Fearing and Misunderstanding Conservatism

Many say that the government preys on our fears.

Casual political conversations by citizens do the same thing.

I was listening to a local sports station discuss the Michael Vick story. As they talked, one person chimed in with a "Yeah, but that's the 'right' talking" regarding Michael Vick's new founding of Jesus. While the majority of people would have ignored or realized the comment, I did.

It was one of those typical broad, elusive statements that have become all to familiar these days.

So, that's the right talking? Come again? What "right"? Are they one, big monolithic group? For the love of Edmund Burke, please get the terminology straight!

I know. Why am I bothering to comment about a sports radio for his ruminations on theology and religion?

I'm not sure I can answer this. It intrigued me. However, it does satisfy two things: 1) content for the blog and 2) it does reveal something interesting in the way people view conservatism. By extension, how we tend to do the same thing for other issues.

Often, we hear how some claim to be "open" when they discuss matters of politics and its surrounding offshoots like religion - because religion and politics (and sports for that matter) do indeed mix every now and then. Man, well, is kinda a political mammal.

I don't want this to be a discussion on the evolution and diversity of conservatism. Nonetheless, it can be suggested that those who make such assertions often tend to be self-appointed progressives. The interesting observation made is that they too succumb to blanket statements they criticize others for making.

Here's one I personally came across. Recently, someone took me to task for writing a book review about Ronald Reagan. Oh, the humanity! As he went on and on with his personal opinions about the former President, I detected a general intolerance in the tone. One particular comment especially caught my attention and it relates to the discussion here, was how "Reagan was a precursor of the neocons."

Reagan was many things to many people - that much is clear. However, notice the general assumption: Reagan - conservative - dumb - natural lineage of neo-cons.

Of course, if anything, neocons were disaffected liberals. In any event, neo-cons (the new pink in political parlance on the streets) held little sway under Reagan's administration.

That's not the point here. The point is that we proceed without careful thought just how profound an ideology can be. Conservatism is one of them.

Too often we read our favorite column, books, commentators and rarely deviate to another perspective.

It keeps us comfortable and happy. That's why the right keeps talking.


Colin Linford Resigns as President of the CSA


Resignation letters are pathetic. I know. I had to write one once. RL's never contain true feelings and always give the ominous impression that all concerned are amicable, civil and professional.

Often we know this to be bullshit. Like, the one (found in the above link) tendered by (now former) CSA President Colin Linford.

"The Canadian Soccer Association would like to thank Mr. Linford for his efforts and contribution to the development of the game and wish him well in his future endeavors."

Cut it out already. No one believes this stuff.

I'm glad there's been some reaction to the idiocy that has festered over at the CSA through the years. It's about time they are scrutinized.

Now, I'm no run of the mill genius or dime a dozen scholar but I do have an IQ that allows me to function with some ever so tender and basic observational acumen.

And what I observe is that the CSA is a punchline to a bad Whoopi Goldberg joke.

It's probably time to do away with the fractured mess known as the CSA. For over twenty years all I saw was the utter lack of direction this dysfunctional bunch provided soccer. I can just imagine how many "qualified" people with true soccer credentials work for the CSA. Rare have they ever done what's right for Canadian soccer as a whole. What else is new in Canada? Like there are no national standards for several things (like financial services and health) we have the same parochial provincialism that litters the minds of the CSA.

The CSA's new motto? Clueless in the Big White.

Only in Canada we speak of wanting to be a soccer power without putting an effective plan in place. Only here we want to take on the world and expect to win without proper training- hey, we earned a moral vict, er, tie against Iceland the other day. A game, by the way, none of our sportscasters had any highlights to show soccer fans.

At least we have head coach Dale Mitchell to save the day. He did great things with the U-20 squad.

That sound you hear is my tongue piercing through my cheek.

No one needs to be an insider to understand the CSA's poor track record. The results speak for themselves. Just look at Canada's ranking over the last 15 years. Look for us on Page 2.

In the end, while all this is embarrassing, I can't help but think about how all the soccer players that have gone through the program were poorly served. The CSA's legacy is one of missed opportunities and wasted potential.

I think what Mr. Linford would have preferred to say was:

Dear CSA: I tender my resignation because you evidently are a bunch of incompetent and
possibly corrupt...

..Finding le mot juste is always so hard.


What About Michael Vick?

"Everyone makes mistakes."

I loathe this comment. Of course everyone makes mistakes. The question is how many people make serious mistakes like Michael Vick?

I forgot to put a quarter; that's a mistake. Funding a dog fighting operation is not a mistake.
It's simple. This is an issue of right and wrong. Not black and white. Yellow and brown. All this pontificating about culture and homies and all that is rubbish. Humans instinctively know what is right and wrong. Michael Vick was a professional athlete earning millions and scrutinized everyday. Either he is supremely arrogant or utterly stupid and ignorant or sadly misguided. Or all of the above.
As for people chiming in with the "who will be our role models?" logic. How's about we all retake our families? We have abdicated our responsibilities as parents in society.

It used to be that the parents were the rock in the family foundation. Outside the family walls it was extended to community professionals and leaders. The problem is that we're not willing to "outsource" our kids to a teacher - one of those leading people. Chances are, if a teacher seeks to discipline a student the parents will side with their child no matter how troublesome.

Michael Vick and all others like him - before and after - should mean nothing to us. He should merely be an athlete. Nothing more, nothing less. Of course, we're dealing with kids and kids buy posters to put up on their walls. This is normal. This is where we have to step in and guide them. Everything in moderation is a prudent if not wise mantra. We can admire his skills on the field but that's where it should stop. It should never have gone beyond this.

But it does. Now what? Well, parents; this is where you step up to the plate, step into the pocket so to speak, and deliver that home run or 10-yard gain. Be a soul-parent.

Everything else around Vick; detractors, apologists, partisan lobbyists and so on - should be subordinate to the home and family.

It's that simple.


A Brief Interlude Between a Boy and a Lady

So my wife began a recent chinwag thusly, "All of next week I'm busy with meetings for work."

Stirring my espresso while staring at the sports highlights with a blank stare I reply, "You bet."

"Did you hear me?"

"You got me."

"Seriously, do you have any questions about Lauren?"

I straighten up - always with my eye on the screen of course. I unconvincingly answer, "No. But why...oh, what an idiot!Why didn't he pass?"

"Can you focus on the conversation?" Writer's note: Women don't get it. They just don't.

"But why are you in meetings? You're a teacher."

Utter, deadened silence. I continue to stir...even though the sugar has long dissolved.

