Monday, June 09, 2014

World Cup 2014 Group Predictions

Taking a break from following the municipal and provincial elections, and a few federal by-elections, I decided to have some fun and predict the World Cup groups. It seems it was just yesterday the 2010 World Cup (forever associated with the awful vuvuzela cacophony) ended, and here the World Cup 2014 begins in a couple of days. Without much ado, here are my group stages prediction. And yes, for what it's worth, I am predicting Argentina to win the World Cup.

Group A: Brazil, Croatia, Mexico, Cameroon

It would be a huge shock if Brazil failed at the first hurdle and failed to qualify out of the group. They are many people's favourites to win the Cup, and in my view, good enough to top the group and go deep into the tournament. The much talked about home pressure is less of a liability when it comes to the group games, which are not knock-outs, so their home support (and its subtle effect on the referees), plus the fact they are simply a very good squad, will see Brazil win all their matches. The real battle in the group will be for second place, which should go to Mexico. Croatia is not the force it once was, and Cameroon (like many African teams) have a leaky defence. Mexico's grit and flair should see them qualify out of the group.

Prediction: Brazil, Mexico

Group B: Spain, Holland, Chile, Australia

Spain has been winning everything since the last World Cup. Zinedine Zidane is reputed to have once said, "the day Spain starts winning, they won't stop". Yet they didn't win the last Confederations Cup (which may not be a bad thing; the winner of the Confederations never wins the World Cup). Spain won the 2008 Euros, the 2010 World Cup, the 2012 Euros, and are one of the favourites for 2014 World Cup. Yet, in the group lies Holland, their opponent in the 2010 finals (and also exiting 2012 Euros in the group stages). Chile, the South American team playing in conditions familiar to them, are no slouch either. Australia, I reckon, will be beaten by all other three teams and are hopelessly outclassed. Spain's class should see them through, and I expect Chile to surprise everyone by being 2nd. Depending on results, they could even top the group, though that's stretching it far.

Predictions: Spain, Chile

Group C: Colombia, Greece, Ivory Coast, Japan

This is a tough to call group as it's a bunch of similarly matched mediocre level teams. I will go out and say I hope Greece does NOT qualify - they play the most boring soccer by putting ten men behind the ball (which led them to win an Euro, believe it or not), so I hope they go out. Yet Greece almost qualified in 2010 (in a group that included Nigeria, South Korea and Argentina), and DID make it out of the group in 2012. So this is a tough call, but I expect Columbia to be aided by familiar South American conditions, and Japan to let their professionalism dictate tough matches against the Greek defence and Ivory Coast flair.

Predictions: Columbia, Japan

Group D: Uruguay, Costa Rica, England, Italy

This is the group of death. Poor Costa Rica. They play the Group B's Australia role of this group. This is one group where I think the order of matches matter.

Uruguay - Costa Rice; victor: Uruguay

England - Italy; Tie.

England tied their last match with Italy, and have enough workmanlike qualities to tie them this time too. They also historically tie their first match (focus on not losing, and getting at least a share of the spoils). Italy, I expect, will also be not too unhappy with a tie.

Uruguay - England; victor: England by a goal.

Somehow England will find a way to win this match. Whether it's a last minute header or a penalty, they know they have to win this. At the worst, it will be a tie, but I am calling a win for the English.

Italy - Costa Rica; victor: Italy

Italy goes up in the group, but it all comes down to the last round of matches.

England - Costa Rica; victor: England

With the pressure off after a victory in the previous match, England will outclass Costa Rica, probably winning by a brace of goals (let me say 3-0). Even if the last match was a tie, they still have enough class to beat Costa Rica.

Italy - Uruguay; victor: Uruguay

Yes, this is the virtual knock out, and Uruguay is dirty enough to win.

Prediction: England, Uruguay

Group E: Switzerland, Ecuador, France, Honduras

Yuck, what a group. Can we just pretend this group never happened? Honestly, this tells you where Canadian soccer is that we cannot go past Honduras.

Prediction: France, Switzerland.

Group F: Argentina, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iran, Nigeria

Argentina will win this group. Unless there is a complete collapse of their football, they are going to win this group rather easily. None of the other team has one player who is equal to the worst Argentina player, and Argentina has probably the world's best club player (Messi) in their squad. I had always rated Messi as overrated for international football as he has not performed in previous World Cups, but this is his year. I always had a soft spot for Iran (ever since their 2-1 victory over USA in 1998 when I was in the Middle East where everyone supported them), but Iran is many levels below Nigeria and Bosnia. Honestly, it's hard to say which is the better of these two teams. I am going out on a limb and call it for Bosnia, just because their defence is the better one.

Prediction: Argentina, Bosnia

Group G: Germany, Portugal, Ghana, USA

If there's a cricket world cup semis list, you can bet New Zealand will find a way to be on it. If it's a soccer semis list, somehow Germany is there. This is a team for which 2nd place is a disaster. I cannot see Germany NOT qualifying out of the group, so the first place in this group will be Germany. The fourth place should be the Americans, because a) Why the hell is Landon Donovan not in the squad, and b) they are Americans who pretend this is soccer and football is something else. Portugal is a one star steam and he (CR) is also coming back from an injury, so this makes for an interesting Ghana - Portugal clash. I am going against logic and supporting the underdog here, so I am picking Ghana.

