The Return of Stuff Happens, week 23: Bill Cosby wants to share his secrets

The other day, my son told me that Bill Cosby, comedy icon and professional predator, was going to start instructing men on how to avoid accusations of sexual assault. I scoffed at the notion.

“Scoff,” I said. “That’s clearly fake news.”

Well, is my face red. The story is true. One of Cosby’s representatives told an Alabama TV station that Cosby is planning a series of town hall meetings this summer to educate people, including young athletes and married men, on how to avoid accusations of sexual assault.

Well, if anybody should know, it would be him.

As for his hung jury trial last week, accounts differ on what went on in the deliberations. One juror said it was a fifty-fifty split, another said it was 10-2 to convict. One of the jurors was quoted as saying: “Whatever the man did, he has already paid his price, paid, suffered. A case that was settled in ’05 and we had to bring it up in ’17”

I don’t know if there’s any point in sending Cosby to court again. He’s Teflon. Even if some jury somewhere somehow shakes off the residual love for America’s dad, they are not going to want to send a nearly blind old man to prison. Maybe that one juror is right; his career is ruined, his reputation is ruined, his earning power is now zero. For an entertainer, there may be worse things than prison.

Speaking of Teflon …

This week, a special congressional election was held in Georgia to replace a Republican who is now in Trump’s cabinet. The Democrats had high hopes that they could pull off the upset. After all, Trump is a disaster, right? Worst president ever, agreed? A moron, an imbecile, a threat to world peace. Surely, at some point, Americans would want to send a message to Trump that they are fed up and embarrassed with their leader.

The battle was turned out to be the most expensive House of Representatives race ever, with about $36 million spent. The result? The Republicans win, again, as they have in four special elections since Trump won. One Democrat moaned after the vote “Our brand is worse than Trump’s”.

Meanwhile, Trump admitted this week that he did not record any conversations with fired FBI director James Comey. Trump had hinted, rather broadly, that he had, and poor Sean Spicer danced around answering tape-or-no-tape questions for weeks.

And one last bit on Trump. For a fun-filled read, check out the New York Times list of every lie Trump has told. Get yourself a cup of coffee and settle in. It’s a long read. 

Have you heard? The federal NDP is having a leadership race.

Don’t feel badly if you were unaware. Nobody outside of true NDP believers knows it is happening.

I have no idea who is going to win, and neither do I care. But a quote from one of the candidates, Niki Ashton, caught my eye and tells me everything I need to know about the current state of the NDP.

Ashton, apparently an MP, described herself as (get ready) “an intersectional eco-feminist”.

And no, I have no idea what that means. And neither do I care.

Fire update

The horrendous high-rise fire in London is still making news. It appears that the fire started in, of all things, a refrigerator. But that’s not the worst of it. The government collected 34 samples of cladding (external panels used to insulate buildings and improve appearance) similar to that used on the Grenfell Tower, and they all failed combustibility tests. The unsafe cladding has been found in 17 different locations around the country. In north London, 600 residents of a tower were told to leave the building as a precaution.

 

 

 

The Return of Stuff Happens, week 22: Sears Days are numbered

Good news from the retail front — there’s going to be a giant sale at Sears Canada in the near future.

Bad news from the job front — a lot of Sears Canada employees are going to be looking for work.

The retailer (sorry, that should be struggling retailer) admitted this week that its very future is in doubt. Its sales are falling through the floor, it can’t pay its debts, and nobody wants to lend it money. Or, in the parlance of Sears itself: “Based on management’s current assessment, cash and forecasted cash flows from operations are not expected to be sufficient to meet obligations due over the next 12 months … Accordingly, such conditions raise significant doubt as to the company’s ability to continue as a going concern.”

In plain English, they’re screwed.

This is hardly a surprise. Sears has always been the plain Jane sister in the department store family. The Hudson’s Bay (which announced last week that it is laying off 2,000 employees, which is shocking in that I didn’t think the Bay had 2,000 employees) has always had the dominant position in Canada.  Canadian Tire does a better job of selling hard goods. Walmart has the cheap market cornered. Sears essentially has no identity. It’s not a fashion outlet (the Bay is better at that, and Simons from Quebec is making inroads across the country). It’s not, well, anything. A Sears store is a sea a beige. The end of Sears, which is all but certain, will be another giant sized headache for shopping malls across the country, many of which are still struggling to find a replacement for the failed Target experiment. Perilous times in the retail trade indeed.

