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 & Brandy Milk Punch

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

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

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

Two Drink: Election Interference

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blue Drink: Faithless Electors

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

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

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

Silver Linings:

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

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

The Bartender

Brandy Milk Punch

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

Ingredients:

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

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

Politicization of the National Security Apparatus & French 75

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

French 75 (Makes 1 cocktail)

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

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

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