50 Things I Loathed About 2014

1. The Ultimate Warrior died.

2. Despite pulling out of the race for Mayor with just six weeks to go before the election & being diagnosed with a rare cancer, Rob Ford is once again a Toronto city councillor.

3. Gitmo is still open.

4. Israel’s heartless genocidal attacks on Gaza, The West Bank and the rest of the Occupied Territories.  Will long suffering Palestinians ever see justice?

5. Julian Fantino’s pitiful performance as the Minister of Veteran Affairs.  How does he still have his job?

6. Robin Williams & Philip Seymour Hoffman died, two superb talents killed by serious depression.  Can we please take mental illness more seriously now?

7. Boko Haram’s ongoing terror campaign in Nigeria which led to the kidnapping of hundreds of girls, only some of whom have managed to escape and reunite with their families.

8. Monday Night Raw is still 3 hours, has consistently terrible commentators, and remains unworthy of weekly consumption.  Ditto the 2-hour Smackdown.

9. Brock Lesnar ending The Undertaker’s WrestleMania streak.  Dreadfully boring match & the absolute wrong creative decision.  The Beast Incarnate didn’t need the added heat.  The Streak had to come to an end at some point, yes, but not like this.  Horrible & infuriating.

10. Morrissey’s World Peace Is None Of Your Business.  I waited 5 years for this forgettable, mean spirited piece of shit?  Maybe he’s already written his strongest melodies.  God knows I don’t care about his upcoming Ramones tribute.  Ugh.

11. CBC’s Terry Milewski’s strange refusal to cooperate & collaborate with Glenn Greenwald on Canadian mass surveillance stories.  A completely blown journalistic opportunity.  Milewski should be ashamed of his timidity.

12. ISIS’ decapitation videos.  Only Saudi Arabia & the US are allowed to be this barbaric, right, Barack Obama?

13. The Nut Job.  Poorly animated, sluggishly paced, almost completely unfunny.  Its only redeeming quality:  the guilty pleasure dance anthem Gangham Style playing over the end titles.

14. England couldn’t even get out of their group at the World Cup.  A depressing performance for a talented squad that needs a big kick in the shorts.

15. Robin Thicke’s Paula.  That’s not how you reconcile with your wife.  No wonder she wanted out.

16. GamerGate.  A stupid name for a stupid scandal started by assholes who care nothing about “ethics in video game journalism”, only their unjustified hatred for women.  Despicable.  All the feminist targets of their childish scorn deserve full apologies, restitution & their regular lives back.

17. Alberto Del Rio was fired for defending his ethnicity.  He is much missed in the WWE.

18. The retirement of CM Punk.  WWE blew this one big time, as well.  Let’s see how he does in the UFC next year.

19. The unfortunate injuries of Daniel Bryan & Roman Reigns.  The lost possibilities because of their long absences.

20. CNN’s embarrassingly excessive coverage of that missing Malaysian Airlines plane.  Despite weeks of breathless anticipation of its recovery & endless, pointless speculation, it remains completely unaccounted for.  A low point in the channel’s 34-year history.  Also pitiful at times were their on-the-scene reports during the Ferguson, Missouri protests & Israel’s illegal invasion of Gaza.  “Fuck CNN”, indeed.

21. A Haunted House 2.  Disgusting, sexist, slut shaming garbage.  Mark Henry, you should be ashamed of yourself.

22. Republican Congressman Michael Grimm’s scary threat to a NY1 reporter caught by a cameraman who had just finished shooting a quick on-camera interview with him.  Grimm eventually apologized.  He should resign, especially now that he’s a convicted felon.

23. Shaker Aamer & 63 other innocent, tortured men remain trapped in Gitmo, the American gulag.  All the rest have yet to have their day in court, a real court, not these fucking kangaroo “military tribunals”.  That’s not justice.

24. The heartbreaking fire that destroyed a senior’s home in L’Isle-Verte, Quebec in the middle of a bitterly cold winter which resulted in 32 deaths & 15 injuries.

25. Eden Alexander’s health scare & the nonsense she had to deal with while trying to raise money for her expensive medical bills.  The good news is, despite some rough months, she’s almost completely recovered now.  Very nice lady.  May she never be this sick again.

26. War Machine’s obscene assault against former girlfriend Christy Mack.  He belongs in prison for the rest of his life.  She deserves the full restoration of her health.

27. Megan Trainor’s All About That Bass.  An annoying song that will haunt wedding receptions for years to come.  I prefer Baby Got Back.

28. Michael Coren’s phony “apology” to the gay community in The Toronto Sun.  Until he publicly & privately supports full equality, don’t believe for a second that he’s changed because he hasn’t.

29. The Polar Vortex.  Whoever loves all this supremely cold weather is an emotionless psychopath.  I’ll stick with summer, thanks.

30. Sony cancelling The Interview’s wide Christmas Day theatrical release because of a bogus, empty threat from clever hackers.  Although they ultimately changed their mind & let independent theatres exhibit the film, and also made it available online, they looked incredibly stupid capitulating like this.  If it happens again, here’s hoping other studios are less cowardly.

31. The celebrity nude photo hack.  Unless these women want me to see them naked, I’m not going to invade their privacy without their permission.

32. The disturbing elevator video of Ray Rice knocking out his then-fiancé Jenay with one punch.  How is he not in prison?

33. Devil’s Due & Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones.  Two more compelling reasons to declare the “found footage” genre dead.

34. The Edmonton Oilers.  They’re so bad now I’m glad I stopped watching them play the few games that air on TV.  Time to resign, Craig MacTavish.  2006 is a distant memory.

35. The persecution of Matt Dehart.  Are you ever going to write about his case, Glenn Greenwald?

36. Chelsea Manning, John Kiriakou, Jeremy Hammond & Barrett Brown are all still in prison for opposing Obama’s growing, illegal National Security State.  Along with Dehart may their vengeful persecutions be over soon.

37. All the other terrible movies I saw this year:  Movie 43, 21 & Over, Cheech & Chong’s Next Movie, Cheech & Chong Still Smokin’, Goon, Fool’s Gold, 13 Ghosts (2001), Little Man, Mannequin, Mannequin: On The Move, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, What A Girl Wants, 21 Jump Street, My Bloody Valentine (1981), Nuns On The Run (it hasn’t aged well), Silent Hill: Revelation, Nightflyers, Grown-Ups 2, You’re Next, 30 Minutes Or Less, Project X (2012), The Hangover Part III, His Majesty The Scarecrow Of Oz & The Patchwork Girl Of Oz.

38. MuchMusic’s pitiful 30-minute “special” commemorating its 30th Anniversary.  It was hardly worthy of the channel’s important legacy as The Nation’s Music Station.  Then again, these days, it’s only a shell of its former self.  A proper tribute devoted to its glory years would only reinforce that.

39. Suey Park’s #CancelColbert campaign.  An ignorant, hypocritical, self-important “activist” uses the old Fox News excuse (“I was only joking!”) to justify a complete waste of fake, collective online outrage.  I’ve yet to see proof she understands what satire is.  In the end, the only reason The Colbert Report is off the air is because the host got a new job.  He takes over for David Letterman next year.  As for Park, she’s off Twitter now.  Good riddance.

40. The abhorrent mistreatment of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.  Like the endless human rights violations of the Palestinians, the world continues to look the other way.

41. The Republicans won control of the Senate.

42. The sudden rise of Charles C. Johnson, already the most despised media hack of the new millennium.  Thankfully, he’s making way too many sloppy mistakes & enemies to survive for much longer.

43. Lena Dunham’s stunning revelation that she abused her sister when they were kids, her defensive, embarrassing “rage spiral” in response to the mostly genuine outrage over it, her ultimately bogus “apology” & the predominantly white feminists who gave her a pass for it.  If it was anybody else, they’d be chased out of Hollywood.

44. The murders of Eric Garner, John Crawford, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown & many more people of colour – male & female; young & old – by white, paranoid, racist American police officers.  The brutal, Israel-inspired militarization of law enforcement must be curbed, the sooner the better.  The days of cops getting away with criminal activity have to end right now.  The system is completely rigged in their favour.

45. The WWE Network debacle.  How not to unveil a new venture two years behind schedule.  Vince McMahon ended up losing half his fortune thanks to the company’s plunging stocks.  (Actually, I love that last part.)

46. Howard Stern’s ongoing support for torture, an internationally recognized war crime, & Israel’s decades-long genocide of the Palestinians, especially the horrors unleashed on Gaza in the summer.  I’m done with this asshole.

47. Elliott Rodger, his frightening misogynistic murder spree, that creepy video with the sunlight in his face & that deeply troubled manifesto.  What the hell happened to this kid?

48. James Avery, Uncle Phil from The Fresh Prince Of Bel Air & Shredder from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon, died on New Year’s Eve 2013.

49. The WWE’s ongoing association with serial woman beater Floyd Mayweather.  Chris Jericho, Triple H & Jim Ross, you all sicken me.

50. Rolling Stone’s much criticized report on an alleged gang rape at the University of Virginia.  Of all the important stories to fuck up, why did it have to be this one?  This better not set back all the tremendous progress made by feminists this year in combating rape culture.  For the record, I still believe the woman at the centre of the UVA story was violated.  Like all victims of sexual assault, she deserves justice & peace of mind.  Unfortunately, Rolling Stone has made that very difficult for her now.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, December 29, 2014
2:34 a.m.

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A Former Obama Aide’s Revealing Rolling Stone Article

Reid Cherlin used to work for The Obama Administration.  After the election of the new President in 2008, he worked in the Press Secretary’s Office as one of its spokespeople.  He left the gig a couple of years later.

In a new piece for Rolling Stone magazine, he recounts his experiences from the inside.  It has to be read to be believed.

You see, Mr. Cherlin, as he readily admits in the middle of paragraph seven, is an unabashed Obama fan:

“I’m biased in that I think Obama is right about most things.  I also believe he’ll be remembered as an excellent president.”

And he thinks his former boss is deeply misunderstood, thanks to those big meanies in the media or “the filter”, as he dismissively describes them:

“It’s always an easy story to point out where the president has failed to deliver on his promises.”

Throughout the article about Obama’s “messy relationship with the press”, Cherlin’s tone is often defensive with regards to press criticism, very much reflecting the feelings of his former boss.

Take Politico, for instance.  Founded during the 2008 campaign, “Obama’s advisers detested Politico from the start, accurately recognizing its potential to wreak havoc on their carefully crafted narratives, and to inspire their competitors to indulge in the same bad habits.” In other words, they hated the site for performing the terrible crime of journalism.

And then there are the individual reporters who angered the Administration.  In April of this year, New York Times White House correspondent Mark Landler got reamed out in Air Force One’s press cabin in front of his colleagues for co-writing a cover story that declared one of Obama’s foreign trips a flop while it was still in progress.  Because it was an off-the-record moment, “a definitive accounting of what was said is hard to come by…”

So, Cherlin paraphrases:

“…the thrust of the president’s message was this: Foreign policy is hard, you guys are scoring it like a campaign debate, and moreover, you’re doing it inaccurately.”

Foreign policy is hard?  Good Lord.  As for supposed examples of journalistic inaccuracies, none are mentioned.  Huge shocker.

Some journalists who pissed off Obama got punished for leaking information the government expected to be kept secret, albeit until they deemed it ready for public consumption.  Buzzfeed reporter Chris Geidner was “openly snubbed” by the White House for reporting on a “secret strategy meeting” with LGBT activists.  His punishment?  Being purposefully left out of a conference call that involved news of an upcoming executive order.

