Wednesday, March 31, 2004

The Flags that didn't fly!

Do you remember the great Sheila Copps flag giveaway? Back in 1996 Sheila was busy flogging flags to anyone with a postal code, all in the name of National Unity. For Flags Unlimited in Ontario it was like winning the lottery as the government paid 3 million dollars to the flag maker, to make sure we had something to run up the flag pole.

But a simple thing, like making a flag would somehow end up lost in the government’s byzantine way of doing business. The little flag company had to deal with a middleman, one which had connections to the Prime Minister of the day, Jean Chretien. Lafleur Communications were the flag brokers, charging a standard commission rate of 17.65% to do whatever it is middlemen do when taking phone calls from the government. Taking in roughly 600,000 dollars just for placing the flag order! Putting in place an unusual procedure, where immediate payment was made, upon an invoice being provided. (A highly unheard of practice in government procurement)

CBC television has done a wonderful job of tracking the deal, from the early days of the plan Sheila heralded as a great push for unity, to the delivery of the flags that apparently could not fly.

Yes, 3.4 million dollars later, we ended up with a flag that had nothing. It seems the flag designed did not meet government specifications, just some red and white cloth with no way to attach it to anything.

Somehow, between the order maker and the order taker, the order facilitator messed up the message. The flags made a wonderful wall decoration, but don’t dare try and put it up a flag pole.

You can be sure that no one is going to salute this waste of our money!

The above item is from my Boondoggle blog, for more postings and links on government check it out.

Your Bandwidth, Your Music! Their Lost Cause?

Expect your computer connection to slow down significantly tonight. The Kazaa, DirectConnect and WinMx users of the nation will be adding to their inventories, as music downloading cases were thrown out today by the Supreme Court of Canada.

Justice Konrad Van Finckenstein ruled today that the Canadian Recording Industry Association had not proven that there was any copyright infringement by 29 so-called music uploaders. Thus, the ISP’s of the nation are not required to provide the CRIA with the names of those it suspects of high volume music trading. Effectively stopping the CRIA's legal plans in their tracks.

The judgment today stunned industry observers, but reaffirmed the belief of those who never thought of file sharing as an illegal act. The ruling also reaffirmed the belief of the Copyright Board of Canada, which had already ruled that downloading music is not illegal. Many Canadians have felt that with the current federal tax on blank tapes and CD’s the copyright issue had been long taken care of.

The Justice equated the idea of peer to peer file sharing to a library having a photo copy machine in it’s building, stating: "I cannot see a real difference between a library that places a photocopy machine in a room full of copyrighted material and a computer user that places a personal copy on a shared directory linked to a P2P service,"

It was the second setback in a week for the Recording industry; a study released yesterday by the Harvard Business School said that the existence of file sharing has had no impact on the sales of CD’s. That is not the message the Recording Industry has been putting out of late, in print ads, television and radio advertisements and commentaries the Recording Industry has blamed p2p file sharing for the near ruination of its industry. The study and today’s ruling suggest they need to look for other reasons, a point that many observers have been making for a few years now.

While the Recording Industry tries to figure out its next move, the Wild West mood will prevail on the net for the near future. The Music Industry already mocked for its attacks on senior citizens and pre teen girls for finding music on the net will now be forced to no doubt launch an appeal, or push the government to change the copyright legislation more to their liking.

Knowing how slowly change can come, that will be a lengthy process for the Recording industry. For now, with the threat of legal action gone in Canada the file sharing fanatics will be trading at a feverish pace. Those that may have stopped trading for a while waiting for the judgment to come down, will be returning with a vengeance. No doubt wanting to make up for lost time.

Canada could also see a mass migration of computer literate citizens, the Recording Industry in the USA is still taking American downloader’s to court. It will be interesting to see if Justice Van Finckenstein’s Judgment today impacts at all any of the American Justice system’s ideas on file sharing. Giving the legal system there, some pause for thought on whether the issue of music file trading is truly a legal problem. Expect the Canadian ruling today, to be cited frequently in the States in future court cases.

Back here in Canada, the only problem now may be in stock availability, the sales of hard drives and blank CD’s are about to skyrocket. Proving once again that one person’s bad news is another’s silver lining

Suiting up on the Bertuzzi team

This is either an ominous development or just some solid planning, but regardless the optics of it all are not good. Todd Bertuzzi has retained the services of legendary Vancouver attorney, Len Doust to represent him in any potential litigation regarding the Steve Moore incident.

Doust who is considered one of the best legal minds in Canada would only confirm he has taken Bertuzzi on as a client, but made no comment regarding the ongoing police investigation or any potential civil action contemplated by Moore.

Vancouver Police expect to complete their investigation of the incident by the middle of April. It’s anticipated that they ill decide at that time whether to forward the case to the Crown Attorney for further action on the criminal front.

Moore in his press conference earlier this week, was rather circumspect about any potential legal action in the form of a civil suit over the incident. Though many observers of the conference feel that he had already been coached by the legal types so as not to affect any case later on.

For Bertuzzi retaining the services of Doust is a smart move, having represented many high profile clients in BC in the past, he surely knows how to handle not only the legal but the media circus that will no doubt accompany any court room appearances.

While Bertuzzi is obviously hoping that nothing more will come of the incident beyond the punishment meted out by the NHL, having a lawyer of Doust’s abilities and repute will be a necessity should the other shoe, the legal one, drop in this terrible incident.

The above item appeared on my HockeyNation blogsite, for more hockey related stories and links check it out.

The Raid on the Layton Left!

Paul Martin is about to strike a blow on the port bow of that troller of Liberals, Jack Layton. Turning the tables on the NDP leader, who most recently had been trying to lure Liberals over to the socialist side.

In British Columbia, Liberal forces working under the watchful eye of Paul Martin himself, have been making overtures to some high profile socialists living in BC. Being considered for nomination in BC ridings are Ujjal Dosanjh, former Premier and Attorney General of BC, Labour leader Dave Haggart who is president of the IWA and Shirley Chan an activist and former assistant to Mike Harcourt. To counter balance all those lefties crowding onto the stage, Martin also intends to have David Emerson, the departing president of the giant Canfor forest products company, run for the Liberals as well, in Vancouver-Kingsway. This is the riding that Sophie Leung held for the Liberals, but from which she is apparently stepping aside from, having dropped out of the nomination process this week, leaving a clear road for Emerson.

It's rumoured the four will be handed the nomination without that messy need to go out and actually solicit votes in a riding association meeting. Nor shall they be bothered with that time consuming debating of the issues problem. Essentially having their jump into federal politics fast tracked by the PM. Apparently this is to be considered as the first step in reversing the democratic deficit, I guess by taking out that democratic aspect of the program. Sheila Copps can only shake her head in wonder at the double standard in place. She had to fight tooth and nail to try to keep her nomination (unsuccessfully and treated heavy handed to boot), while over on the West Coast they're being handed out like door prizes at a Tupperware party. (They still have Tupperware parties don't they? I'm a tad out of the loop).

Regardless of the "democratic" optics, it does take some of the steam out of the Layton march on Ottawa. Smilin' Jack over the last few months has been telling one and all that the disenfranchised Liberals are clamoring to jump aboard the brave experiment he's launching. Little did he know that his Left flank was so exposed in what should have been his stronghold. If the three left leaning politicians should jump to the Liberals and accept the nominations, it could seriously affect his totals in B. C.

Needless to say the NDP in BC are shocked by the developments, Ian Waddell expressing the feeling of disappointment that many have regarding Dosanjh's rumoured jump to right. The Prime Minister arrives in Vancouver tomorrow, at which time it's expected he'll be introducing some of his preferred nominees, if the Leftish trio join him for the announcement then Smlin' Jack will be have been torpedoed in what should have been his safest harbour. With all this activity we surely can't be too much farther away from the anticipated Election call.

The vision of dedicated socialists joining a party making a turn to the right, is surely a sign of an impending vote, or maybe just the start of the political apocalypse. Anyone hear any horses in the distance?

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Lancing the Limbaugh boil, Hurling Hannity, Air America is on the Air

Wednesday morning brings a whole new spin on talk radio in the USA, as Air America takes to the air across the States offering up a LIBERAL dose of Liberal spin, opinion and a forum for anything anti Rush!

With talk radio the domain of the political right of late, Air America will try to wedge itself into the crowded American airwaves, to try and present the side of the argument regularly derided on most radio talk fests these days.

The right wing slant of talk radio has for a long time been the stone in the shoe of Democrats, unions and left leaning intellectuals for years. While NPR has filled the void, it doesn't have the same intense immediacy of the talk radio wars, letting the listener take part in the knock down, drag them out brawls that can sometime occur on the private radio stations. Air America will try and turn the radio spectrum into a battleground.

