Questions For Sophia Bush

1. Considering your absolute lack of interest in holding your hero President Obama accountable for his numerous human rights violations, wouldn’t it make more sense for you to host the Do Nothing Awards?

2. Will you ever apologize for falsely claiming that disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong, who you still follow on Twitter, was the subject of an unwarranted “witch hunt”?

3. If you care so much about the environment, why aren’t you raising hell over Obama’s plans to drill in the melting Arctic?

4. Why do you lecture people about name calling on Twitter when you do it yourselfIf you can’t live up to your own standard, why maintain that standard in the first place?

5. When Obama orders drone strikes that kill innocent children, teenagers, men, women and expectant mothers in Middle Eastern countries, how can you stay silent?  Where is your outrage?

6. Is it fair to say that the only human rights violations you don’t care about are the ones President Obama is responsible for?

7. Although you have linked to two articles that praise American whistleblowers on Twitter, why no personal comments of support for Bradley Manning, John Kiriakou, Barrett Brown and Edward Snowden?

8. Do you regret totally accepting the federal government’s initial story regarding the 2011 assassination of Osama Bin Laden without any skepticism when major elements turned out to be false or, at the very least, disputed?

9. Specifically referencing Joseph Kony’s alleged war crimes, you once tweeted: “If we allow this to happen, we are complicit, and thus guilty. We cannot turn a blind eye to this horror.”  So, because you’ve turned a blind eye to President Obama’s proven war crimes, does that mean you’re also responsible for the drone murders of thousands of civilians; the torture and humiliation of unlawfully imprisoned, never convicted Gitmo detainees (half of whom have been cleared for release); the indefinite detention of violated Muslims in Bagram; the ruthless prosecutions of honourable whistleblowers, gamblers, journalists, drug users, immigrants, protestors and cancer patients; the increasing militarization of American law enforcementthe racial profiling of Muslims both here and abroad; the immunization of Wall Street as well as telecoms & Internet companies who helped the NSA violate the Fourth Amendment rights and invade the privacy of ordinary citizens worldwide?

10. You sit on the Advisory Board of RYOT.org.  Has the website ever reported any important news that didn’t originally come from a more established media source like The Associated Press?  Would a potential whistleblower willing to expose malfeasance in the Obama Administration be comfortable with the idea of leaking to your site and would a reporter be willing to cover the story and protect them from inevitable persecution and retaliation?

11. Do you avoid publicly criticizing President Obama because you enjoy visiting him & getting your picture taken with him at The White House?  Do you stay quiet because you don’t want to lose that personal access?

12. Don’t you think it hurts your credibility as a human rights activist to not say a word about Obama’s numerous violations of the Constitution and the Geneva Conventions?

13. Martin Luther King once wrote, “The question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists will we be.  Will we be extremists for hate or for love?”  As a longtime supporter of President Obama, doesn’t that put you in the first category?

14. Speaking of MLK, you retweeted this quote of his:  “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”  Have you been silent about Obama’s war crimes and constitutional violations because you feel they don’t matter?

15. When you don’t voice your disapproval for Obama’s human rights violations publicly, does that mean you support them secretly?

16. How is that John Cusack is “poignant and brilliant” when he criticizes Obama but when I do it, I “sound like a petulant child” who needs to “grow up”Can you explain the difference to me because I don’t understand.

17. Speaking of Mr. Cusack, if you admire him so much, why don’t you follow him on Twitter, retweet anything he posts or single him out for praise?

18. You acknowledged the suspicious death of Rolling Stone/BuzzFeed reporter Michael Hastings on Twitter.  Considering how adversarial he was with regards to Obama’s foreign policy, why aren’t you as critical of The President?

19. In this tweet, you write:  “some of my favourite friends and people on Earth are Muslim.”  And in this one:  “I don’t put up w/ bullies.”  Then, why do you support a President who not only orders the profiling, torturing and killing of innocent Muslims but also threatens countries that refuse to do his bidding?  Furthermore, do your friends appreciate your lack of public condemnation for the general mistreatment of Muslims by this administration?

20. You once told Fox News, “I will not vote for a candidate who thinks that he has more rights to my uterus than I do…” And yet, when President Obama tried to enforce age restrictions on Plan B (which he eventually abandoned), you stayed silent.  Why?

21. Back in March, you tweeted to me, “…I have seen marginalized people gain rights they didn’t have before since he’s [meaning Obama] been elected.”  Which “marginalized people” are you referring to and what new rights have they gained under this administration?

22. You also tweeted to me, “…I have many more discussions with news outlets and friends around my dinner table alike than you will ever know.”  Do any of these discussions involve Obama’s numerous human rights and constitutional violations and whether or not you support or condemn said actions?

23.  In another tweet you wrote to me:  “To criticize another person’s human rights work as, to paraphrase, ‘not the right kind,’ or ‘not enough’ or ‘convenient,’ is deeply insulting and offensive.”  Where in my writing did I actually do this?

24. In this tweet, you said, “I speak about things I am passionate about.  Things that have affected me personally.”  Why do you need to have a personal experience with either an issue or an injustice in order to speak out about it?

25. You recently retweeted: “You can only watch injustice go on for so long until you’re compelled to say something.  To speak out against it.”  How long will you be watching the injustices caused by President Obama’s policies before speaking out against them?

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, July 29, 2013
12:17 a.m.

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Published in: on July 29, 2013 at 12:18 am  Comments (2)  

Texas Chainsaw

Time to play a new game.  Let’s call it:  Who Has It The Worst?  Our first contestant is a middle-aged man who wears a human mask sewn right into his face.  He has the mentality of an 8-year-old, lives all alone in his family’s basement and enjoys slicing off human body parts with his trusty collection of chainsaws.  (A cannibal’s gotta eat, you know?)  Give it up for Jedidiah, everybody!

Now let’s meet our second contestant.  She’s an aspiring artist in her 20s who cuts and packages meat at her local grocery store where she works with a girlfriend, a cashier, who is secretly fucking her live-in boyfriend, a fighter.  Her parents can’t stand her and the feeling is mutual.  Let’s hear it for Heather!

Little do either of them know, they’re about to meet for the first time in Texas Chainsaw, the more-disturbing-than-scary seventh installment in this longtime horror series.  Pretending that there never was a sequel to the 1974 original, the film continues the story by slyly incorporating new scenes set in the same time period to match quick flashbacks from its influential predecessor.

After we witness Jedidiah kill a number of innocent people (and watch his family torment a woman who eventually escapes), the Sheriff of this small Texas town (Thom Barry, one of the standout supporting players here) tracks down his entire family of cannibals at their farm house (a carefully replicated version of the original set (both inside and out) from the first film) where he demands the surrender of the first silent, masked, homicidal maniac in movie history.

The family initially refuses.  But as they reconsider honouring the request, a band of local yokels, led by Bible-thumping Burt (the terrifically villainous Paul Rae), arrive and they’re not exactly the patient types.  Completely ignoring the pleas of the sensible Sheriff Hooper, they launch an unprovoked attack on the entire household.  (Think gun shots and Molotov cocktails.)  Later that night, in a makeshift garage away from the utterly decimated crime scene, one of the hicks discovers a terrified woman with her baby.  Knowing that his wife wants one of her own but can’t conceive, he kicks the poor woman and takes away her pride and joy.  She’s the last Sawyer to die in the aftermath of the original massacre.  Despite damning written testimony by Hooper, no one goes to jail for willfully participating.

A couple of decades later, a fully grown Heather (the beguiling Alexandra Daddario) learns she was that baby.  She also learns that the grandmother she never knew has just died and bequeathed her large mansion to her among other assets we never learn about.  Already planning to go to New Orleans to celebrate Halloween with her unfaithful boyfriend, Ryan (musician Trey Songz), her two-timing gal pal/co-worker, Nikki (sexy Tania Raymonde), and her new guy, Kenny (Keram Malicki-Sanchez), a would-be chef old high school friend Ryan fixed her up with, they all agree to check out the mansion in Newt, Texas along the way.

