Monday, October 31, 2005


Scared ya eh!

To all our podunkian visitors a Ghoulishly good Halloween, filled with Howling times to you.

May your treat bags be full and your visitors kind and gentle.

If you want to get into the mood of the night, Y music is offering up a Halloween music channel for those creatures of the night.

And if you dare to travel to the dark side, they even offer up some of the scariest videos out there, the Halloween horrorshow is just to set the mood before you head out for the night!

And if your ghoul or goblin lives out of town you can always send them a card courtesy of 123 greetings.

Have A Great and Safe Halloween!

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Hedge funds on a bubble?

The mysterious world of hedge funds continues to attract some unwanted business press as October proved once again to be a nasty month for financial matters. Traditionally October brings bad news, what with a depression and a couple of economic meltdowns in the last 80 years or so. So it's not unusual to see financial managers anxiously count the days down to the end of the month.

This year in addition to the woes of General Motors which has been battered all month long by bad news, hedge funds started to shed some of their mystery. Unfortunately for fund managers, the sudden attention caught up with them when Refco announced its financial problems. The American hedge fund found itself under suspicion when its CEO was discovered holding a huge amount of hidden debt from the company. The repercussions of that discovery apparently has rumbled through the financial world, sending more than a few investors for the doors while the getting is still good.

The troubles in hedge funds have now moved beyond American shores, as one of England's largest fund managers Gartmore, proclaimed that "something is broken in European equity markets", not the most positive of statements from those controlling billions of dollars of wealth.

The whole hedge fund culture has been a rather mysterious little affair, rumors of scandal or collapse regularly dog these instruments of wealth. The situation tends to create a bit of a bubble economy, many folks may be thinking the time to exit is at hand before things get worse, which of course tends to only exacerbate the decline of any investment. Paul Krugman did a nice job of explaining how one fund went sideways a few years ago, when published his Tiger's Tale. The hopeful ending to the taleat the time, is now somehow not quite so promising unfortunately.
The prediction that 1600 hedge funds will go broke in the next two years probably doesn't do much to shine up the hedge fund image of late either. Worries on what this all might do to the world economy, must keep your average G8 financial minister up late nights wondering what impact it will have on their little corner of the world.

Of course part of the problem is the secrecy of these things, little is known about them, nor how they generate wealth and as long as the money comes in everyone is willing to play musical chairs, it's when the music stops that will make a difference. Somebody isn't going to have a place to sit then, all that remains to be seen is how many chairs actually disappear.

October is normally the cruelest of months for stocks, but this time around it may only be the set up month. Nervous managers and investors watch that calendar flip with interest and a wee bit of trepidation.

"The Monster in the backyard"??

Who us? Yikes, our over excited neo-con right wing looney friends to the south of us, perceive Canada as some kind of great Satan to all that is Mom and apple pie. (Cue the scary music and turn the lights on and off). As we approach Halloween, all that is scary to America apparently comes from above the 49th parallel.

An alarmist by the name of Warner Todd Huston, has penned a little contribution to something called The Conservative Voice, that claims Canada is perhaps a greater danger to American security than our fellow continental bookend Mexico.

According to Mr. Huston, Al Qaeda zealots are just slobbering at the prospect of launching their jihad on America from Canada, trotting out stories from a few years old involving the Khadrs of Toronto and their well documented love of al-Qaeda. Mr. Huston may not believe it, at least according to his thoughts on Canadian law enforcement, but I would hazard a guess that the Khadr family can't so much as buy a slurpee without the folks at CSIS having the sales receipt itemized.

Huston recounts the Ressam affair, where the two would be terrorists entered the USA via Victoria, only to be caught by a very aware US customs official. Huston goes on to say that it was just the beginning of a steady stream of similar reports, plots and arrests. All of which seemed to have missed the glare of all media, including the usually excitable Fox News Network. Just saying it, doesn't quite make it so there, Mr. Huston, occasionally you need proof of your facts. But then, we wouldn't want that to get in the way of a good story.

Mr. Huston suggests that our "generous" social system is a bottomless pit for al-Qaeda operatives who apparently love living on the dole, while they make their plans. While we will admit to a certain amount of welfare fraud being rampant in all parts of Canada, the idea that we're some kind of terrorist subsidization program seems laughable.

Now surely there are people who have arrived in the country that may not particularly embrace our beliefs and don't provide an all inclusive contribution to the federation. However, I would think they are by far a small, small minority of all immigrants. To suspect that a wide swath of immigrants are just here to bring pain and destruction to the USA, seems more than just a tad paranoid. Most of them are here to find a better life for themselves, a belief that once led millions to the shores of a less confused and irrational USA.

His assertion that there is a visceral hatred of America by Canadians, seems beyond sanity as well. There are many disagreements that Canadians have with Americans. Most of which by the way, come at the end of an American boot on economic arguments (see the never ending softwood battles or the beef import/export problems of the last five years if you are so inclined there Warren), one which frequently finds our American friends ignoring trade rulings and/or common sense resolutions. But to bray on about a hatred of America by Canadians show a simplistic look at bi-national issues, not to mention a complete mis-reading of the Canadian nation.

He seems to confuse legitimate concern over issues between the two nations with hatred, a rather easy way out of any debate. For every Carolyn Parrish, there probably are tens of thousands of Canadians more inclined to good neighborliness, if only the guys/gals on the other side of the fence were so inclined as well.

But then (at the risk of expressing a visceral hate of America) it's what we have come to expect from the fringe voices of the American right. It's the kind of thinking that will demand passport controls on two nations that depend on cross border trade and travel to keep their economies alive. It seems that in Mr. Huston's world shutting down the unfettered trade of two inter-twined economies is just the nature of protecting his nation from the bogeyman. Mr. Huston's world needs to have sealed borders, one where no one can seemingly get in, nor can anyone apparently get out either. A troublesome outlook on the future of a rather great democratic nation.

One worries that his voice (and his like minded acolytes) may catch the ear of an administration that seems to need diversions at times, especially when things get too hot politically. And right now in Washington a diversion could be a welcome thing for the current officials.

It being Halloween I guess it's appropriate to be discussing monsters and such. I guess if we're a monster, we probably resemble Sasquatch, he of the hairy beast of the Northern woods, swirling snow and fog of breath.

So hey Canada, pull on the ole Halloween mask, it's Monster, Chiller, Horror Theatre time and Warren wants to be afraid, he wants to be very afraid!

Living out a Business Maxim

The times are indeed rather tough and getting tougher for disgraced former Refco CEO, Phillip Bennett. The former head of the financial house Refco, has been charged with hiding million dollars in debt and continues to watch his former company lead the business sections with ongoing tales of woe.

As mentioned in a previous Podunk, Refco has been a spectacular flame out in the financial world. But as bad as things are for Refco (and its poor shareholders), they aren't much better for Bennett, who faces a 50 million dollar remand bond bill, and apparently can't find anyone to lend him a hand.

Bennett's lawyers appeared in court on Friday to advise the judge in his case, that so far only Bennet's wife has been able to sign on in support of the 50 million dollar bond, Bennett's pleas to five other friends for support, has been met with the stoniest of silences. Which poses a problem for Bennett, as one of the conditions of his bail will be that six people guarantee his bond.

The lawyers return to the courts on November 1st with financial records in tow, hoping to impress upon the judge the severity of Bennett's financial situation and thus reducing the requirement for six guarantors, leaving only Bennett's wife and son liable to carry the can, if he should head for the hills.

As his empire crumbles Bennett has learned a truth in business, "success has many fathers, but failure truly is an orphan!" He can also apparently count his friends on one hand and with fingers to spare!

Hoooo, it's a scary one kids

The timing is interesting for the CBC as they prepare to air their much discussed documentary on the 1995 referendum Breaking Point. The documentary goes to air 10 years almost to the day, of the most recent battle for the hearts and minds of the Quebecois, a chance to sit back and reflect on what almost was.

But even more appropriate is the airing of the special on the night before Halloween, yes we bring back the ghosts and call upon the demons of the past to visit a turbulent part of our history.

The background pieces we're hearing of lately, include tales of a shaken Jean Chretien wondering if all had been lost. Discussions of replacing Chretien should the sovereigntist side prove victorious. The show which will air on consecutive nights paints a picture of a government very much in disarray as the strategy to win the referendum appears to unravel in front of their very eyes.