“Two months before, the White House had levied similar punishment on The New York Times for skirting a restriction called an embargo (information provided in advance on the condition that it can’t be reported before a certain set time). Times writers used their own sourcing to report the story early, and the next time an embargoed document came around, detailing one of the president’s upcoming speeches, Times correspondents found themselves excluded from the party.”

Not only do journalists get punished for disobeying silly restrictions like this that are imposed on them by these paranoid government officials, they can get bypassed completely.  Following the phony controversy surrounding this famous Obama comment about conservatives – “They cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them.” – made during a private fundraiser in the 2008 Presidential campaign, according to Cherlin, the White House “began exploring ways to re-exert control, ignoring the media altogether.”

Which explains why the announcement of Joe Biden as Obama’s running mate was done via text.

Beyond the grudges the Administration holds against specific journalists, it’s startling to read Cherlin’s comments about the press in general and how the government is supposed to react to their questioning.  Consider the Veteran Affairs scandal that erupted this year.  As a chorus of critics demanded the resignation of General Eric Shinseki, the embattled VA Secretary who Obama selected to run the troubled agency in 2009 after promising to cut ridiculously long wait times for severely injured war veterans, President Obama initially stood by his man.  Then, during a Press Room briefing weeks after the scandal broke, he finally announced Shinseki’s departure.

Cherlin is perplexed by this.  While correctly noting that the VA’s problems are “systemic” and go back decades, he can’t understand why Shinseki had to be removed from his job:

“…vets face long waits and substandard care on a systemic basis, and…firing the head of the agency probably will do nothing to change that.”

Then, he quotes former WH Press Secretary Robert Gibbs:

“…Washington has these things where in order for a story to stop and the next chapter to be written…there have to be these inflection points…”  Like “ritual firings”, Cherlin adds.

In other words, why do we have to fire these incompetent people?  It’s not their fault!  This isn’t their problem!  They didn’t start the fire!  Blame the other clowns who came before them!

With regards to the persecution of journalists like the widely respected New York Times national security reporter James Risen, Cherlin quotes an anonymous Obama official who absurdly asserts that this is one of those “Bush investigations” that the administration didn’t initiate but merely inherited, as if the President had no choice but to keep it going.  And that Obama “expressed both publicly and privately his frustration with the way they are being handled and has said reporters should never be in trouble for doing their job.”

Curiously, this follows a brief summary of the Risen case (the Administration wants him to testify in the Jeffrey Sterling leak case because they believe he was the source for a chapter in his State Of War book involving the secret US cyberattack on Iran’s nuclear facility) where Cherlin correctly notes that “the Supreme Court, at the urging of Obama’s Justice Department, declined to hear Risen’s appeal.”  Despite Obama asserting that “reporters should never be in trouble for doing their job”, he won’t stop hounding Risen to testify when he knows the reporter will never reveal his source and is prepared to go to prison if it comes to that.  (If journalists can’t protect their sources, why would anyone confide in them?)

It’s bad enough Cherlin doesn’t mention the most serious of Obama’s transgressions (drones, Gitmo, Bagram, Libya, Somalia, Afghanistan, the war on drugs, excessive deportations, the war on whistleblowers, the NSA’s global surveillance state, delays in releasing the CIA torture report, prison torture, racial profiling of Muslims, the militarization of law enforcement) when listing a number of unflattering media stories that have diminished the President’s stature.  It’s even worse when he suggests that the reason the media is so brutal to Obama in the first place is not that he has questionable policies but because the traditional news business is dying and as a result, anybody can be a journalist as long as they can do Buzzfeed listicles and have any kind of political grievance regardless of its factual validity.

Cherlin quotes recently retired WH Press Secretary Jay Carney, previously a 2o-year journalist who worked for Time Magazine, who claims that because “of all the cutting and slashing” of media jobs “everybody’s strung out and incapable of taking a breath and actually thinking about what they’re saying or writing.”

No actual examples are given.  Furthermore, there is much whining about having to respond to any reporter inquiries at all, whether they be serious or otherwise.  The overall sense of powerlessness Cherlin & others convey in the article is striking.  It’s as if they’re not responsible for anything bad that happens.

There’s an interesting section where Cherlin writes about his own interactions with the media.  It turns out he was a screamer, particularly when reporters wouldn’t play ball.  He wasn’t the only one:

“It didn’t take long for the group [of White House press aides] to earn a reputation as overly quick to scream to get their way, or to exact a price for stories they saw as unfair.”

Toddlers are less childish.  At any event, it was a failed tactic:

“…as the years passed and the novelty of an Obama presidency leached away, the atmosphere of presumption and entitlement to good coverage has worn poorly.”

“Presumption” and “entitlement”.  The idea that it’s imperative upon the press to heap constant praise on this federal government or else speaks volumes.  Ironically, considering the lack of skepticism that a number of beltway journalists exhibit when covering this administration, particularly on national security issues, I’d say Obama is still getting his way, despite all his growing scandals.  His persecutions of government whistleblowers and the journalists who employ them as sources are proof of that.  With some notable exceptions, he has scared the media into various fits of self-censorship.  A definite chill is being felt throughout the entire news business.

Cherlin’s Rolling Stone article is accompanied by an illustration of a wounded, bandaged Obama glaring sullenly at a small group of journos reimagined as voracious lions ready to pounce on him repeatedly.

Unfortunately, the reality, despite Cherlin’s often wimpy, unfounded assertions, is quite the opposite.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Tuesday, August 5, 2014
7:58 p.m.

 

 

Published in: on August 5, 2014 at 7:58 pm  Comments (3)  

Three Past Examples Of Maureen Dowd Slut Shaming Monica Lewinsky

In her latest New York Times column, Maureen Dowd writes once again about Monica Lewinsky, the only reason she has a Pulitzer Prize.  In the piece, Dowd revisits an incident from 1998 when Lewinsky approached her at a Washington, D.C. restaurant.  President Clinton’s former mistress asked her why she was so mean to her in her columns.

Dowd doesn’t recount her reply.  That’s because it’s too embarrassing.

Back in the summer of 1998 when she first wrote about this moment, she noted that her response was simply, “I don’t know,” as she “shrugged, lamely.”  According to Dowd, Lewinsky “sashayed away, looking triumphant”.

Dowd tells a different story in 2014.

“Monica bristled with confidence when she talked to me, but then she retreated to the ladies’ room and had a meltdown on her cellphone with [crisis manager] Judy Smith…[now] a co-executive producer on Shonda Rhimes’s ‘Scandal,’…”

Did the judgmental Dowd follow her all the way into the can to get that “scoop”?  Smells like revisionist bullshit to me.

At any event, Lewinsky is back in the news because she’s written a piece for Vanity Fair.  Now 40, she is eager to do something positive with her terrible past mistake, namely be an advocate for those who have also been publicly slut shamed on the Internet.  (I would strongly recommend she contact Emily Linden of The UnSlut Project.)

And no one publicly slut shamed Lewinsky more than the awful Dowd.  Slate’s Amanda Hess offers several notable examples here.  Here are three she didn’t mention:

In a June 1999 column entitled The 16th Minute, Dowd snarked over Lewinsky’s plans to launch her own line of purses, totes & lipstick:

“For sheer cringe-worthiness, a Monica lipstick ad, focusing on those shiny pillow lips, would probably top a Bob Dole erectile dysfunction ad.”

Then she writes this:

“Given that Monica still doesn’t seem to appreciate the concept of a private life, much less that she was the occasion for a gross constitutional crisis, I suppose we should be grateful that she isn’t hustling her own line of lingerie ‘Made especially for you by MONICA.”’

Followed by this:

“The former intern would fit perfectly into the TV cosmos created by David E. Kelley, which features neurotic, boy-crazy women who use sexual wiles to get ahead.”

The Victorian snoot mentions Ally McBeal (“the female lawyers’ skirts come up and their hair comes down.”) and Snoops (“One of the detectives dresses like a hooker to blackmail a deadbeat dad into handing over his wallet.”)

In a May 1999 column entitled Leech Women In Love!, Dowd compared Lewinsky (and writer Joyce Maynard who had a secret affair with J.D. Salinger) to a fictional 1950s horror villain:

“Then there is the Gen-X Leech Woman, the indefatigably exhibitionistic Monica Lewinsky, who insists, all her alleged humiliation notwithstanding, on not going away.”

[snip]

“These two highly skilled predators keep trying to extract celebrity from old love affairs that were not only brief and puerile but sexually tortured. They want to gain immortality — and big bucks — by feeding off the detritus of their triste trysts with older, famous men.

If they were microscopic organisms, we would call them parasites. They are worse than social climbers. They are sexual climbers.”

Then she complains about Lewinsky complaining about the media’s sole obsession with her sexualized image:

“Monica got huffy on a recent publicity tour designed to drum up flagging sales of her book when interviewers had the temerity to ask about the book. As she hawked her affair, she took offense at the suggestion that it was all that is interesting about her. It is an essential characteristic of the Leech Woman to believe that she is independent, that she has a self beyond the self that preys. She is a cross between a vamp and a vampire who wants to be treated like a movie star.”

In a January 1998 column entitled Undercover Advisor, back when the affair was first reported, Dowd hoped Clinton “had sex with her.  Because the alternative explanation [regarding their frequent contacts] offered by Monica Lewinsky’s lawyer is far more disturbing.”

That alternative explanation being that Lewinsky was some kind of “policy advisor” who helped the President with important political decisions.  Oh my God.  The horror!

“White House officials must have been secretly relieved when the press assumed the May-December relationship was sexual. They figured Mr. Clinton could survive another sex scandal, but he could never weather a competence scandal.”

“The American people will only put up with so much. They would never stand for a 24-year-old running the country.”

By “They”, she clearly means herself.  In Dowd’s mind, being a mistress is less offensive than having a brain.  And being a mistress who refuses to be shamed into silence and who refuses to leave the spotlight is even more repugnant.

But lest we forget, it wasn’t Lewinsky’s choice to go public with all of this in the first place.  Thank her supposed friend, Linda Tripp, and the bloodthirsty Republicans for that.  And it also wasn’t her choice to be smeared and slandered by media professionals, feminists and politicians, all of whom should hang their heads in shame for their deplorable comments.

As Amanda Hess noted in Slate, Lewinsky hasn’t been able to move on from the affair because we won’t let her, no matter how hard she tries.  Bill Clinton survived his regrettable impeachment proceedings over it to finish his second term and today, like Jimmy Carter, has a better reputation now than he ever did as President.

How is this fair?  How can a married man who took advantage of a younger employee during a government shutdown and encouraged her to be fed to vindictive wolves like Maureen Dowd come out looking better than ever?  Why is it that the other woman is forever the other woman?

In her recent column, Dowd writes that she’s willing to take up Lewinsky’s offer to have a drink together.  If I was the former intern, I’d throw my drink in her face without saying a word and sashay away, feeling triumphant.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Thursday, May 8, 2014
3:44 a.m.

Published in: on May 8, 2014 at 3:45 am  Comments (1)  

Damaging Woody Allen Details From A 1997 Connecticut Magazine Article

In the November 1997 issue of Connecticut Magazine, journalist Andy Thibault profiled Frank Maco.  In the summer of 1992, Maco, the state prosecutor, was investigating the Woody Allen molestation scandal.  Allen’s then-seven-year-old adopted daughter, Dylan Farrow, accused her father of fingering her vagina on multiple occasions.

