Saturday, November 02, 2013

24 Sussex Trick-or-treaters

Halloween is over and that means Canadian homes from coast to coast to coast were visited by scary trick-or-treaters.  And that included the nation’s First Residence: 24 Sussex Drive in Ottawa.  Here are some of the frightening visitors Stephen Harper had last Thursday night:

Mike Duffy
This is probably the scariest visitor the PM had on Halloween night. A modern version of the walking undead, it seems this guy can no longer be killed or bought off. Mr. Harper can try putting another cheque in Mr. Duffy’s treat bag but it might be too late. He better come up with something nice though; otherwise he can expect all manner of tricks from the Puffster.

Nigel Wright
This is the last person Mr. Harper wanted to see on Thursday night. But if Mr. Wright did show up, maybe the two of them finally got their story straight. Did Mr. Wright resign or did Mr. Harper dismiss him? With any luck, Mr. Wright will remain the disappeared ghost he has become.

Pamela Wallin
Dressed as a  witch, Ms. Wallin may have paid a visit to the official residence with vengeance on her mind. Like Mike Duffy, she’s looking for a few treats including the retention of her Senate seat or else she’ll be handing out old e-mails to the media like Halloween candy.

Arthur Hamilton
The prime minister probably barred this fellow at the gate, especially if he came bearing any scary e-mails and memos or possibly a frightening cancelled cheque for $13,560. If it was the latter, the PM just better hope it wasn’t drawn from Conservative Party funds.

Marjory LeBreton
 This is one scary Halloween visitor with both feet in her mouth and dragging a loose canon behind her. If she starts telling Mr. Harper how Patrick Brazeau was a failed experiment and how Mike Duffy spun his story of a repayment plot, he better cover his ears and have her escorted off the property.

The Ghost of Richard Nixon
If this spectre showed up at the door, Mr. Harper should have heeded his words carefully. “What did you know and when did you know it?” wails Mr. Nixon’s apparition. This ghost from scandals past knows very well that it’s seldom the crime that does you in; it’s usually the coverup that destroys you in the end.

The Conservative Base
They haven’t been too pleased of late and the latest Senate Scandal revelations have made them hopping mad. Mr. Harper better have some nice legislative goodies to offer them this Halloween if he hopes to keep his leadership position intact.

The Senate Tory Caucus
If this gang appeared, the PM should have listened very closely to their advice. Some are urging that the motion to suspend delinquent senators be withdrawn as a matter of principle. Given that further scrutiny might reveal more wrongdoings by other members, perhaps it should be withdrawn as a matter of practicality instead.

The Swing Voter
Possibly the scariest visitor to 24 Sussex Drive this year, the Swing Voter is as crazy and unpredictable as Justin Trudeau with a drug legalization issue.  Frightening as it is to consider, this spooky character almost elected the NDP last election and if Mr. Harper doesn’t fill up his Halloween treat bag with goodies like lower cell phone costs and pick-a-channel cable, he might just make Thomas Mulcair prime minister next time.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Weedstock 2015

“Medical marijuana grow-op strikes deal at Smiths Falls’ former Hershey plant”
- Newspaper headline - September 26, 2013

Some are for it and some are against it but there’s one thing for sure; everyone’s talking about it. The “it” in question is the phoenix-like deal to turn the old Hershey chocolate plant in Smiths Falls, Ontario into a medical marijuana grow-op.

    Reasonable people can debate at length the merits and demerits of marijuana but it appears to me that we are already on the path to its eventual legalization. And since that train seems to have already left the station, it behooves citizens of the Rideau Valley to get on board and enjoy the journey.

As I see it, the creation of a handful of jobs setting up and operating Smith Falls’ new fun factory is only one small part of the potential explosion in economic growth the region could soon enjoy.

Just like Hershey used to provide guided tours of its chocolate plant, the owners of the new facility could provide tours of its operation, a kind of seed-to-weed experience. And if the drug laws change soon, who knows, each visit could end just like the Hershey plant tours did with a free sample or two and the chance to buy a couple of ounces of your favorite product.

The spinoff effects could also be significant. Smith Falls could become eastern Canada’s pot destination of choice for cannabis tourists from around the globe. The growth in bed and breakfasts, all-you-can-eat restaurants and weed-tasting cafes could be explosive.

In the manner of other cutesy tourist towns, Smiths Falls could soon be home to quaint architecture, trendy head shops and fancy street signs with catchy new names like Doobie Drive and Justin Trudeau Lane.

Creative minds might also choose to expand this new tourist destination with attractions like a marijuana museum or even a marijuana theme park complete with fairly easy midway games, slow moving rides and lots and lots of concession stands.

I suspect that it won’t be long before the city fathers and mothers of Smiths Falls seize on this golden opportunity and start holding annual festivals. Their town could soon be home to everything from grass-themed music festivals to marijuana trade shows. It may not happen next year but don’t be surprised if you find yourself attending Weedstock in the near future.

Given the seeming inevitability of legalization, there’s also a golden opportunity for area farmers to start their own boutique marijuana growing and processing operations. Much like the Niagara region and northern California have done with wine, the Rideau Valley might well do with weed.

It won’t happen overnight, of course, but it won’t be too long before we can enjoy a drive or a quiet bike ride through the Smiths Falls region with a view to touring any number of pot farms and sampling and purchasing their unique wares. I predict that ten years from now, no one will be talking about B.C. Bud; instead all the buzz will be about Rideau Red.

