Revelations From Bob Woodward’s Donald Trump Book (Part Six)

41. Despite publicly predicting a future victory in Afghanistan, the Trump Administration’s private position is that it’s a lost cause.

From Chapter 31:

A “60-page strategy memo” was put together by the Defense Department in mid-August 2017.

“Buried in the 19-page section on integrated strategy was an admission:  ‘Stalemate likely to persist in Afghanistan’ and ‘Taliban likely to continue to gain ground.’

In the tradition of concealing the real story in a memo, ‘Win is unattainable’ was the conclusion signed by [National Security Advisor H.R.] McMaster.”

Then-CIA-chief Mike Pompeo:

“Are you going to take responsibility for Afghanistan?  Because we’re not going to win.  You understand we’re not going to win!”

From Chapter 27:

“‘Mr. President,’ [General] Dunford [Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman] said, very polite, very soft-spoken, ‘there’s not a mandate to win…’ Under Obama, who had pulled out most of the troops–down to 8,400, from a high of 100,000—the strategy was effectively to achieve a stalemate.”

42. The Secretary of State let slip the reality of Afghanistan during a press briefing.

From Chapter 31:

“…Tillerson found another way to declare that a win was not attainable.  He addressed the Taliban at a press briefing:  ‘You will not win a battlefield victory.  We may not win one, but neither will you.’

Stalemate.”

43. Trump didn’t believe the American car industry was doing well or that the US government won most of its trade disputes with the WTO even though Gary Cohn had data evidence.

From Chapter 33:

“Cohn assembled the best statistics that could be compiled.  Trump would not read, so Cohn brought charts to the Oval Office.  The numbers showed that the American auto industry was fine.  One big chart showed Detroit’s Big Three were producing 3.6 million fewer cars and light trucks since 1994, but the rest of the U.S., mostly in the Southeast, was up the same 3.6 millon.

The entire BMW 3 series in the world were made in South Carolina, Cohn said.  The Mercedes SUVs were all made in the United States.  The millions of auto jobs lost in Detroit had moved to South Carolina and North Carolina because of right-to-work laws.”

[snip]

“Cohn had put another document, ‘U.S. Record in WTO Disputes,’ in the daily book that [Staff Secretary Rob] Porter compiled for the president at night.”

Trump “rarely if ever cracked it open.”  He claimed, “The World Trade Organization is the worst organization every created!…We lose more cases than anything.”

According to the aforementioned daily book, “The document showed that the United States won 85.7 percent of its WTO cases, more than average.”

Trump’s response:  “This is bullshit…This is wrong.”

Cohen’s rebuttal:  “This is the factual data.  There’s no one that’s going to disagree with this data.  Data is data.”

44. Lindsey Graham wanted China to assassinate Kim Jong Un.

From Chapter 34:

“Graham made a dramatic proposal to [Chief of Staff John] Kelly and McMaster. ‘China needs to kill him and replace him with a North Korean general they control,’…China had at least enough control so the North would not attack.  ‘I think the Chinese are clearly the key here and they need to take him out.  Not us, them.  And control the nuclear inventory there.  And wind this thing down.  Or control him.”

45. Chief of Staff John Kelly threatened to quit on at least two occasions.

The first involved an argument with ICE union leader Chris Crane.   According to Woodward, they “had an intense dislike for each other” because Kelly “blocked ICE agents from a hard-line crackdown on some immigration violations.”

Trump was livid that Kelly, who developed a controversial internal reputation for keeping certain officials away from the President, would not let Crane visit him in the Oval Office.  Trump watched Crane complain about this on Fox News.

That led to a confrontation after Trump invited Crane over “without informing Kelly.”

“Kelly heard Crane was in the Oval Office and strode in.  Soon Crane and Kelly were cursing each other.

‘I can’t believe you’d let some fucking guy like this into the Oval Office,’ Kelly told Trump.  If this was the way it was going to work, he said, ‘then I quit!’  And he stormed out.

Trump later told others that he thought Kelly and Crane were going to get into a fistfight.”

When Kelly “urged the president to select Kirstjen Nielsen” to be the next Homeland Security Secretary, Trump complained, “She’s a Bushie.  Everybody hates her.”  As Kelly’s defense of her went nowhere, Trump threatened to cancel her nomination.  (She was eventually confirmed.)

“Kelly threw up his hands.  ‘Maybe I’m just going to have to resign.’  And he stormed out.”

The hotheaded Kelly remains Chief of Staff as of this writing.

46. Trump proposed a more honest name for his awful tax bill.

According to Woodward, he wanted to “[c]all it the ‘Cut, Cut, Cut Bill’.”  Congressional Republicans went with “The Tax Cut And Jobs Act”.  But curiously, in the end, “it was finalized as ‘An Act to Provide for Reconciliation Pursuant to Titles II and V of the Concurrent Resolution on the Budget for Fiscal Year 2018.'”

Yeah, that’s much better.

47. Bannon understood Trump’s enormous vulnerability as a philandering, rapey misogynist.

From Chapter 36:

“The #TimesUp And #MeToo movements of women and feminists would create an alternative to end the male-dominated patriarchy, Bannon believed.

‘Trump is the perfect foil…He’s the bad father, the terrible first husband, the boyfriend that fucked you over and wasted all those years, and [you] gave up your youth for, and then dumped you.  And the terrible boss that grabbed you by the pussy all the time and demeaned you.”

48. Afghanistan may reach the point of no return sometime early next year.

From Chapter 38:

“The DNI intelligence expert briefed Trump on Afghanistan in early 2018:  No gains by the U.S. in territory.  Nothing clawed back.  No improvement from last year; actually, some areas were getting worse.”

[snip]

“The coalition probably only had until the spring of 2019 to keep the status quo [a stalemate with The Taliban].  The political fabric seemed to be coming apart.  A perfect storm was coming, and a practical problem like weather might be the tipping point…A drought was coming, and with it a crisis of food insecurity…Some two million [Afghani refugees] had lived in Pakistan in decades [after their families fled during the 1979 Soviet invasion], never in their native Afghanistan, but they would be coming.”

49. Despite his constant, incessant ass-kissing, Trump’s new golf buddy Lindsey Graham wasn’t loyal enough in the eyes of the President.

At the end of 2017, the shameless South Carolina Senator played a round of golf with Trump at his International Golf Club in Florida.

After calling Trump’s course “spectacular” and telling Trump, “You’re a very good commander in chief,” Graham continued to brown nose:

“You’re cleaning up the mess that Obama left you.  You’re doing a damn good job of cleaning it up.  You’re rebuilding the military.  You’re taking a wet blanket off the economy.  You’re really unshackling the military and the economy.  God bless you for undoing the damage done in the last eight years.”

But Trump wanted more loyalty:

“You’re a middle-of-the-road guy.  I want you to be 100 percent for Trump.”

“‘Okay, what’s the issue?’ Graham asked, ‘and I’ll tell you whether I’m 100 percent for you or not.'”

“You’re like 82 percent…”

“Well, some days I’m 100 percent.  Some days I may be zero.”

That wasn’t good enough:

“I want you to be a 100 percent guy.”

50. John Dowd quit representing Trump because he knows he’ll be a terrible witness for Mueller.  Once he resigned, Trump informed the press.

After realizing during a test run, a preview of a potential Q&A with Robert Mueller, that Trump would be an awful advocate for himself in the Russia investigation (he blew up, continually insisting he was innocent and the victim of a “hoax”), attorney John Dowd pleaded with his client to remain silent:

“Mr. President, that’s why you can’t testify…When you’re a fact witness, you try to provide facts.  If you don’t know the facts, I’d just prefer you to say, Bob [Mueller], I just don’t remember.  I got too much going on here.  Instead of sort of guessing and making all kinds of wild conclusions.”

In the final chapter of Fear: Trump In The White House, Dowd reached his breaking point:

“I’m not happy, Mr. President.  This is a goddamn heartbreak…I’ve failed as your lawyer.  I’ve been unable to persuade you to take my advice…I wish I could persuade you…Don’t testify.  It’s either that or an orange jump suit.  If it’s decision time, you’re going to go forward, I can’t be with you.”

As soon as Dowd resigned in a morning phone call, the attorney presumed Trump immediately called the press.  Because “[t]wo minutes later”, he got calls from the Washington Post and The New York Times asking for comment.

As Woodward notes, “Trump always liked to be the first to deliver the news.”

51. Another Trump attorney Ty Cobb could be called as a witness, if he hasn’t already.

Dowd deeply regretted pushing Trump to hire the mustachioed attorney who went out on TV insisting that the President “was not afraid to testify.”

“‘He should have declined.  He’s a government employee.  And by the way, they can call him as a witness.  He has no [attorney/client] privilege with you.’

‘Jesus,’ Trump said, sounding worried.  ‘I’ve talked a lot with him.”

52. Dowd doesn’t think Trump will be impeached.

From Chapter 42:

“They’re not going to impeach you.  Are you shitting me?  They’re a bunch of cowards, the whole town. The media, the Congress.  They’re gutless.  What’s the impeachment going to be, for exercising Article II [of the US Constitution]?  Huh?  Hello?  Hello, I want to hear Speaker Ryan take that one up before the Rules Committee and the Judiciary Committee…We ought to tell them to go fuck themselves.

According to Woodward, “Dowd remained convinced that Mueller never had a Russian case or an obstruction case.  He was looking for the perjury trap.”  Which is why Dowd was insistent that Trump not submit to questioning.

53. The newest member of the Supreme Court recommended another abusive misogynist to work in the White House.

In the footnotes for Chapter 17, Woodward reveals that one of the many people who recommended Staff Secretary Rob Porter, who eventually resigned after revelations that he abused women he was romantically involved with, was none other than Brett Kavanaugh, who has faced his own accusations of harassment and assault.

54. A letter sent to Robert Mueller claimed Trump could fire him.  It also claimed he could free his criminalized staffers nabbed by the investigation.

Shortly before he quit, Trump attorney John Dowd convinced Special Counsel Robert Mueller to send him a list of topics he was pursuing to give The President’s legal team a head’s up.  If Trump had to answer any questions at all, Dowd preferred it be done on paper, not in person.

“The subject read ‘Request for Testimony on Alleged Obstruction of Justice.’

