Thursday, December 30, 2004

Where's Waldo?

Now first off, I certainly don't expect the Prime Minister to abandon his Christmas/New Years vacation, nor do I begrudge him the use of an Armed Forces plane to travel the world (even if it is used to visit unseemly foreign dictators/tyrants who feel the need to redeem their image, but that's another story) on our behalf.

But when a human catastrophe such as the current Asian basin earthquake/tsunami happens, one at least expects the leader of a G8 nation (and a nation that pats itself on the back frequently for its good deeds) to at least make a statement as to what his nation will do to help. He could have merely called in the press, said we were shocked, alarmed, concerned etc, etc, etc and will work night and day to render whatever assistance we can provide. Find someone in Ottawa to take the point and it could have been back to the beach, the dune or wherever it is that he's at.

I'll tackle the feeble early effort of "official Canada" in a later post, for now the generosity of the "average" Canadian is at least showing we have a pulse. But our government has more than dropped the ball on this situation. From the wandering ministers called in on their holidays to say a few words, over to the folks at External Affairs who really have no idea as to the status of missing Canadians we've been less than brilliantly served by our Political pontificators and our bureaucratic minions.

At least we managed to ratchet up our cheque writing abilities from the pathetic four million dollars to up and over 40 million today, but really we have the capability to offer the world much more than just dollars, but alas we seem mired in incompetence.

The public would have liked to have been reassured that we have a plan, a desire and the ability to do something. Starting with a least a statement from the guy that has been promising to improve our world image and return us to the prominent role we once held. So far were tall on talk, short on action. This whole situation has not been handled well by anyone in Official Ottawa, from a Prime Minister to minor minion in the offices of government we've dropped the ball, time to pick it up and get to work!

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Jerry it's as though we knew ya!

It was sad to hear of the passing of actor Jerry Orbach, best known for the role of Lennie Briscoe in Law and Order, Orbach was the consummate character actor. You could almost sense the character of Briscoe brought to life by Orbach.

Little known to those of us who just get our pop culture from the tube, Orbach was an accomplished actor in the movies and on broadway including stints as a song and dance man. A long forgotten art of show business.

Perhaps the best testimony to his talent is the fact that he managed to survive twelve seasons in the revolving door cast of the NBC hit. Dick Wolf who created Law and Order had developed a bit of reputation for cycling through his cast members until Orbach arrived and just seemed to fit the role perfectly as the wise, rumpled and cynical officer of the law.

The key at the end of the day one guesses is that your daily toil is recognized as a job well done. In this Mr. Orbach can rest easy, the kind words spoken of him today will bear witness to his work!

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Something completely incomprehensible!

You watch the visual images on television or the net and just wonder what must have gone through the minds of the mothers, fathers and children of the Asian basin as that wall of water crashed ashore in so many places.

The fear on the faces is one to wrench your heart, the feeling of helplessness compounded by the distance from the actual event.

The totals of the dead rise by the hour, seemingly never to end as more and more villages are rediscovered abandoned as the water recedes. In most cases those that had so little to begin with, now seem to have even less.

The International community is slowly coming to the scene to offer whatever aid and assistance can be provided with such a historical tragedy of Nature. Donations are asked for and surely will be provided. Yet internal politics will get in the way, already reports are coming out about Muslim groups in Sri Lanka refusing aid from Israel, refusing to put aside hatred in aid of their own people. Splinter groups of rebels have refused to allow government troops inside their territories to render assistance when it is most needed. There are already fears that whatever monies are provided will only get caught up in a bureaucracy that seems incapable of placing the common good at the forefront of the list. The concept of it all boggles the mind, when tragedy on a scale such as this takes place surely ancient hatreds and rivalries, not to mention bureaucratic incompetence can be put aside for the good of the ones suffering the most.

Canada has provided some monies and NGO organizations are sending their forces to lend assistance. One curious absence is the DART component of the Canadian Forces, a supposedly rapid relief force that has been designed to respond to just these types of emergencies, yet curiously has rarely been sent to many international disasters. This time it supposedly is because we haven’t been asked for, yet when you read of the mission statement of the force, there probably is no better example of why it has been assembled. Sadly our cash and equipment starved Forces have found themselves in this situation before, unable to load up and head out until the need has passed. This is not the place for pointing of fingers and such, but there needs to be a serious accounting of why one of the world’s richest countries seems to be incapable of responding promptly when these major disasters strike. Paul Martin has made much of his bid to return Canada to the forefront of the world’s nations. The time is long nigh for less talk and far more action. We need to provide tangible assistance and not just kind words and pats on our own back.

For now though all our thoughts and prayers should be with the people who have found their lives shattered by the wrath of Nature. Totally unpredictable these waves have washed far beyond their shores. You only need watch television and see the grief on their faces to realize the horror that they have suffered. The numbers of the dead are numbing, the potential for even more devastation through disease and hunger even more daunting.

You feel so helpless when these things happen. The feelings we have; is it guilt or relief that it was their part of the world and not yours? The random fate of humankind seems so unfair at times, one day you awaken to start your day, and suddenly you won’t awaken again. Times like these truly are tests of faith, reconciling how such a thing can happen with the human spirit to reach out and do what we can to help. You fear it may never be enough, but you have to start somewhere I guess. The question is will we stay for the long haul, long after the visual images are replaced on our television.

Some who are trying to help:

The Canadian Red Cross


World Vision Canada


Care Canada

Caritas Canada

Mennonite Central Committee

Friday, December 24, 2004

Peace On Earth, Goodwill towards Men!

Merry Christmas to one and all, may Saint Nicholas have lessened his load at each homestead along the way.

One hopes that our goofy little world will one day live up to the salutation at the top of this post.

Now bring us our figgy pudding!!!

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

If I could only find an agent!

Occasionally I’ll let my mind wander and wonder what life would be like had I headed for Hollywood and worked my way into the world of network (and cable) television.

Some of the shows I’m waiting on a script for and the roles I’d like to be considered for!

THE WIRE—Available in Canada on Movie Central, this is a top notch HBO Crime Drama with many intertwining plots rolling from season to season. The series is based on the work of David Simon, who last gave us the equally great Homicide: Life on the Street. It’s an excellent study into life in Baltimore from the docks, to the urban zones that seem to have laws of their own. It’s a terrific ensemble cast and gives you a real feel for policing in a sphere that seems just on the verge of total chaos. Corrupt politicians, crooked and honest cops, drug dealers galore and honest citizens trapped in the middle. This is a show that has it all. My choice for a part would be any police role that doesn’t end in wanton violence and a sudden demise.

THE WEST WINGPresident Bartlet is winding down his time at the White House and judging by the way this formerly enthralling show has gone its not a moment too soon. Back when it first started out the writing was sharp, the dialogue witty and engaging. The characters all seemed to offer up something new and vital from week to week. Lately it’s slipped quite a bit, taking on some rather predictable gimmicks designed to keep the audience attached. The President’s FDR role playing of the last week and the possible attack of the killer asteroid, moved things along the “getting harder to believe” aspect of script writing. But if I could hop in the time machine, it would be back to season two or three, they were at the top of their game, Bartlet was a President to follow and the team were at their energetic best, me thinks I would have found the role of advisor to the President to be a great ride.

NYPD BLUE—now into it’s final episodes now, when it first came on the air it added some fresh views on the ole Police drama format. Fast paced camera work, believable characters it found a loyal audience in the early days. Proving that actors don’t know when they have it good, David Caruso courted career suicide by walking away from the show and toiling away in a rather failed movie career before resurfacing with the CSI franchise on a beach in Florida. While many others have come and gone over the years, Dennis Franz has held the fort at the 15th precinct house. He made his Andy Sipowicz character a mainstay on network television. For my agent, a role as Andy’s partner would be just fine. Lets face it Andy’s career at times resembled a giant train wreck, just by showing up at work and keeping a few steps behind you could fast track your own upward mobility. He takes all the heat from all the bosses, you just clean up the mess and take your promotion.

