Stuff Still Happens IV, the Reckoning, Week 23: Genocide? Not in my country

The final report of the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls (shorted to the ungainly MMIWG) was released this week. The final report was about 1,200 pages and cost about $90 million. This is an important report, but much of its value was wiped away by the commission’s finding of a ‘Canadian genocide’.

There are few more loaded words in the language than genocide, which is the deliberate killing of a specific group of people, usually by the government. The report said Canada has pursued “a continuous policy, with shifting expressed motives but an ultimately steady intention, to destroy Indigenous peoples physically, biologically, and as social units.” Romeo Dallaire, the Canadian general who was in charge of UN forces in Rwanda during a real genocide there, told the CBC: “My definition of genocide, I read it very deliberately at the start of the Rwandan genocide. And it was a deliberate act of a government to exterminate, deliberately and by force and directly, an ethnicity or a group of human beings. And that meant actually going and slaughtering people.”

To say that Canada as a nation – that’s you and me, by the way – participated in an intentional attempt to destroy Indigenous people is simply so outrageous, such a headline grabbing stunt, that it basically invalidates the rest of the report. I’m sure there are some worthwhile recommendations in the report (there are 230 or so), but once you drop the genocide bomb, nobody hears a word. It’s insulting to every Canadian.

(By the way, one of the recommendations says everything you need to know about the extreme political correctness of this kind of report: “Launch health and wellness services aimed at Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people …” 2SLGBTQQIA? That, in case you don’t know – and why would you? – is two-spirited, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex and asexual. )

Thirty years ago this past week marked the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, where Chinese troops opened fire on protesting students in Beijing. To the world, it is a shameful blot on the history of China. In China, it’s like it never happened. So controlling is the Chinese Communist Party that the event has been effectively scrubbed from the history books. A CBS correspondent went on the streets of Beijing and asked students if they knew about the 30th anniversary of the massacre, and she couldn’t find anyone who knew of it. This is a country that won’t face up to its own history. Are we at all surprised when it consistently plays dirty pool on the economic scene?

James Holzhaur, the seemingly unbeatable Jeoparty! champ, finally lost, after accumulating a staggering $2.5 million on the game show. He fell short of the cash record of Ken Jennings, but it took Jennings 74 games to set the record, compared to Holzhaur’s 33 games. Otherwise, the Jeopardy! record books is all Holzhaur’s. During his streak he won an average of $77,000 per game, more than double Jennings’s rate. When he buzzed in, he got the right answer 97 percent of the time. He almost always entered Final Jeopardy so far ahead that no one could catch him. He holds the top 16 biggest single game paydays in the show’s history. Eleven times during his streak he went the entire show without one wrong answer. He so dominated his opposition, I was glad to see him go.

And now, this week’s baffling Donald Trump tweet. On Friday, Trump tweeted the following: “For all of the money we are spending, NASA should NOT be talking about going to the Moon – We did that 50 years ago. They should be focused on the much bigger things we are doing, including Mars (of which the Moon is a part), Defense and Science!’

Where to begin with this? First, back in May Trump boasted that NASA was going back to the moon with this tweet: “Under my Administration, we are restoring @NASA to greatness and we are going back to the Moon, then Mars.” Apparently, he forgot his previous tweet. Then there was the question about why Trump would randomly tweet about NASA and going to the moon. Turns out that on Fox News at 12:26 pm, commentator Neil Cavuto said NASA is “refocusing on the moon, the next sort of quest, if you will, but didn’t we do this moon thing quite a few decades ago?” Trump sent out his tweet about an hour later.

And as for the “Mars (of which the Moon is a part)” … there is no explaining that one.

RIP

Dr. John, 77, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member and six time Grammy Winner. He had one hit song called Right Place, Wrong Time.

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Stuff Still Happens IV, the Reckoning, Week 22: Welcome to the new normal, and it’s not nice

It’s summertime here in Alberta (well, actually it’s not, but we tend to call any time with temps in the teens ‘summer’), a time when the sun shines for 18 hours a day. At least, we assume the sun is shining.

For the past week, what would have been a lovely few days were obscured by smoke from a distant fire; in this case, hundreds of kilometres away in northern Alberta. On Thursday of this past week, forest fire smoke gave the entire city an otherwordly orange glow, like something out of a post-apocalyptic sci-fi movie. (By the way, why are all sci-fi moves post-apocalyptic? Why not pre-apocalyptic? Or non-apocalyptic?) Later in the evening, the entire city smelled like a campfire. It was bad, but it was a lot worse for thousands of Albertans forced to leave their homes.

This is nothing new. Last year there were countless days ruined by forest fire smoke from British Columbia. At least this year it’s made in Alberta. Hooray for us.

Tragically, this appears to be the new normal. With winters becoming milder and milder with less and less snow, forests are parched and combustible. The only thing that can really stop the fires, and the smoke, is good old Mother Nature, and she is in a bad mood these days. Seems we haven’t been treating her too well lately, and now she’s making us pay. So long summer. It was nice knowing you.

Justin Trudeau hit a new low in grubby politics this week. U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence, who looks like a Ken doll all grown up, was in Ottawa this week, talking trade. But Trudeau felt that a press conference with Pence was just the right time to comment on a vital cross-border issue – abortion.

Abortion? Here’s what Trudeau told the media: “I highlighted to the Vice-President that there was a significant amount of concern amongst Canadians on the new anti-choice laws being passed in a number of American states and highlighted that Canadians and, indeed this government, will always be a staunch defender of women’s rights and a woman’s right to choose.”

To bolster his flagging feminist credentials, Trudeau commented on an issue that is of no concern to Canada-U.S. relations. He used a visit by the veep to continue his attempts to reignite the abortion debate in the hopes of creating a wedge issue for the next election. This is truly shameful. One wonders how Trudeau, and all of Canada, would have felt if Pence had commented on Canada’s complete lack of a law regarding abortion. There would have been howls of protest, and rightly so. Internal Canadian politics are none of his business, just the way internal U.S. politics, particularly STATE politics, are none of Trudeau’s business.

I thought that when the Boston Bruins eliminated the Toronto Maple Leafs that the country would be spared Toronto’s endless navel gazing. But I forgot about the Raptors.

As you have no doubt heard – even if you’re not a sports fan – the Raptors of the NBA are in the league championship, fighting for the coveted Larry O’Brien trophy (only the NBA would name its trophy after an old white guy who never played the game). With the Raptors being the only team Canadian team in the NBA, the media is in full ‘Canada’s team!’ mode. The Globe and Mail has gone to extreme lengths to write about how this group of American millionaires playing the world’s least challenging team sport somehow represents just how wonderful Toronto is. The Raptors represent all that is good in Canada, and especially Toronto, the media gushes. The team’s superstar is such a nice guy, one hack wrote, that he might as well be a Canadian. Oh, and the way the fans in Toronto sang the national anthem? It was so wonderful, even the American media noticed! Aren’t we special!!

