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 & Death in the Afternoon

One Drink: Scott Pruitt denies basic climate change aspects

On Thursday the head of the EPA Scott Pruitt said in an interview with CNBC that he “would not agree that [carbon dioxide] is a primary contributor to the global warming that we see,” despite an overwhelming body of scientific literature suggesting the opposite. His words are an unwelcome reminder for those of us that hoped he would evolve his notoriously climate change denying views once in charge of the agency responsible for regulations designed to protect the environment. (I mean, come on, that’s the fricking title of his agency!)

Two Drink: Trump Invents Birtherism 2.0, “He Tapps My Phone!”

On Saturday morning, apparently seething that the Jeff Sessions’ Russia revelations overshadowed his glory at being able to speak in big boy sentences for an entire hour, President Trump tweeted that Obama had his phones at Trump Tower tapped prior to the election. Unfortunately, we have to put aside the more ridiculous aspects of this (like him not knowing how to spell tap, and immediately after this tweetstorm turning his ire to Arnold Schwarzenegger leaving the Apprentice, two items of similar importance) because OMG WTF. First of all, the president can’t order a wiretapping against a private citizen, as this requires a federal court to agree there is just cause. So if Trump is lying, he just invented a scandal bigger than Watergate, and if he’s telling the truth then an independent federal judge agreed there was credible evidence of Trump committing a federal crime or being a foreign agent.  Second, he offered no proof to back up his claim, and WH Press Secretary Melissa McCa-err  Sean Spicer responded to questions regarding the alleged wiretapping by asking Congress to investigate and see if they could find any evidence.

I could go on about how it now seems like Trump got the idea from a Breitbart article by conspiracy theorist Mark Levin, and how Devin Nunes, the chair of the House Intelligence Committee claimed that the news media was taking him literally (UM yeah, seriously, how can you take that accusation any other way than literally??) but good grief, I need a stiff drink.

Red Drink: GOP Finally Reveals Their Ryancare/Trumpcare Plan, And Nobody Likes It

After 7 years of promises that the GOP’s answer to Obamacare was right around the corner it’s finally here and….wow. No wonder they were keeping this a secret for as long as possible. The general consensus among everybody is that the long awaited American Healthcare Act is a total bust. Seeing as we’re not policy wonks unless we’ve had a couple of drinks, here is a quick summary of key similarities and differences between AHA and the ACA. A couple of key drinkable proposals in it are allowing insurance companies to charge older customers up to five times more, stripping the requirement to offer basic mental health and addiction recovery services, and providing upwards of $1 million in tax breaks to insurance company CEOs. In addition, something smells stinky about the GOP pushing this bill for committee review without official estimates from the Congressional Budget Office. You’d think that would be a bit more important for the people that talk so much about fiscal responsibility.

Oh, and when we say nobody likes it, we mean nobody. The conservative House Freedom Caucus want a complete repeal of the ACA, terming this “Obamacare-lite”, and in particular are objecting to the proposed tax credits and saying it creates a new entitlement system. On the other hand, liberals are not pleased at all about the millions of people expected to be kicked off health insurance and the proposed gutting of federal funds to Planned Parenthood. The elderly face higher insurance costs because of the aforementioned provision as well as changes in tax credits giving more assistance to younger people in low premium areas. We’ve got to hand it to Paul Ryan, it’s not every day that you see the AARP, AMA, Heritage Foundation, Americans for Prosperity and the Center for American Progress aligned on an issue.

So how are the GOP justifying it? Well, Jason Chaffetz said that people should just buy insurance instead of a new iPhone (sidenote: who knew people were buying several iPhones every year?). Sean Spicer pointed to the small size of the bill (clocking in at just 67 pages) compared to the ACA (2,700 in the most pared down sense) as proof that the replacement is better. Because one of the most complex predicaments facing the government and affecting the daily life of all American citizens should definitely be legislated in as few words as possible. Meanwhile, the director of the Office of Management and Budget Mick Mulvaney said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe that “insurance is not really the end goal here…one of the Republicans’ complaints about the Affordable Care Act from the very beginning, it was a great way to get insurance and a lousy way to actually be able to go to the doctor.” I’m sorry, so how will going to the doctor be cheaper if you don’t have insurance? Also, you’re not supposed to say the real plan so plainly, c’mon man! And lastly, Donald Trump, who famously stated that the ACA replacement would mean “health insurance for everybody” has rallied behind AHA and is reportedly leaning heavily on wavering congressmen to support the bill. You’d think he would realize that a large portion of his core base is set to be adversely affected by AHA, and a more cautious stance might be in order. But then you’d remember that 67 pages is way more than he’d stir himself to read.

Blue Drink: Dems Try, and Fail, to Play the Alternative Facts Game

Ok so if the Democrats are trying to position themselves as the tellers of truth and justice, opposed to the alternative facts miasma currently engulfing the White House, it might help if they actually…I don’t know…told the truth?? Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer tweeted this week that millions of women seek mammograms from Planned Parenthood every year. There’s a nice in depth discussion of why this is false here, but in short Planned Parenthood only refers people for mammograms elsewhere, and this is a very small portion of the total patient traffic. If you’re going to make a case that community health clinics can’t take on the caseload of Planned Parenthood, maybe try picking a statistic that actually holds up. Otherwise you’re participating in the alternative facts propaganda, and I gotta say, not very effectively.

Drink of the week: Death in the Afternoon

You’ll need:

  • 1 ½ oz Absinthe
  • Champagne

Pour absinthe into a champagne flute, fill the flute with champagne. Drink while contemplating the loss of your healthcare.

Do Something About It: 

As always, we at Red Drink, Blue Drink encourage you, our devoted readers, to not only have a good drink, but to put that subsequent energy spike and loosened inhibition to good use! Our Take Action! page links to organizations we believe can help those affected in our stories above (especially victims of non-existent terrorist attacks), and we encourage you to be active in your own way to support causes that are important to you.

 

 

Weekly News Roundup & 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.