When it first aired in Quebec in the late summer the reaction dredged up many memories some good, some bad of the entire atmosphere of the province at the time. With a Halloween release, the rest of Canada can sit back starting Sunday and watch the ghosts of the past, continue to haunt us in the present!

Saturday, October 29, 2005

All that we hear is, Radio Ga Ga

Paul Martin is on the air! Taking a cue from that fellow down in the US of A, the Prime Minister is set to begin a weekly radio address, starting this Sunday.

The Liberals have purchased air time on private radio stations across the country to air the PM's two minute oratorical creations, every Sunday between 10 and 11 am. The reason for the purchase of air time as opposed to the free time CBC route is quite simple, apparently he may chat about things political from time to time and felt that the Liberal party should bear the price of the chats. This way if Stephen Harper, Jack Layton or Gilles Duceppe wish to rebut or offer up thoughts of their own, they'll have to pony up some cash. If nothing else, Paul Martin is going to be a very popular guy around the CAB member offices.

For those that don't live in the 28 selected markets, there's no need to be worried. You shan't be deprived of the PM's way with words. All of the chats will be made available on the Liberal party website at, which I guess now means the PM the PM is now a podcaster.

Surely it's only a matter of time before the return of Paul's blog to the web. Faithful Podunk followers will remember the halcyon days of the last election, when the PM (well his handlers eh) kept us up to speed on the day day excitement of a national campaign!

Friday, October 28, 2005

When is Breaking, broken?

Just a quick question for the Podunkian audience.

When is news considered no longer to be "breaking"?.

I ask this only because CNN still has their favorite little graphic "BREAKING NEWS" up under Wolf's face and near as I can tell we're still talking about the great Scooter shoot of earlier today. Near as I can tell that story broke at 7 am (PST) today, now that we're heading towards late afternoon, surely it's shelf life as Breaking is gone.

Isn't there some kind of term limit on the term Breaking News, I mean even George Bush has switched off the TV and gone to Camp David.

Perhaps a new moniker is needed for News that isn't quite yesterday's cold porridge, but certainly is not today's sizzlin' steak.

Leave some suggestions in the comment box if you feel the urge!

A song for Scooter

Think Old Man River here folks!

Old Man Libby

Old Man Libby
Is prison beckoning?
Your Day of reckoning,
Has it now come

Old Man Libby
Will you now flip for the state
No need to hesitate
For justice shall be done

Old Man Libby
George said he won’t tolerate
Those that equivocate
For they shall be gone

Old Man Libby
Rove won’t return your calls
Guess you will take the fall
That much is sure

Old Man Libby
Best to now testify
Don’t get caught up in lies
Your time is done!

Old Man Libby
Hope for a lengthy trial
Drag it all it out in style
Dick, he is thinking of you

Old Man Libby
They say thirty years for you
All because of what you knew
But did not explain.

Old Man Libby
Keep that head up too
Good news could come for you
After all this

Old Man Libby
George has but two more years
Then he can dry your tears
With a Pardon for you!

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Indictment Day Dawns?

Always deliver bad news late on a Friday afternoon, while it's no longer the rule of thumb used in business, there are still some managers that feel it's the best day to deliver bad news. If you have to fire somebody, it's best to be done while everyone is heading out the door and won't be back for two days. One assumes the same holds true for filing indictments against government officials who may have broken a few rules.

The Washington press corps is awaiting with great anticipation the announcements from Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, will they have two heads on a platter or just one by the end of business on Friday.

Fitzgerald has let the process go on about as long as it can, with a Friday expiration for his Grand Jury, he will have to fish or cut bait on Friday. Hanging on that hook are two of the more higher profile bureaucrats in the George Bush White House. Karl Rove the behind the scenes broker of power for George Bush and Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Dick Cheney's main confidante. Both find themselves under the watchful eye of the Special Prosecutor over the Valerie Plame case.

Plame is the CIA operative who was outed by someone inside the Bush White House, the revealing of her identity is considered by many to be punishment for embarrassing remarks by her husband about the administration and it's hunt for Weapons of Mass Destruction prior to the Iraq War. Two years later we finally reach the end of Fitzgerald's investigative maze, to refresh your memory on all of it the Christian Science Monitor has a handy little timeline for us to follow.

Fitzgerald has been tapped to find out who leaked what to whom and when and then set the legal wheels in motion for a prosecution. Some wonder how far the reach will be, or if the buck will stop short of a desk or two in the West Wing. To add to the intrigue, there are reports that Fitzgerald is being fed information from inside the White House, giving him leads and connecting dots for him. In short, somebody there wants somebody out of there!

For Bush it just completes a rather horrible week for presidential happenings. The week began with the reporting of the war dead in Iraq, details reached America that 2,000 US service people had been killed in Iraq since the war began. A figure which for a while was debated by the government through it's Voice of America service. It may not have been the wisest of strategies however, as the 2,000 milestone gained more than enough attention in the mainstream media, none of it particularly favorable to the Bush Administration.

From there came the amazing announcement Thursday, that Bush's Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers had withdrawn her nomination for the Court. Bowing to pressure not only on the Democratic side of the House but from Bush's own Republicans it quickly became apparent that the Miers nomination was a dog that did not hunt.

With Friday about to dawn on Washington, all that remains to top off the week is two of Bush's closest aides to be indicted. A White House that appears to be a fair amount of dis-array will suddenly find even more confusion and panic in the halls.

The consensus seems to be that Scooter will be the one to be named in any indictment, while Rove will either have his investigation continued or be cleared from the deck. Regardless, even the naming of one indictment on Friday will have some serious blowback on the Bush/Cheney White House. Some observers see a nasty fall for the US Economy with any indictments that are named, showing a lack of confidence in the Administration to handle the situation.

Friday dawns as a most interesting day, for Fitzgerald, Rove, Libby, Bush and America!

Cherry pickin' your pets!

A little mindless surfing on a Thursday discovered this little gem of an ad, it seems that Don Cherry is branching out from his sub sandwiches and cold remedies.

Cherry is the spokesperson and has lent his name in partnership, to a new line of pet insurance called, Cherry Blue Pet insurance. It offers up extensive coverage, so your fido or snowball can laze around the house secure in the knowledge that all is taken care of should something bad happen around the estate.

You can insure your pet under two different plans, the Red Line or the Blue Line program. For those that really, really like their pets there is the Blue line coverage which in addition to accident coverage includes any new illnesses that may unfortunately be visited to by your pet.

For those not quite ready to go top dog, there is the Red Line coverage , which will at least take care of any accidents that may befall your beloved.

Cherry's participation in the project is designed to help raise funds for Rose Cherry's home for kids. Something he has tied in nicely with all of his corporate dealings, you do a search for Rose Cherry's home on the net and you'll find many of Cherry's corporate partners have stepped up to help out. A smart use of Cherry's very high Canadian profile.

As for the Pet Insurance though, we wonder, is your coverage voided should your dog or cat wear a visor, or refuse to go into the corners?

It wasn't me

Well damn, my numbers did not come up. Go figure! And to think I had so many plans for that little pot of gold.

Somewhere on the prairies (maybe even Manitoba eh Mr. Incognito) there is a happy person or group of people. Wednesday's 54 million dollar jackpot went to a ticket sold somewhere between the Lakehead and the Rockies.

Lotto fever gripped the country the last few days as Canadians spent a collective 90 million dollars (three dollars for every man woman and child in the country) in quest of the largest jackpot in Canadian lotto history. All daring to dream the big dream, even if it did come with odds of 1 in 14 million .

For me, well it wasn't a total shut out, I picked up a cool ten bucks and a dollar on the extra. I'll try not to spend it all in one place!

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

No Smoking Gum?

Ah yes, there's no better feeling than to be able to rub someone's nose into something, eh Dave? David Dingwall is busy today waving the just released independent auditors reports from the Mint for all to see, reports which Dingwall says exonerates him from any wrongdoing while he ran the Mint.