Air America is hoping to provide that Liberal counterbalance to the steady beat of the Right wing drum. And to lead the parade will be that well known agent provocateur, Al Franken. Author of Lies and the Lying Liars who tell them and Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot to name a few. So you can get the drift of where the head and air space is going to be on Air America. Franken true to his spirit, right from the start will poke a stick in the eye of the right. Naming his program the O'Franken Factor, he takes steady aim at the right wing stylings of Bill O'Reilly from Fox. Franken or O'Franken I guess, will take to the air in the mid day slot (12 noon EST, 9 AM PST) each week day offering up three hours of sarcastic wit, cynical observations of the Bush and Republican agenda and satirical wonders designed to have the Right Wing gnashing their teeth. For pure entertainment alone it should be a hoot to listen in for the first couple of weeks, as they'll no doubt want to bait that bear as many times as possible.

The programming schedule offers up an interesting mix of hosts and program ideas, starting with the delightfully titled early morning program THE MORNING SEDITION (6am-9am EST, 3-6 AM PST). It's followed by UNFILTERED runs (9 AM - Noon EST, 6AM-9 AM PST), which has among it's hosts the always controversial Chuck D. The O'FRANKEN FACTOR will rule the airwaves from (12 noon-3PM, 9AM-12 Noon PST), then it's the RHANDI RHODES program from 3 PM-7 PM EST 12 Noon -4 PM PST), Rhodes a fixture in Florida liberal circles will no doubt have an interesting comment or two on the Bush revolution in South. Marty Kaplan will host WHAT ELSE IS NEW a 1 hour newsmagazine on pop culture, politics, media and whatever else he can come up with , it runs from (7 pm - 8 PM EST, 4-PM PST). Wrapping up the broadcast day will be THE MAJORITY REPORT airing from (8 - 11 PM EST, 5-8 PM PST) Janeane Garofolo a high profile Liberal by way of Hollywood and New York, will handle the final shots of the Leftist day for Air America.

An ambitious experiment no doubt, and like any new venture it's sure to suffer a number of growing pains and probably won't be scaring the Limbaughs, Hannitys and Dr. Laura's of the on air world too terribly to start. Indeed, the reach of Air America may be a bit hard to achieve early on, for the most part it's airing on stations that have been mired so far down the radio ratings books that most folks probably don't even know the stations exist, but they have to start somewhere.

The timing is pretty solid for a debut, the American population is almost split down the middle as far as supporting the Bush Agenda or the Kerry alternative. Air America will be doing it's part to try and sway the voters to the Kerry side of the debate. In the talk radio world, President Bush already has a built in audience of loyalists calling Rush, Sean and Laura on a daily basis. Using humour, satire and a generous amount of righteous (or is that leftous) indignation it should be an interesting experiment of radio programming, in a medium that could use a new idea now and then!

The website is rather bare bones at the moment and may or may not offer a live feed, but if not, have no fear Podunk has found a back door if you will into the world of Air America.

The flagship station for the brave new adventure of radio is a station in Harlem called WLIB (no way, you say, W LIB, go figure) up until today it featured mostly Caribbean music and programming geared to the re-located island dwellers. A money losing AM station for years, they're hoping the buzz about Air America will breathe a little life into their ratings. To check out the progress of Air America, surf on in to the WLIB website and listen in!

Let the battle begin, an interested audience awaits the debut, ready to be entertained!

Duck and Cover, Bad news Liberals, Sheila is back and reloaded!

Sheila Fraser will make the walk to Parliament Hill today and grown men will cower in fear, for the Auditor General is back with her books and her power point presentations! Her steely gaze focused on the government’s 7.7 billion dollar Homeland Security program. And nowhere will the interest be higher than below the 49th parallel.

Leaks out of Ottawa have it that Fraser will shed embarrassing details about our airport security arrangements and expose major flaws in our ability to handle passports. Two hot button items in the extremely nervous United States, her comments today may result in Prime Minister Martin having to quickly soothe nervous American officials, who already cast a doubtful eye on Canadian security issues.

Early last week Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan was up and about talking about the major strides that Ottawa was making in the issue of protecting the homeland. Her comments more for the folks in Washington that home consumption, the last thing the Liberals need now is for Washington to become so worried about it's Northern frontier, that they effectively slow the border down so much that it ends up all but closed to trade.

The passport issue may be the most explosive; the Toronto Star reports that Fraser will report that Immigration Canada can take up to six months to flag stolen passports. A situation that should have McLellan's American counterpart Tom Ridge, quick to a phone with some pointed questions.

Tuesday shows every indication of being another long day for the folks in the Martin bunker. If the public outcry of the adscam revelations is any indication, a report that continues to highlight government incompetence and waste, coupled with security fears, won't sit well with an already angry public.

The Prime Minister is quickly turning into a very overworked Fire Chief, with blazes breaking out at various locations. His fire crew is getting worn down and tired, needing a break from the heat and flames. Like any good Chief he'll soon have to decide which blazes to fight and which ones to let burn.

A shot across the bow of the S. S. Martin

One can imagine the Queen wondering aloud why the Colonials are in her back yard, airing their dirty laundry for all to hear. John Ibbitson reports in Tuesday's Globe and Mail, that the Little Guy from Shawinigan has had enough.

Jean Chretien will deliver a speech in London, England today best described as a warning shot to the Martinites to cease and desist. Using the forum of the Commonwealth Foundation in London, Chretien will politely advise Prime Minister Martin that he is "paralyzing" the Liberal party, by sapping public confidence and trust in it. Going back to his halcyon days of governance, Mr. Chretien will remind Martin that his approach was "not to find fault, but to be a doer". The speech will also feature a criticism of the approach of Treasury Board Minister Reg Alcock who has vowed to "fix" the civil service, Chretien of the opinion that his words and deeds are a demoralizing force on the "best civil service in the world".

The theme of the speech will apparently be that the Liberals should never run away from their record. That Martin's insistences to run in opposition to the Liberal agenda of the last ten years will only continue to fracture the party even further. A suggestion that the present strategy will only lead to electoral disaster and ruination of the party.

The speech is being portrayed as a simple warning that the track being followed by the Prime Minister and his advisors will lead to no good. Underneath all the diplomatic niceties, lay the image of the street fighter coming back to life. It would seem that the Chretien Legacy will not be tarnished without a battle royale; the Liberal Civil War is not over, merely in a retrenchment phase. The leader of the old guard apparently not willing to go quietly into the night after all, sending a clear message to his successor that if need be, there will be more broadsides at the ready.

And while the HMCS Chretien is in England today, it will shortly fire up the boilers and set steam for home. It won't be long before it's within torpedo range of the S. S. Martin, ready to join battle if required. Should hostilities break out, one wonders who will be left to go down with the ship?

Sunday, March 28, 2004

Bring It on Denmark!

Are we on the cusp of hostilities with the Danes; is there oil under that thar pile of rocks? Do they need space for a penal colony? Have they become the latest belligerent nation to flex its muscles in uncertain times? Could it be our posting of Alfonso Gagliano as ambassador was the last straw for them? Hey come on Danes, we brought him back, we’re sorry!

Whatever the reason, the Danes have their eyes on some uncharted spit of rock off of Greenland, called Hans Island. And they’re ready to rumble! Denmark has apparently already sent warships in the past to lay claim to the island, located in the strait between Canada and Greenland, landing soldiers to plant the Danish flag upon those isolated barrens.

In response to the latter day invasion of the Vikings, Canada has filed a complaint! Now that should send them packing! And if our strong diplomatic verbiage is not enough, we’re flexing our muscles as well. This summer (because apparently we have no ships that can operate in an Arctic winter) we will send a destroyer HMCS Montreal, a squadron of Griffin helicopters and 200 troops of the Royal Canadian Regiment into the high artic to show the flag and remind the Danes and anyone else that the North is ours, when we can get it to it!

The operation code named Narwhal apparently has nothing to do with the Danish dispute (nudge, nudge, wink, wink) but is purely the continuation of Canadian sovereignty patrols over those hard to reach places. The Defense Department also has plans to send the Canadian Rangers, off to the area to train and declare our intent to protect the homeland. The Rangers made up of mostly aboriginal and Inuit members on snowmobile and ATV’s, will be using antique rifles, as they apparently work best in the cold weather!

The situation had the National Post so excited over the last week that they ran a comparison of the troop strengths between the two nations, and well we came up a little short. It would seem the Danish Navy has a fleet which has ice strengthened hulls, for navigation in the North; ours apparently don’t have the necessary thickness to do much work in an ice pack environment.

Despite the goofy mouse that roared nature of all of this (it’s debatable which country is the mouse though), there is a serious side to protecting our claim to the North. With the icecap melting as it is, many experts predict that we are only about ten years away, from the North West Passage becoming a major transit way from Europe to Asia, something Canada would want to have a handle on. Losing claim to even an insignificant island such as Hans, would set a precedent for other larger, more militarily capable countries to do as they wish in the North without fear of world opinion. So while the Kingdom of Denmark fires up the warships and trains the troops. We’ll be busy getting the lawyers all in sync. It is the Canadian way after all!

