Saturday, January 06, 2007

Movie Review - The Good Sheppard

Hey I'm on a roll now with two movies in two days. Well I'm sad to report, but Robert De Niro's "The Good Shepherd," an ambitious and starry attempt to trace the beginnings of the Central Intelligence Agency, may well have you counting sheep. But what emerges over nearly three hours is a glacially paced, emotionally frosty epic with a top-drawer cast. Not even the presence of Angelina Jolie cast as a wife who suffers for 25 years can thaw out Edward Wilson (Matt Damon), a fictional composite spook who remains a cipher from opening frame to last. Elements of the film were quite good though. The central story relates to the failed Bay of Pigs invasion in April, 1961. An intentionally slurred audiotape of a couple making love, accompanied by an indistinct photograph, is deposited under Wilson’s door. The evidence—or whatever it is—may contain a clue to why Fidel Castro’s forces knew in advance where the invaders were landing. Someone in a foreign intelligence service is presenting him with a riddle whose solution will draw him out of his Washington fortress and expose and destroy him. But then the movies goes back to 1939 and traces the history of the CIA. To me it was two movies - a historical piece on the CIA and an intriguing mystery. As you can tell I preferred the latter to the former.

Post-Holiday Minipoll

Something for a Saturday morning

Hey I wasn't the only one to notice Jessica Alba. Look at the kid in the water.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Movie Review - The Queen

Just got home from see The Queen and it was a delight. The movie centres around the royal family at the time of Princess Diana's death. The focus is on the relationship between the newly elected Prime Minister, Tony Blair and Queen Elizabeth. The acting by Helen Mirren as Elizabeth and James Cromwell as Prince Phillip is superb. Mirren plays Elizabeth as cold and tough and comes off quite unsympathetic. Cromwell's Prince Phillip is arrogant and mean-spirited. Shortly after Diana’s body is brought back from Paris, the Queen retreats to Balmoral, her Scottish estate without comment. She is more moved by the killing of a stag at the estate than the death of Diana. Her stubborn quiet only fuels the clamorous sorrow of the public, which lays thousands of bouquets before Buckingham Palace and eventually turns hostile to the royals. The ensuing crisis of confidence solidifies Blair’s power, bringing the monarchy one step closer to the oblivion it deserves. When the queen does break her silence, it’s because Elizabeth has finally understood not only the implications of her past but also those of the present. I look forward to watching Helen Mirren walk away with the Oscar later this year.

Bregman's to close doors after 28 years

I have many memories of this place. Though haven't been since the two movie theatres across the street closed up a few years ago.

What to do if you can only keep your spouse or your pet?

...give one away - but at least find a good home.

Wajid Khan

So following Stephane Dion's ultimatum, MP Wajid Khan (Mississauga–Streetsville) finally crossed the floor to sit as a Conservative backbencher. Sometimes this is a good move and sometimes not.

I think it usually will work out if you have the support of your constituents. For example, your party's position on income trusts is strongly opposed by senior and your riding has a large number of seniors. Or your party wants to end subsidies to farmers and you represent a rural riding. But if your are perceived as an opportunist trying only to further your career, it can come back to haunt you.

Wajid Khan represents a riding that has provided the Liberals with large winning margins. He benefited from that trend and somehow I doubt his personal appeal will be able to overcome that. I don't really see him sharing the views of the Conservative party but he will now have to campaign based on their platform.

His defection appears to be triggered by his appointment last summer as a special advisor to Prime Minister Stephen Harper on the Middle East and Afghanistan. I think he obviously enjoys that status and did not want to give it up. So his motives are quite transparent to me and likely his constituents. But one has to wonder how much weight will be given to his recommendations by the government, especially given Canada’s relative lack of diplomatic clout on the international stage and inability to effect meaningful change. He is being used by Harper to solidify his numbers in the House of Commons.

My view is that this morning Mr. Kahn committed political suicide. The post mortem will likely take place in the spring.

I'm so confused

Bill Clinton: The Early Years

Toronto's First Homicide for 2007, cont'd

A follow up to an earlier post.

It was New Year's Day. Arden-Ray Springer heard the knock at the front door. "Answer the door, Jean," he called up from the basement. He thought guests were arriving early for a family party. Then he heard a bang.

Arden-Ray ran upstairs, just as a young man was leaving. He turned to the foyer and saw his wife lying near the kitchen, a gunshot wound to her temple. The man put his gun away as neighbours started to gather outside the house on Snowball Cres., near Markham Rd. and Sheppard Ave. E.

"Get a licence plate," the father yelled out as he ran to tend to his 60-year-old wife. His son got a partial licence plate and so did the neighbours. But with all the support he got that terrible afternoon, Arden-Ray, 59, couldn't thank one homicide detective enough.