THE SOPRANOSTony runs a tight ship, but just look at his house, his vehicles and his Club (the ever popular Bada Bing) this guy lives the guy’s life. Sure there’s the odd chance of getting whacked by a rival mobster or even by the traitors in your midst, but there’s no gain without a little pain. Silvio has managed to stay alive and pad the bank account as Tony’s dependable fixer. That would be the role to shoot for, (pardon the pun). Too bad for Steven Van Zandt, but hey Bruce should heading back on the road soon anyways, so bada bing, bada boom, I’ll take over the club thank you very much!

LAW AND ORDER—He just retired from regular duty (soon to reappear in the latest of Dick Wolff’s L & O franchises. But when Jerry Orbach was on the job as Lenny he brought the role of Briscoe to life. There was a lot of hard earned experience in that wisecracking frame, much married and equally much divorced Briscoe reeks of the guy that lived his job. He’s seen it all and probably done it all as well. If only for one of those great one liner’s or that exasperated look being one of Briscoe’s partners would be a great role to work.

Shows from the past that would have been an interesting audition in no particular order, M*A*S*H, ALL IN THE FAMILY, SEINFELD, GET SMART, HILL STREET BLUES, STREETS OF SAN FRANCISCO, HOMICIDE: LIFE ON THE STREETS just to name a few. Now if only I had actually had some talent!! Or more importantly an agent!

Something the Car Saleswoman neglected to tell me!

Just found an interesting little bit of information on the car I purchased three years ago, a little something that the lady at the dealership never seemed to mention somehow.

Oh well, three years on still puttering around town, touch wood!!! On the other side of the coin however, there is this from the what comes around goes around department this little tidbit for the bean counters at GM!!

Monday, December 20, 2004

The hiatus nears its end

Regular visitors to the ole Podunk site will have noticed a certain lack of contributions over the last three weeks or so. I arbitrarily decided to take a sabbatical from the daily grind of composing something that might possibly make some sense, adding links and finding worthwhile gems on the internet.

What with Christmas fast approaching I knew that my output would drop off anyways, so I chose to go cold turkey so to speak, just stop dead, not even look at the blog for awhile so as to recharge my brain cells, rest my fingers and give my eyes a chance to return their pupils to a normal size.

But alas, the lure of the blog is calling again, I feel the beginnings of my brain processing the latest shenanigans out of Ottawa, Washington and places near and far and realize that it's about time to get back into the saddle.

I mean C'mon' when the Prime Minister takes two planes to the Libyan sand dunes to meet with a rather strange individual in a tent surrounded by camels, the satirical juices just get a flowing. When the Secretary of Defence of the worlds most advanced military machine, basically slags his own troops as they scavenge garbage dumps for armor plating before they go into battle, well you just know its time to get back into the game.

We'll ease ourself back into the bloglines and may even take the odd day off from time to time, but with a few weeks under the belt listening to music, finishing off the Christmas shopping and reading something other than blogs we feel refreshed enough to get back to our unpaid labour of love.

Interestingly enough, whilst I disappeared for a while, the hits to the podunk (and my other blogs HockeyNation, Twelve Men on the Field and boondoggle) kept on coming. In fact there was hardly any drop at all in the traffic to most of the blogs. Which of course leads me to wonder how I'd be missed, if no one knew I was gone?

Stay tuned new material on the way. Thanks for sticking with A Town Called Podunk!

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Making History an enjoyable read

With over 50 books published to his credit, Pierre Berton must have had an idea or two on how to turn a phrase. The Canadian icon passed away on Tuesday at the age of 84. And with his passing a chapter of Canadianna has come to a close.

Berton became the National biographer of sorts, compiling stories from the Klondike Gold Rush, to the building of a railroad and over the falls at Niagara. He took us to Vimy Ridge and through the dustbowl years of the Great Depression. If there was an event in Canadian History chances are Pierre Berton has chronicled it for us. Bringing to life the characters and events that have moulded our persona, made our country larger than life at times and showing Canadians young and old that there is a fascinating history to this land, if only you find the time to look for it.

His Canadian epics have been turned into television mini series, his easily identified voice and larger than life persona requested for causes big and small. In the 60’s and 70’s when Canadian cultural nationalism began to find its feet, Pierre Berton seemed to be everywhere.

From The pages of Maclean’s, in major newspapers from coast to coast and on radio and television, Berton was media convergence before the term was even thought of.

While his books were his mainstay, He will no doubt be remembered for his work with the CBC’s Canadian mainstay, Front Page Challenge. Week after week, Canadians became more aware of themselves and the world around us. Pierre, Gordon, Betty and Fred explored the events of our times and asked the questions we would have asked had we been lucky enough to be an eyewitness to history. The longevity of that show and the outcry when it finally went off the air a huge testimony to the popularity of the panel, and none was more popular than Pierre Berton.

But by and large he always was and will always be known as an author. In bookstores everywhere from St. John’s to Victoria, Windsor to Whitehorse, his works would find a prominent place of honour. They would also in the words of the trade, “move” quite nicely providing a handsome reward for the author, who always believed he could make a decent living by staying in his own country.

For those that complain that they don’t know enough about their own country, or find our history “too boring” find a topic you would like to know about and then go find the book on it by Pierre Berton. Whether it’s the history of chasing invading American troops across the border, or trekking across the vast wilderness of the Arctic, the touchstone to your country is no farther away than a book by Pierre Berton!

May he find St. Peter an easy to work for Editor, but oh the tales he shall tell!

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Solidarity Forever!

While the Union movement in Canada continues to fight the good fight against the big corporations like Wal Mart Air Canada and other struggles. There's success a brewing in some rather unexpected quarters.

It wasn't too long ago that we heard news that the United Church of Canada's ministers were looking to explore the possibility of Union affiliation. United Church clergy are preparing to fight the Power (and that's a fight that can take you a distance), with a task force of union reps and church ministers ready to start a recruiting drive.

With organizers from the Canadian Auto Workers manning the phones and working the e mails, the organizing drive is just now getting underway. In order to help recalcitrant clergy with their decision, the CAW has drafted a top ten list for stressed out ministers to consider while they contemplate signing that Union card.

With the CAW concentrating on the consecrated, there's another union drive revving up that they've missed the call on.

Over in Quebec Bonhomme Carnivale is apparently one very unhappy snowman and has sought out the folks at the FTQ (Quebec's largest trade union) has filed a certification request to unionize those that wear the suit of Bonhomme. The mascot of the Winter Carnival in Quebec City spends the last half of January and most of February involved in local activities revolving around promotion of the huge Winter festival.

Faced with the prospect of four to six weeks of having to be happy, joyful and a good will ambassador, the practitioners in the activities of Bonhomme are feeling a little bit unappreciated and would apparently welcome the chance to have proper representation.

Bonhomme will be on the job January 28th, unless things don't go well with the Carnival organizers. The vision of a giant snowman on a picket line to launch the Carnival is not one anyone wants to visualize. If it comes to pass though Bonhomme needs one piece of advice; stay away from those warming oil can fires prevalent at all labour disputes, otherwise his demands will just melt away.

With all this talk of unionization one S. Claus must be getting a little nervous. He's had a rather stable and generally happy workforce of elves over the years, but in a year when church ministers and snowmen are seeking out a shop steward, one wonders how long overworked workforce of the factories of the North Pole can stay off the union radar.