Some are understandably leery of this new economic opportunity for the region but I’m the kind of guy who sees the bowl as being half full. With millions of potential grass tourists here in Canada alone, this is an opportunity Rideau Valley residents simply can’t let go up in smoke.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Government Plants Fear Cuts

“Government uproots office plants in continuing effort to trim spending”                                                                                                                           - Newspaper headline - August 22, 2013

First came the budget cuts. Then came the personnel cuts. And now, sadly, the current government appears to be taking aim at the most vulnerable among the ranks of the public service: office plants.
Despite the government of the day mouthing the usual platitudes about how the plants are hard workers and highly valued, hundreds of our treasured colleagues have not just been let go; they’ve been effectively sold into slavery for a reported average price of $3.36.
Recently, more than 500 palms, ficus trees and mother-in-law’s tongues were reportedly given a green slip and shipped off to Government Surplus where they were unceremoniously sold, pot and all, for next to nothing.
Given their non-union status, these plants were understandably reluctant to speak out about this public service plant reduction initiative.
“Frankly, I’m concerned about losing my health benefits,” said one anonymous piece of greenery. “For years, I could count on getting regular checkups and, if needed, antibacterial and fungicide sprays and the occasional spritz of Miracle Gro. Now that’s all under threat.”
“I’ve been a faithful guardian outside a deputy minister’s office for years,” said one prickly ficus who asked not to be identified fearing random trimming by senior management. “If I was going to get the ax, metaphorically speaking, I would have thought that they would have at least found me a good home in the private sector.”
The private sector may be the answer for many of these plants. If they are ultimately purchased by responsible companies with effective plant management programs, this could be a healthy move for the ex-government shoots and leaves. However, it’s a ficus-eat-ficus world out there for most plants and the government security they enjoyed for so long may be a thing of the past.
Without union representation, there’s not much the threatened plants can do to fight this latest cost-cutting measure. Although most saw the handwriting on the dusty plant stand, they expected better treatment.
“We always figured we’d at least get some severance pay,” said one potted palm. “But now it looks like the only severance we’ll be getting is when they cut off most of our leaves to make it easier to walk us out the door.”
  Having suffered through similar employment purges, the plants’ human colleagues have expressed support for their leafy brethren. Many, in fact, have offered to adopt a plant or two and provide the required maintenance services for no cost.
“Those plants deserve better,” said one anonymous clerk. “They’re there 24/7 and you never hear one complaint from them. When it comes to value for money, you can’t top a plant.”
There had reportedly been some talk of a wildcat strike by the plants in one large government complex. However, due to the lack of legs, opposable thumbs and any effective means of communication, the strike talk quickly fizzled out.
As with any massive government cutback, it seems like only the favorites will survive. Past personnel purges proved that the survivors don’t usually include the  best and the brightest. Often it’s simply a matter of seniority or sometimes simple favoritism.
Take, for example, the office of Liberal leader Justin Trudeau which has not unexpectedly adopted two marijuana plants, a bed of poppies and a coca plant. Some say these perennials were politically connected. Others claimed they provided special services to Mr. Trudeau which gained them favored status.
A senior manager speaking on condition of anonymity outlined what has been dubbed in-house as Project Defoliation. He says the exercise is a no-brainer in that millions of dollars will be saved and there will be little if any pushback from those affected.
“Let’s face it, these aren’t plant cuts, we’re actually cutting plants,” the anonymous source said. “They can’t speak, they can’t walk and they can’t give interviews to the media. In fact, my understanding is that not one of them is even bilingual. We should be able to harvest the entire national capital region without incident in a matter of days.”
“Like any austerity measure, we don’t want to eliminate the hard workers among our potted denizens,” said the source. “Therefore, we will give special consideration to retaining productive, fruit-bearing members of the class such as tomato plants, apple trees and maybe a BlackBerry bush or two. For the rest, however, we can’t afford to have leaf-bearing plants hanging around for years serving no useful purpose, particularly when most of them are Liberal plants.”

Monday, August 19, 2013

Pipeline! - The Board Game


With increasingly sophisticated programming and graphics, video games are more popular than ever. Sales of such titles as “Halo” and “Call of Duty” are in the millions.

So it might come as a bit of a surprise to find that there has been a recent resurgence in sales of the old-fashioned board game as evidenced by these recent new offerings:

Loosely based on the game Monopoly, Majority has a board with ten provinces and three territories. Game pieces include the Tory, the Liberal, the Socialist, the Green and the Separatist.   Using their initial monetary outlay, players try to buy up as many seats in each jurisdiction as they can until one of them reaches the magic number of 155 at which point everyone else gives up until the next round of play in about four years.

New from Hasbro, this game challenges players to build a pipeline from the Alberta Tar Sands to a viable market end point. Roll the dice and head in the direction of your choice.
The simplest routes are often the hardest to complete. Try laying pipe south and you may end up getting blocked by environmental dead ends or by drawing the Obama card.
“Go west, young man” seems like an easy choice, too, unless you land on the Christy Clark square that requires you to give up 75% of your revenues. Slow and steady may win the game if you choose to head east but only if you can find a way to bypass the greedy Quebec monster.

Senate Reform
Open up the board and you’ll find a crazy quilt legislature populated by patronage appointments and out-of-control spenders. Each player is dealt a hand of five cards he can use to try to reform this unruly mess.
The challenge is to play the right card at the right time. The Triple-E card sounds great unless you happen to gain a Parliamentary majority. Then you might prefer to simply stock the Senate with members of your own party.
The Abolition card is everyone’s favorite but thanks to the complicated constitutional rule book, it’s almost impossible to play. Players typically choose instead to use the Procedural Change card but seldom get past all the provincial roadblocks on the board.
One lucky player will end up with the Appointment card which ensures a six-figure salary, a pension for life and the end of any more talk of Senate reform.

