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.

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.

The Return of Stuff Happens, week 8: Take us away from this, Oscar!

Nothing happened in the world this week, so I’m going to devote this blog to the Academy Awards.

imgres-1Yes, I know that things did happen in the world this week, but 90% of them involved Donald Trump, and I just cannot read, write or hear another word about the creeping orange terror. Seriously, this guy is sucking up all the oxygen in the universe. The Oscars will not be immune from Trump disease; my guess is host Jimmy Kimmel will take his share of fairly mild shots at Trump (Kimmel is not especially nasty like Stephen Colbert, who hates Trump with a passion), but nothing like Chris Rock’s single-minded obsession with the ‘Oscars So White’ uproar from last year. Kimmel will probably leave the pontificating to the winners; I can hardly wait to hear what the winner of best sound effects editing thinks of Trump.

So, in lieu of a recap of what Trump did this week, here are my ill-informed opinions on this year’s major Oscar candidates.

Supporting actress

Haven’t seen enough of these movies to make an informed decision, but that has never stopped me before.

My guess is that Viola Davis has a lock on this award for her performance in Fences. Why? Snot, lots and lots of snot. I haven’t seen Fences, but the one clip I’ve seen has Davis in full ACTING mode, screaming at Denzel Washington with snot cascading from her nose. Now, THAT’S acting. Also, from what I’ve heard, Davis should have been in the lead actress category, but whoever makes these decisions wisely submitted her name in the supporting category to better her chances of winning. This category contains the most ‘what the hell?’ nomination of the year — Octavia Spencer for her competent, but hardly inspiring, performance in Hidden Figures. Hell, she wasn’t even the best actress in that movie.

Supporting actor

I’ll take a guess at Mahershala Ali for Moonlighting, because he has received multiple winsw for this role from other award givers.  I saw Moonlighting last night, and I am baffled as to why this performance is winning so much praise. Most of the others will be eliminated for various reasons. Jeff Bridges in Hell or High Water is a previous winner, and in that movie he’s basically playing his late career Grizzled Jeff Bridges. Lucas Hedges in Manchester by the Sea is very young, apparently. Dev Patel is very good in Lion, but he is really a lead role. It could be Michael Shannon, a veteran character actor in a category that loves to award veteran character actors, but has anyone seen Nocturnal Animals?

Lead actress

Another tough call. I loved Emma Stone in La La Land (more on that later), but Emma Stone is just naturally loveable, and I don’t know if she did enough to warrant the Oscar. Meryl Streep is typically terrific in Florence Foster Jenkins, but Streep getting an Oscar nod is so automatic it has become a running Oscar joke. Natalie Portman seems to have the inside track for his spot-on impression of Jackie Kennedy’s breathy, little girl speaking style for Jackie, but the movie is mediocre. I think it’s between Stone and Portman, and I’ll go with Stone.

Lead actor

In the early going, it looked like Casey Affleck had a lock on this for Manchester by the Sea, which I haven’t seen and may never see (every review of this movie contains the words “sad” or “depressing”). He’s still the odds-on favourite, but it could be Denzel Washington for his ACTING!! in Fences, which I have also not seen. All the others will have to content themselves with being nominated, particularly Viggo Mortensen for something called Captain Fantastic, which, despite the name, is not a Marvel superhero movie. Bet on Affleck, but don’t bet a lot. (By the way, Michael Keaton should have been nominated for The Founder.)

Best picture

imgresI will be genuinely disappointed, and surprised, if La La Land doesn’t win. I’m all in on this movie; it’s one of those rare films that is just a pure joy, one that luxuriates in the art of filmmaking. There has been the inevitable backlash against La La Land  —  there aren’t enough black people in it, the jazz isn’t real jazz, it doesn’t make a statement, Ryan Gosling isn’t a good enough dancer – but that’s all nitpicking from people who just can’t enjoy a movie for what it is. Well, screw them. La La Land is a movie movie,  the kind of entertainment that can only be achieved in a motion picture.

