Saturday, May 26, 2018

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Aesop's Modern Fables


     Aesop, the ancient Greek slave and storyteller, created numerous character-based fables, each ending with a moral. If he were alive today, he might be telling the following tales:
The Peacock, Twitter and the Fox
     A vain Peacock once announced that he wanted to become President. Everyone laughed and said it was a joke and that he could never win.
     But the Peacock enlisted his avian friend Twitter to help him and began insulting all his opponents and eliminating them one by one. He made all kinds of crazy promises and said he would “Make America Great Again.”
     The Peacock then engaged the Fox and his news network to help him in his quest and the Fox demonized and vilified his final opponent and helped him win the presidency to the surprise of almost everyone including himself.
MORAL:  Never underestimate the gullibility of the American electorate.
The Donkey and the Elephant
     One early winter’s day, the Donkey was moping around worrying about the sad state of things and how he would possibly be able to feed his family over the winter months. He spotted the Elephant and thought it would be wise to ask his advice since the Elephant had always preached the gospel of frugality and fiscal responsibility and surely would know what to do.
     When the Donkey explained his dire situation, the Elephant simply laughed and started dancing. “There’s nothing to worry about,” said the Elephant. “All I have to do is pass a bill with a huge tax cut for me and my friends and we’ll be set for life.”
     “Thank you Mr. Elephant,” said the Donkey. “I feel so much better knowing that we all will be fine this winter.”
     “Not so fast,” said the Elephant. “Those tax cuts aren’t for you although I’m sure that some benefit will eventually trickle down.”
MORAL:  Don’t worry about balancing the books so long as you have majorities in both houses of Congress.
The Orange Tortoise and the Hare
     The Hare was boasting of her electoral prowess, especially against Elephants.
     “I’ve seldom been beaten,” said she. “I am very skilled and I challenge anyone to a presidential race.”
     The Orange Tortoise called her “Crooked Hare” and took on her challenge notwithstanding he had never held elective office.
     A course was set and the race began. The Hare ran almost out of sight but soon stopped and, to show her contempt for the Orange Tortoise, lay down for a nap and chose not to campaign in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.
     The Orange Tortoise plodded on and by the time the Hare awoke and realized her mistake, it was too late and she lost the race although not the popular vote.
MORAL:  Plodding and plotting win the race. A popular vote victory is meaningless if you don’t win the Electoral College.
The Russian Fox and the American Crow
     A Russian Fox once made friends with an American Crow and made sure he obtained some kompromat on his new ally. To show he was the Crow’s friend, he did everything he could to help him win the White House.
     Once the Crow had the presidency in his beak, the Fox congratulated him and flattered him.
     “You are an amazing politician and your skills surpass those of all others,” said the Fox. “And since you are so smart, I know you will lift any sanctions against me.”
     The Crow lifted up his head, cawed in victory and in the process dropped the sanctions and was eventually impeached.
MORAL:  Do not trust flatterers even if they provide you with favors be they financial, political or sexual.
The Pig and the Chick
     One day, a famous Pig was tired of dealing with his third wife and her new baby so he ventured out to satisfy his needs. He soon ran into an attractive Chick and asked her if she would like to recreate some of her video roles with him.
     The Pig and the Chick engaged in various relations although apparently only of the textbook generic variety. The Pig thought little of the affair until years later he found himself running for President and afraid that the story would harm his chances.
     A lawyer was engaged to discuss the matter with the Chick who agreed to take $130,000 in return for signing a non-disclosure agreement. Unfortunately, the Pig forgot to sign the agreement which led to much litigation and possible impeachment.
MORAL: Don’t engage in extramarital affairs but, if you must, ensure that you get an ironclad, enforceable NDA at the time of the breakup to avoid later complications. 