Enough, already. The Raptors do not represent Canada. The represent Toronto, the least Canadian of Canadian cities, but thanks to the fact that the national media is based (and obsessed) with Toronto, anything Toronto is dubbed ‘Canada’s team’. If Vancouver still had its NBA team, and found itself in the position the Raptors are in right now, they would not be getting the wall-to-wall, over-the-top, gushing praise that the Raptors are getting right now.

And now, the New York Times corrections of the week. These are actual corrections that appeared in the Times:

An article on Thursday about the game Pokémon Sleep misspelled the name of a Pokémon species. The creatures are Eevees, not Eevies … An article on Thursday about a boat sinking in the Danube River misidentified the Hungarian news outlet that reported that 14 people had been brought to shore and other details. It was the state television news broadcaster M1, not the state news agency MTI … An article on Thursday about the mini-series “Good Omens” misstated the title of a movie directed by Terry Gilliam. It is “12 Monkeys,” not “13 Monkeys.”

RIP

Bill Buckner, 69, former Boston Red Sox first baseman who would have been basically forgotten had he not bobbled a routine hit in a 1986 World Series game that gave the Mets an unexpected win, leading to a seventh game and a Mets victory. The mistake haunted him for the rest of his life …. Bart Starr, 85, Green Bay Packers legendary quarterback … Jose Antonio Reyes, 35, Spanish soccer star, killed in a car crash.

Stuff Still Happens IV, the Reckoning, week 20: The issue that won’t go away

If you want an example of how Canada and the United States differ, look no further than developments in Alabama this week.

Alabama – a southern U.S. state with such a long history of fanatical conservatism and institutional racism that even people from Mississippi look down their noses at them – became the latest state to pass restrictive abortion laws. Actually, calling them ‘restrictive’ is like calling the Ku Klux Klan a fraternal organization. Alabama’s senate (25 Republicans, 6 Democrats, 85% male) passed the most restrictive abortion laws in the country. The bill prohibits abortion in almost every circumstance, and makes exceptions only for the health of the mother and for fetuses with “fatal anomalies” that make them unlikely to survive outside the womb. Impregnated by rape? Sorry, missy, you’re out of luck. Impregnated by rape by your granddaddy? No deal, sweetheart.

It was signed into law by the state’s 74-year-old governor, a woman.

Alabama is not alone. Kentucky, Ohio and Mississippi have similar laws, most of which outlaw abortion once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which can be even before a woman might know she’s pregnant, essentially making abortion illegal. Don’t these laws seem just a little restrictive, to put it mildly? Sure they are, and their proponents know it. The idea is to force the laws to go before the Supreme Court, in the hopes that the conservative-leaning court will rule in their favour, thereby overturning the famous Roe Vs. Wade decision that made abortion legal in the U.S.

So while Americans gird themselves for a long, divisive fight, where does Canada stand? As usual, quietly on the sidelines.

Canada currently has no abortion law. We’ve haven’t had an abortion law on the books since the existing laws were struck down by the Supreme Court in 1988. Canada is one of the few countries in the world that has no laws restricting abortion.

This is not to say that the issue is settled here. There are plenty of pro-life Canadians who would like to see the procedure outlawed, or at least curtailed in some way. So why don’t we have abortion laws here?

I think it’s in part due to our natural reticence, our aversion to open conflict (Americans LOVE conflict), and a more liberal bent. Nobody wants to talk about abortion: it is the third rail of Canadian politics.

Justin Trudeau, desperate to burnish his feminist image after having the temerity to turf two female MPs, commented on the Alabama law this week, saying he is “deeply disappointed” by “backsliding” on abortion rights in the U.S. and around the world. What Trudeau should have said was nothing, because Alabama laws have no bearing on Canada, and they are none of our business. But Trudeau is clearly hoping to ignite the debate here, knowing that there are more than a few Conservative MPs who would fall into the ‘pro-life’ camp.

On Thursday, the Liberal Party of Canada sent a fundraising email to supporters calling it “alarming” that dozens of Conservative MPs had attended the recent March for Life, a yearly anti-abortion rally on Parliament Hill. The email, which listed the Conservative MPs who attended the rally, accused them of “working to roll back women’s rights.”

Conservative leader Andrew Scheer called it typical Liberal desperation.

“I’ve made it very, very clear. Canadians can have absolute confidence that a Conservative government after the election in October will not reopen this issue,” Howdy Doody said.

And there, in a nutshell, is the difference between Canada and the U.S. While Canadian politicians prefer to look at minefields from a distance, Americans politicians charge in with both feet.

Australians went to the polls this week, in an election that was labeled as “unlosable” for the opposition Labour Party. Didn’t quite turn out that way.

Incumbent Prime Minister Scott Morrison of the Liberal National coalition (in Australia, in keeping with their down under vibe, the Liberal party is actually conservative) won a third term in office, defying all the polls for what even he called a “miracle” win. Climate change was a huge issue, with the Labour party running on a high-profile campaign of taking action on climate change, improving funding to services, and ending tax cuts for top earners. Every poll gave the win to Labour, but the voters thought otherwise, as yet another country rejected climate change fears and left-leaning politics.

Justin Trudeau …. are you watching?

And now, the New York Times corrections of the week:

• An article on Page 101 about sour foods misstates the nationality of the historian Herodotus; he was Greek, not Roman.

• The By the Book feature on May 5 transposed the names of a writer. She is Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, not Chimamanda Adichie Ngozi.

RIP

The Grim Reaper has been taking it pretty easy so far this year, but the man in black kicked it into high gear this week.

The Louvre Pyramid in Paris, one of the most famous of I.M. Pei’s buildings.

Doris Day, 97, the wholesome, all-American actress and singer, famous for her virginal image and mild slap-and-tickle comedies like Pillow Talk. She was also a major recording artist back in the day … Herman Wouk, 103, author (The Caine MutinyThe Winds of WarWar and Remembrance), and Pulitzer Prize winner (1952) … I.M Pei, 102, one of the world’s most famous architects … Tim Conway, 85, beloved comic actor, a regular member of The Carol Burnett Show’s brilliant cast … Grumpy Cat, 7, one of the original Internet sensations.

Stuff Still Happens IV, the Reckoning, week 19: The Greens are coming, the Greens are coming!

Don’t look now, folks, but the Green Party has quietly become a force in Canada.

In British Columbia, the Greens hold the balance of power in the minority NDP government. In the PEI election this year, Greens formed the official opposition, and briefly looked like they might win. And on Monday, they elected their second MP, when Paul Manly won a byelection in Nanaimo-Ladysmith. The seat was held by the NDP.