Although Maco ultimately dropped his investigation (he worried about putting Dylan through a potentially traumatizing trial despite the fact that she was more that willing to testify in front of her assailant), Allen’s behaviour throughout it was suspicious.  Here are the most damaging details noted in the article:

1. Contrary to what 60 Minutes reporter Steve Kroft asserted in his 1992 TV interview with Allen, the filmmaker was initially quite uncooperative with both Connecticut and New York police.  He spent several months refusing to submit to interviews.  At one point, he “tried to set preconditions” before sitting down with the Connecticut side.  “One of the preconditions was that any statements made by Allen could not be used to impeach him.  The state police did not comply.”

Another precondition involved having Maco witness Allen making his statement in front of law enforcement.  Worried that this would needlessly complicate his possible prosecution of the case (the defense could potentially put him on the stand during a trial), Maco refused.

2. When Allen finally sat down for an interview with Connecticut police in January 1993, the session lasted almost four hours.  One of the focal points was the incident in the attic.  (Dylan:  “He put his finger in my vagina.  He made me lay on the floor all ways, on my back, on my side, my front.  He kissed me all over.  I didn’t like it…Daddy told me not to tell and he’d take me to Paris, but I did tell.”)

Despite first claiming he had never been up there, “[p]olice found hair fibers in the crawl space consistent with Allen’s” and even fingerprints, physical evidence that placed him at the scene of the crime but didn’t necessarily prove culpability, as one CSI expert noted in the article.  Allen later conceded that not only was it possible that “he might have reached into the crawl space on occasion, either to grab one of the children or to give them a soda… it was” also “possible that [his] prints would be found there.”  That said, because he kept going back and forth with his answers, the “police characterized Allen’s statements as inconsistent.”

3. At least 10 private investigators were “hired by different lawyers and subcontractors”, all of them on Allen’s payroll, to dig up dirt on Maco and the Connecticut police in order to discredit their investigation.  “The private detectives included former FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration agents” who were particularly focused on “Sgt. John Mucherino, a primary investigator for Maco.  They wanted to know if Mucherino was a drinker or a gambler, if he had any marital problems.”  Ironically, some of the PIs were “former state cops who were friends with Mucherino.”  The article doesn’t mention if they found anything useful.

4. Several Connecticut police officers believed that it was Allen’s team who started “the false rumor” that someone in law enforcement “was trying to sell a videotape of Dylan” making her accusations directly to her mother, Mia, “to the tabloid media.”  A trooper was investigated by Internal Affairs over this but was cleared of any wrongdoing.  However, if it’s true that the defense was responsible for this wild goose chase, the dirty tactic proved effective.  As a result of the IA affair, the investigation into the abuse claims was suspended for 10 days before being reactivated.  Maco told Connecticut Magazine, “About this time, I was told there was a campaign to disrupt the investigators, being orchestrated out of New York.”

5. It was Maco who “commissioned” professional experts at Yale University to put together a report examining the credibility of Dylan’s abuse claims.  Furthermore, the county prosecutor specifically wanted the group “to determine whether Dylan was a viable witness who could stand up in court.”  Unfortunately, they concluded that no sexual violation of Allen’s adopted daughter had taken place.  However, there were several, notable problems with their findings:

i) “The Yale team used psychologists on Allen’s payroll to make mental health conclusions.”

ii) “Custody recommendations were made even though the team never saw Allen and any of the children together.”

iii) “The team refused to interview witnesses who could have corroborated the molestation claims.”

iv) “The team destroyed its notes.”

v) Dr. John Leventhal, “the only medical doctor on the team, did not interview Dylan.”

vi) “The night before Leventhal gave a statement to Farrow’s attorney, he discussed the scenario with Abramowitz, the head of Allen’s legal team, for about 30 minutes.”

vii) Leventhal aside, other members of the Yale team did interview Dylan a grand total of “nine times”, which an outside expert said was “excessive”.  (“The danger is the child feels like she’s not believed if she’s asked the same question over and over.”)  “For three consecutive weeks” of questioning, Dylan said Allen “violated her sexually.  In several of the other sessions, she mentioned a similar type of abuse.  When Dylan did not repeat the precise allegation in some of the sessions, the team reported this as an inconsistency.”

viii) “Leventhal himself later admitted” while under oath during the custody battle that among the “several mistakes” he made “was his false characterization of Dylan’s active imagination as a thought disorder” or “a fantasy problem”.  He initially found her “loose associations” troubling.  When Dylan talked about seeing “dead heads” in the attic, it was just a harmless reference to “a trunk” in the family “attic” where Mia “kept wigs from her movies on wig blocks”.  “The magic hour” was nothing more than Mia’s fanciful way of “describ[ing] the dark sky upon leaving New Haven in the evening…”  It wasn’t an example of “magical thinking” which Leventhal ultimately confessed, in sworn testimony, was a faulty conclusion.

ix) Leventhal never did determine Dylan’s fitness as a trial witness.  “Regardless of what the Connecticut police wanted from us…we weren’t necessarily beholden to them.  We did not assess whether she’d be a good witness in court.  That’s what Mr. Maco may have been interested in, but that’s not necessarily what we were interested in.”

Is it any wonder Maco noted in the article “that enlisting Yale’s assistance was the biggest mistake he made in the case”?

“I gave their report very little weight,” he told Connecticut Magazine.

6. After announcing in September 1993 that he was dropping the investigation against Allen to spare Dylan while simultaneously asserting that the filmmaker wasn’t exactly innocent, an infuriated Allen responded with two “ethics complaint[s] against Maco with both the Statewide Grievance Committee—a lawyers’ disciplinary group—and the state Criminal Justice Commission, which hires and fires prosecutors.”

The CJC cleared Maco at the end of 1993, two months after Allen’s desperate filing.  But a close SGC vote (6-5 “with two abstentions”) determined that an investigation was necessary into Maco’s actions.  “The vote overturned a ruling by Maco’s local committee, which had found in his favor.”  A Superior Court Judge ridiculed the overruling calling it “star-driven, sloppy and careless.”  There was suspicion that the committee might have “just wanted to see Woody Allen”.  Maco was offered a chance to apologize and settle with Allen but refused.  “I did nothing illegal, unethical or immoral,” he told Connecticut Magazine.  “I’ll go anywhere to defend that.”

In the end, according to a brief 2013 blog update published with the reposting of the original 1997 article on the official CM website, it took four years for the SGC to realize that the CJC was right all along.  As a result, Rico was cleared a second time in 2001.  Allen had lost both attempts to punish him for his aborted prosecution.  Two years later, after more than 30 years on the job, Rico retired.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Tuesday, February 12, 2014
8:22 p.m.

Published in: on February 11, 2014 at 8:23 pm  Comments (1)  

What Sucked In 2013

1. Nelson Mandela died.

2. Roger Ebert died.

3. Lou Reed died.

4. Monday Night Raw became completely unwatchable.

5. Chelsea Manning was sentenced to military prison for 35 years because she exposed American war crimes.

6. CM Punk lost the WWE Championship to The Rock at The Royal Rumble in a match that did not live up to expectations.  Not even close.  Punk should still be the champion.

7. Evil Dead.  Not an improvement over Sam Raimi’s overrated original.

8. The Bella Twins returned to the WWE.

9. The Miz’ babyface run.  He gave you no reason to root for him.

10. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper hasn’t been prosecuted for lying to Congress.

11. Toronto Mayor Rob Ford didn’t resign his office and hasn’t been arrested for any of his publicly disclosed legally dubious transgressions.

12. Dolph Ziggler’s unfortunate concussion which led to an abbreviated World Heavyweight Championship reign.  His unpersuasive face turn is even worse.  Like The Miz, he hasn’t changed anything about his character.

13. The media’s blatant misrepresentation of Pope Francis.  He’s no liberal reformer.

14. Howard Stern’s misguided support for the NYPD’s discredited, discriminatory Stop and Frisk program, which is now thankfully on the decline.  Maybe if he was Black or Hispanic he would understand the outrage.

15. George Zimmerman was acquitted of killing Trayvon Martin.  A botched, overzealous prosecution got in the way of real justice.  We may never know the whole story.

16. My nasty migraine that lasted for weeks back in the late Spring.  (Thanks to my doctor for suggesting Aleve.  That shit works.)

17. U2’s next studio album didn’t get released.  (It’s out in March.)

18. Austin Aires wasn’t fired from TNA for being a sexist dick to ring announcer Christy Hemme on Impact Wrestling.

19. Paul Walker died.

20. Jeffrey Toobin’s dopey comments about Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald’s husband, David Miranda.  Why has he been taking the government’s side on the mass surveillance issue?  Is he really this ignorant about the importance of whistleblowers and respecting privacy?

21. The new WWE Championship belt.  It did the impossible.  It made me nostalgic for the Spinner strap.

22. Evan Bourne still hasn’t returned to the WWE.

23. The firing of Jim Ross.  Is it his fault Ric Flair can’t be muzzled?

24. Renee Young on Vintage.  She’s even more annoying than Matt Striker.  I can’t watch it anymore.

25. Gitmo remains open despite a mass hunger strike involving most of the unconvicted detainees that caused a firestorm of controversy for much of the year.  (It’s still active today but with fewer participants and no more military updates.  The truth makes America look bad, you see.)

26. The unlawful force feeding of many of those same detainees.  Obama loves torturing innocent people just as much as Bush and Cheney ever did.

27. Cory Monteith died.

28. Along with the aforementioned Evil Dead remake, all the other awful movies I screened this year:  Zero Dark Thirty, Grown-ups, Beastly, House At The End Of The Street, Friday After Next, 50 First Dates, Texas Chainsaw, Beetlejuice, Diary Of A Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules, Diary Of A Wimpy Kid: Dog Days, The Three Stooges remake, Cheech & Chong’s Up In Smoke, No Time For Sargeants, Meet Monica Velour, The Gate, The Purge, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, Hold Your Breath, The Apparition, Spice World, Paranormal Activity 4, A Haunted House, Nanny McPhee and all 7 Saw movies.

29. Kim Kardashian and Kanye West hooked up and are now procreating.  Please make it stop.

30. The American federal government shutdown.  Way to piss off America, Republicans.

31. Dennis Rodman’s bizarre friendship with ruthless North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-Un, a man who just had his uncle executed.

32. Curtis Axel.  Even the great Paul Heyman couldn’t get him over.

33. The Boston Marathon bombing.  Watching the footage of the bombs going off is still deeply unsettling.

34. The death of Paul Bearer.  Rest.  In.  Peace.

35. Tiger Woods started dating Lindsay Vonn.  She must have a bad memory.

36. James Gandolfini died.

37. The Egyptian military coup.  America truly doesn’t want Muslims to control their own destinies.  The Muslim Brotherhood are far from perfect but they were democratically elected.  How are they exactly “terrorists”?

38. The flood in Calgary.

39. The massive fire on the boardwalk on the Jersey Shore.  More heartbreak for citizens and business owners after the treachery of Superstorm Sandy last year.

40. Ted Cruz’ incredibly stupid filibuster against the Affordable Care Act.  A total waste of time and extremely self-serving.

41. An important element of the 1964 Civil Rights Act was struck down by the American Supreme Court.  It needs to be restored, pronto.

42. Despite winning the WWE Championship twice, Daniel Bryan never got a chance to have a lengthy title run.  Maybe in 2014.

43. The Bangladesh tragedy.  A jolting reminder of the importance of unions and the heartless indifference of greedy corporations.

44. The North American ice storm.  Shades of 1998 on a thankfully much smaller scale.

45. The tragic train explosion in Lac Megantic, Quebec.  Completely preventable.

46. Rolling Stone/Buzzfeed reporter and author Michael Hastings died.

47. Detroit filed for bankruptcy.

48. All the insane fuss over George, the Royal Baby.  Nobody cares.

49. The unfair prosecution of Justin Carter.  Drop it already.  He’s been punished enough.

50. The excessive coverage of the Jodi Arias murder trial.

51. Glenn Greenwald left The Guardian.

52. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ruthless crackdown on LGBT citizens in his own country.