Cabinet Shuffle
Mattel has introduced their latest board game based on the time-honored practise of changing the federal cabinet. A deck of 163 cards is shuffled and dealt out to the players. The center of the board has spaces for 38 ministers and one prime minister.
The object of the game is to get as many of your cards into the center spots as possible. The winner is the player with the most ministerial spaces covered. Extra points are awarded for occupying the most central spots such as Finance, Defense and Foreign Affairs.
The game ends when one player reveals and plays the prime minister card which renders all the other cards useless.

Parker Brothers has adapted their famous board game Clue to incorporate the latest Canadian political scandal. Rather than different rooms, Clueless has a board featuring different residences. Each player chooses one of the playing pieces identified as Mike, Mac, Pam and Pat.
A single die is rolled to advance players across the board where they try to claim two residences at once. As they move from residence to residence, they adopt different reasons and excuses for claiming extra expenses. Unfortunately, unlike in the parent game, the players have no clue.

Friday, July 19, 2013


Given all of President Obama’s current troubles, it’s perhaps not surprising that he’s often eager to board Air Force One and get out of town.

“Good afternoon and welcome aboard AirObama flight 13 to anywhere the President feels like going. In view of recent government developments, today we will definitely be departing an overheated Washington, D. C. and may even be leaving the country entirely until such time as local hot spots cool off.
“Today’s weather in the nation’s capital is unsettled with continuing opposition high pressure disturbances still causing problems in the Senate, the House, the National Security Agency and the Internal Revenue Service. Visibility is severely restricted and hindsight is nonexistent. Our moral compass is presently on an indeterminate setting.
“It is hoped that conditions will be more favorable outside of the nation’s capital, particularly in friendlier western destinations such as L.A. and San Francisco. If not, we may have to alter our course for one or more foreign capitals.
“Our flying time today will be however long it takes to get to a place where they’ve never heard of Benghazi, the NSA, the IRS or the Department of Justice. We’ll be flying at an altitude of approximately one hundred feet in order to avoid detection by any media radar systems. Please remain securely buckled in your seats at all times as it may be necessary to take evasive action to elude any incoming Republican flak.
“Your pilot today is 43-year-old chief of staff Denis McDonough who recently took over from the former flight chief, Captain Jack Lew. Although Captain McDonough is AirObama's fifth pilot in five years, it is hoped that his years of national security experience will help him guide the White House through any upcoming turbulence.
“This aircraft is a Boeing VC-25. It features a fuselage with two fixed wings although the left wing is slightly more prominent than the right wing. The plane also has numerous cockpit and passenger windows although few remain transparent.
“The interior of the plane features a large presidential swivel chair near the front to allow the occupant to keep a close eye on the other passengers. The remaining seats are arranged in twelve rows with a centrally-located aisle. In the back, you will notice several hanging straps to provide standing-room-only accommodation for members of the media who, alas, will not be flying with us today.
“There will be no meal service on board today’s flight in keeping with  AirObama’s motto  “there’s no free lunch.” We will, however, be handing out complimentary media materials for your reading pleasure including recently obtained internal documents and phone records from Fox News and the Associated Press.
“There is no in-flight entertainment on AirObama. However, flight attendants will be handing out headsets which we insist you use for any incoming or outgoing calls. There is no cause for concern as this measure is for security purposes only and we probably won’t be listening to the details of your calls.
“Please note that this plane does not as yet have any emergency exits. Rest assured that Captain McDonough and the other members of the White House flight crew are desperately working on this matter and hope to have it rectified before the next midterm election.”  

Monday, June 10, 2013

Dear Dr. Bureaucracy

Dear Dr. Bureaucracy” - An occasional advice column for those with questions about the sometimes mysterious functioning of government.

Dear Dr. Bureaucracy:
I am an appointed senator living in the nation’s capital. For several years, I claimed living expenses for my Ottawa home because my “permanent” residence was in PEI. I was told there was no problem in doing this especially since some of my colleagues did the same thing. Now everyone’s telling me that this was wrong, that I owed $90,000 and that maybe I should resign my position. Even though I repaid the money, lots of folks are still giving me a hard time. What can I do to make this problem go away?
Mike the Spud

Dear Mike:
First, let me say that I’m really sorry you got caught in this mess. It’s sad when a hardworking fellow like yourself gets pilloried for a measly ninety grand. I’m sure you earned every penny of that money, if not by doing your Senate duties then undoubtedly by carrying out many informal functions for your political party of choice. The trouble is, Mike, you got caught and that means you have to pay the price. After all, you can’t expect your friends who are doing the same thing to come forward and support you at this point, can you? Time to fall on your sword. It might hurt for awhile but, trust me, your pals will take care of you and in a few years it’ll be like it never happened.

Dear Dr. Bureaucracy:
I’m really perplexed about the workings of government. I gave up a lucrative private sector job to come to Ottawa to help out the PM. All was going well until this guy Mike begged me for $90,000 to help him out of a jam. Since I’ve got plenty of dough, it seemed like a good idea if for no other reason than to get this guy off my boss’s back. So I wrote him a cheque and now I’m taking all kinds of flak and had to resign my position. What gives? Isn’t this still a free country where a guy can spend his money how he wants?
Noble Nigel

Dear Nigel:
I’m surprised that you got caught in this mess. You know how in the private sector when you sometimes have to pay a bribe to get a job done or do a few unsavory favors in order to secure a contract? Well, Nigel, government is pretty much the same. When’s the last time you paid off a third world dictator with a cheque? Exactly. The rule of thumb in business applies equally in government: no personal cheques; cash only. If you need more advice on this matter, I suggest you ask someone like Brian Mulroney. Anyway, tough break, Nigel, but lesson learned, right? Don’t worry; this will all blow over in a few months and you’ll probably be in line for a Senate seat.