As for the other films:

  • I saw Moonlight last night, which is, from what I’ve read, La La Land‘s chief competition. These films are literally as different as black and white. Moonlight is the life story of a young black man who grows up a closeted gay in the projects of Miami. We follow him through his teens, and on into his inevitable adult life as a drug dealer. Moonlight is what I call a critic’s film, where the people who are paid to watch movies fall all over themselves praising it. My guess is that the average moviegoer will find it a very tough slog. It’s one of those movies that doesn’t know how it should end, so it just … ends. And I have no idea why it is called Moonlight.
  • Manchester by the Sea I haven’t seen, and might see only when it comes to Netflix. As noted above, it is frequently called sad and depressing, and I get enough of that in the real world;
  • Lion is a good film with a solid emotional punch (much better than Moonlight), but it could have benefited from being about 10 minutes shorter;
  • Hell or High Water is also good, with plenty of atmosphere and a good story, but it’s one of those movies where you get the feeling you’ve seen it before. I liked it, but can’t honestly remember much about it;
  • Hidden Figures is one of the multiple based-on-a-true-story films on the Academy list this year. The story of the genius black women who were forced to work in obscurity (or worse) in the early days of the space race, Hidden Figures is a top notch made-for-TV movie, but not an Oscar winner;
  • Fences I haven’t seen, but from what I’ve heard it is basically a filmed play, which doesn’t bode well for its chances;
  • Arrival I haven’t seen, but hear very good things. And it has a Canadian director, Denis Villeneuve, so there’s that;
  • Hacksaw Ridge is a bit of a baffler. Another true story, based on the heroic exploits of a consciousness objector in World War II, this Mel Gibson film is so over-the-top violent it verges on torture porn. Dozens of men are blown to bits, dismembered, set ablaze, shot through the head, bayonetted, disemboweled, etc. all in close-up, gory detail. Hundreds of bombs go off in titanic fireballs (which didn’t happen in WWII). It’s not a very good film at all, and I don’t know how it made the cut. Sully was a much better film. So was Hail, Caesar! or Deadpool, or The Nice Guys, or Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, or The Inflitrator, or London Has Fallen (OK, just kidding about that one, London Has Fallen is one of the worst movies of this, or any other year.

So that’s it. Enjoy the Oscars, but here’s a tip. Set your PVR to tape it, and lauch into it about an hour in. That way you can easily skip the commercials and the acceptance speech from the winner of best sound editing.

RIP

imgres-2
Bill Paxton, not to be confused with Bill Pullman. 

Bill Paxton, 61, a familiar face to film and TV viewers for years. Paxton died from complications from surgery on Saturday. Paxton’s fame rose in the 1990s thanks to roles such as Morgan Earp in Tombstone (1993), Fred Haise in Apollo 13 (1995), the lead role in the 1996 hit Twister and as treasure hunter Brock Lovett in Titanic (1997).His television credits include a lead role in HBO’s Big Love, for which he earned three Golden Globe nominations, as well as Hatfields and McCoys. He was frequently confused with Bill Pullman … Bernie Custis, 88, the first black to play quarterback in pro football, with the Hamilton Tiger Cats in 1951. He is a member of the Canadian Football Hall of Fame.

The Return of Stuff Happens, week 7: Horror in Sweden?

Doesn’t it seem like weeks ago that Justin Trudeau visited Donald Trump?

It was the story on this side of the border for days. But Trudeau had barely lifted off from Washington and his visit was forgotten, overwhelmed by a tsunami of terrible Trump news. But let’s briefly look back on the Trump-Trudeau visit, which seems to have been quite well received by the Canadian chattering classes.

