Weekly News Roundup & Hurricane

One Drink: It’s Infrastructure Week! (Again)

For the third time in the single year Trump has been in office, it’s infrastructure week! What that actually means at this point is anyone’s guess, because, like the two previous infrastructure weeks, the administration’s talking points reeled off course amid a multitude of self-inflicted crises.

Among the top:

  • The ongoing crisis over John Kelly’s handling of the Rob Porter scandal (the wife-beater) after the FBI contradicted the White House’s story in congressional testimony
  • Trump’s lawyer confirming he did pay Stormy Daniels hush money in an attempt to stop a lawsuit claiming the distribution was a violation of campaign finance law
  • A refusal to confirm the immigration status of Melania’s parents
  • The Vice President (and then the president’s son) lashing out at an Olympian because he was exercising his right to criticize our VP’s history of virulent homophobia
  • News of Jared and Ivanka’s multi-million dollar lines of credit being expanded.

And that’s not even counting the ongoing mess in congress over immigration and another school shooting (the 18th this year).

I guess the answer to how we’re going to improve our infrastructure in this country is the same as how we’re going to deal with gun deaths. Thoughts and prayers, everyone.

Two Drink: Travel Policy

I don’t know about you, but my company has a relatively straightforward travel policy as it relates to guests accompanying employees on business trips. They can stay in your hotel room, but the company won’t pay for any aspect of their travel.

Apparently that was too complicated for Veterans Affairs chief David Shulkin, who’s office doctored emails and made false statements to get his department to cover his wife’s travel on a ten day trip to Europe. He also had a department staffer act as a personal travel concierge. After getting caught pilfering the public purse, he plans to reimburse the government for his wife’s travel, but he seems to think he still has the credibility to remain in office. Drain the swamp.

Scott Pruitt, the head of the EPA, is also in trouble after it came out he claimed that sitting in coach is “politically toxic,” and that flying in first was “safer.” It’s not. He also claimed he had a “blanket waiver” to fly first on government travel. No such waver exists. This on top of the fact that the man already travels with armed guards, which no other EPA chief has done.

Shulkin is one of five (yes, five) current and former Trump officials under investigation for their travel policies.

For the record, I also hate flying in coach, but then again I’m not charging hundreds of thousands of dollars of personal travel to the American taxpayer.

Red Drink: NRA Money

In the wake of yet another school shooting, I want to use this opportunity to call everyone’s attention to a masterful piece of reporting pulled off by the NY Daily News on Twitter (where else). It replies to their thoughts and prayers in the wake of the disaster, highlighting how much money GOP senators have taken from the NRA.

In his response to the shooting, and after rescinding Obama-era restrictions on people with histories of mental illness buying guns, Trump is now saying we need to get tougher on people with histories mental illnesses buying guns.

As it emerges this shooter had a history of problematic behavior and may have had ties to white supremacist groups, it’s important to call out that mental illness is not the problem here. A history of violence and ties to extremist groups are.

Blue Drink: Bridge to Nowhere

This is two weeks old now, but I think it’s still relevant to bring up. During the last government shutdown (partial, second this year), Nancy Pelosi spent 8 hours on the floor of the house, breaking a record for the longest speech since 190-something, essentially filibustering the budget bill for not addressing immigration & the dreamers (the house doesn’t have filibusters, that’s a Senate thing).

What was the point of all of this? It was a great way to show she has a lot of stamina. I certainly couldn’t have stood for that long in four inch heels. But after flip-flopping on whether she was going to whip her democratic caucus against the bill and ultimately allowing its’ passage by non-action, I don’t really understand what the purpose of this stunt was, other than to emphasize there looks to be as little Democratic unity of message right now as there is Republican.

So we’re now heading into a mid-term election cycle in which neither party seems to stand for anything other than the underlying cultural makeup of its’ voting block over any real platform or set of governing beliefs. That’s comforting.

Silver Linings: The Olympics

If you haven’t been watching the olympics as religiously as I have been, get with the program. It’s on every NBC network. It’s zero-sum, and it’s all about beating Norway. What could be better?

Drink of the Week: Hurricane

Mardi Gras was this week, and I don’t know about you, but this week has felt like a hurricane, and I’m still drinking mine. Highly recommend.

You’ll need:

  • 2 oz dark rum
  • 2 oz light rum
  • 2 oz passion fruit juice
  • 1 oz orange juice
  • 1 tbsp simple syrup
  • 1 tbsp grenadine
  • Juice of half a lime

Pour all ingredients into a shaker, shake vigorously until your hands feel as cold as the spectators look on the half pipe in Pyong Chang. Strain into a hurricane glass. Top with a little drink umbrella, an orange wheel, a cherry,  and what’s left of your personal dignity. It won’t be much.