I wasn't sure how to break it so I come up with, "What do you have to discuss? Was there a scientific study released that suggested white chalk is more effective than yellow chalk?"

Writer's intrusion: Of course white is more effective. Duh.

Moral of the story: don't belittle anybody's profession by trying to be a witty smart-ass.

Looking for Government Grants? Stay away from the Small Business Consumer Center

Well, I was had. Me. The Commentator - The Semi-pseudo-tator. I went on the advice of an aquaintance and let my guard down. I've never been swindled before.

In fairness to me, it wasn't 100% foolery but it may as well be. I let myself be mislead because I was blinded by the trust I had for someone. For this, I'm out $400.

The Small Business Consumer Centre is one smooth operation and its salespeople slick. In order to pass this off you need a fully integrated work force that shares your evil values. The SBC passes itself as a government plan that helps entrepreneurs get "grants" from the Federal government.

I called Industry Canada to ask about a grant thinking they were part of SBC. After the agent on the other hand took a couple of moments to regain his composure after laughing so hard, he was very helpful. "'Uh, sir. We don't give grantsout anymore. It's not politically popular." Of course not, heaven forbid you help out new, small and medium entrepreneurs and businesses. Wouldn't want to upset the masses on this.

Anyway, he informed me what the SBC were all about.

Blush. It was a first for me. "Bastards!" I yelled out in my backyard. The agent told me, I can try and get my money back but this happened two years ago.

All these revelations help to explain why the video they sent me was so horribly low budget while the actors giggled as they "acted." No kidding, they were laughing at me: Ka-ching!

Learn from this people. Take from my humble experience. Be the wiser! Never, ever let your guards down. There are too many profiteers out there (and this inlcudes the multitude of political ones and internet "gurus" who push an agenda). Whenever you are being charged for something under the guise of representing the government let your gut guide you.

Call the government to confirm anything.

It could save you money.


I think I'll be giving Shtick a try...

Or is it Schick?

Remember that skit (sketch. Whatever) on Sesame Street? Yeah, you know the one:

"One of these things is not like the others, One of these things just doesn't belong, Can you tell which thing is not like the others By the time I finish my song? Did you guess which thing was not like the others? Did you guess which thing just doesn't belong? If you guessed this one is not like the others, Then you're absolutely...right!"

That's pretty much what went through my "mind" while I watched the latest Gillette commercial - the real shave a man can get.

Let's see. Tiger Woods - dominant. Roger Federer - dominant. Thierry Henry - uh, um.

Look, Henry is a graceful and excellent striker (as well as a tad annoying at times) but he's no dominant soccer player. He's no, cough, David Posh.

Anyway, couldn't they have found a better fit?

Like this guy? If there's anyone who could be a spokesperson for Gillette it's him. No? I shoulda gone into marketing and advertising.

Quebec's Will-O-Meter Needs A-fixin'

Quebec's Court of Appeal struck down the province's language law that prevents Francophones who attended English private schools from going to the public side as unconstitutional.

You think?

Needless to say, the government has decided to seek a suspension of this (Bill 104) verdict so it can prepare heading to the Supreme Court of Canada. It is filled with all the usual parochial rhetoric and logic that contends allowing people to live in freedom is "inadmissable." You know, stuff like that.

What a great country this is. So free and democratic. So full of individual rights. Nooo, this is not a totalitarian regime? Of course not, this is as two idiot Liberal cabinet ministers have claimed merely defending Quebec and Quebecers. Ergo, it is logical and moral to trump the Canadian Charter (that piece of document that claims to protect our rights - with an opt-out clause) and the wishes and rights of 26 Francophone families.

What a pitiful state of affairs.

The next politician from this province who dares claim we are "democratic" will be completely lampooned on this blog.

Hey, this barren intellectual place can do whatever it wants. Just don't call it a democracy.

We are a limited democracy that practices Quebocracy - the opt-out society and democracy!

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall...


The shouts of bringing American troops home by the fall has increased in its frequency.

Is this a wise decision? Have they truly and thoughtfully considered the implications of such an action? Are they only considering the domestic American side of the coin?
As I have said before, if Bush is assailed for going in unprepared, his critics are guilty of the same thing going out.

One can almost see the headlines once Iraq takes a far more serious turn for the worse once the Americans leave. "We shouldn't have been there in the first place" will ring hollow considering that it does not justify pulling out prematurely and leaving Iraqi's with a bag full of vomit.

It's quite the conundrum dealing with Iraq.


Video: Bill Maher Discovers France

La France and les Etats-Unis sur le pont d'Avignon...je te plumerai....and so on.

That countries can learn from one another is simple enough, but it is interesting to detect that Bill Ma-har-dee-har-har is exhibiting the same type of exaggerations the hard right are accused of doing when it comes to France. While the conservatives he lampoons in the video take liberty at insulting the French, he goes off the deep end falling all over them.

Of course, the standard "applause" has to follow the "France has the best blah, blah...I forget." I just went to get a bowl of cereal.

Besides, didn't Bart discover that the French put anti-freeze in their wine? Nor am I entirely sure their political elites are free of any dirty hands. France, it must be recalled, is one of the best Machiavellian nations on earth. Jacques Chirac makes George W. Bush look like a Double A pitcher when it comes to deviousness.

But hey, they look good doing it and this is what matters.

Anyway, why should we trust his interpretations of statistics? I sure don't. Then again, I`m a stats retard.

He looks good in purple though.

And what the bleepiné was Spicoli laughing about exactly?

Article of Interest: Those darn Unicefians


Smurfs: It's all for the better.


God Sports Radio and Television can be so Lame. No Wonder...


Gosh ESPN is just like a bank!

This is the worldwide leader in sports? Worldwide leader in the stupidest questions, too. No wonder Dan Patrick left.

I was on the inside in a corporation. Not very good. Pretty lame in fact. So I can relate.

It seems no matter where you are, what you do, or where you work, people are stupid.

When I was in University the professor would hand out the course syllabus. Immediately all the pukes around me would begin to fiddle around to see what was asked of them. The real swift and go-getter ones one would highlight the fucking thing.

Wha? You want us to read five books? Are you crazy? Do you realize I have a two-course semester? Are you some sort of sadistic creep? Could you tell us which books to focus on? Ok. Can you tell us which part of the book? Paragraph? Why don't you have an open book exam? Will the exam be multiple choice? Can I bring carrots into class?

One professor was having none of it. In response to a braindead question he simply said, "In Europe you're responsible for 50 books. You're worried about five. I think you're getting a better deal."


Here are some of my personal favorites from the above link - if anything it brings me back to a darker, more evil time in my life.

