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 & 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.

 

 

Weekly News Roundup & Corn ‘N Oil

This week Trump continues to blow through taxpayer money so he can not be at the White House, Trump and the GOP launched, stopped, and re-launched one of the silliest surveys I’ve ever seen, Republican congressmen avoid their constituents because they’re ashamed of their own actions (but not ashamed enough to do something different), and the left has a panicked convulsion over immigration guidance without pausing to think about it first. At least the tone of this week was calmer since Kellyanne went away.

1D: Trump’s Costs to the Taxpayer

Trumps vacations to Mar-a-Lago in his first month as president have cost the taxpayer an estimated $10 million, putting Trump on pace to out-spend Obama’s 8 year total of $97 million in just one year. This is coming from a man who repeatedly criticized Obama for going on vacation, and who stated “I won’t have time to play golf as president,” and now repeatedly plays golf. And this cost doesn’t even factor in the cost of security to Trump Tower in Manhattan, which is estimated to be costing the taxpayer $1 million per day. If only I could cost this much money to my employer and not be immediately fired or sued into oblivion.

2D: The Media Accountability Survey

This week, the Trump campaign published a “Media Accountability Survey,” which received widespread promotion. The campaign then took it down, apparently after getting answers they didn’t like after the survey became widespread, and re-emailed it to only Trump supporters. Results to follow, along with Trump’s tax returns (get it? They’re never coming…).

If you haven’t taken the survey, I highly encourage you to go participate in this glowing gem of unbiased survey construction. Questions include:

  • “Do you believe the mainstream media has reported unfairly on our movement?”
    • Correct answer: no. 
  • “On which issues does the mainstream media do the worst job of representing Republicans? (Select as many that apply),
    • Correct answer: assuming they speak English. This sentence is a true gem of pompous grammatical inexactitude.
  • “Were you aware that a poll was released revealing that a majority of Americans actually supported President Trump’s temporary restriction executive order?”
    • Correct answer: please define the words “aware,” “poll,” “released,” “revealing,” “majority,” and “actually.”

RD: Republicans Dodging Their Constituents

Congress was on recess this week (seriously, when do they work? honestly asking, if you know, please email me), and normally that means congressmen and congresswomen holding town hall meetings to hear the views of their constituencies.

LOL! Not this year! Record numbers of Republican legislators have cancelled their town hall meetings after videos surfaced last week of a few congressmen who had gone home early (again with the not working) being berated by angry voters who want them to investigate Trump’s ties to Russia and his conflicts of interest as vigorously as they investigated Hillary Clinton’s emails and Benghazi, and explain what their replacement to Obamacare will be, among other issues.

I think it’s important to point out here how spineless this is. My mother always told me that if you’re ashamed to answer for your actions, it means you shouldn’t be taking those actions in the first place. Republicans need to get back to the values they used to espouse about, well, values, and remember that if you’re ashamed to answer to your constituents, you’re not doing your job as a representative correctly

One last “ugh” – Republican congressman Louis Gohmert of Texas, when asked why he wasn’t holding a town hall meeting, cited Gabby Giffords’ shooting at a campaign event as reason to cop out. Giffords, who was shot at an Arizona campaign rally, survived, and is now a vocal gun control advocate, told him to “have some courage.” What a burn. And this Texas legislator is one of the pro gun people. You can’t make this kind of hypocrisy up.

BD: The Left, The Media, and New Immigration Guidance

This week, we received guidance from the Trump administration about what their priorities would be when choosing which illegal immigrants to deport first. Not actually joking here- CBP and ICE are dramatically under-staffed, and it routinely falls to presidential guidance to determine what priorities to impose. The Obama administration actually varied widely throughout its eight years, at first earning Obama the nickname “Deporter in Chief” and, later, causing uproar on the right at how many people he was supposedly letting in the country.

So, I was particularly struck this week when I was listening to The New York Times’ daily podcast on Tuesday (I know, I’m a coastal elite, go complain to my attorney) at how much they were conflating this with the end of the world. It literally sounded like every American, not just every immigrant, was now subject to deportation “without cause,” and the Times was one of many news outlets to overreact this week.