Inferno

It looked like something from a 1980s disaster movie; indeed, I heard one TV news report rather shamefully call it a “towering inferno”.

imagesA low-income apartment high rise in London went up in a shocking blaze this week. At first, the death toll seemed remarkably low, just 11. As the week went on, the numbers — and the public anger — rose and rose. As of Sunday, the death toll is now 58.

How could this happen in the 21st century? The impact of this will be more substantial than any recent terrorist attack in London,as  it has been revealed that the landlord may have used substandard cladding in a recent renovation. Tenants, many of them immigrants at the lower end of the economic spectrum, are enraged, as it looks more and more like there is one safety standard for the lower classes, and another one entirely for the upper class.

American justice

A hung jury was declared in the first of probably many trials for Bill Cosby (once America’s dad and now America’s pervert) on sexual assault charges. The jury deliberated for days and could not come to a unanimous conclusion. Don’t ask me how they came to that conclusion. Also in the U.S., the St. Paul cop who shot a black man named Philando Castile, while his girlfriend live streamed the event, was found not guilty of manslaughter.  The Cosby case and the Castile case illustrate the obvious once again — getting a conviction against a cop or a celebrity in the U.S. is near impossible.

Oh, babies!

Let’s say you’re pregnant in Alberta right now. If so, congrats! And let’s assume you want to name the baby, which is probably a good idea. If you were having a baby right now, would you want to name the child Liam, or Benjamin, or Lucas? Of if its a girl, anything ending with an A (Olivia, Emma, Sophia, Ava, Amelia)? You might want to, but unless you want your precious little bundle to go through their school years as “Liam with glasses” or “fat Olivia” or any other unfortunate nickname, then don’t do it. Once again, the same names appeared on the list of most popular Alberta baby names released this week. There will be literally thousands of little Liams and Emmas and Abigails and Olivers (Seriously? Oliver?) in Alberta schools. Pity the poor teacher of the future. A piece of advice to future parents. Clip and save the list of most popular baby names, and ignore them all. Go with something unusual, like, say, Maurice.

On the other hand, maybe Oliver’s not so bad.

RIP

Don Matthews, 77, the most successful coach in CFL history. Matthews had a hand in 10 Grey Cup champions, five as an assistant coach, five more as a head coach. A controversial figure, his coaching philosophy can be summed up with this Matthews quote: “Coaching is a dictatorship, and I’m the head dick.” Here’s an excellent bio from Sportsnet.  … Helmut Kohl, 87, former German chancellor who led the reunification of Germany …  Stephen Furst, 62, who played  Flounder in the film Animal House … John G. Avildsen, 81, Oscar winner who directed the first Rocky movie, as well as The Karate Kid … Richard Tougas, 73, my oldest brother. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that life is fair. Richard – ‘Tougie’ to his family members – was one of those people who took excellent care of his health. He walked for miles almost every day, was a non-smoker, social drinker, hardly had an ounce of unnecessary body fat. He should have lived to be 83 or 93 or 103, but his kidneys went bad on him. He was in line for a transplant, but then he got serious liver problems, likely from a rare medical condition called Hereditary Hemorrhagic Telangiectasia (HHT), a genetic disorder of the blood vessels that causes difficult to control bleeding.  The kidney and liver problems conspired to turn a robust healthy man into a shell of his former self. Yep, life is not fair. He was a good brother, a good man with many, many friends, a wife of some 50 years, Kathy, and two children, Michael and Nicole.

The world needs more people like Tougie, not fewer.

The Return of Stuff Happens, week 21: Alberta’s legal disgrace

This week we heard one of those stories that just makes you shake your head (if it hasn’t already lowered in shame) and wonder how this kind of thing can happen.

Here’s the shocking story. An Aboriginal woman (there is a publication ban on her name, a typically Canadian thing to do, especially galling in that the woman is now dead) was severely beaten and raped by a local scumbag. During the preliminary hearing where she had to testify about what happened, she was somewhat incoherent in her answers, and sometimes belligerent. (The judge at one point called her by the accused’s name, which is enough to make anyone angry.) So, did the Crown attorney suggest she take a day off, or perhaps get her some help? No, it was her brilliant idea to send her to remand (that’s jail, by the way) because was a “flight risk”. The judge, incredibly, agreed, so off to jail for the victim. Yes, JAIL for the VICTIM. She spent five nights in remand, and more insults were to come. When she was taken to court, she was transported in the same van with the scumbag who attacked her! But wait, there’s more … she was taken into court in leg irons and handcuffs. Like a dangerous criminal.

