Sunday, October 31, 2004

Hey La de La, Osama's Back!

Well it’s been a while since we last saw an episode of the Osama show, and right on cue with Americans ready to vote in possibly the closest election in their history, Heeeeeeeere’s Osama!

One Part Jay Leno, One Part quasi Head of State, the apparent leader of Al Qaeda provided those hard working tape messengers at Al Jazeera with another tape to add to the collection. One wonders if this is like Columbia House (Osama House, anyone?), where you get five tapes for fourty nine cents, when you send in your fatwa stickers and join the Club.

In our latest sermon from the cave, Osama Bin Laden picks up where he last left off, issuing warnings to America that the reasons for past attacks are still there. Not really coming out directly and saying that American’s should be concerned for their safety, but certainly not saying sleep well either. In the past these addresses have foreshadowed terror activities somewhere in the world, so as the days tick down to November 2 and Election Day in the US, officials there surely must be on pins and needles. The colour coded warning system surely shading into hotter temperatures.

It was a more composed Osama who addressed the American public in this latest effort. Well dressed, looking fit and without the customary gun by his side he looked like a candidate for office, rather than a cold blooded planner of the death of thousands. Speaking clearly, calmly and devoid of his usual blood will run rantings, he tried to rationalize the murder of those of 9/11 with past events in Lebanon, Palestine and points Middle East. The tone of the presentation was almost statesmanlike, a leader addressing the people explaining a policy or possibly an election platform.

It made for a situation that adds a rather surreal atmosphere to the final days of the US election campaign. It seems to have been a rather well timed project to try and influence the upcoming election, with Osama offering the voters some food for thought that America’s security is in their own hands this weekend. Fortunately for the Kerry camp, Osama didn’t come out and endorse the Democrats, a nightmare scenario no doubt for Kerry's handlers. And regardless, both Democrats and Republicans have come out and said that they would carry on the quest to bring Bin Laden to justice, so maybe he was a Nader fan who knows!

Somehow one would like to think that if nothing else in this campaign, the American voter won’t be terribly swayed by the ramblings of Bin Laden. However, we know that somewhere in America, a focus group is already interpreting the Osama factor in their polling numbers.

The rather healthy looking Bin Laden (whatever happened to that kidney problem?) seemed to relish in tweaking President Bush’s nose in this latest pop up video appearance. He gave Sweden an apparent pass in the terror sweepstakes, asking rhetorically why Al Qaeda did not attack the Scandinavian country if it were so against free countries. Saying that Al Qaeda left alone those countries that left them alone, he seemed to be reinforcing the split or trying to create even more of one between the US and its allies in Europe and elsewhere.

Bin Laden went on to suggest that the President was the author of his own misfortune by not responding to the 911 attacks quickly enough, preferring to instead listen to a little girl talk about a goat. With that little rim shot, Bin Laden snidely referred to the President’s appearance at a school in the morning during the attacks. And the wording of this part of his video gives one some idea as to what Osama must have been doing in his spare time, he’s been watching Michael Moore videos!

The uncanny turn of phrase is almost identical to the phrasing during Fahrenheit 911 and it wasn’t the only parallel drawn by Osama that sounded rather familiar with the Moore documentary. Bin Laden recounted the voting irregularities of the last election, suggesting that Bush stole power, placed in power by his father. He also provided his take on American civics, suggesting that the American’s have now done in their own country what Middle East countries have done for years, instituted a chain of succession on family lines. All points covered in one way or another in the Moore documentary. And certainly points that are making the rounds of the right wing websites on the internet, type in any Google search the words, Bin Laden and Michael Moore and read away, your conspiracy agenda will be filled with reading material til the last Florida chad drops.

But there does seem to be some synergy between the Moore message in Fahrenheit and Osama’s Opus. Which leads us to an interesting possibility? Instead of having the CIA, FBI and Homeland folks looking for Osama, turn loose Jack Valenti and the Motion Picture Association of America. Quite obviously in addition to being the worlds most cowardly terrorist Osama is nothing but a simple video pirate, there’s no way that the Blockbuster in the local mountains on the Afghanistan/Pakistan border had Moore’s movie in stock, nor would they rent to him, so where would he get his research material. Well you don’t have to go any further than your computer folks. Was Bin Laden trolling for pics from the internet? No doubt some Al Qaeda lackey has been designated to download movies, so have the movie police search the databases, if the folks at the RIAA can track a fourteen year old girl that somehow got her hands on an Ashlee Simpson tune (and hey if you don’t actually sing would that really be piracy?) surely they can find out when, where and how Osama saw the movie.

Jack the ball is in your court, find those pirates now. Prosecute to the full extent of the law! Bring in Osama, if only to spare us of any more of his cave side chats.

If this kind of drivel keeps up, instead of being a world terrorist, his career is going to slide into that horrid fate of being the local host on Al Jazeera Movie Night. Judging by the content of Friday’s debut, the first film will be Fahrenheit 911. Osama meet Count Floyd, whoooo scary stuff kids, scary stuff!

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Bumped players in Europe not at all happy with newly arrived "scabs"

The fraternity of hockey players is taking a bit of a kick these days in the solidarity department, while fellow NHLPA members debate the merits of holding fast against any kind of salary cap. The players in Europe that are getting bumped by the new refugees aren’t talking cap, their talking about being fed up with crap!

The 236 odd new arrivals have bumped a similar number of formerly gainfully employed players onto the unemployment rolls. And the situation is not sitting well with some of the newly laid off.

And while the NHL stars come to Europe for what amounts to beer money in their world, the folks that were calling the European leagues’ home are crying foul. Corey Hirsch seems to be taking the point on this battle on behalf of his recently unemployed brethren, in an exchange of e mails with Ottawa Sun columnist Chris Stevenson, Hirsch explains how the vast majority of North Americans that relocated to Europe did it to continue their careers and make some money in a game that they love. To have that taken away by the folks that “made it in the NHL” leaves a lot of them with a bitter taste in their mouths.

The new arrivals who are parking in Europe while things sort themselves out back in the NHL, don’t seem to be aware of the damage they may be doing to the players recently released. In a season to season league, performance in one year normally dictates whether you are invited back the next, the layoff of the North Americans puts their very careers in jeopardy normally when they need the money the most. When the lockout ends and the NHL resumes the vacationers will go back to salaries well in excess of the European league average, yet the now replaced players may find that their careers come to a crashing end.

And that has the now bumped players talking about returning to North America should the NHL re open with replacement players. Feeling that they have nothing to lose Hirsch says that they would just be doing what the current NHL players are doing to them.

It makes for a cautionary tone for Mr. Goodenow and the NHLPA, should the owners wait out the union until next year, there’s a very good chance that a pool of players will readily be ready to go to work, having been sent to the sidelines by the NHLPA’s very own players. The NHL stars currently taking their skates in the European leagues may very well have opened up a can of worms from which not good will come.

The logic of the recently unemployed makes sense, in any other strike/lockout situation the workers do not go over to another company and take the jobs of those that are already employed. They take the odd jobs to tide one over until the lockout or strike comes to an end, they work the picket lines and promote their cause.

They generally don’t create misery for other workers who were only trying to earn a living. The move by the NHL players that relocated to Europe, in effect makes the newly unemployed two time losers! They lost their dreams of NHL glory and now they’ve lost their fall back plan to play the game and still make a decent living. Make a person that bitter and you may reap what you sow!

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

Survey Says: The Game is Strong!

From it’s near death experience of the late 90’s to the phoenix like rebirth in Vancouver, Hamilton and Toronto, the signs are all there that the Canadian brand of football is back and regaining its place in the hearts of Canadians.

Confirmation of the renewed love affair between the game and its fans can be found in a survey conducted by two Sociologists at the University of Lethbridge. Reg Bibby and Trevor Harrison study trends and traditions there and recently conducted studies on Canadians and their attitudes towards the CFL.

On the Bill Good radio program in Vancouver on Friday, the two delivered the results of a market survey that shows the league is once again an integral part of the Canadian Sporting fabric.

