Monday, May 30, 2005

How exactly does this work?

Ok podunkians time to help out the old Podunkmeister here, found this article on the BBC website today and it got me to thinking.

How can an Admiral be the Chief of Defence of Bolivia, Bolivia after all is a land locked country in South America with no ports, where exactly does a Navy go and what does it do? Please advise via the comments section.

With our new knowledge though we offer the Chief of Defence a great deal on some used subs we have 3 1/2 of them ready for shipment to the first sucker, er customer...

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Fast times at Rideau High!

So Canada's highest level of government has come to this, rather than a chamber of sober thought and socially redeeming legislation, we instead are treated to a bunch of adolescents who seem closer to a high school clique than those worthy of our vote, let alone our trust.

The last few weeks of drama from Parliament Hill are worthy of Dawson's Creek, The Breakfast Club or Fast times at Ridgemont High, West Wing material this is not.

Today we were treated to the after shocks of the Belinda crossing. Belinda was welcomed by her new best buddies in the Liberal Club, many of whom took to the stage to stand up for poor little Belinda who has been the victim of vitriolic exchanges from her old gang in the Conservatives.

Like kids who have changed friends in the middle of first term, they gathered around their new best friend to walk through the halls and show everyone how close they were. All that was missing was someone tripping Belinda as she walked through the cafeteria or shoving Belinda into a locker until the fourth period spare!

Later in the day Newsnet, Newsworld and All My Children featured the broken hearted Peter Mackay pouring out his heart to a kindly reporter who quietly asked Peter how he was feeling, whether he would ever get over the heart break and most importantly did he have anything to say to Belinda.

Peter sputtered out how he was caught by surprise by Belinda's change of not only party affiliation, but of chosen best buddy. It seems he didn't even know she had dined with the Prime Minister early on Saturday, before sitting down to dinner with him. Now while not wishing to kick a broken hearted guy while he's down, we will only suggest that he do his grieving in private and avoid the media for the next while. His sad looking eyes and drawn expression at love gone awry as he wandered alone on his fathers farm, should send waves of fear over the populace over how he may react to a national crisis as a Conservative cabinet minister.

The day got only stranger as it went on, later on we were treated to Conservative MP Gurmant Grewal caiming that Ujjal Dosanjh had offered up a cabinet post if only the Surrey MP would come on over to the Liberal side of the chamber. Dosanjh suggested that this was all wishful thinking on the behalf of Grewal and both sides lashed out at each other as liars. Yes folks, minority gov't certainly works well doesn't it! This crew is definitely taking care of business, unfortunately none of it is business of the state.

As if things couldn't get any more bizarre we learned late in the day that a backbench Liberal MP had been rushed to an Ottawa Hospital by ambulance suffering from chest pains. Only time will tell if he's capable of making it to the Commons tomorrow for the big vote.

No doubt countless Conservatives are waiting to see if an increasingly desperate PM will make a secret call to them, with their own little cabinet spot before the 5:30 vote. Perhaps PM the PM could just phone up Stephen Harper and offer him up the leadership of the Liberals and the Prime Ministership, with what's gone on in Ottawa the last few weeks, nothing seems beyond possibility.

Thank God that the budget vote has finally arrived, perhaps by Thursday night this sad little melodrama will have finally played itself out, but somehow we doubt it. Instead it'll be more of the high school theatrics, all that's left is for the kids to get their yearbooks signed and vote for this years Class Clown, Lord knows there's no shortage of candidates for that honor!

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Tales from the land of the Red Cedar

Fans of Canadian Literature will find something familiar about the above title for this blog entry, as the Red Cedar is an award for Children's writing in British Columbia. Now up until this weekend past I myself had not heard of the award, nor the authors that vie for it's reward. But with a ten year old boy who spent the last few months immersed in Red Cedar titles, I quickly have brought myself up to speed on a rather important event in the Can Lit scene.

Basically the Red Cedars are awarded to deserving authors at a gala held once a year, normally in May and normally in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia. The books are nominated and school children across the province then read and vote on them. This year the awards headed north to Prince George, the first time that the northern city has had the opportunity to tackle the logistics of such a huge event.