How could this happen? How was there not one single person in the chain of command who said, ‘Whoa, this isn’t right’? I’m not one of those people who sees racism in every event, but to me there is no doubt that this would never have happened to a nice, middle class white woman. The government has apologized profusely and honestly, but that’s not enough. People should be fired for this. But they won’t. That’s not the way the legal system in this province works. Once you get a government job, no matter how egregiously you screw up, you’re set for life.

Utterly shameful.

The Comey Show is a hit

All of Washington stopped to watch the testimony of fired FBI director James Comey. I won’t go over the testimony here, because you’ve probably heard every last word of it by now. The takeaway is that Comey was invited to a private dinner with Donald Trump, and Trump said so many worrisome things that Comey made copious notes about the meeting immediately after the dinner. Comey had never done that before, in any meeting with anyone, including two other presidents. Comey says Trump asked him to go easy on the Russian investigation, without directly ordering him to. Comey said Trump lied about some things, and Trump retaliated by calling Comey a liar. Trump hinted in a tweet after the news broke that Comedy “had better hope that there are no TAPES” of the conversation. When Trump was asked by a reporter if he was hinting that there were tapes, he said: “I’m not hinting anything.  I’ll tell you about it over a very short period of time….Oh, you’re going to be very disappointed when you hear the answer. Don’t worry.”

Huh? What does ANY of that mean? I agree with Comey, who told the committee “Lordy, I hope there are tapes.”

Trump’s base, made up of mostly incredibly stupid people, will no doubt side with him. The rest of the world, I’m sure, will see Comey as being truthful, and why not? His testimony was rock solid, completely honest and forthright. Trump can’t put together a fully truthful sentence. There was no bombshell that would have destroyed the Trump presidency, but the chances of Trump surviving four years grows less and less remote every day.

Theresa May’s boo-boo

British Prime Minister Theresa May rolled the dice in calling an election almost three years ahead of the scheduled date, and it backfired. Not completely, but enough to likely cripple her political career. May’s Conservatives went into the election with a healthy majority, and only called the election to get an even healthier majority, supposedly to strengthen the British position on Brexit talks. She also calculated that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was entirely unelectable, leading to what was supposed to be a historic electoral rout (I read a story when the election was called that speculated if the Labour Party would even survive the election).

So, how’s that turn out, Theresa? Turns out May was a worse campaigner than anyone expected (she turned down televised debates), and Corbyn captured the youth vote in a Bernie Sanders-like way.  When the votes were tallied (which is such a slow process in England, I suspect they use Morse code to relay the results), the Conservatives were in a minority (or as they call it, hung) parliament, and have to depend on the support of a small third party to stay in power.

British politics is notoriously cutthroat. Unlike here, where a party leader is virtually unmovable, a British caucus can oust a leader. Hell, they did it with Margaret Thatcher. May’s days as leader of Britain, after this fiasco of her own making, can probably be measured in weeks, if not days. You can expect another election in Britain within six months, a year tops. This past election, by the way, was the country’s fourth major vote in as many years.

RIP

imgresAdam West, 88, the only true Batman (TV series from 1966-68), a serious actor who kept his tongue firmly in cheek during the campy, hilarious Batman TV series fondly remembered by people like me. Batman was, in its own way, one of the great comedies of the 1960s. … Sam Panopoulous, 83, the Greece-born Canadian restaurant owner who created the Hawaiian pizza at his pizza shop in Chatham, Ont. in 1962.

The Return of Stuff Happens, week 20: RIP, USA

unknown-1Donald Trump, the Leader of the Free World crown, officially relinquished the title on Thursday when he announced that the U.S. – the second-biggest polluter in the world –would withdraw from the Paris Climate Change Accord. In stepping aside from the Leadership of the Free World position, the U.S. has now thrown its lot in with the only other countries in the entire world — Syria (which is barely a functioning country) and Nicaragua — which are not part of the accord. This makes sense, in a way. The U.S. and Syria – both led by despots, and in chaos – have a lot in common.