Their findings should warm the heart of Commissioner Tom Wright, who has seen some remarkable success stories under his watch so far. Television ratings are strong, including a recent Sunday head to head where TSN’s broadcast of CFL games outpaced not only the NFL offerings that weekend but also surpassed the Baseball playoffs. As has been noticed previously attendance is another positive trend, Vancouver, Hamilton, Toronto all saw sizeable gains in at the gate and more importantly more buzz in their communities than in the past few years.

Sponsorship partnerships are beginning to develop into longer term commitments, with more and more companies looking to come on board. And grass roots interest in football seems larger than ever, from the college games of Atlantic Canada through Quebec, Ontario the Prairies and BC people are actually paying attention to the local teams, something that was mostly a family and friends activity in the past.

The survey sets up an interesting situation for Mr. Wright and his owners group, expansion can’t be that far off the horizon now that the pilings are back in place on the dock. Setting sail for new lands gives the CFL a number of options and in each location the interest in football is at an all time high. Atlantic Canada and Quebec City have both been frequently mentioned of late as possible destinations for franchise number 10. The survey gives the nod at the moment to Atlantic Canada which seems primed to welcome the league to the East Coast, giving the CFL a truly coast to coast dimension. The fact that there seems to be a bidding war developing for teams only bodes well for Mr. Wright’s stewardship and the product on the field.

Even the negatives reported in the survey can be a useful experience, some respondents and callers to the show expressed frustration at the lack of CFL memorabilia available for purchase, perhaps a more intensive marketing strategy with retailers will help get the League’s message, colours and product out into the marketplace.

Check out the entire interview for yourself by logging onto the CKNW website, their program archives page will hold the interview for one month. Click on Friday morning, October 29, 11 am for the full story. They should be downloading like mad at the CFL offices and distributing copies to one and all, the brand is strong!

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

Counting Chickens before they hatch?

John, pick up the phone and call a guy named Stephen! Well it won’t happen obviously, but if John Kerry could learn anything from Stephen Harper’s campaign for Prime Minister it would be not to mention your transition team before there’s actually a reason for transition.

The Kerry forces somehow let slip that Joe Biden is going to be a member of John Kerry’s cabinet come Wednesday morning and the Bushies packing up and moving back to Connecticut/Texas/parts unknown! As Mr. Harper could advise, letting the word get out only seems presumptuous and a tad arrogant in the final stages of a campaign.

There has been a raft of other names tossed into the mix as the campaign enters the final days, but with polls suggesting not only a close result and possibly a resulting lengthy recount period, a transition team may be the last thing Kerry should be working on.

Recount adjudicators and a battalion of lawyers for the necessary court challenges might be a more worthwhile team to assemble. With visions of the Florida fiasco dancing in everyone’s head but on a grander scale, the possibility of a long drawn out process of determining the next President is very much in play.

But for Kerry keeping a low profile on the transition team stories might be a wise strategy, no one likes a guy who takes for granted the affection of the voter. For every name thrown up for consideration the Kerry forces may lose votes on Election Day. Should the Kerry crew need any more incentive to keep a low profile on transition they need do no more than give Harper a call.

At the mid point of the Canadian election he was keeping pretty close company to the Prime Minister and like Kerry in some polls actually was leading at one point. Giving him cause to discuss transition plans with party insiders.

But when it came time to swear in the new cabinet, it was Paul Martin’s name called out as Prime Minister, Harper’s transition team was left to ponder what might have been. For the Kerry gang just some food for thought, as they tread the final days until November 2.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Spinnin' with Bill

Fox TV blowhard Bill O’Reilly may wish to revisit his famous words of mid October, when informed of pending legal troubles over reputed sexual harassment charges, O’Reilly took to the airwaves with a solemn vow to his audience to fight on against the situation he described as: "The single most evil thing I have ever experienced and I've seen a lot. But these people picked the wrong guy."

With true bravado he also hitched up his verbosity and declared on no less a pulpit than Live with Regis and Kelly that: "If I have to go down, I'm willing to do it," he said. "I'm going to take a stand. I'm a big mouth on the air and I'm a big mouth off the air."

And then the big mouth went silent! Lawyers talked and no doubt exchanged phone calls, faxes, e mails and depositions. And low and behold the wrong guy chose not to go on, quietly allowing his lawyers to dig him out of a deep deep hole.

In a fascinating reversal of testosterone O’Reilly’s lawyers have issued a notice that all legal hostilities have ceased, the combatants no longer wishing to carry forward with any form of legal proceedings.

In a Thursday statement Bill O’Reilly’s lawyer, Ronald Green issued the following wonderful testimony to settling ones differences away from the spotlight: saying both sides "regret that this matter has caused tremendous pain, and they have agreed to settle. All cases and claims have been withdrawn, and all parties have agreed that there was no wrongdoing whatsoever by Mr. O'Reilly, Ms. Mackris, or Ms. Mackris' counsel, Benedict P. Morelli & Associates." The no harm no foul, as long as the bills are sequential, clean and delivered promptly one guesses!

Green's statement also said he and O'Reilly "withdraw any assertion that any extortion by Ms. Mackris, Mr. Morelli" or his law firm occurred.
"Out of respect for their families and privacy, all parties and their representatives have agreed that all information relating to the cases shall remain confidential," Green's statement said.

And so will end the salacious details of O’Reilly’s relationship with his former assistant, the bombast replaced by bromo seltzer as the folks at Fox News finally shovel their news star off the front pages of every scandal sheet and website in the nation.

Has the damage already been done? Or will O’Reilly somehow find a way to skip over a rather unfortunate bit of publicity that certainly will bring down his overheated bellicosity a few notches. It most certainly will affect his latest publication "The O'Reilly Factor for Kids", some questions Mom and Dad just don't want to answer Bill!

Perhaps he can take on the task of a study on why Right wing commentators (Calling Bill and Dr. Laura), religious leaders (Hey Jimmy oh and you too Jim) and politicians (Howdo Newt, Jack et al) always seem to be knocked down a few pegs over sex scandals, a curiosity that seems to be the frequent domain of the right!

It may be a lengthy trip back to credibility (if he ever actually accomplished that in the first place) already his recreational activities are feeding the satire machine.

His latest little travails also have him the focus of those who wait for him to implode upon his own star. It will be watched with interest how the proclaimer of the NO SPIN ZONE, can deflect the issue without the benefit of a few revolutions of his own!

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Reversing curses and putting ghosts to rest!

For full effect the Boston Red Sox may have wished to tempt the fates and let this years World Series go the full seven games, a feat which would have brought the last night of baseball to Halloween, a most appropriate night for the reverse of a curse or the release of a ghost.

But alas, even the bravest Red Sox heart surely would not want to risk the unmentionable, so in almost workmanlike fashion the Red Sox accomplished in four games what countless past players, managers, owners and fans have long dreamed of, a World Series championship and the long, long anticipated end of the “curse”.

In a rather boring four games the Red Sox managed to send the St. Louis Cardinals packing despite some unusual statistics that would surely spell doom to any other team trying to win a championship. In the first two games of the series the Sox, committed four errors per game, surely the first time a team has fumbled the play eight times in eighteen innings and still walked away with a victory. When they weren’t stumbling on the field they were stranding them on the base paths, countless times Red Sox runners would be left on one, two or even all three bags, as Cardinal pitchers managed to wriggle out of trouble. Any other team might find that situation a sure fire recipe for disaster, but whatever Baseball Gods were smiling this year gazed down and let the miscues slide. Never once did the Red Sox trail the Cards, never did St. Louis ever look to be on the verge of coming back. A sweep quick and simple, bringing with it the end of the longest period of hand wringing in sports history.

St. Louis came out flat and while deserving of a kinder fate in the first game, in the end they were no match for Destiny’s Children this year. St. Louis couldn’t compare on the mound which is where this series was won and lost. Schilling, Foulke, Matrinez, Lowe, they all performed well and provided the Sox with the kind of pitching they needed to put away the Cards early.

Johnny Damon broke out of a slump as the Yankee series was ending and carried his offence over to the Cards; David Ortiz made the exclamation points when they needed to be made. Over all the Sox, hit well, pitched well and despite the fielding miscues, managed to make the outs when they were needed most.

After the thrilling comeback of the Yankee series, with the drama of a game seven showdown in the house of Ruth, there was really no drama left to mine from the Sox and the Cards. It was pedestrian baseball (and not only due to the amount of walks), devoid of rivalry, rebellion or seemingly relevance. The Cards but mere stand ins for the team surely had to lose, for history to be complete!