Manly was the Green Party’s candidate in 2015 in the same riding and finished fourth with 20 per cent of the vote.

The emergence of the Green Party as a force would be bad news for the mainstream parties. The last thing Justin Trudeau’s floundering Liberal party needs is a place for disaffected voters to park their vote. It’s also not encouraging that the Liberals finished a distant fourth in the polling, a spot usually reserved for the Greens or the last of the die-hard Communists. The rapidly-sinking NDP, under Jagmeet ‘the Unelectable’ Singh, don’t need another party on the left of the spectrum (the fact that the Greens stole the seat from the NDP must be sending off alarm bells in Dipperville). And it’s not good news for Andrew ‘Howdy Doody’ Sheer’s Conservatives, either. Byelections are often used by the electorate to express their disapproval of the governing party – that’s what happened, all right, but they didn’t choose the Conservatives.

It’s easy to put too much stock in byelections. There is no shortage of MPs or MLA who win a byelection, only to be defeated the next time out. But I have no doubt that there is plenty of discontent in the land. Trudeau is looking worse by the day, while Sheer has all the charisma of a damp sponge. And, say what you like about Canadian tolerance blah blah blah, there is no way Canadians will elect a prime minister in a turban (no offence to Sikhs). The Greens, at least in the foreseeable future, will never be more than a fringe party, but there may be just enough disaffected voters who cast their votes for a Green candidate to make a difference in October’s election.

Elsewhere, much of the world seems obsessed over trivialities. In last Sunday’s episode of HBO’s Game of Thrones, a disposable coffee cup could briefly be seen sitting on a table at Winterfell, wherever that is. I long ago stopped watching Game of Thrones (after a season or two, I completely lost track of who was killing who and for what reason), but millions of people watch this show obsessively. How else to explain how a split-second shot of a Starbucks coffee cup could have been spotted? Or better yet, how did the produces not notice it?

Elsewhere in entertainment, a silly movie called Avengers: Endgame, the 1,427th superhero movie produced in the last five years, has taken in an astonishing $2 billion – and it’s three hours long. Superhero movies have completely taken over the multiplexes, so much so that the summer movie season for cranky old goats like me is a no go. I loathe superhero movies – so self-important, so loud, so uninvolving, so stupid. Judging from the millions who have packed theatres, I am in the minority here.

And finally this week, the ultimate triviality: the welfare numbers in Britain rose by one when a woman had a baby this week. That’s all I’m going to say about this. I’m so bored, I can barely finish this sen …

And now for something completely different – New York Times corrections.

I subscribe to the Times online, and some of my favourite reading is their list of corrections. The Times has an admirable desire to get things right, no matter how minor or seemingly bizarre. Here, for your reading enjoyment, are some actual corrections from the past week from the Times.

  • The combined print and e-book and hardcover best-seller lists last Sunday misspelled the surname of a character in Anne Hillerman’s novel “The Tale Teller.” She is Bernie Manuelito, not Mauelito.
  • The 36 Hours article on April 21, about Mendocino County, Calif., misstated the price of a bag of glass at the International Sea Glass Museum. It is $4.95, not $4.50.
  • An Opinion essay last Sunday on socialism misidentified the author of the papal encyclical Quadragesimo Anno. It was Pope Pius XI, not Pope Pius IX
  • An obituary on Monday about the former United States senator Richard G. Lugar referred incorrectly in part to his service in the Navy. He enlisted in 1956, not 1957, and he was commissioned an ensign, not a second lieutenant. It also misstated when he married Charlene Smeltzer. It was after he studied at Oxford on a Rhodes scholarship, not before. In addition, the obituary referred incorrectly to the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, a program to help destroy surplus stocks of nuclear weapons. Congress passed it shortly after it was proposed by Mr. Lugar and Senator Sam Nunn in 1991; it did not take “almost a decade” to persuade Congress of the need for the program. The obituary also mistakenly included one item on a list of issues addressed by the Lugar Center, which Mr. Lugar established after leaving office. The center has not sponsored studies of education.
  • An article last Thursday about new underwear options for transgender people used incorrect pronouns when referring to the brand director Christian Dominique and the designer Sky Cubacub. They are nonbinary and use the pronouns “they,” not “he” or “she.”
  • An article on Tuesday about skin infections acquired while travelling misstated how leishmaniasis is spread. The disease is spread by sand flies, not sand fleas.
  • An article on Page 18 about imaginative vases misstates the name of a vase by Esque Studio. As a picture caption with the article notes correctly, it is Pushmepullme, not Pushmepulleme.

RIP

Peggy Lipton, 72, who became famous as the female member of the 1968-73 series The Mod Squad, about a group of hip young people who were forced to work undercover for the police. The tag line for the show was: “One white, one black, one blonde … the Mod Squad”. She was married to Quincy Jones, and their daughter is Rashida Jones (The Office, Parks and Recreation, Angie Tribeca) … Jean Vanier, 90, Canadian humanitarian who dedicated his life to improving conditions for people on the margins and founded two worldwide organizations for those with developmental disabilities … Bert Cooper, 53, a U.S. boxer who challenged for the world title three times; in his career, he fought Evander Holyfield, George Foreman, Riddick Bowe, and Michael Moorer … Harold Lederman, 79, well known boxing judge and analyst … Jim Fowler, 89, host of Wild Kingdom and frequent talk show guest.

Stuff Happens IV, The Reckoning, week 18: Jason Kenney goes to war

No one can say that Jason Kenney is easing into his new job as premier of Alberta.

After appointing his cabinet this week (one from Edmonton, as expected, most of the rest from Calgary, as expected), Kenney proclaimed legislation passed by the NDP government that allows the province to shut off fuel supplies to B,C., the so-called ‘turn off the taps’ legislation. (For those of you confused by this, government bills only become law when they are proclaimed. Go figure.) Kenney has taken dead aim at the B.C. government as the major opponents of the TransMountain pipeline, even though the whole process is in limbo right now until yet another round of consultation is done, and the Liberals in Ottawa make up their minds about the project.

B.C. Premier John Horgan says the law is unconstitutional, which means that, yet again, courts will make the decision. Frankly, I don’t believe Kenney is churlish enough to ‘turn off the taps’ to B.C. Such a move would be potentially crippling to B.C., which gets 70% of its gas from Alberta. The NDP legislation was to make the point that it could be done; Kenney, by enacting the law, is saying he could do it at any moment.

It would be stupid, cruel and un-Canadian to make such a move. The ball in this game is clearly in Ottawa’s court. Although Horgan has said he will use every tool in the toolbox to block the pipeline, there is nothing for him to do until the feds make up their minds about the pipeline.