During a junk food pit stop, Ryan appears to have hit an innocent hitchhiker (Shaun Sipos) with his van.  The stranger convinces everybody inside through his convenient tale of woe to take him along.  Once they arrive at the mansion gate, Heather’s lawyer, Mr. Farnsworth (played by reliable character actor Richard Riehle), gives them all the lowdown on her newly acquired property.  He also specifically requests more than once that she read a letter her grandmother wrote to her shortly before her death.  The fact that she doesn’t do this until the end of the movie reveals the overall lack of intelligence we’re dealing with here.

Also dumb is how the foursome allow Darryl, the aforementioned too-good-to-be-true hitchhiker, to stay behind while they go into town to buy groceries for the next couple of days.  (The gang decide to spend the night in Newt because the mansion is “insane”, you see.  Example:  it has a pool table!)  Trusting a guy they barely know to watch the place while they’re gone for a bit leads to the discovery that he’s a thief.  (How shocking.)  Thanks to his greedy ways, he stumbles upon a secret entranceway and a staircase that leads to the basement where he hopes to find more treasure.

After grumbling about all the old bottles of wine he finds in one room, he spots an empty dinner tray on the floor right in front of a sliding steel door.  Trying desperately to open it, he encounters the mansion’s big secret.  You guessed it, Jedidiah, who promptly offs him, an event that goes completely unnoticed for quite some time by the returning couples.  He was that missed.  (However, there’s a funny moment when the gang return and express admiration for his “smooth” con job.)

Later that night, old Leatherface wacks another curious member of the group (also unnoticed for a time) and introduces himself in his own unique way to the exploring Heather, the surviving cousin he’s never met as an adult.  (Should’ve read Granny’s letter, miss thang.  Speaking of the old lady, her body is still in the house.  What’s that about?)  She barely escapes the property with Ryan and Nikki (who unintentionally save her by drawing attention to themselves after their literal romp in the hay is interrupted), albeit temporarily.  Thanks to the chainsaw wonder, their car flips over and Heather is the only one who manages to get away.

With the relentless Jedidiah hot on her trail, she runs frantically through a carnival until she’s rescued by Carl (Scott Eastwood; yes, Clint’s son), another character our sad sack hero is wrong to trust.

As I mentioned before, Texas Chainsaw is the seventh Massacre movie in a franchise that has now entered its fifth decade.  It is by no means a good movie.  There are only two genuinely effective thrills.  One involves a chainsaw toss, the other a freaky painting.  Although it continues the unchecked depravity and gore that ran rampant in the two most recent entries in this series (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake and its subsequent prequel, The Beginning, both unpleasant experiences no one should ever suffer through), it at least tries to be a little different, just not very successfully.

When Leatherface finds himself on the receiving end of a redneck double team late in the third act, if this were a professional wrestling angle, ideally, the fans would start cheering for his comeback.  Unfortunately, I didn’t.  Sure enough, his terrified cousin (who is deeply relieved she has that family birthmark he eventually sees and recognizes) forms an uncomfortable, belated alliance with him despite what he did to her friends earlier on.  I’ve seen some awkward babyface turns in wrestling before but this one takes the prize.  No wonder it’s not terribly persuasive.

But back to our game.  I ask again, Who Has It The Worst?  Is it the friendless, orphaned psychotic freak who lives in a dank, windowless basement, can’t stop killing people and is never seen without his human face mask?  Or the overly naïve young woman with the haunting eyes, no good options remaining at the conclusion of this film and who’s roped into taking care of him?

Call it a draw.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Wednesday, July 24, 2013
1:16 a.m.

Published in: on July 24, 2013 at 1:16 am  Comments (3)  

Breaking Dawn – Part 2

She is reborn.  Her senses heightened.  Her speed and strength greatly accelerated.  Her hunger hard to contain.

At the end of Breaking Dawn – Part 1, Bella Swan nearly died becoming a mom, then woke up as a newborn vampire.  Now married to Edward Cullen, the pasty bloodsucker who reluctantly but inevitably transformed her into her current state, she has to leave her old human life behind if she is to survive with her new family in Part 2.  Ask me if I give a shit.

From the beginning, I’ve never believed in this relationship.  Kristen Stewart (who has never looked lovelier than she does in this movie, I must admit) and Robert Pattinson have so little chemistry together, to this day I’m still shocked they ever dated in real life.  (The cynic in me thinks it was all a ruse to give this then-anticipated franchise even more publicity.  Totally unnecessary, as it turns out.)  It’s because of this terminally unconvincing romance that I’ve never warmed to any of the four previous films in this series.

Breaking Dawn – Part 2, the fifth and final chapter in The Twilight Saga, actually starts off quite brilliantly with one of the most spectacular opening title sequences I’ve seen in quite some time.  (These films have always been beautifully photographed.)  Even seeing Bella immediately embrace her new found undead existence is cool, especially in the fun little scene where she quickly learns to adapt to the Cullens’ “vegetarian” lifestyle.

But shortly thereafter, it’s back to the same old, same old.  (No amount of artsy editing will ever make a typically flat Bella/Edward love scene sizzle.)  Three days after the birth of her daughter, Bella finally gets to meet Renesmee, a distracting special effect with a full head of hair.  Like everybody in this dull family, she has a special power.  She can communicate through your face with the touch of her right hand.  (Actually, two special powers.  She can jump way up to touch a snowflake, as well.)  Big whoop.

At any event, during the snowflake jumping scene, Irina (Maggie Grace), an estranged vampire from a different clan, witnesses this moment wrongly thinking a crime has been committed.  (Child immortals are bad news, we learn.)  So, she informs The Volturi who take about an hour or so to arrive on the scene to get some answers.  (For a species known for its incredible speed, they’re awfully slow to show up for this supposed crisis.)

It turns out, of course, that the adorable, rapidly growing Renesmee (eventually played by a real child actor named Mackenzie Foy) is actually half-immortal, half-human, a true rarity in the vampire world and not really a big threat to anybody, despite the paranoia of The Volturi.  To avoid a potential war with this cheerfully violent bloodsucker equivalent of the Supreme Court (led by the always entertaining Michael Sheen as Aro), the Cullen clan seek out numerous cold-blooded friends from around the world to vouch for “Nessie’s” ultimate harmlessness.  If the Volturi are unconvinced by their testimonies (always a strong possibility for the murderous group), Bella will allow her daughter’s protector (and future lover) Jacob (the still dickish Taylor Lautner) to take Renesmee far away from any potential bloodshed.  (Initially, she’s appalled that he imprinted on Nessie and that he nicknamed her after The Loch Ness Monster.  Why she inevitably changes her mind about this I have no idea.)

In the meantime, Bella learns she’s a “shield”, a defensive vampire who can protect herself and her new family by lessening the pain enemies inflict on all of them through some kind of magical mumbo jumbo.  Unfortunately, fully embracing this new reality means abandoning her old human connections including the most important one with her concerned father (the underutilized Billy Burke) who keeps calling the Cullens twice a day to find out what happened to his daughter after the events of the last movie.  (They want to tell him she’s dead.  Jacob makes sure that doesn’t happen.)

Breaking Dawn – Part 2 is a lot shorter than I thought it would be.  (I was expecting a two and a half hour epic to end this “saga”.)  But like all the other installments, it feels much longer than it actually is.  (Pacing was never this series’ strong suit.)  Despite the surprisingly good opening, a fine performance from the unapologetically theatrical Sheen, gorgeous cinematography and countless beheadings (one of which made me howl with unintentional laughter) in the mostly effective third act, like me, if you were ultimately bored watching all the previous chapters in this series, don’t expect to be exhilarated during this one.

