Stuff Still Happens, week 23: The year of the fallen icons

The Oxford English Dictionary defines icon as ‘a symbol or graphic representation on a screen of a program, option, or window’, which doesn’t work until you look at the second definition, which is ‘a person or thing regarded as a representative symbol or as worthy of veneration.’

There are few words in English usage today more overused than ‘icon’. It’s gotten so bad — even Khardashians are called ‘icons’ of one sort or another — that I vowed not to use the term. But this year, the word has been used correctly — again, and again, and again.

Consider the icon toll of 2016. David Bowie, genuine music icon. Prince, another true icon. Harper Lee, literary icon, even if it was for only one book (To Kill a Mockingbird). George Martin, music icon for his production of The Beatles albums. Garry Shandling, comedy icon. Merle Haggard, country music icon. Morley Safer, TV news icon. Last week, Muhammad Ali, a cultural and sports icon. And now, on Friday, the first Canadian icon to fall. Gordie Howe, Canadian icon, sports hero and the greatest hockey player in the history of the game.

Gordie’s best playing days predated my interest in hockey. In fact, he was around for so long, Gordie’s career pre-dated me entirely. Even though the only time I would have seen him play was in his waning days in the old WHA (where he played with his sons, Mark and Marty), Howe was one of those people — yeah, an icon — who dominated the Canadian sporting landscape by being the best at Our Game. While Wayne Gretzky has been proclaimed by many (but not Wayne himself) as the game’s greatest, Gordie was clearly the best, the total package. He could score, of course, but unlike many other scorers, he didn’t need an enforcer to protect him. In an era of hockey where men were men, if you took a run at Gordie, he would extract his revenge — maybe months later, but he would get ya. But as ferocious a competitor he was on the ice, Gordie was a beloved gentleman off the ice. There are countless stories of Gordie, just being Gordie, leaving fans awestruck at the most fleeting of meetings. Gordie Howe was, in many ways, the ultimate Canadian hero. Small town roots, tremendous success (mostly in the U.S.), and a dignified retirement and exit. Icon, indeed.

Stunning mass killing surpasses all others

Early this morning, in an Orlando, Fla, gay nightclub, a gunman opened fire. A hostage taking incident ensued that went on for three hours. When the police finally stormed the nightclub, killing the gunman, they came upon a scene of unparalleled carnage, even by American standards. The death toll today, which was initially pegged at an appalling 20, is as of this morning at a stunning 50. Fifty! It is the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. The story is still developing.

Here comes the carbon tax

The NDPs carbon tax is now the law. What impact will this tax on consumption have on our carbon emissions, on our reputation around the world, or our ability to get pipelines built thanks to our new green cred?
Uh, well, nobody knows. Certainly not the government. The NDP is essentially experimenting with carbon taxation in the hopes that all sorts of wonderful things (see above paragraph) will happen, with no firm guarantees any of them will. Even Liberal leader David Swann, who is greener than Kermit the Frog, couldn’t support the bill.  “The government has essentially given itself no goals and no measures to which they can be held accountable,” Swann told the legislature. “Even our proposed amendment requiring the Auditor General to review the program after two years was voted down by the NDP.”
He’s exactly right. Good intentions, no proof that the plan will have any impact on climate change. Even the name, the “Climate Leadership Implementation Act” sounds like a PR exercise, which is exactly what it is — a multi-billion dollar PR exercise.

Hillary makes history, and history shrugs

South of the border, Hillary Clinton made history (or should that be ‘herstory’ … no, it shouldn’t) by becoming the first woman to win the nomination of a major American political party. Based on the polls, and the daily jaw-droppers from Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton will be the next President of the United States of America.
So why are so few people excited? Shouldn’t there be ringing declarations about this Great Moment in Womankind? Why is the excitement so, well, muted? Almost perfunctory.
Maybe it’s because so few people really seem to like Hillary. While Barack Obama was a transformative figure — the first black president of a nation that practiced official racism well into the 20th century — Clinton’s victory looks more like the final victory of a grasping, calculating, say-anything-to-get-elected type of politician. The difference between Hillary and all of the other White House strivers over the years is that they wore pants, while she wears pant suits.
Clinton may be the luckiest person ever to win the Democratic leadership. She will face Donald Trump, the single worst presidential candidate in history, and the odds are pretty good that he will not only lose the White House, but bring down the Republican party. And a crushed Republican party will give Hillary Clinton and the Democrats the kind of power that Barack Obama has long been denied.

