Crude Observations

Halloween. Election. Full Moon.

What could go wrong!


It’s Blog time, time for a super scary Halloween edition filled with spooks, ghosts and surprises. Terrors both large and small, the usual litany of candy and trick or treating fun and, for those who want such things, a bold election prediction.


But first, Halloween. Way more fun than crazy lection predictions, although I am sure I can weave some random bouts of politics into this.


Remember trick or treating back in the day? Running around the neighbourhood like the hyperactive sugar-mainlining little twerps we all were, stomping on old Mrs McGoo’s flowers, tearing from house to house, especially the house that gave out full chocolate bars and regular bags of Hickory Sticks (that’s my house BTW), avoiding the houses that had lousy candy, ringing the bell at the dark house just in case and generally plotting with friends about all the houses you were going to hit, many of which had nicknames? Well that’s what we’re doing today folks. A little trick or treating in my favourite energized neighbourhood. COVID or no COVID, we are making the rounds and when that is done, I will tell you who is winning the US election on Tuesday and maybe, if you’re lucky and I’m feeling generous, who is losing the election.


The Saudi House – Everyone knows this house. It’s the biggest house on the block and the fence is made of gold. It’s the first one all the kids go to just in case they run out. There are always fancy cars parked out front and they set the tone for a lot of the other wannabes in the neighbourhood. Last year they were rationing treats and this year it seems like more of the same. Most year’s they used to just give cash, targeting somewhere between $75 and $85 per trick or treater. Last year it was bits of paper that turned out to be shares in some company. This year you should count yourself lucky if you get $40.


The Russia House – Let’s face it, anything from this place is bound to be a trick. Whether it’s talking about handing out less candy but then giving you a handful, stealing people’s mail or pirating your wifi, this is the house that everyone avoids because it’s weird, creepy and the bald guy who lives there is never wearing a shirt which scares all the kids. Plus they have a bear. And the bald guy is always, I mean always, wrestling the damn bear.


Trump House (formerly known as the White House)  –  This is the place you go to and you get “Yuge” chocolate bars, regular-sized bags of chips, some half-eaten KFC and maybe a can of diet Coke except that on closer inspection, you realize that you have low quality Made in China, tariff exempt snacks that not even the dollar store stocks.  Combine that with the crazy old man with the orange make-up and crazy hair who yells at you from inside and tells off-colour jokes, it’s easy to see why this place gets less popular as the night wears on. Late arrivers often see the man sitting in an enormous gold chair furiously typing into his smartphone.


Giuliani House – this place has always been on the block but no one ever went there because the old man living there was either quite literally crazy or off on some weird obsessed junket to Ukraine or Vienna or some other European capital to drum up “research” on yet another member of a US political family. The kids know that if you catch him on the right day and can sit through the conspiracy theories and inexplicable security breaches, you might score some good treats, but a word of warning, if the shirt appears untucked, it’s a trick – run in the opposite direction.


Clinton Manor – Oy, well yeah you can get treats here, but it’s that weird and awkward house where the earnest old lady lives (who may or may not have a husband, but for sure has a cat) who tries to make too much awkward conversation about how she used to be “a big deal” before eventually giving you a precisely allocated single candy (usually a nougat or Werthers) and maybe a few pennies or a toothbrush. Plus, through the open door, the house smells vaguely of some kind of slow cooking food (if you’ve ever had a paper route and had to collect money, you know the smell). Regardless, you don’t mind stopping by because you just know she’s lonely as can be and wants to stay relevant in the neighbourhood.


Biden House – Free Hugs!


Permian House – this place used to be where it was at. Once upon a time it was party central with music and lights are going at all hours. All the kids in the neighbourhood wanted a piece of whatever was going on there and the line-ups were always huge. This year the candy bowl is empty and the dude who answers the door in his bathrobe says they are trying to save money. As you sadly turn away you notice that someone has emptied your treat bag and stolen your UNICEF box is gone.