When will the bicycle rack in front of the south door of Building 3 be reinstalled? It was removed last year during construction.

The bike rack has been reinstalled - where do we find these people?

What I would have said: Try riding the bike with a seat, Screech.

Why do we have to wait an entire calendar year to receive 1-yr of service time? For example, my start date was in January. I worked from one January to the next and didn't receive 1-yr credit for service when the following January came around. Basically, I had to work 23 months to get 1-full year of service time. So, after 5 years of work, to receive a 3rd week of vacation I need to work 6 years. Why can't the time be retroactive? If my start date was January 15, 2002, then I should receive my 3rd week of vacation January 15, 2007, instead I have to wait until January 1, 2008.

You are eligible for 3 weeks vacation beginning in January of the year you celebrate your 5th year anniversary. As an example: If you started in July of 2000, then you would receive 3 weeks vacation beginning January of 2005.

What I would have answered: I no good wit mat. Can you read palms?

What about all this talk I'm hearing about ESPN going 1080i? I thought 720p was our chosen format? Won't that make all our technology in the DC1 unusable?

ESPN is not planning on going to 1080i at all. We are reviewing the potential of 1080p for future facility projects.

What I would have said: I have no clue what you're talking about R2D2.

Is there or could there be an option to receive a paycheck once a week instead of every other Thursday? Many of us live paycheck to paycheck. Being able to be paid every week would help tremendously.

All ESPN employees are paid on a bi-weekly basis and have the same pay date. Payroll is a shared service provided by our parent company and ESPN cannot operate under a different system.

What I would have said: How's 'bout you try saving your money, retard?

What qualities do you feel a Leader should possess?

For guidance, please review the Leadership Competencies in Performance Connection on the intranet for information on what is expected of a leader. Another good source for guidance is your department's HR generalist.

What I would have said: Aside from the fact that you clearly don't possess any, being able to come sweeping in on a horse while slicing heads clean off is a good start.

Can we get an option for pet health insurance?

A program for pet insurance was just recently added to our benefits package.

What I would have said: Is this Michael Vick?

Regarding the company store on campus... Programming is in Cheshire, with typical office hours from 9a-6p. This makes it difficult to be able to go to the campus store, since they operate on the same hours. Is it possible to have some days where the store is open 8a-5p or 10a-7p? I would love to buy stuff for friends and family, but would need to leave work early or come in late if I wanted to get something from there. I understand the online store is an option, but would prefer not to pay a shipping fee and sometimes there are minimum purchase requirements for certain items. Thank you for considering this request.

We have tested other hours in the past and the schedule we have in place has been the most successful for us and worked well for the employees in Connecticut. The employees in CT all benefit from this store as opposed to employees in NYC and other parts of the country. Unfortunately it's hard to satisfy everyone's needs however we feel these hours work for the majority of the employees.

What I would have said: I have considered. I think you're right. What we have decided to do is have everyone send in the hours they prefer and we will make sure the store remains open. One catch: you have to work those hours. Better yet, whenever you need to shop call me on my blackberry and I will personally open the store up for you.

Can ESPN provide healthier options in the vending machines and cafe (like a variety of protein bars)?

Healthier options have been included in some vending machines, but not in all. Also, healthier options can always be purchased in the cafe. We have requested power/protein bars to be included in all vending machines.

What I would have said: We are currently speaking to BALCO. In the meantime try bringing a fucken' lunch.

Can ESPN put an espresso machine in the cafe for lattes and cappuccinos, (not the ones we have in our break room - an actual manned machine like at Starbucks)?

At the present time, we do not have any plans to install an espresso machine for lattes and cappuccinos. We will keep it in mind for consideration in the future.

What I would have said: We are considering importing an entire bar with marble counters already equipped with servers from Italy and France. Fuck Starbuck's. We are also bringing in Swedish spa divas from Finland. They're cheaper.

I know that it is human nature to find fault and seldom praise staff members. Everyone knows this is counter-productive. I would like to see improvements here. Do you agree everyone should be praised when they do a good job? Catch people doing something right?

Recognition and praise for a job well done is always in order. If you see opportunities for us to do so, be sure to bring it to the attention of your manager

What I would have said: Sure why not. What do I care? Pin a ribbon on anyone who zips up correctly. Now that I think of it, why not give stickers out to people who staple paper properly?

Why are the portions getting smaller at the cafeteria and the prices continuing to get higher? Is there any option to receive more of a discount, if there is a discount already?

The portion sizes in the cafe have not changed since we opened in 1999 and we are pleased to say that we have only increased prices in the cafe once since our opening. The last price increase was in 2005

What I would have said: Hmm. Discount on a discount? It's been done.

Given the success of Dancing with the Stars" on ABC, (and "So You Think You Can Dance" on FOX), does ESPN plan to capitalize on this nationwide dance obsession, (and high TV/internet ratings), and offer similar programming? Would ESPN strongly consider seeking rights agreements to air existing competitions and/or would EOE develop its own dance competition and/or reality show? If aired in months when neither of the two above series air, it could potentially capture the same audience without direct competition. ESPN would also further expand its viewer base by offering this diverse programming option. Considering the success of pro-athletes Emmitt Smith and Jerry Rice on DWTS, it might be just the right time for a dance competition featuring only pro-athletes. [I have read that the 2nd Annual World Salsa Championships, (Albert Torres And Salsa Seven Inc.), will be broadcast on ESPN International and ESPN Deportes and I very much hope that they will also be broadcast on ESPN 2.]"

We often include content from and play off the success of Dancing with the Stars within our existing studio franchises, including regular updates in SportsCenter and other studio shows, particularly involving the participating athletes. We have looked at ballroom dancing programming and will continue to. One challenge is that the dancing audience is generally not our typical audience. To have a shot at success would require devotion of significant resources, and at that point, it becomes a matter of prioritization

What I would have said: We at EPNS are committed to excellence. Reality strong man competition meets Salsa it is. Salsa?

Can employees keep the trees that ESPN throws away when doing new construction?

No, employees cannot keep the trees. ESPN analyzes all trees and shrubs that are scheduled to be displaced. Once it is determined which trees and shrubs can survive the move we have them bagged, tagged and relocated. Anything left is then the possession of the contractor. Many of the trees and shrubs at the cafe project have been transplanted at Building 4 and other locations on the campus.

What I would have said: Fung off and get back to work.

Article of Interest: The Washington Shuffle


As the Americans reshuffle their diplomatic team, I submit that the Dominion of Ottawa reintroduce its foreign services corps. Take your best and brightest and groom them to have them cohesively assert Canadian ideas and values.