But Red Sox fans won’t remember the details only the sweet result of a universe finally exorcising itself from the ghost of 1918. For Yaz and Clemens, Fisk and the Spaceman, Doerr and Smith, anyone really who toiled in the Red Sox Colours, closure came on Wednesday night. One can only imagine the relief, maybe even joy of Bill Buckner, never again to be reminded of that rolling ball travelling through his legs, down the first base line and forever rolling until now. Bill Buckner can rest easy, the weight lifting on that moment, as much as the spirit of the Babe has finally released its grip on 1918. From three outs away from elimination to World Series champions, an ending for the truly faithful!

Superstitions come and go in baseball, and this legend has carried more distance than a David Ortiz blast to right field. But for Red Sox fans a night that featured an eclipse of the moon bathed in what else but red, would be more than enough of a sign to reverse a curse and bust a Ghost.

The parade starts on Saturday in Boston, they may be finished with the partying by then, but then again perhaps they’ll just carry on through Friday night and onto Sunday. Trick or Treat night in Boston, is all Treat this year, its all Treat!

Monday, October 25, 2004

For the Greed of the Game?

The bright light of accountability is being flashed on minor hockey in Toronto after a weekend series in the Toronto Star highlighted some rather unusual happenings in the Greater Toronto Hockey League. The well documented expose of life in minor hockey’s hottest market, opens up some eyes to a world many of us never knew existed. Robert Cribb and Lois Kalchman report on a system that seems out of control and running under its own set of ethics and rules.

It’s not a new issue; in fact the concept of the control of the GTHL was first brought up last year by Bob McCown on the Fan sports radio station. Indeed on his program Monday, McCown made mention of the newspaper article and immediately had an hours worth of phone calls from people using assumed names one suspects, expressing concern over the direction of minor hockey in Toronto.

Considered by many to be the ultimate in feeder leagues to the Junior A, college and eventually professional ranks, the GTHL is a collection of teams spread out over the vast terrain that makes up Metro Toronto. At the centre of the storm is a real estate agent, who has accumulated minor hockey teams like others would collect hockey cards. Stu Hyman has in the space of five years gone on to control over 93 teams in Metro Toronto, putting over 1500 players from age 3-20 on squads of which he has total influence. It makes for a wake up call for the romantic who thought that the minor hockey of our youth still exists today.

To read the Toronto Star series, Minor Hockey is very much a big business now, Hyman’s teams collect player fees of double the going rate for other teams, and star struck parents seem wiling to part with their monies, so their child can wear the team jacket of one of Hyman’s 90 teams. What real benefit those players may receive seems hard to fathom, but for whatever reason a sense of Omerta has descended on parents of players that toil for Mr. Hyman. Whether they are scared of his power, or worried about rocking the boat for their kids, no one seems to want to go on the record over the issue.

An interesting revelation in the excellent series is the fact that Hyman most recently attempted to purchase another minor hockey property for $300,000. One has to wonder what possible reason one man would want to have control of so many minor hockey squads, more importantly one wonders how out of whack our world is when a minor hockey team is worth over a quarter of a million dollars!

Hyman claims it’s a love of the game and a bid to benefit kids that has led him down this path. But critics and supporters continue to monitor developments and/or raise questions. The fact that he seems hesitant to address those critics in any public fashion only leads to the suspicion that things may not be as they seem.

For any parent of a player in minor hockey the article will be an eye opener, one has to believe that this is most likely the exception to the rule of minor hockey. Somehow the concept of small town hockey teams being auctioned off to the highest bidder seems to be a far fetched possibility. But in the overly competitive urban areas, it seems that the lure of a payoff one day down the line infects not only entrepreneurs, but parents alike.

The bottom line though must be this: if a kid is forced out hockey because the team he played for arbitrarily raised his fees by 100% without any explanation or accountability then the wheels have truly come off the train here. If it’s truly about the kids and for the good of the game, it seems incomprehensible that flipping hockey teams like real estate properties is compatible with that goal.

If Minor Hockey has developed (or descended) into such an industry that the parents of 3 year old children are scraping to find the funds to get their kid on the ”right” team, then we need to tear the whole structure of minor hockey apart and start over.

I played minor hockey for a few years, never made the touring teams, languishing in the House Leagues of Ottawa into the minor bantam years.. I was never under any impression that I was on a path to the NHL, eventually my interest in minor hockey waned and I like many others left the system. The talent I brought to the ice, most likely would never have brought me to the attention of the likes of Mr. Hyman, but more importantly the extortion of outrageous fees, wouldn’t have attracted my parents. It seems a sad commentary about Hockey that there are parents willing to pour that much money into a chase that in most cases will not lead to the Promised Land.

Below find links to the three investigative pieces by the Star’s writers, Robert Cribb and Lois Kalchman, read them, digest them and then wonder if the love of the game has any room in the minor hockey industry of today!

The fact that these demands are being made, is a major cause for concern and more importantly a call for a thorough examination. One fears that Cribb and Kalchman have only scraped the first layer of ice!

From Hockey Dad to Hockey Mogul.

A Looming face off over fees.

Where does money go, hockey parents demand!

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

The week of Essentials Oct 19-25

The boss is someone we all seem to hate,
Dick Cheney's thoughts they keep him up late,
Air Canada once they had no cash,
Now they've got Celine to start the bash,
The Yankees they were embarrassed good,
Perhaps Like Sheila, George will write a book
Bill Clinton he's done risen from his bed,
Will his kind words go to Kerry's head.
Seven more days have flown right by,
So sit right back as we recap on the fly!

19-Oct-04 We're just not happy, hate the boss and are generally just annoyed
19-Oct-04 Beg borrow and steal in the name of the Queen
19-Oct-04 From hanging chads, to floating chads
19-Oct-04 Bush/Kerry is just a preliminary, its Carlson/Stewart for the title
19-Oct-04 Lock up the CD players, Shatner sings again!
20-Oct-04 The price of one's convictions
20-Oct-04 Dick Cheney shares his nightmares (again)
20-Oct-04 Do as we said, not as we did
20-Oct-04 Yet more trouble for the Canadian Forces
20-Oct-04 Fly me to the bank
21-Oct-04 A pick and a prick
21-Oct-04 A Dead foot talking
21-Oct-04 Where seldom is heard a discouraging word
21-Oct-04 Bringing back that Band Aid solution
21-Oct-04 The hot dog that just keeps giving
22-Oct-04 Revenge is always best served cold, eh Sheila?
22-Oct-04 A foreign takeover that meets with approval
22-Oct-04 Harry slides out of control
22-Oct-04 He's fallen and he can't get up
22-Oct-04 A suggestion for Steinbrenner
23-Oct-04 The humble Don Cherry
23-Oct-04 Hunter and the Hunted
23-Oct-04 The Flu Cruise
23-Oct-04 Tumbling stocks and skyrocketing oil
23-Oct-04 Will a Kerry win cost Canada?
24-Oct-04 Hmm, didn't Andropov once get the flu?
24-Oct-04 Coming soon to Columbia House: the Bill O'Reilly collection!
24-Oct-04 Bono found what he was looking for
24-Oct-04 One big step over the line
24-Oct-04 She went to London to visit the Queen
25-Oct-04 Bubba's Back
25-Oct-04 Collateral Damage of the Newspaper Wars
25-Oct-04 First for the Post
25-Oct-04 Forget First Past the Post
25-Oct-04 Shades of Milli Vanilli

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Is there something we should know?

The current flood of Americans coming across the border to willingly be given a needle makes me wonder if I should be re-thinking my own flu shot plans. As I sniffle, sneeze and gag my way through a mid fall cold, the idea of lining up for my own flu shot seems actually sensible.

Originally I had decided that I would tempt the Gods and forgo the shot, as I generally fall into the category of Canadians that for the most part are healthy and not in the risk group demographic. I wasn’t even overly concerned over the flood of the blue rinse grannies taking the flu cruise, or the bus tour operators filling up the travel buses and clogging border crossings from Maine to Washington State. The flu shot scare in the US has inadvertantly become one of the great money making opportunities that Canada has seen, we can market entire tour packages built around a visit to a clinic, a prick in the arm and a fifty buck donation to the cause. Kind of a SARS situation in reverse (Maybe we should bring Back Mick and the Boys to entertain our visitors in the line up)!