53. The mysterious murder of American teen Kendrick Johnson.  Will it ever be solved?

54. Alberto Del Rio’s half-year run as a babyface.  It was botched from the start and never recovered.

55. Alec Baldwin still can’t keep his temper in check.

56. President Obama’s drones are still killing innocent civilians.  Where is the accountability?

57. The nine hour detention of David Miranda, Greenwald’s husband, by British airport authorities.  If they thought this would stop the former lawyer from continuing to report on the NSA’s bullshit, they completely miscalculated.

58. Omar Khadr and John Kiriakou are still in prison for doing absolutely nothing wrong.  Barrett Brown and Jeremy Hammond are also being punished but for committing honourable acts of civil disobedience.  Free and pardon them all.

59. The DVD player in my TV only loads discs when it wants to and rarely on the first attempt.  (I know.  Woe is me.)  Got to figure out how to upgrade to Blu-Ray.

60. All the thousands of Americans murdered and wounded by guns since Newtown.  When will the madness end?

61. The typhoon in the Philippines.

62. Rhianna reunited with Chris Brown.  Thankfully, it was short-lived.

63. Howard Stern’s cluelessness on Edward Snowden.  When you find yourself agreeing with Scott DePace, dog beater and inventor of the Video Caddy, there’s something wrong with you.

64. Jean Stapleton died.  We’ll miss you, dingbat.

65. The Canadian penny was discontinued.  A major pain in the ass for retailers.

66. The phony controversy over Rolling Stone putting one of the alleged Boston Marathon bombers on its cover.  That same picture was used on the front of The New York Times earlier, so where was the anger then?

67. Storage Wars: Canada.  One spin-off too many.

68. John Cena and Randy Orton continue to get world title pushes.  Why?

69. Sophia Bush’s absolute refusal to criticize President Obama.  What will it take for her to wake up to reality and stop being such a big baby about my harsh comments?

70. I bought a new VCR/DVD combo player that was incompatible with my barely existing TV/DVD combo player.  Thankfully, it was returned for a full refund.  Still, what a huge disappointment.

71. Lara Logan wasn’t fired from 60 Minutes for her erroneous Benghazi report.

72. The return of Anthony Weiner’s penis.  Why is a married guy seeking other opinions?

73. Megyn Kelly of Fox News claiming she was just joking when she said Santa and Jesus are white.  No, you weren’t.

74. Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson’s awful comments about blacks and gays, and his support for marrying underage teenage girls.  Maybe it’s time for him to go back on drugs.

75. Aaron Swartz killed himself.  Shame on you, Department of Justice, for pushing him into an awful decision.

76. Time Magazine and The Advocate naming Pope Francis Person Of The Year.  Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning, respectively, were more deserving.

77. Careless Teens.  See what you did, Jackass?

78. The Mali mall massacre.

79. The crackdown on Turkish protestors.

80. Nia Moore on The Real World: Portland.  What a fucking psycho.

81. President Obama remains in office despite imprisoning whistleblowers, investigating journalists, force-feeding mostly innocent hunger striking Gitmo detainees, and ordering the murders of Muslims without proof of wrongdoing via drones.  Where is the outrage?

82. The awesome Reeva Steenkamp, so much more than just a beautiful woman, was tragically murdered by her boyfriend, the once inspiring Paralympian Oscar Pistorius.  Will he get away with it?

83. The Huffington Post’s Bob Cesca.  Why is he more critical of Glenn Greenwald than Barton Gellman when they’ve reported on the exact same things?  And why is he downplaying the significance of Edward Snowden’s revelations?

84. Crossfire returned.  Was it really missed these past nine years?

85. Rand Paul’s plagiarism scandal.  Absolutely no excuse for it.

86. Alex Rodriquez was able to keep playing for the New York Yankees despite being caught using performance enhancing drugs.  Again.

87. The relentless criticism levelled against Seth McFarlane regarding his performance as Oscar host.  Feminists, I love you.  You’ve done so much good for the world, even today, but you’re wrong about this one.  He wasn’t sexist.  He was funny and clever.  (When he said you wouldn’t let things go, you proved him right.)

88. The Edmonton Oilers.  I can’t even watch their televised regular season games anymore.  Too depressing.

89. The Hamilton Tiger-Cats lost to The Saskatchewan Rough Riders in The Grey Cup.

90. Sophia Bush complained that I criticized her charity work.  Wrong.  I criticized her chronic inability to hold her “hero” President Obama to the same standard on human rights abuses as convenient villain of the moment, Joseph Kony of the Congo.  Her paraphrasing of my words is grossly inaccurate and deeply insulting.

91. CNN’s Chris Cuomo’s embarrassing prime-time interview with Amanda Knox.  Why is he so obsessed with her sex life?

92. Knox and ex-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito are being retried in Italy in the Meredith Kercher murder case despite already being cleared and the real culprit already serving his sentence.

93. The ongoing sequester in America.  Far more damaging than the three-week shutdown.

94. Nigella Lawson’s awful year.  Choked out by her soon-to-be-ex-husband in public, accused of being a cokehead in a lawsuit.

95. The Rock vs. John Cena at WrestleMania 29.  I thought it would be better than their WrestleMania 28 encounter.  I was wrong.

96. Manti Te’o got catfished and covered it up.  Many can relate but few will admit it.

97. The media overhype over the nonexistent “Knockout Game”.  Stop scaring people.  That’s the NSA’s job.

98. The shooting death of Sammy Yatim by police while he was having an episode on a TTC streetcar.  What happened to peaceful negotiations leading to surrender?

99. The murder of Tim Bosma.  And for what?  His pick-up truck?  Despicable.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, December 29, 2013
6:18 p.m.

Winners & Losers Of 2013 (Part Seven)

Winner:  Edward Snowden, Laura Poitras, Glenn Greenwald & Barton Gellman

He saw things that greatly disturbed him.  But rather than wait for someone else to act, he went public himself with support from two respected journalists and an acclaimed filmmaker.

When then-29-year-old Booz Allen Hamilton contractor Edward Snowden decided to become a whistleblower, little did anyone know, including himself, just how significant and influential a public figure he would ultimately become in the second half of 2013.

As President Obama struggled to control the narratives on controversies involving Benghazi, the IRS, Gitmo, Chelsea Manning’s court martial, deportations, spying on the press, the war on terror and drones, Snowden’s revelatory disclosures to these carefully selected journalists (who, in turn, would share them with their trusted colleagues) would undermine the President’s credibility like never before.

In early June, Snowden hosted documentarian Laura Poitras & then-Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald in his Hong Kong hotel room to discuss why he had sent them top secret documents retrieved from the National Security Agency, his former place of business.

For several months, starting in late 2012, Snowden had been trying to alternately convince them online that he was legit and that it would be worth both their time and energy to come see him personally.  Before meeting him in China, Greenwald was expecting to encounter an old man.  He was shocked to see someone even younger than him.

But that was only the beginning.

In Snowden’s room, Poitras set up a camera and Greenwald grilled his new source for hours making sure his claims held up to severe scrutiny.  Sufficiently satisfied that he could now trust this young, technological wizard (who had previously taught him how to use encryption online), he immediately went to work.

Shortly thereafter, The Guardian posted its first blockbuster story, as did freelancer Barton Gellman’s paper, The Washington Post.  (Gellman was given some documents by Poitras.)  Then, another.  And another.  And another.

At first, Snowden’s identity was protected.  But not long after the release of these game changing articles, he outed himself.  (The Hong Kong interview was then posted on The Guardian’s website and also aired on CNN.)  The Obama Administration scrambled to charge him in secret under the unconstitutional Espionage Act, a World War I-era law that needs to die already.  Media pundits like The Washington Post’s Richard Cohen and The New Yorker’s Jeffrey Toobin condemned Snowden’s actions citing his non-existent reckless self-absorption.  Meet The Press host David Gregory wondered why Greenwald himself wasn’t being charged, as well (but curiously, not Gellman or Poitras).  Several NSA-lovin’ Republicans and Democrats smeared him as an outright “traitor”.  Others thought he should be killed.

All would end up eating their words.

Before he even became a household name, with Chelsea Manning’s cruel confinement very much on his mind, Snowden was already on the move leaving his six-figure job, beautiful girlfriend and cozy life in Hawaii far behind.  Now wanted by the Department of Justice, it was time to leave Hong Kong for good.  While in the air en route to Moscow, the Obama Administration, in a typically petty move, revoked his passport before he landed.  This meant that the whistleblower would end up stranded in a Russian airport for his 30th birthday during a unwanted pit stop that lasted roughly 40 straight days.

Infuriated that China would not turn over Snowden before he left, the Obama Administration urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to play ball.  Remarkably, he refused, as well.  In fact, Russia granted the former NSA contractor temporary political asylum for one year.  Snowden’s original plan was to end up in Cuba but without a passport, he was stuck.

When Bolivian President Evo Morales was trying to land for a pre-scheduled refueling before heading home from a Russian energy conference in early July, the plane was forced to land elsewhere so it could be inspected.  So desperate to find Snowden onboard, when the local Austrian authorities (at the insistence of the Obama Administration) realized their mistake, it became a very public embarrassment.  President Morales was thoroughly pissed off and along with two other South American leaders, openly offered asylum to Snowden.  He even filed an official complaint with the United Nations.

Meanwhile, The Guardian and The Washington Post, as well as international outlets in collaboration with the indefatigable Greenwald, kept reporting on the NSA documents.  It turns out that the intelligence community aren’t just spying on supposed terrorists and not always on their own.  In collusion at times with professional spies and hackers from Australia, Britain and Canada, they’re also secretly snooping on world leaders (especially allies), global charities, economic enterprises, international embassies, media organizations and ordinary citizens thanks to secretly infiltrating cell phones and websites through secret arrangements with major telephone and Internet conglomerates, and their own hacking capabilities (the latter of which, thankfully, has its limits).

For their part, a good number of freaked out libertarian Republicans and liberal Democrats in both the Senate and the House Of Representatives joined forces to propose a whole slew of bills to curb the NSA’s mass collection of metadata among other questionable activities.  One early attempt to defund the metadata program was defeated by just 7 votes.  Despite intense lobbying by the White House and American intelligence, privacy-minded politicians and their supporters know they have the momentum right now.  It would’ve never happened without Edward Snowden.

As the damning disclosures continued to pour out of the media, Obama was forced to talk out of both sides of his ass.  Claiming that he welcomed a debate on secret mass surveillance (which he had never mentioned out loud once in the four years he had been running the country), he tried to fool the public into thinking he was eager to rein in the out-of-control NSA.  A closer inspection of his reform proposals revealed inconsequential cosmetic changes, at best.  Put bluntly, Obama wants the status quo to be maintained, no matter what.  He supports mass surveillance of the entire world.

Late in the year, he announced the formation of a five-man advisory committee that would look at the current programs and make recommendations for changeComing on the heels of a significant court ruling in December, many were surprised that the Obama-connected investigators didn’t go entirely along with the President’s long discredited assertions.  (However, regarding the metadata program, they would prefer it if telecomms held the information while the government seeks warrants on a case-by-case basis.  Here’s a better idea:  why not just discontinue the useless, unconstitutional program altogether?)  Already rejecting one of their 46 recommendations, instead of making substantial changes to protect civil liberties, Obama is planning to make what will likely be a transparently empty announcement that won’t mean anything sometime in January.