Prediction: Germany, Ghana

Group H: Belgium, Algeria, Russia, South Korea

Another mediocre group. Belgium is the dark horse of many in this tournament, and I expect them to at least dominate this group. They should dominate this group, especially with players with names such as Hazard. The Russians should qualify as well, but the South Koreans are a talented bunch as well. I am going to favour the Koreans slightly as they might be more used to the heat and humidity, playing as they do in Asia.

Prediction: Belgium, South Korea

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Ontario Election 2014 Debate Analysis

I will come out and say it - as an Ontario Liberal party supporter, I was disappointed.

First of all, why is the Premier apologizing for the gas plant relocations? It was put into Parliament and voted by all three parties and all of them AGREED to move the gas plants. It is not a waste of a billion dollars - the government listened to the people and acted on their wishes - the very same accusation that Conservatives allege against the Liberals with respect to windmills, that the Liberals don't listen to the people.

I would have preferred the Premier come out more strongly against Hudak's previous foibles (such as Ontario being a right-to-work province), and against Horwath's opportunism. Hudak, it must not be forgotten, was just a short while ago amenable to the idea of not letting unions enforce the union due - in effect crippling the unions. Premier Wynn should have brought back the specter of Mike Harris and the constant strikes and utter privatization mismanagement that was the hallmark of his era.

As for Horwath, she should have been flat out asked, "What exactly in the budget are you opposed to?" And, as for the Ontario Pension Plan, as the Star points out, Horwath supported it until quite recently. And when did it exactly become a Harper-pension plan?

If I had to pick a winner, I would say Tim Hudak as he was a clear and an effective communicator (despite not answering the jobs question properly). Horwath had some memorable lines.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

John Tory's Transit Plan

I just read through John Tory's massive and comprehensive One Toronto transit plan that can be found at . Here's my take on it.

1) It is completely aligned with the Liberal and NDP election platforms and Metrolinx plans, so there would not be any fight for changes.
2) It tackles problems that other candidates never talk about, such as people living in cities next to Toronto, and about people who currently have no option BUT to drive.
3) It is comprehensive and not just downtown centric. Scarborough folks have a lot to be happy about.

4) It is far more detailed and shows Tory has spent time thinking about all angles, as opposed to Olivia "Just Have More Buses" Chow.

1) It depends on the province and Metrolinx to follow through on their plans without any cutbacks. Ya, that's happening.
2) It depends too much on Go Transit being cooperative, as Tory would use their tracks. Ya, right.
3) Biggest Flip-flop Ever on "downtown relief line" being his "number one priority".

Overall, it is good to see a candidate release a thorough and thought-out transit solution, rather than the Band-Aid solutions being offered by other candidates.

Friday, February 03, 2012

On the Sun - "We can fake this" - News Scandal

So I decided to head over to Blogging Tories to see how the Cons would try and spin the "fake reaffirmation ceremony" that their beloved Sun News tried to pull off. In today's Star, Mallick has a great article on why this is a mockery of our democracy. So let's see how the Tories respond.

The first post I checked calls for Heritage Minister James Moore to quit, because "he is fair minded" and corrects "Sun News when they allege the CBC is a state broadcaster, reminding them CBC is arms-length".

Wow, so if a minister is actually telling the truth, that's a firing offense in the Cons world. Well the author's blog is called "Blue Like You" (it should really be called "Blue Like 40% of You", as that's how many of us voted Cons - the rest chose other options). So, to recap, a Con minister should keep silent and defer to Great Leader Harper, or else lie.

Meanwhile, one BC blogger ("BC Blue") thinks this is actually Canadian Press (CP)'s fault!

Sun News found out this morning just how despised they are by all the other Canadian journos for not going along with the insider game currently being played.

Um, yeah, as a journalist you don't play insider games with the government - you hold them to account! Somehow the people at Sun - "We can fake this" - News didn't get the memo. And who do the Cons blame? Why, once more the person, or organization, that has pointed out the truth.

Guess when they were parroting their "Accountability Act" they meant it applying only to other people.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

3 Reasons Why Canada's Immigration System is Broken

1. When we immigrated there seemed to be a value to speaking either English or French before you immigrated to Canada.

Now it seems there's lots of immigrants here who not only can NOT speaking either of those languages, but have no desire to learn.

Example: If you go to a No Frills in Scarborough, Ontario, for example, the lady behind the fish counter has no idea how to speak English. Ask her a question, she doesn't know how to respond, and will call someone else who also speaks very limited English. You point to the fish, say "small or large pieces" and they cut it for you. And this type of customer experience is now becoming widespread in parts of Toronto.