It was only last week that a Parliamentary committee had hauled Dingwall up on the carpet to go over his expense account while he counted the coins and bills at the Mint. During the sometime heated exchanges, Dingwalls less than parsimonious ways were called into question. Things deteriorated so much, that even a simple purchase of a pack of gum became the subject of intense scrutiny by the MP's on the panel. Leading to some rather ugly words between Dingwall and Tory MP Brian Pallister, when Pallister suggested that Dingwall benefited from his daughters position in the public service. A charge that certainly brought some colour to Dingwalls cheeks and probably shot his blood pressure points up a bit.

Pallister has found his attempt to slay the Dingwall has made him a bit of a hot commodity on the Hill these days, as the Hill reporters sit back and enjoy the show. With Dingwall holding some cards now it will be interesting to see how this plays out.

It was interesting to hear Revenue Minister John McCallum get to the microphones today, suggesting that some MP's (surely only Tory ones John?) were quick to rush to judgment on this case. McCallum it seems is conveniently forgetting that some members of his own party seemed to head for the exits once the latest Dingwall story first broke.

However, in the end, like always it will be all about the money. That golden handshake that Dingwall requested when he resigned from the Mint looks a lot more secure today than it did at the end of the hearing last week, unless of course Pallister has some more background papers to share. Then again a suddenly emboldened Dingwall is said to be considering his legal options now suggesting that he may just sue those that questioned his ways at the Mint.

It will be interesting to see who blinks first in this one, it could all go away by the weekend, or this may only have been round one in a lengthy brawl for it all.

Dubya and that W word

While we wait for breaking news from Washington on Wednesday about the investigation of who said what, to whom and when. We offer up this little refresher course courtesy of Arrianna Huffington's website.

Huffington, after totaling up the misdeeds, suggests that the current mess at 1600 Pennsylvania is worse than the days of Watergate (and we all remember how that ended now don't we!).

Meanwhile, as the Republicans read their tea leaves there are some interesting suggestions coming out as a replacement for VP, Dick Cheney, who if following the script of some theories, could come down with some serious health concerns shortly. Original rumors that Condoleeza Rice would move into the VP's office were quickly dashed by Condi herself, who said she was quite happy where she was (we assume she was not in Ottawa at the time, though the PR burst for the capital would be nice).

So, apparently if Washington rumors are to be believed, warming up in the bull pen is Senator John McCain. A man that some suggest would not only make a good VP, but could be the only hope the Republicans have of keeping the White House in two years.

Bringing McCain into the White House may help to restore a bit of faith for the American public, his past record and his continued efforts have him placed him very much on a high road, that in a town where most of the work seems to be taking place in the lower locales.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

A foul smell in the pipeline

The take over of Terasen Gas by Kinder-Morgan of Texas just got a whole lot easier. Tuesday's Vancouver Sun reported (subscription required, sorry) , that in a surprising move the British Columbia Utilities Commission decided against holding public hearings about the controversial purchase.

As posted previously here on Podunk, the sale of British Columbia's main gas provider to a company born out of the demise of Enron has been the talk of the province for the last month or so.

Many felt that the BCUC would offer one last sober second look at the transaction and report back as to whether the best interests of the Province and its citizens were being met. Instead the worst fears of those against the deal from the outset have been realized, the BCUC effectively just rubber stamped the process, turning over a major instrument of energy supplies in BC to an American company.

It's a situation that will come as a surprise to the over 6,000 Canadians who e mailed the BCUC urging them to overturn the sale and short of that at least hold a public hearing into the process. Not to mention the many who have asked just what is good in this deal for BC. The Tyee has been running a series on the outsourcing of jobs in BC, the BC Fed's Jim Sinclair sees the turn over of Terasen to Kinder-Morgan as just another slip on that slippery slope.

The whole Terasen situation is an interesting story to follow, especially considering the anxiety in BC over the recent software lumber problems. Wasn't it a little while ago those residents of BC were suggesting that the Federal Gov't threaten to cutback, or tax energy sales to the US mainly from Alberta? Well, at the time the Premier of Alberta said that idea wouldn't fly in his province and who can blame him on that. Really, if the province of BC isn't willing to step in and at least investigate the sale of a major energy provider, then why should Alberta or anyone else pick up the ball for them?

While lumber and gas pipelines don't have much in common, the simple fact is that BC has washed its hands of the pipeline company turning its citizens heating gas provider over to an American company. Instead of sending a message to the US over its way of doing business on lumber, they instead have handed them the tool to increase the flow of gas out of the country. All carrot, no stick.

Even putting aside the possibility of using Terasen to get the attention of the Americans in terms that they might understand, whatever happened to serving the best interests of British Columbia?

Michael Smyth who hosts an evening talk show on CKNW, brought the surprising development to light on Tuesday evening, (check out the Tuesday audio archive for 8-8:30 for details) expect the story to gain legs as the word gets out. Corky Evans of the NDP, has been keeping the story on the burner when no one seemed inclined to listen, he may find a bit of company now that the BCUC has made its decision.

A public hearing certainly couldn't do any harm, if the deal from Kinder-Morgan is as good for the Terasen Shareholders and indirectly for BC as stated, then there shouldn't be any problems in getting that message across in a public forum.

Instead, people will now wonder if the deal wasn't something arranged a while ago, with no interest in investigating the sale, the Liberal government leaves itself vulnerable to attack from those conspiracy types that usually can't attract a large audience.

Far too often our resources seem to be sold off without a proper investigation as to the benefit to the public. While it's true no actual resource is being sold here, the only way to move that resource has just been placed in foreign hands.

So much, for a safe, secure supply of energy for Canada. There are many unofficial questions about this deal that never seemed to get answered, it's a pity we didn't even get a chance to ask them in a public forum!

With the BCUC stepping aside, only one other hurdle is in place to stop the deal. The Federal Government has made plans to review the sale and determine if it is of a net benefit to Canada. The review will be led by Lucianne Robillard, the intergovernmental affairs minister who is pinch hitting for David Emerson the Industry Minister. Emerson once sat on Terasen's board and felt he should not be involved in the discussions over a company he once was involved with. Whether the Feds will rule against a plan apparently approved by a provincial government is now the million (or in this case 6.9 billion) dollar question.

Maybe the Kinder-Morgan proposal is indeed the best thing for BC, however, the way this has been handled will certainly create more suspicion than celebration.

Hey, we're back! Somebody watch our shows!

The CBC have finally found themselves back in their groove, the last few nights providing a flood of previews for up and coming specials and episodes of returning favorites as the network manages to shake off the rust of its recent labour disruption.

Tuesday night saw the return of Domenic Da Vinci, as Da Vinci's inquest morphed into Da Vinci's City Hall. The debut show for the newly named series, returned everyone's favorite coroner back to the screen, however, Da Vinci is no longer looking a dead bodies, instead he travels the corridors of municipal power as the mayor elect of Vancouver. You got the feeling that by the end of the first show, Da Vinci probably figures that the dead bodies had better qualities than the living ones he had to deal with. With BC municipalities about to go to the polls in November, the ins and outs of running a city make one wonder why anyone might want the job. Double dealers out to better their lot at your expense, everybody trying to snare their piece of the pie, it seems to be a code of the jungle in the new world that Da Vinci is trolling these days. The new theme is a pretty good one and Da Vinci's City Hall should more than hold its own on Tuesday nights, keeping its old audience and perhaps adding aspiring politicians to its list of faithful viewers.

Regular favorites like Air Farce, 22 minutes and Just for Laughs will return on Friday night as that night will once again be laugh night at the CBC. Rick Mercer's Report will return on November 8th, as he unleashes another year of satirical fun at our high and mighty.

Speaking of which, the much talked about, but hardly seen documentary Breaking Point will have its debut on the English CBC network on Sunday night. Podunk followers will remember the buzz on this one when it was released on the French network back in September. How close was Canada to falling apart back in 1995? Was there really a plan B to take control of the government away from Jean Chretien, a coup d'etat if you will? Check it out on Sunday as Part One airs and maybe even will find an audience.

It was surely not a great idea to have given the other networks a six week head start in introducing their new programs, but in the multi channel universe it may not be as big a problem as it would in the old days. Today its all about quality, if the shows stand out and create a bit of noise about themselves the audience will find them. Audiences are a more fickle lot these days with the myriad of choices available to them, itchy clicker fingers routinely seek out better programming on a nightly basis.

The CBC can only hope that now that they have fired up the PR machine, that Canadians will surf towards their end of the programming spectrum.

