I guess it was bound to happen — Donald Trump actually did the right thing this week. I never thought we would see the day, but as the saying goes, even a blind squirrel finds a nut every now and then.
On Thursday, Trump actually looked decisive and — dare I say it? — presidential.
This week, the regime of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad launched a chemical attack on his own people that killed more than 70, many of them children who died horrible deaths. The use of gas is in gross violation of the rules of law and basic human decency, but the rules clearly don’t apply in Syria anymore, which is into its SEVENTH year of a civil war. The images of dead children were apparently the last straw for Trump. On Thursday, Trump took the advice of his security council experts and hit the Syrian base from where the chemical attack was launched with 57 cruise missile strikes.
Why did Assad use chemical weapons? Assad is a member of the Evil Rulers Club (president: V.Putin, vice-president K. Jong-un), as as such has no morals or scruples. But was he just trolling Trump to do something? Assad has the support of his cohort in evil, Putin, so did he just assume that Trump wouldn’t do anything with Putin in his corner? If so, he miscalculated.
Trump had previously said — repeatedly, in fact — that the U.S. should not get involved in Syria. That he would reverse himself should come as no surprise; it’s what he does. But by going it alone, Trump has sent multiple messages. He has told Assad that he’s willing to do something while others just wring their hands. He has told Putin that he’s willing to go against Russia in a high-stakes game of chicken. He has sent a subtle message to North Korea that he just might be willing to lob a few cruise missiles towards their nuke sites if they don’t shape up. And he sent a message, as if one was needed, that he’s no Barack Obama, who threatened Syria with retaliation the last time they used chemical weapons — but never used them.
Nobody knows how this will play out, but for once, Trump seems to have done the right thing. And I never thought I would write those words.
NHL does the wrong thing
While it comes as a shock that Donald Trump did the right thing, it comes as no shock at all that the National Hockey League did the wrong thing this week.
The NHL, which is hands down the worst run major sports organization in North America, announced it would not participate in next year’s Winter Olympics. I don’t know exactly why (just a wild guess … something to do with money), but denying the best hockey players in the world the privilege of playing for their country tells the players they are nothing but indentured servants. (Sure, they are very well compensated servants, but servants nonetheless.) Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin says he’s going anyway. “Somebody going to tell me don’t go?” he said. “I don’t care. I just go.” Well, we shall see. Ovechkin makes $10 million a year, and something tells me the Capitals will not be happy if their $10 million best player goes AWOL for two weeks next year.
The Winter Olympics is the only real opportunity for the best hockey players in the world to face off in one thrilling tournament (and yes, I know there was a World Cup of Hockey this year, but nobody cared). That this league of predominantly American billionaires would deny hockey fans in Canada, the U.S., Russia, Sweden, Finland, etc. the opportunity to see the best in the world go skate-to-stake is infuriating. But that’s the NHL for you. (Speaking of the NHL, here’s a reminder for Oiler fans: remember that the rules change in the playoffs. Penalties that would have been called in the regular season aren’t called in the playoffs, so watch out, Connor McDavid.)
And just for comedic value
Pepsi took it on the chin this week when it released — then immediately took out of circulation — this absolutely hilariously awful commercial.
If you haven’t seen or heard of it, here’s a brief rundown.
A large group of 18-25 year old beautiful people are holding a mass protest, about what is rather vague, although some are holding signs that say ‘Peace’. Meanwhile, a Muslim woman, who is a photographer, is show tearing apart her recent photos. She grabs her camera and heads out into the protest.
Meanwhile, model named Kendall Jenner (a member of the spectacularly untalented Jenner clan) is posing for a photo shoot. A cute protestor, who brought his cello to the protest (oh, that old cliche), winks at Jenner, who immediately decides to abandon the photo shoot and join the protest. The protestors run into a line of impossibly handsome, completely unarmed police officers. Jenner barges to the front, gives an impossibly handsome cop a Pepsi. He pops open the can, takes a gulp, and the crowd celebrates wildly.
I swear it is one of the most unintentionally funny things I have ever seen. Please watch it.
The blowback was swift, and Pepsi pulled the ad, apologizing to Jenner. Apologize to Jenner? They should have apologized to us. (Jenner, meanwhile, says she is “traumatized” by the online reaction, which was exactly the kind of reasoned, intelligent reaction you expect from the internet.) What’s most amazing to me is that this shockingly terrible commercial — which must have cost Pepsi several million dollars — must have gone through dozens of approval levels, and no one stopped to say, “Man, this is really, really terrible.”
Psst. Did you hear about Daryl Katz?
Edmonton Oilers owner and local billionaire, who is famously publicity shy, is in the news this week. A Brazilian actress/model, Greice Santo, claims Katz offered her $20,000 per day to see her up to six times a month. Apparently, she took offence ($20Gs not enough?). Santo and her husband, R.J. Cipriani, launched a defamation suit in New York against Katz. This is an interesting tactic — announce that you have been defamed, then become the first person to spread the defamation. Katz’s lawyer says it all a shakedown. You can read about it here — but you haven’t been able to read about it in the Edmonton Journal, which has studiously avoided any mention of it since the story broke on CBC on Thursday.
And in business news …
At the end of Monday’s stock exchange trading, Tesla, the maker of electric cars, reached a market capitalization of $48.7 billion compared with Ford’s $45.6 billion, according to Bloomberg. General Motors was at $51.2 billion … the end is near for Payless Shoes. The American retailer announced that is is filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, it will be immediately closing nearly 400 stores as part of the reorganization. It has over 4,400 stores in more than 30 countries and was founded in 1956.
Don Rickles, 90, the great insult comic. Rickles was a beloved figure in the comedy world, and nobody loved him more than Jimmy Kimmel. The late-night host gave an emotional tribute to his friend on Thursday night’s show. Rickles was truly the last of a breed of comic, an old-school guy who could get by with trading in ancient ethnic stereotypes, and still be funny. The key to the enduring success of Rickles, and the fact that so many comedians idolize the guy, is that he was of a certain generation (he was a WWII vet) who could say anything, and get away with it. How did he do it? I think it was mainly because there was no venom in the insults; you knew that Rickles didn’t believe a word he was saying. And it helped that he was hilarious. For Netflix subscribers, I recommend a documentary called Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project … Joe Harris, 89, a commercial illustrator who drew enduring cartoon characters including the Trix cereal rabbit and Underdog. (He also wrote the line: “Silly rabbit! Trix are for kids.”)