What better way to convince the world we are the best at hockey and highly decentralized federalism?


Must See TV


This comes courtesy of fellow Blogcritics contributor Stan Denham. I really should pay more attention to what goes on in Australia-land.

I wish someone would do the same on those stupid awards ceremony that are so utterly irritating. Like the Oscars for instance. Wouldn't it have made for legendary TV had Martin Scorsese body-checked someone like that on stage?

Aw, what the hell. Here's the article. I think North American (and Canadian in particular. Are John Howard and Jean Chretien related?) political junkies may enjoy this.




While I may not feel the Internet is evil incarnate (yet?), I do have some concerns. The first is a link to a New York Times book review about the cheap, tawdry thrills of the Internet. The second is my interpretation of You Tube earlier this year.

I don't know how one can instill "quality control" on the Internet but certain website have that power if they wish to do so. For now, we have to rely on the rugged invidualist and the power to self-govern the quality being posted.

The More Things Change?

"It is profoundly instructive to observe how powerless culture and enlightenment were against this delusion, since the latter had its support in the ardent imagination of the people, in the passionate wish to penetrate and determine the future. Antiquity, too, was on the side of astrology." Jacob Burckhardt, The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy (1860).

I just know somewhere in there exists an analogy to be drawn with contemporary times. Be it with anti-Americanism, junk science, celebrity obsession, New Age Secrets, lobbying or special interest, whatever. A prevailing ethos that drives perception is usually evident in each century. Facts of history are often misused to posit a particular partisan and political position.

Who are the progressives and the delusional today? Ancient and Medieval astrology today comes in many forms - all seem to make money. They've come a long way from the stake.


For Montreal Sports Fans


Here's a hockey-baseball connection. It serves to remind that baseball had a deep tradition in the city right up until the Montreal Expos split for Washington to become the Nationals. It provides a personal historical perspective from former Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tommy"You're my boy blue" Lasorda who became a hockey fan during his stay with the Montreal Royals in its golden era in the 1940s and 1950s. Lasorda recalls the great Habs of the 1950s and reminds Montrealers of a time when the Big Mtl was once a Major League city endowed with a glorious dynasty. Now we're beggars.

Interestingly, not too many people realize this but Montreal had a professional ball team before Los Angeles. Life has a funny way of coming full circle.

Defending Blogging

What is it with people who attack blogging?

For the past year I have read and heard journalists, writers, radio hosts and even Elton John take their tired stabs at this new medium. Most missed the mark and only mention the problems we already know.

Blogging is a young discipline in the infant stages of its development and so there are bound to be ethical and quality issues attached to it.

One day, blogging will be a respected and accepted part of our information gathering routine - hopefully with this site contributing. In what form it is difficult to determine or say but one thing is for sure: it's here to stay.

Personally, I don't intend to stop. In fact, I consider myself an entrepreneurial writer. I may not get paid but I sit and design my own site, administer my own editing process and write my own original work with my own personal perspective - free of any corporate structure seen in most places.

Many of these people complaining against us fail to see that freedom of thought is exchanged in the blogging community more efficiently than it does most forms of communications. If anything, they should be relieved there is an outlet for them to express their true thoughts and intentions.

Alas, many writers who bash this medium are slaves to the dollar, ratings, editors and what not. Some seem lazy and bored. Hence, the questionable content we are fed at times.

Locally, here in Montreal there's a sports radio host who often attacks blogging as a result of a bad experience he had with it. To each his own. However, let's just say he is the last person who should be judging blogging. Best he finds ways to improve his own show. The people who blast bloggers for their apparent lack of reason (and penchant for rumours - I thought the media had that market cornered) should a) take a look at their own callers who are often make about as much sense as a piece of dead bark and b) be pretty confident in the quality of content they are providing themselves.

So, we're in an imperfect medium. One traditional and the other a pioneer. Both have the same essence. Yet, the older brother has not accepted a new sibling and is lethargically lashing out. Maybe the combined apparent lack of growth on one end and increasing competition on the other unwelcomed and they need, surprise, to blame someone. I can only assume.

My advice? Check out your own mess before coming into our yard.


Private Services is Healthy for Canada

In a past article titled 'Medical association seems to be tilting to private care’ Gazette columnist Janet Bagnall posits weary selective arguments in her defense of the public health system. She closes her article with a curious line. “…it (the Canadian Medical Association) owes Canadians the most accurate and relevant information available.”

If only she'd follow her own advice.

Unfortunately, I could not post the original article here because it was reserved for members of the online Gazette. So, dear friends, you'll have to take my word for it.

Let's get one thing straight. No one who advocates regulated private health is advocating the dismantling of the public health system. The problem with articles such as these is that it presupposes that the arrival of private health is the first step to "free" removing universal coverage. Worse, it seeks to maintain the usual egalitarian and impractical practice of preventing people from paying for services out of free will. It's a matter of choice. To deny it is anti-democratic at its roots.

What Ms. Bagnall won't tell you is that the inflexible and archaic Canadian public health system is not a model followed by anyone. What is happening is that citizens no longer feel they are getting the services they deserve relative to what they pay into the system. There is a backlash and the media is challenging the will of some citizens.

The last line of her article (mentioned in the first paragraph of this post) was curious because it obviously (and arrogantly) infers that it presents accurate information. All it does is defend a dogmatic partisan position. The reality is that the gap between public health as an ideal and public health as an efficient and functional institution offering timely and premium care has widened. It's to the point that there is now a health care revolution under way. Ms. Bagnall can deny this all she wants but she'll be holding the bag in her hands. It is pointless to seek out boogeymen such as Dr. Brian Day and paint them as enemies of the public health system.

Furthermore, the author claims to be disclosing honest facts but quoting statistics by the "left tilting" American Prospect only brings to question the motives of the piece itself.

It goes on with the usual and misguided "private is evil" tone prevalent among defenders of the public health system. What this suggests is that Ms. Bagnall is willing to put up with poor services and political games all in the name of medical ideology. Anyone who has been through the system should know that it, ironically (given that universal care is predicated on collective compassion), lacks compassion. It's one gigantic uncaring runaway monstrosity.

Canadians do indeed deserve accurate information as well as an enhanced and reinvented public health system that reflects the conditions of the 21st century. However, the article only reinforces why selling health as a core value in this country can be problematic. As such, it detracts people from confronting the severity of the problem. Putting the fear into people is not going to improve the system.