A raw assertion of presidential power was printed in boldface:  ‘He could, if he wished, terminate the inquiry, or even exercise his power to pardon if he so desired.'”

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, October 7, 2018
8:37 p.m.

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Revelations From Bob Woodward’s Donald Trump Book (Part Five)

25. Steve Bannon got into a screaming match with Ivanka Trump about her role in the White House.

From Chapter 18:

“During a meeting in Priebus’s corner office Bannon and Ivanka got into an altercation.”

“‘You’re a goddamn staffer!’ Bannon finally screamed at Ivanka.  ‘You’re nothing but a fucking staffer!’…’You walk around this place and act like you’re in charge, and you’re not.  You’re on staff!’

‘I’m not a staffer!’ she shouted. ‘I’ll never be a staffer.  I’m the first daughter’–she really used the title–‘and I’m never going to be a staffer!'”

26. Bannon and Jared Kushner both believed they leaked negative stories about each other to the press.

Meanwhile, the exasperated white supremacist accused Ivanka’s husband of telling the UK paper the Daily Mail, anonymously of course, “about Trump blowing up at him and Priebus and blocking them from traveling on Air Force One to Florida.  It wasn’t true they had been kicked off the trip.  Both declined to travel that day.  ‘You fucking set me up,’…You trashed Reince in this story.  And I know you did it.’

Kushner vehemently denied it, and seemed offended at the accusation.”

In turn, Ivanka’s husband accused Bannon of being the source for a 2016 New York Times story about Kushner’s “December 2016 meeting with the Russian ambassador, adding fuel to the allegations that the Trump campaign had colluded with Russia.”

Curiously, Woodward doesn’t mention a denial on Bannon’s part.

27. Maybe it was Trump’s Commerce Secretary who wrote that anonymous “I’m Part Of The Resistance” NYT op-ed.

From Chapter 19:

“Several days later Wilbur Ross laid out the reasoning on the importance of trade deficits.  Echoing the president, Ross said trade deficits are the lodestar and were a mark of our economic instability and weakness.”

28. Trump showed his appreciation for Ross, who saved his ass nearly 30 years ago, by tearing into him over a new trade deal with China.

“In the spring of 2017, Ross negotiated a deal with China for the U.S. to import Chinese chicken and export beef.  He called it ‘a herculean accomplishment.’  But there was some criticism of the deal.”

“In a meeting at the White House, the president tore into Ross. ‘I can’t believe you made this deal.  Why didn’t you tell anybody?  You didn’t tell me about this.  You just went off and did it on your own.  And it’s a terrible deal.  We got screwed.  Wilbur, maybe you used to have it.’  As an investment banker representing casino bondholders angry at Trump in 1990, Ross had struck a deal with Trump that acknowledged the value of his famous name and allowed him to avoid bankruptcy.”

“‘I thought you were a killer…When you were on Wall Street, you made some of these deals.  But you’re past your prime.  You’re not a good negotiator anymore.  I don’t know what it is, but you’ve lost it.  I don’t trust you.  I don’t want you doing any more negotiations.'”

29. Steve Bannon warned Trump that firing Comey was a mistake and would not end the Russia investigation.

According to Woodward at the start of Chapter 20, Trump wanted then-FBI Director James Comey fired “at the beginning of” his first term.  As he planned to finally terminate him in May 2017, his soon-to-exit advisor Steve Bannon issued this prescient warning about such a move.

“The moment you fire him he’s J. fucking Edgar Hoover.  The day you fire him, he’s the greatest martyr in American history.  A weapon to come and get you.  They’re going to name a special fucking counsel.  You can fire Comey.  You can’t fire the FBI.  The minute you fire him, the FBI as an institution, they have to destroy you and they will destroy you.”

Despite being told that “a special counsel” has “sweeping powers…to investigate everything a president touched,” Trump had already made up his mind:

“Don’t try to talk me out of it…because I’ve made my decision, so don’t even try.”

30. Rod Rosenstein wasn’t a Comey fan, either.

“Rosenstein told Trump that he thought Comey should be fired.  He had no problem writing a memo outlining his reasoning.”  It was a 3-page document entitled “RESTORING PUBLIC CONFIDENCE IN THE FBI.”

Rosenstein opposed the way Comey handled the Hillary Clinton private server investigation.  In the memo, “He quoted five former attorneys general or deputy attorneys general agreeing that Comey had violated the rules,” announcing his own conclusions about the case “pre-empting the decision of the prosecutor”.

Trump now had the cover to do what he had already planned to do anyway before Rosenstein even walked into the Oval Office.

31. Bannon thought Trump fired Comey because he was concerned about his son-in-law.

“Bannon believed, ‘100 percent,’ that the reason for firing Comey was because the FBI was seeking financial records from Jared.  It was pure speculation.  Ivanka had complained to her father about the FBI.”

32. Trump lawyer John Dowd had previously investigated Pete Rose and defended John McCain.

“In the 1980s, he was special counsel to the commissioner of baseball.  He ran several investigations, the most prominent leading to the banning of Pete Rose of the Cincinnati Reds for betting on baseball games.  After that, as a defense attorney, Dowd represented Wall Street and political figures, including Senator John McCain in the Keating Five ethics investigation.”

33. Trump told an unnamed friend his personal philosophy on responding to accusations of philandering, harassment and assault.

From Chapter 21:

“Trump gave some private advice to a friend who had acknowledged some bad behaviour toward women.  Real power is fear.  It’s all about strength.  Never show weakness.  You’ve always got to be strong.  Don’t be bullied.  There is no choice.

‘You’ve got to deny, deny, deny and push back on these women…If you admit to anything and any culpability, then you’re dead.  That was a big mistake you made.  You didn’t come out guns blazing and just challenge them.  You showed weakness.  You’ve got to be strong.  You’ve got to be aggressive.  You’ve got to push back hard.  You’re got to deny anything that’s said about you.  Never admit.”

34. Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner played a major role in Steve Bannon’s departure.

From Chapter 23:

“Ivanka and Jared gave a newspaper story to the president with highlighted quotes from an unnamed White House source.  You know who this is?  This is Steve Bannon, they said.  In a West Wing filled with leakers, these tactics slowly but surely planted a distrust of Bannon with the president.”

35. Trump attorney John Dowd pretty much gave Special Counsel Robert Mueller anything he wanted with no objection from the President:

From Chapter 24:

“Mueller received 1.4 million pages of documents from the Trump campaign and 20,000 pages from the White House.  Dowd believed no documents had been destroyed.  In all, 37 witnesses gave interviews to Mueller’s team voluntarily.”

There was also a “six-page White House summary of the entire Flynn matter from contemporaneous recollections.  Dowd considered it the Bible on Flynn…”

36. The 2017 federal budget would not pass unless Trump instituted anti-trans military policies.

“In July, the Freedom Caucus, a bloc of 30 strong conservatives in the House, threatened not to vote for the budget unless President Trump instituted some prohibition on paying for gender reassignment surgeries and hormone treatments for transgender people serving in the military.”

37. Trump made a private transphobic remark.

“During the campaign, Trump had proclaimed himself a supporter of LGBT rights.  Now he told Bannon, ‘What the fuck?  They’re coming in here, they’re getting clipped’–a crude reference to gender reassignment surgery.”

38. Trump studied his own tweets to determine which ones were the most popular.

From Chapter 25:

“He ordered printouts of his recent tweets that had received a high number of likes, 200,000 or more.  He studied them to find the common themes in the most successful.  He seemed to want to become more strategic, find out whether success was tied to the subject, the language or simply the surprise that the president was weighing in.  The most effective tweets were often the most shocking.”

39. Trump is a deep thinker.

“Coming back from the [2017] G20 summit, Trump was editing an upcoming speech with Porter.  Scribbling his thoughts in neat, clean penmanship, the president wrote, “TRADE IS BAD.”

40. Why economic advisor Gary Cohn initially tried to quit before being convinced to stay on until a terrible tax bill was passed.

From Chapter 30:

“On Friday, August 18, [2017,] Gary Cohn flew by helicopter from East Hampton, Long Island, to Morristown, New Jersey, where it was raining heavily.  He had to wait on the tarmac to get clearance to Bedminster.  He was carrying a resignation letter.  This was too much.  Someone had put a swastika on his daughter’s college dorm room.”

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, October 7, 2018
8:01 p.m.

Published in: on October 7, 2018 at 8:02 pm  Leave a Comment  

Revelations From Bob Woodward’s Donald Trump Book (Part Four)

20. Barack Obama seriously contemplated bombing North Korea’s nukes and missiles.

Near the end of his Presidency, Barack Obama wondered whether a “surgical strike” against North Korea’s nuclear capabilities would be successful.  (There were no legal considerations, apparently.)  In September 2016, the Kim Jong Un regime resumed underground testing of its nuclear weapons.  Endlessly worried about the resumption of the still active Korean War (and with good reason), the North Korean leader wasn’t taking any chances even if his threats of striking America (if they attack his country first) with long range supposedly nuke-tipped ICBMs is highly unlikely.  (They would definitely reach the South and Japan, if they struck first, however.)

Obama was hoping to make his successor’s life a lot easier by finally dealing with this issue.

“From the outset President Obama had authorized several Special Access Programs (SAP), the most classified and compartmented operations conducted by the military and intelligence, to deter North Korean missiles.  One program pinpointed cyber attacks on the command, control, telemetry, and guidance systems before or during a North Korean missile test launch.  These high-risk cyber attacks had begun in his first year as president.  Their success rate was mixed.

Another highly secret operation focused on obtaining North Korean missiles.  And a third enabled the United States to detect a North Korean missile launch in seven seconds.  Officials have asked that I not describe the details in order to protect national security operations deemed vital to the United States.”

Obama asked his National Security Council if bombing North Korea’s nukes and missiles was doable.  In short, no.  It wasn’t clear if their ICBM’s were even nuclear.  (“Current intelligence assessments could not answer definitively.”)

“The intelligence assessment also showed that a U.S. attack could not wipe out everything the North had.  There would be lost targets because they did not know about them, and partial destruction of other targets.”  What about the deleterious effect on North Korean civilians?  That curiously goes unmentioned.

There were numerous other problems with the unwarranted attack.  But this was the biggest one:

“A single North Korean nuclear weapon detonated in response could mean tens of thousands of casualties in South Korea.”