But with the near panic in the US, I’m now I’m wondering if I should go get a shot just to be on the safe side, because if the Americans are pouring over the border in record numbers to throw their fifty bucks US (and now it’s almost fifty bucks Canadian) into the health care system, then maybe I had best get mine while there is still something to get. I mean their own president offered up the suggestion that perhaps our pharmaceuticals are not safe for consumption by an anxious American public, so if all those old folks are disregarding their own leader and crossing the border, surely they must know something right?

Things are so anxious in the US at the moment that even normally big and strong, NFL football players are receiving flu shots, a less than great PR moment for a group of supposedly fit and healthy athletes. Though to be fair, only those that have asthmatic conditions and such are taking the shot, the bulk of the players are foregoing their shots to spread the already short supply around their towns.

Here in Canada, we’re constantly being reassured that our supply is appropriate for the demand, but simple math tells one that with over 300 million Americans and only 30 million Canadians somewhere down the line the supply is going to be gone. Unless Health Canada has some bizarre 10 for every one ratio of flu serum sitting on shelves, one can see how the flu pipeline would quickly run dry, most likely just when we need it most.

Personally this is one of those situations where I’d like to have the decision made for me, if the government believes that a flu shot is necessary for all then provide enough vaccine to go around and hold a comprehensive inoculation session. Give us the facts, give us our options and provide the resources should be the credo of Health Canada on this issue.

I’m still leaning towards not getting the shot, feeling that the supply should first go to the elderly and the very young, as they are the two groups that are being urged to be vaccinated. I’m willing to suffer a few days of discomfort to avoid someone truly in need not having a flu shot available.

But if I start seeing the Green Bay Packers, Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions and Seattle Seahawks lining up at the border for a flu shot then get out of my way, I‘m heading for the front of the line. I’ll gladly let Grandpa Ed and Granny Mabel of Terre Haute get a shot before me, but when the guys in the prime of their life and the peak of their health start to panic then I’ll now something is up. If Brett Favre and his pals think they have had a rough time on the field, wait til they get in the way of MY flu shot.

Irreverent or Irresponsible?

The possibility of George W. Bush receiving a second term seems to be sending the left side of the media spectrum into apocalyptic fits of late. The views of Al Franken, Michael Moore et al have all been well documented over the last number of months. Jon Stewart of the Daily Show has made some pretty good political hay out of the various Bush mis steps, Stewart who at least left no doubt as to where he would cast a vote, came out and endorsed John Kerry. He then took his attack onto CNN, with a nasty nuckle duster with Tucker Carlson and served up a heaping helping of comeuppance to the media machine. A sign that the campaign is ratcheting up the testosterone as we near the end. In short the media has become a battleground all of its own.

The timbre however is becoming a little nastier as voting day comes a calling. The scathing wordprocessing of Hunter S. Thompson has brought us a blistering indictment of the Bush first term and fears of what a second one might bring. Thompson in the latest edition of Rolling Stone mocks Bush as hardly a man worthy of the presidency, calling for a return to the halcyon days of Richard Nixon, a president that may have been a crook and possibly unstable, but never embarrassing! But Dr. Thompson is but a mere peacenik in the world of vitriolic character assassination.

Where Thompson merely destroys the image of George Bush as a statesman let alone as a President, Charlie Brooker of the Guardian newspaper in the UK goes much, much further. Brooker attacks the President mercilessly, he scarcastically mocks the presidents speaking patterns, his disjointed syntax and the less than concise explanations of political belief. He paints the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania as a man barely capable of bowel movements let alone world policy, its all very nasty stuff. A stream of Journalism that even the much maligned Fox network has yet to swim in.

In blunt language Brooker proclaims that the world is holding its breath collectively hoping against hope that the electors in the US, spare the rest of us the misery of a second term for the President. A very derisive piece it surely leaves the reader fully aware of where Mr. Brooker sits on the issue of the Bush Presidency and the repercussions for all of us of a second term. But all of his salient points and clarity of thought gets tossed out of the window with the final paragraph of his diatribe.

Brooker must surely however, have stepped over the line with his call for the spirit of John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald and John Hinckley Jr. to carry through the waning days of the campaign.

Suddenly an irreverent piece veered dangerously into the territory of irresponsibility. Regardless of ones perception of the fitness of Bush for office, the call for his removal by violent means seems a complete break from conventional thought, not to mention a dangerous and much unwanted change of the political temperature.

Even in their wildest moments, the likes of Moore, Franken, Stewart calling for change and even a public Bill O'Reilly for the stay the course campaign, have managed to keep a handle on the actual process of presidential succession. Something that Brooker clearly has no desire to do. Brooker with his final words has clearly put us beyond the concept of Democracy, instead in his world the end would justify the means and the bullet from a gun, would trump a ballot in a box.

When we allow that to become a solution then the Democratic process will have suffered its gravest blow. Journalism is supposed to inform the public, examine the issues and shine a light where a light needs to be shone. When it gets off message, as this piece clearly did, it demeans its purpose and adds nothing of value to the debate!

Coppin’ a plea: Sheila unleashed!

The Christmas book selling season officially got underway on Friday, as “leaks” about Sheila Copps upcoming tome made the rounds of Ottawa. With a few excerpts giving us a glimpse of what is to come in Worth Fighting For, we are left to believe that this will be a bare knuckles memoir, guaranteed to further isolate the once mighty Liberal cabinet minister from the current crew on the Hill.

The Liberal troops in Ottawa rallied around the Prime Minister on Friday, suggesting that Ms. Copps memory may be a tad faulty, in her remembrances of times in cabinet. Accusations that back in 1995, while he was Finance Minister, Paul Martin wanted to eliminate Old age pensions, get rid of the CBC and scrap our much cherished Medicare law were all treated with scorn by Liberal after Liberal on Friday.

To have Sheila tell it, only her concerns voiced to Prime Minister Chretien, saved the country from the destruction of our medical system. A suggestion that the Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan dismissed out of hand, handling the point on the attacks on the Prime Minister McLellan told the Commons that the only thing the Prime Minister has planned for the Health Act is to reinforce it on behalf of all Canadians.

She also fans the fire of Canada’s decision not to become involved in the current Iraqi situation, claiming that Martin would have had Canadian troops on the ground had he been Prime Minister one year earlier. It’s a charge she comes up with based purely on the company he keeps. In Sheila’s world, the fact that many of Martin’s leadership team were more pro American than she and other Liberals, somehow translates into a whole hearted desire to commit troops to Iraq. Apparently Martin’s placement of David Pratt as Defence Minister prior to the last election was a sign of our militaristic nature. One might call this a bit of a stretch. To somehow divine his long term plan from the appointments he made seems to be a rather special talent available only to Ms. Copps.

To confirm her bona fides as a “true Liberal”, Sheila enlists the aid of Jean Chrétien in her forward; Chrétien takes what many perceive to be a veiled jab at his successor, when he describes Ms. Copps as hard working and Loyal! However in true vacillating fashion we are treated to an immediate cautionary note from the Chrétien forces. An aide to the former Prime Minister claims that he was only providing the foreword as a favour to his loyal minister, adding that he hadn’t actually read the book when he did the foreword; we aren’t to read anything into his words. This makes for a bizarre situation that once again shows that even in retirement, some Liberals never seem to want to be responsible for their words or deeds.

Copps who lost her seat in a bitter nomination battle with Tony Valeri in Hamilton denies that she in any way is engaged in a revenge festival, claiming that if that had been the case she would have published her book before the election last May. But then one suspects that the best bitterness is that which ferments for a while.

She saves some of her most determined vitriol for the process that eventually forced her from her place in the party, suggesting that the Liberal party of today under Martin is conducting organized fraud from the top down, engaged in a number of dirty tricks. This from a woman who proudly declared her allegiance to a group of renegade Liberals known as the Rat pack!