Monday, November 22, 2004

The week of essentials Nov 15-22

Condi she's a gal in charge
Carolyn's one who has been purged
Alfie's making news again
Big Paulie has a leaking den
The Argos they done won the Cup
And Georgie Bush is comin' up
Seven days that have gone by
It's for your attention we now vie!

15-Nov-04 "They're slowing us down!"
15-Nov-04 A quiet funeral and a simple election
15-Nov-04 Law and Order: Geriatric division
15-Nov-04 "Chocolate is like a drug": Which probably explains Valentines Day
15-Nov-04 He is what he is!
16-Nov-04 Carville is such an egghead
16-Nov-04 More trouble for Lord Black
16-Nov-04 Pfizer ad flops with FDA
16-Nov-04 They thought the ending stinked
16-Nov-04 Never bet against the dam
17-Nov-04 The Cookie jar overfloweth
17-Nov-04 Condi in Control
17-Nov-04 When George comes to town
17-Nov-04 Sex in Football? Say it isn't so!
17-Nov-04 May the farce be with him
18-Nov-04 Turning ploughshares into swords
18-Nov-04 A fixer upper on the Ottawa River
18-Nov-04 Trouble on Kofi's horizon?
18-Nov-04 We interrupt your movie to read you your rights
18-Nov-04 The coming pandemic?
19-Nov-04 And your qualifications are exactly what, Chuck?
19-Nov-04 For He's a jolly Goodfella?
19-Nov-04 Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam
19-Nov-04 Oh, and by the way, no homework tonight!
19-Nov-04 Cushion thyself TV viewer, Fox News is on the way
20-Nov-04 The Hands on President
20-Nov-04 But did they mention her by name?
20-Nov-04 Hey I'm not gone yet
20-Nov-04 Is Iran on tap?
20-Nov-04 It's a sell out!
21-Nov-04 Just one thing before he goes
21-Nov-04 Kleinfeld!
21-Nov-04 One year on, the verdict is in!
21-Nov-04 More sleep means skinnier people
21-Nov-04 Argooooooooooooooooooooos

In praise of Pinball

There is a special bond between the Argonaut coach and his players, one that seems to go deeper than the normal give and take of player and coach. You only had to watch the opening moments of Sunday’s Grey Cup to understand just how much the Argonaut players would do for their guiding force in Double Blue.

There in the tunnel as the players were being introduced was Mike "Pinball" Clemons, a word for each starter as he headed out the tunnel, a slap on the pads, a laugh, a hug and always that smile. It’s the smile that makes you realize that playing football for Clemons may not just be a job or a sport, perhaps it’s a mission.

His enthusiasm is legendary, his eloquence obvious. There are many that say the Argos should tape his pre game speeches and sell them, such are they the definition of motivation. And if the results are any indication they should double the press run.

While there may be many across Canada who probably have no great love lost for anything Toronto, there can’t be many, if any who don’t have the highest regard for Clemons. He seems to be the embodiment of the can do ethic. He approached his season this year in an always moving forward mode, never looking back.

Having taken his football team from the Bankruptcy court a year ago, the stadium on Bank Street on Sunday, the reason for this team’s success can safely be attributed to the head coach. He delegates the responsibility and the praise to his coaches and both Rich Stubler on defence and Kent Austin on offence have done an amazing job with a young Argo team this year. But the glue of the franchise is the humble man from Florida, who has become much larger than a team, a league or even the game of football.

The success of his team on Sunday will only go to cement his relationship with his adopted home (and soon his new country). Toronto has frequently had heroes over the years only to watch them disappear with nary a glance from the faithful. For Clemons that will never happen, he has become as much of that city as any original settler family from the days of Upper Canada and a town called York.

He’s a tireless volunteer, a publicity shy visitor to countless children’s causes and the go to guy when somebody needs a name for a fund raising drive or a spokesperson for a cause. And besides all those good works, he’s obviously a pretty good football coach. A roster of players wearing double blue are holding onto a Cup and will soon get some rings, testimony that treating your workers with respect and honesty still counts for something in an era of greed and me first personalities.

You saw it in the tunnel before the game, on the sidelines as the game progressed and on the field at the end as they gave out a trophy. Respect both given and received, one of the keys to a hard earned victory by a team featuring a classy coach.

This item first appeared in my Twelve Men on the Field blog, for more items about Canadian Football check it out.


For the fifteenth time a Toronto Argonaut has hoisted Lord Grey's Cup in celebration. And Sunday night there was no more deserving person than Damon Allen to hold the fabled Chalice high into the Ottawa night sky.

The ageless wonder, at 41 turned in another one of his dominant Grey Cup performances to lead his band of double blue brothers on to a convincing 27-19 victory over a stunned BC Lion squad.

Turning the game around in the latter stages of the second Quarter, Allen controlled the play and led his team down the field at Frank Clair stadium, time and time again. After an initial phase of testing the Lion defence, Allen began to take the play into the Lion secondary and found the success that would lead him to his fourth Grey Cup win in five tries. With the Offensive line controlling the usually swarming Lion defence all night, Allen had not only time to throw the ball but could pick out the holes created and run the ball himself.

With a 17-10 lead at the half, Allen picked up where he left off in the third quarter taking his Double Blue down field once again, running in another touchdown and propelling the Argos to a 24-10 lead before Duncan O'Mahony could reply with a field goal in the third quarter.

Noel Prefontaine would add the final three points for the Argos, while Dave Dickenson would engineer one more touchdown drive for the Leos, only walk away with nothing for extra points after consecutive time count violations. The miscommunication on the extra point an indication as to how the small things would cost the Lions on this Grey Cup Sunday. The Lions made too many errors on the field, too many mental errors and surrendered far too much of the field in a kicking game that never seemed to get untracked. With the defence mired in a game long malaise and a offence that could only perform in spurts the day was long and the flight home will seem longer for the Lions.

Controversy will flow through the Vancouver airwaves this week as the talk shows rehash the decision to not use Casey Printers in the season finale. To be fair to Dave Dickenson his numbers were not too bad, he was close to turning the tide but a pass too far, an untimely fumble or the inability to shut the Argos down contributed to the shortfall from a Lion point of view.

This night belonged to Allen, who has wandered from CFL outpost to outpost for these twenty years, a solid workmanlike performer who never has achieved all star status, yet seems to the guy you want in control when the Cup is there to be taken. Named the Grey Cup MVP on Sunday night, there could not be any argument with the selection he had that much influence on the outcome of this game.

For Argo coach Mike Clemons the season ending success is a much deserved reward for yeoman like work on behalf of the Double Blue. The always emotional Clemons must have felt huge pride in the play of his players, the respect offered up to his coaching and the sense of team that they called upon in this pivotal game.

In a league that has seen almost everything go right this year, there probably is no better result than Sundays final. The folks in BC will have some disappointment with the so near and now so far ending. But a new year beckons, they host the 2005 Grey Cup in Vancouver and despite the end result in 2004 this is a team that will be heard again come next May.

But for tonight, tomorrow and the off season this year belongs to the Argos! From bankruptcy to champions in 365 days, that smile on Pinball's face couldn't possibly get any wider but one suspects he'll give it his best chance for the next little while.

This item first appeared in my Twelve Men on the Field blog, for more items about Canadian football check it out

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Don't let the door hit you on the ass on the way out Carolyn!

Finally Prime Minister Paul Martin has dealt with the loose cannon of the back bench known as Carolyn Parrish. The rather unusual MP for
Mississauga has been behaving rather strangely over the last year or so, with many eyebrow raising performances.