2. It used to be multiculturalism. Now it's being dominated by a few immigrant groups.

Canada used to be a magnet for immigrants from across the world. Yet now, attend a citizenship ceremony in Toronto, and it's dominated by immigrants from one or two ethnicities. And not only that, these groups seem to go out of their way to not mix with other groups.

Example: You will never see a non-desi working in a desi store, or a non-Chinese worker at a Chinese store. Why?

3. Immigrants are being denied work opportunities and discriminated against daily.

I don't need to link to studies or research here to prove what every immigrant knows is a fact of life.

Why is an engineer serving fast food?

Why is a doctor driving a taxi?

Why is an MBA cleaning rooms?

Canada imports qualified immigrants to do cheap labour, thus robbing the developing countries of their talent pool, while wasting them here. The Canadian boards that govern doctors, engineers, and other "licensed" boards make immigrants run around circles for years in a desperate quest to do what they are adequately trained to do.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Why Rana Sarkar Lost Scarborough Rouge-River

When stalwarts like Yasmin Ratansi can lost in Don Valley East, no Liberal riding was safe in the GTA. Yet, Scarborough Rouge-River was one riding Liberals could have held on. Instead, the Liberal candidate Rana Sarkar lost to NDP's Rathika Sitsabaiesan (18,856 votes and 40.5 per cent support). In fact, he came third, with Conservative Marlene Gallyot placing second (source: The Star).

Having grown up there, and knowing many of the families through sports and recreational meets, here's why I think the Liberals lost.

1. Well known and liked MP Derek Lee was standing down, so there was no incumbency factor.

2. Rana Sarkar was relatively unknown; in fact I am told he lives downtown (so was not even a resident of the area). Rathika Sitsabaiesan was someone who lives in the area and was involved in activism (she was involved in the University of Toronto student council).

3. Rana Sarkar was an Indian-Candian in a riding that has a huge Tamil population. In fact, I felt someone else, preferably a Tamil candidate, should have taken Derek Lee's position. My choice would have been Shamoon Poonawala, someone close to Derek Lee's campaign, and also a Tamil. In fact, I was surprised Neethan Shan, who ran a credible municipal candidate, was also not tapped (even though he leans NDP).

Lesson for the Liberals - local candidates matter.

From a Voter - Why the Liberals Lost

I had a hard time voting for the Liberal party this election. And I live in one of Scarborough's most ethnic communities in the GTA, full of immigrants, Muslims and (former) Liberal supporters. And yet, our riding went Conservative. Here's my take on why the Liberal party has been decimated in their stronghold of Toronto.

1. A "Just Visiting" Leader

A lot of us don't like Michael Ignatieff. And that's us Liberals; forget those who just know him from "Just Visiting" ads. The guy stays out of the country for 30 years, and then comes back and immediately wants to be Prime Minister? What does he even KNOW of the average Canadian? Hell, he even supported the Iraq war!

2. A Shift to the Right

The Liberal party was supposed to bring our troops home from Afghanistan. What happened?

The Liberal party was supposed to oppose corporate tax rate reductions. What happened?

The Liberal party was supposed to be against deficit spending. What happened?

The Liberal party used to have a balanced position in world conflicts. What happened?

When the voters cannot see a difference between Liberals and Conservatives, those on the right will vote for the real right party i.e. Conservatives. And those on the left will support the NDP, which is what happened. I have said long ago that Liberals need to be more left than right.

3. The Economy is Pretty Bad

Really. People are worried about their jobs, or how they will pay the next bill. And along comes the Liberals promising $4000 in tuition to students, cap and trade, telling people to "Rise Up" (for what?) and so on. What about their MAIN CONCERN?

As a Blue Grit, I would have LOVED to see my taxes go down. The Liberals should have borrowed Paul Martin's playbook and promised a reduction in income taxes. Liberals need to concentrate on the basics.

4. McGuinty Or, as I call him, Mc Guilty

You can blame Harper for the G20 all you want, we who live in Toronto know that the real villains were Mc Guinty and his secret law, and the powers he gave to a police force that seems to have abused it. And which party is Mc Guinty again? Oh, yes - the Liberals. And that's not even getting into the HST.

5. Taking Immigrants and the GTA for granted

What was the last thing the Liberals did for us immigrants? It let us in. And that was it.

For years, I have been crying out about jobs and credential recognition for immigrants, while the Liberals seem happy to just let in immigrants to work as pizza delivery men or window washers or taxi drivers. Stephane Dion told me during an interview on how he planned to tackle this, but nothing was proposed by the Liberals in the last 4 years. Instead, it was Harper who was seen to be moving on this agenda.

Only time will tell how the Tories will reward Toronto and Rob Ford for their support, but at the moment, Harper is right when he mentions about the money he had spent in Toronto (Union Station, Spadina subway extension, and yes, G20).

Friday, January 22, 2010

Rocco Rossi - FAIL!

I have not made an in-depth analysis of Rocco Rossi's proposals yet. But anyone who targets to stop Transit City, which is Miller's only worthwhile initiative that I can fight for, is a FAIL! candidate.

Anyone who wants to stop Transit City is not fit to be mayor of Toronto.