The Pentagon noted the obvious.  There would have to be “a ground invasion” on top of the bombing which of course would justify North Korea retaliating “likely with a nuclear weapon”.

“Frustrated and exasperated, he rejected a preemptive strike.  It was folly.”

Too bad Obama didn’t feel the same way about drones.

21. James Clapper warned Obama that North Korea would not go for denuclearization and they want a peace treaty with South Korea.

The then-Director of National Intelligence made a trip to North Korea in late 2014 “to retrieve two U.S. citizens who had been taken prisoner.  From his discussions with North Korean officials he was convinced that North Korea would not give up their nuclear weapons.  Why would they?  In exchange for what?  North Korea had effectively bought a deterrent.  It was real and powerful in its ambiguity.”

Clapper “argued to Obama and the NSC that for the United States to say that denuclearization was a condition for negotiations was not working, and would not work.”

“Also, Clapper said, he understood the North Korean desire for a peace treaty to end the Korean War, which had been formally resolved with an armistice in 1953–a truce between the commanders of the militaries involved, not the nations at war.

The United States needed to understand how North Korea looked at the situation:  The U.S. and South Korea seemed permanently poised, dramatically at times, to attack and to do away with the Kim regime.”

Clapper noted that the North Koreans told him that America “has no permanent enemies” which gave him hope that it would be possible “to set up an interest section in Pyongyang” in order to establish “an informal” diplomatic “channel in which another government with an embassy in the North Korean capital would act as intermediary.”  There “would be less than full diplomatic relations, but it would give the U.S. a base, a place…they could obtain information and also get information into North Korea.”

Clapper’s view was a lonely one on the National Security Council:

“No one agreed.  Obama was hard-line:  North Korea would have to agree to give up its nuclear weapons,” a policy that has been stubbornly maintained by the Trump Administration.

22. Obama also thought about increasing cyber attacks against North Korea.

“Some” in the Obama Administration “viewed cyber [attacks] as the below-the-radar magic wand that might mitigate the North Korean threat.”

But there were two major problems, besides the clearly illegal and unwarranted plan of attack itself.

One:

“To launch broader cyber attacks effectively, the [NSA] would have to go through servers that North Korea had in China.  The Chinese would detect such an attack and could conclude it was directed at them, potentially unleashing a cataclysmic cyber war.”

Two:

“The use of cyber could trigger escalation and set off a round of attacks and counterattacks that could cripple the Internet, financial systems like banking and credit cards, power grids, news and other communications systems, potentially bringing the American or even the world economy to its knees.”

The foolish plan was thankfully abandoned.

23. Lindsey Graham urged Trump to bomb North Korea even if it meant killing a whole lot of South Korean civilians.  He also mended fences with John McCain during a private dinner.

Despite being humiliated by Trump during the 2016 primaries, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham was urged by then-Chief of Staff Reince Priebus to forge a relationship with the new President.  (“You’re a lot of fun.  He needs fun people around him.”)

They ultimately bonded over North Korea, one of Graham’s pet issues.  At the same time, Trump was trying to make peace with another infamous warmonger John McCain who he derided for being captured in Vietnam (instead of committing war crimes by bombing civilians before that happened).

He invited McCain and his wife Cindy to a private dinner at The White House where he offered a “teared up” Cindy a job being “my ambassador at large for human trafficking”.

Trump than proceeded to kiss up to John who was “visibly touched” by the offer to his wife:

“I just want to get to know you…I admire you.  You’re a very tough man.  You’re a good man.”

“McCain again seemed touched…’We want to help you.'”

That led to a discussion with Graham about North Korea.  When Trump asked McCain’s opinion on what to do, he replied:

“Very complicated…They can kill a million people in Seoul [South Korea] with conventional artillery.  That’s what makes it so hard.”

To which Graham responded:

“If a million people are going to die, they’re going to die over there, not here.”

Even Trump was taken aback:

“That’s pretty cold.”

24. America is deliberating fighting a stalemate in Afghanistan to avoid conceding the rest of the country back to The Taliban.

Throughout Fear: Trump In The White House, the Republican President expresses outrage over the disastrous Afghanistan invasion.  (“We’ve got to figure out how to get the fuck out of there.”)  Launched a month after 9/11 with significant public support, the unpopular occupation has since faded into the background.  Almost 20 years old now, it is America’s longest ever war with no end in sight.

In Chapter 15, Woodward lays out the big problems with the current strategy.  The Taliban remain resilient and continue to rule over “significant” parts of the country.  The thoroughly corrupt puppet regime has no legitimacy.  The opium trade and illegal mining make up much of the otherwise struggling economy.  Having a permanent US military presence won’t solve anything.  There are numerous tribes at war with each other.

“A larger question loomed:  Should the United States be playing to win in Afghanistan, or merely not to lose?”

Despite protests from the soon to be departing Steve Bannon, Trump reluctantly agreed with a request to add more troops (just a few thousand) even though everybody in the government, including Attorney General Jeff Sessions, sees the occupation as a failure that needs to draw to a close.

Everybody except the perennially war hungry Lindsey Graham who tried to scaremonger Trump into keeping the ongoing quagmire going:

“Do you want on your resume that you allowed Afghanistan to go back into the darkness and the second 9/11 came from the very same place the first 9/11 did?”  15 of the 9/11 attackers were Saudi Arabian but I digress.

When Trump asked Graham, “Well…how does it end?”

“‘It never ends,’ Graham said. ‘It’s good versus evil.  Good versus evil never ends.  It’s just like the Nazis.  It’s now radical Islam.  It will be something else one day.'”

When Pence urged Graham to tell Trump “how this ends,” Graham would not budge.

“It would never end, Graham repeated.”

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, October 7, 2018
3:23 a.m.

Published in: on October 7, 2018 at 3:23 am  Leave a Comment  

Revelations From Bob Woodward’s Donald Trump Book (Part Three)

12. Trump thought preparing for a transition would jinx him.

“Money questions ignited Trump.  When he learned that [Chris] Christie, who would be the head of his transition team, was raising money for the operation, he summoned him and Bannon to Trump Tower.”

A paranoid Trump believed he was being robbed.  (“I’m putting money in my campaign, and you’re fucking stealing from me.”)  Christie tried to reassure him that he wasn’t a thief, he was preparing “for the required transition organization in case Trump won,” even though the then-New Jersey Governor thought he had already blown the election.

“Trump said that Mitt Romney had spent too much time on transition meetings as the nominee in 2012, and not enough time on campaign events.  ‘That’s why he lost.  You’re jinxing me,’ he told Christie.  ‘I don’t want a transition.  I’m shutting down the transition…You’re jinxing me.  I’m not going to spend a second on it.”

When Bannon tried to back up Christie who he otherwise despised, Trump was inflexible:

“It’s jinxing me…I can’t have one.”

A compromise would eventually be reached.

“Trump agreed, finally and reluctantly, to a slimmed-down, skeletal version of the transition.  Christie would cease fundraising.

‘He can have his transition,’ Trump said, ‘but I don’t want anything to do with it.'”

13. During a corporate speech, Bob Woodward learned firsthand about the hidden Trump voter.

“Two weeks before the election, October 25, 2016, I was in Fort Worth, Texas, giving a speech to about 400 executives from a firm called KEY2ACT that provides construction and field service management software.  My topic was ‘The Age of the American Presidency.  What Will 2016 Bring?’  The group was mostly white and was from all over the country.

I asked for a show of hands.  How many expected to vote for Hillary?  As best as I could tell there were only about 10.  How many expected to vote for Trump?  Half the room raised their hands–approximately 200.  Wow, I thought, that seemed like a lot of Trump voters.”

Woodward had “no explanation” and neither did the “flabbergasted” CEO of KEY2ACT.

14. The real, petty reason Trump hired those Russian sex workers to piss on his hotel bed.

One of Trump’s biggest ongoing pet peeves is the Steele Dossier, the secretly compiled document that isn’t entirely corroborated and yet still managed to leak into the media.  Originally funded by Democrats but later financially supported by Republicans, British spy Christopher Steele was hired to compile potentially embarrassing information that the Russians, who preferred Trump over Clinton, had supposedly acquired of their favoured candidate.

The most infamous story involved Trump hiring a couple of local sex workers in Russia to urinate on his hotel room bed during a trip in 2013 and that it was surreptitiously captured on tape by the Russians.  When the story came out, comedians had a field day.  Trump denied it ever happened, saying he’s a well-known germophobe.

But in Chapter Eight of Fear:  Trump In The White House, there was a very specific reason why this all happened:

“On the second page it said:  ‘According to Source D, where s/he had been present, TRUMP’s (perverted conduct in Moscow included hiring the presidential suite of the Ritz Carlton Hotel, where he knew President and Mrs OBAMA (whom he hated) had stayed on one of their official trips to Russia, and defiling the bed where they had slept by employing a number of prostitutes to perform a ‘golden showers’ (urination) show in front of him.  The hotel was known to be under FSB control with microphones and concealed cameras in all the main rooms to record anything they wanted to.”

15. Hope Hicks’ description of the press sounds more like President Trump.

During the campaign, Trump had hired Hope Hicks to do PR for him.  During the transition, he hired her to run the communications department which would allow her to avoid directly dealing with the media, her preference.

According to Woodward, Hicks “felt that he had lost some of his leverage with the media by being overexposed during the campaign.”

“Hicks was convinced the media had ‘oppositional defiance syndrome’, which is a term from clinical psychology most often applied to rebellious children.  ‘Oppositional defiance syndrome” is characterized by excessive anger against authority, vindictiveness and temper tantrums.  As far as she was concerned, that described the press.”

She was really describing Trump.

16. Trump worried that the pee tape story would piss off Melania and admitted to one of his lawyers he was a philanderer.

The 45th US President has a long history of womanizing which already cost him two marriages.  Clearly worried about losing a third, especially after his famous private encounter with then-FBI Director James Comey who he later fired:

“Trump later told his attorney that he felt shaken down by Comey with the presentation about the alleged prostitutes in Moscow.  ‘I’ve got enough problems with Melania and girlfriends and all that.  I don’t need any more.  I can’t have Melania hearing about that.”