O, Canada, our home and PC land

Parliament moved a step closer to officially changing the national anthem this week. A private member’s bill to change the exclusive lyric “in all thy son’s command” to the inclusive “in all of us command”, passed second reading, and now goes to the Senate. But I must ask, why stop there? There are other lyrics that exclude members of the Canadian family. Take immigrants, for example. Shouldn’t we change the lyric “our home and native land” to something like “our home and chosen land”? After all, there are millions of Canadians who are not native to this country. What about these poor excluded people? And what of the the line “God keep our land”? What is God doing in our national anthem? How to atheists and agnostics feel about this? And what God are we talking about? There are lots of them, after all. Why should we do this? To paraphrase Justin Trudeau … because it’s 2016.

RIP

Kimbo Slice, 42, mixed martial arts star, … Theresa Saldana, 61, American actress (Raging Bull) … Peter Shaffer, 90, British playwright (Amadeus, Equus) … Bobby Curtola, 73, one time Canadian teen idol (Fortune Teller).

 

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Now is the time for all good Liberals to come to the aid of their party.

Important note: The following blog is intended only for people who usually vote Liberal, but who are thinking of switching their vote to either the PCs (to stop the Wildrose) or to the Wildrose (to defeat the PCs). Unwavering PC supporters, bedrock Wildrose supporters and compulsive NDP backers, please leave the virtual room. This blog is only for members of the immediate family, however distant they may be. Thank you.

Dear Friends:

There are dark clouds on the horizon for the Alberta Liberal party. I am afraid that your party is headed for the perfect electoral storm.

If you’ve voted Liberal in the past (and consistently there are about 250,000 to 270,000 of you), you’ve no doubt done so for a variety of reasons. Perhaps you like the party, or the platform, or the leader. Maybe you just hate the PCs, or you’ve always voted Liberal. Or, most likely, you like the candidate. For a variety of reasons, the Liberals have enjoyed the second-highest vote total in every election since 1989. It’s a sign that the Liberals, despite the widespread view that the Liberal name is “toxic”, have a solid core of support.

But going into this pivotal election, the polls show the Liberal vote is collapsing. From a traditional base of support of anywhere from 25-30 per cent, Liberal support is now in the low 10s. This is potentially catastrophic.

Why has it fallen so low? The party policies are sound, the leader is dynamic (yes, he carries some baggage, but you can’t deny the guy has charisma), and many of the candidates are outstanding. So, why is the party that you’ve supported in the past teetering on the brink?

Clearly, the Liberals are caught in a squeeze. The Wildrose has staked out the right, and the New Democrats are in their customary slot on the soft-left.  But now, in the customary Liberal position in the progressive middle, along come the PCs, trying hard to reinvent themselves as truly ‘progressive’ Conservatives.  The Liberals find themselves vying for the affections of the electorate against an old trollop who thinks plastic surgery and implants have made her more appealing. And it seems to be working.

But that’s only half the problem. Clearly, thousands of traditional Liberal voters are taking the “strategic voting” route.  Eager to finally end the PC reign of error, some Liberal faithful are parking their votes — just this once — with the Wildrose. And with the Wildrose surging in the polls, thousands of traditional Liberal voters are voting — just this once — for the PCs to stop our slide into the 19th century.

Well, if you are one of those people, let me just say … DON’T DO IT.

This is NOT the time to abandon ship. If anything, the Liberals need your vote now more than ever.

In several Edmonton and Calgary ridings, the Liberals are still in a position to win. For years, Liberals have dreamt of the day when a vote split on the right would allow Liberals to sneak up the middle. Well, despite the poll numbers, that possibility still exists in several ridings — but only if the traditional Liberal vote holds. If thousands of Liberal voters decide to vote for a party they fundamentally disagree with, in an attempt to stop another party they fundamentally disagree with, then thousands of Liberal votes will be lost. And with it, some very fine public servants may be sent to the sidelines.

Now some of you are certainly saying, “Maurice, you’re too personally invested in this.” I don’t deny this. I was a Liberal MLA, and I got to know a lot of outstanding people in the political field. So, yes, it’s personal. But I wouldn’t urge you to vote for a candidate I know to be a dud. You’ll just have to trust me on this.

