The Return of Stuff Happens, week 13: Dumb, dumber, dumbest

Remember last week, when Pepsi was eviscerated for its incredibly tone-deaf ‘Pepsi brings world peace’ ad? Ah, such innocent times.

This week, United Airlines made the Pepsi debacle look no worse than a misplaced apostrophe. By now, you’ve seen or almost certainly heard about the violent removal of passenger from a United flight in Chicago. Dr. David Dao was asked to leave the overbooked United flight to make room for a Very Important Passenger — a United employee. (Hey, who’s more important – a United Airlines employee who flies anywhere for free, or a paying customer who also happens to be a doctor? Tough call.) When Dr. Dao’s name was randomly selected to leave the plane who no one else took up the $800 bribe to give up a seat, he objected in firm but not belligerent terms. Some United idiot called the cops to have him removed, and when told to get off the plane, he told the cops they would have to arrest him before he’d leave the plane. You know the rest. The doctor suffered a concussion, a broken nose and two broken teeth when he was removed from the plane in the most humiliating manner possible. The multiple millions of dollars he will win in a lawsuit should sooth the injuries.

The depth of the stupidity of everyone involved here is difficult to comprehend. Somebody at United should have had the common sense to just call the whole thing off and let the employee take another flight, or upped the offer to get another passenger leave the plane. But common sense is apparently not a prerequisite for working at United. The whole sad spectacle was recorded (of course it was), and shared around the world.

So United faced a PR fiasco — which the president of the company proceeded to turn into a full-scale, Hurricane Katrina-scale shitstorm. He issued a half-assed apology, and defended his employees. United is already a roundly despised company (a Bloomberg report in 2015 put United at no. 15 on the list of 20 most hated companies), but this scandal put it in Wal-Mart’s league. Shares plummeted, and it took two days before the CEO did a full-scale, fall-on-his-sword mea culpa on ABC News.

It’s difficult to say just how much this debacle will cost United, but it’s safe to say that it is in the millions of dollars, and what is left of its reputation is in tatters. Thanks to a series of mind-numbing gaffes — from the flight crew right to the CEO — United has become the new byword for corporate incompetence and complete indifference to its customers.

And speaking of incompetents …

I have some sympathy for Sean Spicer, press secretary for the insane clown president Donald Trump. I suppose there are worse jobs — press spokesman for United Airlines, or maybe Kim Jong-un — but not many. Every day, he has to defend the latest loopy pronouncement from his erratic and clearly clueless boss. But this poor stumble bum put his own foot in it this week.

In a discussion about the use of chemical weapons in Syria, Spicer actually said: “You had someone as despicable as Hitler who didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons.”

Oh. My. God.

I don’t like to think of anyone, especially someone in a position of being in authority, as being stupid. I don’t believe it’s possible for the truly stupid to get anywhere in the world. But Sean Spider is just plain stupid. In years past, the press secretary to the president was a coveted (if extremely stressful) job. With Trump as president, I suspect the list of people who actually want the job begins and ends with Sean Spicer. And he’s too stupid to turn it down. (Here’s another classic example. In February, Spicer retweeted a video from the spoof news site The Onion, that read: “@SeanSpicer’s role in the Trump administration will be to provide the American public with robust and clearly articulated misinformation.” Spicer accompanied his retweet with the words: “You nailed it. Period!”)

Spicer ended up apologizing for this gas gaffe. At this stage of what’s left of his career, Spicer should just have an apology template available to hand out to the media after each press briefing: “I apologize without reservation for saying (fill in gaffe here). I did not intend to offend (fill in name of offended group here), nor did I intend to suggest that (fill in impossible to defend statement.)”

And now, for dumb stuff from Canada

Let’s begin in Calgary, where a six-year-old, autistic Grade 1 student was forced to eat his daily snack outside the classroom because only healthy foods like fruits and vegetables are allowed for snacks.

What was the offending snack? What was so heinous that he had to eat it in the hallway, so as not to offend the other Grade 1 kids? Was it a baggie of Froot Loops? Skittles washed down with a Slurpee? Sugar cubes smothered in honey?

No. It was banana bread. Yes, banana bread.

Good thinking, Grade 1 teacher — shame a six-year-old autistic kid for eating banana bread. The newspaper reports did not identify the school, but I can only assume it was a school that hires exclusively idiots. Maybe he or she works at Sean Spicer Elementary.

And here’s another. Did you hear about the civil servant who removed a child from his foster home because of the Easter Bunny?

A Christian couple says two foster children were removed from their home and their eligibility as foster parents cancelled by the Hamilton Children’s Aid Society because they refused to say the Easter Bunny was real.

“We have a no-lying policy,” foster father Derek Baars said in an interview.

According to the foster parents, a Children’s Aid Society worker told them they were “required” to affirm the existence of the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus because they are an essential part of Canadian culture. Another essential part of Canadian culture — bureaucrats who are too stupid to get real jobs.

And in other news …

The United States dropped the largest non-nuclear bomb in history on Afghanistan this week, killing nearly 100. The target was an ISIL underground compound. The bomb is called a MOAB, which actually stands for Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb, but naturally became know as the Mother of All Bombs. Trump gave approval for dropping the mother of all bombs on Afghanistan because he mistakenly thought the bomb was that lousy movie with Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez, “what’s it called … Giggling, Gigli or something?”

RIP

J. Geils, 71, guitarist and band leader of the J. Geils Band, responsible for some of the most infuriatingly catchy pop tunes of the 1980s, “Centrefold”, “Freeze Frame” and “Love Stinks”. After the band broke up, he made jazz recordings, including some with Edmonton’s Stony Plain Records … Dorothy Mengering, 95, mother of David Letterman who made frequent appearances on his late night show …  Mohammad Khoramshahi, 105, Iranian joke writer and poet. I included this only because I find it hard to believe that there has ever been an Iranian joke writer … Emma Morano, who at 117 was the world’s older person and believe to be the last person on earth born in the 19th century. Life is just not fair.

The Return of Stuff Happens, week 10: The beginning of the end for The Donald?

So, what’s the over/under on the Trump presidency?

I would have thought two years before he was impeached, but now I’m leaning towards one year. Eighteen months, max.

Trump has now lost his first big promise, to repeal and replace Obamacare. His plan alienated his own party to such a degree that he couldn’t get congress to support it … and he has control of the House!  This supposed deal maker couldn’t win with a stacked deck. As well, the FBI is investigating links between his campaign and the evil Ruskies, and you know they are going to find something. The New Yorker called the revelation of the FBI investigation “the mot serious legal scandal to confront a sitting President in nearly two decades.” It took years for Bill Clinton to get into impeachment territory, and it was for fraternizing with an intern, not a Russian.

