Monthly Archives: August 2013

The Blanche Report: The Charter, The Leaker & The Hackers

The princess and her missives are busy these days ‘uniting’ the province with its charter of religious values – which in plain English is a smoke-screen to deflect from the real problems here, like the economy.

Yesterday we found out that the Metropolitan is crumbling but were told we shouldn’t worry. Ya right. Like we shouldn’t have worried when water was leaking onto the street for a month and then poof – a sinkhole ate a backhoe.

How about the fact that Montreal can’t get contractors to do its work because of all the red-tape those workers have to fill out due to decades of corruption and stealing the public blind.

Today we found out that a Pointe Claire company is being asked to stop illegally storing toxic PCB-laden oil on its compound, located near a residential district on Montreal’s West Island. Where is the provincial environmental minister to speak on this matter? Not to be found. A spokesman for Montreal’s health department said there’s no risk…unless there’s a fire in which case those people better run for their lives. Or unless someone tests the soil in their backyard and finds out that the toxic chemicals have leaked.

We have a suggestion which we hope some people may actually take us up on:

Take out full page ads in the French papers – not only in Montreal but in the outlying areas where it seems the majority of people like the charter of religious values – and give statistics of unemployment, head offices that have moved, real economic numbers, predictions of what’s coming, asking what they plan to do about the billions of transfer payments we get from Ottawa which will stop, along with their federal pensions once they get what they want. Lamenting in the English media is well and good, but it’s not getting to the people who need to hear the truth.

The U.S. government’s efforts to determine which highly classified materials leaker Edward Snowden took from the NSA have been frustrated by Snowden’s ability to cover his digital trail by deleting or bypassing electronic logs. Basically, he’s outsmarting the United States Government and they just can’t catch him. How about this – instead of prosecuting him, they should hire him to secure all of their top secret information. He’s doing a way better job than they are.

A pro-Syrian government group appears to have attacked the websites for Twitter and The New York Times, security researchers said, citing digital evidence. The Syrian Electronic Army has targeted several media organizations in the past, including the Washington Post and Reuters. When the SEA hacked the Twitter account of the Associated Press this year, it posted a false headline to the account that said the White House had been attacked. The hoax caused U.S. stock markets to briefly lose $200 billion in value. Watch out – these dudes are testing the waters by shutting down massive sites at will. Could be something much bigger is coming our way.

The imminent attack on Syria is on hold until those UN observers high tail it outta there. The U.S. Navy’s Sixth Fleet has four warships in the eastern Mediterranean equipped with Tomahawk missiles and other weapons systems that can strike Syria, Navy officials have said. The warships are being kept a “healthy distance from the coast” as a precaution against Syria’s advanced Russian-made coastal defenses, a senior defense official said. 

A few interesting tidbits to consider:

Turkey said it will ally with the US in any strike.

Most of the other Arab countries are saying that the US should not attack Syria, but not very vociferously.

The Israelis have the right attitude: “This is Israel,” said a high school teacher shopping for a hat in a Jerusalem clothing store. “There’s a crisis every couple of years, so we don’t get worked up until there’s really something to worry about.”

In case you want to help save the world, the whales, the trees and the birds, car-free day in Montreal is September 20 and this year it’s for 24 hours. It’s being held in Victoria Square downtown which has perfect access to both a metro and bus stops. If you go be sure to wear your linen environmentally friendly clothing and bring some granola to munch on.

We’ll talk…

The Blanche Report: The Cones, The Woman & Flight Attendant

The construction corruption in Montreal is alive and well, despite the ongoing and very expensive commission in said corruption. If you drive by three of the major construction sites on the highways, the ones that cause nightmarish traffic jams, you will notice that no one is working there, all the machinery is gone and the sites are eerily silent. So what’s going on?

First it must be noted that this is not only a municipal issue, Transport Quebec is involved, ergo the princess herself could actually do something. It seems that said companies want more money. Hard to tell who’s telling the truth here, but having done some construction ourselves we know that one has to fork over money up front and then, as the job proceeds and more materials are needed, more money must be paid out. The government doesn’t like that and won’t give any more money. That Blanche, is the story in a nutshell. Someone has to sign some checks or the orange cone festival may extend into the winter – and that will not be a pretty sight.

You probably never heard of Katie Nelson. Neither did we until a couple of weeks ago. She moved here from Alberta last summer to help with the student protests by opening a facebook page targeting police action complete with posting pictures of the police during the ‘protests’.

If you recall, those protests were not only insane, asking for free tuition, but wreaked havoc in the city. It also cost the city taxpayers gzillions of dollars in overtime for the police which we have doubt we are still paying for. Well, it seems that the police got her number (how easy was that?) and targeted her with every citation known to man from spitting to not walking on the sidewalk. Guess what? She’s not happy with the $24,000 or so tickets she has received? No kidding.