The thinkers

I've added a couple of new links to the right hand side of the blog, down past the thorn in the side links I've created "Dueling think tanks". It's a place where Canada's two competing think tanks can be found, the Fraser Institute which is a tad to the right of your average neo-con and the Polaris Institute that really, really misses the days of Trudeau.

The info line on the Fraser Institute states that it was founded in 1974 as an independent public policy organization. It's probably best known in Canada (and especially in BC) for its controversial educational rankings issued every year, which manage to get everyone up in arms.

The folks at the Polaris Institute took over 22 years to answer the challenge of the Fraser edicts, having only launched the Polaris website in 1996. Giving the folks at the Fraser a sizeable head start in the quest for hearts, minds and web hits. The Polaris seems to be trying to be an advocate for a government more involved in the day to day lives of Canadians.

Check them both out from time to time, a lot of the material is rather dry and hard to work your way through. But every once and a while they post a fairly interesting look at a public issue, you may not agree with them, but at least you can say you covered both sides of the story.

By the way do not read any bias on the part of podunk for my listing position of them on the blog site, it was done by alphabetical reasoning, the great cop out for any true blogger!

If you know of any other "Great thinkers" out there, drop a line into our comments box below.

Any publicity is good publicity!

Gary Bettman's new and improved NHL continues to draw reviews, some good, a few bad and at least one satirical. Don't look now Gary, but your league has been discovered by the satirical website The Onion. The popular website has a blurb about the new rules of hockey in its sports section

Indicative of a lack of interest at times in the USA, the piece is rather short and rather tame, the Daily Show this is not. But then again it is interest, something that at times seems hard to find south of the 49th.

As they say, as long as you spell the name right!

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

Monday, October 24, 2005

Pierre Trudeau was not the only one to know a fuddle

For those that found themselves far too busy on Saturday night to take in the Parliamentary Press Dinner (apparently on tv you know). Joseph Planta from the, offers up a wonderful recap of the highlights.

Our politicians are not always the wooden, uninspiring mannequins that we see on the news. Sometimes they can throw out a one liner that brings down the house. Of course this is why speech writers in Ottawa can make or break a politician. A snappy one liner at the Press Dinner can change an politician's coverage for months to come.

This years Dinner, (which is one of the hot tickets in Ottawa, perhaps indicative of the cultural life in the capital these days) provided a number of memorable moments it seems. From Paul Martin's photo collection of less than flattering snaps, to Stephen Harper's impersonations and Jack Layton's karaoke showcase the night was from all accounts a giant hit. But no event was better received, than when former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, by video tape, offered up his take on the recent published efforts of Peter C. Newman.

The short and sweet synopsis of Mulroney's thoughts on Newman, brought the Gallery to its feet. Perhaps public demand will put the Galleryshow into rerun on CPAC, it could very well be the highest rated show on the network all year!

Sunday, October 23, 2005

I'm a bad, bad blogger

Perhaps I took on too much for my plate, not one, not two, but three and sometimes more blogs at the same time. As regular readers of Podunk know I have over the last year had a number of sibling blogs to accompany my musings from Podunk. There's my HockeyNation blog, which with the return of hockey finally had a reason to be kept up to date, and has rewarded me with a terrific return of viewers over the last month.

Over the last year I've had a blog called boondoggle which was dedicated to the silly shenanigans of our ruling class, while there was no shortage of material from our federal, provincial and municipal officials, I found that it was getting a short shrift and sent it to Blog heaven a few months ago. The scandals however continue unabated, with such a wealth of material I just lump them into the Podunk blog now.

There was another little effort called the Podunkian politico, which had a very short shelf life, kind of a clearing house of all my political blogs, I deep sixed it as well, figuring it was a tad redundant, since most of the material had been created on the Podunk blog. I felt like I was just wasting blog space for some other deserving blogger, so bye bye politico it was.

Which brings me to my final blog, a little project I put together due to my enjoyment of the Canadian Football League. I had noticed over the years that the NFL and even Arena Football (good God who watches that) had numerous blogs out there for their sports, but hardly anything was there for the CFL, so I created Twelve Men on the Field. It got off to a great start, I was rather dedicated in my posts and tried to keep it up to date as best as possible.

However, it soon became apparent that the hits for it were nowhere near the volume that the HockeyNation would gain, or even Podunk for that matter. As the summer waned and the hockey season began I found I spent less and less time on the twelve men front. In fact I haven't added to it or maintained the thing since the 11th of September, I'm not proud of that fact, but it just didn't seem to hold my attention the last little while.

It's interesting this little diversion we call blogging, some days you can rattle off a dozen items for your creation and others when you couldn't come up with an idea to save your soul. There are days when you receive a landslide of attention and some days you wonder if anybody is reading at all.

You can of course create some excitement to add to your numbers. Sean at seanincognito recently posted an item that by simply suggesting porn on his site, his numbers would multiply exponentially. Britney's boobs it would seem are a big attraction on the wired universe. I recently did a story that merely mentioned the name Enron and watched my counter flip over and over for a steady couple of hours, disgraced stock listings like porn are also apparently a draw to the blogsphere. I even had a little local excitement on this blog when I did a blurb on our local election campaign here in Podunk, I suddenly discovered I had been found out in my own little town, when my site meter showed numerous hits from the home of Podunk and I hadn't even logged on to correct or update an article in hours.

Which all leads me back to my football blog, as the CFL season winds down I wonder if I should even bother trying to play catch up on it. I wouldn't mind keeping it alive til the end of the season, especially as we get closer and closer to the Grey Cup. Then I can try and figure out if there really is an interest for a blog about the CFL. I kept it going this far because of a love for the CFL, but with a counter tally of less than 20 hits on a given day it seemed like a lot of work for little return, time spent on it could be better spent on Podunk and HockeyNation which at least have a core of regular viewers.

I'm thinking of taking a page out of seanincognito's book and tying in the Minnesota Vikings recent scandal into my CFL blog, something like "CFL players read the papers with interest as tales of ribald behavior on a Viking cruise turned into a sex scandal". It would be cheap and a tad deceptive, but I bet on that day my "hits" would fly through the roof.

Scandal can sell, as can sex, sadly for the CFL I guess there's not much of either to bring in the trollers to the blog. Sometimes just showcasing the football isn't enough it seems. Something I have to think about as I try to figure out if I want to keep the Twelve men on the field on the blog.

The puck was in the net, the bucks were in the wallet!

Vancouver radio listeners got an added bonus to their Canuck's coverage on Thursday night October 20th, as the on air duo of John Shorthouse and Tom Larscheid discovered that coming to the rink meant more than watching a hockey game.

Like many teams in hockey, the Canucks run a 50/50 draw, where the winner shares the total jackpot with the Canucks charity of choice. Like good little hockey fans Larscheid and Shorthouse buy their tickets game in and game out, laughing at the state of their fortunes as the winning number usually comes up some thousands away from the one on their ticket.

That is until Thursday night! As the Coyotes and Canucks meandered around the GM Place ice, Shorthouse discovered that they had the winning ticket and were about to pocket the 20,000 dollar prize.

Listen in as the two try to reconcile their winfall with the job at hand in the broadcast booth.

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

Friday, October 21, 2005

America, a Fascist State?

There is a fascinating essay in the October issue of Harper's magazine, Lewis Lapham pens a thought provoking piece in his On message; Notebook essay feature.

Of course A Town Called Podunk strongly urges everyone to either buy a copy of the October issue, or head down to your local library to borrow one. But the essay is such an interesting examination of the current state of our friends to the south (and northwest), that it's worth providing here for your perusal.

You can find it on your own by going to Google and typing in Lewis Lapham and fascist state, there are quite a number of websites (most of them to the left of the political spectrum naturally) that have been quick to put it out on their sites. But hey, we'll save you the keystrokes. Check it all out here, courtesy of the folks at something called the Organic consumers organization.

If things are as bad as Lapham says they're getting, or even if they're heading in that direction, he may value his daughter in laws' heritage and her connections to the vast nation to the north. You never know when a journalist might need to find a place to stay til the heat is off.

Welcome to his Nightmare!

Beware the gab of the smoothest Car Salesman, for he may be here to deceive. This according to veteran shock rocker Alice Cooper.

