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)

 

Weekly News Roundup & Sobriety

Trump had an active and troubling first week as President. Here is a list of 60 things that happened this week, with citations so you can read more, organized by category.  Pay attention.

The Inauguration Itself

  • The Trump team reportedly requested tanks, missiles, and other military accoutrement at the inaugural parade in order to create a spectacle a la North Korea. The military declined.
  • Trump’s inauguration was the least viewed on television in 40 years.
  • Trump named his inauguration a National Day of Patriotic Devotion, apparently drawing inspiration from Chinese propaganda.
  • A cake photographed at one of the inauguration parties was a direct rip off of a cake at an Obama inauguration party. The bakery announced this was intentional, and all proceeds from their inaugural catering will be donated to the Human Rights Campaign as a slight against the Trump administration.
  • Trump gave an inauguration speech with deeply disturbing imagery, including the term “American Carnage,” that painted a bleak picture of the current state of the nation.
  • The bottom line was the policy “America First,” which harkens back to the pre-WW2 policy of appeasing Hitler. This is not the first time Trump has been known to draw inspiration from Hitler.

Trump’s First Days

  • Trump deems his third day in office his first, after defying convention and deciding to take his first two days off in order to participate in inauguration celebrations.
  • Reports of how Trump spends his time in the White House indicate his habits from the campaign trail have changed little: he still devotes hours a day to watching cable TV news
  • Trump is still using an unsecured Android phone as President, leaving his communications open to hacking and eavesdropping, and defying government policy in a way similar to the way Trump criticized Clinton for doing during her time as Secretary of State, but worse
  • Large portions of Trump’s staff are reportedly using private email servers for government business, which, while technically legal, is also what Clinton was so criticized by Republicans for doing, indicating an extreme double standard among Republican ranks: it’s treason if she did it and she should be in jail, but it’s ok if we do it.
  • Trump signed Executive Orders in support of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines. Despite the questionable legality of the orders, which are being challenged, Trump claimed they would create many well paying American jobs. A state department report from 2014, however, notes that the Keystone XL pipeline will create a grand total of 35 (no, that’s not missing a digit) permanent positions.
  • Donald Trump tweets a threat to “send the feds into Chicago” after apparently hearing a segment on Bill O’Reilly’s show. Whether that meant martial law, national guard, or what is unclear.
  • The Administration indicated it wanted to eliminate all funding for the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for The Humanities, which fund NPR and PBS, and support 350 local public television channels
  • The administration confirmed it would keep on James Comey as head of the FBI. Comey has repeatedly violated ethics rules, if not the Hatch Act outright, on behalf of the Trump campaign.
  • Trump met with 12 CEOs at the White House to discuss job creation and his America First policy, while saying his administration would cut corporate taxes, decrease regulation, but impose a border tax.
  • Trump signed a swathe of Executive Orders after criticizing the Obama administration for governing unilaterally through executive orders and going so far as to suggest that this action was unconstitutional.
  • The president signed an executive order ending the US-EU Data Shield Agreement, in a move aimed at exempting non-citizens or permanent residents from privacy laws.

Foreign Policy Turbulence

  • Trump Tweets indicate that the US should keep the oil of countries in which it conducts military interventions, which would be a major shift in the nature of our diplomatic relations that would make all relations with countries that don’t support war profiteering difficult. Iraqi officials are on edge.
  • Trump plans to soon sign an executive order re-authorizing torture by the CIA  and reinstating black site prisons. McCain and the Senate Armed Services Committee strongly disagreed.
  • The entire senior leadership of the State Department resigned in protest.
  • The White House then misspelled Theresa May’s name three times in an official schedule of her visit beginning today (Friday). Unsurprising given State Department leadership who might have caught the blunder quit yesterday.
  • The Administration began preparing an executive order aimed at dramatically reducing US funding to and involvement in the United Nations and other international organizations, calling for a 40% reduction in US funding to such groups, as Trump signals he sees little value in trying to maintain international peace. Another order will call for a moratorium on new multilateral treaties, as Trump wants to exclusively negotiate one-to-one.

