part of global steps to combat climate change. This is very much put into jeopardy with the incoming climate-change skeptic administration. So, call your congresspeople and beg them to support our continued involvement in the Paris Climate Agreement. Ask them to call for debate on some of the currently proposed bills concerning climate change.  If you happen to be represented by someone who is a climate change denier, call their office and tell them you disagree with their stance on climate change.

Second, we need to come up with contingency plans for what will happen to our communities when (not if) sea levels do rise. This will need to be handled at a local as well as state and federal level, so if you live in a vulnerable community (especially one that doesn’t routinely have to deal with flooding!), go to your county’s board and civic association meetings and ask what the flood contingency plan is. Call your mayor’s office! Figure out what subsidies your state government offers for putting solar panels on your roof. And maybe…buy a boat and stock it with canned goods and a nice bottle of scotch. Just in case.

Already mourning the loss of frozen cocktails,

The Scientist

 

What I’m Drinking: Frozen Cranberry Cosmo

Here is a recipe for a cranberry cosmo, which combines the need for drinking frozen cocktails while we still cran (thanks Obama) with the festivities of the season.

  • 4oz vodka
  • 1oz lemon juice (about ½ a lemon)
  • 1oz orange liqueur
  • 2oz cranmary simple syrup

Put all of the above in a cocktail shaker with plenty of ice. Shake and strain into chilled glasses and garnish with whole cranberries or a twist of lemon zest.

Cranberry simple syrup:

  • 1 12oz bag cranberries (about 3 cups)
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 tbl chopped rosemary
  • 2 ½ cups water

Put everything in a saucepan and simmer for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Once the berries have all popped, ladle them through a fine sieve set over a pitcher and collect the juice. Let the syrup chill until you’re ready to use.

(from mixedgreensblog.com)

Weekly News Roundup & Mulled Wine

 Join us this week as we discuss the return of Ben Carson (ugh), how there’s no such thing as facts (say it when clicking your red heels together and we may all wake up), Newt Gingrich’s apparent siding with Japan in WW2 on Pearl Harbor Day (I have no joke about this), and Joe Biden’s flirting with a 2020 presidential run (please don’t).

One Drink: Hey Look, Ben Carson is Back.

Dedicated readers will remember our silver lining two weeks back, where we celebrated Ben Carson’s exit from the national political sphere, as the former neurosurgeon removed his name from contention for Secretary of Health and Human Services. Despite his medical background, top Trump aids relayed that Carson “feels he has no government experience, he’s never run a federal agency. The last thing he would want to do was to take a  position that could cripple the presidency.”

Well guess what, folks?! This week, Carson formally accepted nomination to be Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, a position for which he is less qualified. One assumes his fabricated stories about trying to stab his friends, circulated during his presidential bid in an effort to seem more relatable, would serve as experience in managing inner cities.

This is an utter farce. The man ran to be president, then exited government saying he had no government experience (meaning he wasn’t committed to running for president, he was doing it for the publicity, sound familiar?), and now is entering government in a field he has less experience in than the job he turned down. And just as America’s inner cities were turning around.

Two Drink: There’s No Such Thing As Facts (Down the Rabbit Hole of Logical Fallacy)

The debates of post-factuality have reached a new high this week after Scottie Nell Hughes, noted CNN Trump surrogate, claimed on Wednesday of the previous week on The Diane Rehm Show that “There’s no such thing, unfortunately, anymore as facts.” Note here, I corrected her grammar, the English language being a noted weak point of both Trump and most of his spokespeople (an irony that has apparently gone unnoticed).

Despite the blatant absurdity of claiming that we no longer live in a world of facts, Ms. Hugues continues her appearance on the show by making several arguments, all premised on things she cites as facts. If you claim that there is “no such thing as facts,” you then have to find another way to support arguments you want to make that doesn’t rely on any of those non-existent facts (good luck).

