Tuesday, November 28, 2017

The Watergate-O-Meter

     It’s still early days for the Trump-Russia Scandal. Not surprisingly, the public is confused by this slowly unfolding Keystone Kops catastrophe. Many are increasingly befuddled by the complexity of the case and its similarity, if any, to Watergate.
     First up is the naming issue. We’re a few months into this mess and we still don’t have a descriptive, commonly-accepted shorthand for it. Although Kremlingate and the Trump Tower Scandal are worthy nominees, I suggest we stick with the Trump-Russia Scandal for now.
     As for the investigation itself, much like Watergate, it’s difficult to keep track of all of the players and the various bodies looking into the matter. Given how difficult it is to stay current, I suggest that we develop a simple tool to help us determine how far we are into this scandal, something I call the Watergate-O-Meter. 
     The Watergate-O-Meter is a handy measuring device which, at a glance, tells you how the Trump-Russia Scandal compares to Watergate. Using a scale of zero to ten, let’s see where we’ve been already:
January 1, 2015
     It’s early on in the Republican nomination race. Donald Trump has not declared and has only hinted that he’ll jump in. Given his past history, however, the mere fact that’s he’s involved suggests a Watergate-type scandal is a possibility.  Watergate-O-Meter reading: 1
June 16, 2015
     Trump descends the escalator at Trump Tower to announce his candidacy. His innate incompetency and his inexplicable popularity immediately suggest a likely political scandal of some sort in the future.  Watergate-O-Meter reading: 2
November 8, 2016
     Trump wins the election. The shocking result leads to further speculation that something fishy happened.  Watergate-O-Meter reading: 3
December 9, 2016
     American intelligence agencies reveal their findings that Russia acted covertly to damage Hillary Clinton’s election chances by leaking DNC documents. No Republican documents were leaked and the Trump campaign belittles the agencies by saying they were the same ones who said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.  Watergate-O-Meter reading: 4
May12, 2017
     The FBI and Congress have been investigating Russian interference in the election. President Trump has already fired National Security Advisor Michael Flynn for lying about contacts with the Russians. Three days ago, Trump fired FBI Director James Comey and said his decision had nothing to do with Russia. Two days ago, he met with the Russians and gave them highly classified information. Yesterday he revealed that he did fire Comey because of the Russia investigation and today he hints that he taped his conversations with Comey.  Watergate-O-Meter reading: 6
June 16, 2017
     Rumors abound that Trump wants to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller. His Attorney General has already recused himself and his Deputy Attorney General has made it clear that he won’t fire Mueller. Media references to the Saturday Night Massacre of 1973 are common. Today Trump reveals that he is under investigation for possible obstruction of justice.  Watergate-O-Meter reading: 7
September 7, 2017
     Donald Trump, Jr. is interviewed by a Senate committee about his June meeting at Trump Tower in Manhattan with a Russian lawyer promising dirt on Hillary Clinton. It is also revealed that his father’s lawyer reached out to the Kremlin during the presidential campaign for help in building a Trump Tower in Moscow.  Watergate-O-Meter reading: 8

     As events progress, the facts and findings are likely to become even more complex but the Watergate-O-Meter will be able to quickly keep you up to date. When the reading hits nine or ten, it’s probably time to start paying serious attention. 

