The Return of Stuff Happens, week 10: The beginning of the end for The Donald?

So, what’s the over/under on the Trump presidency?

I would have thought two years before he was impeached, but now I’m leaning towards one year. Eighteen months, max.

Trump has now lost his first big promise, to repeal and replace Obamacare. His plan alienated his own party to such a degree that he couldn’t get congress to support it … and he has control of the House!  This supposed deal maker couldn’t win with a stacked deck. As well, the FBI is investigating links between his campaign and the evil Ruskies, and you know they are going to find something. The New Yorker called the revelation of the FBI investigation “the mot serious legal scandal to confront a sitting President in nearly two decades.” It took years for Bill Clinton to get into impeachment territory, and it was for fraternizing with an intern, not a Russian.

Meanwhile, Trump was interviewed by Time magazine this week, and the magazine very kindly produced a word-for-word transcript of the interview. You can read it here, and you really should. Nothing compares to a verbatim transcript of Trump-speak. But for just a taste, check out this answer to the Time reporter’s first question:

TIME: Do you want me to give you a quick overview [of the story]?

TRUMP: Yeah, it’s a cool story. I mean it’s, the concept is right. I predicted a lot of things, Michael. Some things that came to you a little bit later. But, you know, we just rolled out a list. Sweden. I make the statement, everyone goes crazy. The next day they have a massive riot, and death, and problems. Huma [Abedin] and Anthony [Weiner], you know, what I tweeted about that whole deal, and then it turned out he had it, all of Hillary’s email on his thing. NATO, obsolete, because it doesn’t cover terrorism. They fixed that, and I said that the allies must pay. Nobody knew that they weren’t paying. I did. I figured it. Brexit, I was totally right about that. You were over there I think, when I predicted that, right, the day before. Brussels, I said, Brussels is not Brussels. I mean many other things, the election’s rigged against Bernie Sanders. We have a lot of things.

Is this the sentence structure of a rational human being?

Everything must go … soon

The end is near for Sears. And if you don’t believe it, just ask Sears.

Chairman and CEO Edward Lampert said this week that Sears is burning through cash, and that there is “substantial doubt” that it will be able to keep its U.S. stores open. But if you’re a DieHard Sears shopper (get it? DieHard? Die Hard … the name of the Sears brand of battery … forget it), there is hope. For some reason, the Canadian stores will still stay open even if the U.S. stores close. Also if you’re a DieHard Sears shoppper, ask yourself why. Sears has always been the most boring department store in the marketplace. All I see when I walk into a Sears store (on my way to other stores) is a sea of beige. Sears does have some well known and pretty dependable brands, like DieHard and Kenmore and Craftsman, but they have been selling some of them off just to stay afloat. By this time next year, Sears USA will be as dead as the Donald Trump presidency.

Chairman Justin?

The opposition parties in Ottawa are in full, raging lather over proposed changes to how the House of Commons operates. I caught a few minutes of Question Period on Wednesday, and to listen to their wildly overheated rhetoric, you’d have thought that Justin Trudeau had declared the War Measures Act. He was called a dictator, compared to Mao, mocked for his alleged admiration for dictatorships, and accused of letting women do his dirty work for him. So, what’s all the stink about? It’s most procedural items that would limit the ability of opposition parties to filibuster (delay a bill by talking endlessly). Also, the changes would require the prime minister to be in the house only once a week, for a Prime Minister’s Question Period, which is what they do in Britain.

So, huge scandal, right?

Nope. Nobody cares. Elected representatives become very insular, assuming that everything they do and say is of the utmost importance. Rules of the House of Commons in particular are the cause of explosive debate. But nobody outside the House gives a rat’s ass. The opposition is right, however, that the government shouldn’t make changes to the way the house works without the consent of the house itself. This isn’t government policy, but the policy of how government works. The Liberals are being extraordinarily arrogant, but asking the Liberals not be become arrogant is like asking Donald Trump not to say something stupid. (OK, I’m done with Trump for this week.)

RIP

Larry Highbaugh, 67, five-time Grey Cup champion with the Eskimos as a defensive back, a remarkable punt returner (in the days when there was no blocking allowed on punt returns, if you can believe that) and member of the CFL Hall of Fame. Here’s his obituary from the Indianapolis Star. One of the all-time greats at his position … Betty Kennedy, 91, longtime panelist on the old Front Page Challenge TV show … Chuck Barris, 87, creator of The Gong Show and The Dating Game … David Rockefeller, 101, billionaire banker and philanthropist … Jimmy Breslin, 88, legendary New York newspaper columnist … Gary Doak, 71, former NHL defenceman.

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The Return of Stuff Happens, week 9: Jason does Alberta

As expected, Jason Kenney easily won the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta at a convention in Calgary on Saturday, with about 75% of the vote. Kenney was a steamroller who flattened his two remaining challengers, an inconspicuous MLA named Richard Starke, and an even less conspicuous guy named Byron Nelson. The other challengers, most notably two female candidates, dropped out when the elbows got a little too high for their liking.