So, Liberal voters, stay the course and please vote for the following:

• Raj Sherman, Edmonton-Meadowlark. I don’t know Raj very well, but it is vital that the leader of the party, the strongest voice for health care in the Legislature, be returned to the Legislature.

Weslyn Mather, Edmonton-Mill Woods. A genuinely inspiring person, and as dedicated a public servant as you will ever find.

Mo Elsalhy, Edmonton-McClung. Tremendous work ethic and a guy who genuinely cares about his constituents.

Rick Miller, Edmonton-Rutherford. Just the kind of person you want representing you in the legislature and in your neighbourhood.

Bruce Miller, Edmonton-Glenora. Another former MLA of unfailing integrity, and an all-round great guy.

Laurie Blakeman, Edmonton-Centre. Relentless thorn in the side of whatever party that will be in power, Blakeman is also the ultimate constituency person. A champion of the arts community as well.

David Swann, Calgary-Mountain View.  I doubt if I’ve ever met a man who cares more deeply for humanity than David Swann. A legislature without him would be badly diminished.

Kent Hehr, Calgary-Buffalo. Again I only know Kent fleetingly, but he is an extraordinary person and an excellent representative.

I don’t know Josipa Petrunic in Edmonton-Gold Bar, or Arif Khan in Edmonton- Riverview, but from what I’ve heard about them, you can’t go wrong. And in Red Deer, I hope the Liberal voters in Red Deer North realize that Michael Dawe, one of Red Deer’s best-known citizens, has a chance to benefit from the Wildrose/PC vote split.

I’m not going to recommend every Liberal running, because a) I don’t know them all, and b) I honestly don’t know how many of them deserve your support. But for those of you reading in any of the above-mentioned constituencies, now is not the time to abandon the party in the faint hope of “stopping” a candidate, or trying to alter the outcome of the election. Vote for someone, not against.

Stand your ground, Liberals, or you may not have any ground left to stand on by Monday.

Sherman deserved the win. But does he know what he’s in for?

The doctor is in. Does he has the prescription for the ailing party?

Final thoughts on the Liberal leadership race:

Yesterday, I pondered going to the U of A to attend the coronation announcement for the new leader of the Alberta Liberal Party. I didn’t go because I didn’t want to wander around looking for a parking spot, then pay through the nose for it, and attend an event that seemed to have no agenda.

Apparently, judging from the pathetic ‘crowd’ of 150 people, I wasn’t alone. Holding the event at the university, in a cavernous hall with terrible acoustics, is just the kind of thing that makes voters think that the ALP is not ready for prime time. Or even late-night infomercial time.

I’m no event organizer, but even I know that a crowd of 150 people looks a lot bigger when crowded into a smaller room than dispersed inside a much too big room. Better to turn people away at the door because there is no room than to have too much room. Why did the ALP hold this event at a huge gymnasium? I can just imaging the conversation: “We’re signing up thousands of supporters, and we’re going to get a HUGE crowd! Let’s get the biggest room possible!”

Sigh.

The choice of venue was just one of many miscalculations surrounding this leadership race that makes me just roll my eyes about the party. I tried to watch the event (such as it was) online. The feed consisted of one wide shot (as they say in the movies) that was frequently obscured by the backs of photographers. Worse yet was the sound, which bounced back and reverbed to the point of being incomprehensible. I would have liked to have heard David Swann’s swan song, but I could barely make out a word.

The announcement itself was botched as well. Executive director Corey Hogan made the announcement, which is odd; I would have thought the party president or a member of the executive would have made it. He raced up the stage, and with no fanfare or dramatics, announced the first ballot results of the victory for Raj Sherman. I really wasn’t sure it this was the final result, or the first ballot, or what the hell it was. Again, I tried to listen to Sherman’s speech, but gave up.

And what of the great experiment, opening up the leadership vote to “supporters”? This is a mixed bag. The fact only about 8,600 of 29,000 supporters and party members bothered to go online to vote points to an epic fail. I’m sure the online voting system cost the party plenty, and it forfeited thousands of dollars in real memberships that would have been sold in the traditional way. If this bold or foolhardy move is to be judged a success or failure, well, only time will tell. The party now has 29,000 names in its database — what it will do with them remains to be seen.