Attacks on LGBT rights

  • Immediately after the inauguration, the refresh of whitehouse.gov removes all mention of LGBT policy, signaling that the Trump administration will take a negative view towards LGBT equality despite some indications from Trump that he would be an ally, enforcing his staff’s hardline anti-LGBT bias.
  • HIV AIDS prevention policy is also removed from whitehouse.gov
  • Trump pledges to sign “First Amendment Defense Act” if it comes to his desk, which would give blanket legalization nation-wide to any and all discrimination against LGBT people so long as the discriminator has a “sincerely held religious belief.” This includes discrimination in housing, employment, business, restaurants, healthcare, and more.
  • Trump administration removes apology to LGBT community issued by former Secretary of State John Kerry for history of discrimination against LGBT staff from the Department of State website.
  • Sean Spicer says he is unfamiliar with Obama-era order mandating equal protections and benefits for LGBT employees of federal contractors, cannot say whether or not the administration would keep it in place.
  • Kellyanne Conway wore a revolutionary-war inspired Gucci ensemble to Trump’s inauguration that caused a splash on the Internet. Jokes implied that this is what happens when you lose all of your gay friends. For the record, she never had any. If she did, they would have taught her about using conditioner and a hair straightener before appearing on national television over a decade ago.

Press Conferences & Public Outreach

  • Sean Spicer spends the first press conference of the Trump Presidency berating the press for accurately covering the size of the crowds at Trump’s inauguration, citing facts that have been proven false to support his argument (lying) and took no questions afterwards.
  • Kellyanne Conway describes the lies at Spicer’s conference as “Alternative Facts” on national television. Amazon sells out of copies of 1984. Ingsoc informed me these are unrelated.
  • Spicer’s second news conference details how Trump’s feelings are hurt from all the negative press coverage, and instead of addressing concerns the press has been raising, Spicer says the press should get in line with the Administration’s talking points and report what the Administration tells them to. Press declines.
  • The White House shut down its comments line, directing callers to use Facebook messenger. Whether to message Donald J Trump or the White House is unclear, as neither page accepts messages through the platform, meaning there is currently no way to contact the White House as a concerned citizen.
  • Six members of the press are facing felony charges for coverage of unrest during the inauguration in clearly trumped up charges.
  • Buzzfeed, an outlet Trump described as a “failing pile of garbage,” has hired a full-time reporter to cover Trump’s relationship with the press.
  • Steve Bannon said the “press should keep its mouth shut,” that the “media is the opposition party,” said the president was in a “running war with the media,” and that the press were “among the most dishonest people on earth,” again bringing Trump talking points closely in line with Hitler’s concept of the Luegenpresse.

Voter Fraud

  • Trump doubled down on his claim that millions of people voted illegally in the election, in an attempt to legitimize his victory in the electoral college while losing the popular vote by 3 million votes. This in fact undermines the legitimacy of his victory. Taking a new tac, news agencies demand that Trump begin an investigation into voter fraud if he does in fact have evidence of fraud. No evidence has been released because there is none, but Trump announced he would form an investigation. The independence of such an investigation, and what the scope of its findings and recommendations would be, is still unclear.
  • The White House announced that an investigation into voter fraud would only target states that had not voted for the President in the last election.
  • Meanwhile Steve Bannon, Ivanka Trump, Tiffany Trump, and other senior advisors are shown to be registered to vote in multiple states, a common situation as deregistering to vote in a state you’ve previously lived in or after you’ve died are both notoriously difficult to do, but points out the hypocrisy at the heart of the Trump organization. I mean administration. Or is there a difference?

Conflicts of Interest

  • Kellyanne Conway announced Trump would not release his tax returns, directly contravening campaign promises to do so once his “audit” was complete.
  • A team of former ethics advisors for Bush and Obama filed a lawsuit through a non-profit organization regarding Trump’s conflicts of interest, which Trump has thus far flat out refused to solve. Discovery in this case could lead to Trump’s tax returns, among other documents detailing his business entanglements and debts.
  • Trump Hotels is planning a massive US expansion, amid calls for Trump to divest from the chain.
  • The Trump Organization has begun lawyering up for expected conflict of interest legal battles.
  • Mar-a-lago, Trump’s Florida golf club he has indicated will be the “winter white house” doubled its initiation fees after the President made clear he will spend a lot of time there, a clear ethics violation.