Julius Gray, the constitutional lawyer has taken up her case for free. Sorry, we don’t buy it for a second. While she may be young and idealistic, she also had to have some indication that what she was doing was going to come back and bite her you-know-where. How about this? Go and buy a nice new suitcase and pack all of your possessions. Then go to the police, say you’re sorry, make some kind of settlement with them and then go back to Alberta where you came from. And don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

Bradley Manning, the army private who gave wikileaks all its information was sentenced to 35 years in prison for what he did. Unfortunately, he’s a bad smell that just won’t go away.

Seems he now wants to be called Chelsea Manning because he considers himself a woman. He said he felt this way since childhood and wants the prison system to supply him with hormone therapy. And you thought you heard everything? Not only did he decide that he knew better than the entire United States government giving out names and places and putting people’s lives at risk,  after being found guilty of said crimes he now wants the taxpayers to fork over money so he can be who he ‘felt he was since he was a child.’ Spoiled brat anyone?  Ya should have thought about all of this before you let the veritable cat outta the bag. Next.

A flight attendant trainee for American Airlines has been fired after the airline discovered he is on the government’s “no-fly” list for making several bomb threats against United Airlines – a former employer.
Patrick Cau aka Patrick Kaiser, 40, allegedly called in eight bomb threats to United Airlines between October 2012 and January 2013. The right hand does not know what the left hand is doing.

Rob Ford, Toronto’s genius mayor is back in the news having triumphed over Hulk Hogan in a friendly arm-wrestling match. Let’s just say the word class is not in Ford’s vocabulary.

Good Shabbos,

We’ll talk…

The Blanche Report: The Run, The News & the March

Now here’s a scary thought (and you thought you knew all the scary stuff)  Joe Biden is thinking of making a run for the presidency of the United States. Never mind that Hillary will clobber him if she chooses to run. As the papers are saying, it would be a titanic battle between the two of them. He would be 73 in 2016. Not sure about anyone else out there, but he makes me very nervous. He’s the slickest dude we’ve seen in a long time. Kind of reminds me of a well-dressed Archie Bunker.

Remember that sinkhole on St. Catherine street? The one that ate the backhoe? Well, it’s still there and part of St. Catherine near Guy is still closed. Never mind the businesses that are losing money. Why is it still taking so long to fix things in this city? The corruption committee uncovered lots and lots of payoffs which one think have ended. Guess what? Looks like nothing has changed despite you paying gzillions of dollars for this inquiry.

Last week the Time magazine, the Washington Post and CNN went down. This week Amazon went down causing them to lose $5 million in about the 40 minutes it was not functioning. No one is talking much but doesn’t it seem strange that one after the other gigantic sites are just slammed shut? Stay tuned. Obviously whoever is perpetrating these outages will eventually want the world to know who they are.

Welcome to Al Jazeera in America, albeit still limited in its broadcasting abilities.  It has been called the most ambitious news channel since CNN began. They will air fact-based, unbiased and in-depth news with less opinion, less yelling and fewer celebrity sightings. What we want to know is who is going to sit in the anchor chairs? Blanche, ya gotta be a bit more dizgreet and not keep askin me what the women are gonna be wearing on their head. Dat is if dere are women sittin in dose chairs.

A note that it is 50 years since the March for Jobs and Freedom in Washington where Martin Luther King Jr gave his ‘I have a dream’ speech. The Sunday New York Times had almost a full page section on the march and we found one fact very interesting. King had his speech written out and ready to go but was uneasy about what he was about to say to the hundreds of the thousands of people on the National mall in Washington. Mahalia Jackson, a black gospel singer and very close to King shouted out to him: “Martin, tell them about your dream.” And thus was born I have a dream.

One more interesting tidbit: People came dressed in suits and ties and their finest clothing. Much the same way people flew in those days. Some things we should have kept.

Edward Snowden is turning out to be one of the bigger, if not biggest pains the United States has seen in a long time.
An “overwhelmed” National Security Agency still isn’t sure which files Snowden took with him when he fled to Hong Kong more than two months ago. It would seem that this fact is true as last month, Guardian employees, under pressure from U.K. government officials, destroyed various hard drives and memory cards that once held the files leaked by Snowden.

We’ll talk…

The Blanche Report: The Infiltrator, The Claquer & The Tourist

Blanche, something’s amiss in America. Yesterday the New York Times website went down for a few hours. They claim it was due to technical difficulties. Who knows. Today visitors to some articles on The Washington Post’s Web site were being redirected to the site of the Syrian Electronic Army, a hacker collective that supports the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad. This same group tried to infiltrate CNN and Time magazine but were not successful.

