Weekly News Roundup & Port Toddy

We’ve made it through the first year, and it’s offered some perspective

  1. The world hasn’t ended
  2. The job hasn’t changed the man (surprise)
  3. Trump and his agenda are not popular to the majority
  4. This year is going to be a roller coaster, between the Russia investigation, the shifting values of the Republican Party, and impending midterm elections, we might be on the verge of some major political upheaval. Buckle up.

One Drink: Manafort Grasping at Straws

Paul Manafort’s legal defense team took an interesting step this week of suing the Justice Department to try to have a court restrict Mueller’s Russia probe by arguing that indicting Manafort for money laundering was outside the purview of the investigation.

While this aligns with the Freedom Caucus’s increasing clamor that the Russia investigation needs to be reigned in, it could really blow up in their faces if the Supreme Court confirms that Mueller is legally entitled to be looking into money laundering, and would make any action by Trump to interfere with the probe even more clearly obstruction of justice.

But can you really blame Manafort? If I were in as much deep shit as that man, I’m sure I’d be grasping at straws, too.

Two Drink: The Book

An excerpt of a book called “Fire and Fury, Inside the Trump White House,” originally to be published next Tuesday by Michael Wolff was run in New York Magazine on Wednesday, and if the Trump administration’s reaction to the excerpt is any indication, it’s a must-read.

CNBC published a brief summary of ten key takeaways, but the long story short is that the Trump campaign was planning to lose, totally unprepared to govern, and details how Trump acts like a child. Why is this news, you might ask? Because this book features interviews with high level advisors and former administration officials.

The reactions so far? Bannon and Trump have had a spectacular falling out, with Trump posting a statement saying Bannon has “lost his mind,” trivializing his part on the campaign (he wasn’t trivial, neither was Paul Manafort), and sending a cease and desist letter to Bannon demanding silence and threatening a lawsuit. If it sounds like these are contradictory reactions, it’s because they are.

The administration is now suing the publisher, demanding they halt publication and issue a public apology. But then, we already knew they didn’t understand the first amendment (but it’s detailed again for you in the book). It’s backfired, the book is now going on sale early.

Red Drink: Cutting Off Your Nose to Spite Your Face

Trump finally dissolved his voter fraud commission this week. The widely-panned witch hunt was compelled by a court to include its Democratic members in discussions, and share paperwork with them and invite them to meetings. Instead of comply, the administration decided to give up. The commission found no evidence of voter fraud.

Trump’s statement blamed states for not sharing data with the commission that it needed to investigate Trump’s spurious claims of millions of illegal votes. This wasn’t some resistance success, most states are legally barred from sharing the information the commission asked for.

The good news, Trump finally seems to care about wasting taxpayer money! His statement said “Rather than engage in endless legal battles at taxpayer expense, today I signed an executive order to dissolve the commission.” If only he cared about how much he wastes on travel.

Blue Drink: Crackdown on (Still Ill-)Legal Pot

Jeff sessions announced Thursday that the Justice Department would reverse Obama-era rules instructing the Feds to not interfere with marijuana-friendly laws in states that had decriminalized or legalized the drug.

As a quick reminder, even though prosecutors were instructed to look the other way on pot distribution, it has been and remains a federal crime to grow, possess, distribute, and use marijuana, and that federal law supersedes state law.

While the booming marijuana industry in states that have legalized the drug demonstrate the best of American ingenuity, small business proprietorship, and capitalism, these business owners understood going in that what they were doing was illegal at the federal level— indeed, they still can’t open bank accounts, although that may be changing.

History is on the side of legal marijuana, but if this move by the DoJ upsets or surprises you, you should pay better attention. Given states were bucking the federal government, a crackdown was all but inevitable. Change can begin at the grassroots, but it has to be canonized into law, and we’re not there yet with pot. Just don’t complain that this is all Sessions’ fault, because, at least here, it’s not.

Silver Lining: Side-Eye for Pence

We’re no great fans of Mike Pence and his homophobic vitriol. So the memes of the sone of Doug Jones, newly sworn in Democratic Senator from Alabama, who is gay, giving Pence the side-eye during his father’s swearing in ceremony.

Cocktail: Port Toddy

Swearing in Doug Jones, the Senate has listed slightly leftward this week, and a Port-based cocktail seems appropriate. For those of you on the east coast, I’m sure you’ll appreciate the warmth.

In a mug, stir three ounces ruby port, one teaspoon brown sugar, one teaspoon lemon juice, and one teaspoon orange juice with a cinnamon stick, and fill with hot, but not boiling water. Recipe from the NYTimes.

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 & Mulled Wine

We’re back after a hiatus because damn this week was a doozie. Here are four things, among many, that had us grabbing for the bottle.

One Drink: Trump Puts His Foot In His Mouth on CNN

The Trump administration DOJ this week said they would seek to halt the mega-merger of Time Warner cable and AT&T. The sticking point? CNN.

The only reason the DOJ wants to block this deal is because Trump is trying to lash out at CNN. Unfortunately for him, his lack of message control is likely to be a problem— just as Bowe Bergdahl got a light sentence after arguing the president had prejudiced his case, litigators for the two companies are likely to argue that the Trump administration can’t fairly block the deal due to Trump’s frequent negative comments about CNN’s coverage of him.