Do Something About It

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

Weekly News Roundup & Corn ‘N Oil

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

1D: Trump’s Costs to the Taxpayer

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

2D: The Media Accountability Survey

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

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

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

RD: Republicans Dodging Their Constituents

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pop the Champagne: Kellyanne Conway is off the air!

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

Drink of the week: Corn ‘N Oil

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

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

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


Weekly News Roundup & Fog Cutter

Join us this week as we discuss the link between bad diplomacy and nuclear war, how Trump has figured out that most news media teams are magpies, the president elect’s victory tour, Democrats plans to replace Nancy Pelosi with Nancy Pelosi, and finally a decent cabinet appointment.

One Drink: Trump to India: “Add ‘Diplomacy’ to ‘Conflicts of Interest’ on the List of Things I Don’t Understand”

This week, the Pakistani government released a truly bizarre summary of their call with Donald Trump to congratulate him on his election win, in which Trump said Nawaz Sharif was a “Terrific guy,” is doing “amazing work,” and that “Pakistanis are one of the most intelligent people.”

One would think that a man who has been trying to build a business in India would know better than to openly praise Pakistan, I mean, it’s not like the two have fought a war recently. Oh wait, no they’ve fought four.

Multiple reports over the last year have cited Trump’s unwillingness to read beyond the length of a tweet or to listen to national security briefings. This bull in a china shop approach works in business, where the worst result of stepping on people’s toes is losing the deal. Stepping on nuclear armed toes in the minefield of historical conflict that is relationship between India and Pakistan has much more severe possible outcomes. A recent study in the American Geophysical Union Journal found that even a limited regional nuclear war, using 100 “small nuclear weapons,” (i.e. the size dropped on Hiroshima), could cause a nuclear winter that would last decades and trigger a global nuclear famine. At least I’ve got a cellar full of scotch for just such an occasion.

And yes, I just put nuclear famine in the one drink category.

Two Drink: Dear News Media: Trump is Playing You

This week started off with Donald Trump tweeting that, were it not for millions of fraudulent votes, he would have won the popular vote. Let’s start by emphasizing there is no evidence of voter fraud in the United States, There was not voter fraud in California, and that rigging an American Election would be beyond difficult. I think it’s also important to point out here that both Newt Gingrich and Lindsey Graham have basically told Trump to put up or shut up on the whole voter fraud issue.

The timing of this tweet is no coincidence, and points to the fact that Trump is actually an extremely intelligent media animal, contrary to the image of a blustering cheeto with the attention span of a hummingbird (n.b.: he is still a cheeto, that has not changed).

As last week’s coverage of Trump’s conflicts of interest reached a fervor, this accusation of voter fraud distracted from a very well-researched piece in the New York Times detailing a history and map of all of Trump’s potential conflicts of interest. But instead of that, the media narrative was co-opted by this single tweet about voter fraud.

This is not the first time a tweet has caused the media circus to become distracted from a serious issue and left it unresolved. Trump’s harassment of the cast of Hamilton happened a remarkably short time after his $25 million Trump University fraud settlement, which will be tax deductible, and accounts for 60% of the $40 million the scam conned out of its students, according to New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, meaning Trump will not actually lose any money as a result of this settlement.

What’s the solution here? That’s easy. What do you do when a creepy guy approaches you at a bar and starts making offensive statements? You ignore him. Blowing up at every one of his outbursts just plays into his hands. As a news consumer, pay attention to what’s important- his actions in governing- not his 6am ranting.

Red Drink: The Trump Victory Tour

Yesterday, Trump kicked off his “Victory Tour” of states that helped him win the election, an unprecedented step for a president elect. The reasons this is concerning are many, starting with the timing. When a president elect is confirmed, he or she has less than three months to form a cabinet and hire the over four thousand employees they will need to fill the West Wing so that they can hit the ground running immediately after taking office. We are now nearly a month after the election, and how many cabinet positions have been filled? 13 out of 23, ten of whom will need confirmation by the senate, and at least one of whom will require special legislation to allow him to serve. It’s taken a month hire 13 people, less than one every two days. Meanwhile the burgeoning Trump administration has still not moved into taxpayer-funded transition offices in Washington, instead staying in Trump Tower at additional taxpayer expense. Furthermore Trump has pushed his announcement of how he will address his staggering conflicts of interest until December 15th, one month from when he is scheduled to take office.