As long as I live I’ll never understand the appeal of these movies.  The comatose romances, the uninspired characters, the rather obvious looking special effects, the lack of heart-pounding drama.  It’s hard to imagine real film connoisseurs of the future talking as reverently with the same pitched excitement about this series the way die-hard fans are talking about them now.  It has to be said, The Twilight Saga from start to finish is consistently bland and completely unworthy of such devotion.

That being said, if there’s one character in Breaking Dawn – Part 2 I strongly identify with, it’s Marcus.  He’s the only member of The Volturi with a permanently sad expression on his face.

After suffering through all five of these pictures, I know exactly how he feels.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Tuesday, July 23, 2013
2:55 p.m.

Published in: on July 23, 2013 at 2:55 pm  Comments (1)  

What If Trayvon Martin Was A Muslim?

An armed Hispanic man was found not guilty of killing an unarmed black teenager on Saturday.  I wasn’t surprised.  Just when you think America has come a long way from its embarrassing, hateful past, we are bluntly reminded in a jolting instant that true equality still doesn’t exist and might not happen for some time to come.

But let’s put that aside for a moment.  This was an awful case to prosecute.  There were no credible eyewitnesses.  There was no video evidence.  (Even if there was, would the incident have been clearly seen?  Probably not.  It was night time and the sidewalk wasn’t well lit.)  We have no idea what George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin actually said to each other that February evening, we have no idea who threw the first punch and we have no idea what exactly made the neighbourhood watch volunteer pull out his gun and shoot a 17-year-old once directly in the heart at close range.  As for the evidence that was used in the trial, quite a bit of it was disputed, to the great benefit of the defendant.  Doubt set him free.

The prosecution did themselves no favours by pushing for a second degree murder charge, an enormous burden to meet in a case that didn’t need any more controversy.  In order to get a conviction, a murder charge requires a definitive degree of pre-meditation.  Is there irrefutable proof Zimmerman’s whole plan was to kill Martin that night?  The jury answered that question even before they reached a verdict when they asked for clarification about the manslaughter charge they ultimately didn’t consider as an alternative punishment.  (Yes, he did tell a dispatcher that night, “These assholes.  They always get away.”  But was he plotting a murder or an arrest?  It’s not so clear cut, is it?  That’s the problem.)

As horrendous as this tragedy is (and don’t think for a second that I support what Zimmerman did because I never have; racial profiling is unconstitutional and minor cuts do not justify pulling the trigger on someone), imagine how different the reaction would’ve been if Trayvon Martin was a Muslim.

Think about it.  Would American citizens be nearly as outraged about his death if was wearing a turban or any other traditional Muslim head covering instead of a hoodie?  Would they be wearing turbans in solidarity?  Would they still be protesting in the streets demanding George Zimmerman’s arrest for weeks after the tragedy?  Would they go out of their way to publicly support his grieving family?  Would they demand changes to unfair law enforcement policies and criminal laws discriminatory to people like him?  And, as far as the news media is concerned, does anyone believe CNN would have devoted so much wall-to-wall coverage if Trayvon’s name was Muhammed?

Considering the demonstrable lack of outrage (and TV coverage, for that matter) regarding President Obama’s ongoing, heartless drone program against hundreds, if not thousands of innocent civilians in Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan; the longterm, fruitless mass surveillance of American Muslims by the increasingly evil New York Police Department; the continuously bogus FBI sting operations that throw the most vulnerable away for decades and the ongoing nightmare that is Gitmo, it’s pretty safe to say that the answer to every one of those questions is a resounding no.  Internationally?  Yes, there would be plenty of anger.  Domestically?  Not so much.  Case in point:  when did Americans start caring about unlawful mass surveillance?  After a white man named Edward Snowden blew the whistle and revealed that their private data was being accumulated and stored by Obama and company, as well.  Did they care when this was only happening to law-abiding Muslims?

While Black Americans are still disproportionately targeted by misguided law enforcement, at least there is considerable public support for the injustices they face, as the Martin tragedy proves.  Just look at all the spontaneous, peaceful protests that came together after the not guilty verdict which will likely continue for quite some time.  Notable exceptions aside, do the plight of Muslims inspire nearly the same amount of sympathy and rallying cries from their fellow Americans?  Of course they don’t.

And why is that?  It’s very simple.  When two successive federal governments go out of their way to demonize a good and decent people because of what happened on September 11, 2001 and the public swallows the propaganda whole courtesy of a compliant media, every Muslim in America becomes a target.  Thanks to all this relentless negativity they’ve faced for more than a decade, to the rest of the country, they are enemies to fear, not neighbours to embrace.

In New York City alone, they face countless, unmerited suspicions from Ray Kelly’s disturbingly unconstitutional, deeply invasive surveillance programs to the point where even they don’t trust each other anymore.  They’re not free to practice their peaceful religion and no longer feel comfortable enough to interact with one other unreservedly in any shape or form.  And you can forget about having political discussions or watching coverage of the Middle East on TV.  That makes you suspicious, you see, so do change the channel or turn it off entirely for your own protection.  In America, being an Angry Muslim is even worse than being an Angry Black Guy.  Because that means you’re secretly plotting some kind of attack from within your own home thanks to your irrational hatred of America, the greatest country in the world, don’t you know?  How do we know this?  Just look at them.  They’re.  Not.  Like.  Us.  (Is it any wonder that NYC’s hated “stop and frisk” program, which mostly targets innocent Black Americans, is facing far more public resistance than the surveillance of Muslims?)

But as Trayvon Martin’s grieving family and many of the people who supported them this past year and a half are now belatedly realizing, America’s justice system isn’t so wonderful.  Not for innocent black teenagers and most certainly not for Muslim Americans.

How can it be when almost a hundred Muslim men, all free to leave Gitmo (since they got the all-clear years ago) because they’re not guilty of anything, can’t leave because Sophia Bush’s fucking “unicorn” won’t let them out for fear they might do something horrible to America, something they didn’t do in the first place?  How can it be when all of them (plus nearly a hundred more who also haven’t been convicted of any wrongdoing) have to starve themselves to get anyone to pay attention to their dilemma after years of being ignored?  (For the record, this isn’t their first hunger strike, either.)  How can it be when Muslim children as young as 1 are exterminated by drones whose missiles slice off the appendages of their thoroughly charred little bodies, sometimes beyond recognition, without any sustained public outcry?  How can it be when the military officers who operate those drones think of dead Arabs in general as “bug splat”?  How can it be when even an American football player of Palestinian descent has to assuage his fearful countrymen that he’s not one of The Bad Muslims?  Because, silly:  They’re.  Not.  Like.  Us.

For all the anger people are feeling over Zimmerman’s acquittal, wouldn’t it be nice if that powerful energy went beyond this one case and into a larger movement of dissent against the state of the American justice system, especially the out-of-control militarization of law enforcement?  Wouldn’t it be nice if the Obama Administration actually feared the wrath of its supporters rather than the other way around?   And wouldn’t it be nice if all this collective disappointment with this corrupt state of affairs (the millions of deportations, the NSA surveillance scandals, the war on drug addicts and medical marijuana users, gun culture, rape culture, the war on abortion rights, a government-worshipping media and on and on and on) actually led to longterm, sustainable reforms?

While the world awaits the results of the Justice Department’s just revived civil rights investigation against Zimmerman, ask yourself this question:  would this be happening if Trayvon Martin was an Arab-American?  If you answer yes, you haven’t been paying attention.  If you answer no, welcome to reality.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, July 15, 2013
1:34 a.m.