While it was big news here (a Canadian PM visiting a big shot like the U.S. prez is always big news here) I checked out the American broadcast channels on Monday, and found a mixed bag. The Trudeau visit got only fleeting coverage on NBC and CBS – still pictures of Trudeau and Trump, and not a single voice clip of Trudeau. ABC, on the other hand, covered the visit most comprehensively. Calling Trudeau a “outspoken critic” of the ban/not a travel ban (not true; he made a few subtle references to Muslims), ABC devoted quite a lot of time to Trudeau and the Canadian attitude towards refugees, including clips of Trudeau welcoming Syrian refugees. On this side of the border, of course, we were infatuated with the whole thing, focusing on Trudeau’s ability to avoid the grotesque, macho-man Trump handshake. The late night talk shows barely noticed his appearance. Only Seth Meyers (the best of the late night news comics, by the way) noticed that Trudeau was in Washington. Displaying a photo of Trump and Trudeau, Meyers said it looked like “a snowboard instructor meeting a drowned ghost”. Not his best line, but we’ll take it.

During their press conference, Trump looked detached, almost bored. He had much bigger fish to fry than a visiting Canadian prime minister; his national security advisor was accused of lying about his conversations with the Russians (oh, those Russians), and was later fired. That scandal sucked up all the news oxygen, so Trudeau came and went with hardly a ripple of interest from the U.S. media. As it turned out, the Trudeau visit was Trump’s best moment of the week. His cabinet is literally falling apart, with resignations, withdrawals and suitable candidates running for the hills. Trump held a press conference on Thursday that was an epic, off-the-rails rant that had jaws dropping across the world. On a Friday night tweet, he called the ‘fake news’ media (in his view, that is the New York Times, NBC, CNN, ABC and CBS, but not Fox) “the enemy of the American people”. You know who else used the phrase ‘enemy of the people’? Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong. Just saying…

And finally, if that wasn’t enough, he held a “campaign rally” in Florida on Saturday night. Ignore, for a moment, that there is no campaign going on. Still, thousands of rabid fans turned out. Trump attacked the media, of course, and let loose with one spectacular headscratcher.

“You look at what’s happening”, he told the slavering masses. “We’ve got to keep our country safe. You look at what’s happening in Germany, you look at what’s happening last night in Sweden. Sweden, who would believe this?”

Nobody, as it turns out, because nothing happened last night in Sweden, at least not in the terrorist context. Who would believe this, indeed.

Meanwhile, here in Canada, the Conservatives had a poor week.

First, as you can see in this clip from the House of Commons, Conservative MPs laughed out loud when Edmonton MP and cabinet minister Amerjeet Sohi mentioned that he was a former bus driver. Apparently, being something as lowly as a bus driver was just absolutely hilarious to the lawyers and assorted other mucky-mucks on the Tory side. Worse yet was the reaction from Conservative leadership candidates to a fairly routine motion from a Liberal MP, Iqra Khalid, that that would, if adopted, have the House of Commons “condemn Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination.” A Commons committee would study ways to reduce “systemic racism and religious discrimination including Islamophobia” and report within eight months. It’s important to know that a motion is not a law, just an expression of the opinion of the members. But that didn’t stop Conservative leadership hopefuls. Kellie Leitch, Maxime Bernier, Andrew Scheer, Brad Trost, Chris Alexander, Kevin O’Leary and Erin O’Toole said they disagreed with the wording of the motion, with the wretched Leitch starting a website called “Stop M-103,” claiming many Canadians are worried their freedom of speech will be stifled. This utterly innocuous motions would have sailed through the house with nobody noticing had it not been for the Conservatives playing the Muslim card to rile up the base. Meanwhile, the MP who proposed the motion claims to have received 50,000 emails (which, to be honest, sounds like a wild exaggeration), and they weren’t very nice. She did read parts of the emails in the House, which included these gems:

  • “Kill her and be done with it. I agree she is here to kill us. She is sick and she needs to be deported.”
  • “We will burn down your mosques, draper head Muslim.”
  • “Why did Canadians let her in? Ship her back.”
  • “Why don’t you get out of my country? You’re a disgusting piece of trash and you are definitely not wanted here by the majority of actual Canadians.