Our involvement was that of the proud parents (and book carriers) as our lad and a very poised young lady from one grade above, were chosen by their school to be co-presenters for one of the nominated authors. They were chosen for their work on the Red Cedar project at school, they would read a number of the nominated books and then write up a book report on the epic studied. A fair amount of work but in then end well worth the effort as they prepared their presentation with the assistance of their supervising teacher.

The Red Cedars were a one day gala celebration, made up of a parade of authors, presentations, question and answer sessions with the authors and an autograph scramble as we carted our school library books from author to author for autographing.

With over 800 people in attendance at the College of New Caledonia for the opening and closing ceremonies, it by far was the largest audience most of the participating children would have faced thus far in their young lives. The presentations from each school were about two minutes and ranged from dramatic readings to recitations of facts from the selected books.

For our pair the two minute presentation featured a bit of theatre that tied in our community, school, the book in question "Hana's suitcase" and bit of history about what the book was about and it's impact on the students. Despite the huge crowd our kids remembered their lines and their marks like showbiz vets, in fact I suspect the parents were more nervous for them than they were themselves. Without missing a line or a beat they rattled off their two minute presentation without a flaw and basked in the applause from the crowd afterwards. No doubt a special moment in their lives that won't soon be forgotten. I know that we felt a sense of pride as they stood on stage accepting the accolades of a huge crowd.

The organizers put on a top notch show, covering all the bases and had things go off like clockwork with few noticeable snags a long the way. Making use of many volunteers from the Prince George High shcools and community at large, they did a remarkable job of showcasing the authors, books and participating schools. The success that they had over the weekend, should give the Red Cedar organizers the incentive to keep moving this gala around the province from year to year. Believe it or not people read books beyond the Langley district line.

For the authors it proved to be a great way to get feedback about their works, meet their audience and helped to put some cash in their pockets as well, the book selling was fast and furious at one point as kids scrambled to pick up their favorite work and rushed to find an author to autograph it.

Most importantly though it fosters a love of reading, which in this day of the multi channel television universe, Nintendo, Gameboys, computers and such is a hard sell at the best of times. By celebrating the authors and involving the children, the written word may still have a viable place in our society.

For the record, Hana's suitcase won its award for Non-fiction, and while the presentation by our young ones had nothing to do with the actual winning of the award, none the less our kids had a special attachment to an award winning book. To hear a book that they presented become the eventual winner gave them a sense of ownership of the title with Ms. Levine.

For one Saturday in May, the focus was on books, ideas and confidence. Not a bad way to spend a day and certainly worth a sixteen hour round trip by car. If you have young ones at home check out the nominees and get a head start on your own home literature program. You can even plan ahead for the Red Cedars in 2006, Inquire at your school and see if your province has a similar program and involve your kids, the sense of accomplishment will be something to watch!

A bombshell named Belinda

You know I'm still trying to decide if Belinda Stronach's departure from the Conservative Party is a bad or a good thing for Stephen Harper. In the short term it will most likely secure the government of Paul Martin, as Ms. Stronach's all important budget vote will go a long way in making sure the budget passes on Thursday.

In fact, with Stephen Harper's decision that his party will now support the budget, but vote separately against the orgy of spending at the behest of the NDP on that same budget, the Stronach move may have been blunted and maybe even countered. With that decision even Harper is admitting that the time may not be right to bring down the government.

However, the conversion of Belinda from fiscal conservative to free spending Liberal should be something to watch. Having given her the huge Human Resources portfolio with its potential for boondoggle largesse, Martin may find that his gambit to save his gov't today comes back to haunt him later on. The promotion from opposition member to cabinet minister gives off every odour of opportunism, despite the protestations otherwise. It will be just another item to add to the list of Liberal goodies to remain in power.

When the news first broke that Stronach had jumped to the Liberals I originally thought that it was a master stroke by Martin to go around Harper and secure his government for the foreseeable future. But with the benefit of time I now wonder if the electorate will look at that as a legitimate change of political orientation, or just another cynical manipulation of the system for the benefit of the governing party and the buffing of a young lady and her ego.

Various polls show that at the moment Canadians are not eager for an election, so perhaps the Stronach solution will prove to be a wise political machination worthy of other Liberal leaders such as McKenzie-King and Trudeau. Or perhaps it will just add more fuel to the fire of a party that seems determined to hang on to it's position at whatever cost need be paid off.