17. Trump’s Secretary of Defense James Mattis is an Islamophobe.

In Chapter Ten, Woodward recounts a classified meeting on February 25, 2017 regarding the military’s battle plan against ISIS, a plan that essentially remained Obama’s “but with bombing and other authorities granted to the local commanders.”  Conducted by Defense Secretary James “Mad Dog” Mattis, at some point there was a discussion about Iran:

“Mattis was worried about Iranian expansion,” a recurring paranoid unfounded obsession with the Trump Administration.  “At one point he later referred to ‘those idiot raghead mullahs.'”

18. FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe told Priebus a New York Times story was “bullshit” and “grossly overstated”.  But he refused to say so publicly.

On Valentine’s Day 2017, The New York Times published this story about Trump campaign officials contacting the Russians the year before the 2016 campaign.

The FBI’s deputy director Andrew McCabe called Trump’s then-Chief of Staff Reince Priebus to insist the reporting was wrong:

“‘It’s total bullshit,’ McCabe said. ‘It’s not true, and we want you to know that.  It’s grossly overstated.'”

Woodward doesn’t report any actual inaccuracies, if there were in fact any to be found.

When Priebus pleaded with the FBI’s number two to publicly discredit the story:

“‘Call me in a couple of hours,’ McCabe said.  ‘I will ask around and I’ll let you know.  I’ll see what I can do.'”

After waiting impatiently for two hours, the freaked out Chief of Staff called him again.

“‘I’m sorry, I can’t…There’s nothing I can do about it.  I tried, but if we start issuing comments on individual stories, we’ll be doing statements every three days.’  The FBI could not become a clearinghouse for the accuracy of news stories.  If the FBI tried to debunk certain stories, a failure to comment could be seen as a confirmation.”

McCabe asked for more time (“Give me a couple more hours.”).

“Nothing happened.  No call from the FBI.  Priebus tried to explain to Trump, who was waiting for a recanting.  It was another reason for Trump to distrust and hate the FBI…”

CNN reported this inside wrangling a week later.  (“Priebus was cast as trying to manipulate the FBI for political purposes.”)

“The White House tried and failed to correct the story and show that McCabe had initiated the matter.”

Again, it’s not made clear what was supposedly erroneous about the NYT story.

During his sworn testimony on June 8 that same year, in a moment of bitter irony, the now fired Comey finally did what McCabe wouldn’t do.  He asserted that the Times’ story “in the main was not true.”

19. Steve Bannon prepped soon-to-be National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster on how to deal with Trump during his job interview which didn’t go well.

“Don’t lecture Trump.  He doesn’t like professors.  He doesn’t like intellectuals.”  McMaster wrote a critical book about the botched Vietnam War.  “Trump was a guy who ‘never went to class.  Never got the syllabus.  Never took a note.  Never went to a lecture.  The night before the final, he comes in at midnight from the fraternity house, puts on a pot of coffee, takes your notes, memorizes as much as he can, walks in at 8 in the morning and gets a C.  And that’s good enough…Show up in your uniform.’

McMaster wore a suit.”

The planned two-hour interview was much shorter.  According to Bannon, “McMaster ran his fucking mouth for all of 20 minutes giving his theories of the world.”

Trump said, “He’s dressed like a beer salesman.”  He still gave McMaster the job.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, October 7, 2018
12:50 a.m.

Published in: on October 7, 2018 at 12:50 am  Leave a Comment  

Revelations From Bob Woodward’s Donald Trump Book (Part Two)

8. Kellyanne Conway attended the Democratic National Convention and knew the Clinton campaign was in trouble.

Trump replaced the doomed Paul Manafort with longtime Republican operative Kellyanne Conway.  In July 2016, she attended the DNC event to see what the Democrats were offering their supporters.  According to Woodward, she came away unimpressed:

“Their message is Donald Trump is bad, and we’re not Donald Trump.  The rest of the message was race, gender, LGBT…She doesn’t seem to have a message.  Now if I’m her, I’m going to find a message.  I’m going to buy a message.  And it’s going to be very positive and uplifting and optimistic.  All I can see from her so far is not optimism.”

An odd assertion to make when Clinton was foolishly arguing that “America was already great” (one of the many dumb things she said during the campaign) and when Trump’s own address during the GOP convention was so relentlessly dark and negative.  (“The American Dream is dead.”)

At any event, Conway would go on to talk about “the hidden Trump voter” which was met with much cynical snickering from the media.  Undeterred, Trump’s new campaign manager observed, “There’s not a single hidden Hillary voter in the entire country.  They’re all out and about.”

Besides her message, Clinton had another big problem.  With regards to pre-election polling, she “had not cracked 50 percent in eight key states that Obama won twice with over 50 percent” in the 2008 election.  The Trump camp, led by Conway and Bannon, realized that as long as they focused on Clinton’s weaknesses, “they would win with those hidden Trump voters.  If the race stayed about Trump, ‘we’ll probably lose.'”

9. After the release of the infamous Access Hollywood tape, the RNC threatened to pull their funding and demanded Trump drop out of the race. They wanted Mike Pence paired with Condoleezza Rice instead.

Every Presidential candidate fears The October Surprise.  And sure enough, Donald Trump got a doozy in 2016.

On October 7th, an unreleased clip from a 2005 Access Hollywood shoot was released.  Trump was bantering with host Billy Bush on an AH bus headed to the set of Days Of Our Lives.  There was lots of talk about women and how Trump can’t resist them.  Then, the moment of infamy:

“…Trump [was] bragging crudely about his sexual prowess.  He said he could grope and kiss women at will.  ‘When you’re a star, they let you do it,’ Trump said.  ‘You can do anything.  Grab them by the pussy.'”

The very next morning, according to Woodward, there was an emergency meeting in Trump’s Trump Tower penthouse:

“Priebus told Bannon, ‘The donors are all out.  Everybody’s dropped.  Paul Ryan’s going to drop this afternoon.’  The loss of the money people and the Republican house speaker signaled the end.  ‘It’s over,’ Priebus said.

“Everybody’s pulling their endorsements.  I don’t even know if Pence is going to be on this thing.’  The fastidiously loyal Mike Pence, Trump’s running mate, was doubting.”

After Trump arrived, Priebus read Trump the riot act:

“You have two choices…You either drop out right now or you’re going to lose in the biggest landslide in American history and be humiliated for life.”

Priebus revealed that “every leader, every congressman, every senator” even members of the RNC were “telling me you’re either going to lose big, in a massive way, or you need to drop out of the race.  I can’t make it any better.”

To salvage what he believed was a sinking ship, Priebus proposed an alternative ticket:

“Pence is prepared to step up, and Condi Rice will come in as his VP.”

Bannon protested.  “That’s never going to happen…That’s ridiculous.  Fucking absurd.”

As Woodward notes of Bannon’s efforts, “In less than two months as campaign CEO they had cut the polling gap in half with endless rallies.”  Dropping out now would’ve been the real disaster.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie appealed to Trump’s business sense:

“This is not about the campaign…That’s over. This is about your brand.”

Regarding Donald Trump Jr. and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, “You need to save the brand for them or the brand’s finished.”

Rudy Guiliani claimed Trump “had less than a 50 percent chance of winning. ‘Basically you’ve got 40 percent.'”

Once again, only Steve Bannon was convinced Trump wasn’t going to lose.

“‘One hundred percent, metaphysical certitude you’re going to win’…Your supporters will still be with you. ‘They are worried about saving their country.'”

But Priebus was insistent:

“You guys don’t know what you’re doing.  You’re going to go down.”

According to Woodward, “Prominent Republicans began to call for Trump to step aside for Mike Pence” who had “gone to ground when the news broke about the Access Hollywood tape.”  After putting out a statement condemning Trump’s remarks (“I do not condone his remarks and cannot defend them.”):

“Stories circulated that Pence had given Bannon a sealed letter urging Trump to drop off the ticket.”

When the meeting adjourned, Christie started scolding Bannon in private:

“You’re the fucking problem…You’ve been the problem since the beginning…You’re the enabler.  You play to every one of his worst instincts.  This thing’s over and you’re going to be blamed.  Every time he’s got terrible instincts for these things, and all you do is get him all worked up.  This is going to be humiliating.”

“Christie was in Bannon’s face, looming large.  Bannon half-wanted to say, You fat fuck, let’s throw down right here.”

No fists were thrown.  With a trip to the second Presidential debate looming in Missouri the next day, Bannon simply gave the then-New Jersey Governor an ultimatum:

“Governor…the plane leaves tomorrow…If you’re on the plane, you’re on the team.”

Christie was a no-show.

“‘Fuck this guy,’ Bannon said, and the plane took off.”

In the end, Trump refused to quit and proved Bannon right.

10. Trump almost did an ABC interview to do damage control after Melania dismissed the idea of appearing on 60 Minutes with him and Ivanka.

While everybody but Bannon was urging Trump to quit in that emergency Trump Tower meeting, there was also a spontaneous plan to save face.  Kellyanne Conway suggested a joint appearance with daughter Ivanka and wife Melania on the long running CBS News program 60 Minutes which was immediately dismissed by Melania.  (“Not doing that…No, no, no.  No way.”) After Bannon’s proposal to do an impromptu rally with supporters to cut a harsh promo on the media was rejected despite Trump’s enthusiasm for the idea, Conway had another proposal:

“Conway would call ABC and arrange for David Muir, the ABC anchor, to helicopter in.  Guiliani and Christie would write an introduction for Trump and Muir could do a 10-minue interview.

Political suicide, thought Bannon.  This would make the campaign over for sure, and Trump would lose by 20 points.”

When Trump was handed his prepared remarks, he balked:

“‘I can’t do this,’ he said.  ‘This is bullshit.  This is weak.  You guys are weak.'”

A quick revision was made.  It made no difference:

“I’m not doing this.”

Ultimately, Trump ended up not doing the interview.  Instead, the GOP candidate went downstairs and outside Trump Tower to greet a “roaring crowd of Trump supporters in the street”.  When a reporter asked if he was going to continue campaigning, he replied:

“One hundred percent.”

11. Despite being the only campaign official to defend him on all the Sunday political talk shows, Rudy Guiliani was brutally admonished by Trump in front of colleagues for doing a terrible job.

“Everyone on the Trump campaign refused to appear on the Sunday morning talk shows except Rudy Guiliani.  Priebus, Christie, even the reliable, thick-armored, never-say-no Conway had scheduled.  All cancelled.”