From her apparent distaste for her own (former) Liberal party members, to her never ending and frankly tiresome, Bush hating act of the last little, this is a woman who seems to crave attention. And attention she now has in spades, her latest bout of nutbarism will be the upcoming appearance on Friday Night's 22 minutes, where she stomps upon a George Bush doll. The incident which was "leaked" to the media yesterday has become a hot property for news agencies across the continent.

Yet it wasn't her seemingly pathological dislike of the President of the USA that has finally resulted in her ouster. Instead it was apparently her meandering blubbering to the media about the current state of her political life. She expressed no interest in her now former party and their tenuous status and stated openly that she wouldn't care if the current PM lost the election and his job, as she said she wouldn't shed a tear. Even poor old dithering Paul couldn't let that one go and thus she is no more!

Suddenly a light went on in the PMO that uh, she's not particularly helpful to the cause, probably won't be much use in a confidence vote anyways, so its best to wash ones hands of her. Sending her to that purgatory reserved for the loopy Independent back bencher. (Chuck Cadman the only other Indy memmber is not a charter member of that Group, as he's more like a Conservative without portfolio!).

At any rate, it's about time that Martin took charge of his rogue MP who seemed to be on a single handed mission to destroy any semblance of sanity on the Government side of the House. Every time she opened her mouth she confirmed for Canadians that it isn't necessarily the best and the brightest that run for office. Her outbursts of late give one cause to wonder if perhaps she might have some issues she needs to discuss with a professional somewhere. More worrisome is the knowledge that she once was a secondary school teacher! One wonsers just how many young minds she helped to shape over the years, (a sudden shudder for the youth of yesterday!) wouldn't a civics class with Carolyn have been a hoot!

There's a place in Parliament for civil and sensible debate over serious issues such as the war in Iraq, missile Defence and such. But to allow Carolyn Parrish to set the tone for those debates showed a certain lack of leadership in the PMO. Finally they have taken charge of the issue and done what needed to be done.

Ms. Parrish can now return to the irrelevant status from which she came. Too bad for the folks of Mississauga but their needs and requirements are going to be on the back burner for the next little while. When you send a fool to do your work, don't be surprised when you aren't taken very seriously. 22 minutes will show Carolyn in all her Glory on Friday night, alas for Ms. Parrish her 22 minutes of fame are about to be used up! Her mercuric temperament and exhibitionistic buffoonery will not be missed.

What's it all about Alfie?

What an eventful day for Prime Minister Paul Martin, he no sooner had removed the stone in his shoe in the form of Carolyn Parrish. Than the news machine was getting ratcheted up over a report in the New York Daily News.

The Big Apple paper best known for its grizzly photo’s of dead mobsters and comprehensive reporting on the comings and goings of the Goodfellow set have set the Canadian political scene on its ear. In today’s Daily News an FBI informant (known in some circles as a stoolie) has suggested that Alfonso Gagliano is a made man in the Bonanano crime family.

According to the informant Gagliano was introduced to him as a member of the Northern branch of the "family" while attending a function in Montreal. The function apparently limited to only “made” members of the organization, featured the former cabinet minister and ambassador as a participant.

While the article is tittilating in detail, it seems rather short on fact and long on supposition! As for a smoking gun, there doesn’t seem to be anything that would concretely tie the Alf man with the Bonanano’s. One wonders just how much stock to put in the story. Surely even the RCMP (please things can’t be this bad with the horsemen eh?) would have gotten wind of such a situation and alerted the proper members of then PM Jean Chretien’s crew!

It seems beyond belief that if one was a “made member” of the Mob, he would also be able to sit for long as a Member of Parliament. Even the Liberals who have at times shown a rather loose concept of ethics, would draw the line with allowing organized crime a front door entry to the national treasury, well one would hope anyways.

However, if proven true the current sponsorship scandal would pale in comparison to the investigation that would be launched into activities by the entire Chretien cabinet of the day. Suddenly padding expense accounts and siphoning ad dollars to nickel and dime ad agencies won’t seem like such a crime. Not when the Big Leagues of malfeasance may have had a foothold on the Hill!

The Conservatives who apparently can read quite well, have taken the latest developments to Question Period and are demanding some answers. This minority government was off to a rather quiet start, but in the space of 24 hours there’s lots of intrigue, backroom dealing and shocking revelations. Worthy of a major motion picture, only question is will it be Goodfella’s or Gladiator! Absolute Power or Animal Farm!

Update to the story: Late in the day Mr. Gagliano announced that there was no truth to the story what so ever. As they say in the legal progession, lawyers prepare your lawsuits!

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

A nation shamed!

There are many good qualities about the fans of the Saskatchewan Roughriders, the much vaunted Rider Nation. However, in one pointless act of immaturity, stupidity and wanton disregard for one’s privacy the Rider Nation today isn’t quite as boastful a lot. After Sunday’s shocking loss to the BC Lions in Vancouver, some intelligence challenged idiots decided to toss eggs at kicker Paul McCallum’s house, make threatening phone calls to his family and in a supreme example of moronic behaviour dump manure on his lawn (only to pick the wrong lawn in their haste to show their class). Needless to say the behaviour of the idiots has gained far more mileage than all of the good deeds of Rider fans over the years. And that is a shame, for the Rider Nation normally stands for what is great about Canadian Football.

Stories of the love between Rider fan and their team are legendary, in days of yore it was said that farmers paid for their tickets with bushels of wheat legend or fact it tells the tale of affection between team and resident. The province responds year after year with fundraising events across the prairie bingos, 50/50’s, dinners and dances all send money to the Riders to retire debts, improve the team and share in the joy of Canadian football.

Rider fans can be found in every province, usually the most colourful, the loudest and generally the most fun. Somehow after Sunday night’s little bout of stupidity one senses the green shirts, pom poms and wigs have gone deep into the closet.

The Riders have responded with understandable disgust at the treatment of McCallum’s family by a small and obviously moronic bunch. McCallum’s off-season employer Sask Energy is putting together a card for the McCallum’s to show that not all Saskatchewanians have their brains locked in stupid mode. Rider management has vowed to not let the matter rest until the offenders have been punished.

The Rider Nation can take a bit of solace that more than likely the group that caused the trouble on Sunday most likely aren’t much in the way of football fans anyways. But for now they will have to take their collective lumps. No doubt most understand that it really is only a game, their team had a rather remarkable season, taking them close to the Great Canadian prize. They came up short get ready for next year!

Regina police have arrested the moron that threatened McCallum’s family, who apparently a man of no class or courage, threatened to burn the house down with McCallum’s family inside. For him if and when found guilty, time in jail will not doubt do wonders for his disposition. Providing him with ample time to reflect on how just how moronic he really was on Sunday. Threatening to kill someone is a very serious charge; sending fear into anyone’s home is something that must be addressed with the full punishment of the law applied.

For the egg throwers and manure dumpers vandalism regulations should be followed to their maximum as well. Community service and a full heart felt apology to the McCallum’s should also be provided without delay (cleaning up the property would be a nice start!).

For the Rider Nation what is needed is a thorough examination of the extent of fanaticism in their group. The Nation has brought a lot of joy to the CFL over the years, fighting against the odds to succeed, living and dying with their team through thick and thin. They obviously would have neither truck nor trade with the likes of the idiots of Sunday night, but they do have to guard against that kind of mind set among their own.

It’s unfortunate that the behaviour of a miniscule number has tarnished the reputation of a majority of great football fans. Perhaps the Rider Nation will take time to reassure the McCallum’s that while disappointed in the loss they hold neither malice nor responsibility to the man or his family. The beauty of Saskatchewan has always been its ability to pull together in times of struggle. For the Rider Nation it’s time to start pulling!

The above article first appeared in my Twelve Men On the Field blog, for more items about Canadian Football check it out!