Activity in the Congress & Repealing the Affordable Care Act

  • The House GOP quietly closed its investigation into the Flint Water Crisis. The people of Flint still do not have clean drinking water as lead pipes remain in place.
  • Congress changed rules for selling federal land to say that land can now be sold if it costs money to keep up and provides no provable value to the people (how do you prove the value of nature? Through science, which is also being cut), paving the way for the potential sale of 640 million acres of federal land or transferral to the states, where rules on maintaining public access are lighter.
  • The House passed a law under which any rules created by a federal agency must be approved by congress within 70 days of being instated, a move which promises to increase gridlock in Washington.
  • The GOP has still not offered a replacement plan for the Affordable Care Act.

Muzzling the Scientific Community

Building The Wall

Women’s Rights and the Women’s March on Washington

  • Trump began to take steps to limit access to reproductive healthcare for women through executive orders reinstating a prohibition on companies funded by US taxpayers from discussing abortions. He signed the order surrounded by men, not good optics for someone who claims to be good at PR, and inciting fury online.
  • Between three and five million people participated in the Women’s March in US cities and around the world, but in DC alone there were more marchers than attendees of the inauguration,
  • National marches are now being planned by a group of concerned Scientists and by national LGBT rights groups.
  • Trump reinstates the global gag rule, preventing any group receiving U.S. healthcare aid not only from performing abortions – even if the funding for them comes from another source – but also from mentioning abortion in any form such as referrals, counseling, or information

 

Hostile Messages to the LGBT Community

As a gay man with supportive, but also Trump-supporting family members, something I heard frequently during the campaign process was that Trump was actually a friend to the LGBT community, despite the clearly hostile record most of his senior staffers have on LGBT rights, or even on basic LGBT decency.

But as a member of the LGBT community, and someone who has been following politics for years, I also know the power of small signs, and the policy positions they are designed to indicate. And while Trump himself may not understand these subtleties, his chief advisors are Washington insiders, and if they know better than to send a major signal unintentionally.

Immediately after the inauguration was complete on Friday, the White House website was refreshed to represent the incoming administration and its goals, and to remove the Obama administration’s messaging and language. All as it should be.

What was noticeably absent after the page refresh was the White House policy pages for LGBT rights and HIV policy. Whitehouse.gov/lgbt now yields a 404 error, and a search for LGBT yields a the message “Sorry, no results found for ‘LGBT’. Try entering fewer or broader query terms.”

I’m not sure how much more I can broaden “LGBT,” or how much clearer the message could be here, but if you’re a member of the LGBT community or an ally, this is a clear message from the Trump White House: the homophobia of Trump’s advisors has overruled his formerly-cosmopolitan views.

Booker falls to Big Pharma

Sen. Cory Booker (NJ) went from being a hero to a villain in 48 hours last week. He initially drew praise for being the first senator to testify against another sitting senator during the trial of Trump’s nominee for attorney general, Sen. Jeff Sessions. But praise quickly turned to anger among Democratic circles when Booker and 12 other Democrats voted against the Sanders- Klobuchar amendment, which would have allowed Americans to buy prescription drugs from Canada, where they are much cheaper. Especially agonizing to social media was that this amendment had attracted the support of several Republicans and so stood a chance of passing.

Booker defended his vote by saying he was looking after the interests of his constituents, many of whom work in the high-powered pharmaceutical corridor. Now, the reason this qualifies for the blue drink this week isn’t because arguably Booker and other Democrats have uncomfortably close ties with the pharmaceutical industry and/or this was a lost chance to actually make some positive headway in lowering prescription drug prices, an issue with bipartisan support.

The reason we’re writing about it is because this once again highlights the chaos running amok in the Democratic Party. The slew of articles that came out either in support or condemnation of Booker, often tinged with not-so-subtle ‘Berniecrat’ or ‘Hillary’ vibes, showcase the deep divisions that remain unresolved and to a large extent un-discussed. At a debate between the various individuals running for DNC chair hosted by Huffington Post Wednesday night the candidates made calls for ‘unity’ but didn’t make too much discussion of the genuine issues that divide the Democratic Party, much less have someone come out as a truly unifying figure. If the Democrats want to make any headway in gaining back ground, the party needs to decide where they stand, and then stand united.

