Weekly News Roundup & Liar’s Cocktail

One Drink: Harvard, Free Speech, and Private Institutions

This week, Harvard revoked the admissions of ten incoming members of the class of 2021 after admissions officials discovered the group had shared racist and sexually explicit Facebook messages, and the right wing media went crazy over perceived censorship at the liberal universities.

The core issue is free speech on campus, and whether or not universities are censoring dissenting views in a march toward imposed liberal orthodoxy. People have written volumes about this debate, but, at least in this instance, I don’t understand the volume of outrage here. Listen, Harvard is a private, albeit influential, institution, and they’re free to run their admissions however they like within the law. If their actions violate terms attached to federal funds, the funds can be revoked. But otherwise they’re free to make their own policies– it’s their reputation to lose. Government should not be intervening in how private educational institutions, left or right, admit students. If Harvard wants to damage its standing by being perceived as an institution that mandates conformity of thought, that’s their problem, and if you don’t like it, then don’t go to Harvard. Most people can’t get in anyway.

Two Drinks: The Comey Hearing

Oh, the Comey hearings. What, at various points during the week, was described as the Superbowl of American politics, a live-Tweeting extravaganza, a drinking game, the potential end of the Trump administration, and a non-event, turned out to be more of the latter. Trump comes out of the testimony looking like a mob boss, a bad leader, and incompetent, but that’s not new. The biggest loser from Thursday’s hearings was Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who Comey said had been a person of interest from the beginning.

Yet Democrats are painting this as a victory (hint: It’s not), and Republicans are saying Comey cleared Trump (hint: he didn’t), emphasizing the gap between how both sides are looking at two very different issues; whether Trump personally was complicit in some as-yet-undetermined misconduct versus finding out the extent of Russian interference in the election and who from Trump’s team knew what, when.

This story is not over yet, as investigations continue in the House and Senate. Although, between going after former Attorney General Loretta Lynch, the unmasking of Americans’ identities in intelligence reports under the Obama administration, and Hillary Clinton’s emails, what exactly these committees are investigating is unclear. The investigation also continues at the FBI under Robert Mueller, an investigation Comey emphasized would not be affected by his firing. So all this media circus has done is to further cement the partisan politics that have ground Washington to a halt. Where are the centrists? There’s enough absurdity here to want all of these people out, Republicans and Democrats.

Red Drink: It’s Infrastructure Week, Y’all!

While the Senate was bogged down preparing for the Comey hearing and the House was busy passing a bill to repeal Dodd Frank regulations (spoiler alert: like the health care bill, it just sent a draft to the Senate, which is working on a totally different Dodd Frank overhaul), the White House was busy promoting Infrastructure Week.

The core of Infrastructure Week was Trump’s proposal to privatize the nation’s air traffic control system, which is overdue and has support from both parties and every airline industry body, from airline operators to unions. This would bring the US in line with many other developed countries, including the UK, Canada, Australia, Germany, France, and Italy in creating a user-fee based non-profit corporation in charge of air traffic control, stabilizing funding and making the system more responsive to technological change and industry needs.

So why are we drinking about this? Because, like everything else in Trumpland, the timing was terrible. By choosing this week, the climax-to-date of the Russia investigations, Trump has managed to take Infrastructure spending, one of his few campaign promises that has wide bipartisan support, and turn it into a polarizing issue, just by virtue of his having touched it.

Oh, and that document Trump signed during a ceremony in the White House? It was a memo to congress. Basically an opening salvo. We’re a long way from any actual action on infrastructure spending. So, to put it in business terms, now every Republican priority, from infrastructure to health care to tax reform, has seen a letter of intent, but no subsequent contract. As any businessman knows, signing an LOI is the easy part, going from an LOI to a signed contract is the hard part.

Blue Drink: Get Her Off The Stage

We’re a little bit late here, but Hillary Clinton made an appearance at Recode last week, coming out swinging at Russia, Facebook’s fake news problem, and her email scandal, proving that Trump is not the only candidate from the 2016 presidential election who can’t move on.

Perhaps most importantly, having Hillary Clinton acting sour in defeat, instead of going high, like Michelle Obama would do, cements the image of Clinton as an entitled establishmentarian in the minds of moderate Republicans who, like me, voted Democratic in the last election, not because we supported the candidate, but because we didn’t want Trump to win. If the center of the country keeps seeing videos of Clinton pandering to her base and wallowing, it will push moderate votes Democrats need in 2018 further away. Get her off the stage and out of the spotlight, ASAP, and find someone new (i.e. without baggage) to be the party’s standard bearer.

Silver Linings: Melania Goes to DC

Next week, Melania will finally be moving to into the White House with Baron. Commenters seem to think she’ll be a stabilizing force in the White House. We can only hope. At a bare minimum, it’ll save some taxpayer dollars on travel and security.

Drink of the Week: Liar’s Cocktail

Get it? Because Comey accused Trump of lying. You’ll need:

  • 1½  oz gin
  • ½ oz dry vermouth
  • ¼ oz Cointreau
  • ¼ oz sweet vermouth

Stir in a mixing glass with ice, and strain into a cocktail glass

Do Something About It

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

Weekly News Roundup & 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)