And this is just two weeks after the Quebec mosque killings.

The Conservatives also held another leadership forum this week, or so I am told. My pathetic local rag, the Edmonton Journal, never mentioned a word about it, but I did hear that Kevin O’Leary’s first foray into speaking French was, as the French would say, a débâcle. Just like the pathetic Tory leadership race. But hey, at least they have a race. Nobody has yet to step forward to lead the federal New Democrats. 

RIP

Darrel K. Smith, 55, a wide receiver and slotback who played eight seasons in the the Argos and the Eskimos. He was traded to the Esks in 1993 in the biggest trade in CFL history, invovling 16 players …  Al Jarreau, 76, R&B and jazz singer and seven time Grammy winner… Stuart McLean, 68, all-Canadian broadcaster, humourist and author, creator of the long-running CBC Radio show The Vinyl Cafe … George ‘the Animal’ Steele, 79, a wild man wrestler known for tearing up the turnbuckle with his teeth, and his green tongue (accomplished with the use of green Clorets mints). In real life, he had a bachelor of science degree and a master’s degree.

This is on you, American voters

Sixty two million, nine hundred and seventy nine thousand, eight hundred and seventy nine.

unknown-1That’s how many people voted for Donald Trump. And that’s how many people should be looking at themselves in the mirror and saying “What the #@*% was I THINKING?”

Yes, you 62,979,879, this is on you.

Sure, you can blame Hillary Clinton – cold, calculating, devious, privileged, ethically slippery, old, female, etc. And you can point to Benghazi and the private email server scandals, even though you’re not exactly sure why you were outraged, but you sure were. And you can blame the Democrats for taking their base for granted. And yes, you can blame ‘the system’ which you saw as so corrupt that it needed a complete housecleaning. And OK, you can say that you really, really wanted to Make America Great Again, a tacit admission that it wasn’t great anymore.

Yeah, there are lots of reasons, and you can rationalize all you like. But here’s the bottom line: you were presented with someone who was revealed during the campaign to be a circus clown, a compulsive liar, a 1950s-era sexist pig, a duplicitous businessman with a string of dubious failed business ventures behind him, a foul-mouthed vulgarian, a man who wasn’t qualified to be the mayor of Pocatello, Idaho much less the most powerful nation on earth … AND YOU VOTED FOR HIM!

Now, to be fair, not every one of you 62,979,897 have to take the blame for his. At least a third of those who voted for Trump were just stupid. I think that number if fair. I mean, think about all of the people you know – friends, relatives, co-workers, neighbours – and chances are that you consider more than a few of them to be stupid. The kind of person that causes you to roll your eyes at the very mention of their name, while muttering, “He is SUCH an idiot.” These are people who are, for whatever reason, just naturally stupid. They don’t know it, of course, which makes them even stupider. You can’t get mad at them for voting from Trump any more than you can get mad at a blind man for bumping into you.

Then there are people who just vote Republican. About 28% of Americans declare themselves to be Republican. These are often they type of people who always vote Republican, because their daddy voted Republican, and their granddaddy voted Republican, and their great-granddaddy voted Republican, and their great-great granddaddy voted Republican. There is no talking sense to these people either. They are in the general classification of being stupid, but for a reason.

So, that leaves maybe a third of the 62,979,897 people who voted for Trump – people who were not just plain stupid, or Republican stupid – who made an educated, active decision to vote for Trump. I’ve seen these people on TV. Nice, middle class folks, house in the suburbs, solid job, well educated. These people, millions of them, looked at this clownish, lying, sexist, racist xenophobe, and said, “Sure, let’s give him a shot. Couldn’t be any worse than what we have, right?”