Weekly News Roundup & Mad Dog Shot

So… This week was a trainwreck. Republicans gutted congressional ethics oversight, Trump shouted at CNN I mean held a press conference, Sessions was the first of Trump’s cabinet nominees to get a hearing, and an anti-vaxer may be put in charge of vaccine safety… and he’s a Kennedy. At least Chris Christie may be back to doing something productive (we hope).

One Drink: If At First You Don’t Succeed…

Remember last week when we reported a successful instance of democracy in action, where concerned citizens called their representatives to voice their objections to a House rules change which would gut the Office of Congressional Ethics and said rule change was quickly withdrawn in response? If it sounded too good to be true, that’s because it was.

This public outcry may have saved the OCE itself, which would have been significantly hobbled in its ability to conduct independent investigations and communicate with the public through the original rules change. However, the newly sworn in Congress still managed to slip a one sentence change through in the midst of all the hubbub that may be just as obstructive. It states that, “Records created, generated, or received by the congressional office of a Member … are exclusively the personal property of the individual member … and such Member … has control over such records.”

More simply put, each member of Congress now owns any document that comes across their desk, and are under no obligation to release them, regardless of their relevance to a potential investigation or vested public interest. So, if you’re a Congressperson reading this, go ahead and buy that $5,000 chandelier you’ve had your eye on with taxpayer money! That receipt, and any other similarly incriminating documents, are now untouchable unless you hand them over. Which you would totally do if you had documented proof of your own unethical behavior, right?

Two Drink: One Doozy of a News Conference

If anyone believed that the office would make the man, I hope Wednesday’s press conference disabused them of that misconception.

What the Guardian described aptly as a “trainwreck of a press conference” started with a valid, bipartisan policy point: curbing prescription drug prices (the US is the only developed nation not to have a government body to negotiate prices with drug companies, resulting in absurd discrepancies between US and European or Canadian prices). But then it quickly spiraled out of control.

A highlight was Trump screaming at a CNN reporter and calling CNN “Fake News” (Quartz wrote a great piece after the press conference called “An obituary for fake news,” but I digress). Trump also used a pile of paperwork as a prop to show how hard he’s been working on handing over his business to his children, which the Director of the Office of Government Ethics immediately described as woefully inadequate. And then there’s Russia- even Trump’s law firm has significant ties to Russia.

TL;DR, nothing we didn’t know, everything we expected. Trump acted like a toddler, has no plans to meaningfully separate his business and the presidency, and continues to flatter Russia in a way that goes well beyond any reasonable explanation. Lawyers are going to have a field day over the next year tearing his conduct apart. It’s going to be Watergate but on steroids.

Red Drink: Not Too Racist for 2017

In the first of many confirmation hearings for Donald Trump’s cabinet appointees, prolific racist Jeff Sessions on Tuesday sat before the Senate Judiciary Committee. His mere presence there as nominee for US Attorney General was impressive, given that he was previously denied an appointment by the Senate for another, lesser judicial appointment (federal judge) due to his egregious record on race and voting rights.

But we’re in a bold new world! Voting rights are well enshrined and no longer contested by any political party or candidate for reasons like race. So clearly the leader of the DOJ, the federal agency responsible for promoting and defending voting rights can be excused for not believing in them. Right?

Proving that he has moved past his prior views on race, Sessions submitted an answer to a Senate Judicial questionnaire identifying four cases he “personally handled” as “significant litigated matters” backing up his “strong civil rights record”. Unfortunately, as it turns out, Sessions has a different definition of “personally handled’ than many of us, as after the questionnaire was made public those actually involved in the cases came out and clarified that Sessions had “zero involvement”. Oops.

These are simple mistakes though. In contrast to Kellyanne Conway’s preferred methods of communication, let’s listen to what he actually has to say to the committee. In response to a question about whether “a secular person has just as good a claim to understanding the truth” Sessions, in open session, replied “Well, I’m not sure”.

In what is truly a feat we never thought possible, Sessions with that line brought the Committee chambers to total silence for several seconds. Who says he can’t accomplish great things?