“Guiliani gave, or tried to give, the same spiel on each show:  Trump’s words had been ‘reprehensible and terrible and awful,’ and he had apologized.” Trump was “changed” because of his “transformational” campaign.  Let’s talk about Hillary Clinton’s problems instead, her no longer suppressed Goldman Sachs speeches, her “private coziness with Wall Street that clashed with her liberal public positions.”

Surely by accident because he didn’t think Trump would win, Guiliani nonetheless astutely predicted, “The country would view that much more harshly.”

When he arrived on the campaign plane “seeming punch-drunk” because of the exhausting TV apology tour he just completed, Trump wasn’t pleased:

“‘Rudy, you’re a baby!’  Trump said loudly.  ‘I’ve never seen a worse defense of me in my life.  They took your diaper off right there.  You’re like a little baby that needed to be changed.  When are you going to be a man?'”

“He can’t defend me.  I need somebody to defend me.  Where are my people?”

“It was a mistake.  He shouldn’t have gone on.  He’s weak.  You’re weak, Rudy.  You’ve lost it.”

According to Woodward, “Guiliani just looked up, his face blank.”

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, October 6, 2018
10:52 p.m.

Published in: on October 6, 2018 at 10:52 pm  Leave a Comment  

Revelations From Bob Woodward’s Donald Trump Book (Part One)

Last month, legendary Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward released his latest insider account of a sitting US President.  Fear: Trump In The White House tells the story of how the fraudulent New York hustler conned the electorate into voting him into the White House.

Those expecting a brilliant account of Trump’s long journey to his highest level of incompetence will be sadly disappointed.  The book feels premature (Trump’s not even halfway through his first term), it leaves out a lot of potentially interesting details (there’s next to nothing about Trump’s embattled communications team or the child separation border policy among other inexcusable omissions) and too much of it is the overly dry “he said this, he said that” pro-imperialist insider access accounting that is often taken as Gospel instead of being routinely scrutinized for the self-serving bullshit it is.

Regardless, there are still some revealing passages worth highlighting:

1. Donald Trump doesn’t think The New York Times is “fake news”.

In Chapter Two, Bob Woodward recounts an encounter in August 2016 between the GOP Presidential candidate and his then-campaign manager Paul Manafort at the Trump National Golf Club. Trump was pissed about this New York Times article which noted the failed collective effort to keep the orange one’s worst public impulses in check:

“Citing the New York Times story about the failure to tame his tongue, Trump asked Manafort how such an article could appear.  It was one of Trump’s paradoxes:  He attacked the mainstream media with relish, especially the Times–but despite the full-takedown language, he considered the Times the paper of record and largely believed its stories.”

When Steve Bannon attempted to discredit the report (“the story had a lot of these unnamed sources, we don’t know the veracity.”), Trump was adamant:

“No, I can tell…They’re leakers.”

As Woodword notes, “He knew the quotes were true.”  And so did Bannon despite his repeated attempts to calm Trump down:

“Bannon continued his full-body, opposition party pitch, though he knew the story was true.”

“Trump wasn’t buying it.  The story was gospel, and the campaign was full of leakers.”

2. Like the left, Steve Bannon knew two of Hillary Clinton’s biggest vulnerabilities: wars and free trade.

In that same meeting, a frustrated Trump, who was on the verge of firing Manafort (“He’s not really running the campaign.  I only brought him in to get me through the convention.”), listened intently to Bannon’s thematic pitch for his struggling campaign:

“Number one…we’re going to stop mass illegal immigration and start to limit legal immigration to get our sovereignty back.  Number two, you are going to bring manufacturing jobs back to the country.  And number three, we’re going to get out of these pointless foreign wars.”

Bannon argued persuasively that the Democratic Presidential nominee was extremely vulnerable on two of these issues (“…she’s part of the thing that cut the bad trade deals…and she’s the neocon….She’s supported every war out there.”).

Indeed, Clinton was a major champion of her husband’s soon-to-be-defunct NAFTA deal and the abandoned TPP which were both vehemently opposed by labour and leftists including her primary opponent Bernie Sanders.  And one of the reasons she didn’t get the Democratic nomination in 2008 was because she voted for the doomed Iraq invasion, a position that cost her big time in five crucial battleground states where numerous anti-war military families live.  She also supported the war against The Taliban in Afghanistan and was one of the chief architects of the Libya debacle.

3. Bannon urged Trump to continue being as off-the-cuff as possible to distinguish himself from Clinton.

At the end of his August 2016 pitch at the Trump National Golf Club, the then-Breitbart head made one last suggestion to the future President:

“Bannon added that Trump had another advantage.  He spoke in a voice that did not sound political. This was what Barack Obama had in 2008 in the primary contest against Clinton, who spoke like the trained politician she was.  Her tempo was overly practiced.  Even when telling the truth, she sounded like she was lying to you.

Politicians like Hillary can’t talk naturally, Bannon said.  It was a mechanical way of speaking, right out of the polling and focus groups, answering the questions in political speak.  It was soothing, not jarring, not from the heart or from deep conviction, but from some highly paid consultant’s talking points–not angry.”

Trump immediately hired Bannon to help run his campaign.

4. Paul Manafort showed Bannon an advanced copy of a New York Times article that marked the beginning of his downfall.

In Chapter Three, shortly after the meeting at the golf club, Trump’s then-campaign manager invited his new advisor to visit him in his Trump Tower apartment:

“‘I need you to look at something for me,’ Manafort said, handing him a copy of a draft story coming in from The New York Times headlined:  ‘Secret Ledger in Ukraine Lists Cash for Donald Trump’s Campaign Chief.’

Bannon read, ‘Handwritten ledgers show $12.7 million in undisclosed cash payments designated for Mr. Manafort’ from the pro-Russian political party.”

A startled Bannon wondered if Trump knew this was coming (“Manafort said no.”) and asked how long Manafort himself was aware of the Times’ investigation (“Two months…”).

“Bannon read about 10 paragraphs in.  It was a kill shot.  It was over for Manafort.

‘My lawyer told me not to cooperate,’ Manafort said.  ‘It was just a hit piece.'”

Manafort protested his innocence (“It’s all lies…I had expenses.”) but Bannon wasn’t buying it and knew that Trump would flip his lid once he read the story.  Despite being advised by Bannon to warn the Republican candidate of his coming shitstorm, Manafort never told Trump about what he was up to in Ukraine.  He was later convicted on multiple felonies.

5. Anthony Scaramucci was right about Bannon.

From Chapter Three:

“As Bannon later remarked with his trademark profanity, ‘I reached out and sucked Reince Preibus’ dick on August 15 and told the establishment, we can’t win without you.'”

6. Trump wouldn’t have won without the RNC’s Obama-inspired big data operation.

Also from Chapter Three:

“Priebus had spent the last years overseeing a massive effort to rebuild the RNC into a data-driven operation.  Borrowing from Obama’s winning campaign strategy, the RNC started pouring vast sums–eventually more than $175 million–into analytics and big data, tracking individual primary voters, and using that information in areas divided into neighbourhood ‘turfs’ staffed with armies of volunteers.

All along, the expectation had been that once the Republican nominee was selected, the RNC would hitch this massive shiny new wagon to an already fairly robust and large campaign apparatus.”

Despite candidate Trump’s constant bashing of the RNC during the primaries (“a ‘disgrace'”, “a scam”, “Priebus ‘should be ashamed of himself'”), “the RNC was effectively the Trump campaign staff.”

From there, the RNC targeted the most likely Republican voters.  Top of the list were those who “scored a 90 or above on a scale of 0 to 100 in the national database.”

“In Ohio,” one of the important battleground states, “out of perhaps 6 million voters, approximately 1 million would score 90 or above.  Those 1 million would be targeted for early voting ballots, and the field staff and volunteers would hound each one until the ballot was sent in.”

“Next, the field staff would move to persuade those who scored 60 or 70, trying to convince them to vote for Trump.  The system was designed to reduce the randomness of voter contact, to make sure the volunteers and field staff concentrated their efforts on those most likely to vote for Trump.”

How specific were the details on individual Republican voters in the RNC database?  It gave the GOP “insight into almost everything about every likely voter–what beer they drank, the make and color of the car they drove, the age and school of their kids, their mortgage status, the cigarettes they smoked.  Did they get a hunting license every year?  Did they subscribe to gun magazines, or liberal magazines like The New Republic.”

7. Bannon was the only Trump campaign member that believed he would win.

Throughout Fear: Trump In The White House, Steve Bannon is stubbornly steadfast in his staunch support for the GOP nominee, despite everybody else in the campaign openly espousing significant doubts especially after receiving bad press.  In Chapter Three, after reviewing their campaign strategy:

“Bannon assured Trump, I have ‘metaphysical certitude you will win here if you stick to this script and compare and contrast’ with Hillary Clinton. ‘Every underlying number is with us.'”

“Bannon said he had seen data suggesting that Ohio and Iowa could be winnable.  Also they had to win Florida and North Carolina.  Then Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota could come back to the Republicans.  It all seemed like a giant fantasy.”

For the most part, he was proven right on election day.  Trump carried every one of those states except for Minnesota.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, October 6, 2018
10:33 p.m.

Published in: on October 6, 2018 at 10:34 pm  Leave a Comment  

2018 Oscar Wrap-Up

They didn’t fuck it up.

After the embarrassing Best Picture debacle from last year’s Academy Awards ceremony, there were no head smacking repeats for the mostly predictable 90th annual event this year.  Unlike 2017, Warren Beatty & Faye Dunaway were given the correct envelope and revealed the correct winner.

Besides taking home Best Picture, The Shape Of Water also won for its production design and its original score.  As expected, Guillermo Del Toro was announced Best Director.  In a year where the academy spread the gold around, The Shape Of Water won the most with four.

Despite not taking any major prizes, Dunkirk won three technical gongs.  It swept the sound categories and won for best editing.  The Pixar flick Coco won two for Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song.

Also winning two golden naked eunuch statues was Darkest Hour.  Besides taking Best Make-Up & Hairstyling, Gary Oldman was named Best Actor.  Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri also snagged a pair.  Sam Rockwell took home Best Supporting Actor (he dedicated the award to his friend, the late, great Phillip Seymour Hoffmann and thanked his hot girlfriend Leslie Bibb for lighting his fire) while an extremely enthusiastic and giddy Frances McDormand, in full-on intersectional feminist mode, won her second Best Actress prize.