For now though it’s STOP THE VIKING HORDES WHILE WE CAN, today it’s Hans Island, tomorrow they’ll be marching down Duckworth Street in St. John’s. In our hour of need, as we stand alone against the Danish horde, we should look to Winston Churchill for inspiration.

"Some chicken! Some neck!"

"When I warned them that Britain would fight on alone, whatever they did, their Generals told their Prime Minister and his divided cabinet that in three weeks, England would have her neck wrung like a chicken - Some chicken! Some neck!" -- Speech made to the Canadian Parliament on December 30, 1941. Following this speech the famous Karsh photograph was taken.

It is with that spirit that these Danish dreams, of recapturing the Glory Days of the Viking era must be stopped! We must draw our line in the Ice!

Good Fences, would have made better neighbours!

Beware the neighbour with a grudge that is the advice that a Saskatoon couple can offer, after discovering how much their neighbour really hated them.

Starting in the spring of 2003, Wes and Heather Skakun could not figure out why their garage and graveled area smelled so strongly of urine. Not just a one time thing, but time after time, the smell would come back, puddles of the fetid mixture forming around the door and on the lane.

Finally tiring of the horrid smell, the Skakuns set up a video camera and lights around the garage area, activated by the door opener. One night upon hearing the splash of fluid on the door, Wes lit up the yard and started the camera rolling. What he discovered came as a complete shock to him.

Running away from his garage with bottle in tow was his 60 year old neighbour, Robert Kukura. Kukura had apparently been collecting the weapon of neighbourly destruction, storing it in his garage and letting it ferment to just the right level of obnoxiousness. He would then sneak out at night and splash the substance around the garage and back area of the house.

The dispute seems to originate from when the city of Saskatoon closed down a body shop Kukura operated from his garage, for which he held the Skakuns responsible. They claim they never said a word in the fifteen years it was in operation.

The defence offered up a more mundane accounting of the feud, Saskatoon court was told that Kukura said he was upset with the Skakuns for starting their car at 3 am and letting it idle, waking up his wife who was ill at the time. The rumbling of the motor daily, apparently sending him in search of a way to show his displeasure.

The court was not inclined to accept his excuse as justification for the foul smelling property assault, fining him 1,732 dollars in restitution for replacement of the door and the gravel around it. Perhaps ordering the building of a wall along the property line might have been an idea as well, though one suspects that Mr. Kokura will keep his bodily fluids and any others he may wish to collect on his own property from now on.

A week of Daily Essentials

I’m going to try out a new addition to the blog here, a recap of my Daily Essentials feature. In case you had more pressing issues than checking the blog daily. Like cleaning out the hair in the sink, climbing up on your roof and clearing the gutters or attending to the by product of the neighbourhood cats and dogs. Whatever your reason, you're never forgotten, here’s a recap of the Week of Daily Essentials.

March 20 A conspiracy theory for everyone
March 20 Paul Martin leader of the Opposition?
March 20 Mr. Government passes away
March 20 The Finish line is in sight
March 20 A few more lessons to learn
March 21 First stop Stornoway, is 24Sussex next?
March 21 Revenge Best served on Sixty minutes
March 21 Nortel enters the lexicon of business
March 21 Stevie closes the barn door, after the horse escapes
March 21 Go in peace, may peace be with you
March 22 And what is it you do Lady Black?
March 22 George Bush’s book report
March 22 All in all, we’re just not a miserable lot
March 22 We’ve got you surrounded, then again
March 22 Bowie is damn near junk
March 24 Money, Drugs and Fast Cars
March 24 Take the Day off
March 24 Hey, Let’s Blame Brian
March 24 Lady Black is requested to appear
March 24 Homesteading makes a comeback
March 25 Alfonso’s sketchy appointment book
March 25 Paul Martin’s hot potatoe
March 25 Richard Clarke, weapon of mass destruction
March 25 George works on some new material
March 25 Sweating to the Oldies, meets tae bo
March 26 $164,833.30 a letter
March 26 Duck and cover Liberals, here comes Sheila again
March 26 Trudeau? Never heard of the guy
March 26 Is this Canada’s Donald?
March 26 Don’t pick your nose! Then again!
March 27 Tattle Tale Jack
March 27 Stand By your man
March 27 Walk away from your man
March 27 You’ve got the word, you need to be heard,
they have the cash, so start talkin’ trash

March 27 Pilot Paul Bombs, the bridges

Dear Bono:

Taking time out from watching for tax dodging Bermudan registered ships off the coast of Canada, Smilin' Jack Layton has found a new hobby, one which will prove to be yet another thorn in the side of PM the PM.

Layton, the leader of the NDP, has taken time out from his busy agenda to compose a letter to rock star Bono, advising him that his old pal Paul, isn't keeping up his end of the bargain. In other words, Smilin' Jack is now Tattle tale Jack!

The NDP today released a copy of Jack's correspondence, wondering where is PM the PM"s commitment to such themes as a Global Fund, trade, security and the pressing need to get cheap drugs to Africa to combat disease.

Just some of the things that Bono touched on during his eloquent address to the Liberal Party of Canada's convention back in November. An event that Jack says touched him and gave him cause for hope. Smilin' Jack tells Bono, that PM the PM is off the mission and needs to be brought around.

Guaranteed to get him some more press exposure, the latest efforts of the NDP show that at least they have learned the value of a good press release. While the Liberals try to outflank the Conservatives on the fiscal and ethical agenda, a conservative budget and hearings galore to root out the rot. The NDP are attacking on the left pointing out that all the feel good rhetoric of November has been lost under the weight of the adscam scandals and other unsavory gov't business.

One thinks back to that magical night in Toronto as Bono sauntered up to the stage, took a swig of uh water I guess (not likely), and promised Paul Martin that he might become the biggest pain in the ass the PM would ever meet.

I'm sure if he makes another trip to Canada, PM the PM might say no Bono you're the second biggest, here have you met Jack!

Saturday, March 27, 2004

Mr. Dryden's Opus

The state of hockey is under observation quite a bit these days, the many on ice incidents of the last six weeks or so giving the casual visitor to the sport and the live and die fan some common ground to discuss.

Ken Dryden has composed a rather lengthy examination of the state of our game. Titled "Saving the Game of Hockey" it is one sure to raise the hackles of his own coach Pat Quinn and that ever vocal observer of our game Don Cherry. A comprehensive study of the 125 year history of the game, the changes for the good and for the bad all addressed in a well thought out paper.

I cover the story in more detail on my HockeyNation blogsite, but you can skip my thoughts and summaries and go straight to the story here. It's well worth the read, it gives us a starting point in the debate over hockey, whether you believe the game is fine or believe it needs a complete overhaul, his article will give you quite a bit of information to process.

Friday, March 26, 2004

Mr. Bettman, CNN on line one, Mr. Bettman, Mr. Bettman?

Not content to find the good name of hockey trashed in the American media for violent incidents on the ice, the NHL now finds itself in the midst of a sex scandal of all things.

The now ex-captain of the Ranger City Skaters, a cheerleader type of group that appears at Ranger games (who knew the NHL had cheerleaders!) has filed a complaint with the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, accusing an un-named Madison Square Garden executive with Sexual harassment. She also claims that she was fired because of she was warning other members of the Skaters of the executives intentions.

Courtney Prince, 25 and an original member of the Skaters has been making the media rounds the last few days telling her story to anyone giving her the time of day. Friday’s appearance was on CNN’s prime time program Anderson Cooper 360, where Prince, fellow skater Amea Smith and lawyer Katherine Peratis, told the CNN audience stories of MSG executives pressuring the Skater Girls to attend bars with them. Many of whom were only 18 years of age; Peratis suggests they attended as they were afraid to lose their jobs. She also questioned the morality of married MSG execs taking young girls out on “dates”.

Ms. Prince also accused MSG executives of boorish behavior, suggesting some girls go for breast enhancements and cutting off the complimentary cookies for the team due to perceived weight problems. She also said that the execs were rude to the team members suggesting that some of them were ugly.

Needless to say with the Rangers nowhere the playoffs, the New York papers are running wild with the story. This is probably a good thing for Glen Sather but not necessarily for Gary Bettman. He’s already got Colin Campbell handling the on ice stuff; this backroom material needs an avowed arbitrator of morality. Perhaps he can get Dr. Laura to take a few hours out of her day to sit in on a hearing. She’ll no doubt be able to peel the paint off the walls of the executive offices at the Gardens.

The above item appeared in my HockeyNation blogsite, for more postings and links on Hockey items check it out.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Who will stick to the honey pot?