Meanwhile, Trump was interviewed by Time magazine this week, and the magazine very kindly produced a word-for-word transcript of the interview. You can read it here, and you really should. Nothing compares to a verbatim transcript of Trump-speak. But for just a taste, check out this answer to the Time reporter’s first question:

TIME: Do you want me to give you a quick overview [of the story]?

TRUMP: Yeah, it’s a cool story. I mean it’s, the concept is right. I predicted a lot of things, Michael. Some things that came to you a little bit later. But, you know, we just rolled out a list. Sweden. I make the statement, everyone goes crazy. The next day they have a massive riot, and death, and problems. Huma [Abedin] and Anthony [Weiner], you know, what I tweeted about that whole deal, and then it turned out he had it, all of Hillary’s email on his thing. NATO, obsolete, because it doesn’t cover terrorism. They fixed that, and I said that the allies must pay. Nobody knew that they weren’t paying. I did. I figured it. Brexit, I was totally right about that. You were over there I think, when I predicted that, right, the day before. Brussels, I said, Brussels is not Brussels. I mean many other things, the election’s rigged against Bernie Sanders. We have a lot of things.

Is this the sentence structure of a rational human being?

Everything must go … soon

The end is near for Sears. And if you don’t believe it, just ask Sears.

Chairman and CEO Edward Lampert said this week that Sears is burning through cash, and that there is “substantial doubt” that it will be able to keep its U.S. stores open. But if you’re a DieHard Sears shopper (get it? DieHard? Die Hard … the name of the Sears brand of battery … forget it), there is hope. For some reason, the Canadian stores will still stay open even if the U.S. stores close. Also if you’re a DieHard Sears shoppper, ask yourself why. Sears has always been the most boring department store in the marketplace. All I see when I walk into a Sears store (on my way to other stores) is a sea of beige. Sears does have some well known and pretty dependable brands, like DieHard and Kenmore and Craftsman, but they have been selling some of them off just to stay afloat. By this time next year, Sears USA will be as dead as the Donald Trump presidency.

Chairman Justin?

The opposition parties in Ottawa are in full, raging lather over proposed changes to how the House of Commons operates. I caught a few minutes of Question Period on Wednesday, and to listen to their wildly overheated rhetoric, you’d have thought that Justin Trudeau had declared the War Measures Act. He was called a dictator, compared to Mao, mocked for his alleged admiration for dictatorships, and accused of letting women do his dirty work for him. So, what’s all the stink about? It’s most procedural items that would limit the ability of opposition parties to filibuster (delay a bill by talking endlessly). Also, the changes would require the prime minister to be in the house only once a week, for a Prime Minister’s Question Period, which is what they do in Britain.

So, huge scandal, right?

Nope. Nobody cares. Elected representatives become very insular, assuming that everything they do and say is of the utmost importance. Rules of the House of Commons in particular are the cause of explosive debate. But nobody outside the House gives a rat’s ass. The opposition is right, however, that the government shouldn’t make changes to the way the house works without the consent of the house itself. This isn’t government policy, but the policy of how government works. The Liberals are being extraordinarily arrogant, but asking the Liberals not be become arrogant is like asking Donald Trump not to say something stupid. (OK, I’m done with Trump for this week.)

RIP

Larry Highbaugh, 67, five-time Grey Cup champion with the Eskimos as a defensive back, a remarkable punt returner (in the days when there was no blocking allowed on punt returns, if you can believe that) and member of the CFL Hall of Fame. Here’s his obituary from the Indianapolis Star. One of the all-time greats at his position … Betty Kennedy, 91, longtime panelist on the old Front Page Challenge TV show … Chuck Barris, 87, creator of The Gong Show and The Dating Game … David Rockefeller, 101, billionaire banker and philanthropist … Jimmy Breslin, 88, legendary New York newspaper columnist … Gary Doak, 71, former NHL defenceman.

The Return of Stuff Happens, week 9: Jason does Alberta

As expected, Jason Kenney easily won the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta at a convention in Calgary on Saturday, with about 75% of the vote. Kenney was a steamroller who flattened his two remaining challengers, an inconspicuous MLA named Richard Starke, and an even less conspicuous guy named Byron Nelson. The other challengers, most notably two female candidates, dropped out when the elbows got a little too high for their liking.

So now Kenney has to try to make good on his promise to destroy the party he has just taken over, which was an interesting tactic.I don’t know if anyone ever ran on a policy of “Vote for me if you want to destroy your party!” Can he do it? I have little doubt that he will succeed in uniting the Wildrose and the PCs because, without unity, they’re probably doomed to years in the opposition wilderness.

Alberta history proves this out. During the PC decades, and particularly during the Ralph Klein years, the government benefited mightily by a split vote on the left/centre. The Liberals were strong back then, but could never defeat the Tories in large part because the NDP siphoned off just enough of the so-called progressive (or anti-PC, if you wish) votes to ensure PC victory. Now, the shoe is on the other foot, that being the right one. If the Wildrose and the PCs go into the next election scrambling for the still very strong right wing vote, they are doomed to repeat the same scenario. The Wildrose is popular in the rural areas, the PCs still powerful in Calgary. One single, united right wing party has a much better chance of defeating the NDP than do two right wing parties splitting the vote. The Wildrose and the PC have no option but to unite if they want to win. The question is what kind of new party will emerge – will it be a hard right, socially conservative party, or a right-wing but still relatively progressive party, in other words, a progressive conservative party. Hey, wait, what an idea …

Deficits, schmeficit

Here in the People’s Republic of Albertastan, the NDP government of Rachael Notley released its 2017-18 budget, and it follows the template set by the previous budgets by the Notley Crew – just keep spending, and let the future take care of itself.

The government will double its debt (sorry, that should be our debt) over the next three years, and run deficits for the next six years. The government will run a $10.34 billion deficit, bringing our debt up to $45 billion. By 2019-20, that total should rise to $71 billion.