She also slyly warns the Prime Minister that he may not be finished with her just yet, claiming that you never know she may make a third run for the party leadership! With these claims she firmly exhibits a delusion of grandeur if ever there was one. Seemingly lost in her place in Liberal history, she just can’t accept that her time may have come and truly gone. Having levelled her guns at many of the current Liberal members one wonders exactly where she plans on picking up any kind of ground swell of support.

What her efforts will do however; will further create division in a party that is suddenly thrust back into the backroom days of the Chrétien slow march to retirement. Complete with old rivalries, old scars and more uncertainty. This should make for an interesting situation for a government that is hanging onto its parliamentary life one vote at a time. The Liberal caucus room will be a cauldron of suspicion in the short term, any wagers on how many folks bring the book into the caucus room? You can bet that Conservatives will however, be checking the book out of the Parliamentary library, making their checklist of wavering Martinites, ready to pounce on a daily basis at any sign of discord with the boss.

Copps claims that her book is nothing more than her “telling truths, her truths!” Truths that apparently come will little or no back up documentation. As far as any form of corroborating evidence goes, Sheila claims she kept no papers, no recordings, nor notes, it’s all from her head and her soul. We are told we should trust her as she will swear on her father’s grave, that these are her simple truths.

And here is where the dilemma for booksellers will begin, with no backing evidence, no paper trail and a bit of an axe to grind with the Martin Liberals, one wonders where will your local book store place this epic purging of a tortured soul.

Will it be Fiction, Biography, Fantasy, Humour or True Crime Stories? Time and the sales count will be the final determining factor as to the fate of Sheila! Is she a crusading beacon for change or just a bitter and jaded politician who had a lengthy run at the trough and now is unable to let go.

One assumes the verdict will be issued by the amount of time it takes to go between the best seller list and remainder bins. Indeed we could also say that her political future is composed of very much those same parameters.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Curses, Martial Law and the joys of a game seven!

The troubles in the sport of baseball are numerous; over the years an entire generation of fans seems to have lost touch with one of the great sports of our era. Greed, mismanagement and a seemingly contemptuous attitude towards its fans have threatened to send the once proud game down in the ninth without a hit.

But there once again is joy in Mudville as the Red Sox and Yankees rise to the occasion of drama and pull us all back to the television and back to the game that transcends time. There is nothing like a Red Sox/Yankee series to bring out the emotion of a game that can live and breathe with every pitch, every hit, and every managerial move and yes every call of the umpire.

The current match up between these two bitter rivals has once again showcased just how enthralling the game can be if left to the players on the field and the managers in the dugout. With a history that dates back past to a curse from 1918, we appear on the verge of writing another chapter in the lore of one of the great sporting rivalries of our time.

In a series that has had it all, we are gladly going back to the tube tonight, begging for more, hoping to squeeze every last ounce of drama from what has become one of the most entertaining championship match ups in recent history.

Down three games to none heading into last Sunday’s game most fans were already preparing the obituary for the Red Sox, embarrassed early on in this series including an astounding 19-8 defeat the Red Sox have picked themselves off the ground, dusted themselves off and stepped right back into the batters box. Battling back one game at a time, the Sox have fought through two games lasting over 4 and a half hours, staved off elimination and now sit just one game away, a winner take all contest that will send the winner tonight (or maybe tomorrow morning who knows with these guys) on to the World Series.

Never before has a team come back from a 3-0 deficit to advance, never before has a team rallied from that deficit to force a game seven, never before have we seen such drama as the last three consecutive nights of baseball have provided. And never have before have we seen the incredible happenings of last nights 4-2 Red Sox victory at Yankee stadium.

Not once, but twice the umpires were called upon to convene as though they were cardinals at a papal summit and render a judgement to the assembled flock. Decisions which were greeted unanimously with disdain by the assembled multitudes (the Yankee fans at any rate) and will fuel the fire of this rivalry for more years to come. A fourth inning hit by Mark Bellhorn provided the first concave of the night, as confusion reigned on the field the umpires gathered to discuss whether his hit cleared the fence or bounced off the rail, television replays clearly showed the ball hitting a Yankee fan in the first row, which would make it a home run. The umps without benefit of replays would have to take a straw vote, home run it was, for Yankee fans the night suddenly got colder, the mood uglier. The Sox were in the lead and by the end of the night that lead would be tested, but would hold.

Backing up a gutsy performance by starter Curt Schilling the Red Sox refused to go away quietly into the night. Blood oozing into his socks from his stitched up ankle, Schilling gave much more than could be expected, Schilling more than made amends for his sub par performance in game one of the series. Lasting until the seventh inning, Schilling provided the kind of pitching the Red Sox wanted when they acquired him for this season, with nothing left in his tank, the Sox relievers went to work and shut down the Yankees for the third night in a row.

The drama of the night completed by the surreal sight of New York City Police dressed in riot gear lining the field during the ninth inning. The need for the reinforcements another controversial call by the umpires that in the end wasn’t controversial at all. In the eighth inning with Derek Jeter on first base, Alex Rodriquez hit a grounder down the first base line, running to the base he swatted the ball out of relief pitcher Bronson Arroyo’s glove a definite contravention of the rules. The play was missed by the first base umpire who was blocked out of the view of the play, resulting in the second concave of the night, and again the Yankee faithful would find the decision wanting. Ruled interference, Rodriquez was called out and Jeter sent back to first base.

Yankee fans with the vision of game six slipping away from them proclaimed their indignation with a barrage of baseballs, cups, programs and other missiles directed at Umpires and Red Sox players alike. Fearing a much uglier scene could be on the horizon home plate umpire Joe West called for the troops, and a battalion of New York’s finest, dressed in battle ready riot gear took their place along the third and first base walls.

With a sense of martial law declared the game once again resumed, the Sox avoiding further bad karma by wrapping the Yanks up in the bottom of the ninth, forcing the greatest experience for a baseball fan a Game seven showdown. One pitch, one hit, one error or a blown call, could make all the difference between ending a curse or adding to it’s legend.

Baseball couldn’t ask for a better series to rebuild its shattered image, with the debacle of the Expos (Podunk passim) still fresh in our minds, we needed a sign that the sport was still worth following. The beauty of this series is that it shows that the game itself, much like hockey can somehow withstand the abuses of those that purportedly have its interests at heart. Leave us with the game between the foul lines and it’s a wonderful sport, no talk of salary caps, commissioner prerogatives or franchise shifts. Just a pitcher, a hitter and the fielders providing thrill after thrill.

When the Expos were born I split my loyalties between them in the National and the Red Sox in the American, following the trail of the Red Sox from Yaz to Fisk, from Clemons to Spaceman Lee and Billy Buckner I cheered when they won and commiserated when they lost. Far too frequently it has been at the hands of this Evil Empire from New York; one crosses one’s fingers, works on some chants and dares to dream that tonight that curse of the Babe will be put to rest. The near panic of the New York Post and New York Daily News a testimony that the momentum has swung to the Red Sox Nation.

The latest chapter in this rivalry of the ages takes place tonight. Game time is 8:20 (5:20 PST) it seems hard to believe that this incredible run can be topped, but you just have a feeling that the best may yet be to come. Baseball history could be made tonight, something that this sport surely needed at this time. In the end it's always about what happens on the field, as it should be.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Power at any cost?

Stephen Harper opened up his own personal Pandora’s Box of governing theories last week, with a position paper that seems to put him solidly on the side of the autonomist class in Quebec.

Shut out in that province in the last federal election, Harper seems to have decided that quickest route from opposition to government comes with the partial devolution of federal powers to linguistic groups. Harper suggested areas in the realm of broadcasting, communications and international relations, would all be turned over to representatives of the linguistic majorities in our country, whether those representatives would be elected or not wasn’t fleshed out in his presentation.

For a party that gets all up in arms over the lack of progress on the issue of elected senators, allowing key aspects of Canadian society to be turned over to groups based purely on a language division seems rather strange. The Conservatives have relished at the idea of backroom deals in the sponsorship scandal being made public day after day, yet their leader is floating an idea that seems to provide the platform for much of that same kind of abuse which they rail on about on a daily basis.

Harper put forward his position last Friday in Quebec City, comparing his solution to the ongoing constitutional ennui, to the form of governance currently in place in Belgium. Using the Belgian plan, language not just provincial territory serves as the base for separate French and English institutions. A situation that must surely result not only in redundancy but enormous cost, as the same program is put forward twice for each area, special interest groups coveted and courted at every turn.