The week of essentials Nov 9-14

Ashcroft is leaving, Colin too!
Seems like nobody wants to be in for Bush 2!
Celine sang loud for friendly skies,
Canada paused in honour of those who died!
The Canadian Buck goes up and up!
For Arafat his time was up.
Seven more days they flew right by,
We recap them with this try!

9-Nov-04 On the outside, the days of Colin Powell
9-Nov-04 Follow the money from Ramallah
9-Nov-04 Turn back before you hit the border
9-Nov-04 Singing the praises of Celine
9-Nov-04 Breaker, Breaker: Blogging noting but glorified CB radio
10-Nov-04 The Lightning rod steps aside
10-Nov-04 A uniter not a divider
10-Nov-04 Chocolate supplies could tumble!
10-Nov-04 Is a fox about to enter the Microsoft hen house
10-Nov-04 Barnstorming the Blue States
11-Nov-04 Lest we forget
11-Nov-04 Arafat is Dead!
11-Nov-04 No wonder Mr. Bush won!
11-Nov-04 Showing the colours to the Queen
11-Nov-04 Elevators all over the world are sad today!
12-Nov-04 In praise of the Northern Peso
12-Nov-04 Sorry, sorry, sorry, we now return to regular programming
12-Nov-04 So much more than politically incorrect
12-Nov-04 24 hours they'll never get back
12-Nov-04 Moore deals with loss, by making another movie
13-Nov-04 First the Flag, now the Loonie!
13-Nov-04 Ashcroft 101
13-Nov-04 Gonzales 101
13-Nov-04 If not a poodle, then what?
13-Nov-04 And yet Dan still keeps HIS job!
14-Nov-04 See Dick sneeze, See Dick cough
14-Nov-04 World Wide War Web
14-Nov-04 Confused, Innacurate, Advice
14-Nov-04 Canada to fill Sudanese void
14-Nov-04 Look out Petey, like JD, here comes George

Thursday, November 11, 2004

A little light reading!

Having spent the morning at our local court house observing Remembrance Day ceremonies, I felt it might be helpful to offer up some background information for those that may not quite understand the importance of November 11th. For the benefit of Andre Bellavance and his fellow travelers in the Bloc Quebecois, a thumbnail guide to sacrifice, commitment and love of country.

Pierre Berton -- VIMY
Pierre Berton -- MARCHING AS TO WAR
Strome Galloway -- BRAVELY INTO BATTLE
Commander Tony German -- THE SEA IS AT OUR GATES
Major General Lewis MacKenzie -- PEACEKEEPER
Desmond Morton and J. L. Granatstein - - MARCHING TO ARMAGEDDON
Desmond Morton and J. L. Granatstein - - A NATION FORGED IN FIRE
Mark Zuehlke - - JUNO BEACH
Mark Zuehlke - - ORTONA

Just a small list, but enough to give Mr. Bellavance and others a better understanding of the reverence that many Canadians hold their veterans in, and the spirit of which we honour every November 11th. Should you know of a book that is a must read simply leave us a note in the comments, we look forward to your additions.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004


The 11th minute, of the 11th hour, of the 11th month. A simple refrain to remember, but one steeped in the history of a nation and its people. We pause every November 11th to commemorate those that made the ultimate freedom on our behalf in the past and to give thought to those that serve for us today.

For many the idea of remembering long ago wars seems to be the thing of their parents and increasing their grand parents generation. But yet perhaps it’s the younger generation who most need the touchstone to their past. When one does not take time to remember, we neglect our responsibilities as citizens of a free nation. One built upon a foundation of sacrifice, desire and pride of place.

There’s a fascinating site to explore from Veteran‘s Affairs Canada, where you can learn so much more about the sacrifices made by others on our behalf. Take a tour of the virtual war memorial, enter a name and trace your family’s involvement in the gallant campaigns for freedom, explore the book of condolences, learn the stories, understand their sacrifice. Relive the Italian campaign or the Liberation of Belgium, step onto a beach at Normandy and share in the horror and the eventual victory of D-Day. It's a wonderful compilation of our nations participation in World History and beautiful commemoration of those that sacrificed on our behalf.

There are far too many features to list here and really it is simply a site best explored by clicking from one place to another. But by far the digital reproduction of the Books of Remembrance is one stop all should make. Like the books at Parliament Hill the names of those who made the ultimate sacrifice are listed in alphabetical order, from year to year.

There sadly seem to be far too many names in those books, sons and daughters who left our land at an early age never to return, for them and those that have followed over the years we take our pause.

At the 11th minute, of the 11th hour, of the 11th day, take your moment to remember and thank those that gave us the gift of freedom that we far too often take for granted.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

The Questions Wolf didn’t ask

CNN is busy these days keeping up to speed on Yasser Arafat and the hostilities in Fallujah, so perhaps it’s to be expected that simple things slip by the wayside. But Wolf Blitzer, the seasoned international reporter and now Uber host on CNN really should take the gift horses when they arrive.

Blitzer was interviewing the latest General to offer up some armchair quarterbacking on the workings of the US military in Iraq. Today’s analyst Major General Charles Swannack was a striking man, authoritative, impressive and informative. He briefed us well on the state of readiness of American forces, gave us some idea as to what they may face in combat and even ventured a few suggestions on possible military scenarios for us to ponder.

The Major General comes by his knowledge honestly, for as Wolf explained in his opening remarks, the Major General was but only one day into his retirement from the US Armed Forces. Certainly a major coup (if we dare use such an expression) for CNN and its stable of war analysts.

Yet that one detail, the Major General’s retirement should have given Wolf more than enough questions to fill up the entire hour. For instance how about for starters, a simple explanation why, on the eve of perhaps the “greatest urban battle since Vietnam” the US military is allowing its upper level management to leave the field of battle, while at the same time it’s extending the tours of duty of it’s National Guard and regular army units.

While I’m sure the Major General has put in more than his fair share of tours and no doubt served his nation with great honor one wonders how he truly feels. And while he most assuredly deserves a quiet and well compensated retirement, it seems a tad strange that he be moved out of theatre just as things begin to heat up extremely.

Then again his comments to the Boston Globe earlier this year probably helped to propel the retirement papers. With a bit of dedication perhaps Wolf could have allowed Major General Swannack to expand on his thoughts of Iraq and the state of the US military at the moment.

While Wolf would be on that topic, perhaps he could have expanded the theme for us here in the office of armchair military planning. It’s always struck me as unusual that the reserve units and guard units are being taxed to their limits in tours of Iraq, while other military units tend to their duties in distant lands. One wonders why the US military is not cycling in units from Korea, Germany, Japan and whatever other outposts they may be stationed in, to help share the load and relieve the burden of those that have been there from day one of the Iraqi adventure.

Through the last three months unit after unit in Iraq, seems to have had its tour extended, yet the large American presence in Korea for instance has not been moved. Would it not be fair to rotate those forces into Iraq for six months or so, and send the battle weary forces there now to Korea, or back home to rest? Now I’m the first to admit I’m not to up to speed on how Donald Rumsfeld and his military managers are planning things, but it would seem that an already trained and well rested force from Korea might be a better bet than dragging on the tours of already weary and frustrated Guard units.

Wolf would have done us all a service by asking that question. Better yet, he could have asked the newly returned and retired Major General what will come after Fallujah and when the best case date for all forces returning home may be. That possibly would be the most productive bit of armchair planning that we could use.

There certainly is no doubt now about the resolve of the US to finish off the current mission, one truly hopes that they find a solution to this situation as soon as possible. Allowing not only the Major General to enjoy his retirement, but to allow those serving in Iraq and those that will have to live there afterwards to find a sense of safety, comfort and most importantly Life in the very near future.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Bobby or Bourque?