If someone tells you that facts no longer exist, please explain to them how Advil is still blocking pain receptors, alcohol will still get you drunk, the Senate still has 100 members, and there are 50 states in the Union. All of these occurrences are not premised on magic, or acts of God, but on a series of defined certainties about the world around us. Facts aren’t going anywhere, however, apparently people’s understanding of both Logic and English, is.

Red Drink: Newt Gingrich, Imperial Japanese Sympathizer

On the 75th anniversary of the Japanese attacks on Pearl Harbor, which killed two thousand American servicemen and launched the United States into the Second World War, in which nearly 300,000 American soldiers died, Newt Gingrich went on a tweeting spree praising the greatness of Imperial Japan.

Gingrich said “75 years ago the Japanese displayed professional brilliance and technological power launching surprises from Hawaii to the Philippines.” Coming from a prominent American politician on the anniversary of the attack, this is a tactless slap in the face to the survivors of a war that claimed so many lives, in addition to being a slap in the face to basic decency. If Trump is planning to revive the House Unamerican Activities Committee, this man would be a great starting point.

So let’s recap: close advisers of the president elect are neo-Nazis and Japanese sympathizers. I’m starting to think what’s really happening is that we’ve switched places with The Man in the High Castle, and as the characters in the show fight to rectify the timeline, we slip slowly into their timeline to replace them.

Quick reminder: Newt Gingrich served as the Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives from 1995 to 1999, and has been an advisor to the Trump campaign. He’s also a strong proponent of family values, and is on his third marriage, after cheating on his last two wives.

Blue Drink: Biden 2020?

Just… please don’t. After saying “never say never,” it sounds as though Biden realized the country took his joke too seriously, as he clarified he would not be running for president in 2020. Despite being the source of some truly wonderful memes, the last thing this country needs is a Democratic party that, over the course of four years of Trump presidency, failed to evolve to the point they tapped Joe Biden as their champion. To quote the VP, “What the hell, man.”

Pop Open the Bubbly: Big Bird Was Real

Scientists have finally secured proof that your imaginary childhood dinosaur friend is actually did look like Big Bird. A golfball-sized lump of amber mined for jewelry in Myanmar was found to contain a feathered dinosaur tail-section from what is believed to be a young celurosaur (think: pygmy T-rex).

The preserved sample contains not only feathers, but also soft tissue and vertebrae, the organization of which allowed scientists to identify the feathers as ‘dinosaur feathers’ rather than ‘bird feathers,’ which would enable flight. These are the first dinosaur feathers that have been obtained for study. As an added bonus, the amber had already been cut and shaped as jewelry when the fossil was discovered: perhaps the kind of jewelry that Rexy would wear, now that we know she has a flamboyant streak.

Let’s be clear: there are other things that happened this week that were awful. The Carrier deal was a bad deal (I thought Donald Trump didn’t make bad deals, but, hey), and a climate change denier currently suing the EPA is going to be the head of the EPA. You know what I want to be talking about? Policy to make our country better. You know what we’re talking about? Basic human decency.

I hate everything this week, except dinosaurs.

The Bartender

Drink of the Week: Mulled Wine

We’re getting close to the holidays, and the temperature is getting colder, so it’s the perfect season to mull over the world’s problems with a nice big mug of mulled wine.  You’ll need:

  • One bottle of a fruity red wine (you want a safe wine that’s flavorful but not going to overpower the spices, like a nice Merlot)
  • 2 cardamom pods
  • 2 cloves
  • One cinnamon stick
  • One large orange
  • Dash allspice
  • Dash grated nutmeg
  • One star anise pod
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup brandy

Slice the orange into large wheels, and combine all ingredients into a large pot and heat on medium until sugar dissolves, without boiling. Reduce heat to low, and simmer until flavors have melded (about 10 min). Serve immediately, but you can keep warm on low heat for a few hours during a party.

Weekly News Roundup & Fog Cutter

Join us this week as we discuss the link between bad diplomacy and nuclear war, how Trump has figured out that most news media teams are magpies, the president elect’s victory tour, Democrats plans to replace Nancy Pelosi with Nancy Pelosi, and finally a decent cabinet appointment.