Let’s be very clear here: if a foreign national is in the United States without a green card or a valid work or tourist visa, they are, and always have been, subject to immediate removal. This is not “without cause,” being an undocumented foreign national is inherently cause for removal. If such a person is fleeing persecution or war at home, they can apply for asylum. If they’re a “dreamer,” a child brought illegally to the United States, they’re granted a temporary exception. But the Trump administration’s enforcement of this policy is not radical, and it’s not new, it’s the law. If you don’t like it, change the law. But the only thing radical about this guidance is that Trump thinks he can deport non-Mexican nationals to Mexico and have them wait there. That’s just stupid.

Now there are two concerns here- we do know that CBP officers have little regard for the constitution, in that they don’t think it applies to them, and that fear of deportation could keep illegal immigrants from calling emergency services when it would serve a public good. Luckily, there are two easy solutions! CBP’s actions were being reviewed in the Supreme Court earlier this week in a cross-border shooting case, and their actions defying court orders during the Muslim Ban fiasco brought them under close scrutiny, indicating their constitution-free days are numbered. And as for emergency services, I, most Republicans, and all Democrats support something called Good Samaritan laws, which allow emergency services and police to look the other way when someone calls to report an emergency, a crime, or to save a life, be they undocumented, drug addicted, what have you, in order to encourage people to call when they need to.

So, really, this should be a sensible, straight-forward debate, not an end-of-the-world hoopla. Clam down, Democrats, and learn how to choose your battles more sensibly.

Pop the Champagne: Kellyanne Conway is off the air!

The senior advisor to Donald Trump and before photo for a conditioner commercial has been under fire (as we’ve discussed before) for her misleading and often downright false statements on national TV. After several shows said they would no longer have her on air due to her credibility issues, the White House has reportedly barred her from TV appearances. Alternative facts state that she hasn’t been barred, she’s just focusing on other things. Okay. But we’re all still living in a state of constant anxiety wondering if she’ll suddenly pop up again. 

Drink of the week: Corn ‘N Oil

Get it? Because Rex Tillerson is in Mexico today. You’ll need:

  • 1 oz. dark rum
  • 1½ oz. falernum (a delicious spiced syrup, recipe here)
  • ¾ oz. fresh lime juice
  • 1 oz. black strap rum
  • 1 dash Angostura bitters

Combine the dark rum, falernum, and lime in a shaker with ice. Shake out all of this week’s aggression, then strain into a Collins glass. Add crushed ice, then float black strap and bitters over the top. Stir gently before drinking. (Source: Imbibe)

 

Weekly News Roundup & French Bulldog

Setting what may be a long-standing record for shortest Presidential Cabinet tenure (24 days), Michael Flynn resigned as Trump’s National Security Advisor after government agencies indicated he illegally discussed US sanctions with the Russian Ambassador prior to the Trump administration taking over. And then lied to the VP about it. Apparently the former head of US military intelligence forgot that the US routinely wiretaps communications with rival powers. He’s probably hoping people also forget what he said about people who become security risks to the US. Trump’s pick as his replacement said “Negative, Ghostrider”, so the NSC will be flying missing-man for a while.

The Republican Response? Why would we investigate? Also, hide from our voters because we’re “not ashamed of what we’re doing.” In the face of increasing scrutiny and questions from both Congressional Democrats and his own constituents, chairman of the House Oversight Committee Jason Chaffetz (R- UT) pulled a Mariah and declined to open an investigation on Flynn’s alleged ties to Russia and illegal discussions regarding sanctions. When pressed, Chaffetz cited “Executive privilege” like he was in a reading of the Frost/Nixon interviews. The crowd reacted as you might expect.

In a meeting that started with the Eternal Handshake, Trump decided to go full Florida on Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. During their response to the North Korean missile test on Sunday the two leaders and their teams conducted their briefing and planning sessions right in the “Situation Patio” of the “Winter White House”, in full view of the dining public. Photos posted to Facebook show patrons posing with security staff members, aides illuminating briefing materials with their cellphones, and laptops being displayed at Trump’s table. Trump and Abe later issued a joint statement, during which Trump did not wear his translation earpiece and was left nodding along to the Prime Minister, cued by his aides. Domo arigato, Prime Minister Shinzo.

The relationship between the US Intelligence Community and the First Customer was never good to begin with, but it appears the IC has decided that Trump and his administration are no longer capable of protecting the most sensitive aspects of US intelligence operations. Add to that the unveiling of records and transcripts of Mike Flynn’s call to the Russian Ambassador, and you have an apparatus that would naturally think twice before disseminating crucial intelligence means and sources. Trump reacted by likening them to Nazi Germany and calling them “un-American”. Unconfirmed reports say that Intelligence officials are preparing for an existential crisis centered around their ability to provide non-partisan intelligence to customers who will make decisions in the best interest of the nation.