Dear Dr. Bureaucracy:
I’m a reporter with a large Ottawa-based newspaper. Recently, I wrote about a joint Canada-U.S. military exercise that was already a matter of public record. The next thing I know I’m being investigated by the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service for an illegal leak. What gives?
David the Defence Reporter

Dear David:
What gives? How could you have been a reporter on the defence beat for all these years and yet be surprised by all this? I’m assuming whatever you wrote failed to pass the “embarrassment test”, meaning that it somehow embarrassed the Minister of National Defence. That is a definite no-no. If you write a flattering report, no one cares where your information came from. It could be the most confidential stuff from the leakiest inside source but you’re immune because the powers that be look good. Next time, David, consider saying something nice about the Minister and I’m sure they’ll call off the goons. Who knows? If you write enough puff pieces, you might even be in line for a Senate seat. Just ask Mike and Pamela if you need any help.

Dear Dr. Bureaucracy:
I’m the sitting Tory MP for Saint Boniface, Manitoba and Elections Canada says I didn’t file the proper campaign documents after the 2011 election and therefore should be suspended. I’m confused. After the initial investigation, I filed a revised campaign financial return which explains everything. Why am I still being harassed?
Saint Boniface Shelley

Dear Shelley:
The answer to your question is simple: Robocalls. That involved some serious malfeasance  and to avoid someone discovering who was behind the whole thing, a distraction is required. And that distraction, Shelly, is you. The government has to be seen to be taking action against wrongdoers and you’re it for now. Think of it as taking one for the team. Not to worry, though; hopefully by next year you’ll be rewarded for your loyalty. Senator Shelly sure sounds nice, don’t you think?

Thursday, May 30, 2013

The PM's Performance Review

       Treasury Board President Tony Clement recently announced that he is “drawing a line in the sand” by implementing new mandatory performance agreements for federal employees. “I want to be crystal clear,” said Clement. “Either poor performers improve and become productive employees or we will let them go.”
  If the government is serious about this new initiative, we should soon be seeing the following performance review for our country’s top federal employee:

NAME: Stephen Harper
POSITION: Prime Minister
GOALS: The incumbent set certain goals for himself over the last few years including the following:
(1)  To oversee the nation’s finances and ensure that the annual budget is in surplus thereby reducing the national debt
(2)  To implement and enforce stringent ethical guidelines thus ensuring the effective and efficient deployment of government resources
(3)  To eliminate patronage in the federal appointments process
(4) To efficiently oversee Canada’s military and reign in unnecessary expenditures
(5) To reverse the previous trend to ignore democratic traditions and to instead honor and abide by  fair democratic principles and procedures
(6) To effectively delegate various responsibilities to ministers of the Crown in order to effect a more efficient federal public service
ASSESSMENT: The incumbent has failed to meet the basic requirements of the job. As for his specific goals:
(1) When the incumbent assumed his position, there was a significant annual budgetary surplus and the national debt was on a downward trend. In short order, he managed to convert that surplus to an ongoing annual deficit thereby increasing significantly the national debt. The incumbent has repeatedly assured his employer that this matter would soon be rectified but no sensible fiscal solution appears to be forthcoming.
(2) The incumbent initially made a strong commitment to the creation, implementation and enforcement of strong ethical guidelines for himself and all others at the federal level. Unfortunately, he has failed to match that commitment with commensurate action. In fact, he appears to have surpassed his predecessors in appointing his friends and allies to the Senate and all manner of boards and tribunals.
(3) (see no. 2 above)
(4) The incumbent has failed to reign in military expenditures. If fact, he appears to be engaged in an ongoing military hardware shopping spree that is costing the Canadian taxpayer countless billions of dollars. In particular, the incumbent entered into an untendered sole-source contract to buy F-35 fighter jets and his delegates misled the public as to the real cost of that contract.
(5)  The incumbent has been successful in publicly stating his faith in our democratic institutions. Again, however, he has failed to match his actions to his faith as evidenced by his willingness to prorogue Parliament for his own personal political gain.
(6) Delegation has not been the incumbent’s strong suit. Rather than truly delegate various of his functions to his ministers, he has retained almost all decision making powers and reduced his ministers to powerless minions. His preference for micro-managing has damaged not only his position but has also undermined the authority of dozens of ministers thereby limiting the flexibility and accountability of the government as a whole.
RECOMMENDATION:  In summary, the incumbent’s performance is unsatisfactory. Given that he has been given numerous opportunities to meet his goals but has still failed to fulfill them, there seems little point in prolonging his current probationary status. Rather, it is time to terminate the incumbent and replace him with a younger, fresher, more flexible face.
(Note to the incumbent: You have the right to have this assessment reviewed at the next level. In this case, the next level comprises the Canadian electorate. You are free to “call an election” at any time and ask the Canadian public to overturn this review’s recommendation.)