And what of Raj Sherman, the new leader? Why did he win?

Well, for starters, he wanted it more, as they say in sports circles. Say what you like about demon dialers and the other tricks of the political trade, but the fact is that you have to use these kinds of things to succeed in politics these days. Sherman wasn’t without the personal touch; I got a call from a volunteer wanting to know if I voted, and then another call on Friday, (And props to Hugh MacDonald; I wasn’t home, but I got a call from Hughie himself wanting to know if I had voted on Saturday). I was disappointed by Laurie Blakeman’s campaign. She clearly knows how to win and she’s a survivor, but her campaign seemed to me to be tepid and perfunctory. (This is surely the last we’ve heard from the Bill Harvey. Let’s hope this petulant putz severs ties with the party for good.)

But no matter how much Sherman may have wanted it, he wouldn’t have gotten it if the party members didn’t want him. Sherman is the biggest gamble as a leader the party has ever taken, and that is exactly the point. The last two leaders, Kevin Taft and David Swann, are fine, intelligent, thoughtful men for whom I have the utmost respect. And it’s no insult to them to say that they are not what you would call charismatic; few people have it (I know I don’t). Sherman has it. He has a forceful personality, full of confidence bordering on arrogance. He’s a wildcard, though. With Taft and Swann, you knew what you were getting. Sherman is an all-in gamble. He will be tough to work for, and rough around the edges. And he won’t do things the Liberal way. Which is another reason why he won.

A few thoughts on David Swann.

While waiting to watch the live feed of the David Swann press conference Tuesday morning, I overheard one reporter say “Will the last person inside the Alberta Legislature please turn out he lights”.

I’ve never seen Alberta politics as volatile as it has been in the past seven days. First Ed Stelmach quits, to everyone’s surprise, then Ted Morton quits to run for Stelmach’s job, to no one’s surprise. Alberta Liberal leader David Swann’s resignation today came as a surprise as well, but perhaps it is not entirely unexpected.

I have a bit of a hard time commenting on David Swann, because after serving with him for 3 1/2 years in the Legislature, I consider him a friend. He is genuinely one of the kindest, warmest men I have ever known. As corny as it sounds, he genuinely believes in helping his fellow man. He’s a quality person through and through. But that doesn’t always translate to leadership.

David has a core of followers in his constituency who believe in him deeply (I’ve called them acolytes). Why didn’t that translate into province-wide affection? I think, just like Kevin Taft before him, that David Swann is the type of person who is smart, caring, and deeply impressive in person, and yet does not translate on the big stage. Why that is, I do not know, but I have a theory.

In order to really succeed in politics, you have to be a bit of an SOB. Ralph Klein, for example, has plenty of SOB in him. Jean Chretien oozed it, but hid it well. Trudeau was pure SOB, and didn’t care if anyone knew it. Same with Stephen Harper.

Ed Stelmach failed, in part, because he lacked that SOB ingredient. He, too, is essentially a nice guy who just didn’t have the stomach for the uglier aspects of politics (i.e. Ted Morton). David Swann doesn’t have a mean bone in his body, which just doesn’t guarantee a long political career. I’m not saying that there isn’t room for good people in politics — there are plenty, from all sides — but when it comes to being leader, sometimes you just have to be a miserable SOB, because that’s what’s right for the party. Sad, but true.

I’m sure there will be lots of conjecture on who will be the new leader (the list is not long, believe me), but for today, I’ll let it go. This is a day to say thanks to David Swann, a good man who took on a tough job for all the right reasons.

 

Passion and posturing in the Legislature.

I’ll say this for Ed Stelmach — the guy has all the political instincts of a squirrel.

Wednesday’s QP was an example of Stelmach at his worst.

Liberal leader David Swann was asking some very pointed questions about long term care.

“The Premier likes to talk about not splitting up senior couples when they need long-term care, but the much bigger problem we’re hearing about is three people squeezed like sardines into rooms built for two,” Swann stated. “We’re not talking about the remand centre here; we’re talking about our public health system. To the Premier. It’s become common practice in Alberta Hospitals today to squeeze three patients into rooms built for two. Is the Premier aware of this? How does he justify it?”

Anyone with an ounce of political savvy would have expressed regret at the situation, vowed to repair the system, blah blah blah. But not our Eddie.