Published in: on July 15, 2013 at 1:35 am  Leave a Comment  

Why The “Foiled” B.C. Plot Sounds Like A Bogus Sting

Trevor Aaronson has written a timely new book.  It’s called The Terror Factory: Inside The FBI’s Manufactured War On Terrorism.   (I would love to read it.)  In a recent interview with Salon, when asked to respond to law enforcement claims that “foiled attacks prove that they are saving American lives,”, the author said this:

“I’d say that the majority of the foiled attacks that they cite are really only foiled attacks because the FBI made the attack possible, and most of the people who are caught in these so-called foiled attacks are caught through sting operations that use either an undercover FBI agent or informant posing as some sort of Al-Qaeda operative.

In all of these cases, the defendants, or the would-be terrorists, are people who at best have a vague idea that they want to commit some sort of violent act or some sort of act of terrorism but have no means on their own. They don’t have weapons. They don’t have connections with any international terrorist groups.

In many cases they’re mentally ill or they’re economically desperate. An undercover informant or agent posing as an Al-Qaeda operative gives them everything they need… gives them the transportation, gives them the money if they need it, and then gives them the bomb and even the idea for the terrorist attack. And then when that person pushes a button to detonate the bomb that they believe will explode—a bomb that was provided to them in whole by the FBI—agents rush in, arrest them and charge them with conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction and then parade that person out to the public saying, ‘Look at us. We caught a terrorist. This is us keeping you safe.’

If you look at the record of prosecutions in the decade after 911, there has yet to be a case of some Al-Qaeda operative providing the means for a wannabe terrorist to do an act of terrorism. It’s only the FBI that’s providing the means through these sting operations.”

Aaronson was talking about the FBI’s dubious arrests of many vulnerable, impressionable and ultimately unsuspecting Muslims but he could’ve easily been talking about John Nuttall and Amanda Korody.

Earlier this month, the RCMP announced they had arrested the duo who were allegedly plotting to blow up the British Columbia Legislature on Canada Day.  They claimed they were going to achieve this with homemade bombs.  The Mounties helpfully provided photos of these supposed weapons of mass destruction during their July 1st press conference.

The busts were a shock for many Canadians but never more so than for the people who actually know Nuttall and Korody.  The former, a 38-year-old aspiring musician/recovering drug addict with an admitted criminal history, is described as having “the mentality of a 16-year-old” and the latter, his late-twentysomething girlfriend, as being “impressionable” and “just basically always trying to find or trying to assume some type of identity that would give her some kind of feeling of a purpose or some kind of a place in the world.”

In other words, not enormous threats to national security.  But according to the RCMP, who trumpeted their arrests as a Very Big Deal, they were sympathetic to Al Qaeda’s violent philosophy and therefore, are now facing serious criminal charges.

However, even before the Crown begins to present its case against them in court, there are immediate red flags.  According to The Globe & Mail, the couple were closely observed as part of a five-month investigation based on a supposed tip by CSIS, Canada’s CIA.  That leads to an obvious two-part question:  why was Canada’s national intelligence agency spying on two of its own citizens and why did they think they were worth closer scrutiny?

And then, there’s this.  Daryl Nelson told the CBC that he used to play paintball with Nuttall, his best friend.  But that all came to an end when he started hanging out with 3 or 4 Muslim “brothers” who attended mosque with him (he was later kicked out) and were regular fixtures at his basement apartment he shared with Korody.  “One of them employed him at a furniture store apparently, got him delivering packages,” Nelson said.

In his Salon interview, Aaronson talked about American Derek Shareef, a “down on his luck” video store clerk whose recent conversion to Islam so offended his own family he ended up living in his “broken down” car.  For some reason, the FBI decided to implicate him in a sting.  An informant, “a convicted drug dealer”, befriended Shareef, offered him a place to stay and then tried to get him worked up about America’s numerous wars in the Middle East.

“Derek at some point says, ‘I want to do something about this. I want to kill a judge.’ The informant says, ‘Okay, which judge?’

Of course, Derek couldn’t name the name of any judges and so the informant then gets Derek involved in a more manageable plot. He suggests that they go attack a shopping mall on Christmas Eve. For whatever reason, as in a lot of these plots, Derek agrees that he wants to do that, but the problem for the FBI informant and the FBI agent in this case was that Derek didn’t have any money.”

So, the FBI decided to “introduce Derek to an arms dealer who can provide grenades and Derek, in turn, has these two ratty, old stereo speakers, which are the only thing he has of earthly value and the informant tells Derek, ‘I think if you bring your stereo speakers to an arms dealer, he’ll just say, OK, fair trade and here’s four grenades.'”

The arms dealer was, of course, an undercover FBI agent.  Once this absurd trade was completed, “Agents rush in, arrest Derek and charge him with conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction, and he’s ultimately serving 17 years in prison.”

Back to the B.C. case.  What are the chances these “3 or 4 Muslim brothers” were either undercover agents or paid informants purposefully befriending a deeply troubled, unemployed drug addict who isn’t exactly a neat freak?  What are the chances any or all of them got a man with a history of cocaine abuse aggravated about all things Middle Eastern?  What are the chances they suggested he and his “impressionable” girlfriend bomb the B.C. Legislature?  And because the couple aren’t exactly rolling in dough, what are the chances these “brothers” supplied the materials to make these supposed bombs in order to carry out said plot?

Like Shareef, Nuttall and Korody don’t have any real affiliations with Al Qaeda.  The RCMP admitted as much in their press conference.  And based on their sad histories, they don’t seem to have any real reason to want to bomb anybody.  When one person is trying to kick drugs & play music while the other is looking for an identity, and neither of them are particularly wealthy, is there any time and energy left for violent political rage?  Furthermore, “these devices were completely under our control, they were inert and at no time represented a threat to public safety.”  Translation:  “these devices” weren’t even real bombs.

The problem with this case, like a lot of the sting operations Arronson talked about in his Salon interview, is that people are understandably not sympathetic to those who are accused of wanting to commit mass murder which is what the FBI and the RCMP are counting on to get convictions.  But if folks could just open their eyes to see the accused in these cases are unhealthy, powerless people who are being taking advantage of by overzealous law enforcement agents who are either looking to profit and/or get an image boost, perhaps real justice might still exist.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, July 14, 2013
12:45 a.m.

Published in: on July 14, 2013 at 12:45 am  Comments (1)  

Beetlejuice

When I was a teen, I used to love watching the Beetlejuice cartoon on Saturday afternoons.  I wish I could remember why.  (I have zero memory of a single moment I enjoyed in its entire history.)  I’m not sure how I felt about the movie the show was based on and whether I ever saw it from start to finish back then.  (I can only recall bits and pieces so probably not.)  Having just screened it in its entirety 25 years after its original theatrical release, I can now say this about the film today.  It has not aged particularly well.

Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis are a happily married couple vacationing in an old house in a small American town.  A real estate friend is desperate for them to sell the place but they’re not interested.  For some weird reason, Baldwin has been building a complete replica of this small town in his attic.  One afternoon, he drives with his housewife to the neighbourhood hardware store where apparently the owner has Grandpa Simpson disease and you can just go right in, grab what you need and not pay.  (Baldwin, the bespectacled hobbyist, needs a model part to finish his project.)

On their way back, they nearly avoid running over a pesky little dog on a bridge and soon find themselves dangling over it precariously.  One foolish move by the silly pup and they flip right over into the river below.  When they return home, it takes them a bit to realize the obvious.  They’re dead.  (Apparently, no one was able to save them from drowning.)  They have no reflection in the mirror and fire doesn’t hurt them.

They soon find a book that’s supposed to help them cope with their new existence, a handbook for the recently deceased, but it’s hard to understand.  It doesn’t help matters that when either of them walk out their front door, they face the constant threat of giant sandworms in a desert netherworld.  Essentially, they’re trapped in their own vacation home.  Talk about yuppie hell!