(On another matter, I watched Question Period on CTV on Sunday, where Evan Soloman interviewed the leader of the Green Party in B.C., Andrew Weaver, who holds the balance of power in BC. Weaver was wearing a ratty red and grey stripped sweater, over top of a rattier plaid shirt. He looked like he hadn’t washed his hair in a week. OK, we get it … you’re a Green Party guy. But would it hurt to wear a tie for a national TV appearance?)

Kenney certainly made his move with an eye towards gasoline prices in Vancouver and elsewhere in B.C., where a litre is going for about $1.70, highest in North America – and the summer driving season is fast approaching. Why so high? Well, it’s Vancouver, where everything and everyone is high.

Ha-ha. There are many reasons, which I won’t go into there because I don’t really understand them. Part of it is gouging by Big Oil, a chronic crime in this country that no government dares to address. Another big part is taxes: according to the finance ministry, provincial taxes for each litre of gasoline in the Vancouver region are 34.39 cents, comprising a 17-cent tax for the regional transportation agency TransLink, a 6.75-cent BC Transportation Financing Authority tax, a 1.75-cent provincial motor fuel tax and the 8.89-cent provincial carbon tax. I suspect that the no. 1 topic of conversation in B.C. is the price of gas, and by threatening to turn off the taps, Kenney is making the point that if you think $1.70 is awfully high, wait until there’s no gas for your car.

And now, only more trivial matters.

Female professional hockey players (yes, the exist) have long complained about the lack of respect (in terms of crowds and money) they get compared to the NHL. This week, the top women players in the game – names like … er … no one comes to mind – all sent identical tweets saying “we will not play in ANY professional leagues in North America this season until we get the resources that professional hockey demands and deserves.”

Wow. This is a bold move that will really upset their fan base (parents and boyfriends or girlfriends). The Canadian Women’s Hockey League won’t be impacted, however, because it has shut down due to lack of, well, everything.

I am confused by their strategy. Nobody watches women’s hockey. It’s not on TV, and the crowds arrive at the games in the same car. So, how does a withdrawal of service for a product that nobody wants going to help the situation? This falls under the category of cutting off your nose to spite your face.

Remember Smart cars, those rinky-dink two seaters that found favour with the smart set? You don’t see many of them around anymore, do you? There’s a reason for that: last year, only 345 Smart cars sold in all of Canada, and only 1,276 in the U.S. So it wasn’t a great surprise to hear this week that the car’s maker, Mercedes, is pulling out of North America.

RIP

Red Kelly, 91, legendary Detroit Red Wing and Toronto Maple Leaf … Peter Mayhew, 74, and actor you’ve certainly seen but would not recognize – he played Chewbacca in the Star Wars movies … John Singleton, 51, director of Boyz N the Hood, 2 Fast 2 Furious and others. He was the first African-American to be nominated for an Academy Award as best director.

Stuff Happens IV, The Reckoning, week 17: God bless the Bruins

The first 16 weeks of the year have been pretty heavy on the news side, what with elections and mass shootings and bombings and Mueller reports and SNC/Lavalin and resignations and expulsions from cabinet and the troubles with Trudeau, etc. So, this week, let’s lay off the major news for a bit.

First, a belated thank you, on behalf of millions of Canadians, to the Boston Bruins for eliminating the Toronto Maple Leafs from the NHL playoffs. In some areas, like the 416 area code, not supporting the Leafs is like saying you don’t like puppy dogs.

I hate the Leafs, and I know I’m not alone. It will come as a shock to the people who run TSN (the Toronto Sports Network), and Sportsnet (the official house organ of the Leafs organization), there are plenty of Canadians – yes, I would say millions – who despise the Leafs. And the Blue Jays. And the Raptors. And even the TFC of Major League Soccer, a second-tier team that has, according to a TSN documentary, a “fan culture … like no other in the league or the world.” Yes, the Toronto FC, according to TSN, has the greatest fan culture in the world. Take that, Man U!

Why, you ask? Who could hate a Canadian team? How could you not pull for a Canadian team to win the Stanley Cup? Simple. As a non-resident of Toronto, I’m sick of having everything Toronto jammed down my throat. The national sports media, centred in Toronto, is as boosterish and supportive of Toronto teams as any small town newspaper pulling for the local hockey team. It’s amateur night.

Take TSN, for example. On Thursday, I thought I’d check to see what TSN was covering. TSN has a show called Leafs Lunch, where they talk about the Leafs every day. (There is no comparable Flames Feast or Canadiens Cornucopia or Senators Snack or Jets Juice or Canucks Crunch or Oilers Leftovers.) The show on Thursday was “locker room clean-out coverage”. The top headline was scuzzbag Leaf Nazim Khadri saying he “regrets” a crosscheck that got him kicked out of the playoffs. Their second story was about some guy named Hyman who plays for the Leafs who has to undergo ACL surgery. They also had a story about star John Tavares saying he has no ill will towards the Islanders. And a story on Toronto’s no. 1 off-season priority. And a commentary about whether the Leafs coach was outsmarted by the Bruins coach. This was the two days after the Leafs were eliminated, and the day after the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals were eliminated, which barely rated a mention.

Sportsnet is even worse, if that’s possible. The front page of their website on Thursday featured the following stories: the debut with the Blue Jays of supposed future superstar Vladimir Guerro Jr. (“time to enjoy the ride” the headline says); a story about that Hyman fellow and his torn ACL; a story about the Raptors playoffs; an analysis of why the Leafs lost to the Bruins; FOUR MORE stories about the Leafs, and my favourite, a story that the Toronto Raptors have cracked the Top 10 in merchandize sales. And none of this is unusual.

Now do you see why I hate the Leafs?

The only drawback to the elimination of the Leafs is that now I am entirely indifferent about the Stanley Cup playoffs. With the despicable Leafs gone, traditional rival Calgary ousted, and the Winnipeg Jets (a Canadian team I could get behind) all gone, my interest in the Stanley Cup has fallen to near zero. Can anyone outside of the home cities get excited about St. Louis versus Dallas? As far as I’m concerned, football season can’t come soon enough.

Speaking of football, the American infatuation with the NFL was on full display this week.

It’s the NFL draft, where the teams make their choices from amongst the roughly 25,000 U.S. college players. This is quite a big deal, it appears. This year’s draft was held in Nashville. A huge outdoor party was held, with upwards of 100,000 people gathered to watch, well, nothing. The ABC network devoted all of it prime time lineup on Thursday to live coverage of the draft. They did the same thing on Friday, and on Saturday their coverage went for another seven hours. That’s more than 13 hours of live coverage. That either tells me that Americans are even more football crazy than I thought, or that ABC’s line-up is so weak that 13 hours of nothing was better than anything else they had.