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Giving Thanks

   It’s American Thanksgiving and, while I already celebrated Canadian Thanksgiving six weeks ago, I’d like to take this opportunity to give thanks for my many blessings. In short, I am thankful that:
Canada’s Thanksgiving sensibly falls on a Monday, not on a Thursday.
I don’t have to spend eight hours and three connecting flights to get home for Thanksgiving.
I can’t vote in the U. S. so no one can blame me for the current mess.
My prime minister is able to speak in complete sentences.
Canada’s Thanksgiving is two-and-a-half months before Christmas, not just four weeks before.
Our head of state is a monarch, not a president.
There is no Black Friday.
We have single-payer government healthcare.
Canada’s incarceration rate is about one-seventh of yours.
Gun ownership is strictly regulated.
We share the world’s longest undefended border…..at least for now.
I don’t have to figure out the intricacies of Obamacare to get healthcare coverage.
Twitter has increased its character limit to 280 which also increases Donald Trump’s chances of being understood.
I live in a country with a vast supply of fresh water…..at least for now.
The U. S. Constitution limits a president to two terms.
We don’t have the office of vice president with a scary incumbent.
Our leaders have no problem condemning neo-Nazis.
We don’t have any Confederate statues.
Canada is a wintry wasteland that no one wants to invade…..at least for now.
I don’t live on a flight path of North Korean nuclear missiles.
I don’t know any Russians.
I’m not Donald Trump.

Friday, November 17, 2017

CSI: Washington, D. C.

    After four different series including the final spinoff entitled “CSI: Cyber”, some suggested that the CSI franchise had exhausted all possible plot lines. But the following leaked dialogue seems to confirm the existence of a fifth series with the working title “CSI: Washington, D. C.”: 
Det. Smith:  This is definitely an odd crime scene wouldn’t you say Jones? We’ve got an oval office inside an old white house.
Medical Examiner Jones:  Yeah, I’ve never seen anything like it. Let’s cover off this room with yellow police tape. Clearly some major crimes have been committed here.
Smith:  Who are we holding over there?
Jones:  We’ve got a chief of staff named Kelly, a press secretary named Sanders and a young woman named Trump but nobody’s talking. They’re all taking the Fifth.
Smith:  I’m not surprised. Look at this mess. I haven’t seen this many indictable offenses since we investigated that last session over in Congress. Who could have done this?
Jones: The boys at the lab have done some preliminary DNA analysis on a few strands of yellowish hair we found. Looks like an overweight male in his early seventies with a receding hairline and an expanding ego.
Smith:  You thinking what I’m thinking?
Jones:  You bet. Although this looks like a presidential office, everything points to a very unpresidential occupant. The DNA suggests he’s related to that Trump broad.
Smith:  I can’t believe the damage done here. Look at that Obamacare over in the corner. It’s barely functioning. And that Iran deal behind the bookcase? I don’t think it’s going to make it. And the EMTs said they had to do CPR on the battered NAFTA they discovered under the desk.
Jones:  I had my assistant unlock the smartphones we found. There was an unsecured Samsung Galaxy in the wastebasket and a new iPhone on the desk. It’s gonna take a few weeks to investigate all the tweets but at the very least there are hundreds of lies and dozens of possible libelous statements and maybe even a few emails to Russian addresses.
Smith:  Check out the carpet. Have you ever seen so many conflicts of interest in one place? We’re gonna have to call in a forensic auditor or maybe a whole team.
Jones:  The problem is there’s no easy place for them to start. There are so many questionable ties and loose ends and we couldn’t find even a single income tax return.
Smith:  It sure doesn’t look like the work of a president. Seems more like the actions of a failed two-bit New York real estate developer. I wonder what he did with the real president?
Jones:  It’s like he removed every bit of dignity from the office. There’s nothing left but a bunch of Coke cans, a half-empty bottle of ketchup and a red hat with “Make America Great Again” printed on it.
Smith:  God, look at the stuff on the far credenza. What the hell is that? He’s got a whole bunch of lumps of coal and eight prototype-models for a thirty-foot wall with Spanish writing on it.
Jones:  Jesus, Smith, this is an unmitigated disaster. Who could have done this?