Blade Runner 2049 was another double winner.  Longtime cinematographer Roger Deakins ended his ridiculously long slump by finally taking an Oscar on his 14th try.  Look at this small sample of the dozens of films he’s lensed in his 35-year-career:  Sid & Nancy, The Shawshank Redemption, Dead Man Walking, A Beautiful Mind, Skyfall, twelve Coen Brothers movies including Barton Fink and No Country For Old Men.  The man has been responsible for photographing some of the most beloved films of all time.  Much to my consternation, Blade Runner 2049 also won for Best Visual Effects.  It was my original prediction until I switched to War For The Planet Of The Apes based on what I had read online.  I should’ve stuck to my instincts because I would’ve been right.  (Despite that, I had my best year of predicting ever.  I went 20 for 24.)

Alison Janney on her first nomination won Best Supporting Actress for playing Tonya Harding’s toxic mother in I, Tonya.  She humourously quipped that she did it all on her own before thanking a bunch of people including the members of “Team Janney”.  Get Out’s Jordan Peele made history becoming the first Black man to ever win Best Original Screenplay while legendary director James Ivory, who thanked his late, longtime collaborators producer Ismail Merchant and screenwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, was awarded the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar for penning the gay love story Call Me By Your Name.  Up until tonight, Ivory was the only one of the Merchant/Ivory trio to not have a golden gong of his own.

Chile’s A Fantastic Woman, starring the glamourous trans actor Daniela Vega was named Best Foreign Language Film while Icarus, which documents Russia’s systemic doping scheme, was named Best Documentary Feature.  Icarus was my initial prediction but in a wide open category that even FiveThirtyEight.com couldn’t predict I thought Last Men In Aleppo might pull an upset.  Again, should’ve gone with my first thought.

In a moment of true awkwardness that went unacknowledged, accused rapist Kobe Bryant won a Best Animated Short Oscar for Dear Basketball which is based on his retirement letter.  With all the stage talk of equality and change and making things better for women, it’s more than obvious that some abusers are still more popular than others.  The status quo is powerful for a reason.

Despite the predictability of the awards themselves, returning host Jimmy Kimmel was in mostly fine form despite the hit and miss opening intro.  There was an inspired bit where he teased winners with the prospect of winning a jet ski and a cheap vacation if they made the shortest speech.  (Phantom Thread’s Best Costume Design winner Mark Bridges, who got all his thank yous in under 40 seconds, came in at the end of the show riding his new prize.)  I was delighted when he said no one would be played off if they went on too long but goddamn it, that turned out to be false advertising, as a few recipients were given the orchestral hint to wrap it up.  Let them speak, for Christ’s sake.

Kimmel got in his obligatory digs at Matt Damon and even made Christopher Plummer a reliable punchline, one of which was cleverly tied in to the very first Oscars ceremony.  I’m not sure he needed to crash that Wrinkle In Time sneak preview with some selected celebrities but I did enjoy those ridiculous hot dog cannons.  More often than not, he was funny.  But presenters like Jodie Foster, Maya Rudolph and Tiffany Haddish were just as good with their comic timing, if not better.

However, it’s enough with the glorification of the military already.  Having overly pausy Indigenous actor Wes Studi (The Last Of The Mohicans) onstage to plug an unnecessary clip package of war movies made it even worse.  Diversifying the presentation of propaganda isn’t progress.  Applauding his Vietnam service was weird and tone-deaf.

Oh, and why wasn’t John Mahoney included in the In Memoriam segment?

The complete list of winners:

BEST PICTURE – THE SHAPE OF WATER

BEST DIRECTOR – Guillermo Del Toro (THE SHAPE OF WATER)

BEST ACTRESS – Frances McDormand (THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI)

BEST ACTOR – Gary Oldman (DARKEST HOUR)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS – Allison Janney (I, TONYA)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR – Sam Rockwell (THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI)

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE – COCO

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM – A FANTASTIC WOMAN

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE – ICARUS

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY – Jordan Peele (GET OUT)

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY – James Ivory (CALL ME BY YOUR NAME)

BEST ORIGINAL SONG – Remember Me (COCO)

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE – THE SHAPE OF WATER

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN – THE SHAPE OF WATER

BEST COSTUME DESIGN – PHANTOM THREAD

BEST FILM EDITING – DUNKIRK

BEST SOUND EDITING – DUNKIRK

BEST SOUND MIXING – DUNKIRK

BEST MAKE-UP & HAIRSTYLING – DARKEST HOUR

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY – BLADE RUNNER 2049

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS – BLADE RUNNER 2049

BEST ANIMATED SHORT – DEAR BASKETBALL

BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT – THE SILENT CHILD

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT – HEAVEN IS A TRAFFIC JAM ON THE 405

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, March 5, 2018
1:58 a.m.

Published in: on March 5, 2018 at 1:58 am  Leave a Comment  

90th Academy Award Predictions

BEST PICTURE – THE SHAPE OF WATER

Nine films are gunning for Oscar’s top prize in the most wide open race in more than ten years.

Let’s save time by eliminating the long shots.  Call Me By Your Name, Phantom Thread, Darkest Hour and Lady Bird are just happy to be included here and have next to no chance of winning.

Maybe if it had more acclaim and more nominations, The Post would be talked about as a serious frontrunner.  There’s a very, very small possibility of it pulling off an upset as a way for the academy to rally behind the media in this bizarre Trump era but I highly doubt it.  It’s just not as well regarded as All The President’s Men.

Since the nominations were announced in late January, only four nominated films have been considered strong contenders.  At first, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri was seen as the likely winner.  But it’s been plagued by controversy about its content, a bad sign.

Dunkirk was a big hit during the summer both with critics and audiences and while there’s been complaints about its storytelling as well, it has already faded as a possible trophy snatcher.

In my view, Best Picture this year is really between the two remaining nominees, a horror film about liberal racism and an unlikely love story by a director who specializes in horror films.  It’s been over a year since Jordan Peele’s Get Out stunned most everybody who saw it but with a still mostly white, predominantly older motion picture academy voting on the winners, I just don’t agree with those who think it can win.

Yes, Moonlight won this category last year over the favourite La La Land despite that embarrassing bungle by Warren Beatty & Faye Dunaway but would the academy vote for a Black-themed movie two years in a row?

I’m skeptical it has the numbers on its side (there are reports that a number of academy members refused to even screen it because it’s not a “traditional Oscar movie”) which is why I’m going with Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape Of Water.  Even though it faces a plagiarism lawsuit, almost everyone who’s had a chance to look at it loves it.  As the much missed Roger Ebert noted back in the day, academy members vote with their hearts when picking Best Picture.  Based on what critics have said, The Shape Of Water is that kind of movie.

Oh, and by the way, Beatty & Dunaway will announce the winner.  God help us all.

BEST DIRECTOR – Guillermo del Toro (THE SHAPE OF WATER)

Ebert pointed out again and again over the years, if you win the Directors Guild Of America award, nine times out of ten you go on to win the Oscar.  Guillermo Del Toro won the DGA this year for helming The Shape Of Water.  He will snag the golden naked man, as well.

BEST ACTOR – Gary Oldman (DARKEST HOUR)

For much of his career, Gary Oldman has been a chameleon.  He’s played a self-destructive punk rocker (Sid & Nancy), Lee Harvey Oswald (JFK), a lovesick vampire (Bram Stoker’s Dracula) and Commissioner Gordon (The Dark Knight Trilogy).  Despite allegations of abuse and racist comments, he has remarkably avoided being another #MeToo casualty.

In Darkest Hour, he disappears again as Winston Churchill, the British Prime Minister who went from being an admirer of Adolf Hitler to a bitter foe in World War II.  It’s the kind of part anyone would kill for because it’s the kind of part that assures Oscar glory.

Oldman’s fellow nominees for Best Actor are a mix of first-time contenders and multiple past winners.  Denzel Washington (Roman J. Israel, Esq.) already has two gongs.  The supposedly retiring Daniel Day-Lewis (Phantom Thread) has three.  They don’t need any more.  While there’s always the possibility of a genuine upset (Get Out’s Daniel Kaluuya is more likely to be a shock winner than Call Me By Your Name’s Timothee Chalamet), it’s highly doubtful this year.

Barring some unforeseen circumstances, it’s Oldman’s Oscar all the way.

BEST ACTRESS – Frances McDormand (THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI)

All but one of the nominated actresses in this category are either multiple past nominees or winners.  Right off the bat, three-time winner Meryl Streep is not going to be called up to the stage for her portrayal of Katherine Graham in The Post.  Neither is three-time nominee Saoirse Ronan (Lady Bird).  Yes, this 23-year-old Irish lass already has three Oscar nods to her name.

After breaking through in The Wolf Of Wall Street four years ago (she was the dame with all the dough taped on her naked body), Australian Margot Robbie received her first official recognition from the academy for playing the villainous American figure skater Tonya Harding in I, Tonya.  It seems unlikely she’ll win.

That leaves Sally Hawkins (The Shape Of Water) and Frances McDormand (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri).  Although the British Hawkins has been nominated before for her supporting work in Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine and is playing a mute character not unlike Oscar winner Holly Hunter did in The Piano, she’s competing against a perennial academy favourite.

It’s been more than 20 years since McDormand first won Best Actress for playing the smart, pregnant cop in the otherwise overrated Fargo.  Overall, she has five nominations in her long career.  Now 60, much of the praise heaped on Three Billboards has been because of her well regarded performance.  I will be very surprised if her name isn’t called out on Sunday.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS – Alison Janney (I, TONYA)

Here’s something that doesn’t happen very often.  All the performers in this category are middle-aged.  And all but one are first-time nominees.

58-year-old Alison Janney is best known for playing President Martin Sheen’s press secretary on The West Wing (which resulted in multiple Emmy wins) and a MILF on Mom.  62-year-old Laurie Metcalf came out of the Steppenwolf theatre group in Chicago to become Roseanne’s TV sister and Sheldon Cooper’s evangelical mother.  She also tried to seduce John Candy in Uncle Buck and tormented Bruce Willis onstage as Annie Wilkes in Misery.