The New Democrats will borrow $6 billion for capital projects (building stuff), and another $6.4 billion for operations (keeping the lights on and the government spokesmen fed). I don’t disagree with spending money to build stuff in a down economy; the government will get the best bang for the buck when corporations are itching for work. The decision by the Ralph Klein PCs to pay down the debt at the expense of roads, schools, hospitals, etc. resulted in a huge infrastructure deficit that we’re still trying to catch up to. But when you’re borrowing $6.4 billion just to keep the doors open is bad policy. Notley and her crew have been coached to offer apocalyptic visions of fired nurses and shuttered schools if the government doesn’t spend, spend, spend, as if that’s the only option. There are, of course, vital services that we need to operate at peak efficiency. But this government has made no effort to cut back on the non-essentials — hundreds of government flacks, millions on government propaganda, bloated civil service salaries, etc. This policy of insulating government from the worst effects of the oil price crash explains why the NDP is still so popular in Edmonton, where so many government jobs can be found, and widely despised in the rest of the province.

And finally, more PC hilarity in Canada

This week, NDP leadership candidate Niki Ashton posed a graphic on Twitter and Facebook making use of the lyric from a Beyonce song. From a song called Irreplaceable, she wrote “Like Beyonce says, to the left. Time for an unapologetic left turn for the NDP…” Well, that riled up a group called Black Lives Matter Vancouver, which replied to the tweet by saying “appropriating Black culture is not intersectional feminism.” I have no idea what that means, but it was enough for Ashton to take down the tweet.

This week’s madness from the Land of Trump

So, what sort of lunacy did we get from the Donald this week?

Well, the public finally got a look at a Donald Trump tax return, courtesy of a mystery envelope sent to a reporter, and revealed on the Rachael Maddow MSNBC show. The trouble is, the return was from 2005, making it relatively irrelevant. Who leaked the document? Well, the reporter who received the mystery package said it could easily have been Trump himself, a typical misdirection play. A 2005 tax form means nothing; when you get to 2016, let us know.

Trump released his budget proposals that called for a massive increase in military spending and dramatic cuts to lots of other stuff, like PBS, the Environmental Protection Agency, and even (much to the glee of the late night talk show guys) the agency that runs Meals on Wheels. One suspects that Trump is getting his financial advice from Montgomery Burns. The budget is so draconian, that even some Republicans are saying it’s dead on arrival.

And speaking of dead, Trump’s unfounded claim that Barack Obama had wire tapped Trump Tower proved to be exactly that – unfounded. A committee made up of Democrats and Republicans found zero evidence of bugging or anything remotely like that. Trump, of course, is standing by his slur.

RIP

Chuck Berry, 90, the father of rock and roll music, and one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century. Elvis to The Beatles to The Rolling Stones and most everyone after him owe a debt to Chuck Berry  … Richard, 6th Prince of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg, 82. I’m only including this because I think it’s hilariousthat there are is still ‘royalty’ in Germany. He was also a Knight of the Order of the Elephant if you’re keeping track.

The Return of Stuff Happens, week 7: Horror in Sweden?

Doesn’t it seem like weeks ago that Justin Trudeau visited Donald Trump?

It was the story on this side of the border for days. But Trudeau had barely lifted off from Washington and his visit was forgotten, overwhelmed by a tsunami of terrible Trump news. But let’s briefly look back on the Trump-Trudeau visit, which seems to have been quite well received by the Canadian chattering classes.

While it was big news here (a Canadian PM visiting a big shot like the U.S. prez is always big news here) I checked out the American broadcast channels on Monday, and found a mixed bag. The Trudeau visit got only fleeting coverage on NBC and CBS – still pictures of Trudeau and Trump, and not a single voice clip of Trudeau. ABC, on the other hand, covered the visit most comprehensively. Calling Trudeau a “outspoken critic” of the ban/not a travel ban (not true; he made a few subtle references to Muslims), ABC devoted quite a lot of time to Trudeau and the Canadian attitude towards refugees, including clips of Trudeau welcoming Syrian refugees. On this side of the border, of course, we were infatuated with the whole thing, focusing on Trudeau’s ability to avoid the grotesque, macho-man Trump handshake. The late night talk shows barely noticed his appearance. Only Seth Meyers (the best of the late night news comics, by the way) noticed that Trudeau was in Washington. Displaying a photo of Trump and Trudeau, Meyers said it looked like “a snowboard instructor meeting a drowned ghost”. Not his best line, but we’ll take it.

During their press conference, Trump looked detached, almost bored. He had much bigger fish to fry than a visiting Canadian prime minister; his national security advisor was accused of lying about his conversations with the Russians (oh, those Russians), and was later fired. That scandal sucked up all the news oxygen, so Trudeau came and went with hardly a ripple of interest from the U.S. media. As it turned out, the Trudeau visit was Trump’s best moment of the week. His cabinet is literally falling apart, with resignations, withdrawals and suitable candidates running for the hills. Trump held a press conference on Thursday that was an epic, off-the-rails rant that had jaws dropping across the world. On a Friday night tweet, he called the ‘fake news’ media (in his view, that is the New York Times, NBC, CNN, ABC and CBS, but not Fox) “the enemy of the American people”. You know who else used the phrase ‘enemy of the people’? Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong. Just saying…

And finally, if that wasn’t enough, he held a “campaign rally” in Florida on Saturday night. Ignore, for a moment, that there is no campaign going on. Still, thousands of rabid fans turned out. Trump attacked the media, of course, and let loose with one spectacular headscratcher.

“You look at what’s happening”, he told the slavering masses. “We’ve got to keep our country safe. You look at what’s happening in Germany, you look at what’s happening last night in Sweden. Sweden, who would believe this?”

Nobody, as it turns out, because nothing happened last night in Sweden, at least not in the terrorist context. Who would believe this, indeed.

Meanwhile, here in Canada, the Conservatives had a poor week.

First, as you can see in this clip from the House of Commons, Conservative MPs laughed out loud when Edmonton MP and cabinet minister Amerjeet Sohi mentioned that he was a former bus driver. Apparently, being something as lowly as a bus driver was just absolutely hilarious to the lawyers and assorted other mucky-mucks on the Tory side. Worse yet was the reaction from Conservative leadership candidates to a fairly routine motion from a Liberal MP, Iqra Khalid, that that would, if adopted, have the House of Commons “condemn Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination.” A Commons committee would study ways to reduce “systemic racism and religious discrimination including Islamophobia” and report within eight months. It’s important to know that a motion is not a law, just an expression of the opinion of the members. But that didn’t stop Conservative leadership hopefuls. Kellie Leitch, Maxime Bernier, Andrew Scheer, Brad Trost, Chris Alexander, Kevin O’Leary and Erin O’Toole said they disagreed with the wording of the motion, with the wretched Leitch starting a website called “Stop M-103,” claiming many Canadians are worried their freedom of speech will be stifled. This utterly innocuous motions would have sailed through the house with nobody noticing had it not been for the Conservatives playing the Muslim card to rile up the base. Meanwhile, the MP who proposed the motion claims to have received 50,000 emails (which, to be honest, sounds like a wild exaggeration), and they weren’t very nice. She did read parts of the emails in the House, which included these gems:

  • “Kill her and be done with it. I agree she is here to kill us. She is sick and she needs to be deported.”
  • “We will burn down your mosques, draper head Muslim.”
  • “Why did Canadians let her in? Ship her back.”
  • “Why don’t you get out of my country? You’re a disgusting piece of trash and you are definitely not wanted here by the majority of actual Canadians.

