This is terrible, but I follow politics in part because I love watching ridiculous people do and say stupid things. The amount of joy I take in this is not healthy or productive–my time could be better used trying to get these fools out of office, but I’ve always had a soft spot for messy people.

However, this was the week I noticed that the messy people are getting louder and crazier, and it’s kind of starting to depress me. The stupidity is getting more creative and downright ironic at times. Here are some examples.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro granted himself emergency powers to deal with an emergency of his own creation

Aspiring dictators, take note: All one has to do is muck things up so badly in one’s country that it devolves into a chaotic cesspool of looting, inflation, and crime. Then you can yell “EMERGENCY” and people will give you even more power to fix it! That’s a nifty trick. Granted, Maduro can’t be blamed for everything that’s wrong with Venezeula…but he sure has tried his darndest to make everything that much worse. If Santa Claus gets confused and doesn’t show up on real Christmas, hopefully Maduro can turn himself into Emergency Santa Claus.

Chris Toman, through Macleans.ca

Rob Ford mocked a Councillor in a city hall session for drinking and driving

Yeah….picture it: Valentine’s Day night, Miami, 1999. A youngish, wasted Canadian throws his hands up in the air and proclaims, “go ahead, take me to jail!” to a puzzled Miami cop. I think we know who that Canadian was.

US senators worry that the temporary deal with Iran to stop nuclear activities will become permanent

Speaking about this temporary deal, Sen. Bill Cardin (D-Md.) vowed that “we will not stand by and let this be the final deal.” Um I think that’s why it’s called a temporary deal. Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) predicted that “you’re going to see on Capitol Hill again a bipartisan effort to try to make sure this is not the final agreement.” Yup. I’m pretty sure everyone’s on board with that, actually.

John Kerry clarified the situation, observing that “nothing is agreed on until everything is agreed on.” Ah. Actually I’ll give him that one–he’s just spent the past week in nuclear negotiations.

Liz Cheney reminds us all of the distinction between political beliefs and real life

When Liz Cheney characterized the issue of gay marriage as “just an area where we disagree” (referring to her sister and her sister’s same-sex partner), she ignited an awesome public feud in which her sister told Cheney she was on the wrong side of history.

While Cheney is entitled to her own beliefs, it’s pretty cold of her to want to deny her own sister the right to marry, and thus many Republicans find her stance suspect and hypocritical. Cheney’s response? “I love my sister and her family and have always tried to be compassionate towards them. I believe that is the Christian way to behave.” That statement makes me imagine she’s bringing them casseroles every few days with a note that says, “sorry you’re gay.” Perhaps her sister should send her a casserole with note that says, “sorry you’re stupid.”

Sarah Palin compares debt to slavery, moving an MSNBC host to suggest she put feces in her mouth

Palin espoused a commonly-held view among the craziest of the Republicans that the federal debt was akin to slavery–but assured everyone that she wasn’t being racist. Nope, just really stupid! She also warned against the “seduction” of “free stuff.” It’s health care, and it’s not free, but those are just irrelevant details.

Martin Bashir recognized Palin’s uncanny wisdom by suggesting she would be a prime candidate for a punishment used on slaves involving putting fecal matter into their mouths. Bashir later apologized for getting a little too real, and for giving our future Chinese masters torture ideas.

How do I make them like me?

John Kerry tries to befriend Egypt using the tactics of a 13-year-old girl

I love this guy, but sometimes he makes me cringe. This week he observed that Egypt’s 2011 revolution was “stolen by the one single most organised entity in the state, which was the Brotherhood.” It wasn’t so much that this statement was untrue, but more that it was an obvious ploy to appease Egypt’s current administration.

Kerry is bold in asserting that many, if not all, of the Arab Spring revolutions have been hijacked by religious groups, and I doubt he was ever fond of the Muslim Brotherhood. I just sometimes wish that the US would acknowledge these things in a timely manner, rather than when it suits them. Remember that at the time of the coup, Obama was “deeply concerned.”

trudeau attack pamphlets

Conservatives try to take my job of making fun of people

Don’t mess with me, guys, or I’ll take you down or whatever.

Let’s hope this coming week brings less stupidity and more intelligence on the part of our politicians. Except for Mayor Ford, that is. Because I love him forever.