The spin controllers in the PMO better get a grip on their briefing notes. Yesterday during debate in the House of Commons, Prime Minister Paul Martin pointed his finger across the house and advised the Conservatives to blame Brian. Martin suggesting that the “Unity Fund” was a creation of the Brian Mulroney years, carried over through the Chretien era, now disbanded with the arrival of our brave new era of accountability.

Two days ago as Finance Minister Ralph Goodale was telling us the previously unknown secret fund was to be no more, Liberal advisors were pointing in the direction of Jean Chretien as the master of the Fund, dishing out funding on personal whim, keeping the sordid details secret from his own finance minister, the now sitting Prime Minister. Somewhere in all the noise is the truth, though truthfulness is apparently a fluid process in the Nations capital these days.

It is to make your head swim the constant stream of shocking revelations these days, running around the money pit we call Parliament. Like the B & E types who keep coming back to your house, we pick up a paper, turn on a radio or watch television and just shake our head in amazement, they’re at it again.

The Bloc Quebecois sit licking their lips, wondering how much mileage they can gain from the vision of secret monies being used to sway the population to the federalist cause, conveniently overlooking their own secret and not so secret funds used to do the same for their benefit.

The whole concept of bribing Quebecers to stay in Confederation seems a bit unsavory. Surely if the federation was not worth living in on its own terms, trying to keep it together with bribes, secret slush funds and millions of dollars spent on questionable ventures wasn’t the best approach. The latest revelations, give us the appearance of a win at all costs strategy by the Chretienites. Apparently not secure in the actual notion of a Canada working for the good of all, there would be the need for a little “juice” to win the day. The nation apparently not strong enough to stand on its own merit. The perception of a civil war fought by cheque book is probably going to be the lasting legacy of the Unity Fund. Leaving us with the vision of Jean Chretien acting the part of an Abraham Lincoln, sending battalions of pen wielding bureaucrats off to battle to save the federation.

Interesting how the vehicle designed to save the country, in the end may do more to shake our belief in how it is run. The further the Prime Minister goes into the culture of rot in Ottawa, the harder it will be to spin a positive light. Every new revelation of “secret funds”, illegal activity and questionable ethics is going to confirm for a weary and cynical public that something is terribly wrong with our government.

That won’t be much of a foundation to launch a re-election campaign on. Even worse it puts the unity of the nation at risk. If the only way to keep a country together was to embark on illegal and unethical activities at what point did it cease to be a democracy. The Prime Minister has continually spoken about a need to address the democratic deficit, judging by the events in Ottawa there’s a morality and ethical deficit, one which will be much harder to clean up.

Martin may not have opened up that Honey Pot or even known about it, but he’s going to find some of it spills over becoming a gooey hard to reach mess, his predecessors brought it home, but he’s the guy that has to get out the scrub brush and get to work.

***UPDATE***Former Chretien Chief of Staff Eddie Goldenberg waded into the debate late Thursday, advising that the "Unity Fund" was not so secret and that the current Prime Minister was fully aware of it. The sound you now hear is the PMO backpedalling, pulling in their horns and redirecting those fingers. Stumbling through this whole mess, they present a gift wrapped target for Friday morning's Question Period***

The above item appeared in my Boondoggle blogsite, for more postings and links on government items check it out.

The Healing power of Hockey

There's a pretty special thing happening in Fredericton these days, friendships are being formed and damaged relations repaired, all thanks to minor hockey.

Last year a Peewee hockey team from Brockton, Massachusetts arrived in Montreal to take part in a tournament there, something they had been looking forward to all year. The visit went wrong right from the start, as they were unloading their luggage from their bus, it became the target of Anti Iraq war protestors wandering through the streets of Montreal, banging on the bus, cursing and yelling at the passengers, 12 year old boys, the moronic behavior of the protestors causing much alarm amongst the chaperones and players alike. Things didn't get much better as the visit went on, the next night while attending the Bell Centre for a hockey game, normally a festive event for any twelve year old, they heard their anthem booed and their presence in the building mocked. They left after the second period and went home, pulling out of the tournament many vowing to never to return to Canada again.

Over the next week and month, the Brockton Boxers received e mails, letters and various forms of apologies for the boorish behavior of a small portion of Montreal. But one fellow in New Brunswick went the extra step to try and repair the battered image of Canada. Brian Johnson a hockey parent in Fredericton, New Brunswick took it upon himself to try and make amends. He and other parents put in motion plans to bring the Boxers to New Brunswick for a friendly tournament. Approaching the Brockton parents himself, Johnson started in motion an event, that has mushroomed into a symbol of good will and good sporstmanship. The Premier of New Brunswick visited the Massachusetts state House last week with team jackets and personal invitations to attend. Setting the tone for what was to come.

The Boxers traveled to New Brunswick yesterday, met at the border by an RCMP honour guard, a police escort through St. Stephen, the border crossing and hundreds of minor hockey players banging their sticks in salute as they crossed into the province. The fence mending has continued in Fredericton with a gala dinner with Frank Mahovolich as a keynote speaker, a friendly hockey game in the midst of the Canadian University championships and a pond hockey game with the Stanley Cup on the banks of the pond for inspiration. To show twelve year old kids that there really are no differences between the two countries, the teams were deliberately split up, Canadian and American peewees playing on the same sides, in Canadian and American sweaters. The score an 8-7 USA victory, irrelevant to the friendships being created.

Brockton Mayor Jack Yunnits says his kids are walking on air, overwhelmed by the reception. You can't help but admire the tenacity of Mr. Johnson, for taking on a task such as this. While the cards, letters and e mails probably had started to soothe the justifiably bad image our country received, Mr. Johnson took it to another level, getting out and doing something about it. Showing a group of twelve year olds that they really shouldn't have been held accountable for decisions made by adults. As much as we treasure the idea of free speech and the right to protest, treating 12 year old boys as badly as these ones were treated, doesn't put a particularly good light on our sense of perspective. Fortunately the attitudes of those in Montreal those days reflect the smallest minority of Canadian opinion, the reaction to the incident from ordinary Canadians a much more telltale indication of Canadian beliefs.

But as it always will be, it's the kids that once again help us to recapture some sense of doing the right thing. In a month where hockey seems to have been under attack from all corners, the events in New Brunswick this week give you some hope. The Brockton Boxer and Fredericton Canadien players, 12 year olds that they are, could probably teach the boors of a year ago a lesson in civility. The ability to share good times and good competition in New Brunswick says a lot about their character. The fact that the hockey parents of New Brunswick went to such remarkable lengths to reverse the bad feelings tells us a bit about ours as well.

The above item is taken from my HockeyNation blogsite, for other postings and links to Hockey related items check it out.

The Bedard Bombshells

So, has the advertising sponsorship scandal out of Ottawa caught your attention yet? If not, Wednesday’s revelations at the parliamentary inquiry should do the trick. Taking a turn right out of a Grisham novel, the inquiry featured the testimony of Miriam Bedard and her contribution has sent the controversy into overdrive.

Bedard introduced a couple of topics for consideration that are sure to take this inquiry into a whole new direction. Bedard testified that executives at VIA Canada funneled 12 million dollars (US) into a special account through the Groupaction advertising agency for Jacques Villeneuve. In return for the money, Villeneuve would wear a Canada tag and flag on his car racing jumpsuit. Not bad money for simply wearing a badge, especially when his racing success or lack of this past season, resulted in few if any opportunities to be seen in his jump suit. Villeneuve frequently found his car out of the race, most of his racing time spent in the off track paddock areas. One hopes that a refund clause was put in place, for those races where we never saw much of Jacques after the first couple of laps.

Bedard claims she was told the information by her former agent Jean Marc St. Pierre. She was unable to provide further details of the sponsorship arrangements such as length of time, method of payment and who else might have known about the arrangements. For his part St. Pierre claims to have had no such discussions with Ms. Bedard.

While that alone might be enough to shake the faith of the average Canadian, Bedard went one step further. Advising the committee that she had heard from former VIA President Marc LaFrancois, that Groupaction was involved in illegal drug trafficking. Again, she offered no documented proof, only recounting a conversation with LaFrancois that she described as “top secret”. Like St Pierre, LaFrancois claims no such disucssions ever took place. Explosive comments that no doubt have everyone running for their lawyers. Groupaction president Jean Brault not surprisingly has said the charges are “entirely false, without any element of proof, without an iota of truth."

Not having been called to testify yet, LaFrancois said he was anxious to be called to appear, so as to tell his side of the story. He and Mr. St. Pierre, may wish to explore the possibility of joining the witness protection program, should things suggest that Ms. Bedard is on to something. As they would say in a Grisham novel, something here is not meeting the smell test.

Bedard who testified with Parliamentary privilege, declined to repeat her charges outside of the hearing setting. But with her comments relayed by the televised proceedings it’s now considered part of the record. A point which has the folks at Groupaction in shock and disbelief, wondering how the committee could allow this kind of hearsay testimony, without any form of cross examination attempted.