All the while, Snowden, who had won a few whistleblower awards throughout the year, was looking more and more vindicated by his courageous actions.  Richard Cohen of The Washington Post admitted he was wrong to denounce him.  Even The New Yorker’s Jeffrey Toobin, sounding more like a government spokesman than an adversarial journalist these days, conceded that Judge Leon’s negative court ruling on the metadata program and the advisory board’s recommendations greatly helped the whistleblower’s cause.

As the President licks his considerable political wounds in Hawaii, he needs to accept reality and drop his draconian prosecution against Snowden.  (He should also abandon his dumb war against all whistleblowers altogether.)  With Gellman and Greenwald each releasing critical NSA books this Spring, Poitras working on another adversarial documentary about his administration, the promise of more reputation-damaging disclosures to come and all those intelligence reform bills pending in Washington, it’s difficult to see how a conviction would have any worldwide support.  It’s also difficult to see the NSA continue to operate in its current, unrestricted form, despite his stubborn intentions to keep controversial, ineffective procedures relatively intact.

For his unfathomable courage in leaking these shocking secrets and their equally strong determination to report on them despite intense governmental pressure and interference, Snowden, Greenwald, Gellman and Poitras deserve our most appreciative thanks.  Without all four of their efforts this year, the American global surveillance state would remain a powerful, dangerous secret.

Loser:  Toronto Mayor Rob Ford

To citizens of the biggest municipality in the Great White North, he’s long been a hypocritical faux conservative long on awful, discredited rhetoric and short on sound policies.  But to the rest of the planet, he is now the biggest joke in public office.

Even before Gawker and The Toronto Star exposed him as a drug war phony, he had already overcome an earlier scandal, this one involving a financial conflict of interest.  After a judge temporarily ordered his removal from office over misappropriated taxpayer funds in December 2012, the decision was overturned on appeal a few months later.  Regardless, Ford remained at City Hall the entire time.

In March, The Star reported an embarrassing incident involving the Mayor at the annual Toronto Garrison Ball the previous month.  A black-tie benefit for the Canadian military, Ford reportedly showed up late completely sloshed and speaking incoherently.  He was in such a bad state, he was politely asked to leave.

Also in March, former political rival Sarah Thomson claimed that Ford groped her while high on cocaine at another public event.

Meanwhile, while badgering lobbyists for contributions to his football foundation, it was publicly noted that their presence in Toronto politics had tripled in numbers.  Ditto the number of complaints about them.  For someone who got elected on stopping the left-wing “gray train” at City Hall, it was becoming obvious that he didn’t mean the right-wing variety.

In April, a clumsy Ford accidentally walked right into the lens of a cameraman’s camera at City Hall, a clip that became great comic fodder for ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel and Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart.  More importantly, he also snubbed a visiting Prince Philip by no-showing a ceremonial event for the Royal Canadian Regiment (despite being shown the proper protocol on how to deal with the visiting Royal Family member), he once again refused to participate in the LGBT community’s annual Pride parade but did offer to teach women about politics.  No one took him up on the offer.

Then came the big Gawker story.  Ford had been videotaped on an iPhone smoking crack cocaine from a pipe.  It was recorded by an alleged Somali-Canadian drug dealer in what police described as a crack house.  And it was for sale.  Gawker ended up raising $200000 on Kickstarter to purchase it but over time, the unknown person in possession of the video freaked out over all the publicity the article had already generated and rescinded the offer.  The money was donated to four Canadian rehab centres instead.

The Toronto Star already knew about the video having had a couple of reporters see it a number of times themselves but for some inexplicable reason they kept hesitating to publish their account.  The Gawker scoop forced their hand and we learned more damaging details, like Ford calling federal Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau a “fag” and making disparaging remarks about black people.

Ford had a glorious opportunity to set the record straight but instead decried the “allegations” as “ridiculous” and part of an ongoing smear campaign against him by The Star.  Curiously, Ford and his brother Doug, a fellow councilman, refrained from doing their weekly two-hour radio show on CFRB at that time.  The silence raised understandable suspicions, even from political allies and supporters.

Finally, a week after the scandal began, Ford called an impromptu press conference in his cramped media room at City Hall declaring, “I do not smoke crack cocaine, nor am I an addict of crack cocaine.”  He also denied the existence of the crack video he claimed he hadn’t seen.

The public, the media and city council were not satisfied, and as a result, the story refused to die.

Reports surfaced that Ford acknowledged to staff that the video indeed existed but he knew where it was and that it was safe.  His chief-of-staff, Mark Twohey, was fired for suggesting he go to rehab.  That same week, more staffers departed.  Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday resigned his seat on council and got a new job as a provincial MP in a perfectly timed by-election.

In an extremely rare display of agreement, all four Toronto newspapers – The Star, The Globe & Mail, The National Post and even The Sun (who defended Ford for years because of his mythologized “fiscal conservative” image) – editorially urged his resignation.  They did this repeatedly but the Mayor refused to go away.

In the summer, Toronto police conducted a series of raids as part of a one-year investigation against local drug gangs.  Dubbed Project Traveller, the media fought for weeks to have the official police report of their allegations unsealed so they could report the findings.  Ford’s longtime friend and personal driver, Sandro Lisi, was arrested on extortion charges and for dealing with illegal drugs.  Police allege that he used threats to try to retrieve the now-infamous video and sold marijuana on the street.  Secret surveillance revealed numerous contacts between him and the Mayor.

More shocking revelations about Ford would surface as two additional sets of previously redacted court documents would be released on two different occasions.  Among them:  drunk driving, peeing on the side of the road near a school, threats of violence, sexual harassment, heroin use, marijuana smoking, cavorting with prostitutes, using staff to run personal errands, possible financial support of the crack house where he was taped and exorbitant staff raises.

Then came the biggest blow of them all.  During a sadly appropriate Halloween press conference, Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair announced in very carefully worded language that a deleted video file law enforcement had successfully retrieved matched the description depicted back in those original Gawker and Toronto Star reports.  Suddenly, the man who claimed it didn’t exist wanted it released.  More staffers resigned.

After weeks and months of denial, out of nowhere, he finally admitted to reporters, “Yes, I’ve smoked crack cocaine,” but denied he was addicted.  He ineptly blamed his actions on “one of my drunken stupors”.  During a council session, when asked if he bought illegal drugs, after a comically long pause, he said, “Yes, I have.”.  One late night show inserted the Final Jeopardy theme music into the clip.

In the most memorable moment of the entire scandal thus far, while wearing a Toronto Argonauts jersey (the team had a Grey Cup semi-final play-off game against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats which they lost), during a jam-packed mid-November press scrum outside his City Hall office, Ford bluntly refuted on live Television one of the police-reported sexual harassment allegations put forth against him in a manner that became a late night comedian’s wet dream:

“It says I wanted to eat her pussy [regarding staffer Olivia Gondek] and I have never said that in my life to her. I would never do that. I’m happily married and I’ve got more than enough to eat at home…”

During a memorable episode of The Daily Show, Jon Stewart urged parents to wake up their kids and get them out of bed to watch this disappointingly bleeped historical moment.  After it was played, he hilariously flipped out (“What?!?”) and pleaded with Ford to “drop the mic” and call it a day.

But the Mayor refused to end on a high note.

A growing number of City Hall protesters started demanding his exit.  CFRB ended the call-in radio show he co-hosted with his brother Doug.  They got a new TV gig on the struggling Sun News Network not too long afterward but, despite decent ratings, it was cancelled after only one airingCouncillers voted to strip him of much of his powers which had real-life consequences just before Christmas when Ford refused to declare a state of emergency after a nasty ice storm knocked the power out of hundreds of thousands of local homes and businesses.  (If he had, new Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly would be in charge.)  While most of the electricity has since been restored, tens of thousands spent Christmas deeply inconvenienced and will continue to do so likely to the end of the week.

With the mayor’s antics attracting international attention, stupid moments like the incident where he inexplicably ran into fellow councillor Pam McConnell and that bizarre video of him channelling Hulk Hogan in an unexplained rage were emblematic of how incredibly embarrassing this whole situation had become.  For some unknown reason, police would not lay any charges on the man responsible for their budget and who has been completely uncooperative with their investigation into Lisi and the drug gangs.

Then in December, Ford falsely insinuated that a Toronto Star reporter, who investigated a story about the Mayor buying property near his home last year, was a pedophile without actually saying the word.  After foolishly delaying taking legal action against him, Daniel Dale finally filed a libel suit.  It took two tries for Ford to fully retract all the lies he said about him before Dale dropped the case.

In spite all of this, His Stubbornness refuses to go quietly into the night.  He has repeatedly vowed to stick around and actually run for re-election next October.  (When he was losing his powers, he actually suggested a snap election this past November which was thankfully ignored.)  How in the world does he expect to win when both the Sandro Lisi trial and Toronto Star reporter Robyn Doolittle’s book about him are coming in February and are each likely to have lasting impacts on his political career in 2014?

Maybe you have to be in a drunken stupor to understand.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Thursday, December 26, 2013
10:54 p.m.

CORRECTIONS:  According to Glenn Greenwald’s No Place To Hide book, Barton Gellman actually didn’t go to Hong Kong to meet Edward Snowden in his hotel room, as I erroneously mentioned in paragraph four.  That mistake has now been deleted.  In that same paragraph, I wrongly stated that that was the moment when Snowden handed Poitras & Greenwald the top secret NSA documents.  (More on this down below.)  “Hand over” has been replaced with “to discuss why he had sent them”.

Paragraph five has also been revised.  It originally mentioned that the NSA whistleblower had been trying to “alternately convince” Gellman and Greenwald “online that he was legit”.  That’s wrong, as well.  It was Poitras & Greenwald he was contacting.  Gellman was given documents Snowden handed over to Poitras months later, much to Greenwald’s consternation.  (To be fair, he has been laudatory of Gellman’s pieces.)

In paragraph six, I originally wrote, “Before meeting him on the street in China, Greenwald was expecting to encounter an old man.”  According to No Place To Hide, they actually met in a conference room in Snowden’s hotel.  I’ve now dropped “on the street”.  Regarding paragraph seven, I asserted, “Sufficiently satisfied that he could now trust this young, technological wizard (who had previously taught him how to use encryption online), he graciously accepted the documents (as did his colleagues) and on the flight back to Brazil, marvelled at its contents with Poitras.”

The second half of that sentence is not quite right.  Before they even met Snowden, he had sent Poitras the complete set who then gave an identical set to Greenwald.  (He was actually given a few sample documents via computer in Brazil after requesting some proof that Snowden was real.)  It was on the 16-hour flight to China, not the flight back home, where he first poured over as much of the full set as he could.  All of that has been dropped and replaced with the more accurate “he immediately went to work”.  I’ve also tweaked paragraph eight and added the important detail of Poitras giving Gellman some of the NSA documents.

My apologies for all of these mistakes.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Tuesday, July 15, 2014
2:10 a.m.

Published in: on December 26, 2013 at 10:54 pm  Comments (1)  

Winners & Losers Of 2013 (Part Five)

Winner:  Jennifer Lawrence

The honeymoon continued for this quirky Kentucky beauty in 2013.

The media darling of the moment earned her second Oscar nomination for playing Bradley Cooper’s love interest in the acclaimed late 2012 hit, Silver Linings Playbook, which raked in over 200 million in international box office receipts.  On the night of the ceremony, she was named Best Actress.  Despite accidentally tripping up the stairs to the stage in order to accept it, her respected speech was gracious and typically self-deprecating.  In a classy gesture, she wished fellow nominee Emmanuelle Riva (Amour) a Happy Birthday.  (She turned 86 that night.)

