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.