There was a seismic shift in Alberta politics this week. Only time will tell if it’s a real earthquake that brings down two (or maybe three) parties, or whether it just grunts and groans and nothing happens.

On Wednesday, Wildrose party leader Brian Jean and new Progressive Conservative party leader Jason Kenny officially signed a deal to unite the two right-of-centre parties into one entity, tentatively titled the United Conservative Party. If confirmed, it would shut down the Wildrose party, created by disgruntled PCers who thought the party had done too soft, as well as the PC party, which dominated the provincial landscape for more than 40 years. Having one united conservative party, the thinking goes, is the best bet to overthrow the Bolshevicks who fluked their way into power in the last election, sending those accidental NDP MLAs back behind their counters at Starbucks.

Of course, there is no guarantee a United Conservative Party will sweep to power in two years, but it has a lot better chance that either the Wildrose or the PCs would have has separate parties. The NDP won’t admit it, but their election was one of those periodic Alberta voter revolts, where the voters grab at any reasonable alternative to get rid of a government that is past its best-before date. There are hundreds of thousands of Albertans who would choose an hour-long colonoscopy over voting NDP who will flock to a united conservative party.

First, though, the deal has to be ratified by the memberships, and that is not a slam dunk. While the PCs only require a simple majority to approve the deal, the Wildrose has set a much higher mark — 75% approval. That could be tough. The Wildrose is the official opposition, with money in the bank and a likable leader in Jean, even if he has all the charisma of a carp. The PCs are massively in debt, a distant third in the Legislature, still widely hated in many circles, and led by by a ruthless political animal, the deeply unlikable Kenny.

So what’s in it for the Wildrose? Power. Two conservative parties going into the next election is a near guarantee of defeat for both of them; one conservative party has a solid chance at victory.

Assuming the deal goes through, then there will be another leadership contest, certainly pitting Kenny and Jean, and perhaps some others, like wildcard Wildroser Derek Fildebrandt. Some conservatives are drooling over the prospect of Rona Ambrose (the interim federal Conservative leader who stepped away from politics this week) joining the race. It seems unlikely, as she has just taken a job with a U.S. think tank. But if the deal goes through, there will be pressure on Ambrose to join the race. Ambrose leading a united conservative party is Rachel Notley’s worst nightmare.

They’re already talking impeachment

It was inevitable, wasn’t it? We knew it was coming, but maybe not quite this quickly.

I’m talking, of course, of the impeachment of the President of the United States, one Donald J. Trump.

It’s not a certainty, of course. And he can be impeached, and carry on as president. Sounds like something he’d do. But the chances of full impeachment hearings against Trump — who has been president only since January — gets more likely every day.

Last week, following on the heels of his shocking firing of FBI chief James Comey, a memo Comey wrote after talking to Trump was leaked to the Washington Post. The memo quotes Comey as saying that Trump has asked him to end an investigation into former national security advisor (and perjurer) Michael Flynn. If true, this could be construed as obstruction of justice, which is an impeachable offence. (Another report said Trump — who leaked confidential information to the Russians — told the Russian ambassador that Comey was a “nut job”.) Unless there are tape recordings of their conversation — which Trump hinted at darkly in one of his more threatening, Bond-villainesque Tweets — this will be a matter of whom do you believe. Do you believe Comey, a career FBI man with an unblemished record (OK, maybe ONE blemish), or chronic liar and egomaniac Trump? Not a tough call. A special counsel, a former FBI director, has been appointed to oversee the investigation into allegations that the Trump campaign and Russia collaborated to influence the 2016 campaign.

Even Republicans are getting antsy about this ugly mess. John McCain said the scandal is “of Watergate size and scale”. With support for Trump at historic lows (he never even had a post-election honeymoon), other Republicans are likely to distance themselves from the Orange Menace, particularly those facing re-election next year.

Trump is defiant, of course. The told U.S. Coast Guard cadets that he had been “treated worse than any politician in history”. Visitors to the Lincoln memorial in Washington said they were quite sure they heard a voice say, “Um, seriously?”

The not-so great cultural appropriation debate

Are you familiar with the term cultural appropriation? It’s all the rage in elite circles these days.

Susan Scafidi, a law professor at Fordham University, defines cultural appropriation as follows: “Taking intellectual property, traditional knowledge, cultural expressions, or artifacts from someone else’s culture without permission. This can include unauthorized use of another culture’s dance, dress, music, language, folklore, cuisine, traditional medicine, religious symbols, etc.It’s most likely to be harmful when the source community is a minority group that has been oppressed or exploited in other ways or when the object of appropriation is particularly sensitive, e.g. sacred objects.”

This could be a guy wearing dreadlocks, or hipsters at a music festival wearing a native headdress.

In certain circles (writers of books few people read, and writers of poetry that nobody reads) taking a contrary stand on cultural appropriation will cost you your job. Hal Niedzviecki, the editor of Write, the magazine of the Writers’ Union of Canada (there’s such a thing?) wrote “anyone, anywhere, should be encouraged to imagine other peoples, other cultures, other identities,” and jokingly suggested there should be a “cultural expropriation prize” for literature. Cue the uproar! The union immediately issued a grovelling apology, and Niedzviecki resigned.

Later, Jonathan Kay, the editor of The Walrus (there’s such a thing?) wrote an opinion piece in the National Post that defended the right to debate cultural appropriation. Cue the uproar! Kay stepped down as Walrus editor.

And finally, the managing editor of CBC’s The National was reassigned for making “an inappropriate, insensitive and frankly unacceptable tweet” about the appropriation uproar. What did he say that was inappropriate, insensitive and frankly unacceptable? He volunteered to donate $100 to establishing the cultural expropriation prize. Cue the uproar! The ever-PC CBC immediately begged forgiveness.

If cultural appropriate a thing? Sure. Is it something that we can discuss? Apparently not. Deviating from the agreed upon orthodoxy in Canada is now a firing offence.

RIP

Roger Ailes, 77, the villainous genius behind Fox News, a organization that rejected objectivity in favour of rabid pro-Republican conservatism. Without Fox, there would never have been a Donald Trump presidency … Chris Cornell, 52, one of the most respected contemporary lead singers in rock music with his bands Soundgarden and Audioslave …  Brad Grey, 59, chairman of Paramount Pictures for a dozen years who played a pivotal role in the creation of seminal television hits such as The Sopranos .. .

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Powers Boothe

Powers Boothe, 68, actor known for playing bad guys in dozens of films and TV shows.

 

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