Speaking of sports, sort of, the talk of the TV world right now is Jeopardy! Or more specifically, James Holzhauer.

Even if you’re not a fan of the show, chances are you’ve heard of this guy. Holzhauer is destroying Jeopardy! records on a daily basis. He now holds the top five single-day totals, and right now sits at a staggering 17-day total of $1,275,587. (He had an off-day Friday, not finding a single Daily Double; he still pocketed $49,600.) Holzhauer is a professional sports gambler, and his unorthodox method of play has the media abuzz. Here, from the New York Times, is an interview with the uber-nerd, describing his strategy in Jeopardy! and sports gambling. And if you don’t think people are all that interested, check out the comments section of the story – 240 of ’em.

Well, that’s too much sports. Why don’t we end with a little cat killing? Here’s a story from the New York Times about a dedicated, government-sanctioned effort to kill as many Australian cats as possible. Seems that feral cats run wild Down Under, with estimates as high at 6 million.

RIP

Ken Kercheval, 83, who played J.R. Ewing’s nemesis Cliff Barnes on the classic prime time soap Dallas … Fay McKenzie, 101. I know you’ve never heard of Fay McKenzie (neither had I), but her movie career spanned a century. She made her first appearance in a film when she was 10 weeks old in a silent film called “Station Content”, and her last role was in an as-yet unreleased film “Kill A Better Mousetrap”. She was Gene Autry’s leading lady in five early 1940s westerns … Henry Bloch, 96, co-founder of tax preparation company H&R Block. At its peak, H&R (Henry and Richard) Block (they turned the “h” in their surname into a “k,” for fear that the firm might otherwise be mispronounced as “H & R Blotch”) prepared one in every six U.S. tax forms.

Stuff Happens IV, The Reckoning, week 16: The results, and Paris is burning

On Tuesday night, I was listening to Rachel Notley’s defiant concession speech. At one point, she said that child poverty in Alberta had been cut in half during her four-year reign. What? Really? Why was this the first I’d heard of this?

Now, I don’t know if it’s true or not, but it sounds good. That one sentence, that one speech, perfectly illustrated one of the main reasons I think the NDP lost the election.

The strategy from the Rachel Notley Party (formerly the New Democratic Party) was from the start to emphasize how wonderful Rachel Notley was compared to the evil, vile, devious Jason Kenney. The braintrust of the party clearly thought that making Kenney the issue was a winning formula. It wasn’t.

Jason Kenney is a bit of a northern Donald Trump. Just like Trump, he is made of Teflon. No matter how much dirt the RNP flung at him, no matter how many old tweets and Facebook posts they dug up, no matter how many RCMP investigations into the questionable UCP race were begun, it didn’t seem to matter. Kenney, to his credit, never wavered. When another Twitter/Facebook/bozo eruption scandal would blow up, he would make a one-sentence comment, and get back to his core message – the economy. (Remember UCP cancidate Mark Smith, who made those homophobic comments in a sermon? There were screams to have him kicked out of the party, but Kenney stood firm. Smith won easily.) Even his blunder of re-introducing the GSA question into the election – his only real mistake – made no difference.

Kenney knew that only one thing mattered in this election. Notley felt there was only one issue, too; but her issue was Jason Kenney. A day or two before the vote, I got some RNP/NDP stuff in the mail, vilifying Kenney, with not one word about RNP accomplishments. It was almost as if the party was ashamed of what it accomplished, afraid to run on its policies.

On the plus side for the RNP, the result was their second best in history. Remember, in 2015, before the election, they had just four seats. And the NDP true believers can now safely say that, for now, the NDP is Alberta’s no.2 party. The Alberta Party (9% of the popular vote) sadly failed to elect a member, and the Alberta Liberal party could only rouse 1% of the voters to choose one of their candidates, their lowest total ever (in 2008, the Liberals got 26% of the popular vote) and a sign that the party is pretty much dead. Alberta is, at least for now, just a two-party state, the first time since 1986.

So once again Edmonton finds itself on the outside looking in. There is just one MLA from Edmonton in the new government, presenting Kenney with a problem. How does he put together a cabinet without a single member from Alberta’s second-largest city?

On the plus side of the situation, Kenney might be inclined to lean over backwards to satisfy Edmonton, with an eye towards the next election. But in the meantime, Edmonton, again, is on the outs. This city seems to be terrific at producing leaders of the opposition, not so hot at leaders of the province.

So we’re back to a conservative government, and not a ‘progressive’ one at that. Sigh …

I’ve never been to Paris, and likely never will get there. But still, watching pictures of the devastating fire that severely damaged Notre Dame Cathedral on Monday was heartbreaking. Every now and then something happens that you just can’t stop thinking about, or watching. The Notre Dame fire of April 15 (as one person put it, this is the 9/11 of Paris, minus the death toll) is one of those. The damage to a cultural icon is painful to watch. If a newer building burns, it just means you build a better building to replace it. When a 700+ year old cathedral burns, there is no truly replacing it. You can replicate it as best as you can, but it’s not the same. Kudos to the firefighters who risked their lives to save the cathedral.

Golf just hasn’t been the same since Tiger Woods self-destructed over the past few years. Marital infidelity, substance abuse, drunk driving, surgery after surgery; the fall of the Tiger was one of the great/sad stories in sports. But last Sunday, Woods capped what many are calling the greatest comeback in sports history with his victory in the Masters. I don’t know if it’s the greatest, but it certainly ranks in the top 10.

The Mueller Report was finally released this past week, in all its redacted glory (entire pages have been blacked out). The finished report was not good for the legion of Trump haters; the report found no proof of collusion, although the Trump team made 140 contacts with Russia or Wikileaks. More significantly, however, was the portrait of the White House, as a panicky Trump tried to shut down the Mueller inquiry. Only his staff, who ignored his orders, prevented Trump from obstructing justice. The story is far from over, of course, because when it comes to Donald Trump, nothing is ever over.

One question about the NHL playoffs: which is worse, not making the playoffs (like, oh, I don’t know… the Edmonton Oilers?), or leading your division and being eliminated in five games (like, oh, I don’t know … the Calgary Flames)? For all the whining and bellyaching about the Oilers failing to make the playoffs again, I think it’s much worse to have a winning season like the Flames, then to crash and burn in just five games in the first round. The only thing the Flames and their fans got for making the playoffs was an additional five games. So, score one for the Oilers, I guess.

This just in from Ukraine, formerly ‘the’ Ukraine. A comedian best known for playing the role of an accidental president on television easily won election for president in Ukraine on Sunday, an exit poll indicated. Volodymyr Zelensky, which in itself sounds like a made-up comic Ukrainain name, a 41-year-old comic actor who has never held public office, won more than 70 percent of the vote, a decisive victory over President Petro O. Poroshenko, according to exit polling by the Ilko Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives Foundation.