61-year-old Lesley Manville (Gary Oldman’s first wife) has appeared in numerous Mike Leigh films and co-starred with Angelina Jolie in Maleficent.  Although primarily known for her music, 47-year-old Mary J. Blige has been acting as far back as 1995.  She played Malcolm X’s widow Betty Shabazz in the TV-movie Betty & Coretta.

45-year-old Octavia Spencer previously won for her popular performance in The Help.  A three-time nominee (she’s the only Black woman in Oscar history to receive two consecutive nominations), she’s been acting in movies since her debut in A Time To Kill.

So, who has the edge?  Not Spencer who already had her push in 2012 and is doing just dandy on her own now.  Blige is a longshot.  Metcalf has had a great three-pronged career in film, TV and theatre and really doesn’t need a golden gong.  It would be really interesting if Manville won on the same night as her ex-husband but that’s highly doubtful.

That leaves the well-liked Janney who critics singled out as a scene stealer in I, Tonya.  She’ll snag it on Sunday.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR – Sam Rockwell (THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI)

There’s only one first-time nominee in a sea of perennial never-wons and one past recipient in the race for Best Supporting Actor.

I can’t remember a time when Willem Dafoe wasn’t acting in a movie.  Previously nominated for Platoon and Shadow Of The Vampire, the third time won’t be the charm for him this year.  Like his Shape Of Water co-star Octavia Spencer, two-time nominee Richard Jenkins won’t have to worry about preparing a speech.  He’s not going to be called to the stage.

Neither is Christopher Plummer, the last-minute replacement for the disgraced Kevin Spacey in All The Money In The World, who is the only previous winner here.

Woody Harrelson, another three-time nominee, will have to watch from his seat as his Three Billboards co-star Sam Rockwell makes his way to the front of the house to deliver his acceptance speech.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY – Jordan Peele (GET OUT)

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY – James Ivory (CALL ME BY YOUR NAME)

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM – A FANTASTIC WOMAN

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE – LAST MEN IN ALEPPO

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE – COCO

BEST FILM EDITING – DUNKIRK

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS – WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES

BEST COSTUME DESIGN – PHANTOM THREAD

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY – BLADE RUNNER 2049

BEST ORIGINAL SONG – Remember Me (COCO)

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE – THE SHAPE OF WATER

BEST SOUND EDITING – DUNKIRK

BEST SOUND MIXING – DUNKIRK

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN – THE SHAPE OF WATER

BEST MAKE-UP AND HAIRSTYLING – DARKEST HOUR

BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT – DeKALB ELEMENTARY

BEST ANIMATED SHORT – DEAR BASKETBALL

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT – HEROIN(E)

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, March 3, 2018
3:40 p.m.

Published in: on March 3, 2018 at 3:40 pm  Leave a Comment  

Unofficial 2018 Winter Olympics Awards

Worst Decision By The IOC Since Awarding Hitler The Summer & Winter Olympics

Instead of banning the entire country for its systemic abuse of illegal performance enhancing drugs during the 2014 Sochi games, the cowards of the International Olympic Committee allowed some Russian athletes to compete but not under their own flag (they had to use the five-ringed Olympic banner as a substitute), they had to be referred to as Olympic Athletes of Russia and whenever they won Gold (which only happened twice) the Russian anthem would not be played.

Somewhere out there, Nikolai Volkoff is quietly weeping.

Most Surprising Doping Violation

Russian curler and Sam Rockwell clone Alexander Krushelnitsky who flunked two drug tests (he tested positive for polonium which allows more oxygen to flow in the blood and greatly improves your strength) and was stripped of the Bronze medal he won with his wife Anastasia Bryzgalova in the debuting Mixed Doubles curling event.  As a result, Norway, the team they beat for it, are now recognized as the 3rd place finishers in the tournament.  Who knew you needed an extra edge for sweeping a slow-moving stone?

Best Cheerleader Not Sent By North Korea

Cheryl Lawes, the proud mom of Canadian Mixed Doubles gold medallist Kaitlyn Lawes, who was often seen during her matches with teammate John Norris whistling and cheerfully whooping it up in the stands.

Most Unintentionally Prescient Surname

Emma Miskew, a member of the Canadian womens’ curling team who were shockingly eliminated from the round robin marking the first time since the return of the sport to the Olympics that the Great White North won’t take a medal from this event.

Best Tribute To Chris Jericho

The “Clipboard of Power” held by an Olympic official at the top of the hill during the big air events.  He just made the list!

Please Buy Him A Shirt Already

Tonga’s flag bearer Pita Taufatofua once again marched out to the opening ceremonies (and posed on stage during the closing ceremonies) shirtless and overly oiled.  We get it.  Put your clothes back on.

If At First You Don’t Succeed, Fail, Fail Again

Dutch long track speed skating behemoth Sven Kramer has won Olympic Gold in the 5000 metres and the team pursuit but has long coveted winning the toughest distance of them all, the 10000 metres.  In 2010 during the Vancouver games, his coach misdirected him to the wrong lane causing him to be disqualified.  At Sochi four years later, he finished second capturing the Silver.

Would 2018 be any different?  Nope.  Kramer would finish off the podium in sixth.  Now 31, this is likely his final Winter Olympics.

Cheekiest Way To Get A Curse Word On Live TV Without Opening Your Mouth

After every jump, Swiss big air snowboarder Sina Candrian would cheerfully show this message on the palm sides of her fingerless gloves:  “Fuck yeah!”

Most Enduring Winter Olympics Mystery

All the beautiful, talented women competing in curling.  I’m not complaining.

Most Surprising Curling Fan

Mr. T who declared his love for the sport on Twitter and on CBC Radio.  Curling is cool, fool.

Best Belated Audition For A Role As A Villain In The Hunger Games

The flamboyant, poofy-haired NBC figure skating colour commentator Johnny Weir.

Most Welcome Political Development

The thawing of tensions between the Koreas.  North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un sent his sister to Pyeongchang to invite the South Korean President to visit.  Korean athletes marched in the opening ceremonies under a unified flag, the first time in over a decade.  The womens’ hockey team featured players from both countries.  The handshake at the opening ceremonies.  Here’s hoping this all leads to the official end of the Korean War.

Still The Worst Way To Settle A Tie

The shootout in hockey which eliminated the American men from medal contention and cost the Canadian women the Gold medal.  What’s wrong with sudden death overtime?

Most Unlikely Moment To See A Squirrel

During one of the round of eight match-ups in the womens’ parallel giant slalom event, a furry friend nearly got run down by one of the competitors while going for a brisk run on the snow.

Worst Timing For An Olympic Update

On several occasions during Canadian coverage on CBC and specialty partners TSN and Sportsnet, an update graphic would appear right over another graphic detailing stats of a competing athlete and/or information about the event taking place.  Very annoying and just plain dumb.  What’s the point of posting stats if you can’t fucking see them?

Best Recovery From An On-Site Injury

Canadian freestyle snowboarder Laurie Blouin suffered a terrible injury when she crashed during a training run which resulted in a black eye.  Thankfully avoiding a concussion, she was able to get some rest before entering her delayed slopestyle event.  With the black bruising now faded to yellow, she went on to win Silver.

Worst Disappointment After Said Recovery

During the debuting big air competition, Blouin wiped out so hard in her first jump, she didn’t attempt her remaining two, taking her out of medal contention.

Most Enthusiastic Coach

The exhuberant Chinese aerials coach who cheered every time one of his athletes nailed their jump in aerials which was often.

Worst Response To A Journalist’s Question

When asked by ABC News reporter Matt Gutman whether he felt the settlement he reached with a former bandmate regarding his repeated abuse and sexual harassment of her would “tarnish his legacy”, American Gold medallist in the halfpipe Shaun White dismissed the serious blight on his record as “gossip”.  Gutman later noted on Twitter that fellow sports journo Chris Brennan had observed that no female journalists were permitted to even pose direct inquiries of their own.  White later apologized for his word choice but not for the actual harassment and abuse.  Maybe he should change his nickname to The Rotten Tomato.

Most Surprising Controversy

Whether Canadian curler Rachel Homan was right to remove that burned stone from the house in the 5th end during a round robin match with Denmark.

Most Gracious Display Of Sportsmanship

The Top three finishers in the 15K cross country race waited until every single competitor crossed the finish line.  When the final skier, Mexican German Madrazo, who has only been skiing for a year and only on snow for a few months, crossed the finish line, they scooped him off his feet and carried him like a king in a touching display of solidarity and support.

Second Most Gracious Display Of Sportmanship

The German mens’ hockey team, initially crushed by their overtime loss to the Russians (sorry, the Olympic Athletes of Russia) in the Gold medal match, ended up posing with the gracious winners for photos on the ice after both teams received their medals.

Most Surprising Musical Selection For A Figure Skating Routine (tie)

German Paul Fentz skated to Paul Anka’s swing cover of Oasis’ Wonderwall while Hungarian Ivett Toth used an amalgamation of AC/DC’s Back In Black and Thunderstruck.  Is a Nine Inch Nails ice dance routine coming soon?

Most Unfair Treatment Of An Olympic Medallist

Thanks to a disqualification of a South Korean athlete who initially finished second in a photo finish in the 500 metres final, French Canadian short track speed skater Kim Boutin was bumped up from 4th place to 3rd resulting in her first medal, a Bronze.  South Koreans weren’t happy and absurdly took out their frustration on Boutin on social media.  (Shouldn’t they be more upset at the officials who actually made the call?)  Things apparently got so bad she first locked down her accounts and then deleted them altogether.  Boutin would have the last laugh, however.  She would go on to win another Bronze and a Silver, without controversy, and was chosen as the flag bearer for Canada in the closing ceremonies.  Suck it, haters.

Does Kesha Know She Has A Sister?

Austrian snowboarder Anna Gasser who won the Gold medal in big air.

Most Shocking Upset

After disposing of Sweden in the quarterfinals, Germany went on to humiliate Canada 4-3 in the semifinals of mens’ hockey.  Thanks, Gary Bettman.