Cooper has apparently suggested that the end is nigh for all of us, Alice has noted the increase in natural disasters and human suffering, giving him reason to divine that the apocalypse is almost upon us. In between performing at rock concerts and watching CNN, Alice it seems has been doing some biblical comparisons and believes that current world events are a little to close for comfort to the Book of Revelations.

Cooper made his proclamations on the music site , which provides some other interesting tidbits on his career and beliefs, such as how he has stopped drinking and why, how he hates political rockers and finds his audience enjoys it when he mocks the likes of Paris Hilton and Britney Spears.

His end of the world ruminations come naturally, his father was a preacher and it would seem that some of the home study rubbed off on Alice, or Vince as he was known around the house.

While he warns the world about the Anti-Christ, it may be a hard sell from the guy that scared more than a few parents over the years. Hell, many already thought HE was the Anti-Christ, it's going to be rather hard to convince them it might be somebody else!

Is your money under your mattress?

I don't pretend at all to understand the world of hedge funds, derivatives and other such fancy financial instruments. But hey, when a billion dollar company goes mammaries up in less than a week and a half, I kind of wonder what's going on.

Refco, a previously rather reputable commodities trader went from the darling of the money changers to a piece of road kill on the monetary highway in a rather short period of time. Trouble surfaced October 10th when Refco managers, made an announcement that a rather sizeable amount of it's assets, 430 million dollars worth, were owed back to the company through a company controlled by Refco's CEO, who had hid some bad debt from shareholders and regulators.

The announcement kind of created a modern day rush of the bank, as shareholders voted with their feet, until the boom was lowered and the SEC had a halt put on all Refco withdrawals.

Since then, the folks at Refco filed for bankruptcy and have seen a number of what are known as vultures come to pick over the remains of the financial growth organization.

Much like the world of internet stocks of the late nineties and around 2000, I never quite understand what people are buying when they sign on to the hedge funds and derivatives culture. When the Tech stocks tumbled into the abyss a few years ago, many an investor was left holding nothing but worthless papers and no explanation of what they really owned. The tech boom was akin to selling air, you can't see it but we're told its there and is good for us, trust us they said. Not that all of that mattered at the time, in the early boom there was money to be made hand over fist, at the time of the crash many a bank account had taken a sizeable hit with nothing to show for it. As Gordon Gekko would say "Greed is good", as long as you get out before it becomes bad.

A classic example for Refco and its unfortunate shareholders, is the tracking of the share price, before and after. Prior to the October 10th announcement Refco shares had been offered for 22 dollars a share when they launched their public IPO, as the company implodes upon itself, that share price has plummeted to 87 cents per share. Lucky stars and four leaf clovers to the lucky investors who may have exited on October 9th!

Daniel Gross traces the demise of Refco in Slate quite nicely, it makes for an interesting look into the world of easy credit and how the quick buck ethic has taken root in the world's economy. With daily news coming out now about previously rock solid companies filing for bankruptcy or shedding thousands of jobs, or both, one wonders if the run on Refco is not a symbol of all that has gone wrong with the economy.

If nothing else it's a worrisome sign that things haven't changed very much in the business world, Refco is now just another entry in a lengthy list of scandal destined to remove even more confidence in the way the business world seems to work.

Update--the dominoes continue to tumble after the Refco fiasco, now other fund managers are putting holds on their investment fund properties, due to the amount of money they invested in Refco. The result is that some investors can't get their money out of other funds that may have had exposure to the Refco products.

Ready's path out of the wilderness

The final stage of the illegal BC teachers strike may play itself out today, Vince Ready offered up his non binding recommendations last evening, and all the major players will offer their opinions today.

Subtle (then again maybe not so subtle) hints from Jim Sinclair at the BC Fed to the teachers that this could be the deal, gave most observers the belief that the two week walkout could be done by the end of the day.

With a court date with Justice Brenda Brown scheduled for later today and a promised vote on the Ready recommendations scheduled for this afternoon, it will prove to be pivotal day for Jinny Sims and the BCTF.

Ready has once again cobbled together a compromise that both sides should be able to live with, there is a path out of this mess for both the teachers and the government in Ready's words. One would think that they would take his report and put it to work, sending the students of BC back to the books.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

What's your Boss like? has surveyed its visitors and put together a list of those employers than truly understand and appreciate the effort that their workers put in.

Broken down by province, it lists boss after boss who seem to get it. Valued by their employees to the point of public recognition, something that you don't see too often these days.

Further on in the survey, the folks at Monster put forward seven key statements for evaluation by the proletariat. Things like how stimulating the boss makes the job or how much leadership a boss shows on the job.

The site also offers up some statistics of geography, figures that show that workers are apparently happiest in Montreal and fed up in Hamilton. As well there are a number of other categories to explore to see where you might find the best job and the best boss.

To wrap it all up there's a trivia quiz for you to check out. Basically if you're a female, francophone, junior employee working in the legal profession, you are happy. If you're a male, anglo with a bit of experience and in the military, then life isn't so good. Which if you think about it, is probably not very good for the boss, what with all those guns hanging around!

The only question not answered by the folks at is this; if all these folks were so happy at their jobs, just why are they looking at the job pages?

Well, at least he would know how the process works!

One of the stranger ironies of our times today, Michael Jackson has been summoned to sit on a Jury in California.

Jackson, of course just spent more than a few days recently, personally taking part in the California judicial system. Then he was a defendant instead of a juror, as he successfully had child molestation charges overturned, earning an acquittal after a lengthy and high charged affair.

That trial of Michael Jackson became the gong show of the decade, the most high profile California trial since the OJ days. So one wonders what possessed the California justice system to throw his name into the jury pool, I guess everyone has the right and the duty to serve, but surely having Jackson on a jury would not be conducive to the smooth flow of justice. Also considering the frequency of his legal troubles of late, he probably wouldn't want to be anywhere near a courthouse, just to be on the safe side.

Indeed, the chances of Jackson actually sitting as one of 12 angry men are probably unlikely. His spokesperson says that he is no long living in the USA, having taken up residence in Bahrain. If he can prove legal residence there, the California court system will take him off the jurors list.

Good news for the judicial system, but bad news for the CNN and Fox ratings. Imagine the field day they would have had with Jacko the juror.

Everybody in the pool

Geez what happened, Gordie Howe was too busy, Jean Beliveau couldn't find the time? It seems like those fine hockey ambassadors were the only names left off of the Team Canada Olympic preliminary roster on Wednesday. Wayne Gretzky and his Team Canada management group took no chances, as they named 81 players to be considered worthy of the Team Canada sweater in Turin next year.

There was even some thought to naming every living, breathing and skating Canadian NHLer to the preliminary roster, as a way to cover all eventualities for Canada's entry in the 2006 Olympics.

A player must be on the preliminary roster in order to be named to the final 23 who will participate for Gold. With injuries and other possibilities Gretzky and his team didn't want to find themselves short handed come cut down day.

The early list of names is probably more about the IIHF and Olympic drug testing policies than anything else. Players on the preliminary list are now subject to spot drug testing through the upcoming months leading to Turin.

The final version of the list does not have to be submitted until Monday, so there is still time to add a few names should Gretzky, Lowe and Tambellini, feel they missed one or two. Good news for Gordie and Jean, they should start looking for those skates now, they may still have time to make the cut!

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

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Oh, that explains it. Sorry for the trouble Dave.

David Dingwall took his place back in Ottawa today. Providing a bit of a preview of his testimony regarding those hefty expense account charges at the Royal Canadian Mint. Dingwall dropped in on the Commons committee that has been tasked to examine those spending splurges, from the place that has no shortage of loose change kicking around.

Dingwall who was forced to resign, all be it with handsome parting gift, after his profligate ways were revealed, says and apparently with a straight face, that he didn't spend the taxpayers dollars, he spent the Mints money!

Well that solves that I guess. Case closed next scandal please.

Dingwall who has found himself under the glare of the spotlight before, seems to think that since he turned the Mint into a profitable corporation, then the taxpayers aren't on the hook for the expenses (his words). An interesting approach to running a company that has a rather important function as far as the nation's financial system goes, one which of course works rather closely with many government departments and in fact is a Crown Corporation.