And finally, here’s an upbeat item from the Globe and Mail about an Edmonton man with autism who can do the impossible – build IKEA stuff without instructions.

RIP

Ted, Georgette and Mary.

Georgia Engle, 70, who played the tiny-voiced, delightfully ditzy Georgette (Ted Baxter’s wife) on the Mary Tyler Moore show. She also had a hilarious occasional role on Everybody Loves Raymond.

Stuff Happens IV, The Reckoning, week 15: The end is near …

As a citizen of the province of Alberta, I will dutifully head to my nearby polling station to cast my vote in the provincial election on Tuesday. I admit that, even after many decades of voting, I still get a tiny little thrill about the democratic process. As Churchill said, democracy is the worst form of government … except for all the others.

Barring something entirely unexpected (even impossible), one of two parties will form the next government:  the Rachel Notley Party (formerly known as the New Democratic Party), or the United Conservative Party. I am unenthusiastic about either option. I have never voted NDP, and I’m not going to start now. We all have biases, and a strong aversion to anything NDP is one of mine.

Jason Kenney has called the NDP an accidental government, and this is one of the few times that I agree with him. The NDP went from four members to government, so clearly they were not remotely prepared to win. But despite the handicap of having virtually no bench strength (it’s hard to run a government with social workers, baristas and 20-something university students), the NDP has not been as nightmarish as Kenney says. Some policies I don’t agree with ($15 an hour minimum wage is the kind of policy that is created by people who have never had to meet a payroll), and the climate change/carbon tax plan is a mixed bag.

In fact, I could almost be supportive if they made any effort to reign in spending, at least a little. But they didn’t. The plan was to keep spending, and to create jobs by hiring more and more civil servants. Keeping the civil service happy, after all, is one way for a government to stay in power.

Pipelines have become the dominant issue in this election. But is Rachel Notley to blame for the fact that not one single kilometre of pipe has has been laid anywhere in Alberta? No. I find her conversion to rabid pipeline supporter to be hypocritical (NDP governments in B.C. and the federal NDP are more in line with traditional, anti-pipeline NDP thinking), but I think she has tried to get it built. In the current climate in this country, getting ANYTHING done has become nearly impossible, so you can’t lay the blame on her shoulders. And it’s not her fault that the bottom fell out of the oil industry during her time in office.

And what of the UCP? 

There is no discussing the UCP without talking about Jason Kenney, a deeply unpleasant and worrisome leader. If he thinks he can finesse the construction of pipelines with bullying, he’s is sadly mistaken. I’m also concerned that he will go on a Ralph Klein like cutting spree, setting Alberta back years in important issues like health care and education. Basically, I don’t trust him. And there is the indisputable evidence that the UCP is infested with far right wing, Christian fundamentalist types. A UCP government worries me, probably more than an RNP government worries me. If I had no choice in the matter, I would push down the bile and vote NDP. But thankfully I have other options. The Alberta Party is a reasonable alternative. Socially progressive, fiscally conservative. Luckily for me, I live in a constituency with a very viable Alberta Party candidate, so I won’t feel like I’m wasting my vote.

Unless the polls are spectacularly wrong, the UCP will form the next government. And if they do, I hope Rachel Notley stays as NDP leader. We’re going to need a very strong opposition to keep tabs on Kenney and his government. And the NDP better hope she stays on, because without her, they have nothing.

I never thought of Justin Trudeau as being stupid, but I may have to re-evaluate my opinion. This week, with the flames of the SNC-Lavalin scandal/affair finally flickering out, Trudeau pumped fresh oxygen into the whole sorry affair. Out of nowhere, Trudeau threatened to sue Conservative leader Andrew ‘Howdy Doody’ Sheer for defamation over comments he made about the SNC thing.

Seriously, Justin? Sheer must have danced a merry jig when Trudeau issued this threat. Sheer has been a marginal player, at best, in the whole SNC thing. After overplaying his hand by immediately issuing his demand that Trudeau resign, Sheer has been almost forgotten. Now Trudeau has given Sheer an enormous boost. Maybe Trudeau’s critics are right – he doesn’t deserve to be prime minister. But then, does Howdy Doody?

So much happened this past week …

Scientists have succeeded in taking the most remarkable snapshot of all time – the first ever image of a black hole. What is a black hole? Well, it’s very complicated, but let’s just say it’s where Justin Trudeau’s reputation has gone. In science circles, photographing a black hole is a very big deal, but not being scientifically inclined, all I can say is: why isn’t it in focus?

Also big in the news this week, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has been arrested, pulled out kicking and screaming from the Ecuadorean  embassy in London after seven years. He is facing one single charge in the U.S. of trying to hack into U.S. government computers, but in Sweden they want him on a suspected rape charge. Stories coming from the embassy indicate that Assange was not the best visitor; there are reports that he smeared poop on the walls, perhaps a sign of derangement from being cooped up in an embassy for seven years.

And finally, India is holding elections. In a country of a billion or so people, you just don’t hold an election in a day. And India goes to extraordinary efforts to make sure everyone gets a vote.

This is from the New York Times: “Bharatdas Darshandas, the lone inhabitant and caretaker of a Hindu temple deep in the Gir Forest, has become a symbol of India’s herculean effort to ensure that the votes of every one of its 900 million eligible voters is counted … a team of five election workers will trek to Mr. Darshandas’s temple and set up a polling station solely for his use.”

The Indian election is the largest democratic election in history. There are about 900 million voters. It takes one million polling stations, and 12 million people to get the job done, spread out over 39 days. To provide ballots to voters in the most remote areas, the politically independent Election Commission of India will deploy 700 special trains, as well as boats, planes and teams of camels and elephants. And boy do they have choices: the total number of registered parties is 1,841.

RIP

Charles Van Doren, 93, a Columbia University English instructor and a member of a distinguished literary family who confessed to Congress and a disillusioned nation in 1959 that his performances on the television quiz show 21 had been rigged. The scandal was the basis of the film Quiz Show. Read the New York Times obituary here.

Stuff Happens IV, The Reckoning, week 14: Debating the debate

During any political debate, voters and the media are always looking for the knock-out punch. Brian Mulroney famously destroyed John Turner in one debate in 1984, and Jim Prentice notoriously told Rachel Notley that “math is hard” in 2015, which backfired badly.

So, was there a knock-out punch in the 2019 Alberta leaders’ debate? Nope. Some swings and misses, lots of dodges, a few glancing blows, but no major harm done. By the time it was over, all four competitors were still standing, some just a little taller than the others.