Remember what we keep saying: Nothing is safe on the internet. Nothing.

And while we’re at it…a couple of years ago many people were switching their email providers from hotmail to gmail. Everyone claimed it was a much better and more efficient provider. Alas, it seems that some google (hence gmail) people were scanning their users’ emails for keywords that were then used to target advertising at those users. Which means Blanche, when you were writing that nice little email to  uncle Orville, there were people at google who were reading it before he did! Quel surprise!

On Tuesday we reported about Senator Pamela Wallin and her sad tale of woe with the auditors who want her to pay back over $100,000 for false travel and other claims. Well, today it was announced that every single senator will be audited. And a good thing too. There are just too many people with their hands in our pockets. My money is my money and your money is also my money. The party’s over dudes.

Guess what a claquer is? Claqueurs, as these professional fans are known, were once common in the world’s great theaters, but the practice mostly died out midway through the 20th century. They enter a theatre, fan out evenly to cover all sections and then…clap insanely at times designated by choreographers. Now guess where this is making a huge comeback? None other than the Bolshoi ballet in Moscow.

But claquers can also mess things up. If they clap in the opposite of the beat of the music – zut alors everyone gets thrown off. Ballerinas fall, the musicians get farklempt and the audience is left in the dark so to speak. So the next time you go somewhere where there’s clapping involved, take a good look at who’s clapping away and when. Ya never know.

As everyone knows, Egypt has erupted into a full blown volcano.
And as everyone knew before the violence erupted, this was going to happen. And then we read that no less than 40,000 Brits are vacationing in Egypt. Granted they are not all in Cairo, many are at beach resorts. Are they nuts? Or do they think it’s a game to live dangerously? Blanche make sure da next time ya plan dat vacation dat we take, it betta be in a safe place. We don’t wanna have to leave da place witout our suitcase.

Good Shabbos,

We’ll talk…

The Blanche Report: The Senate, The First Dawg & The Blackberry

You know the old saying – it’s now what you know, but who you know. Well, Senator Pamela Wallin was definitely good friends with Stephen Harper and he made sure that she was handsomely rewarded for that friendship. Alas, things didn’t exactly work out the way they were supposed to. She should have been happily riding away into the sunset for the next 20 or so all expenses paid.  Unfortunately her little fairy tale life didn’t pan out quite the way she wanted it to.

It seems that she was spending your money on travel expenses unrelated to her position as a senator. Traveling around for boards which she is on, for the Conservative party etc.  It’s not really what she or Mike Duffy or any other senator did. It is their sense of entitlement which is nauseating and their insistence on defending that entitlement.

May we suggest the barf bag for the next few pieces of information:

…There are 105 senators in Canada.

…In 2009 and 2010 Harper appointed some very young people to the senate.  Patrick Brazeau does not have to retire until…2049! Hello? We are in 2013. He got an all expense paid job for life. Same with Claude Carignan who can live off your tax dollars until 2039

…Hold the bag closely: They each make $132,300 per year. Your cost: $106,264,111 a year, not including contributions to the pension plan

…What do they do? Give “sober, second thought” on all House of Commons legislation representing different regions around the country.

We saved the best for last:
How long do they work each year? 3 days a week for 29 weeks. Your tax dollars at work.

The Obamas have gone on vacation to Martha’s Vineyard. They need 70 rooms for the secret service agents, one person in charge of Obama’s precious basketballs (we kid you not), and, again we saved the best for last – a special plane for the first dog Bo. Yes Blanche, you read that correctly. The dawg got is own special airplane. Arf. Arf.

Looks like Hillary Clinton is slowly, very slowly gearing up to make a presidential run. She is a highly intelligent and extremely shrewd politician, keeping her cards very close to her chest. But the signs are there. She recently spoke to democrats in San Fransisco, whose support she would need for a run. As well, she has scheduled a number of other speeches all over the country. Looks like Anthony Weiner’s wife Huma is still her aide.

And speaking of Weiner – his run for mayor of New York is basically over. He has fallen to a distant fourth place with just 10% of the popular vote. 51% of New Yorkers say they are embarrassed by him and would never, in a million years vote for him.

First Blackberry got a new CEO. Then it got a new name. Now it looks like it’s looking for a new owner.
Some basic history about the company: RIM – Research in Motion – was founded in 1984 by a pair of engineering students, Mike Lazaridis and Douglas Fregin. For years it was one of the world’s most innovative builders of communications products like two-way pagers and e-mail devices. About six years ago the stuff hit the veritable fan.