Harper stressed that his plans were in the early stages and were non constitutional, designed to break the never ending bickering that reflects all matters involving the two linguistic groups in our country. Which make his selection of Belgium as the Petri dish for his lab experiment in nation building a rather strange one. The animosity in the different regions of that European country make our frequent disputes seem like the whining of squabbling children. You want ancient blood feuds and distrust to the max, head for Belgium. Everything in that country seems to be put forward in a spirit of what they got, we want. Not exactly the most unifying form of nation building.

Caught up in the brave new frontier he was crafting on the fly, Harper even went so far as to back the Action Deomcratique’s Mario Dumont’s desire to have Quebec referred to internationally as “the autonomous state of Quebec”. Suggesting that he personally found the term rather unattractive, Harper said that should the province of Quebec choose to call itself that, so be it, he would have no problem. Claiming such a term would be merely symbolic, he seems to be a tad out of touch with the actual aspirations of the folks he was trying to reach. From this corner, you are either a member of a country or you’re not Mr. Harper, a declaration of autonomy would be just that, the devil may be in the details but that particular declaration surely can’t be any more cut and dried. Remove enough “national” components to a province or “autonomous state” and it’s not such a long step from complete independence.

If that’s what Quebec would want, then allow them to search for it on the up and up, no backdoor, gradual devolution of powers, where we wake up one day to the realization that the country we thought we had is no more. So far in the two attempts at that grand adventure, the populace have stepped back. The idea of some convoluted maybe they are, maybe they aren’t declaration certainly won’t go anywhere in solving whatever legitimate grievances there may be.

His comments apparently were directed to the few Conservatives left in Quebec, the soft separatists (those who want their special place but with banking privileges) and surely would appeal to those sovereigntists that are weary of their own path to independence seemingly never leading anywhere.

We have to wonder how this policy would have sold itself during the last election campaign, never mind the possibility of picking up seats in Quebec or an Ontario breakthrough, one wonders how this defacto special status program would have been presented in Western Canada, the Conservative homeland. Last time I checked the folks west of the Lakehead weren't particularly enthralled with the idea of special deals and non accountability!

The Liberals as could be expected have been quick to ridicule the Harper plan, suggesting that building a better Canada and not improving Belgium should be the goal of a Prime Minister and his government. And while the constitutionally bankrupt Liberals are one’s to talk, they will no doubt benefit from the disjointed Conservative policy currently being offered up.

No doubt the current national system of government is in need of overhauling, but Balkanizing the country into separate fiefdoms, governed by linguistic boards seems a rather poor start in the necessary work ahead.

Harper says that this policy is a work in progress and certainly not his final word. Which is a good thing for him, as right now it has all the appearances of a political science project with no real direction. With that in mind, he would be best served by tearing up the term paper and starting over. Canadians are quite used to sharing ideas, more than used to sharing monies and no doubt ready to make sacrifices for a common good, but at the end of the day the concept that an actual Canada will exist in some recognizable form is a non negotiable point.

There is much work ahead on the nation building front, but if this is the best that the Conservatives can offer up, then that agenda is going to be claimed as their own by the Liberals.

It’s a tactical error to suggest that by using division we are stronger, if anyone would realize that, one would think it would be someone from a party known for its divisive fights of the past!

The Don is ready to swear!

Well judging by the play of his football team the last three weeks you could hardly blame the man for a few choice words, but for Don Matthews curses will be the farthest thing from his mind on Saturday.

Prior to the Alouette/Renegade match the long time CFL coach will receive his Canadian citizenship, taking the oath from former Alouette George Springate, who is now a Canadian immigration judge. Matthews comes by his Canadian dream honestly, his Mother was born in Tracadie, New Brunswick and relocated to the USA, so in a way we're just reclaiming a son!

And Matthews is not one to sneak into the country unobserved, Saturday’s game takes place at the Olympic Stadium, so Matthews will have over 52,000 witnesses to his leap of faith. The Don has been coaching in the Canadian league for over 27 years now and felt the time had come to join the ranks of “New” Canadians.

By the end of Saturday’s game the CFL will have three “Canadian” coaches leading teams in the league, one suspects the next guy we need to work on is Pinball Clemons, judging by his popularity in Toronto and across the country, he too would be a welcome addition to the family.

Cake and drinks at Matthews place on Saturday, seating for 52,000. Perhaps the joyous occasion will spur his players on to turning around their October swoon; if not our newly minted Canadian coach may be issuing deportation letters of his own come the end of the season!

The above posting first appeared in my Twelve men on the Field blog, for more items about Canadian football check it out!

Fact or Fiction with the WHA!

Neil Macrae resident sports guru at Vancouver radio station CKNW, has given legs to a rumour that is quickly making the rounds of the hockey world. McRae is reporting this morning that the NHLPA had explored the option of purchasing the WHA but chose to pass on the opportunity.

The story it would seem has it that, the players association thought that a way to get around the NHL lockout might be to buy their own league and get back to work. Having the players working at their sport, the pressure of a rival loop would thus put some pressure on the NHL to settle on the union’s terms. In a way it would become a league of convenience; to be used as a gambling chip in this giant game of ice poker currently going on.

You can listen to Macrae and Brian Burke discusses the idea on the NW morning sportscast at 8:20, check it out here on their audio vault.

If indeed the rumour has something to it, the questions that are out there make for interesting study. It would be interesting to see what factors the NHLPA used when determining that investing in a hockey league was not a wise decision. Was it the possibility of losing its members money that scared off the idea of buying a rival circuit?

Perhaps after doing some number crunching the NHLPA realized that the challenges of organizing a league with arena leases, insurance, player salary structure and such wasn’t going to make for a profitable situation. Salaries would have been an interesting case study, suddenly players that were making multi millions of dollars would have to try and balance the cash coming in with the cash going out. How long before some players used to making a huge salary would have to be told that due to financial constraints they needed to take a pay cut? Who would run such a collective group, would they nominate one of their team reps or would Goodenow become a defacto commissioner, giving him some common ground with Gary Bettman and ironically perhaps some sympathy.

We’ll probably never know, as there is not much likelihood that the NHLPA will ever admit to having given the idea serious consideration. The necessary due diligence of starting into such a venture might have indirectly given them some insight into the situation that the NHL faces at this time. That would not be helpful to their current stand, that Hockey is making enough money to share among the stake holders, without the need for “hard salary caps” or “cost certainty”.

In a way it’s unfortunate that the rumoured plan didn’t proceed, it would have been interesting to see if the union’s position on the state of hockey would stand up to the test of the marketplace. Is their current stand nothing but pure posturing, designed to apply the maximum pressure to obtain the maximum reward? Or were we on the brink of a brand new revolution in the world of hockey? Was this story Fact or Fiction? It’s an intriguing question, but one that apparently will go unanswered.

The above posting first appeared in my HockeyNation blog, for other items about Hockey check it out.

Doug was no oridnary Slug!

Canadian pop music lost one of it’s more irreverent and talented personages on Monday morning with the news of the passing of Doug Bennett. Best known as the front man for the 80’s band Doug and the Slugs, Bennett caught that wave of Canadian music that found its voice in the early and mid 1980’s.

He and his Slugs put together catchy pop hooks with some interesting material to provide Canadians with an infectious chuckle to go with their AM and FM programming. The band was at the leading edge of that bubbling Vancouver band scene through the eighties, a period of raucous rock and roll, fascinating blues, eclectic mixes and just plain good times. Like some kind of travelling battle of the bands, the musical class would set forth and travel to the hinterlands bringing the gospel of a newly empowered Canadian rock scene.

Chilliwack, Trooper, Streetheart, The Powder Blues Band, Red Rider, Loverboy, The Paylola$, and Bryan Adams all got started around the same time, the mid to late seventies and found some of their best success in the mid eighties. Heading out from their Vancouver base and travelling through Western Canada and beyond, they all put a show to the sound on the radio. For many smaller communities the appearance of Chilliwack, Trooper, Streetheart or Doug and the Slugs would be the closest they would ever get to the rock and roll circuses of the day. Most were serious and a tad self indulgent, Bennett on the other hand would be one part travelling rock and roll evangelist and one part total buffoon.