The situation gets worse when a family of three arrives to move in.  Catherine O’Hara plays a pretentious sculptor who wants the place completely renovated by her obnoxious decorator, Jeffrey Jones is her businessman husband who likes it the way it is and Wynona Ryder is his dour daughter from a previous marriage who agrees with him.  (We never do find out what happened to his first wife.)  She’s always dressed in black, is often taking photos and loathes O’Hara.  One day while outside in the midst of all the renovating chaos, Ryder spots Baldwin and Davis looking out the attic window.

How is she able to see them?  Unlike everybody else, she simply pays attention to “strange and unusual things” which kind of defeats the purpose of being a ghost.  I mean if you can’t be invisible all the time, what’s the point, right?  Anyway, she realizes she’d much rather hang out with the dead folks in the attic than her own drippy family.  At one point, she even contemplates taking her own life to join them permanently.

Meanwhile, Baldwin and Davis soon find themselves in a waiting room for the dead where we meet the single funniest character in the film, a silent guy with a shrunken head.  Every time I saw that horrified look on his face I could not stop laughing.  Anyway, all of these unfortunate souls waiting to be called are hoping to meet with a death counsellor, if you will, who will help them with their difficulties adjusting to the afterlife.

Longtime character actor Sylvia Sidney (who is very good here in spite of witless material) gruffly advises the dead couple on how best to get rid of the new occupants of their vacation home.  (The old moaning-under-a-sheet routine is a bust, even though it does inspire a couple of funny lines from Ryder.)  She tells them to read the handbook in order to learn how to be really scary.  And whatever you do, she warns, don’t consult the services of her former assistant, Betelguese (a shamelessly hammy Michael Keaton), who now works as a “bio-exorcist”, whatever that means.  The way to avoid this is to never say his name three times.

This is pretty easy considering the odd spelling of his name.  But eventually halfway through the picture Davis figures out the correct pronunciation and the couple immediately regrets ever meeting him.  That makes three of us.  Keaton’s a fine comic actor but not in this role.  There’s almost nothing funny about this hideous, oversexed ghost with the charm of a used car salesman.  He oozes humourless sleaze out of every ghoulish pore.

Thankfully, like Freddy Krueger in the Nightmare On Elm Street series, Betelgeuse is barely in the movie which is still too much.  Despite his energetic, grovelly delivery, he barely registers on the funny scale.  It’s astounding how few laughs there are when he appears on-screen.  (I only liked one gag during the second waiting room scene at the end.)  You can always tell he’s trying too hard as the screenplay constantly lets him down.

In the meantime, O’Hara throws a dinner party which gets sabotaged by Davis and Baldwin.  They figure out how to manipulate the entire table to dance around and lip sync to Harry Belafonte’s most famous song against their will.  (He must’ve had a great agent at the time.  Several of his songs are on the soundtrack.)  Instead of scaring them out of the house, though, everybody is exhilarated by the experience.  (Even the shrimp bit didn’t perturb them.)  Sensing a big business opportunity, Jones convinces a fellow crony from New York (Robert Goulet) to fly in to see him at the vacation house to hear his pitch for a paranormal museum/haunted amusement house amongst a broader real estate plan.  (Jones thinks he can buy all the town’s properties cheap and turn them into other businesses because he believes the inhabitants don’t know the value of their own buildings.)

Beetlejuice was only the second movie Tim Burton directed before helming the re-launch of Batman, the first good movie he ever made.  It’s very sad how dated this picture feels after a quarter century.  The title character’s unamusing charmlessness aside, I never understood why Baldwin and Davis (who I didn’t buy as a couple) are so determined to continue to live in that vacation house.  She’s just a housewife who washes dishes and dusts, and he’s solely into his model town deal.  That’s all they do.  It’s such a drab, routine existence for two dull spirits who, conceivably, could be doing anything slightly more exciting anywhere else.

As for the new inhabitants, Ryder is the only one remotely interesting and funny but she’s not given nearly enough decent one-liners to make us warm to her completely.  It doesn’t help that she’s a bit too much of a downer at times.  I didn’t really care about her attempts to bond with the dead couple who weren’t able to have children when they were alive.  She only prefers their company by default.

It’s clear from the start that Betelgeuse is meant to be a comic villain but I never understood his purpose beyond being a gross, self-serving troublemaker.  I also didn’t get why he has all these transformative powers and yet is dependent on other people and spirits to bring him into the world of the living in order to show them off in the first place (or in one scene, to satiate his sexual appetite).  Clearly, it’s just a simple hook to inject the character into the story.  But the say-my-name-three-times-gimmick lacks credibility (who in the spirit world imposed this strange boundary onto him?), even in a fantasy such as this.  Shouldn’t a powerful figure like him be able to break through without any assistance?

Like the dead couple, Betelgeuse lives a solitary afterlife that doesn’t look very appealing.  Apparently, when you die, so does your imagination.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Friday, July 12, 2013
1:52 a.m.

Published in: on July 12, 2013 at 1:52 am  Comments (2)  

Earth (2009)

Imagine spending a year of your life committed to doing just one thing:  filming nature.  Sounds like a daunting task, doesn’t it?  Maybe even a little dull.  That’s why you need to experience Earth, one of the best documentaries I have ever seen.  Trust me.  Your mind will be blown.

A collaboration between The Discovery Channel, The BBC and Walt Disney, the filmmakers spent 12 months following the journeys of various animals in numerous climates and terrains.  It wasn’t easy.  They shot in remote places like the Arctic (where even the summer feels like winter), the dry lands of Africa (including the Kalahari Desert), the lush, colourful rainforests in the Tropics and even underwater in the cavernous oceans.  If it wasn’t terribly frigid, it was hot and rainy.  If some animals were shy and indifferent, others were territorial.  And then there were unexpected technical challenges like trying to shoot from a makeshift hot air balloon without hitting a tree.  (Watch the closing credits to see how difficult it really is.)

Narrated by the great James Earl Jones, this rapturous film seamlessly shifts back and forth from story to story as we go from being charmed by a separated family of polar bears to rooting on each of the following:  a group of determined birds trying to conquer the cold, freakishly strong winds of a famous mountain range in order to find warm paradise on the other side; a pack of elephants slowly migrating for fresher water and a couple of humpback whales swimming practically half way around the world towards the same goal, all in just 90 minutes.

Let’s put this in perspective.  You need water, you turn on a tap or buy it from the store.  They need water, they have to relocate, a process that can take weeks or even months and without any guarantee of success.  You think your life is hard?  Be glad you’re not an elephant.

With occasional flashes of delightful wit and a permanent sense of awe, Earth is really a love story between viewer and nature.  How can one not be delighted by the sight of little baby birds attempting their first flights out of a very tall tree only to “fall with style”?  Or that hilarious bird of paradise who fusses over a potential mate who rejects him despite his incredibly nifty mating dance?  Or those charming penguins and adorable baby polar bears thoroughly enjoying their icy, snowy environments?

Lest you think I succumb rather easily to cute-as-pie animals (or possible off-camera manipulation which, considering the circumstances here, would be incredibly hard to pull off without detection), Earth is more than just a visual delight.  It’s highly educational, as well.  No matter how young or old you are, you will learn some fascinating things about our home planet, not all of which are terribly positive, either.  The film very much confirms that climate change is an ongoing environmental disaster, one that is gradually threatening the traditional lifestyles of our animal friends, and in turn, us.

Take the father polar bear who is never seen with his mate or their two young kids.  His only plan is to find food for himself on melting ice plateaus in the Arctic spring.  Unfortunately, thanks to the effects of global warming, these plateaus melt faster and faster every year and because he’s a rather large animal, he can’t stay on one too long because he could fall through and drown.  The ice is just too thin and the water is too goddamn cold.  As we check back in with him throughout the movie, we find him growing ever more desperate resorting in the end to attempting to nab a hopefully vulnerable baby walrus amongst a large number of very unfriendly and supremely protective adults.  His story is a sobering reminder that in an ever changing world, survival of the fittest is still one of the only rules that matters in the animal kingdom.  That, and eat or be eaten.  (Wait, aren’t they the same thing?  Oh, never mind.)