It was for now, a good day for Paul Martin and a bad day for Stephen Harper. But considering the timbre of the Parliament and of the nation these days it may only be a short lived good feeling. Canadians are traditionally suspicious of those that change their stripes, in this case with a great reward for doing so. Cynicsim is never far from the surface in Canada these days, after today it may not be thinly disguised anymore and instead may be in the open and festering.

Stephen Harper has quite a bit of work to do, not only on his own personal image but on that of his party. However, if an election comes down to ethics and credibility, the events of today may in the long run work in Harper's favour.

Perhaps all of her reasons for jumping ship were up front and legitimate, maybe she truly is fearful for her nation and unsure of the Conservatives under Harper. But perception is everything in politics and the perception today is that Ms. Stronach received a nice little reward, for delivering one single vote on a Thursday afternoon.

Canadians will one day get the chance to cast their votes once again, maybe not soon but eventually later. The accumulated baggage of the Liberals attempts to hold power at all costs may come back to haunt them, we trust that Ms. Stronach will enjoy her stay in the rarefied air of the cabinet room, even though it may be a short stay. Then perhaps I will have a more definitive idea as to whether today was a good or a bad day for Belinda, Paul, Stephen and the country.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Mandate received, but with an opposition with teeth!

The cake walk reign of Gordon Campbell came to an end on Tuesday night, while the BC Liberal leader received his second mandate as leader of the government, the days of having the BC Legislature mostly to himself are long gone.

With a surprising result, the NDP under Carole James collected 33 seats, 31 more than they had at dissolution. Many (including myself) had expected the NDP to pick up around 20 seats in this election as they rebuilt their party from the ashes of the Glen Clark/Ujjal Dosanjh years.

Instead, a backlash against the harder lines of the BC Libs sent 33 NDPers' off to fight the good fight in Victoria. Campaigning to be an opposition party seems to have paid off for the NDP as they will at least make the Liberals more accountable in their next four years. Gone now are the days of a lonely Joy McPhail and Jenny Kwan holding down the fort for socialism against the forces of unfettered capitalism. The results tonight make a wonderful retirement gift for McPhail who did a remarkable job of holding the NDP together in its darkest hours, in the last four years she was the lone voice for social issues in a legislature that refused to even offer her party official status, the results of the vote today are vindication for her and Kwan's hard work and the result of McPhails steady leadership. She can take her leave now, secure in the knowledge that she put the blocks in place for the NDP rebirth this night.

Still, a thirteen seat majority isn't exactly something to be sneezed at. Gordon Campbell will still be the premier, the majority is a workable one, which will allow him to still enact legislation, though perhaps with a more humane touch from here on in. The Liberals knew they were going to lose seats in this election and found that many of the rural areas had not bought into their programs sending the incumbents off to find other work.

Two of the "heartland" battleground cities basically told the tale of this election, both Kamloops and Prince George returned Liberals to office and those two ridings pretty well sent the Liberals back into power as they stayed the course with the Liberal agenda.

Northern ridings seemed to turn their backs on the Liberal candidates as the NDP picked up all the seats west of the Prince George ridings, starting their march at Bulkley Valley and trekking across the landscape taking everything up for grabs to the Pacific Ocean. This despite some serious money infusions to three of the ridings prior to the election. With a strong first nations presence and heavy union votes the NDP recaptured ridings that once were theirs in their halcyon days.

The Greens once again failed to win a seat, the 9% of the vote that the Greens picked up could have added a few more seats to the NDP total. Adriane Carr leader of the Green did not pick up her own seat and one wonders whether she will remain as leader of what seems to be a perpetual spoiler party now.

The win for the Liberals will be a warning shot for future policy ideas. The confrontational and mean spirited atmosphere of the early years of the Campbell Liberals will be long gone now. With an opposition party with numbers ready to take to the Legislature, the Campbell gov't will have to rethink it's policies regarding health and education. The vote today was a rebuke of much of the Campbell platform over the last four years and a return of the ideological split that has ruled this province for so many years now.

