Saturday, October 28, 2017

White House Etiquette

     For almost 225 years, it was pretty clear as to what one did when meeting or dealing with the president of the United States. You were to address him as “Mr. President” and then engage in a civilized and respectful exchange.
     But now that Donald J. Trump is president, things are a bit different when it comes to White House protocol and it’s not always obvious what rules of conduct apply. Thanks, however, to the recently-leaked efforts of an anonymous Administration staff member, we now have some clear etiquette guidelines we can follow:
1)  When addressing the president, as a bare minimum, it is acceptable to call him “Mr. President.” It is preferable, however, to enhance that greeting by referring to him as “The Greatest President”, “The Ultimate President” or “Dear Supreme Leader.” (N.B. – Under no circumstances should one refer to the president by a nickname.)
2)  Do not speak unless spoken to. If the president wants to hear from you, he will let you know, usually with a rhetorical question such as: “We’re doing a terrific job in Puerto Rico, isn’t that right?”
3)  It is not necessary to bow to the president upon meeting him. After all, we are not yet a monarchy or an autocracy. But, let’s just say, it wouldn’t hurt. (On the other hand, do not take a knee.)
4)  Acceptable topics of conversation:  the president’s gigantic inaugural crowd, his tremendous popular vote victory and his latest record-breaking golf score.
5)  Unacceptable topics of conversation:  the continued existence of Obamacare, the non-existence of a border wall and any approval ratings reported by the fake news.
6)  As for acceptable White House attire, the president is fine with informal clothing so long as the individual is wearing or holding at least one of the following items:  an American flag lapel, a “Reelect Trump Pence in 2020” placard or a red MAGA ball cap.
7)  If you are lucky enough to dine with the president, please abide by his dining etiquette rules. The steak knife is to the right, the meatloaf fork is to the left and the ice cream spoon is above the plate. The ketchup is to remain next to the president at all times.
8)  When it comes to Twitter, you are encouraged to follow the president but do not, at any time, reply to his tweets. It is sufficient to “like” any of his tweets and you may even “retweet” if so inclined. Any criticisms or negative comments will be met with a presidential tweetstorm.
9)  When it comes to White House decorum, there is one basic overriding general rule:  Just remember that any meeting or interaction with the president is all about him. And, oh yeah, don’t call him a moron.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

The President's Apprentice

TO: Robert Greenblatt, Chairman, NBC Entertainment
FROM:  Donald J. Trump
     Bob, I have a fantastic idea for a new TV show that I think you’re going to love. You know how we spun-off The Apprentice into The Celebrity Apprentice and squeezed out seven more seasons of profits for you and me?
     Well now I have a can’t-miss proposal for what I’m calling The President’s Apprentice. I don’t know if you heard but I was elected the CEO of the United States, a great position called President. Can you believe it?
     Anyway, as President, I have all these people looking to me for employment or legislative support. Did you know there are three branches of government – legislative, judicial and executive – and apparently I get to make all the hiring decisions for the executive? Except for Mike Pence who’s my Executive VP and can’t be fired. But that’s OK because Mike has no real power and basically does whatever I tell him to do.  
     The beauty of my new proposal is that we already have Season 1 in the can and, if I do say so myself, it’s tremendous. In the early episodes, I choose different people to man my Administrative Team and what I call my Cabinet Team.
      My Administrative Team included all manner of terrific folks, many of whom helped me become the CEO of the United States. Folks like Mike Flynn, Steve Bannon, Sean Spicer, Anthony Scaramucci and Reince Preibus. Then there’s the Cabinet Team who oversee particular government departments and supposedly have specific expertise but usually don’t.   
     Every week, I come up with all kinds of wacky assignments for the contestants on the two teams. The tasks are basically impossible to carry out so it ensures that I’ll always have the opportunity to fire one or more people.
     You can see for yourself how this works when you look at the episodes from Season 1. Here are just a few of the unsuccessful tasks that I assigned:
1)  repeal and replace Obamacare,
2)  implement tax cuts for the middle class,
3)  build a wall along the Mexican border and make Mexico pay for it, and
4)  create a Muslim immigration ban that doesn’t explicitly target Muslims.
     And not to worry; I’ve got a whole bunch of new tasks for Season 2. Tasks like:
1)  prosecute and imprison Hillary Clinton,
2)  fire Bob Mueller (this is a tough one),
3)  come up with new insults for Little Rocket Man,
4)  set up CREEP - The Committee to Re-elect the President,
5)  appoint a new rightwing judge for the Supreme Court,
6)  sell off Puerto Rico, and
7)  shut down the gun control nuts.
     I’ve already demonstrated that when the show threatens to get a bit boring, I can shake it up by doing something a little “crazy” or just firing off a couple of tweets. I can also spice things up by alternating shooting locations between The White House and my fabulous resort at Mar-a-Lago. And don’t worry about the costs, Bob; it’s all on the public dime.
     I think you can see that the possibilities (or impossibilities, if you will) are endless. With any luck, we can stretch this show out for eight seasons. In Season 2, for example, we’re planning to play up the Russia connection. It’s all fake news but it really boosts the ratings and my pal Vlad doesn’t mind playing along.
     As an added bonus, there’s an insurance policy for you built right into the show. If I have to leave for any reason, Mike Pence becomes President and you just carry on with the next season. 