This is probably not what Prime Minister Martin had hoped for when he launched the committee meetings to get to the bottom of the sponsorship scandal. Funneling millions of dollars into false invoices and questionable work for pay projects is one thing, getting tied up in the tentacles of drug trafficking and where that may lead is another thing completely. Its things like these that can bring down governments or at least ensure that they don’t get re-elected.

With the charges now part of the parliamentary record, the media and opposition will have yet another lead to follow in it’s pursuit of scandal. If this was a clever way of sidetracking a rather unsavory aspect of Federal financing, it’s not going according to plan. If her bombshell charges are proven true, and no doubt the media will be investigating every handshake made by the members of Groupaction, then the government will find itself entwined in yet an even deeper criminal investigation.

Ms. Bedard's testimony combined with the unusal revelation that her live in partner had some input with former Prime Minister Jean Chretien's Iraq war policies, might call her credibility into quesiton. Sending the hearings off the rails temporarily. If all her comments are proven true then the government is in a bit of trouble. If she's shown to be a loose cannon, no substantial value will come of her appearance and the credibility of the entire hearing may suffer.

Regardless of how this plays out, Canadians are not going to be reassured about the company our elected officials kept. Slush funds and drug trafficking, the more we dig into the issue, the deeper and deeper into trouble the government seems to get. The appearance of rot getting worse with each passing day.

The above posting appeared in my Boondoggle blogsite,for more government related postings and links check it out.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Our Money, Their Plans, The Verdicts are in!

Federal Budgets invariably end up as basically being a vehicle to bribe us with our own money. But with the new era of fiscal accountability in Ottawa these days, it seems rather churlish to suggest that the Martin Government has nothing but our best interests at heart. Surely even the coldest hearted cynic would adopt a wait and see stance, as the Liberals scramble to recoup some sense of repute. At least this time around we’re not having our pocket picked, while they smile and look us in the eye.

Tuesday’s budget, delivered by Ralph Goodale is simply the pre-amble to an expected election campaign, the themes of fiscal prudence and accountability the tonic for a weary population (and electorate). Many of whom may have given up any hope that Ottawa will ever resemble a place where ethics and honesty reside.

Ralph Goodale is no doubt fully aware, that the distancing of his stewardship of finance, away from the assorted boondoggles of the old Chretien team is a necessity for his credibility. The real trick will be to make sure that his Boss gets credit for the good deeds, while absolved of any involvement in those of the bad ones.

The budget delivered today provides the usual salutations to the hard work of Canadians, which of course is a required staple for any budget, for without the hard work, there will be no taxes to collect and then spend. Canadians can look forward to promises of Goodale making our lives better in the fields of learning, innovation, health and communities. It even promises us money coming in, with the sale of Petro Canada stock to the tune of 3 billion dollars, a windfall for the Gov’t more along the lines of winning the lottery you designed. But hey, 3 billion dollars flowing the other way for a change is nothing to sneeze at.

But it wouldn’t be politics if there wasn’t a chorus from the opposition, and smelling a stale government, despite the new wrapping, they are ready to pounce.

With an eye to the past transgressions of the Liberal’s, newly pressed Conservative leader Stephen Harper found the ode to fiscal propriety a little hard to swallow. He gave us a glimpse of the Conservative blue print to a fashion, of good fiscal sense coupled with lower taxation. His cutting remarks “Frankly on the side of management they can’t win an election”. Scandal, Scandal, Scandal, it would seem that will be the constant reminder from the Tories.

Jack Layton took the path of combining gut wrenching scenarios to criticize the Goodale/Martin agenda. He said the government’s vision of debt reduction to the tune of 200 billion dollars over ten years was not what Canadians were clamoring for. Layton feels that the plan is akin to “paying down your mortgage while your grandmother is sick, your kid is in university and your roof is leaking”. Expect a spike in NDP numbers sick grannies, studying kids and home supply managers everywhere. God help Layton if he needs a loan on his house though! His comments on the inevitability of a two tiered health system, will no doubt be the approach for any NDP campaign.

The best Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe could come up with was to call it a heartless budget. But then, he’s probably more interested in the scuttling of the Unity fund, a slush fund created by Jean Chretien. If anyone should be scuttling something called Unity, you would think Gilles would want to be there.

There will be debate this week in the House, as the budget document becomes the talking point of positioning. One document, four different interpretations, but there is only one important verdict. As Paul Martin ponders when to drop the writ, he must be aware that shiny paper and pretty bows, won’t disguise a dirty old boot.

If the opposition can paint his budget as just a shell game, one where the old pea is hidden and then moved around before our very eyes, then a Federal election may be a ways off yet. If however, the Liberals find that a cynical public is starting to believe that the culture of greed is on the wane, we may then be going to the polls sooner than later.

The Prime Minister anxious to claim a legitimacy of the vote for his government, will be wondering which is the better path, a quick hit after a positive budget, or a long meandering road as the various Chretien era troubles play their way out. Expect to see candidates knocking on your door before the summer hits. The quick hit, most likely his best shot at forming a government of his own, cleansed of the baggage of his predecessor.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

The Honey Pot

The parallels between the past Chretien regime and the days of Richard Nixon, seem to get closer with each passing day. Both left office under a bit of a shadow, one chased from his post by the Watergate Hearings, the other by the Martinite Cheerings. Recently we’ve heard talk of “plumbers” involved in the ad scandal, not to be confused with the Watergate "plumbers" of Tricky Dick days. Now it seems both had amassed secret slush funds during their tenure in office. Mentioned in passing today, during Ralph Goodale’s budget was the scrapping of the Unity Fund. A nice little rainy day fund, which probably would have had Dicky envious.

The secretive pile of cash was created by Jean Chretien in the mid 1990’s, to put out “unity” fires during the last few years. Designed to nurture National Unity, the fund never had an actual fixed rate. Instead its value fluctuated as the Prime Minister deemed it necessary; put into action as required. The value pegged to it today during the budget, was 40 million dollars. Now considering the bulk of our “national unity” requirements seemed to be based in Quebec, one can only assume the vast majority of the money was spent there.

However, we’ll never really know. The top secret stash of money, was apparently known to only a few confidants of the former Prime Minister. Never mentioned in any previous budget documents, it was just unaccounted monies apparently just sitting around waiting to be funneled in some direction or another, all in the name of our elusive National Unity. The way it has been described today, so secret was the fund, that it was never mentioned around Paul Martin or other senior ministers, just those trusted by the PMO to do the right thing. Canada Day parades, Katimivak exchanges and youth travel exchanges the kind of things that benefited from the money, described by one anonymous source as the “Honey Pot”.

Upon its cancellation today, the saving expected to be returned to the federal treasury is estimated to be around 100 million dollars. But given this government’s penchant for under estimating, who really knows how much was earmarked in the name of Unity.

The Martin forces apparently only learned of the fund upon taking office, and as the message was spun around Ottawa, immediately decided to get rid of it. Goodale announced the decision in his budget, as part of the Governments newfound commitment to transparency and accountability.

The Toronto Star had one source with knowledge of the fund claim, that every expenditure was approved by Mr. Chretien. In some instances the PMO would come up with ideas of their own to spend money on. Which actually at least shows that he was a hands on operator, even in the darkest days of the Nixon presidency they used a filter, the committee to re-elect the President, or CREEP. Here in Canada, the creeps did the job themselves.

The above posting appeared in my Boondoggle blogsite, for more government related postings and links check it out.

After I do, it's time for To Do!

For the bride that has everything or wants everything, comes the latest from Canadian Tire. A bridal registry at all of it's 452 locations, available to roughly ninety per cent of the Canadian population. Now the blushing bride can mark down such gotta have items as the George Foreman Grill, the Mastercraft Maximum Spin Saw, or a set of four radial tires. The possibilities are endless.

The debut of the Registry at Canadian Tire has it's retailing rivals quickly pointing out that they've been there, done that. Both Sears and Hudson's Bay, yesterday were reminding reporters that their locations have been helping to foster marital bliss for a couple of years now. And even those not getting married can use the registry, setting up a wish list for birthdays, Fathers or Mothers Day or National Lawn Mowing Day, the choice is yours.

At Canadian Tire, it's a changing world guys! Wedding Day is about to get a makeover, no more ugly lamps, interesting art pieces or pieces of crystal to get dusty in a back cupboard. Instead, it's weed whackers, fishing rods and bandsaws. It's a whole new world waiting for you out there. Hell, you may enjoy this registry thing so much, you'll want to try it again and again and again! Though your lawyer may advise against it!

Monday, March 22, 2004

In praise of sloth and over indulgence!