The company failed to recognize that the iPhone could hurt it. Then it overlooked the threat of low-cost competitors in Asia. Finally, and most recently, executives threw the company’s little remaining energy into a new line of high-end smartphones that failed to resonate with consumers, having arrived far too late with too little to offer.

On Monday the company announced they have formed a committee to see how to either sell the company or form a joint venture with another business, among other options. How the mighty have fallen.

We’ll talk…

The Blanche Report: The Mayor, The Hernia & The Credit Card Caper

Rob Ford, Toronto’s illustrious mayor is back in the news. Not that he really ever left, but in his world stonewalling is a great tactical maneuver making him think that everyone forgot about his antics. The last time we heard about Ford was in May when a video surfaced that allegedly showed him smoking crack-cocaine. He and his brother shut down, stopped talking to anyone in the media and fired anyone around them who thought that maybe he should go for some help.

Well, he showed up Friday night at Toronto’s Taste of the Danforth Festival (a Greek festival serving lots of food and lots of alcohol)  repeatedly asking people “Where’s the party? Where’s the party?” Not exactly mayor-like if you get the drift.   It appears that Mayor Ford was, shall we delicately say, three sheets to the wind. 

As of this writing, the mayor has not responded to the allegations. News agencies attempted to reach the mayor’s office on Saturday but did not receive a response. Quel surprise! Don’t respond to allegations and poof! they go away. We have a sneaking suspicion that the bankers on Bay Street are not exactly enamored with their mayor.

Here’s a name you may not be that familiar with: Jeff Bezos the founder of amazon.com.
In 1995 he quit his Wall Street job and drove with his wife cross-country to Seattle. Bezos started building the foundation for Amazon.com in the garage of his rented house in the Seattle suburb of Bellevue. In 1995, the site opened for business. The rest, as they say, is history.

Last week, Mr. Bezos bought the Washington Post newspaper for $250 million. Why he bought the Post and what he plans to do with it is a mystery.  Stay tuned.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu underwent an emergency hernia operation overnight Saturday. Moshe Ya’alon, defense minister became the acting Prime Minister as Netanyahu was put under general anesthesia for over an hour.  Seems like he (Bibi) will be able to continue the ‘peace’ talks during the week. Maybe somebody a bit higher than him is trying to tell him something and maybe he should listen. Whadda think?

You know about those credit card companies that charge insane amounts of interest?
Well, a Russian dude by the name of Dmitry Agarkov fixed their little wagon and good.

He received a credit card offer in the mail from a company called Tinkoff Credit Systems.  After reading the small print, Agarkov found the terms to be disagreeable, so he reportedly wrote his own — complete with zero percent interest, no fees and no credit limit. He then signed it and sent it in. He  also included various clauses penalizing the bank  should it fail to uphold the agreement. Infractions would result in a fine of 3 million rubles (approximately $91,400), while canceling the contract altogether would cost the bank 6 million rubles ($182,000).

Guess what? The geniuses at the company did not read what he wrote and issued him a credit card and a copy of his approved application. Doink!  Two years later Tinkoff took him to court for failure to pay his balance and associated fees. The court ruled in Agarkov’s favor, requiring he pay only the balance on the card. He has since counter-sued for 30 million rubles ($914,000) highlighting the amendments he’d written which tack on penalty fees every time the bank fails to follow the agreement, including the fee for breaking the contract altogether.

Suffice it to say the credit card company is apoplectic. However, this is one story that ain’t over till the fat lady sings and so far we haven’t heard anything.

In case you didn’t notice, Blanche did not do her regular report on Thursday, ergo tonight’s little news ditty. We were in New York for the birth of our grandson. G-d willing we will return to our regularly scheduled programming.

We’ll talk…

The Blanche Report: The Alert, The Sinkhole & The System

So you must have heard, unless you’re on vacation under a rock, that there’s a world-wide terrorist alert. Many embassies in the middle east and north Africa are closed. Airports and tourist spots in North America and Europe have very tight security.  Americans traveling have been told to be vigilant. Today the United States is leaking information that there is a liquid explosive that is undetectable at airports or where screening takes place and this is what they fear will be used. Can we talk?

It seems that Yemen is the culprit behind what is causing the United States to batten down the hatches. Why is there an embassy at all in Yemen? It was attacked last year and anyone who is in there, no matter when, is in danger. Just shut it down. It doesn’t deter from listening in to the chatter wherever they are listening.

Many people are of the opinion that because the alert is so public, whoever is planning something will postpone it for now. While that may be true, it also gives the good guys more time to find out what’s really going on. In the meantime, if you see something, say something.