So I am reluctant to add to the attention on Toronto’s..um…situation, but Rob Ford made a fascinating comment yesterday that put a lot of things into perspective for me. Check out this succinct summary from The Telegraph of just a fraction of the shit that went down at city hall yesterday:

“This, folks, reminds me of when, when I was watching with my brother, when Saddam attacked Kuwait,” Mr Ford said, sparking astonished laughter. “And President [George HW] Bush said, ‘I warn you, I warn you, I warn you, do not.’”

“You guys have just attacked Kuwait,” he warned, promising to do “everything in my power” to defeat the councilors who voted against him and promising “outright war in the next election”.

His brother denounced the council session as a “kangaroo court” and a “coup d’etat”.

WHAT WHAT WHAT? This is so fantastically out of control–both the Fords seem to have abandoned any hope of saving their careers and are now clearly trying to draw as much attention to themselves as possible.

While I’m grateful to them for giving me some much-needed laughs, the comparisons to Kuwait are shockingly offensive to the many who lost loved ones or their lives in the invasion. Maybe the Fords aren’t aware that there’s a world out there, and most of it is even shittier than Etobicoke.

And let’s take a critical look at this. Here is the Fords’ arch-nemesis, Coun. Adam Vaughan:

ANDREW FRANCIS WALLACE / TORONTO STAR

Here is Saddam Hussein, apparently sitting in someone’s basement after a rough night:

image: The Telegraph

Ok so that’s not his finest hour, but I think we can all agree he’s one scary motherfucker. The Fords have somehow made the logical leap that Vaughan deserves to be compared to Hussein. One is responsible for millions of deaths and the arbitrary invasion of a nation. The other supports bike lanes, more stringent gun laws, and (admittedly) has actually been accused of waging a war–on nightclubs. In fact, Vaughan unfairly blamed College Street pub Crown and Tiger for a shooting that occurred in 2012, much like Hussein blamed Kuwait for declining oil prices in 1990. Ah. that one was a thinker–I see the connection now. Thank you, Ford brothers!

And that’s not the only parallel that Rob Ford’s situation shares with the Gulf War. Much like the Iraq-Kuwait conflict, the chaos at city hall can be in part attributed to a nasty border dispute. In the case of the Gulf War, Hussein justified the invasion on the grounds that Kuwait historically belonged to Iraq, so he was just taking it back. The fact that Kuwait is an oil-rich territory had absolutely no bearing on his decision whatsoever.

Toronto’s situation is a little different. Etobicoke is not an oil-rich territory. It is a land full of rich, conservative people (and not the classy, Conrad Black/finance kind of conservative) and terrifying crack dealers. Much to the downtown liberals’ dismay, Etobicoke joined Toronto in the Great Amalgamation of 1998. The historic event was, ironically enough, an effort to save money by joining six municipalities into one MEGA-SUPER-INSANELY-POWERFUL TURBOMUNICIPALITY.

The festering resentment Torontonians have felt ever since then accounts for the uncommon bitterness with which they have treated Ford. Until he gave them a whole lot of other reasons, of course. But whether in the Middle East or in Eastern Canada, border disputes can escalate quickly when underlying tensions are brought to head.

It is often stated that Hussein invaded Kuwait as a convenient way of paying his debts from Iraq’s conflict with Iran. Here we see another parallel with Toronto’s current situation: tax-and-spend liberals are obviously attacking Ford so they can get more money for financing bike lanes and nightclub raids. Maybe they’re run up some debts they don’t want the public to know about; maybe they’ve spent just a little too much on swimming pools or whatever money-burning scheme they are funding this week. The tax-and-spenders are fed up with Ford’s tough attitude towards budgeting and want him gone so they can make Toronto into one giant bike lane. Which is, like, totally the same thing as funding a war with Iran.

All I can say to Mayor Ford is, THANK YOU FOR DRAWING OUR ATTENTION TO THIS EGREGIOUS VIOLATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS. He has allowed us all to see the many parallels between the Gulf War and the scandal that has resulted from his crack-smoking. It’s totally the same thing. In fact, I’m going to call up the UN immediately and propose a resolution. Adam Vaughan will be captured two decades later looking decidedly less clean-shaven after having spent years hiding out in Scarborough, and justice will at last be restored to Toronto.

Inspired by a post in The Economist‘s Johnson blog entitled “Portuguese for the perplexed,” which was in turn inspired by a 2011 post in the same blog to help foreigners understand British English, I have decided to put together a short guide to Canadian English. Because underneath our polite demeanor, we’re actually sort of mean.