His shows were legendary for not only the musical chops but the kind of humour that made an audience take note, that there was more than four chord rock and roll out there. Whether in the local watering hole or up on a stage in a concert setting the Slugs put on a show, though truth be told somehow Slug music always went well with a couple of ales.

From the debut album Cognac and Bologna, you got the feeling these guys weren’t particularly taking the rock and roll business quite as seriously as their contemporaries. Their first hit Too Bad, summed up the ups and downs of life and perhaps gave us an inner look at the business of music. “Too bad you’re not as smart, as you thought you were in the first place” Everyone could relate to that lyric, who hasn’t thought they had things figured out only to have the plan blow up in your face. The Slugs could understand your day as if it were their own, if the boss dumped on you during the morning, give a listen while Doug commiserated over a beer by night.

Probably not many folks could put out a song called Making it work and well, make it work! If it came out today it would most likely be subjected to a bidding war between Viagra and Cialis, such was the power of a turn of a phrase as exemplified in Slug music. With Bennett you needed to listen to the lyrics like some kind of cipher rock code breaker, each song could have many interpretations, subtle nuances that if you missed could send the song in a totally different direction. One person’s feel good song, would be another’s signal that the end of the world surely could not be that far away, considering what was just heard on the radio.

Canadian music in the early seventies consisted of a lot of what was called “legislated hits” songs that were played over and over on Canadian radio to fill CanCon requirements; overexposure would ruin many a Canadian music star in the early days. But by the early eighties the mandated play of Canadian music no longer meant yet another listen for Anne Murray’s snowbird, or the umpteenth time for Seasons in the Sun. With many of the bands from BC making some noise by that time, a rather healthy and prosperous Canadian industry found its feet. Coming along for the ride would be Doug and his fellow Slugs, determined to remind most of the travelling minstrels that it’s supposed to be fun above all else.

There may not be another ten year spread in Canadian music like there was between about 1978-1988, the music generated across the country in that period of time built the blocks for an industry today that still sees some fairly talented artists making waves not only across Canada but around the world.

For all of the new wave of Canadian musicians currently finding the flame glowing bright for their music and careers, perhaps a moment of reflection for the halcyon days of Slug music, it never reached the lofty heights of Shania, Celine, Bryan or Rush to name but a few. But for a few years there, bopping along to Making it Work provided just as much enjoyment as the offerings of the giants of the times.

We’re missing a little bit of our musical history today, filed away under Good Times had by one and all. Bennett’s musical soul can be found doing a Tom Cat prowl along the backstreets of Vancouver’s Chinatown doing some calculations. He took his success Day by Day, we’ll remember Slug music song by song and laugh by laugh!

Sunday, October 17, 2004

The week of essentials Oct 12-18

The PM he has found some cash, but the finance minister made his stash.
The subs we bought had history, leaving us with misery.
Micheal Jackson's in the news, pay attention if you choose.
Martha's happy doing time, writing notes that just may rhyme.
Wal Mart tries to stop the union, John an George do their final tunin'
Seven days they went by quick, we list our entries with no tricks.

12-Oct-04 Takes one to know one
12-Oct-04 Greedy, Ignorant, misinformed voters
12-Oct-04 Sticks and Stones may break my bones, but words are going to cost you
12-Oct-04 It's the beer around there
12-Oct-04 Streaking from his past
13-Oct-04 So who is for the common guy then?
13-Oct-04 It's their party and they'll sue if they want to
13-Oct-04 And his mother wore Army boots
13-Oct-04 Micheal Jackson is quite distressed
13-Oct-04 George Bush unplugged
14-Oct-04 Paul and Ralph find some coins under the couch cushions
14-Oct-04 Suddenly drugs from Canada aren't so dangerous
14-Oct-04 Never mind Bush and Kerry, what's happening with Jeb
14-Oct-04 Democratic stupidity or Republican Dirty trick?
14-Oct-04 Rap is still strong, so 25 years on
15-Oct-04 Red Glow in morning, best to take warning, Red Glow at Night, geologist's delight
15-Oct-04 Goo, goo, Googley Good?
15-Oct-04 But what do you really think of him?
15-Oct-04 Just what makes us so smart?
15-Oct-04 Yusuf Islam's upcoming Christmas message
16-Oct-04 Slowhand has a lead foot!
16-Oct-04 Democrats cry wolf, when it's still in the forest
16-Oct-04 Cowabunga Canada, dude
16-Oct-04 The troubled past of HMS Upholder/HMCS Chicoutimi
16-Oct-04 The reluctant platoon
17-Oct-04 Inside the office of Strategery
17-Oct-04 Life at Camp Martha
17-Oct-04 Does Alan drive his own car?
17-Oct-04 The CodFather offers up his opinion
17-Oct-04 26 years and still on the job
18-Oct-04 Lowest prices always, No unions forever?
18-Oct-04 Micheal and Mel: Oscar's outcasts
18-Oct-04 Never on a Sunday
18-Oct-04 Fearing the final days of the election campaign
18-Oct-04 UK tallies up the bill for sub rescue

One part Mr. Rogers, One part Elwy Yost

He had the look of a Hockey Dad dropping into the rink to watch the kids play, just another neighbour. And dressed as he was like the late Mr. Rogers, one expected that Ron McLean might break into the neighbour song at any time. But this was no episode of Mr. Rogers neighbourhood; instead it was the CBC’s programming gap filler known as Movie Night in Canada.

McLean would introduce a triple header on this first night of what should have been NHL action on the people’s network. Instead of the New York Rangers we were given Dinosaur (perhaps not that much of a stretch after all!), the Adventures of Indiana Jones would take the place of the tribulations of Pat Quinn and Jaws would fill in for the Orca Bay whales known as the Canucks.

McLean did an ok job of introducing the flicks and shilling for the new and exciting schedule of CBC programming coming up this season. But one wonders how long the audience might stick around if indeed it did at all. No Cherry, No satellite Hot Stove, no Kelly Hrudy to dissect the play. Instead we get the chance to view movies readily available on 99 cent night at your local video store. If the CBC really wants to mine this movie night idea, perhaps schedule their excellent mini series of a few years ago called Net Worth, it probably will put the current labour dispute into perspective better than all the talking heads combined.

While Mclean practices his best Elwy Yost delivery lines we at HockeyNation wonder how long it is before the likes of Sportsnet and TSN fill the hockey void with games from the AHL or Junior leagues on Saturday Nights. Instead of the Bay Boy or New Waterford Girl how about following the boys of the Screaming Eagles! There’s an audience there for the tapping should they choose to attack the CBC’s hallowed ground.

Sadly the CBC must know something that the rest of us only fear, the labour problems with the NHL will last a while, they have movies scheduled through til mid December! Perhaps the CBC could expand on the use of their celebrities during the hockey shutdown; my personal choice is to have Nicholas Campbell in his character of Dominic Da Vinci conduct an inquest into the death of the NHL season, now there’s a Saturday night program to die for!

Friday, October 15, 2004

Perhaps he has bigger fish to fry!

With the absence of any action on the ice, we’re left to ponder all the rumours running wild around the vacant NHL rinks. The latest the suggestion being, that Wayne Gretzky may make the short trek from his partially completed owner’s box to down behind the Coyotes bench.

General Manager Mike Barnet has been busy recounting a summer discussion with the Great One where he suggested that Wayne take the reins and run the on ice product from right behind the bench. Not much happened since that conversation, and many speculate it is just some random chatter designed to keep the Phoenix faithful interested in their team.

Though for Rick Bowness the current interim coach of the Desert Dogs things might be nice if they were a little more fleshed out, Bowness still has that less than secure term interim attached to his name and with this Gretzky rumour making the rounds one wonders where he fits into the equation? Video rewinder? Skate sharpener? Tape dispenser? Clipboard holder? The options are endless.

However, for Rick the news may not be as bad as he might think. For if Chris Chelios has his way, Wayne will skip the bench boss job and head for the penthouse! Chelios offered up the idea of Gretzky taking over the entire league, in Chelios' NHL, Gary Bettman gets a pink slip and Wayne gets the key to the executive washroom!

