Published Sunday, August 18, 2013 at 1:00 am / Updated at 2:43 pm
Gail Collins: Not even butter cow safe in strange August

August. A dead shark was found on a New York City subway. Meanwhile, at the Iowa State Fair, vegan activists broke into a refrigerated case in the Dairy Building and threw red paint on the butter cow. In San Diego, the mayor claimed the city should pay the costs of defending him in a sexual harassment lawsuit because he had never been given sensitivity training.

I am bringing all these things up to point out that you can be selective about what you have to worry about during August. It’s summertime. The living should be easy. Sometimes, if you relax, things just work themselves out. For instance, the butter cow has been cleaned up and is more popular than ever. And it turns out that the shark was dead before it got on the subway.

In New York City, the problem of Anthony Weiner for Mayor seems to be going away all by itself, with no effort whatsoever on our part. Weiner clocked in with an unfavorable rating of 80 percent in a recent poll, most of which was taken before he called a 69-year-old opponent “grandpa” at a forum sponsored by the AARP.

On the other hand, there’s San Diego. You may remember that, in July, Mayor Bob Filner was charged with sexual harassment by some of his former supporters who claimed that, among other things, he grabbed female workers around the neck and whispered lewd comments in their ears. That was the moment when the nation first became aware of the term “Filner headlock.”

Initially, the information was all secondhand, and Filner vowed that “the facts will vindicate me.” Even then, things looked ominous. For one thing, the facts-vindication defense had been preceded by a vow to behave differently. It was sort of like announcing that you’re innocent but will definitely never do it again.

Now, one lawsuit and about a dozen public accusations later, Filner is out of sight — allegedly having gone off for two weeks of sexual-harassment- rehab that seemed to have ended early, although there was also a claim that it had started ahead of schedule.

“Nobody knows where he is!” said Steven Erie, a professor at the University of California, San Diego, and an expert in the city’s dysfunctional local politics.

What Filner has definitely not done is quit. In his last public statement — which came out after every single member of the City Council had called for his resignation — the mayor announced that “now is not the time to go backward.”

It is pretty much a rule that any announcement that it’s not the time to go backward is a sign that things already have. And so is having a headlock named for you when you are not a professional wrestler.

Also, the women who have stepped forward include Filner’s former communications director, who’s filed the lawsuit, and a nurse, who said he came on to her when she was trying to get help for a homeless ex-Marine who had been injured in Iraq.

Also, the mayor is trying to get the city to pay his mounting legal fees by arguing that San Diego is responsible for everything because Filner never received the sensitivity course required for city employees. “There is a very, very good reason for mandatory sexual harassment training; if nothing else, it makes people think about the subject and how they interact with their fellow employees,” his lawyer wrote.

Filner’s supporters — approximately 50 of them showed up for a recent rally — claim the mayor is still popular in poor and minority neighborhoods. He’d run against the downtown business hierarchy and progressives thought his election would be the chance to turn things around. You can understand their frustration. But part of the point of being a progressive is that there are some things you just don’t tolerate, one of which is sexual harassment.

Unless Filner quits, volunteers are going to start circulating recall petitions next week. However, recalling an official in San Diego is a stupefyingly difficult process, involving a limited time span and more than 100,000 signatures of registered city voters. “This is summer — do you know how many people are out of town?” asked Erie, who envisions stacks of petitions mainly signed by “tourists who want to get in on the action.”

Let us stop for a moment and give props to Anthony Weiner. For one thing, his sexting scandal did not involve allegations of forced grabbing and patting and kissing and rubbing.

In the category of being thankful for small favors, we are thankful that there have been no claims that the former-congressman-turned-mayoral candidate ever did anything untoward to anyone he was in the same state with. Also, then he resigned and went away.

Of course he did come back, but probably not for long. Although we still may have to spend September with Eliot Spitzer.

More Nebraskans are electing to vote early
Kelly: Started at a dining room table, Home Instead thriving at 20 with $1B in annual revenue
Nebraska's U.S. Senate candidates stick to familiar topics at Omaha forum
8% of alcohol sellers checked in Omaha area last week sold booze to minors
OPS bus, SUV collide; no students onboard at the time
Waitress who served alcohol to teen before fatal crash gets jail time, probation
Lori Jenkins, charged as accessory in 4 murders, waives speedy trial
Iowa State servers hacked, nearly 30,000 SSNs at risk
New public employee pay data: Douglas, Lancaster, Sarpy Counties, plus utilities
2nd District House race: After 8 terms, Lee Terry knows how D.C. works — and doesn't
Bellevue man is killed at Minnesota dance hall after South Sudanese basketball tourney
Spring corn planting still sputters in Nebraska, Iowa, other key states
Nebraska banking and finance director to retire
19-year-old killed in one-vehicle crash at 72nd & Shirley
Gov. Heineman vetoes bill to ease restrictions on nurse practitioners
U.S. Senate race: State Auditor Mike Foley defends Shane Osborn against ad campaign
Public defender to represent Nikko Jenkins in sentencing
Mid-America Center on track for lower operating loss
Bluffs City Council approves dozens of new numbered street lights
National Law Enforcement Memorial Week set for May
Ted Cruz backs Pete Ricketts' campaign for governor
Omahan charged with 5th-offense DUI after street race causes rollover
2 blocks of Grover Street closed
Safety board report blames pilot error in 2013 crash that killed UNO student, passenger
Omaha man accused in shooting ordered held on $75,000 bail
< >
COLUMNISTS »
Kelly: Started at a dining room table, Home Instead thriving at 20 with $1B in annual revenue
The idea that Paul Hogan had studied and then hatched at his mother's table was that older people, rather than moving in with relatives or to an assisted-living center, would much prefer to stay home instead.
Breaking Brad: Into the claw machine! Florida kid follows Lincoln kid's lead
In Fort Lauderdale, Fla., a child climbed inside a claw machine. Hey, Florida kid: Nobody likes a copycat.
Breaking Brad: Even Chuck Hassebrook's throwing mud!
The Nebraska campaigns have turned so ugly, Democrat Chuck Hassebrook lobbed unfounded accusations at an imaginary opponent.
Breaking Brad: Kraft wiener recall is business opportunity for TD Ameritrade Park
Instead of returning the wieners, TD Ameritrade Park is calling them "cheese dogs" and charging double.
Breaking Brad: Photos with the Easter Bunny are so 2010
In a sign of the times, most kids ran out of patience waiting for a photo with the Easter Bunny at the mall, just snapped a selfie and went home.
Deadline Deal thumbnail
Tokyo Sushi
$5 for $10 or $10 for $20 toward All-You-Can-Eat Sushi Purchase
Buy Now
PHOTO GALLERIES »
< >
SPOTLIGHT »
Omaha World-Herald Contests
Enter for a chance to win great prizes.
OWH Store: Buy photos, books and articles
Buy photos, books and articles
Travel Snaps Photo
Going on Vacation? Take the Omaha World-Herald with you and you could the next Travel Snaps winner.
Click here to donate to Goodfellows
The 2011 Goodfellows fund drive provided holiday meals to nearly 5,000 families and their children, and raised more than $500,000 to help families in crisis year round.
WORLD-HERALD ALERTS »
Want to get World-Herald stories sent directly to your home or work computer? Sign up for Omaha.com's News Alerts and you will receive e-mails with the day's top stories.
Can't find what you need? Click here for site map »