Trudeau House – we all know this place. It’s the one that tries too hard. Too many decorations, lights, skeletons, the whole nine yards. Every time the bell rings, the owner in full costume jumps out from behind a bush and more likely than not proceeds to take a selfie and compliment you effusively about how great you look and how awesome Halloween is before retreating back to his hiding spot to lie in wait for the next unsuspecting kid who comes along. This year, you notice that the owner hasn’t cut his hair in almost a year and is wearing a mask. While you did get a giant chocolate bar, it all felt a little offside especially when you were asked to donate to the WE charity.


Pipeline House – Only about half the kids go to this house mainly because it regularly disappoints. Last year, the kids were all promised full size bags of jelly-bellies and a candy bar if they got in and sure enough the house was soon surrounded by a group of local moms protesting sugar. This year, the house is one giant construction site with crews working 24/7. While on the outside, it may not seem worth it to go to this house, the payoff can be pretty big. So it’s highly recommended.


Oil Sands House – this house was the place to be and be seen way back about five years ago but it seems to have fallen on some hard times. Once it was almost as madcap as the Permian House down the block, but now it is much more reserved. You can still get some pretty good loot there, they are just slower to hand it over and it’s accompanied by a small lecture about how they weren’t being paid as much as everyone else and how that is unfair. That said, if you look around, you will notice a new car in the garage and a trench dug between this house and Pipeline house. Something is going on.


Quebec House – This house is confusing because all the signs are in French, but if you are patient you will be rewarded by a steaming togo package of… poutine and rotisserie chicken? Really? Oh well. At least this year they aren’t lecturing us about separation and not wanting fossil fuels and… Oh wait…


Environment house – this is the house that the hipster environmental couple rents. They have two vehicles, a Subaru wagon with a bike rack and a subsidized Tesla SUV. There’s a Greenpeace sign in the window. Used to be these two were always away at important conferences, but now they do all that via Zoom because of the pandemic. Unable to source their usual free-trade organic hemp and stevia candies that you would usually toss into their xeriscaped garden, this year they opted for KitKats and a Sanders 2016 sticker.


Alberta House – this used to be my house, sold it a while ago, but now it appears it’s occupied by squatters. No one is actually sure what is going on in this house anymore. They don’t have any candy, but the lights are on. There are a bunch of guys sitting on the porch on their phones sending out mean tweets. Inside there are another bunch of guys that actually want to hand out candy but can’t decide if all they should hand out is the same old stuff from years past or some of the great new stuff they have. By the time they figure it out, most of the kids have already passed them by and trick or treating is done.


Pandemic House – these are the people who are over the top concerned about the pandemic, weren’t sure about trick or treating, agonized for days on how to do it according to the rules and have reluctantly allowed their kids to leave the house and safely beg for candy around the neighbourhood dressed as the Boy in the Bubble (love ya in that role Travolta). We aren’t at the stage where the sign of black death is going to be hung on doors or anything but the mom is rumoured to own a plague mask. This year they are handing out hermetically sealed and disinfected candy wrapped in self-sanitizing zip lock bags and distributed to trick or treaters through a PVC pipe which is connected to a self-loading wheel serviced by junior’s electric train. Meanwhile, mom and her friends are on the front lawn, maskless and getting hammered in front of a communal firepit. Candy’s clean though.


US Election


This is it, the big call. Drum roll, right?


Let me preface this by saying that back in January, in my Fearless Forecast, I predicted that the Trump Train was going to be derailed in 2020 by a Biden Harris Democratic ticket.


And I believe that is still going to happen and it may not even be close.


When I made that forecast, it was based primarily on an already downward turning economy and all the chaos surrounding impeachment. Clearly a lot has changed since then, and as luck would have it, my opinion hasn’t changed.


So let me share a few thoughts as to why I am where I am.


First off, if you hadn’t figured it out by now, I don’t like Trump. I never have and I never will. From the media saturation that started in the 1980s when I was growing up in Montreal to the serial philandering, the crassness, the nouveau riche garishness, the ritual bankruptcies, the absurd business ventures, the reality show self-promotion, the covert and overt racism and shady business dealings – he’s just not my cup of tea. It happens. Sometimes you just don’t like a guy. But given I had no choice in who the GOP nominated nor a say in the election I accept that all I can really do is observe. So that’s what I have been doing.