Yes, it’s you folks who handed control of the most important government in the free world to someone with zero experience in government. You’d be enraged if your company put an entirely inexperienced person in charge of your office, but you were OK with your government being run by an idiot. You’re the ones who have given Russia – evil, rotten, Russia – the upper hand in their quest for eastern European domination. You folks rolled the dice on electing a clearly unhinged, orange-tinted egomaniac in the hopes that he would turn out to be a pretty good guy after all.

Well, it didn’t work out that way, did it? And this is on you.

The Return of Stuff Happens, week 6: All Trump, all the time

Has there ever been a leader (or, in this case, a ‘leader’) who has so dominated every minute of every news cycle the way Donald Trump has?

In the pre-Trump era, you could easily go a few days without hearing or seeing one word from the President of the United States. Today, we can’t go 24 hours without some new outrage from Donald Trump, or his chaotic, lunatics-running-the-asylum White House. There are days when Trump packs two or three newsworthy outrages in a single day. This guy tweets like a 13-year-old girl who just HAS to comment on everything she sees, no matter how stupid it may sound.

Consider this week. After a panel of judges let stand another judge’s decision to overturn his travel ban/not a ban on seven mostly Muslim countries, Trump tweeted: “SEE YOU IN COURT, THE SECURITY OF OUR NATION IS AT STAKE!” Yes, he’s taking the courts to court. On Thursday, he called Sen. John McCain a loser for questioning Trump policy, even injecting some sarcasm into a tweet, by calling McCain “our hero”. On Wednesday, he tweeted about three different polls, all supporting his travel ban and how truthful he is with the media. He also posted this baffler: “Big increase in traffic into our country from certain areas, while our people are far more vulnerable, as we wait for what should be EASY D!” No one is quite sure what an Easy D is. The same day, he tweeted a link to a story headlined “16 Fake News Stories Reporters Have Run Since Trump Won”. And on the SAME DAY, he tweeted this about the decision by department store Nordstrom’s to stop carrying Ivanka Trump’s poor selling clothing line: “My daughter Ivanka has been treated so unfairly by @Nordstrom. She is a great person — always pushing me to do the right thing! Terrible!” Wait, what? Trump needs sometime to push him to do the right thing? And is that ‘terrible’? On Monday, he tweeted a series of attacks on the ‘failing’ New York Times. On Feb. 4, he spat out 10 tweets, including the random “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!” Trump may be the first president with ADD.

Trump, by the way, has 24.5 million followers and has tweeted 34,500 times. But how many people does he follow?

The answer, incredibly, is 42 … 15 of which have the name Trump in the handle.

Trump v. Trudeau

On Monday, Prime Minister Trudeau finally has a face-to-orange face meeting with Trump. Trudeau, seen by some as the standard-bearer for liberal policies in the west, is under pressure by some to stand up to Trump about his immigration ban. This would be foolish; right now, Canada is not noticeably on the Trump administration’s radar. If you have a neighbour who’s a bit of a psycho and who is feuding with his other neighbour, why get involved? Trudeau should, and will, talk trade with Trump (for a few seconds, anyway; Trump’s ADD will kick in quickly), and do everything he can to avoid the ban/not a ban controversy. It is not the place for a Canadian prime minister to comment on internal affairs of any other country. I suspect Trudeau will find some way to insert the fact that Canada has allowed 30,000 Syrian refugees into the country … and just leave it at that. For a little historical perspective, please read my column from Edmonton Prime Times about past meetings between prime ministers and presidents.

RIP

Richard Hatch, 71, star of the old Battlestar Galactica series … Irwin Corey, 102, a stand up comic often called Professor Irwin Corey, the World’s Foremost Authority … Mike Ilitch, 87, owner of the Detroit Red Wings and Tigers, and more importantly the man who inflicted Little Caesars pizza on the world.

The Return of Stuff Happens, week 5: Horror hits home; Trudeau breaks a promise; Stupor Bowl ads

Events on Sunday in Quebec City served as a reminder, if we needed one, that Canada is not immune to madness.