What Canadians say: Hi! How are you?
What foreigners hear: I want to know how you are doing.
What Canadians mean: Hi! Please do not tell me anything about your life unless you want this conversation to end swiftly–that was only meant as a polite and insincere greeting.

What Canadians say: Sorry! (After you’ve bumped into them.)
What foreigners hear: I apologize for getting in your way.
What Canadians mean: I’m sorry that you’re too stupid to look where you’re going.

What Canadians say: Absolutely!
What foreigners hear: Yes! Most definitely!
What Canadians mean: No, not a chance, never in a million years!

What Canadians say: What makes you say that?
What foreigners hear: What is your motivation for making that statement? Please explain yourself so I can see it from your point of view.
What Canadians mean: You are completely wrong and nothing you say next will change my mind.

What Canadians say: You’re hilarious!
What foreigners hear: You are very humorous.
What Canadians mean: I fear for my safety when you are near.

What Canadians say: It’s not a big deal/don’t worry about it.
What foreigners hear: It’s not that important, it won’t be a problem.
What Canadians mean: It is a big deal and I’m pissed.

What Canadians say: That’s really interesting.
What foreigners hear: I am fascinated by what you’ve told me.
What Canadians mean: That’s weird/stupid/annoying/messed up/boring/insert any adjective with a negative connotation here.

What Canadians say: He had one too many.
What foreigners hear: He drank a little bit too much.
What Canadians mean: He had to go to the hospital to get his stomach pumped.

What Canadians say: That’s understandable; not everyone follows hockey.
What foreigners hear: To each his own; we can totally be friends even if you do not like hockey.
What Canadians mean: Get away from me immediately, you piece of human garbage.

What Canadians say: Yup.
What foreigners hear: You have made a statement with which I agree.
What Canadians mean: No shit, dummy. (You have made a painfully obvious statement or you have said something I wish weren’t true.)

What Canadians say: I’ll call you.
What foreigners hear: I will make an effort to speak with you on the phone soon.
What Canadians mean: I probably won’t talk to you ever again. In Canada phones have not been used for speaking with others since 2005.

What Canadians say: I feel like there’s something you’re not telling me.
What foreigners hear: I am gently asking you if perhaps there is something you’ve left out to spare my feelings.
What Canadians mean: You are a liar. (You’ve really made him/her angry–it doesn’t get more confrontational than this for most Canadians!)

What Canadians say: I’m disappointed that…, It’s disappointing that…
What foreigners hear: I have been let down in some way.
What Canadians mean: I’m mad as hell that…(You better hope the disappointment was not caused by you. If it was, the Canadian will assure you it’s not a big deal then promise to call you. You’ve just lost the politest friend you could ever hope to have.)

What Canadians say: No worries, no problem (usually after they have done some favor for you).
What foreigners hear: I was happy to do it.
What Canadians mean: It was a huge inconvenience and I won’t be doing you a favor again after the scant gratitude you’ve shown.

What Canadians say: It’s so cold out today!
What foreigners hear: The weather is very cold.
What Canadians mean: I am attempting to engage in a cultural bonding ritual with you. If you do not agree wholeheartedly and enthusiastically with my statement about the weather, I will feel betrayed and disengage myself from this social situation. (At this juncture it is usually a good idea to mention something about how the wind or humidity makes the cold even worse. Don’t screw this up–a bungled weather conversation is a hard thing from which to recover. The Canadian will love you forever if you casually mention that you’ve been to Siberia and it was like Hawaii compared to Canada.)

Canadians are simple creatures–we bond over weather, and hide our rage behind a thin veneer of politeness. It may not be healthy, but it’s very civil and quiet. In fact, the loudest thing in Canada is probably Don Cherry’s suit.

Spain has officially left the EU bailout fund this week, and we are getting reports that it is officially “out of recession.” So what does a country “out of recession” look like?

image: Associated Press

Hm. Maybe by “out of recession,” people mean that Spain has doled out so much recession in the past few years that it has no more to give. It’s fresh out of recession and has now replaced it with garbage. I don’t care what the official parameters defining a recession are–strikes by students and garbage collectors, an unemployment rate of over 26%, and a GDP growth rate of -1.4% last year don’t seem like evidence of Spain’s emergence from recession.