Mr. Speaker,” Stelmach stammered, “a bit of an irony here because when we were attempting originally to move patients from Alberta Hospital, from multiple patients in one room to a facility that gave individuals their private bedrooms, more green space, better accommodations, that party opposed it. Now they’re saying that, well, that’s not the right thing to do.”

Well, that got Edmonton-Riverview Liberal MLA Kevin Taft, former leader of the party, genuinely livid.  Here’s what was said right after Stelmach’s answer:

Dr. Taft: Oh, come on, Ed.

Mr. Stelmach: Well, they’ll have to decide where they stand on this particular issue.

Dr. Taft: You know perfectly well that in acute-care rooms people are squeezed in three to a two-person room.

The Speaker: The hon. leader.

Dr. Swann: Mr. Speaker . . .

Dr. Taft: Don’t evade these life-and-death issues so badly.

The Speaker: Hon. leader, would you just tap the hon. Member for Edmonton-Riverview on the shoulder? You have the floor.

Dr. Taft: It’s offensive. This Premier is offensive.

The Speaker: The hon. leader has the floor.

Dr. Taft: He’s offensive to the people of Alberta.

The Speaker: The hon. leader has the floor. Edmonton-Riverview, if you want to take over, you go and fight that out behind these doors, but the hon. Leader of the Official Opposition has the floor.

This exchange, along with Pope Kenneth The Infallible’s snippy little cheap shot, really riled up Swann.

The Premier continues to dismiss these issues and talk around the issue rather than addressing the question. Albertans are not fooled. This Energy minister is the cause of the problems in the health care system today. Unbelievable. His arrogance and incompetence created such suffering in this province, and he sits over there and laughs. You should be ashamed of yourself. Why don’t you staff the beds that are needed so that we stop this squeezing of three patients into two-bed rooms?”

The energy minister is, of course, Ron Liepert, Stelmach’s disastrous previous choice for health minister. I couldn’t see Liepert, but I can well imagine him snickering away at the exchange. That’s the kind of guy he is.

You don’t often see real passion in the dog-and-pony show that is the legislature, but this was the genuine article.

Less genuine were questions from a couple of Edmonton MLAs, who were apparently trying to show that they can be tough on the government, too. Last week, I pointed out how some rural MLAs weren’t afraid to ask tough questions. Edmonton-Decore’s Janice Sarich, and Edmonton-McClung’s David Xiao tried to play tough on Wednesday, with embarrassing results.

In questioning  Housing Minister Jonathan Denis, Sarich was apparently trying to say that there was too much social housing in Edmonton. I guess she was. Read it yourself and try to figure it out:

“Several communities in Edmonton have repeatedly raised concerns over housing projects in their communities and have come to the realization that these concerns, quite frankly, are not making a lot of progress. My questions are for the Minister of Housing and Urban Affairs. What will the minister do to slow the growth of government-funded housing projects in Edmonton communities?”

Sarich was actually asking the housing minister to build LESS government-funded housing in Edmonton. Fewer homes for those who are struggling. Fewer homes for the disadvantaged. Incredible.

She followed that up with this garbled question: “Given that it’s not very appropriate to ignore community concerns, the community would like to know: why won’t this minister recognize that there seems to be a growing disconnect between the concerns of the community and the wishes of the residents and the will of government to have a concentration of low income housing in Edmonton?”

Sarich, I suppose, was trying to make a point that there is a lot of social housing in Edmonton, maybe more than there should be. If that was the case, she should have backed it up with numbers and some reasons why this is a bad thing. She botched her questions badly.

Worse, however, was the shamelessly self-serving and disingenuous series of questions from Xiao.

Xiao, the wealthy international man of mystery, jumped to the defence of a core constituency of his middle-to-upper middle class constituency — panhandlers.

Speaking in a way that indicates Xiao may have no mother tongue, Xiao asked the housing minister this baffling question:

“The Minister of Housing and Urban Affairs was very outspoken about the panhandling issue this past spring and promised action by this fall. Since then, the Calgary Homeless Foundation released a report saying that panhandling, according to the research, is not an issue. My questions are to the minister. How long has this minister been out of step with one of the biggest stakeholders, and why does he pick on such a disadvantaged section of society?”

WTF?

Denis responded by “that report does not indicate that panhandling is not an issue. It indicates that instances of it have gone down.“

Xiao, not content to look foolish with one question, waded in with another.