Last Sunday, a sad loser walked into a Quebec City mosque and opened fire on people who were praying. Yes, praying. He killed six,  injuring many others; it could have been so much worse. The gunman was the cliched loner who kept to himself, except in this day and age when your online presence can be tracked, and it was revealed that he was a fan of the far-right, and anti-Muslim.

Canadians, as is our way, united in shows of support. Tens of thousands turned out for candlelight vigils across the cold country on Monday in a heartening display of unity and compassion. But the sad fact is that there is a strain of Islamophobia in this country that no amount of candlelight vigils and overt displays of affection can hide. And it is especially true in Quebec, which has a sometimes tense relationship with newcomers, particularly Muslims. (I haven’t heard them, but I have read that Quebec City has a number of popular right-wing open line hosts who regularly target Muslims.) To be sure, Canada is remarkably open to immigrants, particularly so in this time when our nearest neighbour is going in the opposite direction. But Sunday’s tragedy tells us that not everything is not peace and love in Canada. We are, after all, no different than anyone else.

Trudeau in trouble

Justin Trudeau messed up royally this week, something that has become a fairly regular event.

You may remember (but probably don’t) that Trudeau promised, repeatedly, that we would have a new way of voting next election that eliminated the ‘first past the post’ way we’ve been electing MPs since time began. The existing system, the opinion goes, favours the big, mainline parties and disenfranchises millions of people who vote for someone other than the Liberals and Conservatives. Trudeau promised – on the campaign trail, and in his first speech from the throne, and up to just a few days ago – to have a new system in place by the next election.

Well, uh … forget that. This week, the Liberals said that despite a parliamentary report outlining a way forward, despite coast-to-coast consultations, despite thousands of online submissions, no “consensus” has emerged, so they’re not going to change the way we vote after all. Just too much work, apparently. The real reason has nothing to do with consensus, of course; this government, and all governments, make hundreds of decisions without consensus (pipelines, assisted dying, legalized pot, etc.). The real reason was that the system preferred in the parliamentary report was not the one the Liberals wanted. The New Democrats and Greens, who had the most to gain from changes, were in high dungeon, practically spitting with rage and invective (one NDP MP called Trudeau a liar). Trudeau was also taken to task for giving the duty of making the announcement to a rookie minister who was just handed the portfolio (and who apparently handled it very badly), instead of taking the heat himself. That’s pretty gutless.

So it’s a great, big broken promise from Trudeau, handled in an especially artless manner. We won’t know until the next election the impact of broken promises (this wasn’t his first) will have on the Liberal fortunes. My guess is that the general public isn’t that hot and bothered about electoral reform; it’s just too much of an ‘inside baseball’ thing to annoy too many people. But any more of this, and it will be very easy to paint Trudeau as a shameless promise breaker … yes, even a liar. It’s a self-inflicted wound, but not a fatal one. But a lot of self-inflicted wounds can become infected, and ultimately fatal.

Meanwhile in Tory land …

Remember last week, when I took Conservative leadership candidate Kelly Leitch’s campaign manager to task for spreading lies? No? Oh, well, I did. Take my word for it. Anyway, the idiot, Nick Kouvalis, resigned this week for finally going too far. He called a political science professor a “cuck,” short for cuckold, an insult used by some Donald Trump supporters in the U.S. to attack supporters of Hillary Clinton. The insult has an even more offensive meaning among members of the alt-right. Also this week, Kevin O’Leary, seen by many as the front runner, stepped in it big time. On the day that three of the victims of the Quebec mosque massacre were laid to rest, O’Leary posted a video of himself firing high-powered automatic weapons. Why? Who knows. The one thing for sure is that his timing was terrible. On Saturday, O’Leary made his first appearance at a Tory leadership debate. He was, of course, immediately the target of many well-rehearsed barbs about his part-time Canadian residency, his weak links to the Conservative party, his reality show fame. From what I saw (and I couldn’t watch it all; 14 people makes for a brutal debate format), he didn’t respond, simply answering the questions the way he wanted to answer them. He actually came off pretty well, I thought, although his comment earlier in the week that we will eventually “hail King Trump” was at the very least off-putting. O’Leary is a seasoned performer, and supremely confident. The worst performer by far was Kelly Leitch, who literally talks out of one side of her mouth in a grating, nasal drone, and says stuff about arming all women with pepper spray so they can defend themselves. I don’t see any of the candidates giving Justin Trudeau any sleepless nights.