In fact, Spain’s youth unemployment rate reached an abysmal landmark in late August when it hit 56.1%. So if anyone is curious why Spaniards aren’t busting out the rioja to celebrate the end of their recession, this could have something to do with it. There have been mentions of disincentives to work, but Spain has been busy for the past two years dismantling its welfare state, and the recent protests are a reaction to this. People also have to realize that Spain is the proud inventor of “machismo,” a charming little spin on patriarchy. I cannot imagine that Spanish men are happy about not being able to fulfill their traditional role as providers for their families. It’s hard to fathom that a country that holds the matador up as an example for men would be very accepting of the dude who sits on the couch watching Betty la fea and drinking…whatever it is that Spaniards drink. Rioja?

Foto: EL PERIÓDICO.

The high expectations placed on men as fearless providers is partly responsible for the awful way unemployment is affecting Spanish society. The current generation of young people is now called the “lost generation,” and there has been a rise in cases of “youth machismo,” young Spanish men’s reaction to feeling professionally impotent.

The New York Times had a great piece on Spain yesterday that draws attention to the way youth unemployment is pulling at the fabric of Spanish society. The quote that really got to me was one from a young, educated girl who had to leave Spain to work in a stockroom in the Netherlands:

“Leaving your country should be a decision, not an obligation.”

Does this sound like someone who is taking advantage of disincentives? The next person to say that word to me is getting smacked. That article is full of highly educated youth searching frantically for a job, even if it’s as a clerk in a grocery store. This clearly illustrates that the issue is not that no one is trying to find a job–the issue is that there are no jobs.

I am extremely confused. Who decided that Spain was out of recession? A recession is defined as “a period of temporary economic decline during which trade and industrial activity are reduced, generally identified by a fall in GDP in two successive quarters.” Spain’s GDP has been falling for eleventy-million consecutive quarters (also known as since the beginning of 2012).

As this chart illustrates, Spain’s GDP had taken such a beating since 2008 that a recovery will take many years. But since its GDP is projected to increase by 0.1% in Q4, it is apparently out of recession now? Tell that to the PhD-holding Spaniard wading through trash to get to her job interview for a temporary position at the grocery store.

image: Ernest Doroszuk/Toronto Sun/QMI Agency

If you live in–or within a one million mile radius of–Toronto, chances are you have been inundated with a steady stream of stories on Rob Ford that range from stupid to insane to deeply disturbing. I think we’ve all been through a lot in the past few weeks; I have seen Torontonians go from jaded and narcissistic to a new, scary level of jaded and narcissistic. Statistics show that there has been an increase in visits to the emergency room due to eyes getting stuck from excessive eye-rolling. I made that up actually, but nothing surprises me anymore. (Rolls eyes.)

Yes–this scandal is disturbing and obviously the media needs to report on it. This is an important part of holding politicians accountable. However, I find the amount of coverage excessive, aggressive, and predatory at times, though with every new revelation I find it harder and harder to stand by my previous pleas for privacy for Ford. It’s really hard to be concerned about someone who seems hellbent on fucking himself over as badly as possible.

However, I will continue to wish that the media would stop making this situation the central theme of all news everywhere. Rob Ford is the third-billed story on the Huffington Post‘s WORLD NEWS SECTION. The Toronto Star should rename itself the Rob Ford Star, because it’s barely about Toronto anymore. Enough! This story warrants one page of coverage, not five. No one needs to know the details of Ford’s oral sex habits. For the love of God, NO. What did outlets report on before all of this went down? I feel like it was something about world events and shit that happens in Canada too? And stuff about Miley Cyrus maybe?

Here’s what you missed because of reporters’ and the general public’s obsession with Rob Ford:

image: AFP Photo/Karlos Manlupig

Crazy shit happened in the Philippines.

Let’s all get our heads out of our asses and cast an eye over to the Philippines, which has just been ravaged by a horrific typhoon. The current death toll is 2,357, though some estimates place it at a staggering 10,000. This story is below the aforementioned Rob Ford story on HuffPost‘s world news page. Because that’s old news. Far more relevant is what world leaders are saying about Rob Ford’s fellatio comments. Blarg.

Iran allegedly stopped trying to build a bomb

This should be big news, but no one seems to care all that much. We have heard about this ongoing saga for years, and now its denouement is just quietly going to go unreported. While it is overly optimistic to assume that this is a permanent state of affairs, it at least merits some coverage!