Sunday, April 01, 2018

Stranger Than Fiction


December 15, 2014

TO:        Bob Smith, literary agent

FROM:  Dave Martin, aspiring novelist
     As promised, I’m sending you a brief plot outline for my new novel The Clown Who Would Be King. Hope you like it.
     Ronald Rumpf is a failed New York City real estate developer who manages to survive multiple bankruptcies by marketing his name as a lucrative brand. He then stars in a successful business-themed reality TV series and becomes a celebrity and a household name.
     Rumpf then decides to run for president and takes on a dozen Republicans in a contest for the Party’s nomination. To everyone’s amazement, he wins and goes on to run against the Democratic nominee Shirley Winsome. In the biggest political upset of all time, Rumpf wins the election and becomes America’s 45th president.  

January 12, 2015
TO:        Dave Martin

FROM:  Bob Smith
     Dave, I read your brief outline and I had to ask myself what combination of drugs are you on? Failed developer turned reality TV star takes on the Republican field and wins the nomination? That’s simply not believable.
     I know you like to push the fictional envelope but you’ve really outdone yourself here. And to top it off, you have this crazy guy actually winning the presidential election.
     I suggest a complete rewrite.

February 22, 2015
TO:        Bob Smith

FROM:  Dave Martin
     I’ve taken your criticism to heart and cut back significantly on my drug intake, particularly the peyote buttons. Hoping the following rewrite works:
     Failed developer/successful marketer/ reality TV show host Ronald Rumpf announces his candidacy for the Republican nomination. He survives the first debate only to be eliminated from the race due to several egregious blunders.
     Jag Brush goes on to win the nomination only to lose to the Democratic nominee Shirley Winsome who becomes America’s first female president.

March 23, 2015
TO:        Dave Martin

FROM:  Bob Smith
     Better, Dave, but it still stretches the bounds of credibility. How about turfing the Rumpf  character altogether and just concentrate on the Brush-Winsome race? Maybe you could add some intriguing backstories like Brush being the son and brother of former presidents and Winsome being married to an ex-president. Just a thought.
     Plus maybe you want to reconsider that crazy notion of a woman president.

May 1, 2015
TO:        Bob Smith

FROM:  Dave Martin
     Sounds good. I’ll see what I can come up with. How about Brush wins nomination and beats Winsome to become third Brush president of all time?

June 12, 2015
TO:        Dave Martin

FROM:  Bob Smith
     Just got the word that some guy named Donald Trump announced his nomination. Let’s sit on your proposed novel for a year or so and see how things play out.

December 1, 2016
TO:        Dave Martin

FROM:  Bob Smith
     Sorry for the delay, Dave, but I think you know where this is going. Ironically, your first outline was not crazy enough and your final one is nothing but wishful thinking. Better luck next time.
     Have you considered a novel about a narcissistic blowhard who breaks every presidential norm, hires his family and gets impeached for money laundering and collusion with the Russians? Oh wait; never mind.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Should A President's Religion Matter?

Sometimes I'll take a break from political satire and write a serious opinion piece like the following:

