Stuff Still Happens, week 1: Happy new year … sort of

Welcome to 2016! Let’s start the year by forgetting old animosities, starting fresh and looking forward to an era of peace and goodwill between all religions and peoples.

In that spirit, Iran and Saudi Arabia are engaged in a violent spat over, basically, something that happened in 632. This week, Saudi Arabia (which is Muslim, but Sunni Muslim) executed Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr. This did not go over well with Iran (which is Muslim, but Shiite Muslim). Iran’s ruler, Ayatolla Ali Khamenie, said on Sunday that Saudi Arabia would face “divine vengeance” for the killing of the outspoken cleric, which was part of a mass execution of 47 men. The Saudi embassy in Tehran was attacked, both countries have recalled their ambassadors, and everybody is taking up sides.

So, what’s the problem here? As you know from your ancient Middle Eastern history, a schism emerged after the death of the Prophet Muhammad in 632. He died without appointing a successor to lead the Muslim community, creating the world’s longest, bloodiest family feud. See? It all makes perfect sense.

02texas_web-master675Jan. 1, 2016, was a great day for freedom in Texas. In the Land that Sanity Forgot, new ‘open carry’ laws came into effect. A change in the law allows Texans to open carry firearms, as long as they have a permit to do so. There are under a million Texans with the right to do so, resulting in scenes like the one above,  taken at a lunch counter in Austin on New Year’s Day. That’s a short-barrel AK-47 next to that kid’s head, by the way. Meanwhile, armed bozos have occupied a ranger station in Oregon in an attempt to overthrow the local government. Still in firearms news, President Barack Obama has decided that enough is enough, and has used executive action (great name for a 1980s Bruce Willis film, by the way) to bypass congress and toughen, however slightly, American gun laws. The president shed real tears while recalling the victims of the Sandy Hook school massacre, resulting in a Fox news commentator suggesting that there might have used onions to stimulate the tears. I could almost cry, too. No onions needed.

Meanwhile, the world’s no. 1 psychopath nation, North Korea, announced that is has detonated a hydrogen bomb. After an earthquake was felt as far away as China, and North Korean TV (still more reliable than Fox) announced with unrestrained glee by their 70-something-year-old grandmother anchor that it had detonated a hydrogen bomb. Part of the statement read: “There took place a world-startling event to be specially recorded in the national history spanning 5,000 years in the exciting period when all service personnel and people of (North Korea) are making a giant stride, performing eye-catching miracles and exploits day-by-day after turning out as one in the all-out charge to bring earlier the final victory of the revolutionary cause.”

For those of you not up on your nukes, a hydrogen bomb is only about a thousand times more powerful than the atomic bombs dropped on Japan in 1945. The US, however, pooh-poohed the claim, saying it was probably just an old-school atomic bomb. Well, I feel better.

In the world’s longest election campaign, Republican challenger Ted Cruz (winner of the World’s Ugliest Politician contest) is being questioned about his birthplace. Cruz was born in Canada to an American mother, and some are asking if Cruz can be president, based on the U.S. Constitution stipulation that only “natural born” Americans can be president. Cruz has renounced his Canadian citizenship (thank you), but all he really had to do was tell everyone the truth — he was born in Calgary, which is basically a Texas city with colder weather.

The rehabilitation of Deborah Drever is now complete. The once-disgraced accidental NDP MLA was welcomed back into the bosom of the party she hardly knew with a showy show of support designed by the media savvy new government. You remember Debbie, don’t you? She was one of the wave of unqualified, inexperienced people swept into office in the mass hysteria election of 2015.  She got into hot water when online pictures emerged of her being stupid, but what finally pushed her out of the caucus was calling Jim Prentice and Ric McIver “gay boyz” online. The NDP has coddled Drever ever since, handing her a can’t fail private member’s bill, and allowing her to ask the usual puffball questions of government. Now she can rightly resume her place in the far back benches of the government side, never to be heard from again.

The pop culture fixation of the day is the Netflix series, Making a Murderer. A decade in the filming, Making a Murderer follows the trial of a guy named Steven Avery, a Wisconsin man convicted of the 2005 murder of a young woman. While the 10-part (!) documentary doesn’t come right out and say it, it implies strongly that he was framed by law enforcement officials. If you have Netflix, I can’t recommend it enough; binge watching is almost guaranteed. Guilty or not, the documentary points out that the deck is stacked against the poor and the uneducated. For a more detailed look at the show, I suggest you read this blog, by some kid named Tougas.

RIP: Robert Stigwood, 81, music and movie impresario of the 1970s, responsible for such era-defining hits as Grease and Saturday Night Fever, and manager of the Bee Gees and Eric Clapton … actor Pat Harrington, 86, who played Schneider on the old One Day at a Time TV series.


By Maurice Tougas

Maurice Tougas is a lifelong Albertan, award-winning writer and reporter, and a former MLA for Edmonton-Meadowlark.

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