Smith:  It’s hard to believe but the lab guys are saying they think it was the American people.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

First Lady Smackdown

     Ladies and gentlemen and boxing fans from coast to coast, welcome to the MGM Grand in Las Vegas and tonight’s featured 12-round WBC match for the prestigious title of America’s First Lady.
     In the blue rinse corner, weighing in at an unspecified-but-still-svelte-for-her-age poundage is the three-time Trump mother, the undisputed first Trump wife, the Czech Checker, the Mouth from Manhattan……IVANA TRUMP!
     And in the auburn corner, still at her modeling days weight, a one-time Trump mother and uncontested current Trump trophy wife, the Slovenian Slammer, the Queen of High Heels……MELANIA TRUMP!
     Ivana Trump was married to Donald Trump for fifteen years and bore him three children: Ivanka, Eric and Don, Jr. Her record for spousal longevity and Trump issue production is unmatched. Notwithstanding her lengthy absence from the matrimonial bed, she still claims rights as the first First Lady.
     Although Melania Trump has only been married to The Donald for twelve years and has produced just one son, she is currently recognized as the official First Lady by most boxing federations and a majority of electoral college voters.
     There’s the bell and the two competitors are circling one another in the center of the ring. Ivana is wearing a light blue, two-piece pantsuit and Melania is resplendent in a knee-length cream-colored designer creation with a daring bold red sash.
     And there’s the first attack of the night. Ivana cleverly concedes Melania’s status as First Lady but immediately asserts her claim to be the first First Lady as Donald Trump’s first spouse.
     Melania appears stunned by this initial blow and seems taken by surprise. However, she quickly recovers and counters with her continuous record of First Lady activities and ongoing First Lady recognition.
     It looks like Melania is going to continue her defensive stance. But, no, she shocks Ivana, takes the offensive and accuses her of trivializing the situation.
     Ivana is momentarily rocked as she clearly did not expect the low blow to her standing. This is a bit surprising given Melania’s reputation for questionable tactics such as speech plagiarizing and her infamous “locker room talk” defense.
     Not to be outdone, the cagey veteran Ivana Trump goes into a clinch with Melania in order to buy some time and recover. The referee forces the fighters to break and Ivana once again goes on the offensive by denying she ever claimed to be first First Lady and hitting Melania with a hard one-two punch charging her with both overreaction and misrepresentation.
     It looks like Melania is faltering and might have to concede the match. But now she’s bringing out her best weapon: her claim to be the anti-bullying expert. At first Ivana is confused but eventually recovers and undercuts her opponent’s claim with the incontestable observation that Melania needs to apply her anti-bullying abilities against her own husband – the Bully-in-Chief.
     And there’s the final bell; the 12th round is over. Despite a number of punishing exchanges, there was no knockout punch and so the decision remains in the hands of the three judges.
     Judge Neil Gorsuch of the U. S. Supreme Court acknowledges his debt to the president and scores the bout a clear win for Melania. Judge and former First Lady Hillary Clinton, feeling sympathy for both fighters, calls it a draw. And Judge Donald Trump, looking to avoid a night on the sofa, awards the fight to his third wife.      
     The referee raises Melania’s bejeweled hand and declares her the official First Lady and still champion trophy wife. Ivana looks beaten and worn down but a sparkle in her unswollen right eye suggests there will be a rematch.    