And this is just two weeks after the Quebec mosque killings.

The Conservatives also held another leadership forum this week, or so I am told. My pathetic local rag, the Edmonton Journal, never mentioned a word about it, but I did hear that Kevin O’Leary’s first foray into speaking French was, as the French would say, a débâcle. Just like the pathetic Tory leadership race. But hey, at least they have a race. Nobody has yet to step forward to lead the federal New Democrats. 

RIP

Darrel K. Smith, 55, a wide receiver and slotback who played eight seasons in the the Argos and the Eskimos. He was traded to the Esks in 1993 in the biggest trade in CFL history, invovling 16 players …  Al Jarreau, 76, R&B and jazz singer and seven time Grammy winner… Stuart McLean, 68, all-Canadian broadcaster, humourist and author, creator of the long-running CBC Radio show The Vinyl Cafe … George ‘the Animal’ Steele, 79, a wild man wrestler known for tearing up the turnbuckle with his teeth, and his green tongue (accomplished with the use of green Clorets mints). In real life, he had a bachelor of science degree and a master’s degree.

Stuff Still Happens, week 27: Black Days in July

Back in 1968, singer Gordon Lightfoot released one of his greatest songs, Black Day in July, about the race riots that left “Motor City burning” as he sang. That song flashed in my head on Thursday when America — and the world — looked on in horror as five Dallas police officers were shot dead by a sniper during a protest march.

The Dallas killings added an exclamation mark to a horrible week in July for the United States, which saw two black men shot dead by white cops, both in circumstances where the use of a firearm seemed entirely unjustified, and both captured on video and distributed through social media (the aftermath of one of the shootings was shown as it happened on Facebook). America clearly has a serious problem in its relations between its white police and its black citizens. But nothing justifies the unthinkable attack on the Dallas police, who are, by all accounts, a model of how relations between police and black citizens should be conducted.

It seems that we’re always watching the U.S. as it walks up to the precipice of anarchy, looks over the edge, and takes one tiny step back. And nothing is done. Ever. With one of the country’s two political parties offering up a racist xenophobe as its presidential candidate, with police killing citizens with little or no provocation, and with cops being slaughtered in the streets, every day the United States of America becomes more disunited and disturbed than ever. And the worst thing is … nothing is going to be done about anything. The Dallas horror will be forgotten about in time, overtaken by the public’s short attention span and whatever new atrocity grabs our attention next.

After all that bleak news, here’s something positive. An Edmonton guy named Kurt Thomas was pulled over by a city cop for speeding. He began to tape the encounter just in case he became a “hashtag”. What happens? The cop has a conversation with Thomas about the pros and cons of Range Rovers (these guys clearly know their cars), and the cop gives him a ticket because he “doesn’t want him to get hurt”. Later, Thomas posts another video praising the police. It’s heartening, and very, very Canadian. Watch it here. 

And then there’s England

While violence wracks the US, in jolly old England there is chaos of a different kind.

First there was the Brexit vote which shook the United KIngdom to its core. That led to the resignation of Prime Minister David Cameron, and then the leader the Leave vote and potential leadership candidate Boris Johnson announced he would not run for the leadership, and then came the resignation of the leader of the UK Independence Party, Nigel Frothingatthemouth, or something like that. And if that wasn’t bad enough, England lost to Iceland – bloody Iceland – in the European soccer championship. This was arguably even worse news for Britain than the Brexit vote. And this week came the report on Britain’s involvement in the Iraq War, a report that took seven years to write and produced 12 volumes and 2.6 million words. The verdict? Prime Minister Tony Blair was indeed, as the British called him, George Bush’s poodle. Eight months before the invasion, Blair wrote Bush saying  that he would support military action in Iraq. “I will be with you whatever,” he wrote. The report does not say it he ended the letter with XXXX. You’ve got to give the Brits credit, though. They looked into their role in Iraq in exhaustive detail. The U.S. has never done such a thing, and never would. The British report gives us another reason to be thankful that Prime Minister Jean Chretien told Bush to shove his invitation to go to war.

The Great Conservative Hope emerges

Jason Kenney, one of Stephen Harper’s (remember him?) strongest cabinet ministers, has entered the race for the PC leadership in Alberta. Kenney, a Calgary MP, is already tagged as the frontrunner, and he is vowing to unite the right to obliterate the scourge of the NDP. Kenney is a force. He’s a relentless political animal, like Harper, but with an actual personality which Harper lacked. He has already mused that if he wins, he will push to wipe out the Progressive Conservative name, opting for just Conservative. This will play out over the coming months (they don’t choose a leader until March), but will be interesting to watch. By the next election, the PCs (or whatever they call themselves), and what’s left of the Liberals (anyone interested in being the leader?) will have new leaders, and Brian Jean will look like old news, if he’s around.

RIP

Jimmy Arthur Ordge, 81, Canadian country singer who had hits with songs called “Irena Cheyenne” and “The Ballad of Muk-Tuk Annie”. I put this in at my wife’s request … Leonard Lee, 77, founder of Lee Valley Tools … Lou Fontinato, NHL tough guy with the Rangers and Canadians from 1954-63. One of the most penalized players in league history, Fontinato was most famous for having his face rearranged in a legendary fight with Gordie Howe.

Stuff Still Happens, week 12: Bombings, and bodies, keep piling up

Another week, another atrocity.

This time, it’s Brussels, Belgium (a city described in January by Donald Trump as a “hellhole”) that came under sophisticated and yet cowardly attack by ISIS on Tuesday. Bombs went off in three locations leaving at least 30 people dead. That an attack would happen in Brussels is hardly surprising. The city, and in particular a quarter called Molenbeek, is a hotbed of Islamic extremism. The last known suspect in the Paris bombings was captured in Molenbeek just days before, and the leader of the Paris attacks was from Belgium. In fact, Belgium has been the leading western supplier of Islamic State fighters; almost 500 Belgium citizens have travelled to Syria and Iraq. Authorities believe about 100 have returned to Belgium. So, chances are that this won’t be the last terrorist attack on Belgium.