So the geniuses have finally removed the backhoe from the sinkhole on one of the busiest corners in Montreal. Nice rhyme, eh – backhoe – sinkhole? It appears that those in the neighborhood were complaining for a week or so that there was water leaking from somewhere into their basements. Guess what? Nobody listened and now we have a gigantic mess, yet again, downtown.

We are sure that we are not the only ones getting tired of hearing that the infrastructure is old and decaying. Every city has that. What other cities don’t have is the absolute  incompetence and deep-rooted corruption that we have. Ergo, we get backhoes falling into sinkholes.

Guess who may run for a political office? Come on, take a wild guess. Chelsea Clinton. Yup. She and her husband bought a home in Gramercy Park in Manhattan, enabling her to either run for the senate or some other high profile position in the city of New York. Stay tuned. She has learned from the best of the best – her lovely parents – Bill and Hillary. First they drop a small pill. Then they watch the reaction. Then they open the door and then – poof! they are elected.

Yesterday, the Sabre system went down. Ah, you ask, what’s that?

It is the system that is used by 300 airports and 100 airlines that processes over 300 million passengers a year. And when the system goes down, an airline loses its reservation system in terms of tracking of reservations, passengers and flights. Which means, in English, that the airlines have no record of your reservation.

What can you do to protect yourself amid the chaos and mayhem that will erupt? Always have on hand at the airport a printed copy of your reservation and if possible a printed copy of your boarding pass. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

Not that we want to give him any more publicity, but Anthony Weiner really needs to be put out of his misery. Wherever he goes campaigning, he gets heckled beyond what one can imagine. People scream at him, engage him in debates about what he has done and call him all kinds of interesting names. The guy just can’t take a hint. Here’s what we suggest: Find a log cabin somewhere in Montana, lose your phone and invite a shrink to keep you company for about six months.

We’ll talk…

The Blanche Report: The Stars, The Neighbors & The Gun Collection

Obama’s back. He was bemoaning the fact that society’s obsession with celebrities could be eroding the American dream. Is that so?

Just this past month, he paraded out a group of celebrities to try and spread the word about obamacare – which so far not one person has been able to describe. People paid $25,000 a plate for the ‘privilege’ of eating with Obama and his little celebrity entourage. Ya can’t have it both ways dude. If he thinks that the ‘simple folk’ are trying to emulate the lives of celebrities and he knows it is completely unrealistic to do so, then he should lead by example. Next.

At long last Edward Snowden is out of Moscow’s airport,  hiding somewhere in Russia. Let’s put it this way – the word security is now one of the top 2 words in his vocabulary and, for that matter in his life forever and ever.

Not that we are in any way a clairvoyant – but remember last week we were lamenting about the coach of the Montreal Alouettes? The one from somewhere in the deep south who couldn’t seem to put two words together? Well, he’s toast, kaput, gonzo. In case you follow the team closely, general manager Jim Pop has taken over the reigns of coach for now.

Most people know their neighbors to the right and left. On some streets everyone knows each other. Once in a while there’s someone on your street who’s a bit odd. He rarely comes out of his home and when he does he’s still in his pajamas at 4:00 pm. He yells when people walk on his lawn. You know the type. Well, this past week such a type barricaded himself in his house in a quiet suburb of Montreal. Seems the Hydro people were on his property and he didn’t take a liking to them so he pulled out one of the 182 guns he had in his house and threatened them. Yes Blanche, you read that correctly – 182 various and assorted guns.

This 71 year-old man, who suffers from dementia, managed to amass an arsenal of weapons in his house. We are making an educated guess that he bought the guns from many different sources so as not to attract attention. It took the police almost 24 hours to extricate this dude from his house. Guess he was estranged from his family and they hadn’t been to visit in a while. Otherwise they need to buy eyeglasses to see what was in that house.

Ya know the joke about relatives overstaying their welcome?
They are more smelly than bad fish. Well, looks like the US has that issue – in spades. The Homeland Security Department has lost track of more than 1 million people who it knows arrived in the U.S. but who it cannot prove left the country. The government tracks arrivals, but is years overdue in setting up a system to track departures. If you need a job and have a good idea, I’m sure Homeland security would be happy to talk to you.

Hawaii seems to have quite the homeless persons problem. They have decided to take matters into their own hands and have offered free, one way flights to anywhere in the continental United States. Or, if the flights are full, they could be put on a cruise ship, all expenses paid. Problem is the weather. There’s not many places on the continent that offers Hawaii’s almost perfect weather.

And we would go one step further. Before putting anyone on a plane, someone better give them a shower and a clean set of clothing.

Good Shabbos,

We’ll talk…