Let's suppose that Ms. Bagnall gets her wish and private care goes away. Where does that leave us? With the same problem. A problem that will never be solved because we have politicized health. This country - which may as well be 10 different countries at this point - absurdly has a public system that operates at 10 different speeds with no effective core to govern it.

Ms. Bagnall presents readers with the specious assertion that “there was no wait for emergency surgeries”. Forget stats, based on our own personal experiences we know this statement to be false.

And what’s an article about health care - the leitmotif of public health protectors - without taking a parting shot at the American medical system? We should pay closer attention to our own problems and not measure ourselves constantly with a misunderstood American system.

Gosh, it's become tiresome hasn't it? Enough already.

What this country needs, assuming we are truly progressive, is a meaningful debate; not middling polemics. Typical ‘blame games’ that rehash old political wounds and present selective statistics are plainly counter-productive.

Dumb and Boringer


"Many of them believe that they are settling in a bilingual state. It's not true. Quebec is a francophone state that respects the rights of its anglophone minority. And when you live in Quebec, you live in French," she said.

Yawn. This again? I know the PQ need to play this game but there's something terribly pathetic in this type of thinking these days.

All this middling pontification yet, Quebec demands that Canada remains bilingual. Such a quaint and queer state of contradictory - if not hypocritical - affairs here in Quebec.

Quebec is always demanding respect but shows little of it back. It's a two-way street. That's part of the immaturity exhibited by politicians. Let's take an example.

For many years, we've observed how border provinces and states have taken the added step of offering road signs in French. This happened in recognition of the many Quebecers who travel into these regions. Coming back into the province the sullen glow and stench of 19th century romantic revolutionary rhetoric dominates. Not one sign is in English. If there is one place we Quebecers should show class and respect for it's on the road. Safety knows no language and Transport Quebec needs to be sensitive on this issue.

Quebec is French-speaking. No one disputes this. But to play games with tourists and citizens alike is most unbecoming. Many Quebecers have even begun to reconnect with their French roots - a country that abandoned them - we get it. It's all part of a neo-nationalism gripping all nationalities these days.

The PQ and its apologists are always out to justify this and that. That they are "democratic" in their philosophies and so on. No one who possesses a progressive and outwardly thinking brain actually believes this but we do mysteriously tolerate it. For most, it's "oh look honey, the dorks are at it again. Let's go buy some blueberries."

Quebec does respect anglophone rights - up to a point. The day they muzzle the twirpy L'Office de la Langue Francaise and its absurd power to fine people for "breaking" our archaic language laws is the day I will accept this statement outright. Real democratic principles we have here. Furthermore, while great strides have been made to actually offer some services in English in the civil service, for the most part it remains a work in progress.

In any event, what's she complaining about? The destruction of English institutions have pretty much been accomplished. Many new parents of the so-called allophones (of which the Italians represent the largest block) are sending their kids to French - or at least immersion -school. Not that this pleases the pure laine hardliners but this is the compromise the people want to make for cultural and linquistic peace.

Ms. Marois, many live in Quebec and many do not live "in French." They live as they see fit. The majority want to live as a bi-lingual and sometimes tri-lingual citizens of Quebec and Canada and there isn't a damn thing you can do about this. Well, there are but that would mean a police state.

Keep your own people in a "lobster pot" as one of your former colleagues cunningly once quipped. The smart ones swim away from the PQ current.

Quebec is divided in two: Montreal and Quebec's outlying regions where the PQ gets the bulk of its spiritual support. Montreal is a major economic and cultural center that must live and breathe in both languages. This is how Montrealers want it.

Note to PQ: It's over. Modernity blowing them right out of the water. The PQ are like the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan: where's the relevance? Times are-a-changing and the answer is blowing in the wind but the PQ are deluding themselves with sister morphine.

These days, the PQ have a new themse song and wear somber black:

"I fell in to a burning ring of fire. I went down, down, downand the flames went higher. And it burns,burns,burns the ring of fire. The ring of fire."
Here's an example of what the PQ are up against. We went to a local restaurant in a part of the city that is strictly French-speaking. The waitress came to take our order and we began to speak with her. As she waited, she listened to us discuss the menu in English. When I turned to her to give my order in French she immediately switched to English. "I want to practice my English," she said. "Great" I said. "I will perfect my French then."

This is just one example of classy interludes initiated by the people. I have witnessed several and this is what makes us special. The PQ, with their rhetoric, only contribute acid and bitterness between French-Quebecers and everyone else. Who gains in the end?

This is the spirit of cooperation and accomodation many people want now. The PQ can't deliver on this. The ADQ are not ready to take this bold step and the Liberals missed their chance.

So it's the people taking the lead. The question is are the politicians listening?

I await the day when a leader has the balls to say in both languages that the time has come to truly cease the language bickering and to encourage all Quebecers to become model citizens of language tolerance. Where Quebecers are sufficiently strong and mature enough to look at someone in the eye and say "Hello" without feeling as though they have compromised their identity.

Slowly we're getting there.

I'm Kent Brockman. Good night.

*For those of you unfamiliar in the socio-political vernacular of Quebec the province is divided into franco-phones, anglo-phones and allo-phones (minorities that fall under neither of the two solitudes). All Quebecers are we?

Silence of the Bridges

Oh now there's a surprise: Officials at Transport Quebec are refusing to publicly disclose the province's bridge reports. Time for Premier Jean Charest and Transport Minister Julie Boulet to step in and do what is right in the interest of society. We helped pay for those bridges and we have every right to see what those reports reveal.

In some cases, the public does not need to know what is going on behind the dark, dismal halls of power politics. People feel they have the right to every piece of document no matter how classified or sensitive. There are indeed limits to what the public needs to know.

However, in this case it's a little different. Bridges are falling on our heads.


Can China Bring America to its Economic Knees?

Stupid question.

The answer is no.

To believe this is to be truly be ignorant of economics and finances.

Move on.

Pooled RESPs are not perfect but should still be considered by parents

Now for something boring - but relevant.
As a former member of the financial services fraternity, a piece about Registered Education Savings Plans (RESP's) in the business section of the Montreal Gazette - Montreal's only English daily of decreasing repute to some - caught my eye.

While many investment products are far from perfect, some do actually provide decent benefits. Registered plans (tax-sheltered investment vehicles) have their merits and demerits but as an overall concept, it is difficult to dismiss the financial advantages - provided of course if sound investment principles are applied. Nothing is written in stone and precious little (except for government backed securities) is guaranteed. However, pooled RESP's give investors another option to the already available self-directed education savings plans.