While Brussels has garnered the headlines, here are a few of the other terrorist attacks this year that haven’t, probably because they did not occur in western nations:

• February 20, 2016. A group of al-Qaeda backed militants attacked the Splendid Hotel in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso. At least 30 people were killed, and another 56 were wounded.

• Ankara bombing: February 17, 2016. Kurdish freedom fighters attacked a convoy of buses killing military personnel and civilians during evening rush hour. At least 29 people were killed and another 60 people were injured.

• Mogadishu hotel attack: February 26, 2016. A group of militants linked to al-Shabbab killed at least 15 people and left others wounded after a suicide bomber detonated a bomb at the gate of the SYL hotel in Mogadishu.

• Grand-Bassam resort shootings: March 13, 2016. Eighteen killed and another 33 were injured when an al-Qaeda-linked group attacked the Étoile du Sud hotel.

• Ankara bombing: March 13, 2016. Thirty-seven killed people and another 127 people injured. The Kurdistan Freedom Falcons claimed responsibility for the assault.

• Istanbul bombing: March 19, 2016. Four by a suicide bomber; another 36 people were wounded by the attack on Istanbul’s main shopping street.

Oh, and this just in: A suicide bomber blew himself up in a soccer stadium south of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad on Friday, killing 29 people. ISIS claims responsibility.

A federal budget that was a blockbuster

Justin Trudeau further distanced itself from that last guy who was prime minister with his first budget. While that Harper fellow was not big on spending, the Trudeau government believes spending will boost the economy, so spend they will. The fact that we don’t have the money to spend has proven to be no barrier. The deficit, which Trudeau promised would be $10 billion, is going to be $29 billion, and that’s just the beginning. There’s money for families, money for infrastructure, money for First Nations, money for everybody except, it appears, me. The government is even going to reduce the eligibility period to claim Employment Insurance in certain areas — but not Edmonton. While all of Alberta will have faster access to EI, Edmonton stays the same. Apparently, Edmonton is thriving compared to the rest of Alberta. Must be news to hundreds of newly-jobless Edmontonians.

Hey, ladies! Jian Ghomeshi is on the market!

Former CBC Radio star Jian Ghomeshi was acquitted of all sexual assault charges at the conclusion of one of the most closely watched, luridly reported trials in Canadian history. It really came as no surprise that Ghomeshi was found not guilty; his accusers sent him love letters (and worse) after the alleged assaults. Worse yet, the women didn’t tell the Crown that they continued to communicate with Ghomeshi, a fact that wasn’t revealed until the trial. Basically, the women destroyed their credibility, and they had no one to blame but themselves for keeping vital information away from the police. To some, of course, they are victims of Ghomeshi and the system. They are, in fact, victims of their own stupidity. Ghomeshi is clearly a creep and probably did assault the women, but probably doesn’t count in court.

Can’t we go one week without something from Trump?

No, apparently not. This week, Trump reacted to an alleged slight on his trophy wife Melania. He Tweeted this comment: “Lyin’ Ted Cruz just used a picture of Melania from a G.Q. shoot in his ad. Be careful, Lyin’ Ted, or I will spill the beans on your wife!” Cruz later called Trump a “snivelling coward”, and told Trump to “leave Heidi the hell alone”. Yep, now they’re dragging their wives into the muck. Oh, and the National Enquirer has weighed in with report that Ted Cruz has had affairs. I don’t believe this story for a moment. I mean, c’mon, have you seen this guy? As Conan O’Brien put it, he looks like a melted candle.

New Zealand voted on a new flag…and guess how it turned out?

I have a thing for New Zealand. Although I’ve never been, and probably never will visit, I’ve always thought it seems like a great place to live, the Canada of the southern hemisphere. Anyway, The Kiwis have been engaged in a debate, in a low-key sort of way, over their flag. The prime minister, John Key, was very enthusiastic about the idea, even if the country itself seemed indifferent. Still, the public submitted 10,000 designs, and after winnowing down the choices, a vote was held this week. The decision, after the $27 million vote? Keep the existing flag. I guess we can be thankful that we didn’t have a referendum on our flag back in 1965. My guess is that we would have stuck with the old Red Ensign.

RIP

Gary Shandling, 66, a comedian’s comedian, a great stand up comic and star of two groundbreaking TV shows, It’s Gary Shandling’s Show and The Gary Shandling Show. If you’ve never watched either show, do yourself a favour and watch at least one. Truly one of the best stand ups, a giant in the comedy community …  Rob Ford, 46, corpulent, bombastic former mayor of Toronto. When Ford became embroiled in a crack smoking scandal (one of many scandals), he became the most famous Canadian in the world, much to the chagrin and shame of most Canadians. … Johan Cruyff, 68, one of the Netherlands’ greatest ever soccer players … Jo Garagiola, 90, former baseball player who became better known as an announcer … Ken Howard, 71, familiar film and TV actor, best known for his lead role in the 1970s TV series The White Shadow.

Stuff Still Happens, week 11: The Trump express rolls on; the Canadian ketchup controversy

It started as a joke.

It’s still a joke, but nobody’s laughing anymore.

Donald J. Trump famously entered the U.S. Republican race back in June by riding a down escalator. C’mon, a down escalator? What better symbol of failure than a down escalator? Everybody had a good laugh, and went about seriously dissecting the ‘real’ candidates like Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush and John Kasich and Chris Christie  and Rand Paul and even Ben Carson.

Now, nine months later, only three remain: the moderate (by Republican standards) Kasich; the immoderate, rabidly right-wing Cruz; and the guy on the down escalator.

After this week, with Trump winning primaries in Illinois, Missouri, North Carolina and Florida, Trump added another 204 delegates, bringing him to 695, more than half-way to the 1,237 needed to secure the nomination. He even won —and won big — in Florida, forcing ‘Little Marco’ Rubio to call it quits, despite spending $55 million on advertising. The one non-Trump winner was Kasich, who prevailed in his home state of Ohio, keeping him in the race, albeit at a distance.