The reaction from around the world was universally negative. The reaction from inside the U.S. was almost as negative (minus Republican toadies); even mega-corporations came out against Trump’s decision, and important states (California and New York) denounced it. Trump’s reasoning for pulling out of the accord (whose modest goal is saving mankind from disaster) essentially boils down to this: he made the promise in the election campaign. End of discussion.

Maureen Dowd, the New York Times columnist, put it this way:

“America is living through a fractured fairy tale, in the grip of a lonely and uninformed mad king, an arrogant and naive princeling, a comely but complicit blond princess and a dyspeptic, dystopian troll (Steve Bannon) under the bridge.”

The U.S. now now little more than a supplier of entertainment to the world, appropriately led by a clown. Sad.

Terror in Britain … and more from Trump

A terrorist attack in London on Saturday has left seven people dead, including a Canadian. A van ran down people on London Bridge, while other terrorists stabbed people at a nearby night spot. This is the third attack in Britain three months; why Britain should be the target of so much violence is unclear. The mayor of London,  Sadiq Khan, condemned the attacks in the usual language, adding the public should remain “calm and vigilant”. Trump, of course, read this wrong. Instead of keeping his mouth shut (or his fingers taped together), Trump criticized the mayor, tweeting: “At least 7 dead and 48 wounded in terror attack and Mayor of London says there is ‘no reason to be alarmed!’ ”

Can Pence do the job? Nope.

With the Trump presidency hurtling towards the abyss, eyes are increasingly turning to Vice President Mike Pence. Can he do the job? Well, he looks the part. Pence looks like the kind of actor central casting sends over when they need someone to play the president, preferably one who is saved from assassination by, oh, I don’t know, Gerard Butler?

Would he be any better? Well, a chimp would be better, but Pence has little credibility. Consider this line, from the introduction he gave to Trump before his Paris announcement:  “With gratitude for his leadership, and admiration for his unwavering commitment to the American people, it is my high honour and distinct privilege to introduce President Donald Trump.”

Who says that kind of thing with a straight face? Incredible … sorry, that should be not credible.

And one last Trump bit

Trump gave more evidence that he is unstable with a post-midnight tweet that said, and I quote correctly, “Despite the constant negative covete” — and then it ended. Asked to explain, press secretary Sean Spicer said “The president and a small group of people know exactly what he meant.”

I hope that small group of people includes a psychiatrist.

Bad news from B.C.

Normally, the provincial election in B.C. is of little interest here in the People’s Republic of Alberta. But an announcement this week could have a direct impact on the next provincial election here.

On the Left Coast, the NDP and the Green Party have agreed to join forces to form the next government. The two parties will have one seat more than the incumbent Liberals. Premier Christie Clark, however, said she would attempt to form a government, which, as the party with the largest number of seats (43 to the NDPs 41), they have a right to do.

So why does this matter here? The NDP and the Greens are united in opposition to the Kinder Morgan pipeline, and will do everything they can to prevent what they have no constitutional right to stop. So, if the NDP/Green alliance lasts (which could last a week, a month, or a year) anti-pipeline parties are in control. Rachel Notley’s NDP is a big supporter of the pipeline (exactly the opposite what she would have been has they been in the old opposition NDP, but no matter). If BC throws up huge walls to the pipeline, Albertans will be pointing to the provincial NDP and wondering how they can’t get a pipeline built with their fellow travellers in charge. In the meantime, the provincial government continues to soften up the public. This week, the government announced $20 million for playgrounds in Alberta. This from a government that has to borrow money to keep the lights on. Makes perfect sense.

St. Patrick’s Gay

As if any further evidence that the world is a topsy-turvy place, get this.

Ireland, the most Catholic country outside of the Vatican, is about to have it’s youngest ever prime minister at only age 38. He is the son of an Indian immigrant. And he’s gay.

His name is Leo Varadkar, and he was chosen on Friday by the Fine Gael party to be its leader, and therefore the head of the centre-right governing coalition. He succeeds Enda Kenny, who is apparently a guy (you never know with those Irish names).

Meanwhile, Britain elects a new government on Thursday, with terrorist attacks still fresh in the minds of voters. Conservative leader Theresa May, who called the snap election in the belief she would win in a walk, is now in a race that is apparently so tight, she could actually lose it.

RIP

Manuel Noreiga, 83, former dictator of Panama, ousted by the U.S.