     As the Mueller investigation inexorably grinds on, the possibility of impeachment continues to be discussed. Many on the left welcome this result and believe that the consequent elevation of Mike Pence to the presidency would be preferable to the current Trumpian state of affairs.
     Personally, I’m not so sure. Although Mr. Pence looks and sounds presidential, there’s no guarantee that he would be a good choice. After all, he is a self-declared evangelical Christian and could be more dangerous than Donald Trump.
     For some reason, Americans are loath to carefully examine a presidential candidate’s religious beliefs. There was a time when one’s faith could be fatal to one’s political aspirations, particularly prior to the 1960 election of John F. Kennedy as America’s first Catholic president.
     However, once Kennedy assured the nation that “the separation of church and state is absolute” and that “no Catholic prelate would tell the president how to act”, everyone seemed satisfied that his religion no longer was an issue. Since then, there has been a wealth of presidential candidates of varying faiths including a Mormon, a Quaker, a Baptist, a Greek Orthodox and even another Catholic and few, if any, voters have considered that an issue of importance.
     Contrary to JFK’s assertion, if a presidential candidate is devoutly religious, I seriously doubt that he or she can clearly separate matters of faith from matters of governance. It may not have been a major problem for Kennedy since he did not seem overly concerned about following the tenets of Catholicism. But where someone is a devout believer and his faith is unorthodox at best, there could definitely be a problem.
     In the case of Mike Pence, the issue is particularly troubling because Mr. Pence is strongly guided by his faith, a faith that could lead to disastrous consequences for the country. Already we have seen evidence of how his evangelical beliefs have affected his governance such as voting to defund Planned Parenthood, voting to block the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and, while governor of Indiana, signing that state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act and a severely restrictive anti-abortion law.
     What’s worse, however, is how Pence’s faith could affect America’s foreign policy, particularly in the Middle East. As a devout evangelical, Pence no doubt believes in the second coming of Christ and possibly even the rapture. Now some might say what’s wrong with that since that’s just his personal religious belief and many religions have peculiar articles of faith.
     What’s wrong with that is that Pence’s faith directly affects his position on Israel. Given that evangelicals believe that the formation of the state of Israel was foretold in the Bible and that it is a precursor to the end times and the eventual second coming of Christ followed by a thousand-year reign of peace, it is likely that a President Pence would do everything in his power to promote that end.
     He has already made it crystal clear that he unconditionally supports Israel including recognizing Jerusalem as its capital and reducing America’s foreign aid to the Palestinians. Remember, this is a man who refuses to dine alone with a woman other than his wife and has, in the past, quoted scriptures in support of different policy arguments. Given that, it seems quite likely that the Bible’s apocalyptic predictions would guide his foreign policy as president.
     Mike Pence thinks Jesus “tells him to say things.” In other than an evangelical Christian context, such a statement would be delusional. Even then, for the rest of us, it is seriously troubling. What if he’s one of those nutty evangelicals who feel divinely guided to hasten the end of the world as we know it?
     Given that possibility, I’d seriously think twice before hoping for Donald Trump’s impeachment. For now, it’s probably better to keep the crazy but uber-secular Trump in the White House and just hope for the best.    

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Trump: The Cancer Spreads North


Dear American friends and neighbours,
     I’ve got a bone to pick with you and it has to do with Donald Trump.
     Up until now, I’ve been watching your presidential train wreck with a touch of smugness. Sure, Donald Trump is a political disaster and a disgusting human being. But he’s basically your problem, a problem I don’t have to worry about here in Canada.
     Well, it turns out I may be wrong on that. In case you haven’t heard, the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party just chose Doug Ford to be their leader and potentially the next premier of the province if he prevails in the upcoming election.
     Now you’re probably saying “that name sounds awfully familiar” and you’re right; Doug Ford is the older brother of the late Rob Ford, the former mayor of Toronto. Yes, that Rob Ford, the guy who embarrassed the entire nation with his wild drunken and drug-addled escapades.
     Cast your mind back a few years and you’ll surely recall various Rob Ford episodes that resulted in him becoming the most popular punch line on American late night TV. Among others, there was his DUI in Miami in 1999, his drunken escapades on St. Patrick’s Day in Toronto City Hall in 2012, the video of him smoking crack cocaine in 2013 and the one of him running over a councilwoman in the council chamber that same year.
     What was most amazing about Rob Ford was that he was Donald Trump before Donald Trump entered the 2016 presidential race. No matter what Ford did, he seemed to be untouchable, a Teflon mayor. His populist appeal garnered him a solid base of unwavering support, a base that became known as Ford Nation.
     With Rob Ford’s death in 2016, we hoped that we had put this sad political chapter behind us. But it turns out that the cancer eating away at your body politic has apparently metastasized and spread north. Rob’s older brother Doug, a former Toronto city councilman and unsuccessful mayoral candidate has not only resuscitated Ford Nation; he has taken it to the next level with his campaign to become the next premier of Ontario.
     So far, it appears that Doug Ford has no platform apart from his Trumpian attacks against anyone and everyone. He wants to severely cut government services and has no use for the media.
     It took a bit of luck for Doug Ford to end up in this position, particularly when newly-elected Ontario PC leader Patrick Brown was embroiled in accusations of misconduct and had to step down. Even then, he had to pull out all the stops in order to defeat more centrist candidates like Christine Elliot and Caroline Mulroney, daughter of Canada’s much-reviled former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney.
     Like Trump’s surprise victories in 2016, it appears that Doug Ford barely squeaked by thanks to a solid base of unthinking, uncritical populist support. And given the widespread unpopularity of Ontario’s incumbent premier Kathleen Wynne, it looks like he might just pull off another upset and saddle Canada’s biggest province with an unqualified disruptive blowhard as leader.
     I can’t help but think that all this would have been nothing more than an unrealized nightmare but for the antics of your current president. As the Canadian mouse that sleeps with the American elephant, we are often under your spell and subject to the trends unfolding south of the border including a misplaced faith by some in the prejudices and promises of one Donald J. Trump and his copycats.
     I’ll cross my fingers and hope that Ms. Wynne can reverse her increasing unpopularity or that the New Democratic Party leader Andrea Horvath will pull off the impossible or that Doug Ford will follow in his late brother’s footsteps and self-destruct. If none of those things happens, however, I will offer you folks an apology, lose my smugness and check out American immigration rules.
     Trump can’t happen in Canada? I’m no longer so sure.
Yours truly,
Dave Martin 


Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Toddler Trump


     Commentators and politicians alike have spent the last year trying to predict and analyze the words and actions of one Donald Trump. Much electronic ink has been spilled in what has ultimately been a fruitless effort.
     As I see it, Trump’s critics are approaching this problem mistakenly. Their underlying assumption is that the President is a rational adult who will eventually see reason and alter his behavior to conform to accepted norms. But as Trump might say: “Wrong!”
     A more fruitful approach would be to accept Donald Trump for what he is: a spoiled unruly toddler. Check out his behavior and you’ll see that the current occupant of the White House is essentially a tiresome two-year-old.
     So if Trump is a two-year-old then what’s the answer? Treat him like a two-year-old, that’s what.
     All of us have been toddlers at one time and many of us have had to suffer through our children’s “terrible twos.” So it stands to reason that pundits, politicians and partners should employ the same tactics they used in the past to deal with young children.
The art of distraction
     When Trump has insulted someone for the tenth time or has lied over and over again, it would be helpful if his handlers distracted him. Whether it’s a shiny object, a game of golf or a few minutes of praise, hopefully those closest to him have lots of ways to divert his attention elsewhere.
Think like a toddler
     Toddlers often have difficulty understanding why they have to perform a specific task or behave a certain way. That’s when it’s helpful to put yourself in his booties and see the world from his perspective. Help him to understand why he can’t do anything he wants or why he has to follow the rule of law.
Avoid stressful situations
     Over time, you get to know what triggers will set off a toddler and possibly result in a full-blown tantrum. That’s why it’s advisable to avoid certain situations. For example, in the case of Mr. Trump, it might be wise to unplug his TV in the morning or hide his phone at night. The fewer opportunities he has to tweet or watch Fox & Friends, the easier it will be for everybody.
Try a timeout
     Sometimes a toddler becomes so upset and over-stimulated that he simply won’t listen to reason at all. In such cases, it’s often a good idea to give him a timeout. But don’t couch it in terms of a punishment but instead use it as an opportunity for the President to have some quiet time free from too much social media or TV viewing. You can always try offering a book as a distraction but most toddlers aren’t that interested in reading.
Relax and stay calm
     I’m sure most of you have been in that situation where a toddler is acting out and you tend to lose it and overreact. That’s the last thing you want to do since he’ll simply act up even more. Sometimes it’s best just to walk away and not buy into his antics. If he gets no reaction or attention, oftentimes he’ll just cry himself to sleep.
Just give in
     You don’t want to do this too often but sometimes it’s just easier all around to let your two-year-old have his way especially when it’s a fairly trivial matter. For example, if he wants to say that his Inauguration crowd or State of the Union address audience or tax cut was the biggest ever, it may not be worth the trouble to question it. Let him pretend and don’t rile him by presenting him with facts. That way you’ll be able to save your energy for another day. 