The Republican establishment is in full panic mode now. Like Dr. Frankenstein, the party has created a monster they can’t control. Trump, ever the gracious winner, said any efforts to stop him at the convention could result in “riots”, adding “I’m representing a tremendous, many, many millions of people”.  Trump is calling the shots now, so much so that when he pulled out of the last scheduled debate, Fox just cancelled the whole thing, just the way they would if Gordon Ramsay quit Hell’s Kitchen (or Master Chef, or Master Chef Junior, or Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares, or Hotel Hell).  The only way to stop Trump now is to hope that he doesn’t earn enough delegates in the primaries to win outright (which seems likely), heading into a ‘brokered’ convention in Cleveland. According to Republican rules, after the first vote, the delegates are free to vote for whomever they want. This could create a chaotic free-for-all, which would tear the Republican party apart. With any luck, anyway.

The next big day is Tuesday, with 107 delegates at stake in three contests.

If you think Canadian prisoners are coddled, this story will blow your mind!

Sorry for the click bait. I couldn’t resist.

Remember Anders Behring Breivik? Probably not. But people in Norway sure do.

Back in 2011, Breivik committed the single worst mass murder in history. After planting a bomb in downtown Oslo that killed eight people, he proceeded to a Norwegian Labor Party youth retreat on the island of Utoya where he killed 69 mostly young people. Norway believes in rehabilitation, so he was sentenced to a mere 21 years in prison. He’s in solitary confinement, but he lives better than a lot of Norwegians. According to the New York Times, “He lives in a three-room suite with windows, about 340 square feet, that includes a treadmill, a fridge, a DVD player, a Sony PlayStation and a desk with a typewriter. He has been taking distance-learning courses at his country’s main university. He has access to television, radio and newspapers. He prepares his own food, and he entered the Christmas gingerbread-house baking contest at his prison.” No word on  whether he won.

Not exactly hard time. But Breivik still isn’t happy. He says the solitary confinement is a violation of his human rights, so he’s suing the government. When he entered the court for a hearing, he performed a snappy Nazi salute. That grinding sound you hear is the sound of millions or Norwegian teeth gnashing together.

 Pardon our French’s

Who would have thought that having your product yanked from a major retailer would be a good thing? But that’s exactly the case with French’s ketchup. Never heard of French’s ketchup? Me neither. We’re a Heinz family (or at least my wife is; she would put ketchup on tomatoes if it didn’t drive me crazy). But lots of Canadians now know French’s  (whose most famous product is mustard) now makes ketchup.
Here’s the background.
imgres
We salute the ketchup, the emblem of our country …

The community of Leamington, Ont. was devastated when ketchup-maker Heinz shut down its operations there in 2014, leaving 740 people without jobs and leaving Ontario tomatoes to whither on the vine. French’s, sensing an opportunity, began buying Leamington tomatoes for its own ketchup brand, which is bottled in the US.

Brian Fernandez, a construction worker from Orillia, Ont., noticed the gesture, posted a vow on Facebook to quit Heinz in favour of French’s. The post went viral – 43,000 people shared it within a day (who knows why) — and the media took notice.

Incredibly, Loblaws (Superstore is its best known brand here) announced Monday it was dropping French’s because of low sales, even though French’s says its sales were up 400% in Canada. By Tuesday, facing consumer outrage, Loblaws knuckled under and welcomed French’s back. Later, a leaked memo from Loblaws indicated that French’s was cannibalizing business from President’s Choice ketchup.

So French’s get millions in free advertising, Loblaws gets a smallish black eye, and Canadians have found a ketchup we can use with pride. Is French’s ketchup any good? I have no idea, and I probably never will. I doubt my wife will allow it in the door.

A Calgary NDP MLA gave the finger to a fellow MLA. Things only got worse after that. 

Calgary-Hawkwood MLA Michael Connolly gave the finger to Wildrose MLA Angela Pitt in the Legislature last week. When asked about it by the deputy speaker, he denied making the gesture and instead said he was throwing his hand in the air. That was lie no. 1. But the sergeant-of-arms saw him make the gesture, so he was caught red fingered. On Tuesday, while entering the legislature, he was asked by reporters about the incident — and he again denied doing it. That was lie no. 2.

But in the legislature, a  suddenly contrite Connolly made a statement: “My actions were not befitting of this chamber and the dignity herein. When this matter was raised at the time, I sought to minimize the matter instead of taking full responsibility. To be clear, my actions were not acceptable, and my apology and explanation were not good enough.”

He was then forced to go outside the chamber and repeat his apology to the same reporters he had lied to moments before. It’s moments like this that contribute to the results of a poll later in the week that revealed that most Albertans think the NDP government will be a one-term wonder. Hey, Alberta, you’ve got nobody to blame but yourself.

RIP

Gary Lefebvre, 71, longtime Edmonton Eskimo/Montreal Alouettes punter and receiver from 1966-76.  Lefebvre won two Grey Cups, one with Montreal where he had an abbreviated, injury plagued two years, and a second with the Eskimos … Frank Sinatra, Jr., 71, son of Old Blue Eyes. An accomplished singer and arranger in his own right, Frank Jr. could never escape the shadow of his old man. He died unexpectedly of a heart attack while on tour … Sylvia Anderson, 88, a creative force of the old Thunderbirds puppet show from the 1960s. She was also the voice of Lady Penelope, for those of you old enough to remember … Leilani Muir, 71, the first person to file a successful lawsuit against the Alberta government for wrongful sterilization under the Sexual Sterilization Act of Alberta. Yes, there really was such a thing … Keith Emerson, 71, English progressive rock and rock keyboardist (Emerson, Lake and Palmer).

Stuff Still Happens, week 6: Trudeau keeps promise, gets roasted

The Trudeau government made good on one of its election promises this week. Whether it was a good decision remains to be seen.

As promised, Trudeau is pulling our fighter jets out of the international bombing mission that is kicking the crap out of ISIS. Trudeau has never fully explained why we would pull out, other than it’s not “the Canadian way”, a.k.a. “the Liberal Party way”. Instead, we’re going to train anti-ISIS fighters, and put a lot more boots on the ground. We will continue to assist in the air war, but only in a support capacity. The decision to end the bombing mission seems like one of those promises parties make during an election campaign to differentiate themselves from the other parties. They are often made with little thought (see: NDP, Alberta) when it looks like you’re not going to win, so you don’t have to worry about keeping your promise. This, too, is the “Canadian way”. The Postmedia papers have been relentlessly negative on the new plan, but when it got the backing from the Pentagon, that bit of news went unreported.