Instead of conducting the work of the people, Trump is galavanting across the country to hold rallies to energise his supporters, who have already felt empowered to conduct racist, sexist, homophobic, and transphobic attacks since the election. These rallies will do nothing to unite the country behind Trump’s vision, as he has stated is his goal now that he is taking office, but will instead fan the flames of the divisiveness that has defined his rise to prominence. If you thought weight of the Presidency would sober up Mr. Trump, this is confirmation he has no intention being “president for all Americans.”

As a side note, this week, amidst much public scrutiny, Mitt Romney allowed Trump to make an absolute fool of him after weeks of speculation about whether or not Trump would appoint Romney as Secretary of State. Any man with a spine would have stopped engaging with Trump after dragging him along in such a manner. But Romney? No, just like Trump’s epic humiliations of Ted Cruz and Chris Christie, Romney is now choosing to allow Trump to tarnish his name and make him eat his words. Republicans had backbone against threats to democracy in the Second World War and during the Cold War, why has that changed now?

Blue Drink: Nancy Pelosi graciously creates a path for young talent in the Democratic organization

This week I was going to gripe on about how Democrats were making themselves weak by re-electing Nancy Pelosi, who has been the head of the Democratic party in the House for the last 13 years. Earlier this week, Pelosi made the somewhat condescending remark that she wanted to promote younger talent in her next term, something Republicans are already doing with Paul Ryan and Nikki Haley (Pelosi and the next two ranking Democrats in the House are all in their mid 70s, as is Bernie Sanders). I think a lot of millennials can relate to a 76 year old who has been in her job for over a decade saying she wants to create a career path for you and then doing nothing to follow through.

Elitist leadership has turned Democrats into a party out of touch with most of economically downtrodden middle America, and they now have the lowest representation in Congress since 1929, losing 60 house seats since 2010, in spite of record voter turnout for both Obama and Hillary. While you could argue that gerrymandering is to blame, that oversimplification still leads to one logical conclusion: Democratic leaders are out of touch with an unmotivated base that votes for presidential personas in Obama and the Clintons (similar to how Trump just got elected) and not for the Democratic Party in mid-terms or local elections.

But as of yesterday, Democrats may finally be making a shift. House democrats voted to elect the Campaign Committee Chairman and three co-Chairmen of the Policy and Communications Committee, positions Pelosi, as Minority leader, would have been able to appoint and put to a confirmation vote. Hopefully a more democratic Democratic leadership (see what I did there?) will lead to a more competitive party for the 2018 midterms. But they’ve got a lot of work to do, and I’m not expecting much. Voter turnout in the 2014 midterms was the lowest since 1942 because Democrats just didn’t care enough to turn out to vote for their party, they only vote for presidential personalities.

Everything about this election cycle has been unusual, so two years of Trump may seriously motivate Democratic voters to turn out for elections, but it would be a second lightning strike in the same spot.  

Pop the Bubbly: The First Decent Cabinet Pick

We may finally be starting to see competence appointed to positions of importance this week, as Nikki Haley joined the cabinet as ambassador to the UN. Haley, the first Indian-American woman to be a governor, and of a Southern state one at that, has a distinguished record of governing South Carolina through two major hurricanes cum floods, the Charleston shootings at Emmanuel Baptist Church, and leading the effort to remove the confederate flag from the State capitol building.

Haley is a cool-headed anti-Trump, restoring dignity to the Governorship of the state after Trumpian former governor Mark Sanford thrust the state into national disgrace by lying about “hiking the Appalachian trail” while really visiting his long-time mistress in Argentina, and the race to replace him as governor descended into racist, sexist vitriol by those threatened by Haley’s status as a second-generation American Sikh and convert to Christianity. Hopefully Haley can bring some of order to chaos she was able to instil in South Carolina politics to the national and international stage.

Drink of the Week: Fog Cutter

  • 1.5 oz white rum
  • 0.5 oz gin
  • 0.5 oz brandy
  • 2 oz fresh orange juice
  • 1 oz fresh lemon juice
  • 0.5 oz orgeat syrup
  • 0.5 oz Amontillado sherry
  • 1 mint sprig

Pour all liquid ingredients, except the sherry, into a cocktail shaker with ice and shake it like a polaroid picture. Strain into a highball glass and float Sherry on top. Garnish with the mint sprig, and think deep thoughts about transparency.

From Food & Wine