Because Earth is targeted at kids, scary stuff like predators successfully making a kill is limited purely to the chase and capture (or escape, in some cases) but never the feast.  It’s fascinating to find yourself rooting for a baby animal to avoid an untimely death while at the same time completely understanding why that cheetah or that pride of lions are hounding them in the first place.  If the stronger animal doesn’t succeed this time and continues to struggle as a hunter, it, too, will die.  Maybe Morrissey should have a word with them.  Then again, alternate means of feeding are few and far between.

One of the coolest things about this movie is the editing.  To see that aforementioned cheetah make his move in super slow motion (because you miss key details watching it in real time (too fast) as noted in the end credits), ditto the falling baby birds, or the seasons change in various parts of the world in rapid succession is astonishing.  How the editors didn’t receive an Oscar nomination is a mystery.

How the film was snubbed for recognition in the Best Documentary Feature is equally puzzling.  In an era where it’s so hard to find quality family films that don’t pander to kids and insult the intelligence of adults, here’s one that does neither.  Instead, with its utterly breathtaking cinematography, smooth, informative narration and utterly beguiling subjects, it’s likely to launch a whole new generation of environmentalists.  God knows we need more of them.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Friday, July 12, 2013
1:30 a.m.

Published in: on July 12, 2013 at 1:30 am  Comments (2)  

9 OMG! Moments The WWE Overlooked For Its 2011 DVD Set

Two years ago, WWE Home Video released OMG! The Top 50 Incidents In WWE History, a 3-disc set devoted to covering the most memorably outrageous moments in the Vince McMahon Jr. era.  I finally had a chance to screen it recently.  As fun and amusing as the list is (despite the lack of backstage insight), it’s hardly authoritative.  (Too many silly incidents are included over truly shocking ones.)  Here are some other notable occurrences that didn’t make the cut.

1. “Rowdy” Roddy Piper spoils an award ceremony (December 28, 1984)

Few moments have mattered more in the evolution of the WWE than this one.  It was the 1984 Christmas house show in New York’s Madison Square Garden.  Cyndi Lauper and Captain Lou Albano were being honoured for various things including their charitable endeavours.  Then, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper showed up.  After insulting the guests of honour, he changed history by slamming Albano’s award, a framed platinum record, right through his head.  He then proceeded to powerslam Lauper’s then-manager David Wolff and even kicked his client for good measure.  It was only when Hulk Hogan returned to the ring (he had left after co-accepting an award presented to the WWF by Lauper) that Piper and bodyguard Cowboy Bob Orton departed the scene.  The incident instituted Albano’s permanent babyface turn, gave Piper immense heat and, more importantly, set in motion the events that would lead to the main event of WrestleMania.  With the exception of a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it clip of this moment being shown during the segment where Piper cuts The Haiti Kid’s hair, the OMG! DVD failed to include it in its Top 50 list.

2. The MSG Screwjob (November 25, 1985)

Twelve years before Survivor Series 1997, there was an earlier screwjob involving Vince McMahon and a babyface title holder.  Wendi Richter was on her second reign as the WWF Womens’ Champion when she was set to defend her belt against a masked opponent known only as The Spider Lady during a televised house show at Madison Square Garden.  (Back then, all MSG shows (with the exception of pay-per-views) were aired live on the MSG Network.)  Backstage, Richter was led to believe she would be retaining that night.  But secretly, McMahon had concocted a scheme with her opponent.

As The Spider Lady rolled up Richter in a small package, the champion appeared to have kicked out in the middle of the referee’s count.  But the official kept counting to three, much to the confusion of everyone including commentators Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse Ventura.  Legitimately livid, Richter attacked The Spider Lady after the finish.  When she successfully removed her mask, she turned out to be The Fabulous Moolah, one of Richter’s original trainers, her one-time tag team partner and rival for more than a year.  As a perplexed Howard Finkel announced Moolah as the new champion (“The Spider?  The Fabulous Moolah?”), Richter continued to attack.

So, why was the former title holder screwed out of her belt?  One word:  money.  It would mark the last time she would ever wrestle for Vince McMahon.

3. The Snake DDT’s The Dragon on concrete (May 1, 1986)

During a taping of Saturday’s Night Main Event, Jake Roberts was set to square off against Ricky Steamboat.  But the match never happened.  That’s because The Snake viciously attacked The Dragon to set up a feud that would last for many months.

The signature moment of the attack was a horrendous DDT on the concrete floor.  (There were no gymnastic mats protecting the hard surface at the time.)  Backstage, before the segment was even recorded, Roberts privately expressed grave reservations about the safety of the bump.  But both McMahon and Steamboat assured him it would be ok.

They should’ve listened to Roberts.  After he delivered his finisher on the floor, The Dragon was knocked completely out.  Roberts had a hell of a time trying to lift his heavy limp body back into the ring so he could put Damien, his python mascot, on top of him.  In the end, Steamboat suffered a nasty concussion.  But the heat the spot generated for The Snake made this one of his strongest programs.

4. The Honky Tonk Man plays a tune on The Snake’s head (January 27, 1987)

After interviewing the future InterContinental Champion on his talk show segment, The Snake Pit, during a Wrestling Challenge taping, Jake Roberts made the pivotal mistake of turning his back on his guest after he thought he left.  When he turned back around, he got levelled by The Honky Tonk Man’s acoustic guitar.  These days, when someone takes a bump like that the guitar instantly disintegrates.  But because Honky used a real guitar, The Snake suffered a serious neck injury.  The stunt turned Roberts ‘face and set up a match with Jimmy Hart’s protégé for WrestleMania III but it also cost him a run with the InterContinental title.

5. Hulk Hogan bodyslams Andre The Giant and pins him (March 29, 1987)

For me, it was the most memorable moment in the history of WrestleMania but apparently not important enough to include on OMG!’s Top 50 list.  Despite being on defense for much of the match, in the famous climax a revitalized Hulk Hogan scooped up Andre The Giant, a 7 foot, 500-pound human being, and slammed him to the canvas.  After dropping a leg, he delivered his real-life friend’s first pinfall loss in years.  Interestingly, the controversial 1988 rematch where Hogan dropped the title after a 4-year reign on live TV did make the OMG! list at number 50.

6. Elizabeth takes a scary bump from Randy Savage (February 5, 1989)

During the second live broadcast of The Main Event, The Mega Powers took on The Twin Towers in a tag team match.  At a crucial moment, The Macho Man Randy Savage was about to be thrown through the ropes to the outside of the ring.  Instead of hitting the floor, though, he landed right into Elizabeth, knocking her cold.  At first, it looked like a horrendous mistake.  But as soon as a crestfallen Hulk Hogan carried her in his arms all the way back to the dressing room, it was clear this was very much a work.  As an abandoned Savage took a pummelling from Big Boss Man and Akeem during his partner’s prolonged absence, Hogan held Elizabeth’s hand hoping she would be ok.  It was only when she urged him to go back to The Macho Man that he returned to the match.  Once Hogan got the tag from a severely weakened Savage, The Mega Powers got the duke.  But while attending to Elizabeth backstage afterwards, the partnership unravelled for good.

7. Lita’s horrifying suicide dive (December 6, 2004)

The last time two female wrestlers main evented Raw was nine years ago.  A villainous Trish Stratus defended her Womens Championship against the popular daredevil Lita.  Midway through the match, the champion was outside the ring and her challenger saw an opportunity.  As Lita attacked Stratus with a suicide dive through the ropes, she landed awkwardly on the floor, hitting neck first with her back considerably bent.  Astoundingly, the redhead was able to continue with the rest of the match and ended up winning the title.

