The Return of Stuff Happens, week 29: Western nation in crisis … guess which one.

An important democracy in the Western Hemisphere is lurching towards a dictatorship after the election of a crazed, megalomaniacal leader.

And no, this isn’t another blog about Donald Trump. (Betcha ya didn’t see THAT coming, did ya?) No, this week, it’s Venezuela.

We don’t hear much about Venezuela. To be honest, I had to look up how to spell Venezuela. But there’s big trouble in the South American oil producing giant. President Nicholas “Nick the Knife” Madura didn’t take too kindly to the opposition parties winning a majority of seats in the National Assembly in 2015, so he stacked the Supreme Court with supporters to block any impeachment attempts. Last week, the country held a hotly disputed election to create a new lawmaking body, the Constituent Assembly, which would have the power to rewrite the constitution, effectively placing all branches of government under Madura’s control. The assembly met for the first time this week, and in a unanimous vote, fired Attorney General Luisa Ortega. In addition to barring her from ever seeking public office again in Venezuela, lawmakers prohibited her from leaving the country and froze her assets. Just before the vote, government troops prevented her from entering her office.

The economy is in tatters, with inflation out of control and basic food supplies are falling short of what is needed. There is a real humanitarian crisis going on there.

So what does that mean to us? Venezuela has the largest oil reserves on earth, and any disruption in oil distribution (or increase from Venezuela) will result in a jump in gas prices, which the oil companies will conveniently blame on the situation in Venezuela. And we could possibly expect a surge in refugees from Venezuela to hit Canada, after they’ve worked their way through the U.S., their current preferred destination. If you don’t think that’s possible, consider this other development this week: Montreal has opened the Olympic Stadium to house an influx of refugee claimants from Haiti, who are fleeing the U.S. in fear of being deported.

We is an education powerhouse

In the ‘What? Really?’ category, a worldwide survey by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development has found Canada’s teenagers are among the best educated in the world. Yep, the same teenagers would can’t figure out 10 per cent of anything without using their phone are in the top 10 in math, science and reading. You can read the details in this article from the BBC.  Well, that’s pretty cool, I guess. But naturally, there was backlash against a laudatory article from – where else? – Canada, specificially this article from Huffington Post Canada. This is so Canadian, isn’t it?

Meanwhile, in what’s left of Washington …

OK, just this past week …

• New White House chief of staff fired Anthony Scaramucci, the vulgar communications director, who lasted just 10 days (Roger Stone, evil Republican fundraiser, said last week of Anthony Scaramucci” “None of us are ever really gone. He still has the president’s cellphone, the president’s private number. Just because he’s not in the White House no one should think his influence has gone.”);

• Special Counsel Robert Mueller impaneled a grand jury into the Russia situation, giving him major subpoena powers;

• Trump announced plans for strict controls on immigration, favouring the wealthy and those who speak English.

Phew. That was a fun week. But things should be quiet for a while now that the Tweeter in Chief is on a 17-day vacation. That’s as long as North Korea doesn’t go entirely off the rails, now that the U.N. has slapped the rogue nation with the strictest sanctions ever imposed on a country. Stay tuned, and keep watching the skies!

RIP

Goldy McJohn, 72, Canadian keboardest for Steppenwolf … Ernst Zundel, 78, frequently jailed Holocaust denier … Maurice Filion, 85, former coach and manager of the Quebec Nordiques … Sam Shephard, 73, Pulitzer Prize-winning American playwright and sometime actor (nominated for a supporting actor Oscar in 1983). New York magazine called him the greatest American playwright of his generation.