As the year drew to a close, Lawrence returned as Katniss in the second Hunger Games film.  In its first month of release, it has already accumulated more than 750 million worldwideReviews have been overwhelmingly positive.  And there’s a lot of buzz for her supporting performance in David O. Russell’s just-issued American Hustle (will she get her third nomination?) which is expected to be a major Oscar contender.  It’s her best reviewed film this year and has already made back half its budget, as of this writing.

With appearances in the next installments of the X-Men and Hunger Games franchises plus a reunion with Cooper in the Great Depression drama Serena coming next year, even if she decided to run over an autistic child high on heroin while farting on a puppy, expect the world’s love affair with her to continue unabated.

Loser:  President Obama

It’s not easy presiding over a crumbling empire.  But the 44th American President did little to stop his nation’s steep decline in 2013.  In fact, he may have expedited it.

Not long after being sworn in for his second term, his administration would become consumed with scandal.  Despite promising to shut it down within a year of his first term, the still open Guantanamo Bay gulag was thrust back into the spotlight when most of the remaining detainees (half of whom have been cleared for release – twice – years ago) commenced yet another hunger strike to remind the world of their horrifying, never ending dilemma.

At first, the administration downplayed the numbers.  Then, they decided to force-feed the most resistant, a cold, unethical practice not approved by either the American Medical Association nor the various human rights groups who outright condemned this ghastly torture.  During a major speech in late May, President Obama openly addressed the image program Gitmo presents to the world:

“…history will cast a harsh judgment on this aspect of our fight against terrorism and those of us who fail to end it. Imagine a future 10 years from now or 20 years from now when the United States of America is still holding people who have been charged with no crime on a piece of land that is not a part of our country.

Look at the current situation, where we are force-feeding detainees who are being held on a hunger strike…Is this who we are? Is that something our founders foresaw? Is that the America we want to leave our children?”

As far as Obama is concerned, yes it is.

While the bogus military trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his cronies drags on unconstitutionally, since that Spring speech only four Gitmo detainees have been transferred to other countries.  (The transfer of two Algerian prisoners was in itself controversial.)  158 still remain in Cuba.

Meanwhile, Obama’s ongoing war on the press intensified with the revelation that the Department of Justice was secretly investigating the phone lines of Associated Press reporters during one of its many leak investigations.  (Fox News reporter James Rosen and New York Times National Security Correspondent James Risen were also unfortunate targets of this vindictive regime.)  When Glenn Greenwald’s husband, David Miranda, was detained by nine hours in Britain’s Heathrow Airport, the Obama Administration was given a head’s up and stayed out of the way, effectively giving their blessing to the intimidating measure.  The journalistic backlash was swift and severe with the President ordering his Attorney General Eric Holder to reform DOJ guidelines on dealing with the press in order to calm the gathering storm.  It didn’t exactly work.  There was even more anger when Obama insisted on using his own White House photographer rather than lensmen of the press when doing official government business.

Then came Edward Snowden.  In June, the former NSA/Booz Allen Hamilton intelligence analyst leaked an indeterminate amount of secret documents to filmmaker Laura Poitras, then-Guardian journalist Greenwald and Washington Post freelancer Barton Gellman while in hiding in a Hong Kong hotel room.  The result:  dozens and dozens of bombshell articles in numerous newspapers and websites, as well as on TV news programs, around the world detailing what the American government is really doing in the name of “fighting terrorism”.  (Basically, they’re spying on everybody, friend and foe, and have been lying about it for years.)

Obama and his corrupt minions were caught completely off-guard by the constant flood of damning stories of mass global surveillance that would dominate political coverage for the rest of the year.  Instead of admitting that maybe, just maybe, that the brave whistleblower was fully justified in doing what he did, Obama was outraged by the protocol breach and wanted him extradited for prosecution.  Snowden is the eighth person to be secretly indicted under the unconstitutional Espionage Act under this ruthless administration even though he never leaked the documents to foreign governments.  Considering his absolute lack of options for a possible Espionage Act defence and the awful fate that befell Private Chelsea Manning the same month the first batch of NSA stories surfaced, he was absolutely right to seek temporary one-year asylum in a country hostile to the U.S.:  Vladimir Putin’s Russia.  (He had little choice.  America cancelled his passport while he flew there.  He was hoping to end up in Latin America.)

As the civil war in Syria raged on, the President suddenly declared that the Assad regime had used chemical weapons on civilians (a controversial claim that was never fully proven) and the American military needed to intervene right now because this had crossed his imaginary “red line”, a phrase he had used during a White House briefing in 2012.  But after the British Parliament rejected getting involved themselves, Obama lost a key ally.  With the American public not at all hungry for more jolly little wars in the Middle East, Obama’s prime-time war pitch was rejected.  Were it not for Secretary Of State John Kerry’s off-hand suggestion during a press conference about the Syrian regime handing over their chemical weapons to be destroyed, there’d be even more suffering in that country than there already is.  (Where is the international push for a ceasefire?)

Which brings us to the Affordable Care Act, the watered down health reform law that was ready to take effect in the fall.  However, when October 1st rolled around, the first day Americans could sign up for new insurance plans, the official ACA website crashed due to the high volume of traffic amid numerous technical glitches, an enormous fuck-up that, despite some eventual repairs, is still frustrating citizens today.  (SNL joked in a sketch that 6 people signed up through the site that first day.  Little did they know, that was actually true.  To be fair, millions more have now successfully selected their plans, despite these technological frustrations.)

Then came all the cancelled plans.  Obama had specifically promised during his initial push for the law that Americans who already had insurance could keep it.  In an alarming number of cases, that turned out to be false.  PolitiFact named this the “Lie Of The Year”.  Furthermore, in some instances, ACA insurance rates are actually higher than the cancelled ones.

Then, there’s the uncomfortable matter of Obama’s drone policy.  Despite promising to take every precaution before launching strikes on alleged “terrorist targets”, civilians are still getting murdered.  The supremely secretive leader has never allowed a full accounting of this and other controversial policies since taking office nearly five years ago.  And don’t get me started on his desire to drill for oil and gas in the melting Arctic, his low tax policies for the rich and the lack of urgency to prosecute torturers, lying spies and Wall Street crooks.

During his final White House press scrum of 2013, the President was asked if this was his worst year in office.  It’s a good thing he demurred at the suggestion.

Why?  Because the worst is yet to come.

Winner:  Daniel Bryan & The Shield

Did anybody in the WWE have a better year than the bearded one and the hounds of justice?

While Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins, three talented athletes who can talk, triple powerbombed some of the biggest names in the business in the early months of 2013 – Randy Orton, Sheamus, The Big Show, Ric Flair, The Undertaker, Ryback – Daniel Bryan and his unlikely partner, Kane, were enjoying the second half of their equally unlikely tag team title reign.  Well, The Big Red Monster was perfectly satisfied.  The Yes Man, on the other hand, was deeply insecure about being perceived as the weak link of the team, which led to the usual bickering this otherwise unified team had grown accustomed to.

On pay-per-view, Team Hell No successfully defended their titles against Team Rhodes Scholars at The Royal Rumble and Dolph Ziggler & Big E. Langston at WrestleMania 29.  Meanwhile, The Shield were racking up a number of impressive victories in six-man matches on TV.  It was only a matter of time before both teams collided in the ring with the titles on the line.

That moment arrived at Extreme Rules in May.  While Ambrose defeated Kofi Kingston to snag the United States Championship, Rollins and Reigns overcame Bryan and Kane to snatch the tag belts.  Team Hell No would soon split up with Bryan now singularly focused on overcoming his perceived shortcomings.

And that’s when Beardmania erupted.  Thanks mostly to his countless TV encounters with various members of The Shield in both singles and tag matches, the former American Dragon exhilarated crowds with his high-octane offensive flurries and increasingly likeable personality.  Soon, the angry weak link schtick was dropped and The Yes Man became the new uncrowned People’s Champ.

The Shield would go undefeated cleanly until Hell No and Randy Orton beat them in a very good six-man match on Smackdown in June.  Nonetheless, the men in black would maintain their respective title reigns throughout the rest of the summer as Reigns and Rollins defeated teams like The Usos and The Prime Time Players while Ambrose survived challenges from Kane and Rob Van Dam.

In the build to SummerSlam, WWE Champion John Cena handpicked Bryan to be his opponent in the main event of that show.  In something of a throwback to the CM Punk face turn in the summer of 2011, the number one contender grew some big balls declaring the Leader of the Cenation a mere “entertainer” and himself a “professional wrestler”, one who would go back to working the indie scene if he was ever fired again, something he felt was beneath the WWE Champion.  Showcasing a ferocious passion never seen in his promos before, it caught the attention of Cena who fought back hard during the best moment in the build, a lengthy verbal exchange on Miz TV just days before the pay-per-view.

Then came the match itself which was terrific.  Cena deserves a great deal of credit for wrestling with a serious injury (one of his elbows had a ball of fluid on it which was later removed in surgery) just to get Bryan over in a big way.  Unfortunately, Special Guest Referee Triple H pedigreed the new champion and Money In The Bank briefcase holder Randy Orton covered him to take the belt.  Stupid.

At Night Of Champions, Bryan regained the title but thanks to a fast count by the referee that night Triple H stripped him of the gold on the following Monday Night Raw.  (Also stupid.  There’s been no payoff to that story, either.)  After a rematch resulted in a no-decision at Battleground (damn you, Big Show) the WWE title remained vacant until Hell In A Cell when Bryan’s real-life trainer Shawn Michaels superkicked him right out of the title picture.  Orton has held the belt ever since and thanks to his victory over then-World Heavyweight Champion John Cena at TLC, he’s now the unified WWE World Heavyweight Champion.

As for Rollins and Reigns, in the autumn they started a feud with The Rhodes Brothers which led to a critically acclaimed match at Battleground.  (The Shield lost to Goldust and Cody who got their jobs back.  Long story.)  Their five-month title run drew to a close when The Brotherhood, as they’re now called, won the straps in an uneven match on Raw.  (The second half being far more entertaining than the first.)  Ambrose remains the U.S. titleholder.

With Bryan stuck in a mid-card feud with The Wyatt Family (but still making his presence known to both Cena and Orton), and cracks starting to show in the once united Shield front as they tangle with former ally CM Punk (who looks ready to face Triple H again), it’s not certain if all this momentum these four grapplers enjoyed in 2013 can be maintained from beyond.  Regardless, with 10 Slammys between them this year and 5 championships, no one else on the roster could touch them.

Loser:  Paula Deen

It took years to build her cooking empire but only one word to bring it all down.

Southern chef Paula Deen was the lovable Food Network host with the bad reputation for making incredibly unhealthy food.  (She once suggested that kids eat high-calorie desserts for both breakfast and lunch.)  For two years, she kept her Diabetes diagnosis secret until it was exposed by The National Enquirer.

Then came a discrimination lawsuit in early 2012 from a former employee who claimed sexual and racial harassment within the confines of a violent, hostile workplace.  At the time, it was a little-seen story.  But after The National Enquirer published shocking quotes from her deposition in the Spring of 2013, the shit hit the fan.

Deen admitted she had used the word “nigger”, as did her brother who allegedly showed hard core pornography to their employees.  She also confirmed that she wanted to have black people dressed as slaves for an outdoor plantation wedding, a plan that was thankfully shelved because the controversial cook was worried about how it would look in the media.