Best Vindication After Being Screwed Out Of A Medal In A Previous Olympics

In Sochi, Russia four years ago, Canadian luger Alex Geogh finished fourth but because of a Russian doping violation she was bumped up to third.  As a result, she was expecting to receive a Bronze medal.  But after the decision was reversed, she went back to her original position.

In 2018, Geogh would not be denied.  Not only would she win Bronze in the womens’ event she would also capture Silver as part of the team relay.  Her first podium finish marked the first time a Canadian luger of any gender had won an Olympic medal in this discipline.

Most Unlikely Rap Fan Named After A Female Body Part

Slovenian snowboarder Tit Stante who wants the authorities to release the incarcerated Meek Mill already.

From A Hospital Bed To A Bronze Medal

Almost a year ago, Canadian snowboarder Mark McMorris was fighting for his life in a hospital bed after hitting a tree while riding with his friends and shooting footage in Whistler, British Columbia.  According to Wikipedia, “McMorris suffered a fractured jaw, a fractured left arm, a ruptured spleen, a pelvic fracture, rib fractures and a collapsed left lung.”  He would ultimately recover following two “successful surgeries”.

Although he wasn’t able to win a medal in big air, he did manage to snag the Bronze in slopestyle after briefly leading the competition.  This marks the second straight Olympics he has won 3rd in this event.

Meanwhile, the Polish-born Canadian Wojtek Wolski was playing hockey in Europe in late 2016 when he went headfirst into the boards resulting in a serious concussion and a broken neck.  While hospitalized, he was first told he would heal in four weeks.  Then, the doctors corrected themselves.  It would actually be four months.

During the mens’ hockey tournament in Pyeongchang, Wolski was a breakout star for Team Canada.  Despite the shocking loss to Germany in the semis, Canada would recover to take the Bronze away from the Czech Republic.

Best Helmet Design

The Iron Man helmet worn by South Korean luger Yung-Sun Bin who went on to win his country’s first ever medal in the sport, a Gold.

Most Selfless Motivation To Win An Olympic Title

German figure skater Bruno Massot made a mistake during the short program of the pairs competition and felt so bad about it during a press conference afterward, he promised that he wouldn’t let his Ukranian-born partner Aliona Shavchenko go home without a Gold medal.  A three-time Olympian, Shavchenko had only managed to win Bronze in two of those games.  After setting a record with their score in the long program, Massot made good on his word.  Erupting into tears upon learning the good news (he had already bowed to her on the ice following their performance), the pair finished first.  As a result, at age 34, Shavchenko became the oldest woman to win figure skating Gold.

Most Overexposed Canadian Broadcaster

Fake laugher Craig McMorris, Mark’s older brother, who did colour commentary for slopestyle & big air, did a recurring segment with fellow Canadian athletes involving tea drinking and karate and co-hosted CBC’s overnight coverage of the games with Kelly Van Der Beek.  That’s too much McMorris.  He’s not as funny as he thinks he is.

Most Cringeworthy Moment

All the wipeouts in skiing, moguls, big air, halfpipe and slopestyle.

Is That His Favourite Led Zeppelin Song?

CBC cross country commentator Nigel Reed who made at least two on-air references to Over The Hills And Far Away.

Weirdest Method Of Removing Injured Skiers & Snowboarders

Whenever someone would crash hard in the snow and not get up, medical stuff rushed in to put the seriously hurt athlete in an orange body bag, then place them in a sled which was attached to a snowmobile and dragged away.  Was The Undertaker the driver?

Most Remarkable Fact About The 2018 Canadian Olympic Team

They were able to win 29 medals (11 Gold, 8 Silver, 10 Bronze), their highest count in a single winter games ever, without winning Gold in mens’ and womens’ hockey and mens’ and womens’ curling.  That’s a deep squad.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, February 26, 2018
3:50 a.m.

Published in: on February 26, 2018 at 3:50 am  Leave a Comment  

What Happened To The Best Of OMD CD I Ordered From Amazon.ca?

For the last three Christmases, a good friend of mine has given me an Amazon gift card.  In order to redeem it you have to have an active account.  Since my old one was apparently discontinued (probably because of a defunct email address and years of inactivity), I had to start a new one.  (I should clarify that my parents were the ones who used the old one and not very often, at that.)

No problem.  It takes two seconds to sign up.  Adding a gift card balance is just as quick and simple.

After searching Amazon.ca for music long coveted on my CD wishlist, I was able to spot some elusive titles I had been unable to nab at local record shops for years.

Back in early 2016, you only needed to purchase $25 worth of merch to get the free shipping & handling deal.  So, I bought a couple of titles right away.  And then, when I discovered they accept a Visa debit card, I was able to buy two more later on in order to use up the rest of the balance, also with free shipping.  Anything over my limit would be withdrawn from my seriously depleted account.  (Hey, experienced blogger looking to get paid over here.  Offers welcomed.  Send email or a DM.)

Just a few days after ordering, all my requested items showed up at my house.  Fantastic.

The following Christmas, Amazon.ca jacked up its free shipping & handling minimum to $35, so I ordered everything I wanted in one shot.  All my requested CDs showed up relatively quickly although my Matthew Sweet hits compilation could not be opened without breaking the case.  I don’t know how it got so stuck but once my dad got it open, I discovered the liner notes, the back cover and the disc were in perfect shape.  Thankfully, I had a spare case to replace the broken one.

That brings us to December 27th of last year.  Three days earlier, my friend once again generously gave me an Amazon gift card.  I ordered 4 CDs.  Two arrived on January 2 while another showed up the following day.  The fourth, The Best Of OMD, was scheduled to be delivered on January 4.

It never arrived.

So I vented in a tweet on Twitter which was spotted by the helpful folks who run the Amazon Help account.  They asked me if I had been sent an email about this.  Sure enough, in my in-box, was this notification:

“We recently learned that we may miss your delivery promise for your Amazon.ca Order…and apologize for the inconvenience. You’ll still receive the item and you can track the status of or make any changes to your order under Your Orders on Amazon.ca…”

When the disc didn’t arrive on January 5, I was told by the Amazon Help folks to sign in to my account and talk to someone with direct access to my order.  It took a few tries but I got on the live chat there.  I was told the following:

It seems, the shipment was possibly delayed by the carrier due to huge holiday deliveries. The carrier has apologized and states that ‘We’re working hard to process and deliver record holiday parcel volumes as quickly as possible. In some cases, customers may experience a delay in delivery. We continue to devote extra resources to serve you and apologize for any delays’. Usually this does not happen, please accept my sincere apology for this bad experience with us and I hope you can understand our limitations as well as of the carriers.”

I was then informed that I would receive a $5 “courtesy credit” that will go towards my next purchase.  And also this:

“I have requested a redelivery of your order on priority. The maximum time carrier would require is till Monday.”

To make sure I understood completely, I replied, “I appreciate that. So, just to be clear, [the CD] should be here no later than Monday?”

“Yes, correct. Thanks Dennis for understanding.”

It didn’t arrive on Monday.

After trying for over an hour to get back to the live chat (I later got an email from an Amazon rep who had seen me sign in even though I couldn’t see anything on my end), I gave up and wrote an email.  Just before bed late last night, I received an apologetic message from a different rep:

“As the estimated delivery date is already passed at this point, we can only presume that the package was lost during shipping. I sincerely apologize for the incorrect update.​”

I was to receive a full refund for my order (which was confirmed today).  They couldn’t replace the disc because The Best Of OMD was only sold through MegaHitRecords Canada (a third party) and not through Amazon.ca.  (They only “fulfilled” the order.)  I could always try again and re-order the CD (Ha!) or if the original disc magically appeared out of nowhere one day, I could let them know and just pay for the damn thing.  I could also refuse it (why would I do that when I want it?) and have it returned.

At any event, while I appreciate the credit, the restored portion of the gift card balance and all the apologies, I still would like to know what the fuck happened to this CD.  Because there is a Canada Post tracking number for the delivery, you can also track its progress on their site.  But much like Amazon, there’s no further update beyond December 28.

According to Canada Post, “The shipper [MegaHitRecords Canada] has created a shipping label for this item and has sent us electronic information.”

That’s followed by this alarming notice:

“If no additional updates are showing in Track, it means we have not yet received the item. We will track the item once we receive it.”

Wait.  Canada Post didn’t acquire my ordered disc?  (They only got the label to put on it?)  Then, where the fuck is it?

I’ve sent a message to MegaHitRecords Canada and hopefully they’ll have some answers for me soon.  (I’ll update if I hear anything back.)  What’s so puzzling about all of this is that 2 of the other 3 discs I ordered that did arrive as scheduled were also fulfilled by Amazon through other 3rd-party sellers with zero difficulties.

Furthermore, MHR has a 99% approval rating on Amazon.  One pleased commenter wrote yesterday, “fast delivery all good!”

Don’t tell Bernie but I’m part of the 1%.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Tuesday, January 9, 2018
6:55 p.m.

UPDATE:  MegaHitRecords Canada responded yesterday apologizing for the undelivered CD but didn’t provide an explanation for why this happened in the first place.  (It remains a baffling mystery.)  I was told it was Amazon’s problem now since they fulfilled the order.

Originally, I was going to wait things out and see if the CD would actually show up within the next few business days.  After all, my most recent Internet bill was late.  Usually, I get it about a week or so before the payment is due.  Instead, it arrived on January 2nd, two days after the due date.  (I paid it immediately.)

But after thinking about it and discovering there was only one copy left of The Best Of OMD on Amazon (which is now curiously sold directly through them, not MHR Canada as before), I broke down and decided to buy it.  Thanks to that $5 credit I received and another helpful Amazon rep who made sure I still got the free shipping, I used my gift card refund to pay for it.  Now I should still have close to 4 dollars left on it (right now it’s zero) but at this point, all I care about is finally getting this goddamn CD in the mail.  I got the two-day shipping so it should be here on Monday.  Here’s hoping.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Friday, January 12, 2018
1:16 a.m.

UPDATE 2:  Great news!  The second copy of The Best Of OMD CD I ordered arrived earlier this afternoon at my front door.  I am so relieved.  Many thanks to Amazon’s excellent customer service and all the folks running the @AmazonHelp Twitter account for all their assistance.  As for what happened to the original copy I ordered, it looks like it will forever remain missing.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, January 13, 2018
4:54 p.m.

Published in: on January 9, 2018 at 6:55 pm  Leave a Comment