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

A Taxing Solution

It looks like the Canada Revenue Agency’s plan to tax employee discounts is dead in the water after the federal revenue minister, Diane Lebouthillier, ordered it canceled. But that doesn’t mean that the CRA is not considering other novel ways to raise tax revenue if the following leaked memo is to be believed (which, by the way, it isn’t):
TO:          The Big Cheese
FROM:    A Smaller Cheese
     In anticipation of the success which will surely accrue to our new plan to tax employee discounts, our team has come up with even more great ideas to add to the national income:
1.  It’s time to tax those unfair senior’s discounts typically offered by drugstore chains. Why should those 65 and over get 20% off one day a week? Let’s make them claim that discount as taxable income and take our cut. Seniors will be obliged to keep track of their accumulated discounts and report them on their annual income tax return. To show we’re not unreasonable, perhaps we could let them pay using their Optimum points.
2.  Let’s consider the implementation of a spare change surtax. Not on the homeless, of course. That would be cruel and arguably contrary to the general rule that a gift is not taxable. Rather, if you find some cash lying on the street, that should be taxable income. The underlying theory is that you did some work to earn it – i.e. – you spotted the money and you actually bent down to pick it up thereby expending energy and risking yet another injury to your back.
3.  You’ve likely heard of the retail benefit called BOGO or “buy one, get one” free. It’s time to plug the hole in this giant revenue-sucking retail scam. From now on, you have to declare the value of that second hat, purse or running shoe as taxable income and pay your fair share. At least retailers will have the option of softening the tax blow by instead using the “buy one, get the second at half price” option. (Note to self: consider how to deal with the “buy three tires, get the fourth free” offer.)
4.  Fast food restaurants present another great opportunity to fill the Treasury coffers. Should free refills on soft drinks really be free? We think not. Why not a little asterisk after that menu promise indicating a 25-cent tax payable to the government for every extra glass of pop? The same goes for the so-called endless cup of coffee: 25 cents for a refill and ten cents for a top up.
5.  Speaking of restaurants, for some time now, we’ve been monitoring the marketing habits of so-called family restaurants and their all-too-common practice of offering free bread sticks. As we often say at CRA, there is no free lunch. There’s also no free dinner either and that’s why we’re proposing a one-dollar levy on any table receiving free bread sticks, rolls and/or melba toast.
6.  Gas stations are another overlooked source of potential tax revenue. Although most stations now charge a dollar or so to use their air pumps, some unscrupulous gasoline retailers are still providing free air. That’s a one-dollar benefit to the customer and should be taxed. However, given the administrative difficulties inherent in such a proposal, some in our department are looking into a standard annual per capita air tax of five to ten dollars for every breathing citizen. Those wishing to opt out can simply hold their breath or start buying canisters of oxygen.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Tell America It's OK