Kevin Dupont of the Boston Globe treads where few would dare go with his latest article for the Boston paper. Dupont risks the wrath of many as he suggests that Raymond Bourque, former Bruin and newest member of the Hockey Hall of Fame may be the better of Boston’s two highest profile defencemen.

Comparing the two beatified Bruins takes a lot of courage, each has his own den of fans, each holds a special place in Bruin lore. Dupont tries to base his case on statistics, suggesting that Orr had the opportunity to pad his numbers at the expense of palookas from Minnesota, St. Louis, Los Angeles, Oakland, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, comparing the line ups offered to the hockey gods of the day as nothing but tomato cans waiting to be crushed. Add with the arrival of the WHA, Dupont suggests the points were there for the taking. Of course many will counter that argument by pointing out that Bourque plied his trade in an NHL expanded many times over, the whiskey watered down year after year, during his patrol of the Bruin blue line.

Mr. Dupont also states that Orr’s Bruins were a much stronger team than the one that Bourque was saddled with, Orr skating with the likes of Espositio, Bucyk, McKenzie, Cashman, Hodge and Cheevers to name a few. Bourque’s days significantly filled with interchangeable talent with the notable exceptions such as Cam Neely and Adam Oates. A valid point no doubt, much of Bourque’s time in Boston was spent on teams that seemed to have no desire to improve their standing, nor challenge for the Stanley Cup.

But in the end the fans of Orr will point out that not only did number four rack up the points, show leadership and lead the Bruins on to great glory. He also changed the game, the rushing defenceman of the eighties through the nineties and to this day all can trace their ascension to the talents of Orr.

There are hundreds if not thousands of defencemen who watched in wonder as Orr wound it up in his own end and took the puck from end to end normally finishing off in a flourish and a flashing red light.

His heart and desire was surpassed by only his pure talent. He defined all that was great about hockey in the late sixties and through the seventies, his career ending far too soon, robbing millions of hockey fans of one of the great talents of the game in the prime of his career.

I admire Ray Bourque consider him to be one of the best defencemen to ever put on skates and chase a puck down the ice. But Orr defined the game, made the game his own and will forever be known as the best to ever ply his trade on a blue line. There were many to follow him that surely starred, but never eclipsed. With respect to Mr. Dupont and his carefully crafted dissection of the two talented B’s, but I’ll cast my vote for Number 4.

I’ll respect Ray Bourque for the true talent that he was, a bona fide all star, deserved Hall of Fame member and one of the most impressive defenceman to ever pull on a pair of skates. But I’ll cherish the nights gone past where I sat in front of a television set and watched in awe a guy named Bobby weave his magic on the ice. Orr revolutionized a position, giving fuel to the explosion that would follow in offensive defencemen. For my book there never was and maybe never will be anyone of his equal.

His short time in an NHL line up gave us an indication just how exciting one person can be to a game. Like Gretzky, Lemieux, The Rocket and Lafleur there was something about him on the ice that made you watch with wonder. The mark of greatness is the company you keep; Orr’s place is forever placed on the same list as the greats. And that’s more than good enough for me!

The above posting first appeared in my HockeyNation blog, for more items about hockey check it out!

The week of essentials November 2-8

Our neighbours to the polls they went
Casting votes with goodwill sent
Democrats and Republicans gave a push
But in the end its four more years for Bush
The left wing they are crying foul
The right side says thank you all
Some on the losing side say they'll stay to fight
Others to Canada they will take flight
Another seven days went by
Some have laughed and some did cry

2-Nov-04 Election Day: The Moore perspective
2-Nov-04 Election Day: The Limbaugh perspective
2-Nov-04 The Man in Full, Wolfe on the election
2-Nov-04 The first returns are in
2-Nov-04 Lawyers to your battle stations
3-Nov-04 To the recount table
3-Nov-04 Martin hedges his bets
3-Nov-04 Watching the electors
3-Nov-04 In numbers large, they cast their vote
3-Nov-04 Down at the boys club
4-Nov-04 The Victor's text
4-Nov-04 The farewell from the vanquished
4-Nov-04 Parrish pops off again
4-Nov-04 Think we'll move north of Montana
4-Nov-04 Michael Moore's silent protest
5-Nov-04 BONEHEADS in the Bloc
5-Nov-04 The Stone in Martin's shoe
5-Nov-04 Breakdown of a failed campaign
5-Nov-04 The Arafat watch continues
5-Nov-04 Movie pirates beware, the lawsuits are on the way!
6-Nov-04 God's flying picket squad
6-Nov-04 Clicking for Canada
6-Nov-04 Moby's cry: annex us for our own good
6-Nov-04 We suggest eights in the Chinese lottery
6-Nov-04 This could explain the lack of food on the airlines
7-Nov-04 America's message to Europe
7-Nov-04 How the Brits helped re-elect George Bush
7-Nov-04 It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas
7-Nov-04 Looking for a place to rest their weary battle scared bodies
7-Nov-04 What if they came knockin'?
8-Nov-04 Bonehead Blocheads back down on flag stand
8-Nov-04 They know when you are sneezing, and when you're in the can
8-Nov-04 Eggheads for Canada
8-Nov-04 Reality TV goes to the depths
8-Nov-04 Perhaps a lunch with Parrish might be an idea, or not!

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Winnipeg bids adieu to faithful old barn

They’re holding a wake this weekend in River City, with an eye on a brand new downtown arena the hockey faithful took their final seat in the Winnipeg Arena on Saturday night and said farewell. Filling the venerable old building to the very last of the nosebleed seats arching high to the roof the cheered and cried, memories of many a famous night rushing back to their eyes as if they happened only yesterday.

After 50 years of some form of frozen shinny, the Winnipeg Arena will go dark and take with it countless memories of good times and bad. It was an AHL game on the schedule but for all intents and purposes this was one more chance to salute their Jets, the team that sent Winnipeg to the big leagues, a team that still has a torch burning so many years after their departure. Many of those attending the match were decked out in their finest Winnipeg Jets memorabilia. A testimony to how deep the scar of losing their NHL team still burns into the soul of a Manitoba hockey fan.

This weekend featured a number of the old Jets back one more time to celebrate all that was good about Hockey in Manitoba. They celebrated past Allan Cup winners, remembered the joy of a Memorial cup championship and the path to the big leagues through the Avco Cup years of the WHA.

From the days of Canada’s National team to the Team Canada stops against foreign competition, the Barn has seen its share of great moments. It’s also seen some sad ones as well, the gathering also commiserated at the lost chances of a Stanley Cup, gone seemingly at the time forever with the departure of the Jets for the desert of Arizona. But in true Manitoba spirit, Hope springs eternal, perhaps goes the wish a newly retrenched NHL will once again return to its Hockey Roots and once again call Manitoba home, it’s always next year country in Manitoba!

In one of those delicious ironies of life, the competition for the Manitoba Moose on this final night of the Maroons Road barn was the Utah Grizzlies, farm club of the Phoenix Coyotes nee Winnipeg Jets. Gone but not forgotten, Manitobans saluted their former heroes, their ghosts soon to be left behind to a wrecker’s ball.

Yet somehow one knows that the spirit of the Barn will carry on, many more chapters of Manitoba hockey are to be written. A new palace of hockey opens shortly, it one day will have its stories to tell, its history to recount. If it even has half the memories of Maroons road then it too will have lived a full and productive purpose for Hockey fans in Manitoba.

On Saturday night the home team lost in overtime, but really nobody was watching the score. The actual game itself, was just one of a number on the AHL schedule, the event though was one for fans to remember forever.