The concept is simple: An investor sets money aside on behalf of a beneficiary to be invested in the plan in a pooled investment - ie, all the monies are put together. The mandate of the money manager is to conservatively invest the funds to ensure that the plan provides safe and sufficient payouts when the beneficiary is ready to go to school. This is accomplished by essentially investing in high-quality government and corporate bonds.

RESP's are for families who are prepared to stay in the plan over the long haul - up to 25 years depending on the beneficiary. While it is impossible to know if a child will end up in University, the plan does offer options in the event that a beneficiary does not go to school.

The biggest knock against these plans is the rigidity and the "hidden" fees, and this is the main focus of the article. To hook people, the trick was to find disaffected people who were unlucky enough to have been provided with poor service. Does this mean that RESP's are stained? Of course not.

Pooled RESP's do remain more rigid than most plans; however, they are not as bad as they are thought to be. With proper explanations, parents should be well aware of the way it functions. Indeed, pooled plans have become far more flexible in the last ten years and will probably continue to evolve moving forward.
Such investments are unlike mutual funds in that money managers are used to actively trade stocks and dealing with the constant inflows and outflows of cash (withdrawals, deposits etc.), pooled managers on the other hand rely on stability. They need to have a more predictable process in order to provide a) preservation of capital and b) ensure that payouts are available when needed.
As for the fees, there are "hidden" fees in almost anything in the investment world. All fee calculations remind you that your math skills are below average. Regardless, by law (and Canada absurdly has no national standards) all companies are required to disclose their fee structures. I read the CST RESP prospectus. It is clearly spelled out and I know for a fact that representatives are concious of this fact. If you find that your rep is not answering your questions satisfactorily there are options for you. Either ask to speak to someone who knows or simply ask for another rep. Someone will be able to help you.
We live in an imperfect world, and believe me financial services has its problems, but investors deserve much, much more than these "investigative" pieces that stink of ulteriour motives. Or maybe the media is just bent on finding any negative hook they can find to sell their crummy papers.

Here are some excerpts in the article (there is no Internet links to it so you'll have to trust me on this one. I am your Virgil on a journey into the Inferno....cough):

Referring to one of several "pressure" tactics used by RESP representatives, the author writes, “Did she know tuition costs are exploding?”

Salespeople can be pushy. We all know this. However, sometimes you need to go past the messenger and listen to the message. Predictable as this piece may be, it would have been only fair and simple to pull out figures published in Statistics Canada. Tuitions costs are rising. The fact that the median household income (to say nothing of socio-demographic and economic considerations) in Canada is around $50 000, this may not be enough to offset tuition rises.
Moving on to another interesting but perplexing quote. “The plan’s low-risk investment strategy wasn’t giving the returns she was seeing in the recovering stock markets.”
It makes a person wonder how a writer in the business section would miss the opportunity to correct a glaring misplaced rationale in the above statement. The plan does indeed have a low-risk investment strategy and a casual gloss over of the prospectus will show how this is achieved: it invests in bonds. Bonds do not outperform equities. But they do provide safety of capital. That's your trade-off. With this in mind, the appropriate comparison is with what the bond markets are presently (and historically) rendering. It’s the proverbial comparing apples with oranges. Or for you sports junkies, would you compare one athlete to two other athletes from two different sports to decide if you want to select them? Of course not. It's misleading. You'll look like an idiot. Who's the GM of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Detroit Lions anyway?

“She thought they could do better investing her education savings themselves.”

In rising markets don’t they all? I remember during the market rise just before the bubble burst in 2000, newspapers were publishing articles that alleged monkeys were just as effective at outperforming the markets as the experts. They were advising people to fire their stock brokers since they too can do it on their own. After all, you are smarter than a primate....right?

Jokers they were. Who were they kidding anyway? Professional money managers put in 80 hours a week attempting to match or outperform the stock markets over a long period of time. Last I checked, no monkey ever lasted as long as Peter Lynch or Warren Buffett.

What makes people with precious little time or expertise think they can do it?
About the fees and under performance, “She asked for her money back.”

This is not a product that can be easily returned to a Wal-Mart counter. Pooled investments are predicated on a stable investment inflow. Managers are passive in their approach in that they are not actively trading bonds like you would see in a stock-based mutual fund. A stock mutual fund manager (depending on the strategy and mandate) is constantly attempting to outperform the markets.
Should an investor ask for their money back if their mutual funds drop in value? Go ahead. Try it. You'll be poorer for it. While in some cases cutting your losses is smart, on average attempting to chase "returns" is a bad move. Especially if your expectations are unrealistic and unclear.
This is a classic myopic outlook that completely disregards the long-term benefits. An RESP is truly just that - a long term product.

“They were really good at spinning it so you don’t focus on the fees.”

Possibly, but misleading nonetheless. When it comes to investment products, it’s hard to find an investment without mercurial fees. Mutual funds are just as complicated. At least the pooled RESP returns the enrollment fee. The return of that fee may seem complicated but it is clearly stipulated in the prospectus. As a business writer, did the author and/or the editor read the prospectus?
There is no doubt that there are poorly trained salespeople. However, this takes place right across the financial industry at large. Efforts are made to ensure that salespeople are made aware of the rules, regulations and proper sales practices. Is the Gazette itself, for example, free of shoddy reporting?
When it comes to getting a quote to legitimize a thought, it is popular, if not the norm, to seek the opinion of a financial planner. “I would never recommend these plans to parents. Never.”
Well, that’s his opinion and this should have been matched with someone who would. Suggesting that people invest in mutual funds in a financial institution is somewhat disingenuous when you consider:
-Most are self-directed and most people are not sufficiently experienced enough to build a proper mutual fund portfolio by themselves.
-If they are not self-directed, they have to be lucky to have a caring banker who is knowledgeable enough to invest the money properly. Not all bankers are. Besides, the turnover at the bank is high and people would have to put up with meeting a new banker every six months. Not a good way to build trust - especially when there’s a market correction that may negatively impact an improperly balanced portfolio.
“I prefer things that are simple and have flexibility.”
Don't we all? Mutual funds have high Management Expense Ratios (MER’s) and are far from simple. If anything, they tend to be far more complex in that you really have to know what you’re doing to invest in them. A conscientious investor will try and keep this in mind and will try to find investments that offer low MER’s but the fact is that most are high. Don’t forget, the bank wants to sell their funds and the choice of high-quality bank funds are rare. Once past, Royal Bank and TD, the bank investment world is a dark forest. Banks still can't sell third party funds. In other words, you can't buy the really good ones that are available.
MER’s tend to erode returns over the long term and this most investors will not tell you. Furthermore, back-end charges tend to be extremely high and make mutual funds rigid (though if properly planned mutual funds can be flexible) in themselves. For example, if an investor wants to sell an underperforming mutual fund, they may not be able to do so if the deferred sales charges are too high. The only other option is to transfer within the same family of funds.

