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