Obama is also inching toward a deal with Iran to permanently stop its nuclear program. But wait–Rob Ford asked a woman out on the subway? HOLY SHIT!

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Harper is using the Ford scandal as an invisibility cloak…

…and when people snap out of their Ford-sensationalism-induced state of hypnosis, they’re gonna be pissed! Yesterday Wikileaks released excerpts from Harper’s proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership; apparently the thing will erode civil liberties. (I disagree, but many would not.) He also blamed everyone but himself in the Senate scandal. The three senators who improperly claimed expenses were suspended without pay. No one noticed. The Supreme Court is set to make a ruling any day on the possibility of Senate reform. No one cares. That’s not even a cool scandal anymore–where are the crack and prostitutes?!

And nary a whisper was heard when it emerged that the government spent $106m last year on litigation costs battling those silly aboriginals who seem to think they have a right to decide what to do with their own land. The courts agreed with them, hence the high legal fees. The media would have had a field day with this one in the pre-Ford (PF) era.

Also, Harper just released a book on hockey that got favorable reviews from frenemy papers the Toronto Star and Globe and Mail. Because after all that Ford-bashing, reporters who would ordinarily lambast the book as blatant political posturing just didn’t have it in them. What has the world come to?

image: EPA

Russia is quietly taking over the world

You know something, fools? When we lose interest in speculating who would play Rob Ford or Karen Stintz in the movie version of Crackgate (a good example of why I call Torontonians narcissistic), we are going to log off Twitter, step out the door, and find that Russia now owns the GTA. When asked how this could have happened, Ford will apologize and say he must have signed something weird in one of his drunken stupors.

But seriously–Russia’s foreign policy is getting more aggressive by the day. Today Russian officials are being received in Egypt. But maybe it’s just a casual thing…

I’m obviously not in favor of the US erecting puppet regimes all over the Mid-East, but this seems pretty undesirable too. Even worse, if the US elects a more hawkish president in 2016 (likely), we might see the re-emergence of the proxy conflicts that characterized the US’s relations with the USSR during the Cold War. We are already seeing echos of this in Syria, where Assad is being propped up by Iran and Russia, and where the US presumably wishes Assad were…just somewhere else.

I won’t delve too deeply into all of this right now, but my point is: PAY ATTENTION EVERYONE. THE WORLD DOES NOT REVOLVE AROUND TORONTO AND ITS STUPID CRACK SCANDALS.

image: Rex Features/ZUMA

Other people said stupid shit too

One of my favorite parts of following the news is the stupid shit that politicians say and do. But due to the apparent monopoly on idiocy that Ford now has, barely anyone batted an eye this week when Sarah Palin went on a psychotic rant about Obamacare and how the Pope is too liberal. Here she fleshes out her vision of the alternative to Obamacare:

“The plan is to allow those things that had been proposed over many years to reform a health care system in America that certainly does need more help so that there’s more competition, there’s less tort reform threat, there’s less trajectory of the cost increases? And those plans have been proposed over and over again. And what thwarts those plans? It’s the far left. It’s President Obama and his supporters who will not allow the Republicans to usher in free market, patient-centered, doctor-patient relationship links to reform health care!”

That doesn’t mean anything! And it’s amazing.

Kosovo is having an election this week

There are worries of Serbian violence in the Nor–why do I even bother? Is anyone even still reading?

Go stare at your own navel, Toronto–see if I care. I’m gonna get me a drink and try not to end up at the same party as Rob Ford.

John Gielgud

He wouldn’t look so tortured if Wikileaks had existed

Shakespeare’s Hamlet is a classic tale of deception vs. truth. The title character spends the entire play attempting to ascertain if his uncle did indeed kill his father, who appeared to Hamlet in the form of a ghost to relay this information. Hamlet does a lot of badass stuff in his quest for the truth, including feigning madness and committing the first recorded act of identity theft, then relating all he was doing to his trusted pal Horatio.