The BBC reports that Russian media has turned skeptic on Trump’s agenda, policies, and nominees, in light of “many contradictory and incompatible statements” coming from Trump and his administration. One source even says the Russian government has ordered state media outlets to scale back their coverage of Trump, apparently in order to reduce public expectations of the presumed detente between the two administrations. It seems that Putin is feeling first-hand what it’s like to be in an abusive, gaslighting relationship. Oh, the irony.

Congress has repealed a late-term Obama law protecting streams and waterways from coal waste dumping under an obscure and little-used (‘til now) Congressional Review Act. Fiji water not looking so expensive now, is it? But if you’re a real New Yorker, you know Boxed Water Is Better.

Trump held a 77 minute long press conference Thursday afternoon, ostensibly to announce his nominee for Labor Secretary after Puzder withdrew his nomination. While he (barely) managed to stick to the script long enough to introduce Alex Acosta, he rapidly descended into his now infamous blithering stream of failed sentences. Some sad-lights include insinuating that all black people know each other, calling a Jewish reporter a liar when asked a question about the rise of anti-Semitism in the USA and simultaneously blaming the leaks regarding Russia (see above) on the media and saying that they were false. In the words of the man himself, “I don’t think there’s ever been a president elected who in this short period of time has done what we’ve done”. True but probably not in the sense he means.  

Lastly on the Trump front, in uplifting news, Trump is held his first campaign rally for 2020 re-election on Saturday in Melbourne, Florida, while also making up a terrorist attack in Sweden. The fact that the 2020 election cycle is starting less than a month after Trump took office makes me want to move to the real Melbourne.

So, how are we holding up? One month in and it seems like it’s been ages since anything good happened. Is comedy over? Can SNL really lead the TV resistance against Trump? A) No, and B) No, leave it to Stephen Colbert and Seth Meyers. But we get it. Sometimes you need a break. Have some good news:

Rhonda McCoy worked to prove that public school lunches can be healthy, appetizing, and affordable in one of the most unhealthy school districts in the country.

In a continuation of their trend of increasing acceptance and inclusion, Joe Maldonado was welcomed as the first openly transgender Boy Scout with his Cub Scout Pack in new Jersey.

In further Jersey news, a 5th Grade basketball team voted unanimously to keep two girls on their team, in spite of forfeiting their chances at a playoff run.

Parker Brother’s announced it is retiring the thimble from its Monopoly lineup of game pieces. Hear from the Thimble “in its own words”.

None of that helped? Really? OK. You’ve given us no choice but to release the hounds. Have some Westminster Kennel Club photos to remind you that no matter what, there are always Good Dogs, Brent. Even if they get distracted. Or are cats.

(Stories and collections can be found at New York Times)

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! Below are some 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.

  • ACLU
  • Anti-Defamation League
  • Council on American-Islamic Relations
  • DonorsChoose.org
  • Environmental Defense Fund
  • Lambda Legal
  • NextGen Climate Action
  • Planned Parenthood
  • Reporter’s Committee For Freedom of the Press
  • Southern Poverty Law Center

Drink of the week: French Bulldog

Get it? Because of the Westminster Dog Show. You’ll need:

  • 4 oz. Bulldog Gin
  • 1 oz. Elderflower liqueur (we use St. Germain)
  • 3/4 oz. Simple syrup
  • 1/2 oz. crème de cassis
  • 2-3 sage leaves

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice, add in gin, elderflower liqueur, and simple syrup. Stir, and strain into a martini glass. Carefully add in crème de cassis and garnish with sage leaves. (Source: Petcha)

Weekly News Roundup & Moscow Mule

Gurl…. At the beginning of this week, I thought it was going to be relatively easy compared to last week. There was a light at the end of the tunnel. I was mistaken. This week, the list is categorized by branches of government, to remind you they exist.

The Executive Branch

Trump’s first phone call with Vladimir Putin went well – Trump says that the “New Start” treaty limiting nuclear proliferation between Russia and the United States, an underpinning of the peaceful end of the Cold War, was a “bad deal”.