One Drink: Trump to India: “Add ‘Diplomacy’ to ‘Conflicts of Interest’ on the List of Things I Don’t Understand”

This week, the Pakistani government released a truly bizarre summary of their call with Donald Trump to congratulate him on his election win, in which Trump said Nawaz Sharif was a “Terrific guy,” is doing “amazing work,” and that “Pakistanis are one of the most intelligent people.”

One would think that a man who has been trying to build a business in India would know better than to openly praise Pakistan, I mean, it’s not like the two have fought a war recently. Oh wait, no they’ve fought four.

Multiple reports over the last year have cited Trump’s unwillingness to read beyond the length of a tweet or to listen to national security briefings. This bull in a china shop approach works in business, where the worst result of stepping on people’s toes is losing the deal. Stepping on nuclear armed toes in the minefield of historical conflict that is relationship between India and Pakistan has much more severe possible outcomes. A recent study in the American Geophysical Union Journal found that even a limited regional nuclear war, using 100 “small nuclear weapons,” (i.e. the size dropped on Hiroshima), could cause a nuclear winter that would last decades and trigger a global nuclear famine. At least I’ve got a cellar full of scotch for just such an occasion.

And yes, I just put nuclear famine in the one drink category.

Two Drink: Dear News Media: Trump is Playing You

This week started off with Donald Trump tweeting that, were it not for millions of fraudulent votes, he would have won the popular vote. Let’s start by emphasizing there is no evidence of voter fraud in the United States, There was not voter fraud in California, and that rigging an American Election would be beyond difficult. I think it’s also important to point out here that both Newt Gingrich and Lindsey Graham have basically told Trump to put up or shut up on the whole voter fraud issue.

The timing of this tweet is no coincidence, and points to the fact that Trump is actually an extremely intelligent media animal, contrary to the image of a blustering cheeto with the attention span of a hummingbird (n.b.: he is still a cheeto, that has not changed).

As last week’s coverage of Trump’s conflicts of interest reached a fervor, this accusation of voter fraud distracted from a very well-researched piece in the New York Times detailing a history and map of all of Trump’s potential conflicts of interest. But instead of that, the media narrative was co-opted by this single tweet about voter fraud.

This is not the first time a tweet has caused the media circus to become distracted from a serious issue and left it unresolved. Trump’s harassment of the cast of Hamilton happened a remarkably short time after his $25 million Trump University fraud settlement, which will be tax deductible, and accounts for 60% of the $40 million the scam conned out of its students, according to New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, meaning Trump will not actually lose any money as a result of this settlement.

What’s the solution here? That’s easy. What do you do when a creepy guy approaches you at a bar and starts making offensive statements? You ignore him. Blowing up at every one of his outbursts just plays into his hands. As a news consumer, pay attention to what’s important- his actions in governing- not his 6am ranting.

Red Drink: The Trump Victory Tour

Yesterday, Trump kicked off his “Victory Tour” of states that helped him win the election, an unprecedented step for a president elect. The reasons this is concerning are many, starting with the timing. When a president elect is confirmed, he or she has less than three months to form a cabinet and hire the over four thousand employees they will need to fill the West Wing so that they can hit the ground running immediately after taking office. We are now nearly a month after the election, and how many cabinet positions have been filled? 13 out of 23, ten of whom will need confirmation by the senate, and at least one of whom will require special legislation to allow him to serve. It’s taken a month hire 13 people, less than one every two days. Meanwhile the burgeoning Trump administration has still not moved into taxpayer-funded transition offices in Washington, instead staying in Trump Tower at additional taxpayer expense. Furthermore Trump has pushed his announcement of how he will address his staggering conflicts of interest until December 15th, one month from when he is scheduled to take office.

Instead of conducting the work of the people, Trump is galavanting across the country to hold rallies to energise his supporters, who have already felt empowered to conduct racist, sexist, homophobic, and transphobic attacks since the election. These rallies will do nothing to unite the country behind Trump’s vision, as he has stated is his goal now that he is taking office, but will instead fan the flames of the divisiveness that has defined his rise to prominence. If you thought weight of the Presidency would sober up Mr. Trump, this is confirmation he has no intention being “president for all Americans.”