Admittedly, the story of Hamlet is fantastic, but conceivable in its time. But what would it look like if it happened today? Let’s assume that ghosts are real: so Hamlet’s dad appears to him and says, “yo Ham! Your uncle put poison in my ear. He’s an asshole!” Hamlet might exhume the body to look for residual poison (as was recently done with the remains of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat). He also might go through his uncle’s iPhone and email (Hamlet seems like a hacker type) instead of staging some stupid play to determine his uncle’s guilt. But actually Hamlet probably wouldn’t even have to do any of this because, as a head of state, his uncle Claudius already has an army of Julian Assanges and Edward Snowdens waiting patiently in the wings for the slightest miscalculation. The murder would have been in The Guardian before Hamlet’s dad even had the chance to appear. So a ghost deficit is one unfortunate byproduct of our modern society.

Sorry Casper.

But even if the play were allowed to progress as it originally did, and no matter how trusty Hamlet’s confidante Horatio is, another party would still have complete knowledge of Hamlet’s antics: Facebook. This will come as a surprise to no one, but Facebook got a little too real for me this week when it apparently seemed to know things about my innermost dialogues that I most certainly did not put in my newsfeed. It took things out of private messages I wrote and made freakily accurate assumptions about my deepest, darkest secrets. Which are shockingly stupid, but still.

If Hamlet’s meandering soliloquies were instead immortalized on Facebook–which is itself a modern-day monologue of sorts–it would be a lot harder for him to keep a lid on his “clever” plans; even if he put them all in private messages or on his ultra-verbose WordPress blog, there they would be for the enterprising hacker to find. And sell to the Toronto Star. (I couldn’t resist!)

And if Facebook knows about Hamlet’s plans, then it goes without saying that the NSA knows too. And hackers in China. And on and on.

Even the super-secretive Stephen Harper is having trouble keeping a lid on things lately. Part of his proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership was published today by Wikileaks along with a warning that the agreement would threaten civil liberties in the 12 signatory countries. The document was classified, and agreements were being held behind an inky cloak of secrecy.

Another obvious example of failures in secret-keeping are the ongoing revelations by Edward Snowden that most countries in the world are spying on most other countries in the world. They are also spying on their own citizens. Also pretty much every high-ranking government official has access to Angela Merkel’s mobile phone records. Because she sends some effing hilarious cat GIFs. LOLZ.

Lose no more

On a personal level too, secret-keeping is getting harder. Take the characters on Gossip Girl, an asinine American series that has been off the air for a year now. A typical storyline consisted of the characters engaging in some downright Shakespearean schemes, usually in order to take down another character for deep-seated and deeply stupid reasons. The scheme would inevitably backfire when someone’s phone was stolen, or a sexy/incriminating video/picture was uncovered and either revealed or used to blackmail the schemer in question. If this failed to happen, Gossip Girl was always there to reveal everyone’s secrets in her poorly written blog.

While it’s true that the strategic concealment and subsequent revelation of information has always been a central component of dramatic tension (and life), the delay time between these two events is shrinking dramatically. Hamlet can run as long as five hours, while a typical episode of Gossip Girl will irrevocably rob you of about 45 minutes of your life. I am guessing that its present-day equivalent would be a lot shorter.

Take our beleaguered Mayor Rob Ford’s case for instance. It took me about two minutes to learn that he had confessed to smoking crack, and the better part of the saga leading up to his revelation happened through technology: the camera on a drug dealer’s phone, the Gawker online news outlet that broke the story, and endless comments from the Twitterati. Crazy news travels fast, and now even  nations like Saudi Arabia are having trouble keeping deeply ingrained repression a secret in a world teeming with uncontainable methods of information transmission.

It all comes down to gossip. People love to do it, and if there’s a way to do it quicker, then they will find it. And as our access to information becomes more and more communal and uniform, we come that much closer to sharing one single Cloud-mind in which there are no secrets–like a real-life Borg species. In a way, we are all Gossip Girl now. From a literary standpoint we are lucky that Hamlet did not have Facebook or Wikileaks and instead had to rely on evocative rhetoric and ingenuity in his quest for the truth–both seem to be in short supply these days.

Is resistance futile?

Full disclosure: I have seen every episode of Gossip Girl. Twice.

I know I harp on this man like erryday, but seriously. It’s way too easy. At this point I think he’s doing it just to get my attention. Message received Maduro–let’s do this up again. Sigh.