In response to a USA Today piece comparing Steve Bannon to ISIS, Fox News published a helpful chart comparing Bannon and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. In case you were wondering, Steve hasn’t beheaded a journalist, used chemical weapons on Kurds, employed child soldiers, executed christians, or declared a Caliphate. Yet.

A series of arrests in Russia, including of KGB/FSB officers, appears to support the theory of Russian interference in the US elections made public after a report from a former British intelligence officer.

Donald Trump said this week that he thinks Barack Obama likes him. Coupled with Melania’s facial expressions and the company he keeps, this emphasizes the fact that he’s a terrible judge of character.

Sean Spicer has said that the Judge who blocked Trump’s travel ban “went rogue.” While issuing a nationwide injunction is unusual, so is issuing a Muslim ban without consulting any relevant federal agencies or departments. The White House needs to learn how to check itself before it comes for other people.

Following Kellyanne Conway’s example, Sean Spicer invented a terrorist attack in Atlanta, saying “What do we say to the family that loses somebody over a terroristic (sic), to whether it’s Atlanta or San Bernardino or the Boston bomber?” The best part? He did this three times, two days in a row. We assume he meant Orlando, but, then again, who knows?

It’s ok, because Sean Spicer doesn’t have much time left in the White House – insiders are leaking that he’s already being set up as a fall guy. Because he’s obviously single-handedly responsible for all of the Trump administration’s woes…

Speaking of who is calling the shots, Donald Trump says it’s him! If you’ve ever heard anyone shouting about how they’re calling the shots, you know that if he feels the need to say it, it’s not true.

Trump’s conflicts of interest continue to widen as the Pentagon says it is now looking to rent space in Trump Tower so it can have the immediate access it needs to have to the President at all times. You know what would give them that access? Him living somewhere that’s designed for it. Like maybe The White House. What are the odds you think Trump is going to give them fair market rent? Any takers for 0%?

It turns out that Trump’s proclivity for nepotism does in fact edge out his professed commitment to free enterprise.  In yet another scathing tweet on Wednesday, our President lashed out at Nordstrom for discontinuing Ivanka’s clothing line.  In any other circumstances, Nordstrom’s decision would have seemed fairly routine: sales performance did not meet corporate expectations.  However, in the age of our new Royal- lol oops  I mean First Family, it seems daring to suggest anything other than a success for Trump or those close to him is unacceptable.  The issue was so important to him that he sent the tweet while he should have been in an intelligence briefing.

In what is perhaps an astounding coincidence, Nordstrom stock started to rise at 10:52AM Wednesday following the 10:51AM tweet.  Stock prices closed Wednesday after an increase of 4.85%.  Even the fickle machines of Wall Street have a sense of humor.

Melania Trump, absentee first lady, is claiming in a lawsuit against the Daily Mail that insinuating she was a prostitute ”cost her “the chance of a lifetime” to make millions. Ridicule in the press obviously hasn’t stopped her husband or her stepchildren from lining their own pockets; one fails to see how one bad report in the press is holding her back from doing anything, especially since she has the most ridiculous nude pictures literally everywhere. Also, for the record, being the first lady is not traditionally viewed as an entitlement to make money. Can you imagine Michelle Obama or Laura Bush claiming that? Good Grief.

Trump’s pick for the Labor Department admitted to hiring an undocumented maid. The double irony here being that, as Labor Secretary, his job would be to enforce laws that prevent people from doing just that, but also that Trump has a history of doing the same thing.

A reporter from Newsweek is suing the government to find out how it vetted Trump’s cabinet appointments for their required security clearances. Traditionally, being convicted of a crime, say domestic violence (Steve Bannon), or having extensive ties to foreign businesses (Trump’s three children, Rex Tillerson) complicate or prevent one from attaining clearance. It’s almost as bad as sharing classified information on a private email server. Oh wait, no, they’re doing that, too.

Kellyanne Conway potentially committed a felony by endorsing Ivanka Trump’s clothing line that Nordstrom dropped this week while on TV. And this one isn’t an “oh, maybe she did, maybe she didn’t, it’s a complicated law” one, this is a “there is a law specifically designed to stop people from doing exactly what she did” kind of a thing.