Like many, I was shocked when he won in 2016 and, as someone who felt Hillary Clinton was the superior candidate for the actual job, I was extremely disappointed. That said, as an observer, I accepted the result and settled in to hopefully watch an unconventional politician grow into the role of president and lead my favourite neighbour to ever-greater heights.


While some things started to go sideways fairly early on (immigration, questionable cabinet choices), there were enough relative positives that you could actually sit on the sideline and wait. For example, there were many business-friendly policies implemented that allowed people who were already ahead to solidify their position and get even further ahead. The market was taking off and the economy that Obama left behind was self-sustaining and on fire. Hard to screw that up!


On the government side of things, I’m a fan of deregulation, especially where you’re removing actual red tape and not just creating a wild west free for all. As a business owner and occasional higher bracket income earner, I like a tax cut as much as the next guy. I think Wall Street and Main Street both matter, personal responsibility matters. I don’t have a problem with responsible people owning and operating guns in a responsible manner. I believe federal governments should have less power over our lives and not more and that they should keep their noses out of our business.


In short, if I lived in the United States, I would likely self-identify as a middle of the road white, college-educated, suburban Republican. Bread and butter for a Trump regime.


Ultimately, like many people, I ignored the nonsense for a long time as the sideshow it appeared to be and carried on with my personal business and life.


But eventually, for me, it started to come apart at the seams and while economically I was doing OK, the sense of value, right and wrong and what constituted good government started to erode.


So instead of being about stewardship of the economic ship, it became about something else entirely. Race-baiting and denial of human rights. Isolationism and authoritarianism. Corruption and cronyism. Constant chaos and airing of grievances. White nationalism and class warfare.


And it wasn’t any one specific thing, it was rather a cacophonous crescendo of crap that just kept coming and coming and never stopped. Every time you thought you could come up for air you were swept under by the next crisis, slight or break from reality scandal. And you never had the chance to come up for air.


And now, as we enter the home stretch of the Trump experiment, I’ve witnessed my second favourite country, a place where I have invested hard-earned money to plant down potential retirement roots, descend into a partisan divide so severe that I question how in the world it can be bridged. And when this kind of thing happens, it is impossible not to point your finger to the top, in fact that is what its leaders traditionally do. Yet when the finger got pointed, there was no one there willing to accept responsibility – instead it was deflection and good people on both sides, quid pro quos and impeachment, sycophants and Rudy Giuliani, childish insults and Kabuki theatre.


Then we had the pandemic, which has been a compete and unmitigated disaster for the Trump administration and a tragedy of heretofore unimaginable scale for much of the United States and its citizens. Yes, I know. It’s been a disaster everywhere. But the US has really taken it to a different level.


If we were just judging Donald Trump on this incompetent and unempathetic response, then it is easy to see why he should be handed his walking papers, but I go back to my original point which was I thought that he would be defeated regardless based on the totality of his record and his policies.


So, as we close this off, let’s be fair and apply the standard across the whole term, because as the expression goes, the real question to ask is, are you better now than you were four years ago.


Well, if you are one of the 50 people who hold as much wealth as, what is it, the rest of America? Sure, you’re way better off. Good for you, I’m sure you worked hard. But the rest? Somebody has to be on the short end of that trade and it’s literally hundreds of millions of people.


In light of that, putting aside my dislike, my now evolved view of Trump is that he is probably good for some people in America, but he isn’t good for America. And those people are the ones who most closely resemble him – white, rich, old and male. Sorry, it is what it is. And why is that? Because he does things that benefit himself first and that means his cohort comes along for the ride.


So no, “America” is not actually better off now than it was four years ago. Any objective analysis can’t help but come to that conclusion, unless you are among the chosen few.


So what about Joe? Is he the answer? Isn’t he an old, rich, white guy? Not really, he is as far from the robber baron profile as you can get. Well, people say he’s a socialist then, in the pocket of the radical America-hating left. As a Canadian, I read these assessments and ask myself – does anyone south of 49 know what a socialist agenda looks like? If he were Canadian, Biden would be welcomed as a centrist miracle. Regardless, Joe has been in the service of the American people for most of his adult life, his sons served in the military, he drives a friggin’ Corvette Stingray and rocks Aviators. He’s pretty much the poster child for the American granddad. Trump? Well he has a gold toilet.