Friday, March 02, 2018

Seven Minutes of Hell



        

    January’s congressional game-playing resulted in a brief government shutdown followed by an extension of funding only to February 8th. A second shutdown was averted at the last minute and now the U. S. is facing a March 23rd deadline.  Here we go again.

      As usual, it starts out with a game of “chicken” with each party daring the other to pull the plug on government financing. Usually one party blinks before the deadline and the money issue is resolved. This time, however, the only thing clear is that all sides will be playing even more games. Games like:  

Pin the blame on the Democrats (Republicans)
     This one’s a favorite game at and for parties, in this case the Democrats and the Republicans. Watch as leaders like Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan and Chuck Schumer try to recast this whole mess and blame it on each other.
Broken telephone
     The Republican Congressional leadership and selected Cabinet members are lined up in a room with President Trump. One leader whispers a legislative solution to another leader who then passes it on to one or more Cabinet members and the White House Chief of Staff. It finally reaches the ear of the President who manages to completely misunderstand the original solution.
Spin the media
     Members of both parties sit in a circle with assorted media reporters and take turns spinning tales of how theirs is the best funding plan. A party member may select one of the reporters to join him in a separate room for “seven minutes of hell” followed by a rowdy session of “fake news.”
Twenty questions
     Traditionally a game requiring creativity and deductive reasoning, “twenty questions” as played by politicians is a whole different animal particularly when the person answering the questions doesn’t know the rules of the game. That person is President Trump who often forgets that you’re not supposed to lie.
Musical seats
     Patterned on the old game of musical chairs, “musical seats” includes the entire Congressional membership circling their assigned seats until the music stops. Depending on an incumbent’s electoral chances this coming November, he may withdraw from his seat and join the likes of Bob Corker and Jeff Flake on the sidelines.
Donald says
     This modern version of the children’s game “Simon says” has legislators from both sides trying to reach a bipartisan goal by taking cooperative steps. The problem is that they can only take those steps if “Donald says” and it turns out he rarely does.   

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Mulligans for Trump

     Tony Perkins, the leader of the evangelical organization Family Research Council, said that Donald Trump gets a “mulligan” regarding his affair with the porn star Stormy Daniels. What Mr. Perkins didn’t say was what additional excuses he and other evangelicals will have to come up with for other moral infractions by President Trump. Excuses like:
Do-over
      Evangelicals tend not to look kindly on divorce. For the thrice-married Trump, this should be a problem. However, with the implementation of the new marital “do-over”, he should be off the hook, at least for now.
Comb-over
     Last time I checked, vanity was a Christian sin and Donald Trump’s magical hair is nothing, if not vain. But all is forgiven with the granting of one or more “comb-overs.”
Re-do
     Like the “do-over”, a “re-do” will grant Trump forgiveness for his cursing, swearing and intemperate use of language. This will allow him to overcome his use of everything from the “f”-word to “s**thole.”
Mulroney
     “Mulroney” is not just the name of one of Canada’s most despised prime ministers. It’s also a synonym for “mulligan.” So if evangelical Christians worry about overusing “mulligan” for Trump’s past or future sexual indiscretions, they can always use “Mulroney” in its place.
Dubligan
     You’ve made two failed golf shots in a row? Then the second one is called a “dubligan.” This might be handy for those instances where Mr. Trump grabbed some woman by the “pussy” or otherwise sexually assaulted her.
Sullivan
     A “Sullivan” is a “mulligan” in an academic or financial context. For Mr. Trump, that means a corporate do-over in the form of a bankruptcy. This term can be used as often as required as in “We grant Mr. Trump a ‘Sullivan’ on his latest corporate bankruptcy.”
Billigan
     Named after Bill Clinton for his huge number of forgiven blown golf shots, “Billigan” might easily apply to Donald Trump’s never-ending series of lies. Although Christians don’t usually countenance lying, perhaps they could let them slide if they are actually “Donigans.”
Ott
     “Ott” (or “over the top”) is forgiveness for repeated exaggeration. When Trump claims his Inaugural crowd was the biggest ever or that he is the smartest person he knows or that he’s the least racist, evangelicals can overlook his transgressions by granting him one or more “otts.”
Putin
     Whether it’s collusion with Russia or some questionable financial dealing verging on fraud or money laundering, evangelicals will need something to give Mr. Trump continued passes. When the talk in Washington turns to impeachment, they can just grant him a “Putin” or two.
WWJD