Chelios, who seems to be taking over the job of outspoken critic of the NHL from Brett Hull, recommended Gretzky for the job on a radio program today. That after blasting Bettman’s performance as commissioner in the Detroit Free Press the day before. Chelios may find his lockout social calendar dwindles a bit though, in his Q & A with the Free Press, he called for 6 or 7 teams to be eliminated, which would of course eliminate roughly 150 NHL jobs for his fellow union members. Expect Bob Goodenow to suggest Chely refrain from his problem solving for the time being.

As for the idea of Gretzky for commish there is just one question Wayne must ask himself. Does he just want to be just a trainer of the Dogs or does he want to run the whole kennel?

The above item first appeared on my HockeyNation blog, for more items about hockey check things out!

If at first you don't succeed! Trough and trough again!

Well one suspects that our federally elected officials just don't get it. Hot on the heels (and hot under the collar) of having their judicially tied 10% pay raises kiboshed by the Prime Minister, our Members of Parliament have decided the best way to the cash, is through the back door.

The National Post on Thursday revealed the latest little secret, outlining how members of all parties, even in a tense minority government situation, have found some unity on one item, that of pure unfiltered self interest. As all party representatives gathered behind closed doors (while the Prime Minister was conveniently across the ocean), they peeked through the window long enough to give a nod to increasing their perks of office.

Quietly discussing the issue (so softly that nary a taxpayer would hear!), the three main political parties feel that an increase of $55,000 would make a wonderful consolation prize to the much lamented and lost pay increase. Entertainment, travel and other little office expenses will all be topped up under the increased revenue stream.

Conservative House Leader and apparent bean counter John Reynolds, thought that the 55 thou might be a tad much and might just result in a public backlash (you think John?), so he parsimoniously suggested only a $23,800 increase now and then another $23,800 in January (No doubt to cover all those holiday festivities, New Years can be such an expensive time eh!).

For the record, your local MP is already provided with $293,000 to help keep things organized in the office. That does not include the millions of dollars set aside for any foreign travel that may be inflicted upon our hard pressed lawmakers. Strangely no one mentioned the plan to increase the office perks in the last election campaign, perhaps it was an oversight, what with all the hectic activity of trying to get consecrated er I mean elected!

Sean incognito does a wonderful job of detailing the many excesses of our "elected" officials, it truly is must reading for those that can't believe the gall of this pack of self indulgent spendthrifts.

This latest outrage from Ottawa somehow explains why we think like this.

With less than two weeks back on the job, it's the same old, same old, from the new crew on the hill. It brings to mind that ageless classic from the Who.

Yes indeed truer words have never been spoken. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss! Yes, Sadly we will and have been fooled again!

The above posting first appeared on my Boondoggle blogsite, for more stories about Government check it out.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

CFL is truly a punters game now!

(Def) punter
1. to lay a bet against the bank as in roulette.
2. Chiefly British slang: to gamble

The CFL has blazed a bit of a trail in North American professional sport with the announcement on Tuesday, that it will ally itself with a well known British based on line sports book and Casino.

Brent Scrimshaw the league’s senior vice president of marketing and partnerships was suitably enthusiastic with the announcement that the CFL and Bowmans will team up for two years, offering CFL contests on line for gamblers to take a chance on.

CFL fans will be seeing Bowman’s signage on the sidelines as soon as the divisional playoffs in November. They will also offer a “free” on line promotional parlay contest which fans can take part in without having to part with any cash. Of course, the regular book will be available as well, for those die hard fans that wish to put their money where their picks are.

The idea of a professional league actively engaging in bookmaking has been a no go area for years. All of the other major North American sports leagues have a hands off; keep your distance relationship with gambling. In effect providing a collective nod and a wink.

Over the last number of years, NFL and American college football, as well as the NBA and NHL, have benefited greatly from the unsanctioned bookmaking. The below the radar gambling has created a surge of interest in the various sports. Check any office on a Friday afternoon and you’ll find somebody with the NFL schedule collecting 10 or 20 bucks, for a winner takes all pool. Not to be left out, provincial governments across Canada have jumped on the sports wagering bandwagon offering up a wide variety of games for play. Gambling has been an unofficial part of sports for a very long time. The CFL it seems is just jumping ahead of the professional curve a little bit, benefiting (it hopes) from any interest in its product.

The one worry of any sport league is the potential for skulduggery in the play of the game as it involves point spreads or kicks made or missed. The CFL claims to have built in “firewalls” into the Bowmans program to make that suggestion of less than honest activity a non starter. With betting limits for fans and a strict no participation policy for its players, the league is of the opinion that the relationship with Bowmans will be of benefit to the league as a whole and something fun for the fan.

If they find that too many problems crop up then they will end the agreement and chalk it up to an idea that had merit but didn’t work out. However, the league believes that this project will only be a positive step for a league that is always looking for new revenues streams, better advancement of its product and a way to connect with its fans.

One thing is certain; the last few years have seen the CFL make some interesting moves all designed to help grow its game. People are talking about CFL football again, creating a buzz about a league many feared was on its last legs. Judging by the successful turn around at the gate this year across the league, betting against the CFL succeeding in their latest project might not be a wager you would want to take.

The above posting first appeared in my Twelve Men on the Field blog, for more information about Canadian Football check it out.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

The smell of waffles in the BC air

With a population still not totally convinced on the merits of its Premier, you would think that the time would be ripe for the BC NDP to start to formulate a bit of buzz about their leader and her policies.

As Premier Campbell begins the process of spreading the wealth , proclaiming the good word and paving the roads, the numbers are beginning to turn his way finally. Whether that success lasts will be interesting to watch, but for the moment the strategy seems to be working. While still not the most loved public official to ever call Victoria home, the Premier has been able to arrest the slide of his personal popularity, keeping the untested and relatively unknown Carole James at bay through the summer, into the fall and into an election year.

The strange strategy of the NDP peek a boo campaign, was on display today at radio station CKNW, Ms. James was a guest on the Bill Good show and managed to spend an hour in the studio and on the air without actually providing much information about how an NDP government may change the direction of public governance in BC. Much to the exasperation of host Bill Good, James continually advised that as “we get closer to the election, we’ll have a policy on that, make our views clear”. Til then one assumes we are just supposed to say oh hey, Carole has a plan it will all work out.

The Liberals had all sorts of problems at the start of this year, scandal nipped at their heels, the economy with the exception of the Lower mainland was still very much a basket case in the “heartlands” and the perception of the leader was less than reassuring for Liberals. However, if the latest Mustel poll is any indication the Campbell forces may have weathered the storm and the captain of the ship may actually survive to bring the ship into the electoral port.

The Vancouver and lower Mainland economy is chugging along nicely, parts of the heartland are coming around especially the North east portion of the province which contributes massive oil royalties and promises a rejuvenated minerals sector in aid to the provincial treasury. The lumber industry is still very much a troubled sector and in some places, the Northwest for example the economic indicators are not particularly positive for the short term.

Yet the NDP has offered no solutions, let alone policies on anything, we’re told to wait for the election when James and her forces will offer up something substantial. By then it may be far too late, they have wasted a valuable year, effectively giving the Liberals a free pass at their most vulnerable point. By not getting their leader more involved and the message out to the public they run the risk of once again finding themselves marginalized in the Legislature in the spring election.

The cause of the NDP mission is not served well by comments to wait until they announce their plans. The time to take a stand has arrived; the voters need to know what it is they would change, what they would keep the same and how they would be a viable change to the current government. It says on the NDP website that the countdown to change has begun, if so it's the quietest countdown in history! Don't let these folks run your New Year's Eve party, you may never know the calendar has flipped!

You can listen in to the CKNW archive (select Wednesday, 8:30-10 am for full coverage) to hear what waffling sounds like, like Good the average voter is getting rather frustrated waiting for the NDP to set some kind of course of action.

So far, this peek a boo campaign has only served to give comfort to Liberal election planners. By not engaging in serious debate of the issues, the NDP run the risk of being overtaken by events in BC. The telling tale for the NDP, the one thing that should give them cause for concern? It's only Six months before the next election (May 17th, 2005) and over 55% of the electorate have no opinion of the leader of the opposition. While the optimist will say at least they don’t hate her, the real fact is that she doesn’t even register, a fact that may be more damaging to her and her party on Election Day.