To continue the boxing analogy, the debate had an undercard (Liberal leader David Khan vs. Alberta Party leader Stephen Mandel) and a main event (United Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney and New Democratic Party – a.k.a the Rachel Notley Party – leader Rachel Notley).

The competitor with the most to lose was Kenney, and nobody really laid a glove on him. As you might expect from a guy who knows nothing but politics, Kenney is a professional blowhard, supremely confident in everything he says. No matter how much Notley went after him, he just batted everything away. He seemed prepared for everything thrown his way, and Notley had no new ammo.

I though Rachael Notley’s performance was curious. She looks haggard, perhaps the result of carrying the entire weight of a government on her shoulders. She read much of what she said from her prepared talking points; shouldn’t she be able to rattle off the rhetoric without reading it from a paper? While she repeatedly went after Kenney, she said almost nothing about the accomplishments of the Rachel Notley Party over the last four years. She seems intent on telling people why they should not vote for the UCP, while forgetting to tell voters why they should vote for the RNP. For example, one of her signature policies – the $15 minimum wage – went unmentioned.

Meanwhile, Jason Kenney really laid into Justin Trudeau, didn’t he? He’s not running against Trudeau, mind you, but he sure clobbered him. Kenney went after Trudeau almost as much as he went after Notley, knowing that Trudeau’s popularity in Alberta is just below toenail fungus. In the undercard, Khan (who is a constitutional lawyer, as he mentioned repeatedly), who knows there is no value in going after Notley and Kenney, went after Mandel, calling one Alberta Party policy “ridiculous”. He even went so far as to suggest that people died from the opioid crisis when he was PC health minister because Mandel didn’t take federal government money. It was a clearly rehearsed cheap shot unworthy of Khan, who otherwise he did much better than anticipated.

So while there was no knock-out punch, no moment that will be replayed over and over, there were still winners and losers.

WINNERS: David Khan and Stephen Mandel. Khan presented the Liberal case skillfully, and Mandel was the appealing of the bunch (although why he didn’t wear a tie and a properly fitted suit was beyond me). Neither one had to worry about being the centre of attention, but as supporting players they outshone the stars. (And yes, I know I’m mixing my metaphors here.)

DRAW: Jason Kenney. If the polls are right, this is still Kenney’s to win. He was respectful (calling Notley ‘premier’ repeatedly), and never got rattled. It’s hard to knock a voracious political animal off his feet, and nobody could do it.

LOSER: Rachel Notley. Not a real loser, just the least impressive in many ways. Try as she might, she could not best Kenney. She failed to boast about her government accomplishments, perhaps because two of them (the carbon tax and the $15 minimum wage) are so contentious. The RNP policy is to demonize Kenney, and Notley stuck to the script. But when the script isn’t working, it’s time to improvise, and she didn’t. I don’t think the debate moved the needle much, but it might have secured a seat for Khan in Calgary, and Mandel in Edmonton, and hopefully a few more players from both of those parties. (My old Liberal MLA pal. Mo Elsalhy is running in Edmonton South-West. If you live in that riding, you can’t go wrong with Mo.)

Still on the provincial election scene, anti-UCP deep research continued to lay waste to UCP candidates. This week, an old clip of UCP MLA Mark Smith seemingly questioning whether gay love is good love was leaked. And a document he wrote supporting the firing of gay teachers from Catholic schools also made an appearance. Then, a 2012 sermon by UCP candidate Roger Reid, where he said a book with some anti-Muslim views by evangelical Christian Charles Colson was “one of his favourite books” was released. And just for good measure, another candidate was taken to task for taking aim at the UN.

The UCP is being painted as a haven for the religious right and crackpot theories. The evidence is pretty hard to dispute, but Kenney is just brushing it aside. With two weeks to go, I suspect there will be more dirt to be uncovered. Pasty-faced political operatives are mining years of social media posts, trying to find anything damaging. Again, as a warning to anyone who is interested in getting into politics – stay away from social media!

This will be the last I’ll write about Jody Wilson-Raybould and the SNC-Lavalin scandal/affair. Honest. I’m sick of the whole thing.

Let’s be honest about JWR; the Liberal caucus had no option but to turf her. The case against Jane Philpott is weaker, but I guess kicking her out just saved the caucus of doing it later. That doesn’t make it any easier on Justin Trudeau. The holier-than-thou media types have piled on in a big way (“Rotting of the Liberal soul”, Andrew Coyne sniffed), but realistically what choice was there? JWR repeatedly blasted her own party’s leader. Her release of her private conversation with Michael Wernick last week was the last straw. It was flat-out unethical to tape the conversation without his knowledge, and releasing it was  vindictive. Clearly, she had to go. You can’t have one of your players repeatedly undermining the coach if you want to win.

But isn’t she a hero, as so many in the media seem to think? Well, aside from Philpott, how many others joined her crusade? The number is zero, including all the “strong women” in the cabinet. Trudeau is now paying the price for his “feminist” position. Speaking to something called the Daughters of the Vote in the House of Commons on Wednesday – the day after JWR and Philpott were turfed – anywhere from 25 to 50 of the young women turned their backs on him for daring to do something so unfeminist.

So let’s see if I understand this … if two men had done exactly what JWR and Philpott had done, they would be kicked out of caucus. But apparently, women are exempt, because, well, they are “strong women” and a feminist would have to support them regardless of what they did. Getting kicked out of caucus had nothing to do with gender, and everything to do with trying to destroy your team from within. Trudeau, as usual, didn’t have the balls to say that.

I’m sick of this whole thing. Clearly, Trudeau was wrong to press the SNC-Lavalin issue as strongly as he did – but he did nothing illegal, as JWR herself has said. JWR is correct in being upset with the pressure that was brought to bear on her, but after making her point in her testimony before the justice committee, her illegal wiretap went too far. There was no conceivable way she could have stayed in caucus.

The damage to brand Trudeau is probably irreparable. Angus Reid’s most recent poll, released on March 28, has the Liberals trailing by nine percentage points, with 28 per cent support compared to 37 per cent for the Conservatives. “This is less of a result of the Conservative party surging and more the result of Liberal support just bleeding all over the place,” said Shachi Kurl, executive director of the Angus Reid Institute. Whether Conservative leader Howdy Doody can cash in on this remains to be seen.

In the world of sports, the NHL season is over. I assume there are still playoffs to be played, but as an Edmontonian, there is no post-season. No, I will not throw my allegiance to the Calgary Flames just because they’re an Alberta team (my Edmonton roots won’t allow that), and I would never support the Toronto Maple Leafs (my Western Canadian roots, and my loathing for the eastern media bias towards the Leafs won’t allow it either). I guess Winnipeg is an acceptable alternative, but for me, if my team isn’t in the playoffs, I have no interest.