[“Tell America It’s Great”]….was the brainchild of the Garden Collective, a creative agency based in Toronto, and in the videos, a diverse and polite group of Canadians earnestly recite all the things they like about the United States.
-        The New York Times - October 17, 2016
     “Tell America It’s Great” is a social media campaign designed by Canadians looking to cheer up Americans in these days of division and political turmoil. It features Tweets and YouTube videos from ordinary Canadians praising everything from NASA to Tupac Shakur.
     Such a project, of course, has to be subject to some editing and not all of the Canadian encomiums could be included. Here are just a few of the Tweets and video messages that ended up on the cutting room floor:
     “You’re great America, especially for keeping all that crap south of our border. Thanks for helping us keep out the right-wing crazy.”
     “Thanks for bringing us the most entertaining presidential election in living memory. That Donald Trump is outright hilarious. Even if it encourages some Canadian nut job to run for office that’s a small price to pay for the months of entertainment your guy has provided.”
     “America, you’re a fantastic neighbor. Except for that invasion of Quebec in 1775, the War of 1812 when you burned York to the ground and those crazy Fenian raids just after the Civil War. But, hey, even good neighbors occasionally have the odd border dispute, right?”
     “U-S-A! U-S-A! Just a quick cheer to say you’re the greatest for showing us how things should be done, especially when it comes to healthcare. So long as you’ve got the money, you can get great medical care without waiting. I’m sure the other 90% of you will eventually have that option as well.”
     “You’re the best for sharing Donald Trump with us. Thanks to him, we Canadians now show more interest in your elections than our own. Hopefully we’ll learn to take more care with ours in the future.”
     “When it comes to guns, missiles and nukes, you’re the best. Thanks for not using them on us.”
     “It’s always nice to have a neighbor who takes an interest in our new prime minister, Justin Trudeau. The fact that you really like him makes us stop and reexamine his tenure in case we’re missing something.”

     “We think you’re awesome. We just don’t want you pouring over the border now that Donald Trump won because then I’m afraid we’d have to build a wall and make you pay for it. No offense, eh?”

Monday, October 09, 2017

The National Association For The Advancement Of Rich People

     I’m J. Rutherford Moneybags, a founding member of the National Association for the Advancement of Rich People, and I want to take this opportunity to dispel the myths and quash the rumors surrounding the release of the so-called Panama Papers back in 2015.
     It is insulting to the NAARP and me personally that the media immediately jumped to the conclusion that the various rich people listed in those documents had somehow broken the law. This naming and shaming is unfair to the wealthy among us.
     Why would you automatically assume that setting up a company in Panama means that we are seeking to circumvent tax laws in our home jurisdictions? Whatever happened to the presumption of innocence and the right to be heard?
     Believe it or not, there are a multitude of non-tax-related reasons why someone might want to incorporate in Panama. Yet I didn’t hear any media outlets doing the right thing and detailing even one of those legitimate justifications.
      Personally, I find it offensive to be called a tax evader and a criminal when my decision to incorporate in Panama was motivated by the best of intentions. Sure, I could incorporate in the United States or any western country for that matter but who does that help? By choosing a developing nation like Panama, the legal expenses and incorporation fees are spent in a country that sorely needs the economic boost that comes from foreign investment.
     Without naming names, I would like to detail just a few of the many other legitimate reasons some of my colleagues have had for setting up companies in Panama. For example, those engaged in international trade who deal both in the Atlantic and Pacific regions find that Panama’s proximity to both oceans is a distinct advantage.
     Some, on the other hand, have familial ties to this Central American nation. One wealthy friend of mine has two great-grandparents who once lived in the Panama Canal Zone back in the early part of the 20th century while they were engaged in the construction of the Panama Canal. His Panamanian corporations are, in part, a way for him to honor his ancestors.
     One dear friend recently explained why he had to set up a Panamanian corporation. “It’s not like I wanted to do it,” he confided. “But I needed a secret place to park some money so that I could surprise my wife with an expensive Christmas gift. If I did it here, it would be a matter of public record and she could have easily discovered what I was up to.”
     Another friend said he set up several corporations in Panama simply to avoid giving offense. “Look,” he said. “If I incorporate in the U. S. then I offend all those South American countries but if I choose Brazil or Argentina, say, then the North American countries are annoyed. By choosing a jurisdiction straddling both continents, no one’s fiscal nose is out of joint.”

