A meltdown of humanity. That vivid phrase was used this week by a UN spokesman, in reference to the final days of the battle for Aleppo.
It’s not a bad way to describe most of 2016.
Aleppo is the largest city in Syria. It is several thousand years old, and was once a vibrant, thriving trade and commerce centre. It has been in the hands of anti-government rebels for some time. The battle by the government to regain control of the city has resulted in the above mentioned meltdown of humanity, with atrocities being committed by both sides. It appears that the Battle of Aleppo is over; the winner gets the ruins of Aleppo.
So, who’s the good guy here, and who’s the bad guy? Is it possible that everybody is a bad guy? Here’s a line from a Globe and Mail story describing the “complex set of overlapping conflicts” at play in Aleppo: “President Bashar al-Assad backed by Iran and Russia, is opposed by a web of rebel groups, including the Islamic State, that are believed to be funded by Sunni powers in Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf.”
So you’ve got Assad (very bad guy), Iran (slightly reformed bad guy), Russia (extremely bad guy), Saudi Arabia (rich bad guy) and ISIS (the worst guy) all fighting over what’s left of Syria. About 400,000 have died, almost five million have fled the country. Why? Who knows.
Hold off on the celebration, pot heads
The Trudeau government released its report on the legalization of marijuana on Tuesday. For those of you who are getting ready to spark up a joint (I think that’s the terminology) on Jasper Avenue to celebrate, hold off on that puff. The government should be prepared to make recreational pot use legal … by late 2018 or early 2019. Remember, folks, we’re dealing with the federal government here, an organization that moves about as quickly as, well, a regular pot user. In its defence, this is a big, big job. The government is going to take something that has been illegal since the 1920s and make it legal, which means a massive revamp of laws and attitudes. In the meantime, however, pot will remain illegal, but I doubt police and prosecutors will be clamping down on a practice whose illegality is in its dying days.
The normalization of Donald Trump continues
Nothing that the president-elect does is normal, but after a while, the abnormal seems, well normal. His choice for secretary of state is the chief executive of Exxon Mobil who is so friendly with the evil Vladimir Putin that he was given the “Order of Friendship” by none other than Putin himself. His choice for secretary of energy is former Texas governor and dunderhead Rick Perry, who, while running for president, vowed to shut down the department he is now about to run. Ben Carson, the somnambulist surgeon and former candidate, is in charge of housing and urban affairs, despite the fact that he previously said he wasn’t capable of running any government department. In other news, there seems no doubt that Russia – under the direct supervision of Putin – was behind the hacks on the Democratic party and the release of information designed to damage Hillary Clinton. Trump’s response to the CIA report? He just doesn’t believe it. End of story.
Another reason not to buy a newspaper
Another nail in the coffin of the once-mighty, once-indispensable Edmonton Journal was hammered into place this week with the retirement of sports columnist Cam Cole. Cole, originally based in Edmonton and now in Vancouver, was among the best in the country in the very small (and getting smaller) field of sports column writing. Here’s his excellent goodbye column.With the retirement of Cole, I suspect a lot of other people will be retiring their Edmonton Journal subscriptions.
Alan Thicke, 69, the Canadian TV actor, songwriter and failed talk show host who played the all-knowing dad on the 1980s sitcom Growing Pains. He also wrote the theme songs to the shows Diff’rent Strokes and The Facts of Life, and was a writer for the brilliant talk-show satire Fernwood 2-Night. Despite living in the U.S. for decades, he remained resolutely Canadian. He died in the most Canadian manner possible – suffering a fatal heart attack while playing hockey with his son … Henry Heimlich, 96, creator of the maneuver that bears this name that saved countless lives. I’m kinda choked about this. (Sorry, bad gag … which is another bad gag.)