8. Randy Orton breaks his collarbone but walks away still in character (June 1, 2008)

During his Last Man Standing match at One Night Stand for the WWE title against his former Evolution mentor Triple H, The Legend Killer was supposed to take a routine over-the-top-rope bump to the floor.  Unfortunately, he landed so hard, he could clearly be heard saying, “I think I broke my collarbone.”.  Walking towards him with his trademark sledgehammer, The Game brought the match to a quick finish as he decked Orton in the head with it.  As the referee counted, Orton made sure to stay down for the full 10 seconds to assure Triple H the victory.  Afterwards, as WWE officials helped him walk away from the ringside area, the audience clapped sympathetically knowing Orton’s injury was legitimate and not part of the show.  Still lucid enough to remember he was a heel at the time, Orton angrily started yelling at fans at ringside to “shut up”.  Despite being in considerable pain, the future Viper remarkably stayed in character.  Who said kayfabe was dead?

9. The Big Show choke slams John Cena into a spotlight (April 26, 2009)

At WrestleMania 25, John Cena regained the World Heavyweight Championship in a Triple Threat match against champion Edge and The Big Show.  (The moment where he simultaneously lifted both men on his back actually made the OMG! Top 50 list.)  At Backlash the following month, The Rated R Superstar got his mandatory one-on-one rematch.  Late in this Last Man Standing contest, the participants battled each other back to the staging area when an unwanted giant entered the fray.  A pissed off Big Show ultimately grabbed Cena by the throat and chokeslammed him right through a giant spotlight.  As fire extinguishers immediately put out the flames that resulted from the champion slamming hard into the glass, because he couldn’t possibly get up before the count of 10, Edge regained the title.  Cena would get his revenge by beating the giant at Judgment Day the following May.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Thursday, July 11, 2013
5:16 p.m.

Published in: on July 11, 2013 at 5:16 pm  Comments (2)  

Money In The Bank Trivia

1. No one outside of North America has ever won the Money In The Bank ladder match.  Edge is Canadian, Alberto Del Rio is Mexican and all the other winners are from the United States.  (JUNE 14, 2015 UPDATE:  Now that Irish-born Sheamus has won the 2015 MITB match, this is no longer true.)

2. Christian is the only 2013 MITB participant to have appeared in the very first match back at WrestleMania 21 in 2005.  This year will mark his sixth appearance in an MITB match, an all-time record he shares with Kane.  The Big Red Monster would’ve broken the tie with a seventh appearance at the fourth annual event but he was recently taken out of action by The Wyatt Family so the current record stands.  (JUNE 13, 2015 UPDATE:  Barring some unforeseen circumstances, Kane will finally make his record-setting seventh appearance in an MITB match at the 2015 event.)

3. Matt & Jeff Hardy are the only real-life brothers to have ever competed against each other in this match.  It happened at WrestleMania 23.

4. Shelton Benjamin is the only wrestler to compete in 5 of the first 6 MITB matches at WrestleMania.  He’s tied with Christian for most appearances without a victory.  They’re both 0 for 5.  If Christian loses again this year, he’ll set the new record at 0 for 6. (June 28, 2014 UPDATE:  He lost.)

5. Mr. Kennedy is the only winner who never had a chance to cash in.  Thanks to an unfortunate injury, it was decided that Edge would take his briefcase instead.

6. Rob Van Dam was the first winner to not cash in unannounced.  He gave WWE Champion John Cena 20 days advance notice that he was going to face him for the title at ECW One Night Stand 2006.

7. Despite only winning the first MITB match, Edge has been involved in more cash-in situations (4) than any other superstar.  He successfully cashed in his first briefcase on Cena at the end of the New Year’s Revolution pay-per-view in 2006.  Five months later, he interfered in the WWE title match between Cena and Van Dam assuring the challenger the championship.  A year after that, after taking Mr. Kennedy’s briefcase, The Rated R Superstar took advantage of a fallen Undertaker to win the World Heavyweight Championship on an episode of Smackdown.  Finally, in 2008, CM Punk cashed in his first briefcase to snag that same title away from Edge when he visited Raw.

8. While no one has ever cashed in at The Royal Rumble or The Survivor Series, Seth Rollins is the only performer to cash in at WrestleMania.  He’s also the only MITB winner to win the title by injecting himself in a match already in progress.  At WrestleMania 31, he made a surprise, late entrance during the WWE World Heavyweight Championship encounter between then-titleholder Brock Lesnar and his former Shield-mate Roman Reigns.

9. CM Punk and John Cena are the only world champions to survive a MITB cash-in.  The Big Show interfered in Punk’s match with Cena (who booked the match for Raw 1000 a week in advance) giving the challenger the DQ victory but not the belt.  Three months after screwing over his friend Cody Rhodes to win the blue MITB briefcase at the 2013 event, Damien Sandow cashed it in on Raw, the night after Hell In A Cell, only to be defeated by Cena.

10. Speaking of Cena, he’s the only man to be involved in both sides of a cash-in situation (champion and briefcase holder) and not end up with the championship at the end of either scenario.  He lost his title to Edge and Van Dam in 2006 and couldn’t take it back from Punk last year.

11. Cena is the only MITB winner to win the briefcase on his first and only attempt.  Yes, Van Dam and Daniel Bryan also accomplished this feat but will each enter their second MITB match this year.  (June 28, 2014 UPDATE: They both lost so Cena’s record still stands.)

12. No one has ever turned heel or ‘face during a MITB match.

13. No reigning InterContinental Champion has ever won Money In The Bank.

14. Rob Van Dam is the only MITB winner to win a secondary title (the InterContinental Championship) before cashing in to win a world title which, in his case, was the WWE Championship.  However, he lost the IC strap before winning the WWE title.

15. The Miz is the only reigning United States Champion to win Money In The Bank.  He, too, would lose his secondary strap before becoming WWE Champion.  He’s also the only performer whose MITB cash-in ultimately culminated in a world title defense in the main event of WrestleMania.

16. The Money In The Bank ladder match concept was established to get more wrestlers on the WrestleMania card.

17. Alberto Del Rio is the only minority and the only second-generation wrestler to win a MITB match.

18. Ric Flair is the oldest performer to ever participate.  He was 57 when he entered his only MITB match at WrestleMania 22.

19. CM Punk, Alberto Del Rio, John Cena and Edge are the only MITB winners who also lost their world titles because of cash-ins.

20. Evan Bourne, Drew McIntyre, Christian, Kofi Kingston, Matt Hardy, and Dolph Ziggler are the only competitors to wrestle in 2 MITB ladder matches in the same year and lose both times.

21. Edge is the only man to successfully cash in to win both a WWE Championship and a World Heavyweight Championship.  If Daniel Bryan wins the all-star MITB match at the four annual MITB pay-per-view, he has a great chance to become the second superstar to achieve that goal.  (JUNE 13, 2015 UPDATE:  He lost.)

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, July 7, 2013
10:24 p.m.

CORRECTION:  Originally under number two, it said:  “This year, they [meaning Christian and Kane] will tie the record for most all-time individual MITB appearances:  6 apiece.”  Unfortunately, I goofed regarding the number of times that The Big Red Monster has been in an MITB match.  This year will mark Kane’s seventh, not sixth, overall appearance.  Then again, if the beatdown he took from The Wyatt Family on Raw keeps him off the pay-per-view… At any event, the correction has been made to the original text and I apologize for the error.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Tuesday, July 9, 2013
2:18 a.m.

UPDATE:  Because Kane has now been officially dropped from the all-star MITB match this year, number two has been revised once again.  Here’s how it looked after the correction:  “2. Christian and Kane are the only 2013 MITB participants to have appeared in the very first match back at WrestleMania 21 in 2005.  Speaking of The Big Red Monster, this year he will set the record for most all-time individual MITB appearances with 7.”  The updated version has replaced this correction.  Also, I thought of another nugget of trivia which you can now read at number 21.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, July 13, 2013
5:23 p.m.