The Liberals won the majority of the seats, but did not win a majority of the popular vote as the NDP/Green vote combined would be close if not above 50% compared to the Liberals 44%. Interestingly enough, the STV proposal did not meet the required level of acceptance leaving it's fate unknown. But one wonders how the Legislature might have looked with an STV style of ballot on this election day.

While the numbers of positive STV replies were higher than expected, it was very much a proposition that never seemed to gain widespread support or acceptance. No one seemed to actually campaign on its behalf, both the major parties kept a low profile when asked about it and neither seemed to be in any hurry to adopt the thing.

For today though its first past the post and that mudder was named Campbell. But James was coming up fast on the inside track and it should be an interesting time in BC as a rejuvenated NDP prepares to do battle with the Liberals. A strong opposition may be just as good as actual governing for the NDP and its supporters, they have four years to keep the Liberals on their toes refine their policies and bury some of the lingering doubts about their ability to govern.

I will admit I was a bit surprised at he success of Ms. James and her party, I felt they had not run a particularly effective campaign against a gov't that had many soft spots. The results tonight show that the voters were far more in touch with her style and message than I thought they were. Or perhaps it was purely a vote against the Campbell Liberals tough love agenda from three years ago, the NDP were going to have more seats at the end of this night regardless, with about 12 more seats than I anticipated back in the NDP fold, the night truly belonged to James and should secure her hold on the leadership for at least the next four years.

For Gordon Campbell the loss of seats and vote percentage is a reminder that the gov't serves at the pleasure of the electorate. Stray too far from it's comfort zone and you shall receive a slap on the wrist, stray further over the next for years and Carole James may get a chance to add the title of Premier to her CV.

Friday, May 13, 2005

It rained today!

Now folks familiar with Podunk may find that an unusual thing to state, as rain is one of the main events here in Greater Podunk. But the last three weeks have for the most part been unusually hot, sunny and quite enjoyable. Hence my lack of entries to ye old Podunk. Frankly, spending time toiling by a keyboard while the Sun beats down on normally soggy shores didn't seem like a fine bit of time management on my part. I would much rather work the lawn, watch the young folk play their sports and enjoy the heat. Anchored to a computer just wasn't in the plans I'm afraid, my apologies to the regulars who found entries few and far between!

Not only was the weather rather conducive to outdoor pursuits but the first two weeks of May have been rather busy ones around these parts, we've had soccer tourneys to attend, Cub camps to take part in, a Carnival rolled through town separating parents from their money supply and some landscaping jumped up and demanded to be done. All of which has kept me from regular postings of any kind.

Not that there hasn't been a lot to write about, as I heaved a shovel or cheered on a soccer player my mind was running through the weeks events, Steve Nash setting Canadian pride up a few notches with his MVP award in the NBA. A true team player such as he deserves the accolades he has received in the last few days and those with the sour grapes about his success can just go find a dark room and sit down.

Speaking of people who need a time out, we watched with horror as the children on Parliament Hill laid to rest forever the concept of mature parliamentary debate. Watching the four donkeys of the political apocalypse bicker over the pathetic happenings in Ottawa, makes one wonder if the nation is truly worth saving.

The most disgusting of the behavior happened over the weekend just past, our four political party leaders let their partisan posturing stand in the way of honoring our veterans. For some inexplicable reason, these four morons believed that by arriving a day late and more than a dollar short all would be forgiven by those that should never be taken for granted. Wrong and wrong again. By letting their political chicanery take precedence over what really should have mattered, the four leaders of Canada's political parties showed they really have no concept anymore about what is truly important.

Surely they could have reached an agreement by mid week last to suspend the silly games of Ottawa so as to attend the commemorative ceremonies in Holland. Instead we were treated the sight of the four dashing to Europe a day late to show their political flags at a thrown together ceremony, a full day after the heartfelt admiration from the Dutch citizenry was shown across Canada. One wonders why they just didn't stay home and take their lumps.

We have not be well served these last few weeks by our elected officials in Ottawa, judgment day may soon arrive for all of them, I wouldn't be counting on a return to office for many of these petulant nobodies.

There is still much to write about, the ongoing soap opera from Ottawa, an election in BC and even some hockey that actually means something. But alas, it will all have to wait.