Ok, well I’ll admit to being a “tad” overweight, an addiction to Pepsi and a taste for cheesecake adding to my girth. I get occasional exercise, should get more and probably should get a better grip on my cholesterol. I don’t smoke and drink mainly a beer or two on occasion, other than that no real vices. For the most part our meals cover the useful food groups and I don’t exactly pig out on the portions, none the less I am not unaware that I need to re-educate myself on healthy choice options.

But with that all said. I find it of interest to note that two of the healthy lifestyle gurus of our time, have gone on to their reward. And I’m still around, in some shape and form, (mostly pearish at the moment!)

First off there was Dr. Atkins, the guy who has us forsaking carbs and loading up on protein, or is it the other way, I’m never really sure. I haven’t actually explored his regimen completely to worry about it. The founder of the Atkins diet products passed away last year, of complications from a slip on a sidewalk. Now at 72 he lived a pretty good life, and slipping on an icy sidewalk does seem like a bad fate for a health guru. But at the time of his passing there were those troubling reports of a rather unhealthy state of health. Weighing 258 pounds at six feet he would be clinically described as obese. He also suffered from a heart condition, caused by a viral infection. None of which were related apparently to his dieting philosophies or products, but certainly don’t help in the image of a long term lifestyle change.

Now over the weekend we have demise of Brian Maxwell, creator of the PowerBar, that chocolate bar like product that gives you instant energy, adding some protein and helping to replace or reduce your carbs, enabling you to burn off the weight and keep on going. Over the last year or so, the PowerBar folks have been moving towards the general nutrition area and away from the performance aspect of our lives. Finding a niche in the current healthy lifestyle craze. Mr. Maxwell passed away at the age of 51, while in a Post Office in California, suffering a heart attack from which he could not be revived.

Not too far away from Mr. Maxwell’s age, I now have to weigh the options of an improved lifestyle against the delights of the foods not particularly good for me. Even if I’m wolfing down the PowerBars and Atkin’s products is there any real guarantee that my lifespan is going to be increased exponentially? If the guru’s themselves meet the maker, despite their best efforts, then perhaps it’s all just inevitable anyways.

So maybe I’ll just load up the plate, two servings of cheesecake and a vat of Pepsi to Go! Some carrot sticks and celery sticks to add some counter balance. And later, if it’s not raining, maybe I’ll go for a walk. If we all have to go sometime, may as well go on a full stomach!

Why Martha, But Not George?

One ran a multi media conglomerate, proclaimed as the diva of domesticity. Taking a magazine and television show on to great success. Going on to become a lifestyle guru, whose opinions were the final statement on taste. The other a CEO of a baseball team, a director of an energy firm, Governor of Texas and now a sitting President. Yet despite equally grave ethical happenings in the energy firm, it’s the diva going to prison, the director in a quest for another four years as President. Why one, but not the other?

The answer is found in an article by Joe Conason in the New York Observer. Conason recounts the travails of Martha Stewart, her stock troubles and the fumbled attempt at a cover up on any inside knowledge. Yet the story of the President’s time at Harken energy, offers up even more interesting asides.

As director at Harken, George Bush profited to the tune of 845,000 dollars when the stock of the stock was run up and then sold, just before a spectacular crash. Martha made a mere 45,000 dollars. Yet it’s she who is the poster child for corporate malfeasance. While as director of the firm, Mr. Bush neglected to inform the SEC about his inside trades, as required, for eight months. And then blamed the SEC and Harken lawyers for the mess.

The investigation of 1991 conducted by the SEC didn’t seem to have the same kind of zeal that the pursuit of Martha did. Perhaps being the son of the sitting President of the day, held some sway in the investigative offices at the time. Regardless, the net result of the investigation such as it was, would be no harm no foul; there would be no fine, no jail time, no black mark on a record. Case closed on to other things. Despite the apparent smoking gun of an internal memo; warning of the perils of insider trading, which only came to light later on. There would be no second look, the decision would stand; it would be handshakes all around. The Investigation closed, reputation intact, it would be off to a political career in Texas and Washington.

Fast forward now thirteen years, the second Bush administration watches as the corporate elites of America get entwined in scandal after scandal. Daily reports of greed, corporate stock manipulation and small investors ruined by the machinations of the stock market rule the day. The administration issues a call for better corporate accountability, a renewal of faith in the course of business.

Caught up in the glare of that spotlight is Martha, held up as a symbol of all that has gone wrong. As she faces her justice, she can console herself with the thought that she probably is not alone. As Conason points out in his finishing comments in his article, “Now George W. Bush is President, promising a new era of corporate responsibility symbolized by the Martha Stewart ruin. Such is justice in the age of irony.”

Martha needed this guy on her defence team; he has succinctly explained the double standard in place. Any appeal should include copies of the article, for it points out one sadly cynical truth about justice. It’s not whether you’re guilty or not, but rather whether you have friends in place to get you off. It would seem Martha did not.

A Sinful way to Profit!

Saturday’s Globe and Mail had a delightful article by Carolyn Leitch, who explored the themes of sin and profit in an upcoming book by author Caroline Wexler.

Wexler has researched a number of stocks dealing with our less than ethical pursuits and offered up a strategic investment strategy to capitalize on the pursuit of moral decay. The book, Stocking Up on Sin: How to crush the Market with Vice Based Investing is full of helpful tips to capitalize on our penchant for gambling, sex, booze and other less than savory exploits.

For those folks who are tired of goody two shoes investment in safe but boring, ethical funds, the author offers up the sinful index. The Sindex provides 69 stocks offering nothing but the best of vice, avarice and social irresponsibility. Wexler claims that her index has outperformed the Standard and Poor’s 500 stock index by 42% over the last five years.

Condom makers, breweries, pharmaceutical giants, weapons makers and tobacco companies are among some of the chosen investment choices for the sinful investor. As Wexler explains in her book coming out at the end of the month, the investor wants to take advantage of stocks that will weather all economic conditions, and her Sindex consists of those companies that can make money in good time and bad.

Of course some investors go and let their conscience get the better of them, worrying about how their investment can play a role in the world. For them Wexler offers up this bit of advice to soothe the guilty ones. “Vice investing is profiting from the moral depravity or corruption of others, their moral faults – its not participating in the act?”

Or put another way, somebody’s going to get rich on all our faults, it may as well be you!

Something our business and political leaders seem to have picked up on, without benefit of written research. The book is just a chance for the average guy and gal to play catch up.

Sunday, March 21, 2004

Colin Campbell's Video Slumber Party

Fire up the Popcorn maker, put the coffee pot on, Colin is going to have late night. Two games Saturday gave him an excuse to put on a video or two and earn a little OT.

The Leafs and Avalanche game was a hard hitting affair, with more than a few scuffles and scraps as the night progressed. Most somehow, involving Matthew Barnaby which is not all that much of a surprise.
Wade Belak and Peter Worrell engaged in a spirited bout of fisticuffs in the first period, but Belak would be best remembered Saturday night for his incredibly stupid two handed slash on Ossi Vaanenen, striking him across the helmet. Belak received a five minute major for intent to injure and the customary expulsion from the game. The incident now goes on to further review from the league office.

Before Campbell can make his decision on Belak however, he’ll have to wade through the shenanigans of the final five seconds of the Flames/Predators game. A number of hard hits in the third set the physical tone for the remainder of the game, featuring Chris Simon wandering over the ice trying to hit as many Predators as he could stumble across. The Preds popped in an empty net goal with 3 seconds to go, salting away a 3-1 victory.

At that point Calgary coach and GM Darryl Sutter, sent Krstoff Oliwa onto the ice with two defensemen lining up on the forward line for further effect. Oliwa tried to goad two separate Predators into a fight, with none entertaining his offer. A linesman eventually parking himself between Oliwa and the Predator on the ice. The pre-emptive measure going for naught, as fights broke out at the buzzer. During the confusion Oliwa broke free from the grasp of a linesman, to toss a few punches into a scrum. Even the two European goaltenders squared off and dropped the gloves, with Tomas Vokoun trading blows with Miikka Kiprusoff. As the refs got the post game dancing under control, Daryl Sutter and Barry Trotz found themselves climbing up on the glass partition, exchanging insults with each other.

Two issues for Campbell to consider as he pushes rewind and fast forward. Wade Belak, even if he was off balance, as is being portrayed by the Toronto media, not keeping control of his stick must surely be worth a suspension of some length. Especially in this high visibility period, following the Bertuzzi incident. While not appearing to be as pre meditated as that situation was, Belak did not control his stick and had expressed some dislike for Av players earlier in the game.

The Calgary/Nashville game does cause Campbell even more problems. Having just fined the Canucks 250,000 dollars for supposedly not exerting enough control on their players, then what would be the fine for the gong show ending of the Calgary game? If Campbell doesn’t come down equally hard on the Flames organization for the way the game ended, then Brian Burke had best be filling out the forms asking for a refund on his payment. The league has to start showing some consistency in it’s dealings with discipline. The video viewing party on Sunday morning gives them the chance to set a standard.