This minister promised action this fall. It’s now mid-November. To the minister: are you doing anything about panhandling, or are you planning more grandstanding?”

Man, talk about the pot calling the kettle black. Xiao racing to the defence of panhandlers, something he has never mentioned in the past, is the height of grandstanding. Denis replied by calling Xiao’s questions “unduly caustic and self-serving”.

Xiao applied the coup de gras to his own credibility with this befuddling question: “My last question to the same minister: if he has nothing planned, whether he has a real handle at the provincial level, and instead is dumping this issue on cities to address it, what will he do if the cities have no plan or intention to address panhandling?”

Again, WFT? Even Denis had to say “I had some difficulty understanding this member’s question.”

While his questions are befuddling to read, to get the full impact of the cynicism behind them, you’d have to watch the video. At the end of the question, Xiao sat down with a self-serving, aren’t-I-a-naughty-boy smile on his face, like he’d done something really smart and clever.

This is the first we’ve heard from Xiao, and hopefully it will be the last. As the saying goes, better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubts.

Small town cheap.

Legislature, day 5.

Monday’s Leg session hit new lows in boredom, which is really saying something. It was so boring, that even Ed Stelmach fled the country rather than spend another day in the chamber.

About the only thing interesting that emerged Monday was the release of the MLA public disclosure statements. Turns out that government MLAs don’t have a problem  with accepting free tickets to concerts, fishing trips with well-heeled supporters, and a bunch of other borderline ethical treats.

Liberal leader David Swann, in the Leg today, said government MLAs were “compromised by a plethora of free gifts”, and that they “could afford to pay for their own Lady Gaga tickets”.

The report from the ethics commission said 17 of 68 MLAs accepted gifts of more than $400. None of the opposition members accepted such gifts, possibly because nobody offers opposition members anything.

Some of the items the MLAs accepted were pretty small time, proof more of the profound cheapness of the MLAs rather than any sign of corruption. Employment Minister Tommy-boy Lukaszuk got free tickets from Edmonton Northlands to see Lady Gaga perform. Lukaszuk should have put aside some of the money he spends on hair products to pay for his own tickets, but it’s unlikely he is going to be corrupted by the tickets, although it’s embarrassing that a middle-aged guy would go see Lady Gaga. Same goes for Treasury Board president Lloyd Snelgrove,  who took his wife and son to see Fleetwood Mac thanks to the largess of Telus. Education Minister Dave Hancock  saw Rod Stewart, courtesy of Altalink.

This is pretty small time, more shameful than scandalous. Up a level or two, however, is Finance Minister Ted Morton and dimbulb Edmonton MLA Doug Elniski who went salmon fishing on someone else’s dime. Morton, whose trip was paid for by a Calgary zillionaire and PC sugar daddy, justified the trip by saying he was “comparing notes on fish habitat restoration,” presumably while killing some of them.

Elniski travelled to the Painter’s Lodge in Campbell River, B.C. He told the Journal that he paid for the flight and accommodations, but the ethics commissioner’s report said it was paid for by Hemisphere Engineering. Well, of course it was — if he paid for it himself, he wouldn’t have needed to report it to the ethics commissioner.

The most hilarious excuse offered by one of these junketing jerks belongs to Gene Zwozdesky. Dr. Zwoz attended a golf tournament, and he did it because: “They asked me if I could participate at this special Pro-Am and talk to some people there about encouraging more … physical activity. I spent the morning there speaking with some of the pro golfers.”

‘Fore’ shame, Gene.

However, my favourite bit of dirt to arise from the report involved, Carl Benito, the embarrassing Edmonton-Mill Woods MLA who, it was revealed, has not paid property taxes on his four rental properties. That probably has something to do with his donating his salary to create a scholarship fund for Mill Woods kids, and he probably just didn’t have the money.

Oh wait, he hasn’t really done that.

Benito explained to the CBC today that he was late in paying the bill because his wife forgot to do it, and she’s on holidays. Always a good idea to blame the wife, especially if she’s not home.

In a couple of years, he’ll have a legitimate reason to not pay his taxes … he’ll be out of work.

Bottom line: there’s nothing truly scandalous here, just questionable. Every one of these guys makes six figures, and could easily pay for their tickets or fishing trips, but they’re too cheap. That’s the real scandal.