Altaf Ibrahim, 26, was arrested at his home near Scarborough Golf Club Rd. and Brimorton Dr. later that day and charged with first-degree murder. A dishevelled and bearded Ibrahim appeared in a Scarborough courthouse the next day, wearing an orange jumpsuit. A source said police are investigating whether the man had a history on mental illness.

Global Warming Clearance Sale

For sale! Slightly used consumer items no longer required in The Great White North. Best offer accepted. Contact CANADA, EH directly.

George W. Bush: What the Hell is Going On?

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Former Beauty Pageant Queen at Harper's Cabinet Table

So I see today, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced the appointment of Helena Guergis, Member of Parliament for Simcoe–Grey, Ontario, as Secretary of State (Foreign Affairs and International Trade) (Sport). So what qualifies this rising star of the Conservative caucus for a senior posting?

Well that last time I checked in on Helena Guergis she was defending a male colleague who had made a sexist comment about an Opposition MP in Parliament (see my earlier post).

Well she has been busy preparing for her new position. We also hear that Helena pretty addicted to her Blackberry.

She spends Question Period thumbing it up while those around her at least feigned some sort of interest in the proceedings by conspicuously drawing doodles in a binder or something.

She sat on a CPAC panel and criticized Stephane Dion's plan to proactively increase the number of woment in Parliament. Helena assumes that because the Guergis family runs Simcoe County it is just as easy for any woman to break into politics.

As Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of International Trade, David Emerson, Helena accompanied the Minister to Geneva in the spring to a WTO meeting. She ran up $7259.91 in expenses with $5187.16 for airfare. Now where do you find airfares like that at the taxpayers expense. I'm pretty sure that an economy flight to Geneva on Air Canada is under $1000.

So lets look at her resume to see what other qualifications she possesses. I see she was a former Miss Huronia and likely still has the tiara to prove it. She owned a small business (sold bath soaps in a mall). She volunteered with the Barrie Rape Crisis Centre and has contributed to fundraising efforts for a local food bank (I donate boxes of Kraft dinner too).

Oh wait, she also worked for former Ontario Finance Minister, Janet Ecker, and Progressive Conservative MPP Joe Tascona.

Yeah she's qualified to be on Harper's team!

Cop the Parisian Attitude

You don't need to speak French to understand the Parisians. You just need to know how to gesture. The French have released a new travel guide with commonly used gestures with meanings like "shut up".

The city's famously rude inhabitants have long been a headache for tourism authorities who have made repeated attempts to persuade Parisians to be more friendly to foreign visitors. So now they want you to be as rude as the locals. The latest campaign appears to cede to the notion that if you can't beat them, join them. There is also a web site to show people "How to Cop the Parisian Attitude" with games to help them learn commonly employed gestures.

Pat Robertson Predicts Mass Killing

The media is reporting that based on what God told him during a recent prayer retreat, Robertson predicted this week that a terrorist attack on the United States would result in “mass killing” late in 2007. Well it seems that God may need to find a new messenger.

It has now been clarified that Pat wasn't wearing his hearing aid on Tuesday and got the message wrong. It turns out God said terrier not terrorist and that the omnipotent one was referring to the Boston University Terriers football team. The mass killings was in reference to the University of Massachusetts who the Terriers play football in late 2007. It seems God is predicting a very one-sided game so get your wagers in early.

Phew! Pat you had me worried for a while.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Colorado Couple Selling Snow from Blizzard on eBay

Jim and Mary Walker are selling snow on eBay. Starting bids were holding steady Friday at 99 cents for samples from "Blizzard I and Blizzard II."

The Walkers got the idea for selling snow after shoveling mounds from two storms a week apart that together dumped more than 4 feet along the Front Range. "I figured eBay has ghosts and all sorts of weird stuff, so why not snow?" said Mary Walker, who teaches business workshops on employee communications. How much snow 99 cents or whatever the winning bid gets depends. Walker's auction notice suggests avoiding shipping and handling charges by stopping by their home and picking it up -- in a dump truck.

Only 10 offerings of snow are available, and the proceeds are earmarked for a used snowblower for Jim or a pair of shovels.

Don't Sleep in Garbage Bins

Petula Clark sang "Don't Sleep in the Subway" back in 1967. You can now add garbage bins to the list. As a commercial garbage truck started to compact a load Thursday, Oak Park (Michigan) police got a frantic cell phone call from a Detroit man trapped inside the rubbish. The man told police he was Dumpster diving for returnable bottles when he fell asleep. Obviously the fumes must have knocked him out.

Can't wait until the Ontario government puts a deposit on wine and liquor bottles (see my earlier post). Dumpster diving will be coming to Toronto.