In a statement that may come back to bite some folks at the Mint, Dingwall says that not one penny was spent without the approval of the Crown corporations board of directors (duck folks). Misery loves company eh, time to load up the lifeboats at the HMCS Mint.

Taking a page from the Jean Chretien school of theatrics (that of the golf ball display), Dingwall pulled out a pack of gum and said that contrary to reports, he had never made the government pay for his gum. Guess that's $1.29 we don't have to worry about then. Glad to see that the big ticket items are all cleared up.

On the other side of the coin though, there are many watching carefully to see if Dingwall's version of events prove believable enough to exonerate his name. With the Gomery commission about to release some more findings in the next few weeks, don't think that some smart lawyer isn't trying to figure out a way to show that the sponsorship money wasn't the governments money there either.

Dingwall was a long time Chretien loyalist, his strident defense may just help keep that Liberal blood feud boiling, bouncing all the problems of the past back into the lap of one Paul Martin.

Out of the ruins of Enron

The money is soon to be on the way from Texas and the gas will soon flow to a new master.

Terasen gas shareholders approved a deal with Kinder Morgan of Texas for the sale of the profitable BC gas supplier and its pipelines. By 96%, the Terasen shareholders shook off any ideas of keeping one of British Columbia's most successful and profitable companies in BC or Canadian hands.

A few of the shareholders apparently questioned the need to bring in a White Knight from the States, one which some fear may turn into more of a Trojan Horse. Others were looking at more bottom line issues, like losing out on a tax break by turning the company over to an American firm.

Some voiced concerns about Kinder Morgans' record over the years since it was formed out of the entrails of Enron, a situation that is explained in great detail by the Tyee.

The deal between Kinder Morgan and Terasen seemed to be a fast tracked adventure from the very get go, the management at Terasen seemed to be completely smitten by the folks at Kinder Morgan. So much so that they didn't' seem to entertain many other offers, not that there seemed to be many other offers on the table for the company. A strange situation for a company that effectively has doubled its stock value in the three years and sits on a commodity that seems to raise it's consumption cost to the consumer at the whim of winds in the Gulf of Texas.

One would think that a company with that much upside would have found considerable interest within Canada, but no, it seems that no one with deep enough pockets could come forward to challenge the Kinder Morgan bid. Instead another Canadian energy company slips from the grasp of the nation where the gas sits.

The process now moves on to the regulatory phase, with the British Columbia Utilities Commission set to decide if it will approve the sale on November 10th. Having already been approved by those overseeing the Canada Competition Act, the BCUC approval is expected to be a simple matter of filing the right papers and making sure the right keys go to the right managers. There are still rumblings that an outcry may overturn the sale, but time is running short for those that wish to scupper the deal.

The process will then finalize on November 30th with the company that once was known as BC Gas merged into the Kinder Morgan family. If they pass this one last regulatory hurdle, it will be interesting to see if Kinder Morgan are kinder and gentler to the consumers of BC gas.

It's not a good thing

Dark days for the Diva of Domesticity. Martha Stewart's prime time offering The Apprentice: Martha Stewart, is officially the worst show rated program on NBC.

After four episodes the mean side of Martha has tumbled down the black hole of Neilson ratings, leaving even the Donald unimpressed. Trump who marketed his franchise program off to Martha, is making rumblings that it's quite unlikely that there will be a Martha II next year.

In a bid to help Martha retool the brand so to speak, Steve Tilley of the Edmonton Sun offers up a few suggestions to give the show some hope. He also figures that NBC had little faith to begin with, since they scheduled it up against the ABC monster hit LOST.

There really is only one solution though to the mess that has become Martha in prime time, The Donald should call her in to his offices on the set of The Apprentice and offer her those two little words that seem to only weeks away. "You're Fired!"

Betcha the ratings would jump for that episode.

Available at better newsstands

The American Society of Magazine Editors has released its list of the top 40 magazine covers over the last 40 years. Rolling Stone magazine took the top honors for its John and Yoko cover of 1981, followed up by Vanity Fair's naked and very pregnant Demi Moore in at number two. The third place finisher was a 1968 Esquire cover that featured Muhammad Ali with six arrows covering his body.

You can check out the rest of the list here, including a synopsis of each issue.

But if a picture is worth a thousand words, then the Economist certainly told a story with it's 1994 cover story on corporate mergers, a cover photo that earned it number 16 on the list.

Here via a portal at the Tyee is your picture of the day!

Saddam's day in court

The trial of Saddam Hussein has begun in Iraq, with the former Iraqi staring down his guards and engaging in a shoving match to get things under way. All that was missing was a ring announcer shouting out "lets get ready to rumble". However, after an initial flurry of action of three hours, it was time for some hurry up and wait, as the presiding judge adjourned the proceedings until late November.

CNN and the other media outlets have been providing coverage of the proceedings through the morning, with Saddam held in kind of a cattle pen with other a number of relatively unknown fellow defendants.

Surprisingly, the lead judge has allowed his name to be released and has been seen on television, which considering the state of Iraqi security these days seems like a mighty brave step. The other four judges on the panel haven't quite made the leap yet.

Saddam's legal dream team is led by a local lawyer named Kalil Dulaimi, now here's a guy with a great job. Fail to find success for your client and you may meet an end not unlike those that crossed him in the past. Get your client off and pretty well the whole world hates you! Heads you lose and uh, tails you lose too.

For the record the guy that once claimed the moniker Butcher of Baghdad, pleaded Not Guilty to all charges. The entire world will be watching closely on November 28th as the trial resumes. Patiently awaiting the litany of human rights violations and atrocities that will then be presented for us. It should be quite the show.

The rules according to Bill

Ever since he got tossed off of ABC it's been harder and harder to track down Bill Maher on television in Canada. He had the occasional special that would pop up on Movie Central once and a while, but for the most part he's in a big black hole north of the 49th.

There is a show he hosts on HBO in the US called Real Time, which to my knowledge has not been picked up by a Canadian network yet. Which is strange considering his type of humor would appear to appeal to the majority of Canadians.

At any rate there is always his website and his New Rules feature to tide us over. You have to scroll down quite a bit on the page, but there are video clips available for viewing.

Funny stuff!

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

The Big Picture with Gilles Duceppe

They haven’t even held the next referendum, but already Gilles Duceppe and the Bloc Quebecois are looking at the military needs of an Independent Quebec.

Duceppe explores the possibilities in a Canadian Press article in which he says Quebec will have an Army and a Security Service to provide protection for the anticipated new nation. He tosses aside the old concerns from the old guard of sovereigntists, many of whom would prefer a brave new nation without arms. Duceppe, however feels that the time has come to bring about a bit of evolution to the independiste debate. He now talks seriously of providing a well equipped military, one ready to take its place in the UN and NATO and one that would have to be prepared to go to war. I wonder how that will play in the towns and villages.

Considering some of the historical debates in Quebec over conscription and military matters, it could be a lively bit of theatre when the Bloc gets together on October 28th for its policy meetings.

As for the equipment for a new Quebec military, Duceppe says that the need for assets to deal with the threats of today will be a priority. Expensive mistakes (like those of the current government, in his opinion) won’t be welcome in a Quebec military.

I guess Canadians had best put away any thoughts of pawning off some old equipment then, in any eventual dissolution of the federation. Duceppe sees no need for Submarines for instance, so our current fleet of less than sea worthy boats is going to be ours for the long term it appears.

One assumes that the Sea Kings probably won’t be welcomed with open arms either.

It should be interesting to see what kind of a budget a new Quebec would offer up for arming those that will stand on guard for them. Considering Canada is routinely one of the lowest spenders of GDP in the developed world towards its military, it’s an interesting bit of wordplay for Duceppe to be suggesting that money will have to be spent in Quebec, when the Bloc hasn’t exactly been clamoring for a huge expenditure for the current Canadian military.

Then again, perhaps they’ll be spending their grad money when they leave the nest. Like any young person heading out on their own, shiny new toys are always the best toys.

Mantha nailed after hazing incident!

The OHL's Windsor Spitfires are without a coach for 40 games and a general manager for a year as OHL Commissioner David Branch laid down the law today. Branch issued the suspension to Windsor GM and coach Moe Mantha over disturbing tales of a hazing incident on the team bus from early September.