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Name that Scandal

Now that it’s clear that the ongoing Senate shenanigans are not just a one-week wonder, it’s time to give this scandal a name. After all, if we’re going to be reading about this stuff for the next few months, we’ll definitely need a shorthand way to refer to it.
Rule no. 1: Don’t give it a name ending in “-gate.” Although it’s tempting to simply add that suffix to the latest wrongdoing, it’s a lazy approach. So unless it involves wrongdoing by Microsoft  Chairman Bill Gates, no more “gates.” Plus, Watergate was an American scandal. There’s no need to debase our Canadian political screw-ups with “gate”-suffixed designations. Does any Canadian take pride in Tunagate or Shawinigate? If it’s a scandal that has legs and one that we value at all, it’s deserving of its own unique moniker. Thus, no Senategate, Puffstergate or Troughgate. We’re Canadian and we deserve our own homegrown names for our own homegrown scandals. 
Rule no. 2: Don’t focus on just one person. It might be tempting to center on the biggest and most entertaining target and name the whole affair after Mike Duffy as in The Puffster Affair or The Duffy Scandal. But unless your name is Gerda Munsinger or Monica Lewinsky or there’s sex involved, limiting things to one person is shortsighted and inefficient in the long run. After all, we already have several other potential players like Pamela Wallin, Patrick Brazeau and Mac Harb. Since there are more than a hundred   senators, chances are that at least a few more may be ensnared by the illegal expenses net before this thing has fully played out.
Rule no. 3: Don’t be too specific in naming the scandal. It’s tempting to assume that this one is all about the Senate and that a moniker like The Senate Scandal or The Red Chamber Affair will suffice for the duration. But we’ve already witnessed the involvement of a non-senator in the person of Nigel Wright , Prime Minister Harper’s chief of staff. That’s not to say that Mr. Harper himself was also involved but it’s not proper scandal-naming etiquette to rule him out completely at this stage. Scandal naming demands inclusivity because you just never know how far reaching a scandal will become.
Rule no. 4: Identify the geographical or corporate nexus of the wrongdoing. Watergate, the sine qua non of modern day coverups, was named after the Washington, D. C. hotel where Republican operatives broke into Democratic Party headquarters. But Watergate wasn’t the first to be guided by this principle. The Teapot Dome scandal of the early 1920s got its name from the Wyoming oil field that was the subject of illegal leases, bribes and kickbacks. Iran/Contra and Whitewater both described the geographical loci of the alleged crimes. Canadian political scandals have also generally followed this rule as evidenced by the Pacific Scandal, the Airbus Affair and Shawinigate.
Rule no. 5: Keep it simple. Sure, it might have been more accurate for the media to describe Richard Nixon’s troubles as the Post-break-in White House Cover-up Scandal but, let’s face it, Watergate was a lot punchier. And wasn’t last year’s Robocall Scandal catchier than The Robotic and Telephonic Voter Fraud Affair?  If you want a scandal to last, give it a short name that folks can remember.
By following these five simple rules, we can find a name for this latest malfeasance that Canadians can embrace with enthusiasm and pride. For starters, how about The PMO Affair, The Expense Claim Debacle or The Entitlement Scandal? I suspect there are even better candidates out there waiting to grab tomorrow’s headlines. How about Harper’s Troubles or even Pork Plus? Just remember; if they can do it, we can name it.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Mike Duffy, Intrepid Reporter

Given his extensive reportorial career, Mike Duffy has apparently been hired by his old bosses at CTV News to get to the bottom of the latest Senate scandal:

“Good evening to you, too, Sandie, and thanks for having me back on the evening news. As you might imagine, I’m a little strapped for cash right now and payment for tonight’s report will be very helpful indeed.  However, if it’s all the same to you, Sandie, I’d like to get paid in cash. It’s not that I have anything against personal cheques but my lawyer tells me cash would definitely be preferable at this point in time.
“As for this  latest story concerning the Canadian Senate, I’m pleased to say that it is nothing more than a tempest in a teapot and certainly not a bull in a china shop as some have characterized it. Thankfully, I happen to be an actual, honest-to-goodness senator so that gives me an insider’s perspective on the matter.
“Some folks have claimed that a Senator Mike Duffy falsely claimed out-of-province living expenses for his Ottawa residence. A quick check of the Senate rolls reveals that there is only one senator named Mike Duffy and that’s me. Thus, I’m in a perfect position to investigate the various allegations and refute them with force and finality.
“My sources (i.e. - me) revealed that I am a permanent resident of Prince Edward Island or at least a permanent resident for the purposes of claiming living expenses elsewhere. I have repeatedly interviewed my primary source (i.e. - me) and he has assured me that his P.E.I. residence is not merely a cottage and he does not simply “summer” there. Beyond that, I considered it an invasion of privacy to have him reveal further details.
“In addition to my source’s transparency and honesty, it is worth noting his loyalty and patriotism. Despite his obvious innocence, in order to spare the government and a few of his Senate colleagues from further unwarranted harassment by the media, he agreed to give back the expense money paid to him notwithstanding his 100% entitlement to same.
“As I recently said to my colleague and former reporter friend Pamela Wallin, ethical clarity and aboveboard financial dealings are the hallmark of the field of journalism. Unfortunately, Ms. Wallin was not available for comment but I’m sure she would agree.
“There are also reports that during the last federal election, Mike Duffy submitted Senate expense claims while campaigning for Conservative candidates. Thanks to my close relationship with the subject, I was able to determine that Mr. Duffy did, in fact, make some Senate-related claims during that period but that is simply due to his marvelous and awe-inspiring ability to multitask.
“Just because the ordinary citizen cannot campaign for a candidate, conduct Senate business and be in P.E.I. all at the same time doesn’t mean Mike Duffy can’t. Rather, we should celebrate the extraordinary abilities of this senator and give thanks as Canadian citizens that we are getting full value for our tax dollars.
“Finally, there is the matter of the personal cheque for $90,000 given to Mike Duffy (i.e. - me) by Stephen Harper’s chief of staff Nigel Wright. Again, after a detailed investigation, there appears to be no story here.
“Mr. Wright has been a friend of Mr. Duffy’s for many days and several sources (including me, Nigel and Stephen) insist that there was nothing untoward, unseemly or unethical about this loan/advance/gift. In fact, Nigel said not to worry about it and Stephen said not to call him again....ever.
“This is Mike Duffy reporting from Parliament Hill. Back to you, Sandie.”