Our long Super Bowl nightmare is over

Free at last, free at last! Thank God almighty, we are free at last … to watch American Super Bowl commercials.

For years, the CRTC mandated that only the Canadian feed of the Stupor Bowl, from CTV, would be shown in Canada, depriving millions of Canadians of the one thing really worth watching on Stupor Bowl Sunday – the commercials. The reason was to ensure that all Canadians had to watch Canadian ads, essentially ensuring that CTV could make a tidy profit on the most watched event on TV. This year, however, the CRTC said, screw it – the American feed (this year on Fox) could be aired into Canadian homes, giving us the chance to see the Super Bowl of Advertising in all its creative glory. (With most of the commercials already available online, this isn’t the big deal it used to be. Here’s one for Kia that’s really quite funny, and a killer from Mexico avocados.) CTV and even the NFL protested vigorously, but to no avail. So instead of watching commercials for Phil’s House of Shag Carpeting Warehouse or whatever, we can now watch the best of American advertising talent. CTV is fighting back with a contest offering prizes of $50,000 and $100,000, but you can only enter if you watch the CTV broadcast for on-air information on how to enter.

Meanwhile, in Donald Trump’s America, chaos reigns

Immediately after his ban on immigration or even visitation from eight mostly-Muslim countries, stories emerged of families being split apart and would-be immigrants who have waited years to become American having their hopes dashed.

sean_spicer
Sean Spicer, afraid of five-year-old boys.

At Dulles Airport in Washington, a five-year-old Iranian boy was detained (apparently in handcuffs for some time) for five hours away from his mother because he was considered a potential security risk. Trump’s press spokesman, the pitiful Sean Spicer, told the incredulous media:  “To assume that just because of someone’s age and gender that they don’t pose a threat would be misguided and wrong.” He’s correct, of course. History is rife with examples of five year old terrorists.

Thousands of Americans have taken to the streets in furious protest over Trump’s actions. It’s safe to say that in two weeks of Trump, more people have taken to the streets to protest than in Barack Obama’s entire eight years as president. Two weeks into the Trump era, and I am exhausted. I can’t stand to read or hear another word about this megalomaniac, but there is no escaping him. I would move to Australia, but he’s even making news there by dissing the Aussie PM. God help us all.

RIP

Brunhilde Pomsel, who worked as the private secretary of Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, has died. She was 106 years old. Though Pomsel worked closely with Goebbels and his family—she spent three years transcribing his reflections and taking his dictation—she maintained until her death that she knew nothing about Hitler’s Final Solution.

 

The Return of Stuff Happens, week 4: Trump’s rule by fiat

We all know how powerful the President of the United States is. But I don’t know if we ever recognized just how powerful. Almost … dictatorial?

Don’t agree? Well, what other kind of leader can decide, with the stroke of an expensive pen, to ban immigrants from 14 countries, on the basis that they belong to a religion that he doesn’t care for. A dictator? Not too far from the truth, I say.

This week, Donald Trump was so busy signing “executive orders” that he must have had writer’s cramp. Literally with the stroke of a pen, he re-started the Keystone XL pipeline, started work on his nutty Mexican wall, and put a temporary halt to immigration from 14 countries. No discussion, no debate. He just puts pen to paper, and presto! It’s the law.