The above posting is taken from my HockeyNation blogsite, for more hockey related articles and links check it out.


That at least according to Stephen Harper, who caught up in the excitement of his first ballot victory at the Conservative Leadership Convention, all but offered to help Paul and Shirley Martin pack up the china and head on out of 24 Sussex Drive.

Harper claimed his first ballot victory by securing 56% of the vote, Belinda Stronach was the second place finisher with 35% of the vote, and Tony Clement taking a bit of the hit in the ego department, could only muster up 9.5% support.

Interestingly enough, despite the flurry of membership’s sold and instant Tories appearing around the country, only 37% of the 252,000 registered members of the new Conservative Party cast ballots on nomination day. Harper’s support was widespread across Canada with the exception of Atlantic Canada, where Ms. Stronach seemed to be the crowd favorite. Harper’s derogatory remarks about Atlantic Canada a few years back, no doubt still resonating around the coffee shops down east.

Harper’s acceptance speech had the usual pats on the back for his rivals, telling both Stronach and Clement that they have much to offer the Conservative party and what he believes will be a Conservative government after the next election. He also paid tribute to Peter McKay, who was more or less the broker of the Conservative/Alliance merger, his comments continuing to spur on speculation that McKay will be given a senior position in his newly unified caucus. Harper’s lukewarm reaction in Atlantic Canada will require someone to get the Conservative message across in a better light; McKay would fit that bill quite nicely.

But his main points were saved for Paul Martin and his Liberals. Comparing the Liberals to a cornered rat, Harper said that Paul Martin has spent his first 100 days running away from reports of Liberal corruption, but that Paul Martin is a Liberal, he can’t run away from that.

Which seems to be the theme, the Conservatives will tap into when the expected election is called. That of tying Paul Martin today; to the sins of the Liberals of yesterday.

With the right side of the political spectrum finally united in one dedicated unit, the days of vote splitting may soon come to an end. Harper needs to improve his profile across Canada, as an awful lot of Canadians are suspicious about his past comments on things such as transfer payments, taxation and health care to name a few.

The Conservatives will find that Canadians are willing to listen to what they have to say, such is the disgust at the current Liberal dysfunction. We wait for complete answers to our questions and a chance to judge if the Conservatives are truly ready to govern yet. The first kick at the media cat for the party comes with Rex Murphy’s Cross Country Check up, which will explore the appeal of the unified right on Sunday’s program.

Stephen Harper has a chance to win back a good number of old Tory supporters, who have parked their votes with the Liberals for the last ten years or so. The pressure is on him to reassure the nation that the nut bar days of the right are behind them.

He may not get to force the Martin’s out of their new digs in the next election, but he’s going to make sure that after election day, they have a lot less Liberal friends from the Hill dropping by for coffee.

Saturday, March 20, 2004


The three Conservative hopefuls spent their final night of campaigning taking shots at the Liberal party. The wounded duck nature of Liberals these days, giving hope and anticipation to the assembled delegates this weekend. With the Party picking a new leader tomorrow, tonight was given over to the candidates to make their final pitches.

Belinda Stronach took to the Metro Toronto Convention centre stage first, moving away from the podium and standing on the stage resembling Celine Dion as she turned, gestured and tried to get her points across to the gathered audience. Saying she had torn up her prepared speech, preferring to speak from the heart, Stronach painted herself as the candidate that would appeal to all Canadians from coast to coast.

Next up was Stephen Harper who took the safe and steady approach of recounting his work for in bringing the two parties together. He also reminded the audience that they need to be ready to take over the government should the people decide in their favor. He said this was not the time to turn the party over to a neophyte or a regional politician.

The final speaker Tony Clement chose to operate from the crowd, taking a page from the Bill Clinton I’m here for you style, Clement made his speech from the audience, after showing a brief video. His theme was he has cabinet experience from his days in the Ontario government, and he and only he would be ready to lead a Conservative government.

All three spent a fair portion of their speeches attacking Paul Martin’s conversion to accountability for the Liberal party. They all said that the time had come for Canadians to be given a clear option on voting day, a chance to feel comfortable with the party and its blueprint for the future. The hard hitting attacks on Martin, give us a sign of what an election campaign may look like in the not too distant future.

270,000 Conservatives will be voting at riding associations on Saturday. Harper at the moment the perceived front runner, He is hoping for a first ballot victory, coming up short on that ballot may give Tony Clement enough pick up votes to win on a second ballot. The dark horse candidate is Stronach; no one is quite sure what to make of her candidacy. If she’s been successful in pulling in delegates, she could make Harper’s Saturday afternoon a long drawn out tense affair. But for all intents and purposes, the nomination is expected to go to Stephen Harper.

With the Liberals wounded by the many scandals circulating around them, the time is certainly not going to be any better for a Conservative rebirth. The long march back to respectability begins Saturday at 2:30 EST, 11:30 PST. Hunting season to be declared a little later in the month!

Road Tunes for Alfonso

If Alfonso Gagliano pulls up beside you on the road you can bet his car stereo is pounding out some Shaggy! Ah, I can see him now, Alfonso bobbing his head back and forth singing along “It wasn’t me, didn’t take no money”, “It wasn’t me, there wasn’t anything funny”, “It wasn’t me, cause I would have known better”, “It wasn’t me, cause I wrote a letter”

Gagliano was on the hot seat for the second day in a row as the Commons Committee Truth Squad, went to work trying to figure out just who knew what, about the sponsorship mess of the 1990’s. Hoping against hope, that somebody will say that they tried to do something about it.

The heated exchanges got quite personal at times, the most vitriolic of them when Conservative MP Sean Murphy said “the more innocent you are, as is coming out in testimony, the more incompetent you appear.”

Gagliano took other barbs as well, accusing him of playing the committee for fools; he was treated to sarcastic laughter, rolling of eyes and groans of disbelief as he continued on his path of denial. Gagliano claimed that he had no knowledge, of the irregularities of Public Works. Painting himself as the victim of some kind of witch hunt, Gagliano said he didn’t’ expect anyone here to believe him. Which must have come as relief to the crew investigating; showing no signs of taking his denials as gospel?

And with that another day of testimony came to an end. Alfonso no doubt hopping back into the car and popping a new CD into the stereo. Can’t you hear it now, Peter Gabriel’s playing loud and proud. “I don’t remember, I can’t recall, I have no memory of anything at all”

The above posting is taken from my Boondoggle blogsite, for more government related postings and links check it out.

Blackouts and Bonuses

Well the Ontario Power Generation folks won't let a little thing like an operating loss, get in the way of the good times. 1200 managers shared in over 16 million dollars in bonus payments from the Power Utility, which reported a net loss for 2003 of 491 million dollars. Average bonus for management came to around 13,000 dollars, a nice little lump of cash in a province where the power delivery system has been under constant attack from the public.

Now lest you think that bonuses are only for the management lackeys, think again. Yesterday, OPG announced that it's 9,000 unionized workers received bonuses, totaling up to 15 million dollars for 2003. Grade 12 math grads in Ontario will quickly realize that's 31 million dollars in bonus payments made by the money losing utility. A situation that has citizens and power critics alike shaking their heads in amazement.

Thankfully not everyone gets a bonus, OPG pointed out that managers on the Pickering power project were not paid out their performance bonus, as the project did not make it on line in the expected time frame. That slowdown resulted in cost over runs in the hundreds of millions of dollars and suffered thirteen delays before they could get the turbine on line.

Ontario Energy Minister Dwight Duncan has his hands full with OPG. Some have called for complete privatization of the utility, tired of the money pit atmosphere around it. No doubt the first thing he may wish to address is the concept of bonus payments going out, when there is no money coming in.

As for the poor beleaguered tax paying consumer, bonuses must seem like a sharp stick in the eye. Wasn't it August when the lights went out all over Ontario. One gets the feeling that nobody met their performance objectives that day.

The above posting is taken from my Boondoggle blogsite, for more government related postings and links check it out.

Friday, March 19, 2004

Radio Daze

If you have some spare time and enjoy the history of radio, there's a site out there for you to explore.

Bill Dulmage has put together a rather comprehensive home page for all things radio (and that evil medium television as well). The Bill Dulmage Radio and TV Archive, is a virtual museum of radio and TV.

It has downloadable airchecks of famous radio personalities, a History section on Canadian radio stations, Technical data, schedules, ratings, photos and a whole lot more.

A former college class mate and co-worker of mine, Bill has devoted much of his spare time to cataloguing the Radio industry. It's hard to believe that one person would dedicate so much time to the pursuit of an industry, but here it is. A fine research vehicle for anyone looking to learn about the media.