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Thanks, I Guess

Prime Minister Stephen Harper offered Mr. Obama a basketball signed by the 2010-2011 Toronto Raptors....[and] a golden-framed 19th-century antique map of North America surrounded by drawings of North American Indians and beavers.

- The Globe & Mail - April 27, 2013

                                The White House
                                Washington, D. C.

The Right Honourable Stephen Harper
Ottawa, Canada

Dear Stephen:

Just a belated note to say thanks for the two presents you sent me in 2011. Both Michelle and I appreciate the gesture but you really shouldn’t have. Seriously, you didn’t need to send me the basketball and the map. They say it’s the thought that counts so I’m going to assume you thought that I’d want these two items and, on that basis alone, I appreciate the gesture.
The basketball was a thoughtful gift. I assume you know that I play a little roundball myself and that I’m a big fan of the Chicago Bulls. It’s not like I needed an extra ball but it didn’t hurt to have a spare for my pickup games at The White House. The only problem was there were a bunch of signatures on the ball that I didn’t recognize and it took one of my staff members almost an entire day to wipe them all off. Next time, a new, unmarked ball would be better.
Still, it is the thought that counts and I hope you’ll appreciate that sentiment when you receive my next gift to you. I understand you’re a big hockey fan so that’s why I plan to send you a hockey stick autographed by the 2012-13 Columbus Blue Jackets. Someone suggested one signed by the Maple Leafs but I figured that couldn’t be right since it should be the Maple Leaves, right?
I was initially confused as to why you would send me a 200-year-old map of North America. I assume you know that I have a GPS app on my iPhone and hundreds of bureaucrats who can give me up-to-date positioning for anywhere in the world I want to visit or send a drone strike.
But then I took a closer look at the gift map and noticed that you’d written a few things on it with a marker pen. I see that you drew a dotted line down the middle of the U. S. and labeled it Keystone pipeline. Message received. I understand the importance of this project to you so it wasn’t necessary to also draw a line from Alberta to the Pacific Ocean and write “CHINA?” in big red letters next to it.
On further inspection, I noticed that you also inked in some battle sites from the War of 1812. My staff tells me that you’re a big history buff. Still, I think it was a bit childish to draw flames around Washington, D. C. and write “We Won!” next to it.
Nevertheless, thanks for the presents. I thought about re-gifting them but since they’re both used, I figured that wouldn’t be right. Instead, I’m going to put both items in my next White House garage sale. Rest assured; any proceeds will go to help fight this year’s trillion-dollar deficit.
If you’re thinking of sending me any more gifts, might I make a few suggestions? First, don’t send me an F-35 fighter jet. I’m not sure I’m  going to buy the ones I’ve already ordered and, even if I get one for free, I don’t think we can afford the lifetime maintenance costs.
I’d prefer you just keep it simple and send me something traditional like a tie, a pen or a trillion-dollar gift card. Or if you’d really like to help, give me 30 or 40 more Democratic seats in the House of Representatives or maybe a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate.

Your friend,
Barrack Obama

Friday, May 03, 2013

Free Download

Starting tomorrow (May 4th) and for the next five days, you can download the Kindle version of my new book "Screams & Whispers" for free from Just scroll down to the March 11th entry for my book to get the link to Amazon.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Dear Justy

Amid all the congratulatory e-mails and letters to newly-elected Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, the following ones apparently fell through the cracks:
                                     Shawinigan, Quebec

Dear Justin,
Felicitations. Great job in your leadership campaign. I know you were going to win all the time so it was no big surprise for me.
I think you know that I am a big admirer of your dad. He and I accomplished a lot of tings over the years and I’m sure you can accomplish a lot of tings, too.
So long as you don’t start asking advice from that clown Paul Martin, I’m dere for you. Otherwise, I think you’ll find I’m pretty busy playing golf and visiting China.
All da best,

Ottawa, Ontario

Dear Mr. Trudeau:
Congratulations on your victory. I look forward to facing off against you in the next election. I’m sure it will be a clean fight and that we’ll get to discuss our differing views on the issues of the day.
In the meantime, my team and I would like to welcome you to what the Germans call realpolitik. You may already have noticed some ads questioning your employment  experience and your preference for Quebeckers. It’s just our way of saying “Hi and welcome to reality.”
Both you and I know that every politician says at least a few things that he later wishes he hadn’t and then afterwards finds them showing up in his opponent’s political ads. Heck, now that I think about it, I wish I hadn’t said that Alberta should build itself a firewall or that Canada should join in the U. S. invasion of Iraq.
But the fact remains that you said a few silly things and we’ve got a pile of money to spend on advertising and you guys don’t. So get used to seeing some negative ads for the next few months. Hey, it’s just our way of saying we respect you and welcome to the neighborhood.
All the best,
The Prime Minister

Dallas, Texas

Dear Justy,
Hope you don’t mind me calling you Justy. I kinda like giving nicknames to folks and Trudy just didn’t seem right.
Anyway, congratulations on that leadership thing. Does that mean you’re running the country now or do you still have to win an election? That’s what I had to do although, to be honest, I did get a bit of help from some friends on the Supreme Court.
The main reason I wanted to write is because we seem to have a lot in common. Your dad was apparently the head of Canada at one time and my dad was the 41st President of the United States.
It can be hard following in your poppy’s footsteps. Some folks seemed to think that I spent my time just trying to outdo my dad. Not true. Sure, he wimped out about invading Iraq and I didn’t but I wasn’t trying to show him up. I was just doing what Poppy’s friend Dick Cheney told me to.
Which brings me to a piece of advice for you, Justy. Be careful about relying on your dad’s old friends. They mean well but it turns out that they often have their own agenda.
Watch out, too, for any siblings. If you’ve got a younger brother, say, who also wants to run for office, keep a close eye on him. He may say he supports you 110% but don’t trust him farther than you can throw him.
One last piece of advice: try to distance yourself from your roots. Believe it or not, I was born in Connecticut but folks think I’m Texan through and through.
I understand you were born in Ottawa. Nice town but I’m guessing you’d be better off presenting yourself as one of them Quebeckers. Poppy said it worked for your dad so I don’t see why it can’t work for you, too.
Best of luck,