Blue Drink: Robert Kennedy & Vaccines: Fox In Charge of the Hen House

We got a rare pick this week across party lines by the incoming administration to snatch someone the Democrats are probably happy to be rid of. Robert F. Kennedy, Jr, of the Kennedy dynasty and as blue as they come, is saying he was asked to head a commission on vaccine safety. He is also a prominent skeptic of vaccines. Trump has denied the appointment, saying he was exploring putting Kennedy in a committee on Autism, which, were it true, could easily be interpreted by an avid anti-vaccination critic like Kennedy as one and the same.

Somehow, it would be fitting for the president-elect who who won by denying cold hard facts to go to the original fact-denying movement for guidance.

For the record, Vaccines work, vaccines do not cause autism, and antivaxers caused a measles outbreak in California in 2015 because they weakened the herd immunity built by vaccines that protects all of us.

Silver Linings: Chris Christie to Focus on his Strengths

After falling from grace in the Trump circle, Chris Christie (still acting Governor of New Jersey) used his State of the State speech in New Jersey this week to return to the topic of the drug abuse and addiction epidemic occurring in the state (and, indeed, all over the northeast and midwest).

For anyone who hasn’t seen this powerful video, Chris Christie is a passionate defender of people who suffer from drug and alcohol addiction, and advocates sensible reform for minor drug offenders. If Christie could channel his national platform into addiction policy, he could make a serious positive impact on our country, and I wish him luck.

Drink of the Week: Mad Dog Shot

Because confirmation hearings. Get it?

  • 1oz Vodka
  • 1tsp raspberry syrup
  • 2-5 drops tabasco sauce

Shake ingredients with lots of ice. Down quickly. (From 1001 Cocktails)

 

Weekly News Roundup & Sparkling Pear and Cranberry Cocktail

We’re back from the holidays, and boy is there a lot of BS this week. We’re talking about Megyn Kelly bailing from Fox (good for her! May be bad for us…), Trump siding with Julian Assange against the CIA (living as a fugitive in the Ecuadorian Embassy really underscores Assange’s reputability), Republicans’ attempt to gut the congressional ethics committee and immediate backtrack, and the Obama administration’s Israel policy. All pretty light stuff.

One Drink: Sinking Ship? Megyn Kelly bails from Fox

Confirmed this week: Megyn Kelly is leaving Fox for NBC. What’s disheartening is that Megyn Kelly was a moderating voice at Fox, compared to the very reasonable and totally not shout-ey Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity. With her gone, the future direction of the organization is even more unclear, and with millions of Americans using Fox as their primary or solitary news source, whether the channel pivots centrist as a balance to the conservative web, or whether it goes further right and becomes a TV outpost for the Breitbart viewership, has national consequences.

Also, quick reminder – TV presenters are reporters, and you should value them for their ability to conduct good interviews, not on their own personal views. I was struck by some articles I read about Kelly’s transition expressing concern that many of her personal views were conservative, and questioning how she could betray the left in such a way. Kelly is a conservative, and always has been. If you’re a far-left hippie, of course her personal views are not going to appeal to you. But that doesn’t mean she can’t do her job, as clearly demonstrated in her scathing questions for Trump during the presidential debate she moderated, and the grace with which she responded to all of the vitriol from Trump and his supporters afterwards.

Nobody should be looking to TV presenters as leaders of political movements, unless you consider Trump a TV presenter. Or Oprah. Oh wait…

Two Drink: Assange & Putin are totally trustworthy, right?

Despite initially disagreeing, the FBI, the CIA, and the rest of the 12 US Intelligence Agencies (why do we have that many?) are now uniting and doubling down on their accusations of Russian hacking and interference in the US elections.

And Trump? Wait for it… Trump is now praising Julian Assange, the head of Wikileaks and Russian puppet who is living in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London to escape child rape charges in Sweden and potential extradition to the United States. The swamp gets ever swampier. So now, on one side, you have Donald Trump, Julian Assange, and Vladimir Putin, who all seem to think that Russia had nothing to do with the DNC hacks or any other election interference, and on the other side, you have 12 US Intelligence agencies and Republicans and Democrats in the House and the Senate, who have evidence that Russia was behind the hack.