No More Letting Sleeping Dogs Lie

Many of my friends own dogs who find sofas more comfortable than the floor. I know I do. Problem is that when you come over to visit, the dog has the sofa and I'm stuck on the floor. Dogs have the run of the house while everyone is at work - most of that time spent sleeping on your furniture.

Well there is a company out there that sells alarms that goes off every time your pet jumps on the furniture. I don't think batteries are included. So will it work on my daughter when she sprawls all over the sofa?

Couch Potato Contest - How Tough Can That Be?

Three men and a woman are vying for the Ultimate Couch Potato title by watching long, grueling hours of TV sports. I just hope they aren't all in the same room because I bet the 3 guys won't let the woman touch the remote. Contestants, selected from their 200-word essays, are allowed a five-minute break every hour and a 15-minute break every eight hours but must otherwise be looking constantly at the screen

The winner, gets a prize package valued at almost $5,000, including a 42-inch high-definition television, gift certificates and a trophy featuring a live spud. All entrants were to receive a leather recliner as long as they lasted a cushy 12 hours in the fifth-annual competition. I guess the only risk of injury would be chocking on a pretzel like Bush did a few years ago.

Girls Use Duct Tape Too

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

How to Get Rid of President Bush

Now why didn't I think of that?

We Partied Pretty Hard This Past Weekend

Record Temperatures for Toronto

The high in Toronto on New Year's Day was 9.2C (48.6F) which was a record high for January 1. And more warm weather is in the forecast for the rest of the week. In the past month it has been warm enough for me to run in shorts on several occasions. Global warming...nah!

It Works With Cabbies Too

How to Avoid a Ticket

When Going To College is a Sham

Purdue-Calumet has canceled the remainder of its men's basketball season and accepted the resignation of its coaching staff after eight of the team's 14 players were declared academically ineligible. The northwestern Indiana school will assess the program and make improvements before next season, said Rob Jensen, vice chancellor for health, recreation and sports, in a statement Friday.

The NAIA Division I school had an 8-5 record before canceling its remaining 16 games. That included a Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference postseason tournament.

Toronto's First Homicide for 2007

That didn't take too long. A woman, known to her friends as "Auntie Jeannie" and believed to be in her 60s, was shot in the face and killed when she opened the door of her Malvern home to a caller around 2:30 p.m. on New Year's Day. She was taken to Sunnybrook hospital and pronounced dead. Toronto police arrested a male suspect later in the evening.

Intelligent Design

A comparison of peoples' views in 34 countries finds that the United States ranks near the bottom when it comes to public acceptance of evolution. Only Turkey ranked lower. About one-third of the American population does not believe in evolution American Protestantism is more fundamentalist than anybody except perhaps the Islamic fundamentalist, which is why the U.S. and Turkey are so close. The study co-authored by Jon Miller of Michigan State University. A recent trial in Dover, Pennsylvania was a victory for evolutionists and help ensure that religion is kept out of the classroom. But creationists in the U.S. will never give up and to help their cause they have repackaged their beliefs and call it intelligent design, a conjecture which claims that certain features of the natural world are so complex that they could only be the work of a Supreme Being. Intelligent design proponents say they do not deny that evolution is true, only that scientists should not rule out the possibility of supernatural intervention.

Capital Punishment

With Saddam Hussein’s hanging on the weekend, I thought it might be useful to review the state of capital punishment in the world. Here are a few countries (courtesy Wikepedia).

The Netherlands, 1878 5 (last in 1952)
Iceland, 1928 (last in 1830)
Switzerland, 1942 4 (last in 1945)
New Zealand, 1961 1 (last in 1957)
United Kingdom, 1965 2 (last in 1964)
Malta, 1971 6 (last in 1943)
Sweden, 1972 (last in 1910)
Finland, 1972 (last in 1941)
Canada, 1976 (last in 1962)
France, 1981 (last in 1977)
Cyprus, 1983 3 (last in 1962)
Australia, 1985 (last in 1967)
Germany, 1987 (last in 1982)
Czech Republic, 1990 (last in 1989)
Denmark, 1994 (last in 1950)
Philippines, 2006 (last in 2005)

1 Full abolishment 1989.
2 Full abolishment 2003.
3 Full abolishment 2002.
4 Full abolishment 1992.
5 Full abolishment 1983.

6 Full abolishment 2000.

Saudi Arabia
Sri Lanka
United States (see map below)

Monday, January 01, 2007

An Iraqi Perspective on the Hanging

When you read this it's important to remember that Riverbend despised Saddam Hussein. Also worth reading is Raed in the Middle or Me Vs. MysElF.