And speaking of no interest, did you hear that the Alliance of American Football folded this week? Or, better question, have you ever heard of the Alliance of American Football? No? You’re not alone.

The AAF is (or was) a spring professional football league, with plenty of money behind it. It was seen as a real threat to the venerable CFL, as the players were signed to guaranteed contracts that paid them better than most of them would have earned in the CFL. The league was banking on the insatiable appetite for football in the U.S., which proved to be plenty satiable after all. The eight-team league opened to small crowds that got even smaller, almost Toronto Argonauts small. The league never made it to a championship game, suspending play last week just eight weeks into the season.

And finally, a couple of Donald Trump items (sorry, I just can’t resist these ones). Trump has decided to threaten to close the border with Mexico, going so far as to say (and I’m not making this up): “The country is full”. But that wasn’t even the best Trumpism. In comments to the media about the U.S. relationship with Germany, Trump blathered on about how wonderful Germany is, even saying that his father was born in a small town in Germany.

Trump’s father was born in New Jersey.

RIP

Dan Robbins, 93, creator of the concept of paint by numbers.

Stuff Happens IV, The Reckoning, week 13: On GSAs, Mueller and JWR’s illegal wiretap

We all know that Donald Trump is a dirtbag, but is he a worse dirtbag than Justin Trudeau? An Ipsos poll on Thursday gave Trudeau an approval rating of 40%, lower than Donald Trump’s approval in the U.S. Seriously, people. Lower than Trump? Man, that’s cold.

It was another bad week for JT. At a Liberal fundraising event in Toronto, Trudeau was heckled by a protestor who shouted “Prime Minister Trudeau, people in Grassy Narrows (a First Nations reserve in Ontario) are suffering from mercury poisoning.” When the protester was being removed, Trudeau said “Thank you very much for your donation tonight, I really appreciate it”.

Cue the outrage. Trudeau did what he does best (apologize) but again, the damage has been done, and once again it is self-inflicted. But there was worse to come, again from inside his own party.

On Friday, Jody Wilson-Rabouyld (JWR) continued her scorched earth approach to Trudeau, her party and her caucus. She released a recording of a conversation about the SNC-Lavalin affair that she had with the Clerk of the Privy Council, Michael Wernick. In the recording, Wernick questions her about the whole SNC thing. Wernick is polite, never overtly threatening, but insistent; to me, he sounds frustrated and uncomfortable to be talking about it. JWR warns him that this is political interference, but he insists that the prime minister wants something to be done about the matter.

It sounds like the kind of conversation you would hear when one person knows they are being recorded, and the other doesn’t, which is exactly the case – JWR didn’t tell Wernick that she was recording the conversation.

Yes, there was pressure brought to bear on the SNC-Lavalin file, which we already know. But what is most interesting to me is this line from Werwick: “He (Trudeau) doesn’t want to do anything that’s outside the box of what’s legal and proper.” JWR promptly launched into a number of lectures that sound like prepared statements. Trudeau haters (and their numbers are growing by the day) will love this recording, and it does nothing to support Trudeau’s case. But I think it stinks. If you had to make an important, confidential phone call to JWR, would you? Would you trust her at all?

On Wednesday, the Trudeau cabinet meets. Trudeau has said he will excuse himself from the room while the caucus decides whether to let JWR and her sympathizer, Jane Philpott, remain in caucus. There is no option but to kick them out. If they don’t, it will be the death knell for Trudeau as leader. He may already be a dead man walking.

Next month, the United Conservative Party could become the first party in Alberta history to win an election without a full slate of candidates.

A UCP candidate in Calgary, Eva Kiryakos, posted a video last Sunday saying: “Someone outside of our party has been threatening to smear me, and I have had enough of the bullies and the threats.” So, what did the bullies find? Leaked Twitter posts (also known as NDP research) show Kiryakos posting about a “Christian genocide” and the “forced breeding” of Muslims. “Muslim forces continue to use murder, rape, kidnapping, terror and forced breeding in pursuit of Christian Genocide in the Middle East while the world turns a blind eye,” the post reads.

And there’s more. In another post, Kiryakos responds to a Twitter user talking about about gay-straight alliances in schools (more on that later), saying “you’re not interested in protecting children with GSAs, you’re interested in converting them.” Seriously?

Last week, another UCP candidate, Caylan Ford (why so many women?) removed her name from the running, after white nationalist rhetoric she posted online surfaced in a report by PressProgress.

The Rachael Notley Party has been scouring social media of every single UCP candidate, waiting for the right moment to leak old Facebook or Twitter postings to a willing media. Why anyone running for election in Alberta – or anywhere – doesn’t take the time to scrub their social media accounts of anything remotely controversial is beyond me. It’s almost as big a question as to what kind of vetting process the UCP puts its candidates through.

Meanwhile, on the campaign trail, it was promises, promises, promises. Notley announced another multi-billion dollar promise ($25 daycare!), while Kenney unveiled the UPC’s entire platform, 100-plus pages that no one will read. But Kenney also inexplicably waded into the dormant issue of gay-straight alliances in schools. Kenney would no longer require a principal to establish a GSA “immediately”, and there would be no law (as there is now) against a school letting parents know that their son or daughter is in a GSA.

Why would Kenney raise an issue no one is talking about, and insert it into an election where his enemies are always looking for ways to paint him as a social troglodyte? Does he really think that this issue is one that needs to be addressed, even though the issue of gay-straight alliances in schools wouldn’t even crack the top 100 concerns of the average Alberta voter? Seriously, are these guys trying to lose this election?

There is a leader’s debate on Thursday which could have a profound impact on the outcome of the election. It should be fun.

In the United States, Robert Mueller’s two-year investigation into Russian influence in the 2016 U.S. election found no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Or at least that’s what a four-page summary of the 300-page report (even Readers Digest Condensed Books couldn’t do that) by Attorney General William Barr says. The summary says that “while this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.” Democrats and his media enemies (and basically anyone with an IQ over 12) were hoping for a smoking gun so they could begin impeachment proceedings. Turns out, the smoking gun was loaded with blanks.

So … not quite innocent, but not guilty enough to prove it? Trump, being the gracious winner, called anyone who supported the investigation evil and treasonous, and hinting at repercussions in front of a slathering crowd of supporters shouting ‘Lock Them Up!’ at one of his Nuremberg-ish rallies. Whether Trump colluded with Russians or not, he’s still a reprehensible scumbag. There are calls to release the full report. As I recall, there were calls for Trump to release his tax forms, but we all know where they ended.

RIP

Scott Walker, 76, lead singer of the Walker Brothers, who had two big hits with “Make It Easy on Yourself,” and “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore.”