The focus is mostly on Southern Ontario and Northern New York State, but there are other areas where he directs his attention to as well. Be sure to check out his links section, it will send you off in search of even more information from a wide selection of sources.

Easy to navigate and full of gems, it's worth a visit. Grab a cup of coffee, once there you'll want to stay for a while!

Saving Martha

Arise ye supporters of Martha, the time has come to do your part.

Martha Stewart yesterday urged about 100 of her friends, to pick up pen and paper and tell it to the judge. Stewart is asking for testimonials from her circle of acquaintances (those not suffering from any stock troubles) advising the judge that jail time is not quality time. Stewart asks her friends to provide an opinion of her character, her work ethic, integrity and probity.

Perhaps she should expand the request and ask for even more help. Judging by the public reaction to her recent court case, the Stewart battalion is ready for action. Her website Martha talks is full of glowing praise, testimonials to her importance in the lives of her fans and a call for days of action to Free Martha Now. 140,000 e mails have been received at Martha talks, 35,000 of them since the verdict was delivered. However, she probably shouldn't count on the support of Deborah Norville, who seems a tad miffed at the High Priestess of Homemaking.

No doubt shaking off that criticism, and with sentencing still a number of months away, it’s a safe bet that the diva of domestic organization can probably get all her true supporters lined up properly. Judge Cedarbaum had best advise the mail room to hire on some extra staff; otherwise the OT involved for receiving the flood of letters to come will not necessarily be a good thing.

Thursday, March 18, 2004


With his coalition of the willing; giving indications of becoming not quite so inclined. George Bush might be wondering what he has to do to improve his image.

With Spain retreating and Poland thinking of fleeing, the President needs to come up with a way to restore his nation’s standing, something that will get his message across. What he needs is some positive press, Lord knows the folks at FOX try, but they can’t do it all.

Getting the word out is becoming more of a challenge by the day, and if this is any indication, the White House may be losing the population at their earliest reading. It’s always a struggle this battle for hearts and minds, you win some and lose others.

But if the opposition puts its case into rhyme, entertaining and witty.
Results won’t be good, for George such is the pity.


Gordon Campbell was in full damage control this morning, popping out of the caucus bunker long enough to offer up some comments on the latest voters poll on BC Politics. Campbell took his message to the Bill Good Show on CKNW, as he made an “unscheduled” appearance for fifteen minutes of banter with Good.

If he thought he was going to get an easy ride of things he was wrong, while Good certainly didn’t bluster the way a Rafe Mair would have, he none the less quizzed the Premier on the low standing of both his party and his leadership of it. Campbell’s Liberal party trails the NDP by 3%, 42-39 with the Green party attracting 12% of the voters surveyed.

But it must be his personal rating that is food for thought in the caucus room; Campbell falls to a new personal low of 34% in this poll. Unknown NDP leader Carole James has a 47% approval rating and she hasn’t been particularly visible since her claiming of the NDP title.

Campbell suggested, that the NDP had been given a free ride of late hence their high standing of the day, he also feels that the public are impatient for his changes to show results. In fact he said he himself wished for a faster result for the “positive” aspects of the many programs and policies put in place. Good offered up that the “heartland” is not following into step with his plans, an observation that seemed to ruffle the Premier’s feathers, he claiming that he has sensed a different opinion on things from his travels in the “heartland”. Yet the “heartland” is where most of the population is suffering and thus becoming cynical about Campbell and his government. His best course of action in those areas would be to improve the dreadful economy suffered by "heartland" residents. Just saying “the area is strong” doesn’t necessarily make it so!

The “unscheduled” appearance ended after fifteen minutes, no phone calls taken, ending with a sense of a rather uncomfortable atmosphere. Probably not quite the spin the Premier’s handlers would have hoped for. The whole fifteen minute concept seemed a bit panic driven, why not a half hour or an hour, take calls and rebut the callers from the “heartlands” that aren’t exactly feeling the benefits of the many changes. His visit with Good had all the feeling of a visit to a dry cleaner, in at 8:30 out by 8:45, hold the starch please.

The poll is probably not indicative of a voter pattern, more of a disgruntled population showing it’s weariness of not gaining any results from its government. In fact it does seem hard to believe, that a leader that has an almost invisible profile such as James has at the moment, could be so high in the polls and possibly given charge of the government.

The NDP really should have to earn the publics support back again, not be given a ticket to govern simply by default. Surely the wave of voters that threw the Clark era socialists from power, haven’t forgotten what had them so annoyed on Election Day?

What the poll does do serve as a warning to the Premier and his Social Credit/Liberal cross bred acolytes, that they had best get busy providing some positive news to the folks that last supported them in 2000. With an election a bit over a year away, they obviously have time to improve the poll results. But with three years in government already behind them, and nothing positive to show for it, time is of the essence to turn it around.

However, a few more drops in personal appeal and the well documented Liberal caucus rows may turn into putsch. It’s one thing to follow a leader into battle; it’s a totally different thing to willingly walk into the slaughter.

Campbell and his party need to provide examples of accomplishments, otherwise the negatives surrounding their current reign will continue to shape the vision of the voters. Caucus ministers resigning, police officers raiding the legislature and the scent of scandal, do not generate warm and fuzzy feelings from the voting pool

The Ipsos-Reid poll results of Tuesday should be a message from the voters that they aren’t happy with the current direction, a message that will be ignored at the peril of a government and it’s Premier.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Stephen needs to watch more TV!

Stephen Harper has come clean; he’ll have no truck nor trade with the Bloc Quebecois. The Conservative frontrunner issued his declaration of separation today while discussing the issue of coalition governments. Harper said he didn’t think the Bloc could do much harm, but doesn’t find them to be a positive force. Since they don’t share the same philosophy as the Conservative Party (whatever that may be!) he didn’t think any arrangement would work.

He then went on to say that Paul Martin should make a similar declaration, one in which he will refuse to include the NDP in any attempts at governing from sea, to sea, to sea. Claiming that any union of Liberal and NDP, would be just as destructive to the nation as any Bloc Quebecois coalition would present. Harper has been suggesting that PM the PM is making plans to approach Smilin’ Jack Layton, should the need arise to pad the Liberal benches with some bodies to run a government.

Harper wraps up his bid for the Conservative leadership this weekend as, Conservatives prepare to name a new leader, Harper is considered the favorite to take the title. Once he’s taken care of the niceties of Convention business he had best get himself to a television set, tune in a radio or do some web surfing.

The NDP have been releasing some pretty hard hitting ads about Prime Minister Martin; his ship owning past, friend of the privileged, and his friends and your money get together, among the more interesting of strategies.

Viewing those ads and visiting the NDP website, one thinks that the chances of Paul and Jack getting together to trade off favors, is about the same as Sheila and Tony getting together for a Sunday dinner. It might happen but don’t be spending the adscam money on it.


Well he didn’t exactly word it like that. But Prime Minister Paul Martin trying to turn around the public reaction to the shenanigans in Ottawa these days, declared That the Age of Entitlement is over.

Using his famous “hell or high water” slogan from his deficit fighting days, Martin said that the culture of cronyism must come to an end. He should find a welcome audience for that declaration.

The population disgusted by the revelations in the patronage scandals, has found itself astounded by the list of friends of Liberals placed in rewarding positions. Anyone looking for a job these days, must get nauseated at the amount of Friends of Liberals that seemingly gained their jobs, simply by a wink and a nod. Never mind the level playing field, many of us probably never even got near the ball park. Those with the connections were the ones with the free pass to the clubhouse, dipping and in some cases double dipping into the gravy train that has become the bureaucracy of Canada.

It’s going to take a lot more than simple words by PM the PM, to take the taste of that bile from the mouth of the ordinary Canadian, meekly paying their taxes year after year, only to see the money frittered away on friends, family and fundraisers.

The opposition will be making quick work of his conversion on the road to Damascus here, pointing out that he’s been at the centre of the power in Canada for the last ten years and more. Of course, the real centre of that power was former Prime Minister Jean Chretien, and his supporters are doing a slow burn as PM the PM, points the damning finger of fate in their direction. First he expressed outrage at the machinations behind the ad scandal, now he’s turning his moral certainty at the cronyism issue. The Chretien disciples are feeling mighty persecuted (they should be thankful that it’s not prosecuted) these days, like kids who have been caught doing something they shouldn’t have been doing, they now face a bit of public scolding.

PM the PM’s public declaration that change is a coming, is no doubt part of the master plan on the way to an election. While he tackles patronage, cronyism and blatant corruption he might wish to tag on two more hot button issues. The controversial spending of the Governor General, indeed if we even need such a position and the patronage, crony ridden chamber called the Senate. If he makes progress on this adventurous agenda of change, even the NDP’S Smilin’ Jack Layton may cast an X for him on Election Day.

The above posting is taken from my Boondoggle blogsite, for more government related postings and links check it out.