The Jian Ghomeshi trial ended this week, and if you believe the media coverage, Ghomeshi is going to be back on the dating scene pretty soon. The consensus amongst the media covering the trial is that it was a bit of a fiasco for the Crown, and the Toronto police. All three complainants were demolished on the stand; at least according to the National Post’s star trial blowhard Christie Blatchford. For example, from the Blatchford “report” on the trial: ” … it’s now apparent he case was built upon the self-serving and carefully edited allegations of dishonest complainants, two of whom have been colluding and gleefully anticipating Ghomeshi’s ruination …” This is what passes for reporting in the new era of Postmedia. I suspect part of the National Post’s consistently pro-Ghomeshi reporting is because the Toronto Star broke the Ghomeshi story, and they would love nothing better than to discredit the Star.

On the interminable U.S. election campaign, they finally got down to some actual voting this week with the New Hampshire primary. New Hampshire is, apparently, a state. Who knew? It has about 1.3 million residents, making it the 42nd largest state and basically inconsequential — except at election time. Being the first state to hold a primary (New Hampshire law demands that the state will always be the first to hold a primary), it serves as the first litmus test for presidential campaigns. On Tuesday, Donald Trump easily won on the Republican side with 35% of the vote, as expected. Less expected was the second place finisher, a previously third-tier candidate named John Kasich, who has made little impression so far because he seems reasonable and moderate, two traits not found in Republican candidates. The vile Ted Cruz finished third, and the dead man walking, Jeb Bush, finished fourth. Marco ‘Mr. Roboto’ Rubio, after his impressive performance in Iowa, finished fifth. The New Hampshire results ended the delusions of Chris Christie and Carly Fiorina, who both pulled the plug. On the Democrat side, crazy old man Bernie Sanders continued to rock the boat, whumping Hillary Clinton. Interestingly, Clinton can’t even depend on female voters. Despite being the on the verge of being the first female presidential candidate, New Hampshire women were unimpressed. Sanders won 53% of the female vote compared to Clinton’s 46%, according to exit polls. Among young women, Sanders’ numbers were even higher: 69% of Democratic women under 45 backed him in the primary, a statistic which includes 82% of female primary voters under the age of 30. I’m still certain that Clinton will rebound and win the nomination easily — and by November will be the president-elect — but Sanders is going to be a very large fly  in the ointment for some time.

RIP: Dan Hicks, 74, musician best known for his band Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks. One of his song titles was the classic How Can I Miss You When You Won’t Go Away .. Edgar Mitchell, 85, sixth man on the moon … Xymena-Zaniewska-Chwedczuk, 91, Polish scenographer, architect and fashion designer. I have no idea who this guy (girl?) is, but I love the name.

Stuff Still Happens, week 5: The trial of Jian Who, and Trump is trumped

The Iowa caucuses were held on Monday, and the picture for both parties is now crystal clear — I can say without fear of contradiction that Martin O’Malley will NOT win the Democratic nomination.

O’Malley was running for the Democratic nomination, apparently. When the votes were tallied, the former governor of some state — no one is quite sure which — tallied just 1 per cent of the vote. And in a three person race, there is a statistical chance that the only votes he got were by accident. He wisely decided to quit the race, which is too bad. I mean, the guy looks like the kind of actor movies always like to employ to play the president.

In the real race, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders split the other votes nearly 50/50, indicating the Democratic battle might go on for a while until Clinton finally overwhelms Sanders with her millions in big business contributions. On the Republican side, the hugely entertaining psychopath Donald Trump finished second, barely ahead of vacuous pretty boy Marco Rubio. The winner was the profoundly evil Ted Cruz, who is so right wing that he is close to falling off the edge of the earth (which he probably believes is about 5,000 years old). Does this mean Cruz is cruising (sorry) to the nomination? Far from it. Exit polls showed that Cruz won 40 per cent of the vote from people who call themselves “very conservative”, and one out of three “evangelical” voters. Iowa has a lot more very conservative evangelical voters than, say, New Hampshire, or any other place outside of the South. The guy to watch, it appears, is Rubio. Cruz is widely hated, Trump is insane, and all of the other contenders aren’t getting anywhere (Rand Paul and Mike Huckabee both dropped out after Iowa). If the Anybody But Cruz/Trump vote coalesces around someone, Rubio is well placed to be that someone. (My son Scott, who wrote an entertaining blog about his trip to the Excited States of America recently, alerted me to this hilarious exchange from the Republican debate last week. When Fox’s Megyn Kelly stated “you’ve been described as the saviour of the Republican Party…” Rubio interjected with, “Megyn, let me stop you there. There’s only one saviour, and his name is Jesus Christ.” Can you imagine a Canadian politician saying something like this?) The next big event is the first primary in New Hampshire on Tuesday. Only nine months to election day!

By the way, all candidates spent about $70 million in Iowa; by comparison, the Liberal Party of Canada spent $40 million for the entire 2015 election. About 350,000 Iowans attended the caucuses, which means the parties spent about $200 per vote. Money well spent, I guess.

The sex assault trial of former CBC Radio star Jian Ghomeshi sent the Toronto-centric media into a frenzy this week. Every day of his trial so far, they gathered around in a huge knot of photographers to take pictures of a morose Ghomeshi walking into the courthouse. Same picture, day after day, but this is what big time media types do, I guess. Canada has very few home-grown stars, and trial gives the Toronto media a chance to gloat at the fall of a ‘star’ who became a little too full of himself. That’s not the Canadian way, after all.

I honestly don’t know if Canadians are following this trial as rabidly as the media seems to believe. Realistically, the audience for his old show was pretty small. It was on the CBC, and on the radio. You’d be hard pressed to find many Canadians who know who this guy with the funny name really is; it’s not like we’re talking Ron Maclean here. Frankly, I think the whole thing is kind of tragic. The show that Ghomeshi hosted, the morning pop-culture smorgasbord called Q, was quite often very good when he was in charge. Now, with some drab hipster-type who goes by one name (Shad, which is also a type of fish) as the host, it sucks. It’s a bit like The Daily Show. With Jon Stewart, it was great; with Trevor Noah, not worth watching.

You may have heard of a small scale sporting event happening Sunday, something about an extra special dish …. you might even call it a ‘super’ bowl.

The Big Game (as companies who don’t have the right to use the words ‘super’ and ‘bowl’ together call it) pits the Broncos of Denver against the Panthers of Carolina. I’m indifferent about the outcome, but if I look really hard I can find some reasons to pull for either team. The Broncos, for example, are owned by Pat Bowlen, a former Edmontonian. The Panthers are based in Charlotte, North Carolina, which was my mom’s hometown, so I assume I might have some distant relatives there (hello, people named Hankins in Charlotte). But otherwise … m’eh.