Assange is now claiming that the Russian hacking is a smokescreen, and that the Obama administration is jumping on it to try to “delegitimize” the upcoming Trump administration. Poor Donald Trump, wouldn’t being delegitimized be so nasty? Karma sure is a bitch.

Trump’s continued ignorance on Russian hacking displays an alarming willingness to trust universally discredited arguments to get Russia off the hook. He’s either doing some bizarre negotiation tactic and doesn’t realize how much it’s backfiring (unlikely), or he’s compromised by debt or some other blackmail to the Russian state. At this rate, who knows? Wouldn’t you vote for a Putin Assange ticket in 2020 from the Fascist party for President.

Red Drink: Ethics Schmethics

The first action the newly sworn in Republican congress took on Monday, before even officially convening for the first time, was to vote in a closed-door meeting to approve rules changes that would gut the Office of Congressional Ethics, an independent watchdog established in 2008 after ethics violations sent three congressmen to jail in one term. This joke writes itself. These people are so emboldened by their election win that they thought they could follow in the president elect’s footsteps and become petty kleptocrats themselves. If he does it, why can’t they?

Even Trump thought this was a step too far. You know you’ve made a serious mistake down the path of moral decay when the king of conflicts of interest says that your actions fly in the face of ethical decency (even if he was saying that just because it took the spotlight away from him for five unbearable seconds).

Well, the people were having none of it, and Americans called their representatives in such large numbers to express their outrage that within 24 hours the Republicans had backed down. All of this before the term even started. We’re in for a doozie.

Blue Drink: Obama’s Israel Move: Burning Bridges

What was initially pitched as one of the most hand-holding transitions of power between administrations has now turned into an all-out grudge match between Obama and Trump.

Last week, the US abstained from U.N. Resolution 2334, condemning Israeli settlement activity in a unanimous vote for the non-binding resolution aimed at calling Israel out for allegedly violating international law and stalling the peace process through settlement building (reminder: Israel and Palestine have both wrenched the peace process, and this is not new). Rumors from Israel seem to imply that the US was working behind the scenes to promote the resolution, a direct contradiction of US policy to date regarding Israel.

Whatever your thoughts on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and settlement growth are, this was bad form from the Obama administration. While Netanyahu and Obama have never had a good relationship, Obama appeared to put his personal beef with the Israeli government aside in favor of bilateral ties with the only stable democracy in the Middle East that are popular in the US and Israel. Indeed, the Obama administration conducted the largest arms deal with Israel to date last year, totaling $38bn over the next 10 years. So why is Obama ending his term with a petty slight against a long-time ally? It would seem Obama is stooping to Trump’s level just to spite him before leaving office.

Congress has already come out in bipartisan condemnation of the resolution, as have Trump and Netanyahu, who says he’s hoping for a more friendly administration under the new President, which he’ll no doubt get.

Silver Linings: Scraping the Barrel: Nobody Will Perform At The Inauguration

As we get closer to the inauguration, the epic b-list of celebrity performers planning to join the show begins to come to light, and an obvious theme has come forward: nobody who values their career will come anywhere near the inauguration roadshow. It’s heartening to see that celebrities realize that most fans in and outside of the US see an association with Trump as a major negative (except Kanye, but then, I said celebrities, so…).

If Trump doesn’t pay his taxes, happy January, ‘cause I’m not payin’ mine either!

The Bartender

 

Drink of the Week: Sparkling Pear & Cranberry Cocktail

Start the New Year off on a boozy note with the leftover Champagne from your New Year party (or, if you’re like us here at RDBD, go buy some more Champagne, because there’s none left).  You’ll need:

  • Cranberries
  • Pear Nectar
  • Champagne
  • Sprig of Rosemary for garnish

Soak the cranberries in a small amount of hot water until cool, then combine a couple of cranberries and a spoonful of pear nectar into a champagne flute. Fill with Champagne, and garnish with a rosemary sprig. From Martha Stewart.

 

Weekly News Roundup & Brandy Milk Punch

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

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

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

Two Drink: Election Interference

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blue Drink: Faithless Electors

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

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

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

Silver Linings:

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

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

The Bartender

Brandy Milk Punch

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

Ingredients:

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

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