     Then there are those who are lovers of palindromes especially the famous saying “A man, a plan, a canal, Panama!” What better way to celebrate one’s hobby than to set up a company in the land of the palindrome? “A man, a plan, a canard, Panama!” OK, it’s technically not a palindrome but it’s close enough for me and hopefully for the IRS.

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Rex The Wonder Dog

    Donald Trump’s White House seems to be in disarray. Instead of hiring cabinet members like former Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State, maybe Mr. Trump should be listening to Rex the Wonder Dog if the following translated memo posted on Facebook is any indication:
TO:        All humans
FROM:  Rex the Wonder Dog
     Up until now, I’ve pretty much kept my mouth shut except maybe when that annoying cat from across the street walks past when I’m outside in my owner’s backyard. If I ever figure out how to work the gate latch, that cat is gone, I tell you, G-O-N-E.
     But never mind about the cat. There are bigger problems in the world right now and chief among them are Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un.
     For the most part, I figured you humans could be trusted with the welfare of the planet. After all, you’re supposedly the smartest species on Earth and generally tend to lean towards self-preservation.
     Lately, however, I’m having serious doubts about your capabilities when it comes to running things. What with climate change, overpopulation and resource depletion, things are looking a bit grim.
     And now with Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un squaring off in a schoolyard bully name-calling contest, I’m getting really worried. It wouldn’t be so bad if these two were like Spike and Fido down the street who go after one another every other day at the local dog park. But unlike Spike and Fido, Trump and Kim are armed with nuclear weapons.
     The problem, as I see it, is that neither of these guys has a dog for a pet. Donald Trump is the first U. S. president in well over a century not to have a dog in the White House. The fact that you haven’t had a nuclear war in all that time is no accident.
     I’m not on a first sniff basis with any of the previous canine residents of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue but I have it on good authority via the doggie kibble line that many of them were instrumental in keeping their master’s finger away from the nuclear trigger. Both Bo and Barney have reportedly claimed credit for calming down Presidents Obama and Bush in several crucial situations.
     And I believe it because that’s what we dogs do. If there’s increasing tension in a house, we’re there to distract the residents and to provide a helping paw when necessary. Admit it; there’s nothing more relaxing than petting the family dog when you’re at your wit’s end.
     So for the sake of humanity, please get Donald Trump a dog. I guarantee you that he’ll become a whole different person, maybe even presidential although I’m not promising any miracles.
     Ideally, you should try to arrange a dog for Kim Jong-un as well. I don’t know about the history of pet ownership by North Korea’s leaders but I’m pretty sure that Kim doesn’t currently own a dog and that’s a shame. What a friendly mutt could do for Trump could likewise work wonders for Kim as well.
     My main concern, however, is that even if someone gave Kim a dog, he might end up as the evening meal before he even got a chance to mollify the Supreme Leader. But, hey, nobody said this would be easy.
     Once this latest political crisis is solved, we dogs are not looking for any compensation or special treatment. As usual, a couple of scratches behind the ear and a “Who’s a good boy?” is reward enough. Oh, yeah, and maybe a free shot at the neighbor’s cat.