As a side note, this week, amidst much public scrutiny, Mitt Romney allowed Trump to make an absolute fool of him after weeks of speculation about whether or not Trump would appoint Romney as Secretary of State. Any man with a spine would have stopped engaging with Trump after dragging him along in such a manner. But Romney? No, just like Trump’s epic humiliations of Ted Cruz and Chris Christie, Romney is now choosing to allow Trump to tarnish his name and make him eat his words. Republicans had backbone against threats to democracy in the Second World War and during the Cold War, why has that changed now?

Blue Drink: Nancy Pelosi graciously creates a path for young talent in the Democratic organization

This week I was going to gripe on about how Democrats were making themselves weak by re-electing Nancy Pelosi, who has been the head of the Democratic party in the House for the last 13 years. Earlier this week, Pelosi made the somewhat condescending remark that she wanted to promote younger talent in her next term, something Republicans are already doing with Paul Ryan and Nikki Haley (Pelosi and the next two ranking Democrats in the House are all in their mid 70s, as is Bernie Sanders). I think a lot of millennials can relate to a 76 year old who has been in her job for over a decade saying she wants to create a career path for you and then doing nothing to follow through.

Elitist leadership has turned Democrats into a party out of touch with most of economically downtrodden middle America, and they now have the lowest representation in Congress since 1929, losing 60 house seats since 2010, in spite of record voter turnout for both Obama and Hillary. While you could argue that gerrymandering is to blame, that oversimplification still leads to one logical conclusion: Democratic leaders are out of touch with an unmotivated base that votes for presidential personas in Obama and the Clintons (similar to how Trump just got elected) and not for the Democratic Party in mid-terms or local elections.

But as of yesterday, Democrats may finally be making a shift. House democrats voted to elect the Campaign Committee Chairman and three co-Chairmen of the Policy and Communications Committee, positions Pelosi, as Minority leader, would have been able to appoint and put to a confirmation vote. Hopefully a more democratic Democratic leadership (see what I did there?) will lead to a more competitive party for the 2018 midterms. But they’ve got a lot of work to do, and I’m not expecting much. Voter turnout in the 2014 midterms was the lowest since 1942 because Democrats just didn’t care enough to turn out to vote for their party, they only vote for presidential personalities.

Everything about this election cycle has been unusual, so two years of Trump may seriously motivate Democratic voters to turn out for elections, but it would be a second lightning strike in the same spot.  

Pop the Bubbly: The First Decent Cabinet Pick

We may finally be starting to see competence appointed to positions of importance this week, as Nikki Haley joined the cabinet as ambassador to the UN. Haley, the first Indian-American woman to be a governor, and of a Southern state one at that, has a distinguished record of governing South Carolina through two major hurricanes cum floods, the Charleston shootings at Emmanuel Baptist Church, and leading the effort to remove the confederate flag from the State capitol building.

Haley is a cool-headed anti-Trump, restoring dignity to the Governorship of the state after Trumpian former governor Mark Sanford thrust the state into national disgrace by lying about “hiking the Appalachian trail” while really visiting his long-time mistress in Argentina, and the race to replace him as governor descended into racist, sexist vitriol by those threatened by Haley’s status as a second-generation American Sikh and convert to Christianity. Hopefully Haley can bring some of order to chaos she was able to instil in South Carolina politics to the national and international stage.

Drink of the Week: Fog Cutter

  • 1.5 oz white rum
  • 0.5 oz gin
  • 0.5 oz brandy
  • 2 oz fresh orange juice
  • 1 oz fresh lemon juice
  • 0.5 oz orgeat syrup
  • 0.5 oz Amontillado sherry
  • 1 mint sprig

Pour all liquid ingredients, except the sherry, into a cocktail shaker with ice and shake it like a polaroid picture. Strain into a highball glass and float Sherry on top. Garnish with the mint sprig, and think deep thoughts about transparency.

From Food & Wine