Sunday, November 05, 2017

Take A Knee

TO:       The National Football League
FROM:  A fan
     I can see you’re having a tough time with this “taking a knee” business at NFL games. Clearly you can’t endorse such political demonstrations on the sidelines. That would alienate a lot of fans and would violate Roger Goodell’s rule against taking a principled stance on anything.
     On the other hand, it wouldn’t look good if you started disciplining players for kneeling during the playing of the national anthem. Although you’re not big supporters of free speech, you sure don’t want to give that impression.
     As a longtime NFL watcher, I’m concerned that if you don’t deal with this issue soon, you’re going to lose a significant portion of your fan base. That’s why I’m offering these suggestions in the hope that we can solve this problem and get back to watching grown men inflict brain damage on one another:
1.  First things first: in order to be consistent, you have to get rid of taking a knee during the game. No more letting the quarterback run out the clock by taking the snap and going down on one knee. As President Trump might say, there should be ample opportunities for skull-crushing hits even in the final minute of an already-decided game. After all, it’s American football not that wimpy “football” everyone else plays.
2.  Announce the formation of a special committee to look into the matter. This doesn’t mean you have to come up with recommendations or actually do anything. As you well know from your experience dealing with player concussions, researching a problem buys time. Whenever the “take a knee” issue comes up, you can simply say that a committee is being formed to look into it. That could take years at which time you indicate that it would be inappropriate to comment while the committee is investigating which, of course, could take even more years.  
3.  Invite everyone to take a knee. As Tim Tebow has demonstrated, taking a knee in prayer before the game appears to be uncontroversial. Before the national anthem is played, ask everyone to remove their hats and honor their favorite item in the First Amendment (be it religion, speech, press, assembly or even redress of grievances) by getting down on one knee and singing along….or not. For southern venues, teams could even add a salute to the Second Amendment as a further option.
4.  Get rid of the national anthem altogether. Although playing The Star Spangled Banner might be appropriate at military ceremonies or on national holidays, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to do so before a sporting event. Toss a coin, blow the whistle and start the game. If you absolutely have to have a tune, how about taking a cue from baseball where they play Take Me Out to the Ball Game during the seventh-inning stretch? You could always play Hank Williams, Jr.’s All My Rowdy Friends Are Here on Monday Night (“Are you ready for some football?”) as the teams take the field.

     Whatever option you choose, it’s time to take action now and preserve what is essentially our national religion. Failure to do so may result in football fans spending their Sundays in church instead and that, my friends, could spell the end of the NFL.  

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

The Ottawa Leaves

   Waning attendance at Ottawa Senators games is an ongoing problem that continues to bedevil the team’s management. An Ottawa sports columnist recently summarized the main obstacles: lack of a corporate base to buy season tickets, government restrictions on receiving freebies and an arena that’s too big and not centrally located.
     While it’s useful to detail the root causes of the Senators’ attendance woes, it’s time folks came up with some ideas to get more bums in the seats. Eventually we may have a nice shiny new arena centrally located in Lebreton Flats but, in the meantime, I think it’s worth considering these suggestions which I offer absolutely free:
1.  Schedule more Leafs games at the Canadian Tire Centre. Is it just me or is it painfully obvious that the arena is sold out when Toronto is in town? Since there are more Leafs fans than rats in the National Capital Region, an Ottawa vs. Toronto game is pretty much a guaranteed sellout. Plus, every such game is a win-win-win situation as the Senators’ management gets a sellout, local Toronto fans get game tickets and season ticket holders get to sell them their tickets at hugely inflated prices.
2.  As for scheduling extra Leafs games, let’s do what popular musical acts do: if the demand is there, book back-to-back games. That’s right; have a matinee game in the afternoon and a second game at night. If we have to bring in second-tier players from the farm team in Belleville to spell the regulars after game one, so be it. Leafs fans will still gobble up second-rate hockey just as they’ve been doing in Toronto for years.
3.  Don’t be afraid to advertise other games as Leafs games; simply market the opposing teams as the Buffalo Leafs, the Boston Leafs, the Chicago Leafs and so on. Toronto fans are so desperate for Leafs tickets that they’re bound to snap up any extras available. (N. B. – this may only be a one or two-season solution as even Leafs fans aren’t likely to fall for this ruse forever.)
4.  Change our team’s name. I doubt we can get away with calling the team the Ottawa Maple Leafs but maybe the Ottawa Maple Leaves would work and at least has the advantage of being grammatically correct. Barring that, just call them the Ottawa Leaves. That should provide enough similarities to fool Toronto fans while creating enough differences to avoid legal action.
5.  Invest in a second Toronto Maple Leafs team that will play its home games at the Canadian Tire Centre. There should be enough Leafs fans in the region to sell out every game. If not, there are still plenty of Toronto residents willing to drive five or six hours for their only realistic chance to attend a Leafs game.

    Hopefully, one or more of my suggestions will pay off big time and the franchise’s future will be secured. No need to thank me with free tickets or anything like that as I can’t afford to pay for the parking anyway.