So now Kenney has to try to make good on his promise to destroy the party he has just taken over, which was an interesting tactic.I don’t know if anyone ever ran on a policy of “Vote for me if you want to destroy your party!” Can he do it? I have little doubt that he will succeed in uniting the Wildrose and the PCs because, without unity, they’re probably doomed to years in the opposition wilderness.

Alberta history proves this out. During the PC decades, and particularly during the Ralph Klein years, the government benefited mightily by a split vote on the left/centre. The Liberals were strong back then, but could never defeat the Tories in large part because the NDP siphoned off just enough of the so-called progressive (or anti-PC, if you wish) votes to ensure PC victory. Now, the shoe is on the other foot, that being the right one. If the Wildrose and the PCs go into the next election scrambling for the still very strong right wing vote, they are doomed to repeat the same scenario. The Wildrose is popular in the rural areas, the PCs still powerful in Calgary. One single, united right wing party has a much better chance of defeating the NDP than do two right wing parties splitting the vote. The Wildrose and the PC have no option but to unite if they want to win. The question is what kind of new party will emerge – will it be a hard right, socially conservative party, or a right-wing but still relatively progressive party, in other words, a progressive conservative party. Hey, wait, what an idea …

Deficits, schmeficit

Here in the People’s Republic of Albertastan, the NDP government of Rachael Notley released its 2017-18 budget, and it follows the template set by the previous budgets by the Notley Crew – just keep spending, and let the future take care of itself.

The government will double its debt (sorry, that should be our debt) over the next three years, and run deficits for the next six years. The government will run a $10.34 billion deficit, bringing our debt up to $45 billion. By 2019-20, that total should rise to $71 billion.

The New Democrats will borrow $6 billion for capital projects (building stuff), and another $6.4 billion for operations (keeping the lights on and the government spokesmen fed). I don’t disagree with spending money to build stuff in a down economy; the government will get the best bang for the buck when corporations are itching for work. The decision by the Ralph Klein PCs to pay down the debt at the expense of roads, schools, hospitals, etc. resulted in a huge infrastructure deficit that we’re still trying to catch up to. But when you’re borrowing $6.4 billion just to keep the doors open is bad policy. Notley and her crew have been coached to offer apocalyptic visions of fired nurses and shuttered schools if the government doesn’t spend, spend, spend, as if that’s the only option. There are, of course, vital services that we need to operate at peak efficiency. But this government has made no effort to cut back on the non-essentials — hundreds of government flacks, millions on government propaganda, bloated civil service salaries, etc. This policy of insulating government from the worst effects of the oil price crash explains why the NDP is still so popular in Edmonton, where so many government jobs can be found, and widely despised in the rest of the province.

And finally, more PC hilarity in Canada

This week, NDP leadership candidate Niki Ashton posed a graphic on Twitter and Facebook making use of the lyric from a Beyonce song. From a song called Irreplaceable, she wrote “Like Beyonce says, to the left. Time for an unapologetic left turn for the NDP…” Well, that riled up a group called Black Lives Matter Vancouver, which replied to the tweet by saying “appropriating Black culture is not intersectional feminism.” I have no idea what that means, but it was enough for Ashton to take down the tweet.

This week’s madness from the Land of Trump

So, what sort of lunacy did we get from the Donald this week?

Well, the public finally got a look at a Donald Trump tax return, courtesy of a mystery envelope sent to a reporter, and revealed on the Rachael Maddow MSNBC show. The trouble is, the return was from 2005, making it relatively irrelevant. Who leaked the document? Well, the reporter who received the mystery package said it could easily have been Trump himself, a typical misdirection play. A 2005 tax form means nothing; when you get to 2016, let us know.

Trump released his budget proposals that called for a massive increase in military spending and dramatic cuts to lots of other stuff, like PBS, the Environmental Protection Agency, and even (much to the glee of the late night talk show guys) the agency that runs Meals on Wheels. One suspects that Trump is getting his financial advice from Montgomery Burns. The budget is so draconian, that even some Republicans are saying it’s dead on arrival.

And speaking of dead, Trump’s unfounded claim that Barack Obama had wire tapped Trump Tower proved to be exactly that – unfounded. A committee made up of Democrats and Republicans found zero evidence of bugging or anything remotely like that. Trump, of course, is standing by his slur.

RIP

Chuck Berry, 90, the father of rock and roll music, and one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century. Elvis to The Beatles to The Rolling Stones and most everyone after him owe a debt to Chuck Berry  … Richard, 6th Prince of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg, 82. I’m only including this because I think it’s hilariousthat there are is still ‘royalty’ in Germany. He was also a Knight of the Order of the Elephant if you’re keeping track.

Two Old Guys meet at a library

I had one of those Old Guy moments the other day.

First, however, I should point out that I’m not that old. With the average lifespan of a Canadian male now at 81, I’ve got a couple of decades of living left just to hit the average. (Now that I write that down, it sounds kind of terrible.) However, I don’t mind thinking of myself as an Old Guy. Oddly proud of it, even.