The Lights may go off for good, but its history will carry on forever!

The above posting first appeared on my HockeyNation blog, for more items about Hockey check things out.

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Well never mind your Sear's Wish Book, your Santa Claus Parade or the suddenly overwhelming amount of Canadian Tire ads on television. The real sign of Christmas is here and right on schedule.

Shop Early and Hand deliver!!

Friday, November 05, 2004

And yet he still will cash a cheque!

The Bloc MP that has refused to distribute Canadian flags to veterans has seemingly hit upon a very raw nerve in the Canadian psyche. Resulting in a an outburst of disgust, that may give him cause to rue the day he made his little petulant stand, for whatever it is he believes in.

Andre Bellavance, the MP for the Quebec riding near Sherbrooke, has refused to provide veterans on the local Legion with flags to commemorate Remembrance Day. Claiming he doesn’t feel comfortable with distributing flags with the Maple leaf embossed on them, Bellavance recommended that the local Legionnaires look to other sources for their desire du drapeau! Helpfully, their MP provided them with a toll free number from which to find a flag on their own.

The outcry has been loud, clear and hopefully bowel flow inducing for Mr. Bellavance. Outraged at the Bloc MP's disinterest in not only helping out a constituent but a veteran, other Parliamentarians have come to the aid of the vets! Conservative leader Stephen Harper has provided flags for the veterans as has Prime Minister Martin as well as other MP’s famous or not.

Even former Bloc founder and now Liberal lieutenant to Martin, Jean Lapierre has expressed his outrage at the pettiness of Monsieur Bellavance. As Lapierre points out quite correctly, Mr. Bellavance has no problem accepting that cheque every two weeks with the little Canadian Flag in the corner. Touché! Game, set and freakin’ match!

The Bloc MP and any other of his consorts who feel the same, should remember one simple truth. The only reason they have the freedom to espouse their pathetic bromides upon the nation, is due to the sacrifice of countless hundreds of thousands who sacrificed their lives to protect their right to speak. Including thousands of whom were even from Quebec and had no problem fighting and in many cases dying for Canada and it's flag (even the Red Ensign had a Maple Leaf there Andre!).

One suspects that he probably won't want to open up his e mail in the next little while, as I'm sure that Canadians will want to share their thoughts on his ahem, stance!

Politics has no place in the commemoration of sacrifice, much the same as common sense apparently has no place in the offices of the Bloc Quebecois!

Thursday, November 04, 2004

A flickering light in the window

While the Democrats begin the process of trying to figure out what the hell went wrong, they find themselves in a bit of disarray. Suddenly quite leaderless and aging rapidly, they will drift for a bit trying to find their feet in the suddenly changing landscape they find themselves in.

Having lost the Presidency, the House and the Senate, the leader of the Senate himself being sent off to the glue factory, they now must worry about a Supreme Court that will be Republican tinged for many years to come. With a four year mandate and control of all facets of American governance, the Supreme Court may very well be the lasting legacy of the Bush years.

Dark days indeed for Democrats, who had such high hopes for this election and a chance to reverse many of the machinations of the Bush regime. The mourning period will not doubt carry on for a fair amount of time, before they begin the fight for the Senate once again in two years.

While they compose themselves and begin to sort out their various tasks. They will need to provide Americans (and indeed the rest of the world) with some tangible proof that they still carry on the fight for justice, for common good and responsibility to all.

The list of possible shining lights is slim at the moment, Hillary Clinton has been mentioned frequently as a legitimate voice for Democratic principles and she surely will have her message delivered. But of all the Democrats on Tuesday night that managed to give cheer to broken hearts Barack Obama seemed to hit the right notes.

Below scalped from the Daily Kos, is an excerpt from his speech to his supporters in Illinois. For Democrats in America and observers beyond it's a flickering light of hope for a party that right now could use as much hope as they can muster. Mr. Obama delivers a fine message one that should be repeated time and time again. For those of heavy heart, he offers a lift of spirit, a chance to dream again, the opportunity to offer a sense of purpose to those seeking a reason to get back to work.

The Democrats would be wise to highlight his talents in the next two years and beyond. He's the hope of a better day to come, for those that must surely feel as though better days are but a distant memory!

From the Daily Kos:

I stand here today, grateful for the diversity of my heritage, aware that my parents' dreams live on in my precious daughters. I stand here knowing that my story is part of the larger American story, that I owe a debt to all of those who came before me, and that, in no other country on earth, is my story even possible. Tonight, we gather to affirm the greatness of our nation, not because of the height of our skyscrapers, or the power of our military, or the size of our economy. Our pride is based on a very simple premise, summed up in a declaration made over two hundred years ago, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. That they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights. That among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

That is the true genius of America, a faith in the simple dreams of its people, the insistence on small miracles. That we can tuck in our children at night and know they are fed and clothed and safe from harm. That we can say what we think, write what we think, without hearing a sudden knock on the door. That we can have an idea and start our own business without paying a bribe or hiring somebody's son. That we can participate in the political process without fear of retribution, and that our votes will be counted--or at least, most of the time.

This year, in this election, we are called to reaffirm our values and commitments, to hold them against a hard reality and see how we are measuring up, to the legacy of our forbearers, and the promise of future generations. And fellow Americans--Democrats, Republicans, Independents--I say to you tonight: we have more work to do. More to do for the workers I met in Galesburg, Illinois, who are losing their union jobs at the Maytag plant that's moving to Mexico, and now are having to compete with their own children for jobs that pay seven bucks an hour. More to do for the father I met who was losing his job and choking back tears, wondering how he would pay $4,500 a month for the drugs his son needs without the health benefits he counted on. More to do for the young woman in East St. Louis, and thousands more like her, who has the grades, has the drive, has the will, but doesn't have the money to go to college.

Don't get me wrong. The people I meet in small towns and big cities, in diners and office parks, they don't expect government to solve all their problems. They know they have to work hard to get ahead and they want to. Go into the collar counties around Chicago, and people will tell you they don't want their tax money wasted by a welfare agency or the Pentagon. Go into any inner city neighborhood, and folks will tell you that government alone can't teach kids to learn. They know that parents have to parent, that children can't achieve unless we raise their expectations and turn off the television sets and eradicate the slander that says a black youth with a book is acting white. No, people don't expect government to solve all their problems. But they sense, deep in their bones, that with just a change in priorities, we can make sure that every child in America has a decent shot at life, and that the doors of opportunity remain open to all. They know we can do better. And they want that choice [...]

A belief that we are connected as one people. If there's a child on the south side of Chicago who can't read, that matters to me, even if it's not my child. If there's a senior citizen somewhere who can't pay for her prescription and has to choose between medicine and the rent, that makes my life poorer, even if it's not my grandmother. If there's an Arab American family being rounded up without benefit of an attorney or due process, that threatens my civil liberties. It's that fundamental belief--I am my brother's keeper, I am my sisters' keeper--that makes this country work. It's what allows us to pursue our individual dreams, yet still come together as a single American family. "E pluribus unum." Out of many, one.

Yet even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us, the spin masters and negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of anything goes. Well, I say to them tonight, there's not a liberal America and a conservative America--there's the United States of America. There's not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there's the United States of America. The pundits like to slice-and-dice our country into Red States and Blue States; Red States for Republicans, Blue States for Democrats. But I've got news for them, too. We worship an awesome God in the Blue States, and we don't like federal agents poking around our libraries in the Red States. We coach Little League in the Blue States and have gay friends in the Red States. There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq and patriots who supported it. We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America [...]