However, what happens when there are no suitable alternative? Yes, they can buy front-end (which is probably the best thing) but read the prospectus. The “hidden” fees are all there to read.
Above all, mutual funds are popular from the financial planners and stock broker perspective because of the trailer fees paid to them.
This is all beside the point. Mutual funds have their legitimate place in a stock portfolio and many do offer solid returns. However, for risk averse people (and the profile of the people interviewed in this article struck me as people who would not be able to handle market volatility) mutual funds may not fit their needs.
Yes, there are conservative funds but again I ask: do you have the time to pick, choose, follow and deal with all that? I'll answer this: no. Very few do. Pooled RESP’s have a completely different mandate than mutual funds. They may have some inflexibilities but as an investment they offer far less volatility (and peace of mind) over a long period of time.
“Another concern is that group RESP plans tend to invest most of their assets in conservative fixed-income holdings. Such investments are less risky than stocks but provide lower returns.”

Let’s keep perspective here. Among its stated objectives, the goal is to ensure RESPs do not lose your money. Your trade-off is indeed lower returns but at least your CAPITAL is PRESERVED and eventually RETURNED. Ultimately and equally as important, your child has a nest-egg to draw on to attend a school.
Why is this a concern again?
I have a question of my own. Do most Canadians really need a financial planner? Here in Quebec we have an average household income of $40 000. How does this justify paying a financial planner for a service they do not really need?
The odd part of the article is where the author writes:
“…average returns ranged from three percent to seven per cent annually between 2002 and 2005…That’s compared with an average 11 per-cent annual gain by the S&P/TSX composite index…”

Last I checked the TSX was a composite of actively trading common stocks. Does the author feel we should compare preferred stocks with the TSX as well? The plan, as already mentioned, does not invest in stock so this was an absurd comparison.
And so ends an overall disappointing “assessment” of the shortcomings of RESP plans. A little more depth in the right areas would have hurt no one – assuming that the purpose was to truly educate and enlighten readers.
In a nutshell, the article argues people should not purchase this plan – despite significant positive strides in recent years - because of complicated fees, rigidity and low-returns. Personally, I would have used an entirely different approach to present a more balanced point of view.
The overall benefits of pooled plans, however imperfect, fall in favour of the conservative and disciplined investor and ultimately the beneficiary over the long-term.

Note: Image from vancouverdad.com


Article of Interest: Of Health Choices


I wonder how long Bob Rae had to wait. Politicians are lucky that way.


RIP: Sam Pollock, Phil Rizutto, Bill Walsh

Sam Pollock - As General Manager of the Montreal Canadiens he helped engineer 9 Stanley Cups in 14 years (1964-1978)and the legendary Habs of the 1960s and one of the clubs greatest dynasty in the 1970s. Pollock's death is a reminder of what was once one of North America's greatest and most succesful franchise. The heritage of excellence has given way to hard times in recent years for les habitants.

Phil Rizutto - Revered by the New York Yankees faithful, Phil "Scooter" Rizutto was an enormously popular shortstop in the 1940s and 1950s. Once told by Casey Stengel to go "grab his shoe-shine box," Rizzuto - a supreme "small-ball" player - eventually played 13 years in the big leagues playing an integral part on nine World Series teams. Scooter was inducted in the Hall of Fame in 1994. Following his retirement, Rizzuto went into broadcasting where Howard Cossell remarked to him that he wasn't going to make it as a broadcaster. Once again, Rizzuto proved a second legend wrong. He is credited with coining the terms, "Holy Cow!' and "Did you see that?"

Bill Walsh - In the 1980s, the football world was defined by the San Francisco 49ers led by Joe Montana, Jerry Rice and head coach Bill Walsh. Under his guidance, the 'Niners won three Super Bowl titles between 1981 and 1988 and quickly became one of the NFL's most succesful teams. Alas, just like the Montreal Canadiens, these are trying days for San Francisco's first professional sports team.


Did the Russians Kill Santa Claus too?

"I went home with a waitress. The way I always do. How was I to know she was with the Russians too?" Lawyers, Guns and Money, by Warren Zevon.

When it came to satirical and political cloak and dagger rock lyrics, Zevon sure had the market cornered.
I don't know why but this song came into my head when I first saw the Russians planting a flag in the seabed under the North Pole symbolically claiming it for their own. It's all part of a renewed reinvigoration of Russia asserting its power. Why not? As a result of global warming, access to potentially 25% black oil reserves in the Arctic has been possibly made easier. They want their cut.

Go figure. Where nature taketh, she giveth. Incidentally, did I read right in the second link about an Australian being part of the Russian exercise? Time to put in a call to our Commonwealth friends.
Anyway. Ah man, the Russians lost the Cold War, are we going to have to beat them here too?

Ok, not Canada. We don't think an army is useful what with us minding our business and all. By "we" I mean our branch plant partners the Americans. We can challenge the Russians in a hockey game for all the marbles if they agree to it. I think we'll win. But if the Russians don't go for that, guess who is going to sweep in and speak as our allies in this matter? You see, when you sleep, the wolves enter your house. What usually follows is we have to work with other powers to protect our sovereignty from a position of weak leveraging.

That's why Canada needs to smarten up - which we slowly have been doing. More needs to be done. If it means getting hold of all those Canadian flags Sheila Copps has boxed up in her garage and planting them all over the damn Arctic so be it.

Think about how we protect our interests as a shopowner selling high quality products at discount prices. Not very profitable.

Mind you, the Americans are kinda caught up in Iraq and this has kept their attention focused there. Ironically, like global warming, it has often been alleged that the U.S. went into Iraq for the crude. I personally don't think it's just about that but if that were true one would think that the U.S. would have spent much of their energy cruising around the Arctic too.

In any event, I have read some blogs and news services who have fallen all over themselves into believing the Russians are commited to multi-lateralism and all their empty democratic rhetoric. This from a country who has yet to prove itself a democratic nation. Of course, people have been lulled into believing Putin is the new political pink. They'll do anything as long as it besmirches Dubya.

Whatever we do, we must not involve the United Nations as the Russians would like. Screw them and their immoral and ineffective corrupted little behinds. We, Canada, should push for talks between the United States (even though they have not ratified the Law of the Sea Treaty), Russia, Norway and Denmark. Keep it between the main players.