Last week Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro made headlines when he issued an ill-advised statement saying that Christmas was in fact coming to Venezuela early. November 1st is that date he gave. Doesn’t he know how Western that is of him? The day after Halloween, every Wal-Mart in North America is bustling with Christmas shoppers and the songs of Burl Ives on the loudspeakers. The rescheduling of Christmas in Venezuela curiously coincides with elections that will be held on December 8th. Or one week after rescheduled Christmas bonus cheques are to be issued. Maduro’s reasoning for the surprise move is that “we want happiness for all people.” Oooooh I get it now. Wait–no I don’t! What a goddamn jackass.

Another dramatic development in As Maduro’s World Turns has been the war that social media company Twitter has waged against him. In what he terms a “massive attack,” Twitter personally removed 6,600 of Maduro’s followers. Hm…or is it more likely the result of a technical glitch? Or those pesky power outages? Or an overactive imagination? In any event, Maduro has a plan to “liberate” Venezuela from Twitter’s tyranny. He will unite with Mercosur and a handful of other organizations of allies in Latin America to…I don’t know what they will do, but it will be fearsome! These are trade organizations, by the way. It’s the equivalent of Stephen Harper saying he will unite with NAFTA to fight the evil company called Facebook for blocking his friend requests. Because Xi Jinping like totally didn’t get Harper’s request, or he would have totally like accepted it.

Does Maduro really have nothing better to worry about than Twitter followers? Of course he does, but diverting attention away from actual issues is what this guy does best. Though to be fair the bar wasn’t set too high.

There are no words, friend.

Here’s a fun thing that happened this past weekend: Maduro and the Venezuelan National Guard “occupied” an electronics chain, arresting its managers and forcing it to sell products at affordable prices. What? This was actually a measure to combat inflation. Now it makes sense, right? NO!! NO!! NO!! He promised to take similar measure against businesses all across the country, proudly proclaiming that “This robbery of the people has to stop. You’ve not seen anything.” He also announced that communications experts were combing the internet to block any sites containing the black-market price of the dollar.

This is utter lunacy. It shows a complete lack of understanding of even the most basic economic principles. Though more likely, Mr Maduro just doesn’t care, because following economic principles is so bourgeois. And yes, I get it–nations shouldn’t have to follow a system with which they do not agree. But too bad–we do not live in a world where fairies and unicorns roam the emerald hilltops. We live in a world where sometimes, houses fall into sinkholes without warning. So deal with it because you have not the wit nor grit to change the world (nor to stay on a bicycle, for that matter).

Hyperinflation cannot be eradicated by cracking down on vendors who are only trying to break even. It is only combated by sound fiscal and monetary management, which is nowhere to be found in Venezuela. The dollar is expensive on the black market because Venezuelans have lost faith in the government’s ability to keep its shit together. In fact, the only things keeping the country together are trade surpluses from oil exports and currency devaluations–surprise! Another cause of inflation. The National Guard should arrest Maduro’s government, if his line of thinking is to be followed. But it’s not a line of thinking so much as a downward spiral…

But where is Chav-bird in all of this? In case anyone missed it, Chav-bird is my special name for the birdlike form in which Hugo Chavez appears to crazy-pants Maduro. Chav-bird only seems to emerge at moments in which Maduro badly needs a political victory. But it seems Chavez chose a different form this time. He allegedly appeared to a group of workers excavating a Caracas subway tunnel–his face was on the wall. Nah, I’m  bored of this. Moving on…

It’s a wonder that in the business-friendly atmosphere Maduro has created, the shortages of staple items are continuing unabated. The most recent and embarrassing of these was the toilet paper crisis that ravaged the country in late September. A toilet paper factory was seized amid concerns that the country would actually run out. I guess my usual advice to Maduro to get his shit together has taken on a whole new meaning. This is not something that happens in a well-run nation, and Venezuelans deserve better. Their leader must learn that fiery rhetoric and bizarre spectacles can only go so far in distracting citizens and the rest of the world from the damaging poverty and crime that is running rampant in Venezuela. If Capriles was planning on retiring, he should not do it now–his people need an agitator now more than ever. And not the kind of that goes on illogical diatribes against social media sites, but rather the kind that knows his economic ass from elbow.

Even just this much common sense would help.

Maduro has been coasting towards a power grab as well, kinda sorta suggesting that Venezuela should declare a state of emergency so he can do what’s necessary to get the country back on track. I don’t even want to know what he thinks that would entail, and I have a feeling Venezuelans aren’t keen to find out either. I joke a lot about the things Maduro says and does, but when military crackdowns start becoming commonplace, it stops being so funny. Basta ya, Maduro.