Trump has spent the better part of is first week as president sitting behind a desk and making executive orders about just about anything that pops into his head. I know this whole executive order thing has been around for a long time – since the beginning of the republic, apparently – but I don’t recall any president being so brazen, so cavalier about it. It’s shocking.

Trump wasn’t just signing executive orders. He spent much of the week having his flunkies claim that 3-5 million illegal votes were cast in the election, and that none of them went to him. This is a sign of a mentally ill person, a narcissist so obsessed with how people feel about him that he is concocting fanciful “facts” to explain why he didn’t win the popular vote. There is not one shred of evidence, not one, that illegal voting is a problem in the U.S. But in the alternative fact universe that Donald Trump resides in, anything is possible if you just believe it to be true.

Real news about fake news

“Fake news” is back in the news this week, with the real news that the Facebook and Google are working on ways to crack down on fake news. Too bad they didn’t think about this, oh, about three months ago.

Incredibly, the campaign manager of Conservative leadership candidate Kellie Leitch admitted to Maclean’s magazine that he deliberately posted fake news in an effort to draw the ire of “left leaning” voters. Nick Kouvalis tweeted a list of “billions” of dollars Justin Trudeau’s government had supposedly given to international aid organizations, including $350 million to the designated terrorist group Hamas. Kouvalis admitted the information was false, and he posted it to “make the left go nuts”.

So we have the campaign manger of a supposedly legitimate Conservative campaign manager who has admitted in aiding and abetting lies. He seems almost proud of trying to make the “left go nuts”. How is the respectable, honest behaviour by a Conservative leadership candidate’s campaign manager? It’s not, of course. Spreading lies is essentially the same as lying, and if Kellie Leitch thinks its OK to spread lies, then she has no legitimacy as a candidate. Not that she has a lot right now, anyway; this week, she vowed to “drain the canal”, a steal from Donald Trump’s “drain the swamp” promise.

In other leadership news

Wildrose leader Brian Jean dropped a bombshell on the PC leadership race this week. In an effort to undermine the campaign of Jason Kenney, who wants to merge the two conservative parties, Jean announced that if the Wildrose wants to merge with the PCs, he’s OK with that, and that’s he’ll run for the leadership of the new party. Meanwhile the PC field got even smaller with the resignation of Stephen Khan, an inconsequential ex-MLA who somehow convinced himself he could lead the party. Khan cited “vitriol, anger and division” for this quitting the race, avoiding the obvious problem that he has no chance of defeating the Kenney juggernaut. That leaves just Kenney, Richard Starke and some guy named Byron Nelson in the race; there were six candidates to begin. As bad as the PC leadership race has been, it still beats the federal NDP race, which as of this writing has exactly zero candidates, with their convention in October.

RIP

imagesMary Tyler Moore, 80, star of two of classic TV comedies, The Dick Van Dyke Show, and her own legendary comedy, Mary Tyler Moore. On the Van Dyke show, she was approaching the modern female role model – she was no kitchen frump, and often wore form fitting capri pants. On her own show, she was a single (gasp!) career woman, the first in TV history, and she stayed that way for the duration of the series. Mary Tyler Moore was a brilliant show, one of TV’s best ever comedies. But there seems to be no room for it on TV today, and a whole generation (or two) of TV viewers know only that it was supposedly a good show. Take if from me, TV fans unfamiliar with Mary Tyler Moore … it was a great show, funny and humane at the same time. But with ceaseless reruns of the singularly disgusting Two Broke Girls and the exhausted The Big Bang Theory sucking up all the TV time, we may never see Mary again … Mike Conners, 91, star of the 1967-75 cop show Mannix … John Hurt, 77, the British actor Oscar-nominated for The Elephant Man. He also appeared in Alien as Kane (the first actor to have an alien explode from his stomach), and was the wand maker in three of the Harry Potter films, among many other roles … HMV stores, the once-mighty chain of music and video stores, a victim of downloading. They will all be shut down in the next few months.