Mantha who holds down the dual posts will have nothing to do with the on ice aspects of the team for 25 games for the hazing and another 15 games for practice fights in his camps. As well as his coaching penalties, Mantha will have no organizational duties with the team for a year, his penalty for a lapse of judgment and definite lack of leadership with his team.

The hazing incident stems from a situation that developed on a bus trip back from London after an exhibition game. Rookie players were told by more established ones, to strip and stand naked in the small bathroom at the rear of the bus. Mantha did not apparently step in at the time to put an end to the practice, a situation that put him in violation of the league's strict zero tolerance policy towards hazing.

The practice fighting problem has been an ongoing situation in the Spitfire camp as disagreements between two players continued to fester through the training camp and into the season. Akim Aliu and Steve Downie have continued to spar through out the early eason, culminating in a nasty altercation on September 28th when Downie and Aliu collided one final time. An investigation by the Spitfires determined that Downie cross checked Aliu in the face during the incident, Aliu then returned to the ice from the dressing room and engaged Downie in a fight, which was unobserved by anyone on the coaching staff none of whom were on the ice at the time.

The continual problems in the Spitfire camp have resulted in Downie refusing to return to the team and demanding a trade and now have cost Mantha his job for 40 games.

The Spitfires have also been hit in the cheque book as the OHL imposed 35,000 dollars in fines, 25,000 for the hazing incident and 10,000 for the practice troubles. Branch who is not afraid to take action when required, pointed out that the league and its member teams have an obligation to guard over the well being of it's players.

His observations showcase the leagues commitment to it's players, something that they owe to the families of the young men that play for their teams. It is also something that Mantha lost of sight of this year.

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

Vince Ready to the Rescue?

With both sides of the British Columbia Public School teachers dispute looking to save a little face. A famous name in BC Labour is being called into service, to try and find some common ground between the two sides. Vince Ready contacted both sides today, acting as a facilitator to try and bring an end to a bitter and acrimonious little moment in BC labour history.

As called for in Podunk earlier this week, Ready stands ready if you will, to do what it takes to bring this situation to a positive conclusion. The teachers union president Jinny Sims, calls Ready's involvement a ray of hope. While BC Labour Minister Mike DeJong offers up a declaration that he won't stand in the way of Ready contacting the teachers. Which is about as close as this government ever gets to acknowledging that they may soon have to actually talk to the teachers once again.

In other strike related notes, the BC Supreme Court will not hand down a judgment on the contempt of court issue until Friday morning. (Perhaps Ready opened up a channel to the judiciary as well). While the BC Fed says it is still full speed ahead with planned protests across the province until the teachers are allowed to negotiate again.

The moves come as public opinion swings towards the teachers and their position, a subtle nudge to Gordon Campbell that perhaps he and his crew have mis-calculated their stand this time.

With nothing to happen from the courts until Friday, that effectively gives Ready two days to cobble some kind of arrangement together to allow both sides to claim a victory while at the same time returning some sanity to the education process in BC. If Ready can't get it done, it's doubtful anyone can and then who knows what turn this nasty little war will take!

Podunk to the polling stations

Podunk's municipal election comes a calling in mid November, like all other municipalities in British Columbia, we go to the polls on Saturday, November 19th.

For those that have left Podunk for greener pastures, here's the list of those that wish to be King or Queen.


Only two candidates this time, Mayor Herb Pond seeks another term as captain of the good ship Podunk, having been on the bridge through the years where the place seemed more in tune with the Titanic. During Pond's term of office, the town has seen a rather severe contraction of economic factors. None of which are really his fault and while promises of a better day are made regularly, there still seems an air of what can happen next around here. Perhaps that is why only one other candidate has chosen to challenge Pond.

Gloria Rendell who is employed by the local Credit Union has tossed her hat in the ring in quest for the mayor's chair at City Hall. She's a bit of an unknown quantity, a few years ago she was a joiner as they say, taking on numerous community activities as a way of participating in the city's life. Of late though she has had a rather low profile, it will be interesting to see what she brings to the debate.

Interesting to note is the number of names who did not choose to seek the highest office in Podunk. Former Mayors Don Scott and Jack Mussallem both took a pass, councilor Paul Kennedy not only didn't seek the mayor's office he also chose not to run for council this time. Maynard Angus, who doles out Community Futures monies like Santa Claus on Christmas Eve also expressed no interest in the job. Defeated MLA Bill Belsey took a pass on the job as did the usual collection of local movers and shakers who have always been suspected of seeking the title.

Instead, we are left with the incumbent and one other challenger, whatever does this mean about the state of the city.

The real horse races are at the council table, as eighteen challengers seek six council positions.

COUNCIL RACE (incumbents in Red)

Kathy Bedard, incumbent, the councilor once again seeks to continue her reign at the left hand side of the mayor's chair. Head of the local small business development centre she seems to win election after election, despite not really taking many stands on a number of issues.

Marty Bowles, president of the local BCTF chapter, Bowles will apparently have a bit of time to campaign as his members patrol the picket lines around the city. He launched his campaign about three weeks ago with a number of letters to the editor, the first anyone outside of the BCTF heard of any of his ideas.

Tony Briglio, incumbent, another employee of the Credit Union Briglio is a member of the Northern Health Authority board, his last campaign was based on keeping our community healthy. Read into that making sure the hospital didn't get downsized in any capacity.

Mario Castelli, a former real estate agent (for a brief time) Castelli now drives bus in the city and is heavily involved in the union movement there. He's another unknown quantity, an occasional letter to the editor writer it's not really clear where he stands on a lot of the issues.

Brenda Cook, she has a name everyone seems to recognize but I can't find anyone that actually knows what she does, where she does it or what she believes needs to change with the city.

Ken Cote, incumbent, Cote ran last time as the guy that wanted to change the way City Hall worked, too much mystery, not enough for small business was his stand. Since then he's been part of a group of six that took far too many issues in camera, leaving the citizens wondering what exactly was going on down on Third Avenue. He also doesn't like to be criticized about that too much, as his letters to the editor testify towards.

Danielle Dalton, an employee at the Crest Motor Hotel and a serious joiner in community circles. Dalton is making another attempt to take a seat at the council table. Despite her community activities it's not clear if she'll find the necessary support in the city to make the leap.

Frank DeBartolo, the head of Local four of the PPWC, DeBartolo was frequently in the news as Skeena Cel imploded upon itself and then crashed again when Dan Veniez played his little shell game out at Watson Island. Obviously a labour leader and of that mind it will be interesting to see what kind of vote tally he receives. Especially when you consider the vast majority of his constituents, those of the PPWC have long since moved out of town for other work.

Steve Fitzpatrick, a civic employee if memory serves correct and strong in the union movement and a frequent participant in civic activisim, he ran last time around and came up short. It will be interesting to see the inisights he might have as to the city/city worker situation at the moment.

Sheila Gordon-Payne, a local health care employee, she certainly trumps Briglio in the "healthy community aspect". A strong community person, she has served in the past on the Independent School Council in town, is a member of the well know local family. She has many contacts in the community as is considered a straight shooter. Probably the best bet of the bunch to get elected.

Nelson Kinney, incumbent, everybody's favorite hairdresser, Nelson is back for another shot at glory. His last three years were rather uninspiring. He wasn't heard very often on the bigger issues, as he mainly champions the causes of senior citizens and for that he'll probably be re-elected. As the Randy Travis song goes, "we're gonna love you forever, as long as old ladies, talk about old men".

Gabe McLean, once again Gabe has decided to take his shot. In what seems like the tenth consecutive attempt for office the airport employee and labour rep (if I remember correctly) will seek office. And most likely be back in three years looking for a shot once again.

Mitchell Myers, not much known about him apparently an electrical student at NWCC. Maybe if elected he could fix the lighting at city hall so we could actually see what the heck is going on when they televise the meetings on channel 10.

Erika Rolston, local activist and environmentalist. Has a good network of local lefties that might help get out the vote. Could be a darkhorse possibility.

Jack Rudolph, incumbent, running for council seems to be Jack's thing. Last time he ran he lost out only to rejoin the circle when that goof Scott Randolph left town. Randolph ran for office and then took off for Powell River, instead of a byelection Jack got the tap on the shoulder having the next highest vote total. Probably appropriate anyways, as many suspect that Randolph was elected by seniors who forgot their glasses and couldn't make out the difference between Rudolph and Randolph. Jack spends most of his time talking at Tim Horton's. Probably will get back in, much to his relief.