My Thoughts on Saddam Hussein's Trial and Hanging

1. I acknowledge that he was a sadistic, evil, murdering bully who quoted the Koran while he butchered and tortured women and children. Still, I have this ongoing discomfort with capital punishment which is equivalent to state sponsored murder. How do you reinforce the sanctity of life if society allows certain people to be put to death. If that makes me a bleeding heart liberal, then so be it. And some people's reaction to Saddam's hanging is just a little too creepy for me. Most notably those who were calling for a public execution.

2. I believe Saddam had a fair trial but I believe the wrong approach was taken to achieve justice. He should have been tried in an international court for crimes against humanity. The trial had the appearance of the victors of a conflict inflicting revenge on the loser. This man was a monster and global criminal. Trying him an international court would make it look less like he was convicted by a kangaroo court. And the trial which was intended to show that the rule of law had returned to Iraq stood out like a sore thumb in compared to the chaos and mayhem that exists in Iraq outside the courtroom.

3. The much-feared dictator was convicted for his role in the killing of 148 Shiite men and boys after an assassination attempt against him in the central Iraqi town of Dujail in 1982. This was a "minor crime" when compared to the number of people he had put to death directly or indirectly. He did not go on trial for a second case charging him with responsibility in the deaths of thousands of Kurds during an anti-Kurdish campaign in the late 1980s. Hundreds of thousands of other Iraqis were killed during Saddam's regime, including Shiites who rebelled after the 1991 Gulf War. The trial of Saddam Hussein should have been used to showcase the international claims against him.

4. America the biggest financial and technical supporter of the trial, contributing more than $100 million to courtroom construction, and supplying the Iraqis with advisers, lawyers and forensic investigators. This created accusations that the trial was biased from the start.

5. Finally, I see that the American government and the American media see fit to show non-stop to the American public, 24/7 pictures and video of the hanging without serious moral reservations. On the other hand, the American government and, to a lesser extent, the American media did see not fit to show the American public pictures of coffins of dead American soldiers or torture victims at Abu Ghraib prison.

Are We Still Playing Hangman?


Happy New Year to All My Readers and Fellow Bloggers

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Another Lame Government Program - The Fitness Tax Credit

The Canadian government's new children's fitness tax credit takes effect on January 1 and adds another ill-conceived credit that makes completing tax returns more complicated. The $500 tax credit will go to parents who have children under 16 enrolled in sports to offset registration fees for activities that ''meaningfully contribute'' to their children's fitness level. I just don't think it will help fight the rising tide of obesity among young people. It seems to me that this will just be sucked up right away by people who are already involved in organized hockey, soccer, baseball.

An eligible program of prescribed physical activity, for the purposes of the credit, will be defined as an ongoing, supervised program, suitable for children, in which substantially all of the activities undertaken include a significant amount of physical activity that contribute to cardio-respiratory endurance, plus one or more of:
  • muscular strength,
  • muscular endurance,
  • flexibility, and
  • balance.

Better bring your accountant to the gym.

Living in Iraq

I found a blog, so appropriately called Baghdad Burning, created by a 27 year old Iraqi woman which describes so well what it is like to be living Iraq today. She has been maintaining the blog for 3 years now and it heart wrenching to read. I live comfortably in a safe and beautiful Canadian suburb and I can't imagine what it would be like living in hell - what Baghdad is today. Here are her words:

"This last year especially has been a turning point. Nearly every Iraqi has lost so much. So much. There's no way to describe the loss we've experienced with this war and occupation. There are no words to relay the feelings that come with the knowledge that daily almost 40 corpses are found in different states of decay and mutilation. There is no compensation for the dense, black cloud of fear that hangs over the head of every Iraqi. Fear of things so out of ones hands, it borders on the ridiculous- like whether your name is 'too Sunni' or 'too Shia'. Fear of the larger things- like the Americans in the tank, the police patrolling your area in black bandanas and green banners, and the Iraqi soldiers wearing black masks at the checkpoint.

Here we come to the end of 2006 and I am sad. Not simply sad for the state of the country, but for the state of our humanity, as Iraqis. We've all lost some of the compassion and civility that I felt made us special four years ago. I take myself as an example. Nearly four years ago, I cringed every time I heard about the death of an American soldier. They were occupiers, but they were humans also and the knowledge that they were being killed in my country gave me sleepless nights. Never mind they crossed oceans to attack the country, I actually felt for them.

Had I not chronicled those feelings of agitation in this very blog, I wouldn't believe them now. Today, they simply represent numbers. 3000 Americans dead over nearly four years? Really? That's the number of dead Iraqis in less than a month. The Americans had families? Too bad. So do we. So do the corpses in the streets and the ones waiting for identification in the morgue.

Is the American soldier that died today in Anbar more important than a cousin I have who was shot last month on the night of his engagement to a woman he's wanted to marry for the last six years? I don't think so. "