     Finally, there’s the ultimate sin-cleansing device: WWJD or “What would Jesus do?” No matter how bad the sin or how nasty the sinner, all he needs to do is repent and everything will be forgiven. When Trump hits his moral nadir, so long as he asks for forgiveness, he can be granted a “WWJD”, otherwise known as a “St. Augustine.”

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Free preview of "Donnie's First Year"

My new humor collection is now available on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca. Click on the link to get a free preview of "Donnie's First Year."


Friday, February 09, 2018

Brian's Political Toolkit

     First we had Pierre Trudeau’s kid Justin becoming the leader of the federal Liberals and now we have Brian Mulroney’s daughter Caroline aiming to head up the Ontario provincial Tories. Luckily for her, her old man is still around to share his wealth of political expertise:
My dearest Caroline,
     You’ve warmed the cockles of this old Irishman’s heart by deciding to take up the family business. It’s not that I’m disappointed or embarrassed by Ben’s TV antics but, let’s face it, you can’t get rich hosting an entertainment show.
     Anyway, darling daughter, I’m thrilled that I’m still kicking so that you can benefit from my years of experience. To that end, here are just a few pearls of wisdom that I’m passing on to you:
*     Avoid keeping envelopes of cash lying around. Of course there’s nothing wrong with owning cash but, if you choose to do so, make sure it’s not traceable. If you do goof up, it’s been my experience that if you declare half of it to the CRA, that should suffice.
*     If you end up needing a plane for the campaign trail, I strongly recommend that you not rent an Airbus. They’re perfectly good planes but, take it from me, it wouldn’t be wise to associate the name Mulroney with Airbus.
*     Don’t touch the sales tax; it’s the third rail of Canadian politics. Just to be safe, stay away from anything ending in “ST” unless you’re just switching your clocks back to standard time.
*     Here’s a little tip if you do happen to become Tory leader and then premier of Ontario. Hopefully you win two majorities like your sainted father but if after that you see a disaster looming on the horizon, bail out sooner rather than later. Then you can retire as a great success and hang the inevitable subsequent defeat on your successor. You could give Kim Campbell a call for more details but don’t be surprised if she hangs up.
*     Whenever you get a chance to sing “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling” for a U. S. president, go for it even if it’s Donald Trump. Embarrassing as it might be, it’s always a good idea to have one of those guys in your back pocket.
*     If you become provincial leader, make sure the party pays you a little something extra every year for your service. Again, envelopes of cash are perfectly acceptable so long as you don’t broadcast it to every Tom, Dick and Karlheinz. On the other hand, you might prefer that your supporters anonymously donate cheques to a bank account for your use only.
*     Avoid ostentatious quasi-royalty-style living; the voters don’t seem to care for it. Don’t tell your mother but she could serve as your role model for what not to do.
*     If someone says “constitutional reform”, run for the hills. Much as I wanted to put the screws to old Trudeau, I wouldn’t touch that dossier again for an entire pile of cash-filled envelopes.
*     Be careful about unplanned witticisms. I’m not saying that “there’s no whore like an old whore” didn’t fit Bryce Mackasey to a T but, given the subsequent irony, I wish I hadn’t said it.

Love,
Brian a.k.a. Dad

P. S. – I’ve attached a brown envelope with a little something for your campaign. Don’t thank me; thank Uncle Wafid.