Trump is actually making 3am phone calls. While we support his key advisors for guidance on major decisions on whatever schedule it is that he keeps, this one raises concern, because he asked Michael Flynn, his national security advisor, about whether or not a strong dollar was good for the US economy. You would think that, as the great businessman he claims to be, he would already know that. Most high schoolers do.

The Legislative Branch

Republican lawmakers in the senate introduced a bill targeted at reducing legal immigration. While the US immigration system is in desperate need of reform, reducing the annual green card issuance from one million to 600,000 is not the answer. Typical Republican response, though – instead of addressing the underlying concern and proposing a real solution, let’s just slash it by half and see what happens!

Another Republican lawmaker introduced a bill to eliminate the Department of Education. While I don’t want Betsy DeVos in charge of education, either, eliminating the department is certainly not the answer. The US has some of the worst schools in the developed world. See the above commentary.

Senators did do something useful this week, introducing a bill requiring Trump to notify congress of intention to lift sanctions on Russia tied to the invasion of Crimea. Little Marco finally grew a backbone.

Mitch McConnell silenced Elizabeth Warren on the Senate Floor for reading a letter written by Coretta Scott King opposing the nomination of Jeff Sessions in the 80s. Since the letter was already on the record, it looks as though the only motive was to get her to shut up. Some say it’s a ploy to hand her a microphone because Republicans know they can beat her in 2020. If they think an unelectable candidate without popular support can’t get elected president, their memory is shorter than I thought.

Despite the attempts of Senator Warren and other Democrats to prevent it, Jeff Sessions was confirmed Wednesday as the United States Attorney General.  With a voting record that would make your racist uncle blush, his categorical opposition to civil rights has been a cause of concern to many.

Senator McConnell, in an effort to appear consistent in his disconnection from the American people if nothing else, told an interviewer in his Capitol office that he sees a “high level of satisfaction” with the new Trump administration.  He also reassures that the “country doesn’t need saving” as a reminder that if you are hoping for someone to reign in the new White House, it will not be the Senate.

Betsy DeVos was finally confirmed as the Secretary of Education after a tumultuous debate over her qualifications.  Namely, the Republicans struggled to demonstrate that she had any at all.  DeVos is a wealthy benefactor of the Republican party and a long-time supporter of private schools.  During her senate hearings, DeVos failed to prove she had any but the most cursory understanding of basic education metrics.  Vice President Pence was called in for an unprecedented tie-breaking vote for a cabinet confirmation.  The vote for confirmation was split almost exactly down the middle with the exception of two Republican defectors, showing once again that party unity is more important to the Republicans than ethical decision-making.

The Judicial Branch

Neil Gorsuch, nominee to the Supreme Court, called Trump’s attacks on federal judges this week “disheartening” and “demoralizing.” Good for him. However, these comments were leaked from a “closed-door” meeting with Senator Blumenthal (D-CT). Apparently the White House isn’t the only building leaking like a sieve these days.

The Supreme Court has accepted a case on partisan gerrymandering, which has the potential to redraw congressional district maps nation-wide. The case comes out of Florida, however North Carolina and Wisconsin have also been ordered to redraw congressional districts due to unconstitutional rigging of elections by drawing inherently uncompetitive districts.

A federal appeals court unanimously voted to uphold the original stay on Trump’s travel ban, pointing to the administration’s complete lack of evidence for the necessity of the ban and lack of precedent for its claim that the ban was unreviewable by the judiciary. This made President Trump ALL CAPS ANGRY, a sure sign that something has finally gone right.

Drink of the Week: Moscow Mule

Get it? Because Moscow. You’ll need:

  • 1/2 oz. lime juice
  • 2 oz. vodka
  • 4-6 oz. ginger beer
  • Ice cubes
  • A Russian with blackmail on you

Squeeze lime juice into a collins glass, then drop in the rinds. Add ice into the glass, pour in vodka, and then fill with ginger beer. If you fill with ginger ale, the FSB knows where you live, and will not be amused.