Sorry, I digress. Need. To. Stay. Objective.


Out of curiosity, I’ve actually looked at the various policy platforms and read up. Go figure. On pretty much every measurable standard, the Biden plan is better, specific and more fully thought out than the Trump approach of “trust me”.


On the economy, there is no Trump plan to get millions of unemployed back to work. The stimulus has been fiddle-f’ed since spring and the last prospect for a deal before 2021 got parked to nominate a new Supreme Court Justice. The Biden plan proposes trillions of dollars of stimulative investment in energy transition, infrastructure and the new economy. Even conservative Wall Street acknowledges it is a better approach.


On energy, we looked at the relative plans last week. As a Canadian, I prefer Biden’s. I read an article the other day saying Texans should like it too, because they have less federal lands. Go figure.


On the environment and climate change, Biden comes out ahead, if only by virtue of actually paying attention.


On health care? Again, Canadian, so I’m biased. The US needs some form of universal health care or at least a public option. Biden’s plan says you keep your insurance unless you can’t afford it, then you get the public option. Trump’s plan has been coming in two weeks for close to four years. Too late!


On the foreign policy front it’s probably a wash. If you want America to be part of a global community and cooperative with its allies and respected and feared by its foes, Joe’s your guy. If you want a United States that is relatively isolationist and interacts transactionally with other countries without regard for whether they are dictatorships, democracies or personality cults with no unifying global vision and continued sidelining and maligning of traditional allies, then give captain Donnie a call.


Trade? Both are nationalists on trade. Both will claim to stand up to China and protect American workers. Both will be a challenge for Canada. But only one indicates they will operate within the bounds of the global trading system which will restore some much needed order and predictability to international trade. Donald Trump’s trade wars have been an unnecessary, unmitigated disaster, squandering billions of dollars for zero advantage on the trade deficit. They need to end.


Russia? Give me a break.


Corruption? Shut up man.


COVID? Who the hell knows. No one seems to be able to get it under control if Europe is anything to go by. But at least they had it beaten down for a few months and aren’t in denial. Judging by Taiwan and other Asian countries, this inability to rein it in really appears to be a western democracy issue. That said, if you’re going to have a second wave, far better to start it from a trough after the first wave than peaking off the first. The Trump plan is to bury your head in the sand and hope the infection and death toll slows down. Biden has released a specific science based plan he will implement upon taking office, a similar plan to the one he introduced last year when the pandemic started. One has had eight months to do his thing – it ain’t working. Next!


I could go on, but this is already too long. So time to land the plane.


I know Donald Trump likes to make fun of “Sleepy” Joe Biden, but from this outsider’s viewpoint, Joe ain’t sleepy and even if he was, sleepy may be what the doctor ordered.


Like a four year old on limited sleep, America needs a nap. It’s time for America to get off the crazy train and get back in the business of being the city on the hill.


My personal slogan this year has for the past six months been MABA.


Make America Boring Again.


That can’t happen with Trump. His existence is chaos. The experiment was a fail. The ride was like one of those old timey wooden roller coasters except on this one you could actually see the bolts popping out. And the guy behind you really did get decapitated. Time to move on.


As a global community, we are in the midst of the healthcare and economic crisis that will define generations and we need serious people who can bring people together and solve problems. Not serial grifters and reality show hosts looking to feather their own nests at the expense of everyone else around them.


Joe Biden is real. He’s obviously a decent human being. He cares about a lot of stuff. Mostly he cares about anything aside from himself. And he cares about the United States and its people. And the polls show Americans believe that in increasing numbers regardless of party.


America’s second best actual and fictional president, Andrew Bradford, once said that being president is “all about character” and even if that were the only benchmark, Joe Biden easily wins the head to head.


I can’t vote but I think Joe’s the guy.


And come January 22nd (if not November 4th), when America wakes from a well-deserved nap, people will be saying “Trump? Don’t know that guy. Who is he? I may have seen him once. But don’t know that guy. He was a very low level staffer. Treated us badly. Never met him.”


Crude Observations Coffee Zoom is deferred to Wednesday the 4th for a debrief. Email if you want to join.

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