I could vent on some more and perhaps I will, but not just yet. Another hectic weekend beckons with things that really matter, not the things that our politicians would like us to think matter. I'll take a break from them again for a bit, perhaps if I take a long enough break they won't be there when I come back!

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Dennis Miller's CNBC gabfest RIP!

The folks at CNBC have decided to stop scaring all those businessmen home from the Wall Street Wars, by having Dennis Miller take leave of the financial network's studios. Miller who never seems to take a prisoner has had his show cancelled by CNBC which has decided to concentrate on business matters in the time slot. Hmmm, whoda thunk it.

At any rate, with Miller's departure comes an end to an interesting experiment in business television, no more rants, no more varsity and no more monkeys, and with his departure one less bellicose voice on the right to rail away at the foibles of the world. My friend Sean at seanincognito wishes Miller a speedy retirement, whereas I'll actually miss the man with the thesaurus in his mind. In fact I looked back into my Podunks to see what I said about the debut of Dennis Miller Live back in January. And then offered up some suggestions as the show launched.

My cable provider long ago terminated CNBC from our tier of available channels, providing us instead with three different feeds from Detroit for the latest in motor city mayhem. So I've been out of the loop as far as Dennis goes for quite a while. I must admit though I actually did enjoy his show from time to time, though the monkey thing never really made any sense to me. I'm sure he'll follow the lead of Bill Maher and take his verbosity and political leanings to the likes of HBO or Showtime, so soon we'll probably be able to either cheer or jeer.

He may have annoyed many a liberal with his conversion to the dogma of the right, but one thing was certain he was never ever boring. Unlike the channel which has just sent him on his way!

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Flutie Fantasy Finished!

The two weeks or so of courtship Doug Flutie by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats came to an end on Saturday. As the New England Patriots bellied up to the bar and offered the diminutive little field general a one year contract and a chance to end his career back in his beloved New England from whence it all began.

And with that bit of business taken care of, Darren Flutie could head for a Tim Horton's instead of a Gold's Gym. The fantasy camp of the Flutie Brothers will not take place in Southern Ontario this year, there will be no Flutie to Flutie finish in the CFL.

Darren had stated he would come out of retirement to join his brother Doug should he decide to return to the CFL for a grand finale tour. To that end he had started the necessary wind sprints and strength work to survive a training camp in less than one months time.

But the chance to play in front of the hometown fans of Massachusetts proved to be more of a lure than the opportunity to play pitch and catch with brother Darren in Hamilton. So Darren will head back to the press box, while Doug carries the clipboard in Foxboro.

And perhaps that's all for the best, while no doubt an exciting possibility for CFL fans to see Flutie back in the passing league, there's also the idea that you can't really go back in time to recapture some magic. The Flutie years in the CFL were filled with some pretty impressive moments, perhaps they would be tarnished just a little by a slower Darren and an older Doug.

With the Flutie boys taking their skills in other directions, Danny McManus can now concentrate on getting things in line for what will most likely be his farewell tour of the CFL. McManus was kind of lost in the excitement these last few weeks and that's not particularly fair. Danny Mac has been just as important to the CFL and surely deserved a bit more respect than the vision of the baggage on the side of the field.

He should slip easily into a mentor role and the Tiger-Cats would be foolish not to take advantage of all that accumulated knowledge from his many years in CFL combat. As he prepares for the Hamilton camp, perhaps now he can receive a bit of appreciation from the Black and Yellow faithful. Never complaining in the dark days of the franchise, he should be provided with some gratitude for keeping his team on an even keel when all around him were looking for the lifeboats.

While it may have been fun to have had the Fluties together for one final run, it's just as important to respect a guy that has stayed with the CFL through thick and thin. Now the problem for the Cats is how to spin all of this into a positive, besides this Flutie/McManus melodrama the Cats also let the popular Joe Montford go in the off season. Interestingly enough, Montford suggested as he was leaving that while it may be all and shiny on the surface, inside the Ti-Catss offices it's the same old atmosphere regarding player management. Before they hit the field, Ti-Cat management have some fence mending to deal with in the dressing room.

The above posting first appeared on my Twelve Men on the field blog, a site dedicated to the world of Canadian football, check it out for season updates and other items of interest.