In the end, that is God's greatest gift to us, the bedrock of this nation; the belief in things not seen; the belief that there are better days ahead. I believe we can give our middle class relief and provide working families with a road to opportunity. I believe we can provide jobs to the jobless, homes to the homeless, and reclaim young people in cities across America from violence and despair. I believe that as we stand on the crossroads of history, we can make the right choices, and meet the challenges that face us. America!

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

A nation most divided

That map on all the networks, whether it was the fancy NASDAQ one at CNN, the Skating rink motif of NBC or the various versions from FOX, CBS AND ABC had one recurring trait. There was blue at the far right corner, blue on the far left side and with the exception of lonely ole Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota and uh that’s it, Red everywhere else!

The Question for Democrats is how the heck they ever expect to hold the Presidency if they are pushed to the virtual margins of the country.

With the re-election of George Bush in both the Electoral College and in the popular vote, he finally receives the legitimacy of his Presidency that many said was lacking in his first term.

With a key win in Florida which was not a terrible surprise and another in Ohio which was, Bush found enough votes to put him over the top and claim a second term. The Florida vote was less controversial than last year, while Ohio became ground zero in this years struggle. Provisional ballots, absentee ballots and challenged ballots all direct our attention to a system that seems um, a tad flawed. When is a winner not a winner, when is a loser suddenly back in the game? It all makes for wonderful theatre, and the stumbling, fumbling and bumbling of the network talking heads gave proof that live television still can offer its great moments (I was particularly interested to learn that President Reagan would be making an appearance shortly, now there’s a network exclusive for ABC). But the way this election began to unravel as the hours went by, you began to wish that the folks at Comedy Central would have let Jon Stewart stay on a longer with his election special! Electoral Farce deserves satirical input!

With lineups of over ten hours at some locations reported and that unusual procedure known as the “provisional ballot” (we’ll count them if we have to but, if it’s not close why bother?) the actual task of voting seemed to require all the dedication required to preserve democracy. A national voters list seems to be a much needed item in the USA, if for no other reason than at least they would have a head start when it comes time to count the ballots. And is it not possible to have an earlier deadline for absentee and overseas ballots, having them back in the country well before the actual voting day, treat it like a mailing deadline for Christmas presents if you have to! The whole world was watching last nights demonstration of democracy warts and all, the folks in Iraq probably paying more attention than most, since the Bush government has said that they intend to send Iraqi’s to the polls in January (as if they don’t have enough problems at the moment!).

International observers to the festivities were at many voting stations, especially in the controversial state of Florida, as the day went on the observers began to long for the days of vote counting in such long time democratic states as Serbia, Venezuela and Kazakhstan!

In the end, the Democratic contender, after taking the night to sleep on it and hope for some kind of vote count change, offered his concession. Kerry not only lost the Electoral College and the popular vote, but watched as his running mate failed to deliver one single southern state including his own. The news got worse as the night morphed into morning, as the Republicans picked up seats in both the Senate and Congress. The long time leader of the Senate Tom Daschle even ended up losing his seat in the Republican onslaught. In short despite a massive increase in the participants to the process, the result not only improved Bush’s standing from four years ago, but finally added legitimacy to his office.

Earlier in the day the likes of Ted Kennedy, Al Sharpton and such seemed positively giddy at the possibility of chasing The President out of office. Exit polls apparently leading them to believe that they were on the verge of reversing four years of Republican rule and perceived tyranny.

The handlers, pollsters and political machine workers seemed to want to hang on til the last bitter moment. Only James Carville, the raging’ Cajun of the days of Bill Clinton could read the tea leaves properly. As the hours moved on Carville was working his contacts in Ohio, glumly he told his Crossfire panel on CNN that it was done, the Democrats could not make Ohio work and that was that. He basically said then and there that the Bush Presidency was on to a second term, you almost saw a glint of sympathy in the eye of Robert Novak, either that or a look of glee, fine line between the two there.

The Kerry folks should have listened to the wise Cajun; he did the math and realized that the Kerry numbers weren’t going to get him over the top no matter where they tried to shuffle the figures. Game, set and match for the forces of Bush!

For the Democrats the events of last night will signal an internal struggle worthy of the Conservatives in Canada. They need to try and figure out why they are merely a coastal party with a few outposts in the heartland. They need to understand why they couldn’t win support in a state like Ohio. A state where 16% of the jobs have disappeared, sending over 200,000 people to the unemployment lines, if the Democrats couldn’t win a state in economic and social distress what hope do they have in states where economic times are brighter? There is much work to do in the Democratic Party the message never found a home with over half of the American voter.

The win should however not be taken by the Bush administration as an endorsement of their policies. The fact that a bit over 49% of the electorate chose not to support the President should be a cautionary tone for those in the White House. They govern over the most divided nation since the Vietnam War and possibly on a parallel with America of the Civil War era (the split of the North and those West Coasters and the Rest seems to be an ominous reminder of times gone by). Large tracts of the American population don’t feel comfortable with the direction the President has been taking them; he ignores that message at his party’s peril.

Four more years of Republican rule. We wonder if it will be four more years of more of the same, or Four years of new directions and new agendas. More disconcerting for the American’s who did not vote for Bush, will be the awareness that with his success may come even more troublesome legislation destined only to divide the nation further. In 2000 Bush ran under the slogan of being a “uniter not a divider”. With the results of 2004 he will be given one more chance to prove that those words were much more than just a slogan of convenience.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

A song on their lips and a ballot in their hand!

With the influx of musicians wandering the USA this year as part of the presidential election campaign, it gave one pause to wonder what are some of the great songs of a political nature.

Bob Dylan of course has to be high on any list of political music, there’s much to mine in his library but with Political World, Dylan explains the politics of our times.

Fleetwood Mac’s Don’t Stop will forever be identified with the Clinton/Gore campaign; it seemed to bring with it a sense of hope and optimism. When they first recorded it off the Rumours album, politics probably was the furthest thing from their minds, but when Bill and Al took on George and Dan, Don’t Stop seemed to be the tune that boosted the troops, made for a great convention song.

Bruce Springsteen has had a number of his songs used in a political vein, Ronald Reagan was trying to use Born in the USA as a political theme until the Boss put out his cease and desist edict. No such worries for John Kerry, not only has Springsteen allowed Kerry use of his music, he’s travelled far and wide to play songs and help get out the vote. His No Surrender seems to have become an unofficial theme for these times.

John Kennedy used High Hopes to define the dreams and aspirations of the Camelot era, a brief golden era of American politics that was brought to a dark and tragic end in November of 1963.

John Mellencamp has given us a number of common man anthems, but Down and out here in Paradise perfectly caught the spirit of those that didn’t benefit from the trickle down era of economics of the Reagan/Bush doctrine.

The turbulent sixties brought forward many songs of protest and declaration of concern, The Beatles Revolution seemed to sum up the ear quite nicely.

Not to be out done, the Rolling Stones found the changes of the sixties to be a mother lode of material, their Street fighting Man with images of rioting in the streets seemed to serve as a soundtrack for all that was the sixties.

Billy Joel’s Allentown gave a vivid portrait of the American dream gone wrong, when used in a political context it certainly hits a chord with the unemployed and the under-represented.

U2 reflected the frustrations of the troubles of Northern Ireland with their Sunday, Bloody Sunday, in a province that has marching seasons and no shortage of political discord, this anthem screamed out for some justice in a land where the concept of voting still exists in a very fragile state.

After every election there’s some constituency that can proclaim its allegiance to The Who, their anthem of desperation Won’t get fooled again, contains one of those all time great lyrical contributions “meet the new boss, same as the old boss”.

By no means is this a definitive list, but merely just a few tunes off the top of my head that certainly represent the political landscape in the world of music. No doubt you can think up a number of your own personal soundtracks to the democratic process