UPDATE 2:  This is long overdue.  Numbers 4, 9, 11 & 19 have all been updated.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, June 28, 2014
10:47 p.m.

UPDATE 3:  Number 8 has been updated.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, June 13, 2015
1:38 a.m.

UPDATE 4:  Numbers 2 & 21 have been updated.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, June 13, 2015
2:23 a.m.

Published in: on July 7, 2013 at 10:24 pm  Comments (1)  

Shocking Quotes From June 2013 Report On Obama’s Secret Drone War (Part Four)

[This series was inspired by this Rolling Stone magazine story.  You can read the full June 3, 2013 report on American drone strikes in Yemen, prepared for the United Nations, here.]

“When I arrived on the scene of the explosion, I saw parts of a body mixed with parts of the motorcycle[A unidentified “out-of-town” man’s] body was charred. It seems that a missile had missed the target, the second struck a motorcycle with two people on it, and the third blew up the second bike. The three bodies were shredded. We collected the remains without knowing who they were.” (40-year-old eyewitness Hassan Ibrahim Suleiman from Al-Shihr (Hadramout) on 28 December 2012 (2.8))

“We took him to the hospital where the doctor warned us that bomb fragment had hit the bone of his forearm and he needed surgery to remove the fragment…We had to pay ourselves, while we have 10 children and we are very poor. And now, two months later, Hassan complains of pain in the hand that was hit by the explosion…The authorities do not help us.” (37-year-old Um Hassan on the serious injury sustained by her 9-year-old son, Mawz Hassan Abdullah Hassan who was just playing outside of his home 50 metres away when another American drone strike occurred from Al-Shihr (Hadramout) on 28 December 2012 (2.8))

“The bodies were shredded and charred, scattered and difficult to identify…Among those affected were also two civilians unconnected with armed groups.” (from The Attack on Khawlan (Sanaa) of 23 January 2013 (2.9))

“Inhabitants report having heard the buzzing of drones during the 10 days preceding the strike, a sound resembling that of diesel-powered generators. On the day of the attack, thousands of Shi’ites had gathered to celebrate the birth of the prophet [Muhammad] in the town of Jahana…” (from The Attack on Khawlan (Sanaa) of 23 January 2013 (2.9))

“The [targeted] vehicle was driven by Muhsin Muhammed Jamila 20-year-old student who was one of the two civilian victims. He rented his car as a taxi to his uncle Salim Hussein Ahmed Jamil Al-Qawli…The other civilian was his cousin Ali Ali Saleh Al-Qawlia 33-year-old school teacher in Khawlan.” (from The Attack on Khawlan (Sanaa) of 23 January 2013 (2.9))

“We were in shock. Bodies were still burning and their limbs were scattered. There were six victims, my brother [Muhsin], my cousin [Ali] and four men from Sanhan. We found four craters caused by the impact of the missiles. We tried to put the fire out in the car for more than half an hour, then we collected the scattered limbs until 11 pm when we transported them to the hospital in order to bury them later…At first we were not able to identify them, but we eventually identified our two family members.” (eyewitness Mohamed Ali Al-Qawli from The Attack on Khawlan (Sanaa) of 23 January 2013 (2.9))

“Here are the gifts and aid and support of the United States to Yemenis. For some time now, we have heard talk of American support to Yemen and we do not know what it means. Now we can see this support thanks to the fragments of these explosives and missiles that kill Yemenis, destroy their spirits and burn their bodies.” (An angrily sarcastic Mr. Al-Qawli holding the fragments of the missiles launched from an American drone strike as he seethes from The Attack on Khawlan (Sanaa) of 23 January 2013 (2.9))

“…the relatives of Salim [are] overburdened by the misfortune that had befallen them. Salim was the one who had materially supported them with his work with his car [used as a taxi], in addition to his work on a farm.” (from The Attack on Khawlan (Sanaa) of 23 January 2013) (2.9))

“…U.S. drones…targeted a four-wheel-drive car…[Inside] were four people [who were killed]: Hamid Muhammed Radman Al- Hadidi Al-Radami…a 40-year-old former soldier, married…father of 8 children; Isma’il Ahmed Muhamad Al-Muqdishi…the father of three children; Mukram Ahmed Hamud Al-Haj Al-Da’ar…a 20-year-old; and Ghazi Hamud Ahmed Saad Al-‘Imad…a 28-year-old father of two children.” (from Attack on Wusab of 17 April 2013 (3.10))

“The fourth victim, Ghazi Al-‘Imad, was injured and could not be saved due to the presence of an American [drone] plane that was flying over the scene of the attack.” (from Attack on Wusab of 17 April 2013 (3.10))

“I was in the office with colleagues when around 8 pm we heard the first explosion. We went out to see what had happened when five minutes later a second explosion, stronger than the first, sounded. We went to the scene and people informed us that Sheikh Hamid Al-Radami’s car had been targeted by a bombing. In the distance, we heard a voice calling for help, and ran towards it. The car was destroyed, but the fire was not extinguished. Hamid was half projected out of the car, his face was visible as his body burned, with two other bodies inside, charred. There was a fourth person, Ghazi Al-‘Imad, thrown a few meters from the car, face down; he was shot in his lower limbs, and was bleeding profusely. He begged us to help but we could not help him. Whenever we approached, the plane that had attacked the car flew down, and we feared that it would bomb us again. It was about 9 pm when I left the scene. I could not stand the situation and I was scared.” (from Attack on Wusab of 17 April 2013 (3.10))

“There were two planes that followed, and a third plane flew over to watch the scene. There was about 8 minutes between the first and second strikes. The second was more violent, the ground shook and people panicked. My companion and I were the first to arrive on the scene. We saw the car on fire and I heard one of the passengers, Ghazi, screaming. I got off the bike to help him because he was thrown a few meters but when I approached the plane came down very low and shined red lights on the ground, as if to target my location with a bomb. People in front of me screamed: ‘The plane is [descending], flee, Salim!’ I moved back and joined the front of the crowd. People were petrified with fear at the sight of the plane that flew at low altitude. I still remember…Ghazi’s cries, who implored us to rescue him, but we were unable to. For three hours we waited for the plane to disappear in order to help Ghazi. It was difficult to find a driver to take us to the clinic. All were afraid of being bombed. Finally I forced someone to drive us, but unfortunately Ghazi died.” (28-year-old eyewitness Salim from Attack on Wusab of 17 April 2013 (3.10))

To justify the use of armed drones in its fight against terrorism, the American administration pretends that it does not target anyone but important terrorists…” (from Conclusion: Who is Targeted by the Attacks? (3))

“One of the difficulties faced by human rights organizations and journalists is the lack of information regarding the individuals that are targeted. In a number of attacks, the bodies of the victims are in such a state that they cannot be identified by witnesses. In several cases, the organizations with which they were allegedly affiliated – Al-Qaeda or Ansar Al-Sharia – publish information about them, but most often almost no information is available about them, or the information from official sources is wrong. More than once a person who was declared dead in a raid turns out to be alive…” (from Conclusion: Who is Targeted by the Attacks? (3))

“Numerous witnesses and observers confirm that several of the targeted men could have been arrested and brought before a judge without difficulty…” (from Conclusion: Who is Targeted by the Attacks? (3))

“However, it seems there was the political will to physically [eliminate] the escaped prisoners [from a 2011 jailbreak] who were suspected of belonging to armed groups, regardless of the actual facts of their case. The authorities [falsely] claimed that all were members of Al-Qaeda to justify their targeted assassination.” (from Conclusion: Who is Targeted by the Attacks? (3))

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, July 7, 2013
2:02 a.m.

Published in: on July 7, 2013 at 2:02 am  Comments (5)