Once the story got picked up by the mainstream press, Deen cancelled a Today Show appearance (she eventually rescheduled) and channelled Jimmy Swaggert with one teary-eyed YouTube apology after another in the vain hope that the story would not hurt her brand.

But hurt her brand it did.  Her multi-cookbook publishing contract was cancelled, endorsement deals were scrapped and The Food Network, already looking for a reason to cancel all three of her low-rated shows, yanked her off the airwaves.

Although she ultimately won her civil case, the damage was done.  May she never return.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Tuesday, December 24, 2013
5:25 p.m.

Published in: on December 24, 2013 at 5:25 pm  Leave a Comment  

What Mattered In 2012

1. Glenn Greenwald left Salon to start writing for The Guardian.

2. The Tragically Hip’s Now For Plan A CD.  Man Machine Poem is a killer standout.

3. CM Punk’s second WWE championship run, now the sixth longest in company history.

4. Prometheus.  Michael Fassbender does it again.

5. Egyptian protestors demanding nothing less than a real democracy.  If only American Liberals had as much anger, courage and energy to thwart Obama’s own awful agenda.

6. Big Wreck’s Albatross CD.

7. Beth Phoenix and Kharma left the WWE.  A huge vacuum for women’s wrestling that is yet to be filled.

8. Paul Heyman returned to the WWE to represent Brock Lesnar and later CM Punk.  An absolute promo master, even if he does look like an evil chipmunk.

9. Private Bradley Manning and his defense team. 

10. Tyler Hamilton and Daniel Coyle’s revealing expose on doping in cycling, The Secret Race.  Essential reading for understanding the Lance Armstrong era of the Tour De France.

11. Augusten Burrough’s This Is How.

12. The backlash against Rush Limbaugh’s dumb, cruel, dishonest comments about Sandra Fluke.  Long overdue.

13. The Canadian Women’s Olympic Soccer team winning Bronze.  It should’ve been a Gold.

14. The New York Times’ expose on President Obama’s Muslim “kill list”.  Where is the outrage?

15. Jerry Sandusky’s conviction.  Better late than never.

16. Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee.  Hilarious.  (“Fuck you Steven!”)

17. Those fast-acting CMTs who saved Jerry Lawler’s life during a live broadcast of Raw.  He should put them in his will.

18. Adele’s Rolling In The Deep helped a young girl come out of her coma when she was expected to die.  The power of music.

19. Hurricane Sandy and the considerable damage it left behind in three countries.  Time to rebuild.

20. Lance Armstrong finally getting caught using performance enhancing drugs after 20 years.

21. LiveStrong completely severing its ties with the disgraced Armstrong.

22. Dolph Ziggler won the Smackdown Money In The Bank briefcase.  Amy Schumer would be proud.

23. Damien Sandow.  Not an ignoramus.

24. Daniel Bryan’s funny promos.  (“Yes!”  “No!”  “Yes!”  “No!”)

25. The Elimination Chamber matches.

26. CM Punk vs. Chris Jericho at WrestleMania 28.  Best match on the card.  (“Hey Punk!  How’s your father?”)

27. The Syrian civil war.

28. The war in the Congo.

29. Heroic Pakistani human rights activist Mala Yousafzai survived an assassination attempt at age 15.

30. Israel’s heartless, needless aggression against Palestinians in Occupied Gaza.  It has to stop.

31. Sheamus won The Royal Rumble.  Good match, too.

32. Ryback.  Feed him more.

33. Michael Hastings’ Afghanistan reporting.

34. The Big Bang Theory.

35. Muse’s The 2nd Law CD.

36. AJ Lee, the kissing bandit of the WWE.  I want to be her next victim.

37. Counter-protesting the hatefully misguided Westboro Baptist “Church” at funerals.  They never show up when they feel the heat.

38. The bad officiating during the boxing competition at the Summer Olympics.  Ditto that Canada/US women’s soccer semi-final.

39. The backlash against the hapless NFL replacement refs which led to the return of the striking originals who were actually missed by irate fans, coaches and players.

40. Oscar Pistorius competing at the Summer Olympics and the warm reception he received by everybody.

41. The Jimmy Savile scandal.

42. George Zimmerman finally getting arrested for killing Trayvon Martin after mass protesting in America.

43. The WWE return of Brock Lesnar, especially that brilliant pre-taped “I’m an asskicker” promo.

44. Lex Hives by The Hives.  Worth the five-year wait.

45. Keane’s Strangeland CD.  More dreamy pop confections in less than an hour. 

46. Usain Bolt.  Can anyone catch him?

47. Soccer dynasty Spain won their second consecutive Euro title.

48. Chris Brown’s outspoken critics.  He can never shut them up.

49. The Killers’ Battle Born CD. 

50. Ric Flair’s return to the WWE.  Make him the General Manager of Raw.

51. Eve Torres’ heel turn.  Unexpectedly convincing.

52. Nate Silver.  Singlehandedly puts all other pundits to shame.

53. Green Day’s Uno CD.

54. Rhianna’s uncomfortable, annoying and defiant reunion with Chris Brown.  Her safety and sanity remain at risk.

55. Paula’s infamous ball cake to The Situation on the Jersey Shore finale.  Ronnie’s right.  She is the Prank War Champion.  Hilarious.  Her philandering ex got his just desserts.

56. Rush will be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame next year.  About fucking time.

57. The growing popularity for the American gay marriage movement.  How long before every state in the union recognizes it?

58. Republican Todd Akin lost his bid for the U.S. Senate.

59. Super PACs (except American Crossroads).

60. Democrat Alan Grayson won back his Senate seat after losing it in 2010.

61. MTV’s It Gets Better 2 special.  Honest, fair, deeply moving and extraordinarily helpful.

62. Billy Crystal hosted the Oscars.  He’s still funny.

63. Kofi Kingston’s brutal Trouble In Paradise kick to The Miz’ head on Raw.  A move so devastasting the former WWE Champion became a babyface.

64. The Smashing Pumpkins’ Oceania CD.

65. Wrongly incarcerated Torontonian Omar Khadr was finally transferred from Guantanamo back to Canada where he belongs.  He should be free from prison, though.  Warren Kinsella (among many other fools) owes him an apology and restitution for needlessly harming his young reputation.

66. Secretary Of State Hillary Clinton was pelted with tomatoes by Egyptian protestors during an official visit to their country.  For someone who once considered ousted dictator Hosni Mubarak “a member of my family”, she got off easy.

67. Julian Assange’s legal limbo.  The man the Obama Administration fears the most and with good reason.

68. Anonymous.

69. Adrien Chen for exposing Michael Brutsch, AKA Violentacrez, on Gawker.

70. Wade Barrett’s shoulder injury.  It not only derailed his program with Randy Orton, it killed his momentum for much of the year.  Right now he’s stuck in the mid-card fighting for a title he’s already won.

71. Gene Simmons Family Jewels was cancelled.  Writing numerous pieces about it boosted this website’s fortunes considerably.

72. Felix Baumgartner’s skywalk.  Impressive, especially that perfect landing.

73. Daniel Bryan & Kane won the WWE tag team titles.  The division has finally been revived.

74. Brad Maddox and The Shield.  They’re the latest reasons CM Punk is still WWE Champion.

75. The “F” in old WWF footage is no longer silenced when spoken nor blurred when seen during Attitude Era retrospectives.  Finally.

76. America’s two-tier justice system and its out of control surveillence state.  It’s getting worse.

77. Mick Foley returned to the WWE.

78. The final build-up to The Rock vs. John Cena at WrestleMania 28.  Far better than the match which was good but not great.

79. The Undertaker defeated Triple H for the third time at WrestleMania, this time in an entertaining Hell In A Cell match.  The Streak, now 20-0, remains intact.  But for how long?

80. The Driver Rehabilitation Centre on Canada’s Worst Driver 8.

81. LeBron James won his first NBA Championship with the Miami Heat.

82. Wyatt Cenac left The Daily Show.

83. Great Britain’s Summer Olympians.  The home nation had a great run this year.

84. Michael Phelps won his 22nd medal at the Summer Olympics, an all-time individual record.

85. The billion hits Psy’s Gangham Style video received this year on YouTube.  No way he can follow it up, though.

86. Justin Bieber’s Twitter promotion of Carly Rae Jepsen.  As a result, Call Me Maybe became a big hit.

87. Andy Sandberg and Kristen Wiig left SNL.

88. Denise Wade from The Canadian Home Shopping Channel.  Sigh.

89. John Cusack’s strong Obama criticisms.  Pay attention, Sophia Bush.  You might learn something.

90. The growing international backlash against drones. 

91. The death of Adam Yauch.  Great rapper, greater defender of Tibet.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Friday, December 28, 2012
4:42 p.m.

CORRECTION:  Number 58 originally read: “Republican Todd Akin lost his House Of Representatives seat.”  (He’s the dope who made this infamous comment during an interview.)  That’s not accurate.  He actually resigned his seat to become the Republican nominee for the Senate race in Missouri which he lost.  The corrected line notes the latter.  My apologies for the mistake.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, December 31, 2012
3:02 a.m.

Winners & Losers Of 2012 (Part Two)

Winner:  The Artist

It had been more than 80 years since a silent film won the Academy Award for Best Picture.  (Wings took the honour all the way back in 1927.)  Decades later, another (mostly) silent feature, The Artist, found itself in the hunt along with eight other talkies in the same category in 2012.

Besides snagging Best Picture, the film won Oscars for its Original Score and its Costume Design, Michel Hazanavicius won for Best Director and Jean Dujardin took home the Best Actor trophy.  That’s not all.  Continuing on from its triumph at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, all those end-of-year critics’ prizes, not to mention all its appearances on numerous 2011 Top 10 lists, The Artist received a whole slew of other awards this year including six Cesars, the French Academy Awards.

Not bad for a black and white French film filmed in full screen.

Loser:  Lance Armstrong

How was it ever possible for a man with one ball to win the most grueling road race of all time not once, not twice but seven times in a row without illegal enhancement?  The truth is it wasn’t possible.

For 20 years, this abrasive Texan managed to escape any kind of serious consequences for his chronic and deliberate cheating by the sheer force of his bullying personality, his ruthless smear campaign against whistleblowers and meddling journalists, and a couple of suspiciously timed “donations” to the toothless UCI, the international regulatory body of cycling.

From 1999 to 2005, Armstrong won every Tour De France, transforming him into a highly respected American athlete.  The cancer survivor took some of his considerable winnings and started the well-regarded foundation, Live Strong, to help patients and their families with medical expenses and moral support.

Unfortunately, how he got the cancer is an interesting story.  As later revealed by witnesses, when asked by his doctors in 1996 if he ever used performance enhancing drugs, Armstrong quickly rattled off five different types:  EPO, cortisone, testosterone, steroids and human growth hormone.  Amazingly, after fully recovering, he went back to doping as he vigourously trained for a comeback.

As his remarkable run at the Tour De France began there was already suspicion from some in the European press about whether he was racing paniqua (clean) or not.  Armstrong denied all the allegations and went out of his way to lash out at anyone who doubted his integrity, a pattern that would continue for years to come. 

As former teammates and medical personnel bravely started telling the truth about Armstrong and the United States Postal Team’s chronic dependence on doping (to be fair they weren’t the only ones guilty of this), particularly blood transfusions, lawsuits were filed, reputations were sullied and all the while, he was still able to maintain a very positive image in his own country, despite acting like a defensive jerk.  He even survived civil and criminal cases against him.