Anyway, here’s the story. I went to the library the other day, which is in itself an Old Guy thing to do. Getting out of the car, I was immediately aware of very loud music playing. Was there a concert nearby? Unlikely, as it was about -15C at the time. No, the very loud music was coming from the car next to me.

Inside the car was a kid, probably waiting for his buddy to come out of the nearby hockey arena (or maybe his friend was at the library, which seems unlikely). When I say he was playing his music loud, I don’t really do it justice. Let’s just say he was playing it at Mötorhead levels. Actually, if Mötorhead was playing that loud at a concert, the fans would say: “Hey, guys, would ya turn it down just a smidge?” (Yes, I realize that Mötorhead fans would never us the word ‘smidge’.) I honestly don’t know how the kid survived the decibel onslaught. I thought for a moment that he might have been dead, but the car was gone when I left the library, so I guess not.

Anyway, I was looking at this car with my incredulous face (ask my sons, they recognize it immediately). Just then, I looked up and saw another Old Guy with his wife, also going to the library. He looked younger than me, probably in his 50s, so maybe not quite an Old Guy, but applying for full membership. We exchanged looks. Slight head shakes, maybe a little eye-roll. The other Old Guy said something like “I hope he can hear his music.” I gave an Old Guy chuckle.

“He won’t suffer any hearing loss,” I replied. (What I was saying is that he will suffer hearing loss. I was being sarcastic, which does not translate well in print.)

We chuckled ruefully, which you can only do when you’re Of A Certain Age, mainly because only older people know the word ‘rueful’. I thought that was it, but as we walked into the library, the young Old Guy had one more.

“It’s nice of him to share his music,” he said. I wasn’t expecting this, but clearly I had to reply.

“And such good taste in music,” I said. He laughed, and so did his wife, which was nice.

This ended our Old Guy exchange. It was fleeting, but it was a bit of a spirit lifter. The older you get, the more out of touch with everything you feel. It was just nice to know that there are fellow old guys around who can’t get used to the peculiarities of the 21st century (or even the late 20th for that matter).

My guess is that the young Old Guy went home and related the story of the Future Deaf Kid in the Car to his kids, if he has any. And I’ll bet I know their response:

“Welcome to the 21st century, old man.”

 

 

The Return of Stuff Happens, week 8: Trump’s almost good week; invasion of the super rich.

Donald Trump almost had a good week. And then he did what he does best.

This week, the orange menace gave this first speech to congress, and he didn’t make a complete and utter ass of himself. The fact he didn’t insult anyone, didn’t tell any flagrant lies, and didn’t make any especially incendiary remarks that he hasn’t already made was hailed by a desperate American media as a sign he might be ‘presidential’ after all. Of course, with Trump the bar has been set so low it is pretty much impossible to get under. But of course, the good times did not last. Later in the week, his attorney general was caught lying about meeting with Russians during the election campaign. He was forced to recuse himself was any investigation of Russian hacking of the election. With the pressure ramping up on the Russia file, Trump threw in a random distraction. In multiple tweets Saturday, Trump claimed that the Obama administration tapped his phones at Trump Tower during the election, calling Obama a “bad (or sick) guy!” Where did the allegation come from? Apparently, Breitbart News, the notorious site famous as the motherland of fake news. Now he’s demanding a full investigation, based on zero evidence.

And just for fun, he engaged in another spat with Arnold Schwarzenneger over the failure of the Trumpless The Apprentice.

That’s Donald Trump for ya … one step forward, 25 steps back.

Welcome, rich jerks

I guess this is good news, but I’m not sure.

A commercial real estate agency, Knight Frank, produces a yearly Wealth Report, and it found that Canada has had the fastest growth of “super rich” residents of any country in the world. Canada saw a 15% increase in the number of “ultra high net worth individuals” (having a net worth of $30 million US or more) between 2015 and 2016, the report said. Millionaire migrants are the major reason; the report found Canada is now the third most popular destination for wealthy migrants, behind Australia and the U.S. They are mostly from China, and their destination of choice is Vancouver, which saw the fastest increase in super-rich residents in the world.

So, welcome, rich jerks. Canada welcomes you!

Last word on the Oscars

Enough has been written about this year’s infamous Oscar snafu (which, despite being only a week ago, seems like it happened years ago). Lost in the jaw-dropping fiasco is the fact that Moonlight, a vastly inferior film to La La Land, was awarded best picture. Moonlight is dreary, a long slog even though it’s only two hours. Let’s be honest — this was a make-good award. After last year’s Oscars So White controversy, the Academy members were anxious to show just how “inclusive” the Academy had become. When presented with the opportunity to present a best picture Oscar to an entirely African-American written, produced and acted film — and one whose central character wrestles with his sexuality — the academy couldn’t resist the bait. I haven’t been this ticked off at an Oscar winner since Shakespeare in Love defeated Saving Private Ryan.

RIP

Vladimir Petrov, 69, a key player in the 1970 Canada-Russia series, scoring 3 goals and four assists in that series … Joseph Wapner, 97, the first of the TV judges with the original The People’s Court.