Monday, March 25, 2013

Dear Facebook Friend

Here's a sample audio file of one of the pieces from my new book "Screams & Whispers." To download the file CLICK HERE

Monday, March 11, 2013

Screams & Whispers now available

My new humor collection "Screams & Whispers: 69 humor pieces rejected by The New Yorker" is now available for sale on CLICK HERE

Also available for your Kindle.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Joe Ratzinger's Diary

Joe Ratzinger’s diary

February 14, 2013
This has been the first St. Valentine’s Day I’ve enjoyed in decades. Got to sleep in and eat chocolates all day. No special cards to the cardinals and no outside scheduled obligations. Just a day to treat myself to a few indulgences of the secular kind.
February 18, 2013
Thanks to my buddy Cardinal Koch, I’ve finally got myself a canon situla or what some call a bucket list. Great idea! Thanks Kurt. Number one is to drive to Milan and pick up a pair of this year’s Gucci jeans. I’m so tired of dressing like a schlub. Once I get the jeans, number two is to go clubbing in Milan.  Number three is to upgrade my communion wine to a nice fruity Valpolicella.
February 23, 2013
Looks like I still have a few loose ends to tie up before I hand in my ring. Gotta appoint a few more cardinals. No problem there. Still lots of conservative guys hanging around that would love to move to Rome. The bigger dilemma is how to divvy up the other appointments. Best advice I got was to appoint two black bishops for every two white bishops. Sounds more like a chess match than a pontificate, if you ask me.
February 28, 2013
Wow, resignation day! What a relief. Not that being Pope hasn’t been fun at times what with the generous cassock allowance and unlimited mitre supply. But I just wasn’t feeling the love anymore. I guess I was violating my own seven-year rule - i.e. - you shouldn’t stay in one job longer than seven years. Anyway, today is the first day of the rest of my life and I can’t wait.
March 2, 2013
Loving this retirement thing but I figured I’d better check on my financial situation. Gotta make sure there’s enough in the pot to see me through to my nineties at least. I thought I was doing OK until I learned today from my financial advisor Anthony “Tony the Tiger” Barzini that everything I had was tied up in The Vatican Bank. Apparently the 1982 Banco Ambrosiano scandal took its toll on my retirement fund. Maybe I can make up a few million lira by selling my Popemobile.
March 10, 2013
Finally moved the last of my stuff out of my old apartment. I’ve got a nice condo with a view of St. Peter’s Square so I’ll be able to check when the white smoke finally comes out of the Sistine Chapel chimney.
March 17, 2013
Electing a pope on St. Patrick’s Day. I wonder if that’s ever been done before? Probably not. Just like we’ve never before had a black  South American  liberal as pope. Just kidding! It’s another old white European, of course.
March 29, 2013
I gotta say this is great. This is the first Good Friday I haven’t had to get all dressed up and greet the masses, not to mention perform some, too. I think I’m just going to sleep in, hibernate and stay in bed. Maybe I won’t even get up until the third day. Just a little papal humor there.
April 1, 2013
Did I really resign?  April Fool’s! See you back in the Basilica tomorrow. Just kidding. I’m done. The last thing I want to do is face another drafty winter in Rome. Maybe the new guy is looking to appoint a new Archbishop of Miami. Just saying.

Monday, February 04, 2013

Black & Black

“Conrad Black will soon be coming to a television near you. The former media baron has reached a deal with ZoomerMedia to host his own weekly, 60-minute current affairs talk show.”
- Canadian Press - Jan. 28, 2013

Black is back, as in Conrad Black. The Canadian press baron, British lord and convicted felon will soon be taking to the airwaves. If his new enterprise takes off, look for more shows featuring the bloviating baron. Shows like:
Lord Black & Friends
Lord Black of Cross Harbour hosts a weekly chat show from London featuring a different member of the House of Lords. Although no sitting member of that body has yet agreed to appear on the show, the producers are hopeful that Lord Black can find at least one friend abroad.
American Prison Tour
Capitalizing on his extensive knowledge of and experience with the American penal system, Conrad Black hosts this new dramatic series recreating his various prison stays. Black stars as himself in this hard-nosed examination of the shortcomings of various American prisons and Mr. Black’s courageous battles to reform them.
Black & Black
CBC Radio is planning to bring Arthur Black out of retirement to team up with his namesake. Arthur will revive his lighthearted look at Canadian life while Conrad berates and belittles his co-host and his taxpayer-funded network.
Tubby’s Tales of the Tape
TSN hopes to sign Canada’s favorite pontificator to host a boxing-related show. The plan is to not only have Mr. Black comment at length on some of the greatest boxing matches of all time but to also feature him in actual pugilistic contests with his favorite nemeses and adversaries including his former partner David Radler and BBC-TV host Jeremy Paxman.
Hockey Night in Canada
The television arm of the CBC apparently feels that color commentator Don Cherry has seen better days. Network execs are looking to replace the clothing-challenged Cherry with none other than Conrad Black. It’s hoped that Black’s outspoken polysyllabic rants will mesh nicely with the milquetoast observations of Ron MacLean to create an irresistible dynamic.
Barbara & Me
Several lifestyle cable channels are reportedly bidding for this new offering featuring Canada’s most flamboyant couple. Conrad Black and his wife Barbara Amiel will host a weekly tour of their various non-incarcerated homes.
The Baron’s Books
Promising to be an exciting if somewhat narrow book review show, “The Baron’s Books” features Conrad Black reviewing his favorite books. From “A Matter of Principle” to “Franklin Deleano Roosevelt: Champion of Freedom” to “Flight of the Eagle” to “Conrad Black”, the sesquipedalian scrivener promises to critically examine his own entire oeuvre.   

Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Church of O

And so did the two-wheeled one enter the Church of O seeking forgiveness and redemption for his sins. For lo these many years, the Cycling King had reigned supreme throughout the land and also in France where he had toured seven times in triumph.
Many had doubted the power of the one called Armstrong despite his powerful sounding name. They badgered and hectored him and accused him of using unfair advantage to achieve his vaunted throne.
The Cycling King denied the charges claiming innocence and a pure heart. He said that he did not use rare physics and potions and was truly deserving of all the trophies and medals awarded unto him. Yet many still doubted and some even denied him his titles.
With nowhere else to turn, the one called Lance had but once choice left. The hour had come to visit Oprah, to unburden his soul and receive redemption from the great redeemer.
The Cycling King entered the well-lit confessional and sat before the great Oprah where he donned the robe of humility and the raiment of truth. Neither garment sat well upon him but he tried as best he could to make them fit.
Like many of his generation before him, Armstrong admitted his transgressions bringing forth tears upon his countenance. Yet the admissions seemed lacking in candor and Oprah admonished the Cycling King for his reticence and vagaries.
“It is a moment of high emotion,” said Oprah. “One tinged with regret, some truth and unbelievable ratings. But I sense you do not come before me in full confessional mode.”
“If you seek total absolution, my son, then you must prostrate yourself before me and make amends for the wrongs you have committed. As Rhianna and David Letterman and James Frey before you have done, you must lay bare your soul.”
Lance tried as best he could to be contrite. Alas, because of accusers in the courts of the land and in the courts of other lands, he was constrained from telling all he might have told.
“But even half a confession is better than none,” said Oprah. “And we will show the people the second segment of our meeting tomorrow night in hopes that you can reveal more and, in doing so, return my Neilsen ratings to their previous wondrous levels.”
And as Lance rose from his seat and readied himself to leave, Oprah reached out and touched him and gave him a partial blessing.
“It is the least I can do for a suffering soul,” said Oprah. “For you are trying and, in so doing, you have assured a return visit at some later date when we might once again bring millions into my Church.”

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Barry at the Hall

The outlook wasn't brilliant for the Steroid Three that day;
The Hall was there to enter if enough votes went their way.
But then when Sosa failed to make it and Clemens did the same,
A knowing silence fell upon the scriveners of the game.

A curious few got up to file their story early but as for all the rest
They wondered if he’d make it; they still could only guess.
They thought, if Bonds could score once more with his back against the wall
They'd put up even money, now, that Barry’d make the Hall.

Yet McGwire preceded Barry, as did also Timmy Raines,
And the former was a doper and the latter liked cocaine;
So upon that jaded press corps did apathy now fall,
For there seemed but little chance of Barry's getting in the Hall.

But McGwire nabbed almost a hundred votes to the wonderment of one,
And Raines the nose candy lover tripled that and some;
And when the press stopped voting and counted them forthwith,
There was McGwire set at 15th and Raines a-hugging fifth.

Then from over 500 ballots there rose a quiet scribble;
It sneaked right through the press room, a silent little dribble;
It sounded in the washrooms and echoed off the wall,
For Barry, mighty Barry, had a shot to make the Hall.

There was ease in Barry's manner as he stepped into his place;
There was pride in Barry's bearing and a puffed up steroid face.
And when, responding to the jeers,  he crushed a handheld ball,
No one could now doubt that Barry wanted in the Hall.

A thousand eyes were on him as he rubbed his hands with dirt;
Five hundred tongues naysayed him with his long-sleeved baseball shirt.
And when the sanctimonious writers held their pens aloft to vote,
The anger gleamed in Barry’s eye, as he struck a defiant note.

And now the first ballot votes came hurtling through the air,
And Barry stood a-watching them in haughty grandeur there.
Close by the sculpted batsman the votes unheeded sped-
"I’ll get them on the second," said Barry. "Strike one," the press corps said.

From the media, filled with voters, there went up a muffled roar,
Like the beating of the storm-waves on a stern and distant shore.
"Remove him from the ballot!" shouted someone on the tube;
But the rules said all votes counted no matter who the rube.

With a sneer of haughty arrogance great Barry's visage shone;
He dismissed the accusations and bade the vote go on;
He signaled to the writers, and once more the count began;
But second, third and fourth place votes were rare as curried ham.

"Fraud!" cried the maddened hundreds, and echo answered fraud;
But one scornful look from Barry and the writers were all awed.
They saw his face grow stern and cold, they saw his muscles flex,
And they knew that Barry thought he’d win despite his juiced-up pecs.

The sneer is gone from Barry's lip, his teeth are clenched in jest;
He pounds with cruel violence upon his pumped up chest.
And now the writers hold the ballot, and now they cast their vote,
And now the air is shattered by the scream from Barry’s throat.

Oh, somewhere in this sporting land these drugs are still in use;
The EPO is welcome and enforcement rules are loose.
And somewhere steroids are on sale and doping is the call;
But justice reins in baseball for Barry missed the Hall.