Until 2012, that is.  Four months after an American federal prosecution was dropped, the USADA announced in June that it had attained numerous evidence from witnesses not to mention suspicious blood samples to definitively declare Armstrong an outright cheater.  He sued to have the case dropped but was unsuccessful.  Later that summer former teammate and rival Tyler Hamilton released his co-authored memoir, The Secret Race.  It contained numerous damning anecdotes (some previously revealed on 60 Minutes last year) of widespread doping beyond even Armstrong and company.  A fascinating expose into how easy it was for professional cyclists to work the anti-doping system to their advantage with little to no consequence, Hamilton portrays Armstrong as a fiercely competitive, paranoid mob boss who used fear and intimidation to keep “the trolls” (nosy journalists) and “the choads” (critical cyclists) off his narcotic scent while always being several steps ahead of the drug testers and everyone else in the peloton.  Hamilton felt his wrath on numerous occasions including a memorably tense encounter in Armstrong’s favourite restaurant, Cache Cache.

Despite what he has long claimed, Armstrong did fail drug tests.  He got busted for cortisone in 1999 but thanks to a phony back-dated “prescription” hastily written by one of his medical personnel he got away with it.  Hamilton notes that his former teammate actually told him that he also got nabbed at the 2001 Tour Of Switzerland.  But he faced no punishment after forking over a couple of large payments (one in the six figures) to the UCI so they could buy better drug testing equipment.  (The word you’re looking for is chutzpah.)  And then there was the very clever journalist who deduced that Armstrong failed several more 1999 Tour De France tests during an investigation in 2005.

Meanwhile, in October, the USADA released their 202-page report documenting their findings regarding Armstrong and Team Postal.  They concluded that this was the most sophisicated doping scheme they ever encountered.  The heavily criticized UCI honoured their findings and the embattled cyclist refused to defend himself in arbitration, a telling sign.  As a result, Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour De France victories, he lost most of his endorsements and he fully resigned from Live Strong’s board of directors after initially quitting just his chairmanship.  For their part, Live Strong removed his name completely from their organization because his association was hindering legitimate fundraising efforts. 

He also lost an honourary degree, his case was lampooned by South Park and an investigation is under way to determine if he will keep his Bronze medal from the 2000 Summer Olympics.  Tyler Hamilton lost his Gold medal he won from the 2004 games.  Chances are, Armstrong will lose his medal, too.

Meanwhile, Armstrong is facing a slew of lawsuits from numerous disgruntled parties including former teammate Floyd Landis and a company that wants the bonus money it paid out to him back for his tainted Tour De France victories.  (This will be their second attempt after losing a 2006 case against him.)

While naive fools like actress Sophia Bush remain in denial, it’s nice to know that the current UCI president is fully tuned in.  As Pat McQuaid succinctly noted in October, “Lance Armstrong has no place in cycling.… He deserves to be forgotten.”

Winner:  Charlize Theron

Almost a decade after winning an Academy Award, this 37-year-old South African beauty remains on the A-list thanks to a couple of heel turns in two blockbuster summer movies.  Even though critics were divided on Snow White & The Huntsman, audiences were very supportive.  The film generated almost 400 million in global ticket sales.  Theron, who plays the wicked Queen out to vanguish her top rival, might pop up in the proposed sequel which will focus more closely on Chris Hemworth’s character.

Ridley Scott’s entertaining Alien prequel, Prometheus, did roughly the same amount of business but generated far more positive reviews.  Despite a scene-stealing Oscar-worthy performance from the great Michael Fassbender, Theron holds her own as one of the numerous villains in the film.  Hard to believe we’re the same age.

Loser:  Tom Cruise

He got dumped by Katie Holmes after 6 years of marriage, Rock Of Ages was a critical and commercial bust, and then of course, there was this embarrassing Vanity Fair report.  (Tom Cruise needed Scientologists to find him a date after his divorce from Nicole Kidman?  How lame.) 

The upcoming Jack Reacher is his last chance for something positive in 2012.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Friday, December 7, 2012
1:37 a.m.

Winners & Losers Of 2012 (Part One)

Winner:  Channing Tatum

12 years ago, this Alabama native was an unknown dancing around in a Ricky Martin video.  In 2012, he starred in five films that collectively generated 600 million in worldwide ticket sales. 

It all began in January when he starred in Steven Soderbergh’s Haywire, an action thriller about an assassin (MMA fighter Gina Carano) being screwed over by her bosses.  Featuring an all-star cast – Michael Douglas, Ewan McGregor, Antonio Banderas, Michael Fassbender – it made a modest profit but more importantly, earned overwhelmingly good reviews.

Then came The Vow in February.  Co-starring Rachel McAdams, this romantic drama about a guy who gets to fall in love with his lady a second time when she develops amnesia after a car accident was far from a critic’s fave.  However, it made 125 million domestically and an additional 71 million outside North America

In March, Tatum co-starred with Jonah Hill in 21 Jump Street, a comedic adaptation of the late 80s/early 90s TV cop drama.  Earning 138 million at home plus 63 million more abroad, it was his biggest grosser of the year.  On top of that, its 85% fresh rating from Rotten Tomatoes made it his most acclaimed film of 2012.  A sequel is in the works.

Tatum’s past experiences as a stripper inspired Magic Mike.  The June dramedy earned strong reviews and became his third consecutive hundred million dollar hit.  (There will be a follow-up to this one, as well.)  Finally, in September, he appeared in the little-seen 10 Years.  Although it only made $200000 in a limited release it garnered mostly positive reviews.  (It’s out on DVD December 18th.)

If all of that wasn’t enough good news in one year for one guy to take, Tatum also hosted Saturday Night Live and was named People Magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive.  Despite plans to slow down in 2013, he’s got four new films coming out next year including the G.I. Joe sequel that was supposed to be out this year.  (December 24 UPDATE:  And he’s going to be a dad, too.)

Who knew there was life after She Bangs?

Loser:  Zack Ryder

In 2011, this affable broski successfully used the Internet to get over with fans of the WWE after years of being stuck in the mid-card as a less-than-stellar villain.  As a result, he gradually started getting better bookings on TV working with the biggest stars in the company.  His complete reversal of fortune culminated at the TLC pay-per-view in December last year when he defeated Dolph Ziggler for the United States Championship, his first title push in three years.  (He previously won the tag team titles with Curt Hawkins back in 2008.)

But once the year changed, his good fortune completely disappeared.  In January, he continually became cannon fodder for the returning Kane as the re-masked monster feuded with his pal John Cena.  He got choke slammed in the ring, choke slammed through a part of the entrance stage on Raw and even choke slammed outside near a production truck on another episode of that same show.  At the Royal Rumble, he was attacked again while watching the show in a make-shift waiting room and ultimately, tombstoned in the ring while wearing a neck brace.  On another Raw he was hilariously pushed off the stage in his wheelchair by The Big Red Monster.  It was like the bookers were sending him an ominous message.

Before the Rumble, Ryder was ordered by Raw Interim General Manager John Laurinaitis to defend his US title against Jack Swagger on TV despite not yet recovering from his kayfabe injuries.  As a result of Kane’s numerous attacks, Ryder couldn’t mount any offence against The All-American American.  Sadly, his one-month reign as champion came to a whimpering end. 

If that weren’t humiliating enough, his developing on-screen relationship with Eve Torres hit a rough spot when he witnessed her making out with Cena after Ryder’s pal rescued her from being taken away by Kane in an ambulance on Raw.  He later slapped Cena and questioned their friendship. 

At WrestleMania 28 in April, during the 12-man tag team match that determined who would become the General Manager of both Raw and Smackdown, the Long Island Iced Z got distracted by Eve when she unexpectedly came into the ring to get his attention.  Ryder got pinned by The Miz after falling prey to the Skull Crushing Finale.  As Team Raw celebrated their victory over Team Smackdown, Eve showed the broski how she really felt about him.  She kicked him in the nuts.

Although Ryder did get some kind of revenge months later on a special live edition of Smackdown (he accidentally drenched her with a punch bowl during a backstage party skit) and became a temporary one-episode General Manager for the show (renamed Zackdown) after winning a 20-man battle royale by last eliminating arch rival Kane (not to mention quietly making peace with Cena which was never actually shown), those rare, minor positives failed to revive his 2011 momentum.

Although it’s been fun to see him team with the equally silly Santino Marella (“Cobra!”), Ryder is not as prevalent on TV or on pay-per-view this year as he was last year.  And when he does he get booked to wrestle, he rarely wins.  He’s currently not in any programs with top-notch stars and Team Co-Bro aren’t likely to get a tag team title push any time soon.

In a year marked with disappointment, perhaps the fact that his Z! True Long Island Story YouTube series is now being edited against his wishes by WWE might be an even bigger indignity that getting hoofed in public by a hot chick.  Here’s hoping he can turn it all around in 2013.

Winner:  Nate Silver

Predicting is a tricky business best left to professionals.  In the case of the 2012 United States Presidential Election, that professional was Nate Silver.  The founder of the popular New York Times blog, FiveThirtyEight, he spent countless hours analyzing as much polling data as he could get his hands on much to the chagrin of the overpaid, overrated and extremely lazy media pundit class.

As he forecast Barack Obama’s easy re-election to the White House, many disagreed with his analysis, particularly conservatives like former Republican Congressman (and current MSNBC morning broadcaster) Joe Scarborough (“…anybody that thinks that this race is anything but a toss-up right now is such an ideologue, they should be kept away from typewriters, computers, laptops and microphones for the next 10 days, because they’re jokes.”), who bet him $2000 that he was wrong.

In the end, they all had to eat their words.  Silver correctly predicted the winner of every single state in the union.  (In the 2008 campaign, he got 49 out of 50 correct, so this wasn’t a fluke.)  More importantly, he rightly foresaw not the “nailbiter” that many so-called experts anticipated but a clear, undisputed victory for Obama.  On top of that, he also correctly prognosticated 31 out of the 33 Senate races.  For his part, Scarborough wrote a semi-apology to Silver for Politico and later invited him on Morning Joe after the election to talk about the results.  (To his credit, the former Republican Congressman made good on his word to donate two grand to the Red Cross if he lost their bet.) 

Silver’s other professional triumphs this year included a popular, critically acclaimed book, The Signal And The Noise, which hit #1 on the New York Times bestseller list and was named Book Of The Year by Amazon.com, and a Webby Award for Best Political Blog. 

Hard work does indeed pay off.  Shocking.

Loser:  Donald Trump

The fifth edition of The Celebrity Apprentice was the lowest rated in the show’s history, he endorsed Mitt Romney for President, he raised money for defeated Florida Congressman Allen West, he continued to foolishly question Barack Obama’s citizenship which deeply annoyed his own children and he made a silly offer that Obama easily refused without costing him the election.  After the President won a second term, The Hair had a temper tantrum on Twitter

Meanwhile, a protest movement, upset with his birther pronouncements, began demanding that Macy’s stop selling his brand-name business attire, his Las Vegas restaurant would instantly skeeve Gordon Ramsay, he was criticized and/or made fun of for various reasons by people like the Vice President of Chrysler, NBC anchor Brian Williams, MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell, Fox News’ Shepherd SmithChicago Sun-Times columnist George Will, attorney Gloria Allred, Robert De Niro, Jerry Seinfeld, Howard Stern, Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Kimmel, Barbara Walters and even Obama himself, and he was the unflattering subject of an acclaimed documentary regarding his misguided plans to build a resort in an environmentally sensitive area of Scotland which, fortunately, for his sake, has not been widely seen by the public.

He got fired from Trump Place, his “huge” Republican National Convention surprise ended up being cancelled because of Hurricane Sandy, and his controversial New York golf course smells like farts.

Clueless self-parody, thy name is Trump.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, December 8, 2012
1:13 a.m.