Lothar Schiese, who the heck is he?

Joy Thorkelson, Union leader of the UFAWU the strongest of unions in the city, Thorkelson is a long time community activist and frequently has banged heads with Mayor Herb. If she can get out the union vote in town she's probably a shoe in.

James Vassallo, another media type that wants to be the story rather than cover the story. Following in the footsteps of the unlamented Scott Randolph, Vassallo is a reporter for the Daily News. Randolph was a reporter for the radio station at the time. History will not repeat itself, Mr. Vassallo will not have to turn down news assignments to cover council, he won't be sitting at the table.

And there you have it the Best and the Brightest? Five incumbents want their seats back, Paul Kennedy having chosen to sit out both the council race and the mayoralty challenge.

There's a very heavy union presence in this years wannabes, which could make for a very fiery council if a few of them get in. At least five of the participants would be considered hard core labour types, giving the debate this time around a bit of life.

My picks for shoe in candidates are Sheila Gordon-Payne and Joy Thorkelson, does that leave Ms. Bedard on the outside looking in? Quite possibly, both of the challengers are strong speakers and well thought of in their constituencies, this could spell the end of Bedards time on council.

It will be interesting to see how the BCTF strike will impact on Bowles candidacy, if the schools are still out by election day there may be a backlash against his union or then again he may reap the benefits of a strong union groundswell, hard to say where his vote will go.

I'm not sure how the Briglio and Cote campaigns will go, at times they took to lecturing the community about how they were here for the good of the town and didn't appreciate the constant criticism of council's machinations. Sorry, but thin skins are not a good thing for a politician, especially in a town where the economy is in a tailspin and the only creative ideas come from the Port Corp, not city hall. The electors may punish these two as well.

The Sunshine Boys, Nelson and Jack may get back in just by being the schmoozers they are, non offensive they just chat up the same old folks day in and day out, if enough of them get to the polls they'll get back in.

So lets see I have Gordon Payne, Thorkelson, Kinney and Rudolph back in office. Leaving me with two more to go. If the Briglio and Cote campaigns tumble then I think that Steve Fitzpatrick may get in, having built a profile last time around. The last choice is a wild card, I'll go with Marty Bowles, the current teacher's dispute is a high profile issue and he's on the front line of that one, priceless in the world of image making.

If I"m correct the labour types will have recaptured a share of council in numbers not seen since Lester and Miller. Could be an interesting time for ole Podunk.

As for mayor, well it would appear we're destined for three more years of Herb!

The votes get counted November 19th, watch this space if anything exciting happens during the campaign.

Readin', Writin' and Protestin'

Victoria was home to the largest protest of the Gordon Campbell era yesterday, a pretty impressive thing considering the animosity directed towards Campbell and his government from organized labour in BC over the last number of years .

Thousands of people marched on the Legislature in support of the British Columbia Teachers Federation and their striking members. Stretching from the Legislature grounds, down the Causeway and past the Empress into the downtown area. The crowd of over10,000 braved the winds and walked in a steady downpour, vociferous and creative in their expressions of anger at the Campbell Liberals.

Now considering the fact that it is a strike by teachers, some of the protest signs were a tad more creative than your run of the mill labour confrontation.

Spotted around the Legislature grounds on Monday were:

"ATTENTION: The Following Bullies should report for Detention, Gordon Campbell, Shirley Bond, Mike DeJong."

"Prince George won't live in Bondage!"

Kill Bill 12!

"An Exorcist is needed in Victoria"

"Drunk with Power (complete with the ever popular Hawaiian Campbell DUI mugshot)"

And then there were those that probably weren't teachers but were there to offer moral support, all be it in need of a refresher course in grammar.


With rotating public sector strikes starting today there will be many more opportunities for the labour movement to express themselves. Tuesday saw Northern BC behind picket lines as CUPE members walked off the job to show support for the teachers, closing rec centers, pools, city halls and interrupting garbage collection across the Northern half of the province. Other disruptions are planned for the rest of the week, with Vancouver to be the target of dissent on Friday.

The government meanwhile is busy trying to get the courts to act on the situation in a forceful manner, having named a special prosecutor, Len Doust to explore further charges against the union and union leader Jinny Sims.

For Labour the escalating action is just the beginning, sensing a chance to fight back after taking it on the chin for a number of years, the promise of more demonstrations has been made if the government does not negotiate with the BCTF.

A smart investor would perhaps invest in a supply of bristol board and sharpie markers, a stall outside of the Legislature might be a smart business opportunity for the next little while.

You've Got to know when to hold em, know when to fold em, know when to walk away and know when to run!

Credit Brett Hull with knowing when the time has come. Hull hung up his blades over the weekend, having come to the conclusion that the new NHL was a creature which has passed him by. As Hull put it "the mind was willing, but the body isn't". As the season began, it became apparent that Hull no longer had the wheels to keep up with play, as the new offensive oriented NHL took flight. Imagine his stats had these changes taken place ten years ago. It would have been an amazing sight to see, no clutch and grab, firewagon hockey with Hull as the head fireman!

At an emotional news conference, Hull said his farewells to a game that he loved and one in which he performed to the highest of standards, reaching the number three spot in all time goal scoring. And with a few tears and some rather sage remarks, ends the run of one of the more colourful characters of the NHL.

Hull first made his debut in an NHL uniform in 1986 with the Calgary Flames, at the time he occasionally provided us with glimpses of potential only to be stymied by an occasional lack of a work ethic. A situation that eventually found him out of Alberta and on to America.

Perhaps hindsight in Calgary would suggest that a bit more patience might have gone a long way, for once Hull took his show to the States his legend began to grow. He went on to become one of the main attractions of an NHL which at times seemed to be lacking in showmanship, from St. Louis to Dallas, through Detroit and finishing off with a brief appearance in Phoenix, Hull rewrote record books and spoke out as a conscious for a game that at times seemed to be on the road to ruin.

Outspoken at times, he would from time to time say something that didn't sit well with management or fans for that matter. But what you saw was what you got. A straight shooter (and what a shot eh) who wasn't afraid to speak out, when so many others hid behind the old I was misquoted line.

He earned a bit of animosity from his Canadian fans when he chose to join the Team USA group for world competitions, a situation that went back to his first Team Canada camp when he was unceremoniously told he wasn't wanted. A slight that was never forgotten, Hull in a USA uniform gave more than a bit of credibility to the International aspirations of American Hockey. But perhaps his choice was one of the best things for the game in the still troubled American markets.

At 41, Hull has played a lot of hockey. 1,269 regular season games, 202 playoff contests and countless International matchups. His regular season totals give you an idea about how important he was to his various teams. 741 goals, 650 assists for a total of 1,391 points. Shot totals of 4,876. A performer equally at home on the power play (265 goals) or defending a short handed situation (Short handed goals 20).

The playoffs also gave him the opportunity to shine, 103 goals, 87 assists for 190 playoff points, 784 shots fired for potential game winning situations. A deadly sniper who could end a series with just one shot.

The accolades have been pouring in over the weekend ever since he announced his retirement and most seem to have discovered the talent that was Hull. The true testament to his value to the NHL is the fact that despite having one of the most famous fathers in NHL history, Brett is honored now on his own accomplishments. His father's name merely a passing note in the flood of articles about his storied career.

Brett Hull became his own man in the NHL and now takes his leave from a game that finally seems to be adapting many of the nuances that he had so long clamored for. Beyond his many scoring achievements over the years, Hull's best contribution may have been to make the NHL stand up and take notice about a game that was on a trip to nowhere.

Hopefully as he takes off the skates for the final time there will still be a place for him somewhere in the NHL family. Television would be a natural for the opinionated and thoughtful mind of Brett Hull. Perhaps the league can put him to work examining their latest rule changes and how to make the game even better. It would be a natural fit for a guy that lobbied for change for so long. If nothing else, I'm sure there are hundreds if not thousands of Old Timer rec league teams that might let him suit up from time to time!

It was a hull of a run for Brett, but all good things truly do come to an end. The skates may be off for good, but here's hoping he still hangs around the rink for many years to come.

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