Some background: antitrust regulators (when they are actually doing their jobs) generally scrutinize horizontal mergers, i.e. mergers of direct competitors (think Rite Aid and Walgreens), but don’t usually block vertical integrations, i.e. a company buying further down or further up the supply chain (think CVS and Aetna).

Two Drink: Dismantling Higher Education

The more analysis gets done, the worse the tax plan the GOP is trying to shove through congress before the end of the year looks. The most recent revelation: the plan stands to cripple graduate education (analysis from Forbes).

Quick reminder on how many PhD programs work: candidates get tuition wavers from universities, ranging anywhere from around $12k to over $50k. They then fund their program through stipends for teaching or research work, generally around $20k-$30k per year. They pay tax in line with someone in that income range, because the tuition waivers are deductible and not considered taxable income.

The GOP tax plan repeals that exemption, meaning a PhD candidate attending a top private school would be making between $20k-$30k per year, but get taxed as if they were earning $70k-$80k per year, a tax burden few students would be able to bear.

Our higher education system is one of this country’s biggest strengths. Attacking it is short sighted in the extreme.

Red Drink: Removing the Tumor

GOP Leadership is finally condemning Roy Moore this week, the Alabamian senate candidate running to fill Jeff Session’s seat. You remember, the man who has been removed from the Alabama Supreme Court for judicial ethics violations not once, but twice. The first time for refusing to remove the ten commandments from the state court house (you know, separation of church and state), and the second for refusing to honor the Federal Supreme Court’s decision on same sex marriage (federal law does trump state law in the constitution).

What it took? Allegations of statutory rape.

Apparently this is where Republicans draw the line against unacceptable behavior these days. Not supporting white supremacy. Not abetting the NRA to perpetuate a culture of mass murder. Not sexual violence against an adult. Not distinguishing between legitimate and illegitimate rape. Not assaulting a reporter. Not rank transphobia or homophobia. Statutory rape. Not making a judgement call, just an observation.

Roy Moore says he is not stepping down. He has no shame, but we already knew that.

Blue Drink: Slamming The Self Destruct Button

What a week for Democrats. On the verge of two major symbolic elections, the Democratic theme dominating the news cycle last week running up to Tuesday’s elections was not the gubernatorial races in New Jersey and Virginia, but Donna Brazile’s new book.

Her book, which came out on Election Day, is the second eye-roller of a memoir, after Hillary Clinton’s book re-opened the wounds of the 2016 election. Brazile called the primaries rigged, said she considered replacing Clinton on the ticket with Joe Biden after her fainting incident in 2016, called joint fundraising agreements a cancer on the party, and singled out Obama, Clinton, and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (former DNC chair) as “titanic egos.”

Pot, kettle, black. Ms. Brazile didn’t exactly come out of the last election cycle squeaky clean herself, either. Slate published a great review of the book, lambasting it. Dorothy Parker’s quote “This is not a book that should be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force” comes to mind.

As Republican leadership is actively imploding on cable television, it seems that Democratic leadership is beginning to actively implode through the publishing world. Let’s hope the victories in New Jersey and Virginia are a sign that the party doesn’t need its current leadership to find a way to victory in 2018.

Silver Linings: Karma in Virginia

The first transgender woman won a seat in Virginia’s state legislature, beating an opponent who styled himself as Virginia’s chief homophobe, who refused to debate her, called her “him,” and introduced the state’s bathroom bill. When asked about her victory, she said “I don’t attack my constituents. Bob is my constituent now.” Finally, a politician with some grace.

Another piece of good news: the Senate passed legislation requiring sexual harassment training for all Senators, staffers, and interns.

Drink of the Week: Mulled Wine

It’s the first truly freezing day of winter here in New York City, so we’re drinking mulled wine. You’ll need:

  • 1 bottle red wine (we use Cabernet)
  • 1/4 cup brandy
  • 1/2 cup sugar (we use turbinado)
  • 1 large orange, cut into wheels
  • Spices: 6 whole cloves, 6 allspice berries, 2-3 cinnamon sticks, One star anise pod, 2 cardamom pods

Put the spices into a cheesecloth or tea strainer, except the cinnamon sticks. Put everything into a pot and slowly warm until the mixture starts to steam, but don’t let it boil. Serve immediately.

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 & Mulled Wine

 Join us this week as we discuss the return of Ben Carson (ugh), how there’s no such thing as facts (say it when clicking your red heels together and we may all wake up), Newt Gingrich’s apparent siding with Japan in WW2 on Pearl Harbor Day (I have no joke about this), and Joe Biden’s flirting with a 2020 presidential run (please don’t).

One Drink: Hey Look, Ben Carson is Back.

Dedicated readers will remember our silver lining two weeks back, where we celebrated Ben Carson’s exit from the national political sphere, as the former neurosurgeon removed his name from contention for Secretary of Health and Human Services. Despite his medical background, top Trump aids relayed that Carson “feels he has no government experience, he’s never run a federal agency. The last thing he would want to do was to take a  position that could cripple the presidency.”

