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A surprise visit from the Russian ambassador

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The Russian ambassador dropped by my house the other day. It was a real surprise, since we hardly know each other. He was very personable and brought my favorite doughnuts.

He was full of good stories. Who knew that Stalin was such a comedian? We laughed and laughed, and I showed him around the place. Eventually I gave him the passwords to all my online accounts. Well, not the actual passwords. Those are top secret. I just told him which desk drawer was hiding the paper with all of them written down. What could possibly go wrong?

This has caused great alarm, knowing that the Russians have access to all my accounts. Now I can't remember exactly what I told him. But as good fortune would have it, the ambassador apparently recorded our meeting, because Putin has offered to provide me with a transcript of it. Isn't that thoughtful?

There was an item widely reported in the fake news that Trump doesn't believe in exercise. He is of the opinion that people are like batteries, and are born with only a finite amount of energy installed in them. When it's used up, it's used up. So he doesn't exercise. Since he won't release any actual health information, we have to rely on our own lying eyes to conclude that he is on the hefty side. He isn't expending much of his limited reserve of energy.

He was full of good stories. Who knew that Stalin was such a comedian? We laughed and laughed, and I showed him around the place.

Apparently the same theory applies to thinking as well. If you think too much, you use up all the "think" you were born with. So there's no point in wasting any of that valuable, limited resource on stuff like history, geography, or science. Not when you're president.

When I was in college, the Watergate hearings were the hottest show on television. If I had a free hour between classes, it got spent sitting on the crowded floor of the Student Union building, watching the committee investigating the Watergate affair.

It was ponderously slow, but fascinating. Sometimes the full hour would be spent discussing the admissibility of a single document, or grilling an insignificant witness over some minute detail. Other times it was pretty exciting. But there was a sense that it was a thorough and legitimate operation, with a real intent to get to the bottom of things.

Ah, the good old days. The investigation into this "Russia stuff" is still in the early stages, where cable news has some new angle every 15 minutes. It gets stranger by the hour. Trump's tweets make it worse. The best barometer for how bad things are is the number of Congressmen who are in hiding. While the Dems are already shouting for impeachment, the Repubs, if you can find one, are mostly mumbling, "no comment." Paul Ryan continues to take the position that "everything is awesome."

It took months for Watergate to hit the fan. I suspect that things will move a lot faster these days. I'm already warming to the idea of President Pence.

Meanwhile, here at home, Park City has adopted an ordinance banning plastic grocery bags in stores of more than 12,000 square feet. We all know that plastic bags from stores of 11,999 square feet are environmentally benign. So the ban affects only Fresh Albertsons, Dan's Market and the three people a day who shop at Rite-Aid.

It's a bold move. We Park City folks are going to save the world, one plastic bag at a time, until the Legislature overturns it. It's the least we can do.

It's a highly symbolic gesture, and symbolic gestures do mean something. Like Trump refusing to shake hands with German leader Angela Merkel.

The City spends a ton of money on "sustainability." Our public buildings are energy efficient. Some of our empty buses are electric (and while most electricity comes from coal, ours will come from wind or solar). There's a lot of quiet innovation going on in the water department, where pumping water 4,000 vertical feet from Rockport to water lawns at the Montage is a huge consumer of energy. So there's stuff happening, well beyond plastic bags, that has a real impact.

But while we are offsetting carbon and recycling wine bottles that got shipped half way across the world, about half of the houses in town are vacant, heated to a comfortable temperature all year. There are acres of heated driveways accessing the empty houses. With no guests in town, every vacant condo will have a water heater (or two) keeping gallons of water heated to a pleasant 120 degrees for no reason. Our fundamental economy is based on a daily exchange of about 20,000 people who swap places to live here and work in Salt Lake, or vice versa.

Banning plastic bags from three stores is a start. But let's not pretend any of this is sustainable.

Tom Clyde practiced law in Park City for many years. He lives on a working ranch in Woodland and has been writing this column since 1986.