The annual story here in Canada is that we don’t get to watch the game with the American commercials, which is at least half the reason most people watch the Super Bowl (or, as I call it, the American Grey Cup). While Americans get to watch the most creative, wildly inventive commercials today, we get to see local commercials for Carpet Warehouse. That ends next year, by order of the CRTC, but it hardly matters anymore. In the pre-Internet days, this was a big deal. But now, the commercials appear on the web days before the game. You can see them here.

On the business front, Quebec-based home renovation retailer Rona agreed to be purchased by American behemoth Lowe’s for $3.2 billion. This, to me, is terrible news, and not just because another Canadian retailer is being gobbled up by an American giant. When I’ve visited Rona stores, I always found them well-staffed — and some of them even give you free popcorn! I’ve been to Lowe’s two or three times, and left every time without getting anybody to help me find anything. If this is the future of Rona, I guess it’s Home Depot for me.

RIP: Bob Elliott, 92, one half of the great, low key, witty and absurd comedy team Bob and Ray. I urge you to go to YouTube and listen to some of their bits. A great example is The Great Lakes Paperclip Company, which I think is hilarious. Also, The Komodo Dragon bit breaks me up. Bob was the father of comic actor Chris Elliott, a regular on the Letterman show. This gives me the opportunity to share one of the funniest comedy bits ever, Chris Elliott’s porn parody, Poolside Ecstasy. Makes me laugh every time … Maurice White, 74, founder of the funky, horn-based band Earth, Wind and Fire (September, Shining Star, Boogie Wonderland).

Stuff Still Happens, week 1: Happy new year … sort of

Welcome to 2016! Let’s start the year by forgetting old animosities, starting fresh and looking forward to an era of peace and goodwill between all religions and peoples.

In that spirit, Iran and Saudi Arabia are engaged in a violent spat over, basically, something that happened in 632. This week, Saudi Arabia (which is Muslim, but Sunni Muslim) executed Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr. This did not go over well with Iran (which is Muslim, but Shiite Muslim). Iran’s ruler, Ayatolla Ali Khamenie, said on Sunday that Saudi Arabia would face “divine vengeance” for the killing of the outspoken cleric, which was part of a mass execution of 47 men. The Saudi embassy in Tehran was attacked, both countries have recalled their ambassadors, and everybody is taking up sides.

So, what’s the problem here? As you know from your ancient Middle Eastern history, a schism emerged after the death of the Prophet Muhammad in 632. He died without appointing a successor to lead the Muslim community, creating the world’s longest, bloodiest family feud. See? It all makes perfect sense.

02texas_web-master675Jan. 1, 2016, was a great day for freedom in Texas. In the Land that Sanity Forgot, new ‘open carry’ laws came into effect. A change in the law allows Texans to open carry firearms, as long as they have a permit to do so. There are under a million Texans with the right to do so, resulting in scenes like the one above,  taken at a lunch counter in Austin on New Year’s Day. That’s a short-barrel AK-47 next to that kid’s head, by the way. Meanwhile, armed bozos have occupied a ranger station in Oregon in an attempt to overthrow the local government. Still in firearms news, President Barack Obama has decided that enough is enough, and has used executive action (great name for a 1980s Bruce Willis film, by the way) to bypass congress and toughen, however slightly, American gun laws. The president shed real tears while recalling the victims of the Sandy Hook school massacre, resulting in a Fox news commentator suggesting that there might have used onions to stimulate the tears. I could almost cry, too. No onions needed.

Meanwhile, the world’s no. 1 psychopath nation, North Korea, announced that is has detonated a hydrogen bomb. After an earthquake was felt as far away as China, and North Korean TV (still more reliable than Fox) announced with unrestrained glee by their 70-something-year-old grandmother anchor that it had detonated a hydrogen bomb. Part of the statement read: “There took place a world-startling event to be specially recorded in the national history spanning 5,000 years in the exciting period when all service personnel and people of (North Korea) are making a giant stride, performing eye-catching miracles and exploits day-by-day after turning out as one in the all-out charge to bring earlier the final victory of the revolutionary cause.”

For those of you not up on your nukes, a hydrogen bomb is only about a thousand times more powerful than the atomic bombs dropped on Japan in 1945. The US, however, pooh-poohed the claim, saying it was probably just an old-school atomic bomb. Well, I feel better.

In the world’s longest election campaign, Republican challenger Ted Cruz (winner of the World’s Ugliest Politician contest) is being questioned about his birthplace. Cruz was born in Canada to an American mother, and some are asking if Cruz can be president, based on the U.S. Constitution stipulation that only “natural born” Americans can be president. Cruz has renounced his Canadian citizenship (thank you), but all he really had to do was tell everyone the truth — he was born in Calgary, which is basically a Texas city with colder weather.

The rehabilitation of Deborah Drever is now complete. The once-disgraced accidental NDP MLA was welcomed back into the bosom of the party she hardly knew with a showy show of support designed by the media savvy new government. You remember Debbie, don’t you? She was one of the wave of unqualified, inexperienced people swept into office in the mass hysteria election of 2015.  She got into hot water when online pictures emerged of her being stupid, but what finally pushed her out of the caucus was calling Jim Prentice and Ric McIver “gay boyz” online. The NDP has coddled Drever ever since, handing her a can’t fail private member’s bill, and allowing her to ask the usual puffball questions of government. Now she can rightly resume her place in the far back benches of the government side, never to be heard from again.

The pop culture fixation of the day is the Netflix series, Making a Murderer. A decade in the filming, Making a Murderer follows the trial of a guy named Steven Avery, a Wisconsin man convicted of the 2005 murder of a young woman. While the 10-part (!) documentary doesn’t come right out and say it, it implies strongly that he was framed by law enforcement officials. If you have Netflix, I can’t recommend it enough; binge watching is almost guaranteed. Guilty or not, the documentary points out that the deck is stacked against the poor and the uneducated. For a more detailed look at the show, I suggest you read this blog, by some kid named Tougas.

RIP: Robert Stigwood, 81, music and movie impresario of the 1970s, responsible for such era-defining hits as Grease and Saturday Night Fever, and manager of the Bee Gees and Eric Clapton … actor Pat Harrington, 86, who played Schneider on the old One Day at a Time TV series.