 

 

 

Weekly News Roundup & Penicillin

After the overwhelming abnormality of last week, we’re back to being snarky this week, but keeping the list thing. So here’s a list of all of the things that happened this week that made us say “ugh, I need a drink…”

Random Trump-Related Bullshit:

  • Emperor Palpatine I mean Steve Bannon, who may be our actual president, is doing his best to eliminate a paper trail after also being appointed to the National Security Council in an unprecedented move for a schlub Nazi who is totally unqualified. We may be at the order 66 stage, Obi-Wan, you are our only hope. Especially since Carrie is dead.
  • The White House is leaking like a sieve, abnormally for this early in an administration, as reports are that the West Wing is being run like the Lord of the Flies. 
  • A federal judgement was issued against Donald Trump’s Jupiter National Golf Club for nearly $6M in refunds due to former members that Trump refused to pay back once he bought the club. Shocker.
  • Trump made a speech commemorating Black History Month at a “listening session” in the White House in which he hijacked attention to talk about how evil the media was, how big his crowd size was, his “movement,” blah, blah blah. The usual talking points, no listening, little related to the topic at hand.
  • Trump threatened to further erode the separation of Church and State by ”totally destroying” a law prohibiting Churches from endorsing political candidates and causes or risk losing their tax exempt status.
  • During the same speech he berated Arnold Schwarzenegger for his low ratings as the new host of Celebrity Apprentice, the show of which Trump is still Executive Producer, saying “I want to just pray for Arnold, for those ratings.”
  • Trump nominated Judge Gorsuch of Colorado to fill Scalia’s seat on the Supreme Court in a made-for-TV event at 8PM on Wednesday night. The extent to which the event was inspired by Trump’s Apprentice past (a show being totally ruined by Arnold, we’re praying for him on the President’s request, the ratings are bad) that he flew in the runner-up solely for appearance’s sake to confuse the media.
  • Meanwhile, Democrat activists began protesting Trump’s court pick before he was even announced. While the seat was stolen by unprecedented obstructionism from Mitch McConnell, Gorsuch represents a more moderate court pick than expected, having no record on guns, abortion, or gay rights. Democrats should swiftly confirm him. He’s the best they’re going to get for the next four years.
  • The page about the Judicial branch of government was removed from the White House website, which, for a time, indicated the only two branches of government were Congress and the Executive. The page for the Judicial branch is back now.
  • Trump is confirmed to be taking a hair growth drug by his doctor, who is beyond a doubt qualified to discuss hair growth drugs. This explains the bird’s nest look.
  • Trump instated a 2-for-1 rules policy for all federal agencies, requiring two regulations be repealed for ever one new regulation implemented. Still no word on a federal 2-for-1 bourbon policy. Buy American. 
  • Trump’s tax plan could preserve millions of dollars in savings for his businesses. But we should trust him that there’s no conflict of interest.
  • CIA director Mike Pompeo will also be added to the National Security Council, perhaps a response to the backlash over Emperor Palpatine being granted a permanent seat on the body.
  • Trump banned HHS from any marketing related to the Affordable Care Act, which threw the agency into such chaos that the ban was lifted 24 hours later.
  • Trump dropped his plan to negotiate prices with drug manufacturers after meeting with lobbyists from drug companies. This comes as the manufacturer of Evzio, used to administer naloxone, a rare example of a true antidote that can reverse an opioid overdose in seconds, plans to increase their prices over six fold amid a national opioid epidemic. #draintheswamp.
  • Protests erupted at UC Berkeley at the prospect of a scheduled speech by Milo Yiannopoulos, a right-wing troll and editor at the neo-Nazi platform Breitbart. Berkeley canceled the speech, after overreaction by both protesters and police. Yiannopoulos, who was banned from Twitter for life after inciting a hate mob against Leslie Jordan for appearing in the all-female Ghostbusters remake movie, was painted as the victim.
  • Because of the protests, Trump threatened to pull federal funding for UC Berkeley. While I support dragging the hippies into reality, sadly that’s illegal, and would defy the first amendment.
  • Sean Spicer continued to commit crimes against sartorial humanity by wearing a series of truly awful ties and suits that were tailored almost as badly as Donald Trump’s, probably in an attempt to horrify the press corps into silence.