Well guess what, folks?! This week, Carson formally accepted nomination to be Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, a position for which he is less qualified. One assumes his fabricated stories about trying to stab his friends, circulated during his presidential bid in an effort to seem more relatable, would serve as experience in managing inner cities.

This is an utter farce. The man ran to be president, then exited government saying he had no government experience (meaning he wasn’t committed to running for president, he was doing it for the publicity, sound familiar?), and now is entering government in a field he has less experience in than the job he turned down. And just as America’s inner cities were turning around.

Two Drink: There’s No Such Thing As Facts (Down the Rabbit Hole of Logical Fallacy)

The debates of post-factuality have reached a new high this week after Scottie Nell Hughes, noted CNN Trump surrogate, claimed on Wednesday of the previous week on The Diane Rehm Show that “There’s no such thing, unfortunately, anymore as facts.” Note here, I corrected her grammar, the English language being a noted weak point of both Trump and most of his spokespeople (an irony that has apparently gone unnoticed).

Despite the blatant absurdity of claiming that we no longer live in a world of facts, Ms. Hugues continues her appearance on the show by making several arguments, all premised on things she cites as facts. If you claim that there is “no such thing as facts,” you then have to find another way to support arguments you want to make that doesn’t rely on any of those non-existent facts (good luck).

If someone tells you that facts no longer exist, please explain to them how Advil is still blocking pain receptors, alcohol will still get you drunk, the Senate still has 100 members, and there are 50 states in the Union. All of these occurrences are not premised on magic, or acts of God, but on a series of defined certainties about the world around us. Facts aren’t going anywhere, however, apparently people’s understanding of both Logic and English, is.

Red Drink: Newt Gingrich, Imperial Japanese Sympathizer

On the 75th anniversary of the Japanese attacks on Pearl Harbor, which killed two thousand American servicemen and launched the United States into the Second World War, in which nearly 300,000 American soldiers died, Newt Gingrich went on a tweeting spree praising the greatness of Imperial Japan.

Gingrich said “75 years ago the Japanese displayed professional brilliance and technological power launching surprises from Hawaii to the Philippines.” Coming from a prominent American politician on the anniversary of the attack, this is a tactless slap in the face to the survivors of a war that claimed so many lives, in addition to being a slap in the face to basic decency. If Trump is planning to revive the House Unamerican Activities Committee, this man would be a great starting point.

So let’s recap: close advisers of the president elect are neo-Nazis and Japanese sympathizers. I’m starting to think what’s really happening is that we’ve switched places with The Man in the High Castle, and as the characters in the show fight to rectify the timeline, we slip slowly into their timeline to replace them.

Quick reminder: Newt Gingrich served as the Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives from 1995 to 1999, and has been an advisor to the Trump campaign. He’s also a strong proponent of family values, and is on his third marriage, after cheating on his last two wives.

Blue Drink: Biden 2020?

Just… please don’t. After saying “never say never,” it sounds as though Biden realized the country took his joke too seriously, as he clarified he would not be running for president in 2020. Despite being the source of some truly wonderful memes, the last thing this country needs is a Democratic party that, over the course of four years of Trump presidency, failed to evolve to the point they tapped Joe Biden as their champion. To quote the VP, “What the hell, man.”

Pop Open the Bubbly: Big Bird Was Real

Scientists have finally secured proof that your imaginary childhood dinosaur friend is actually did look like Big Bird. A golfball-sized lump of amber mined for jewelry in Myanmar was found to contain a feathered dinosaur tail-section from what is believed to be a young celurosaur (think: pygmy T-rex).

The preserved sample contains not only feathers, but also soft tissue and vertebrae, the organization of which allowed scientists to identify the feathers as ‘dinosaur feathers’ rather than ‘bird feathers,’ which would enable flight. These are the first dinosaur feathers that have been obtained for study. As an added bonus, the amber had already been cut and shaped as jewelry when the fossil was discovered: perhaps the kind of jewelry that Rexy would wear, now that we know she has a flamboyant streak.

Let’s be clear: there are other things that happened this week that were awful. The Carrier deal was a bad deal (I thought Donald Trump didn’t make bad deals, but, hey), and a climate change denier currently suing the EPA is going to be the head of the EPA. You know what I want to be talking about? Policy to make our country better. You know what we’re talking about? Basic human decency.

I hate everything this week, except dinosaurs.

The Bartender

Drink of the Week: Mulled Wine

We’re getting close to the holidays, and the temperature is getting colder, so it’s the perfect season to mull over the world’s problems with a nice big mug of mulled wine.  You’ll need:

  • One bottle of a fruity red wine (you want a safe wine that’s flavorful but not going to overpower the spices, like a nice Merlot)
  • 2 cardamom pods
  • 2 cloves
  • One cinnamon stick
  • One large orange
  • Dash allspice
  • Dash grated nutmeg
  • One star anise pod
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup brandy

Slice the orange into large wheels, and combine all ingredients into a large pot and heat on medium until sugar dissolves, without boiling. Reduce heat to low, and simmer until flavors have melded (about 10 min). Serve immediately, but you can keep warm on low heat for a few hours during a party.