Foreign Policy:

  • Over one thousand State Department employees used an internal dissent channel memo to state objection to the Executive Order on immigration.
  • Spicer says that State Department employees need to get onboard with the Trump Administration plan or quit. I’d quit.
  • Trump threatened to invade Mexico while on a call with the Mexican president.
  • Trump abruptly ended a call with the Australian Prime Minister after giving the PM a condescending performance review saying it was “the worst call of the day – by far!” apparently not understanding that the man he was talking to was the head of a sovereign state, not someone seeking employment.
  • Iran conducted a missile test after being placed on the Muslim Ban list, Trump tweeted they had been “formally PUT ON NOTICE.” What that means is anyone’s guess.
  • Theresa May managed to get the better of Trump during her press conference with him, getting him to commit to NATO, if halfheartedly. She also learned he has a fear of stairs. Achilles heel? Theresa as R2D2, heroically bringing news of the weakness to the rebel base? Hopefully the Queen will use this knowledge to her advantage in Trump’s upcoming state visit.
  • Rex Tillerson was confirmed by the Senate as Secretary of State. Maybe he can offer another moderating voice in the administration. He at least is someone who understands the necessities of a public business to hide its true intentions in innocuous language to stabilize markets during shareholder meetings I mean public statements.
  • The Pentagon released results of a report into whether senior officials manipulated analyst data to paint the Obama administration’s efforts to defeat ISIS in a better light. They didn’t.
  • On the other hand, Trump’s attempts to fight terrorism are already off to a bad start.  He approved an attack in Yemen with incomplete intel that resulted in the death of a navy SEAL and an 8 year old girl (along with many other women and children, as promised).
  • Trump took the first step in easing sanctions on Russia by allowing US companies to make payments to the KGB/FSB.
  • After Trump’s unpredictable phone calls and actions, Foreign leaders are now describing facing “a normal Trump tantrum.”
  • Trump says don’t worry about his tough phone calls with foreign leaders. We’ve all stopped worrying and now feel very relieved. Thanks Mr. President!

Congress:

  • Jason Chaffetz, the most punchable face in Congress, introduced and then withdrew a bill this week indicating its fixing to sell federal lands in the West. While selling lands in the west could be a good thing, if done right, given the controversy massive federal landholdings have caused in many Western states, Chaffetz’s bill would have been revenue negative, an interesting policy for a “fiscal conservative.”
  • Democrats boycotted a Finance Committee vote to advance controversial and unqualified candidates Steven Mnuchin Tom Price for Treasury Secretary and HHS Secretary for full Senate vote. Committee rules prevent a vote to advance without a quorum of at least one member of each party. Republicans suspended the rules and rammed through the nominees anyway. Both candidates have pending unanswered questions from Democrats about extremely questionable financial dealings.
  • Betsy DeVos’s confirmation for Secretary of Education may be in question after two Republicans confirmed they would not vote for her. She has no background in school funding, tweets with obvious grammatical mistakes, and blamed a clerical error for two decades of donations to homophobic groups. Obviously she took her own education seriously. 
  • Mitch McConnell says the American People won’t tolerate political antics during the supreme court nominee hearing process, despite having done just that less than a year ago.
  • Rumors surfaced of a bill being drafted to completely eliminate the EPA.
  • Jason Chaffetz (ugh) proposed cutting off part of DC and giving it back to Maryland. Unsurprisingly, neither DC nor Maryland wanted this.
  • The State Congress of South Dakota voted to repeal voter-passed anti-corruption measures, because they would be an inconvenience. Screw the voters, #draintheswamp.
  • Hawaii minority leader Beth Fukumoto is considering leaving the GOP after being bullied by the party for disagreeing with Trump and joining the women’s march, as the party says she should be more partisan and stop working across party lines. Apparently, Trump isn’t the only sore winner in the GOP.

It’s been a long second week, but the snark is back. We’ll talk more about the entire immigration ban kerfuffle in a couple of days, it was too long to fit here. In the meantime, here’s a good Drink to still your nerves. Drink it now while you can, since two cases case of measles, an entirely preventable disease, were reported in New Jersey this week. Thanks anti-vaxers!

Penicillin:

You’ll need:

  • 1 cup honey
  • 1 piece ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 oz. blended scotch
  • ¾ oz. fresh lemon juice
  • ¾ oz. honey-ginger syrup
  • ½ oz. Islay single malt scotch, preferably Laphroaig 10
  • Candied ginger to garnish

Make honey-ginger syrup: combine honey, ginger, and 1 cup water in a saucepan on high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 5 minutes. Chill overnight and strain to remove solids before serving. Will keep in the fridge.

Combine blended scotch, lemon juice, and syrup in a shaker with ice. Shake it like a polaroid picture (who here even knows what that means?) until the shaker is too cold to hold. Strain into a rocks glass with one large ice cube. Top with Islay scotch and garnish with candied ginger. (from Saveur)