With precious access to natural resources in the region this can pose a problem not just for Canadian sovereignty but with American and Russian relations in international affairs as well. In many ways, this is Canada's chance to make a strong and resolute statement in world politics.


Lay off our Arctic, eh?

Now this is all I ever asked. To have Canada act like a grown up country. Before and after the dry BNA Act Canada has tended to take for granted that the Arctic belonged to this country. We simply assumed it was ours. Once upon a time we naively believed that Sending Sam Steele to keep law and order and a Canadian presence was enough. To any realist, this was never a solid solution to a problem that the government should have recognized was not going to go away.

As it stands, the United States, Russia, Norway and Denmark all have various land claims in potentially resource-rich areas in the Arctic. While it was no surprise that the Liberals slept at the switch, PM Stephen Harper is at least going to attempt to assert Canada's right to the North.

It truly is absurd how we've allowed the military to whither like we have. Canadians will probably be up in arms if countries - Denmark in particular - takes a more aggressive stand in the North - don't these people know we filmed "North of 60" there? Of course, these are the same people who felt spending on the military was not important. After all, we are a peacekeeping country (who don't peacekeep all that much) as such who would want to attack us?

If not, we're gonna have to rewrite our national anthem. "The true North, strong and free" will have to be changed to "the true North strong and occupied by foreign countries." Oh well, a cynic will counter that Canada already sold itself down the river long ago and that contemporary nationalism lacks any real bite - if it ever did.

Still, Harper deserves some credit for trying. He's making Canada look less oblivious and more resolute.


ALS hits the Als Family

It was recently announced that Montreal Alouettes colour commentator and former Als all-star Tony Proudfoot is battling the deadly Lou Gerhig disease.

Yet, this has not stopped him as he continues to work the Aloutettes games. His speech has been slowed and slurred slightly but his sharpness to call a game remains evident. For its part, CJAD 800 radio deserves credit in its classy decision to keep him on board.

Some of Proudfoot's accomplishments include a book he wrote called First and Goal: The CFL and the Pursuit of Excellence and being named a CFL all-star in 1977 and 1979. He is also credited with being the innovator to adding staples to the Alouettes shoes during the 1977 Grey Cup final against the Edmonton Eskimos. The Als went on to decisively wipe out their arch rivals in what is known as the "Ice Bowl."

During the Dawson College shootings last year Proudfoot - who is a gym instructor at the school - helped to save the life of a student while the gunman continued to roam the campus.

Is Pierre Trudeau the Worst Canadian?

The Beaver Magazine - a magazine that covers Canadian history - recently published a "Worst Canadians" list as voted by the people.

Pierre Trudeau topped the list. Yikes! To think he went from one of the most revered figures after his death to becoming Yosemite Sam in one massive Justin Morneau swing.

Sigh, people can't be trusted with the simplest of tasks. We simply have no sense of historical perspective. Did I just write that? Wha? Huh? Canadians don't know their history? No! This can't be true, can it? Does anyone see the weird humour in compiling lists for a nation that eshews history as if it is allergic to it?

Mark Reid, editor of The Beaver commented on the public survey. "Voters generally disliked Canadians who - in their view - turned their backs on Canada by rejecting their citizenship or moving elsewhere to seek fame and fortune. Voters also disliked Canadians who - they believed - sold out our sports teams, businesses, or cultural institutions to foreign interests, thereby diminishing our collective national identity."

Whatever that identity is. So, in terms of sports, are Brett Hull, Marcel Aubut, Lennox Lewis, Alex Baumann, Owen Hargreaves, Greg Rusedski and Mary Pierce traitors? Did it ever occur to people why so many Canadians leave? Nah. We're too stuck up our asses for this.

For me, we're like a head with multiple bulging, crooked eyes bouncing independently from one another when it comes to identifying who we are. Poor Canada. Always looking in the mirror and asking, "Honey, Do I like look fat?"

Over the years I have read and heard so much about who we are as a country and I still have a hard time with it. When you start a company you need a succinct tag line that describes what you do and who you are. Try that exercise with Canada. I would be interested to know what it could be. Here's mine: "Canada. The Passive Northern Bacon."

Regardless, that Trudeau is worst than Clifford Olson is simply retarded. Then again, didn't we vote Tommy Douglas as the greatest Canadian ever. I say we have to stop smoking the wheat.

The rankings make little sense. Well, except for #7.

1. Pierre Trudeau 2. Chris Hannah 3. Henry Morgentaler 4. Brian Mulroney 5. Paul Bernardo & Karla Homolka 6. Stephen Harper 7. Céline Dion 8. Jean Chrétien 9. Clifford Olson 10. Conrad Black.

Summary? I hate lists.


Sports Comments

-Angry Genius - Lesse here, Barry suspiciously "sells his Bonds" and gets 756 dingers. It is what it is. Cheat and a jerk you say? Perhaps. No wait, he is a cheat and a jerk. Why this is so I don't know. Take it to Vienna. I do know that many ball players were mercurial. Think Williams, Cobb and DiMaggio to name but a precious few. Others were cheats - think Sutton and P. Niekro.

I think, wink, wink, it's pretty clear his "What, me worry?" ain't being bought by most. Still, all the Keystone-moralizing that has swirled around his cantakerous head and mystery persistent elbow injury is a farce in itself. The hypocrisy exhibited (and there is more than enough on all sides to go around) has degraded itself to levels not even Mr. Burns would ever sink to.

He's a jerk. He used flax seed. He wears a weapon that probably launches small rockets from his arm. He may have even benefited from juiced balls. He remains one of the all-time greats and has earned his place on Mount Crushmore. Live with it. The thing I don't get is why did he do it?

-Broken Wood - The former-legendary Montreal Canadiens are not sailing into the mystic these days. Not with signings that bring back has-beens into the line-up. While the Philadelphia Flyers turned into instant Cup contenders, the Habs walk along a lonely path to mediocrity. Heck, even mighty Juventus, after spending time in banishment in Italy's second division, has managed to make important signings to make them competitive. What about the Boston Celtics and their impressive deals to bring among other Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett to their hallowed grounds?

The Habs, for their blessed souls, signed Patrice Brisebois and his bad back to an intelligent $700 000 contract. Swell. Could they have not instead used the money and add it to Michael Ryder's contract - the club's only true legitimate goal-scorer? Goal-scoring? Bah. It's clear Bob Gainey, is strong on the development side. Less so on the signings and trading which have backfired more often than not. So now fans -after forking over 10 bucks for the pseudo-criminals over at the Center and their crappy beer - have to watch Brisebois "play" 40 games as though he needs a chiropractor following him around with those mall-skeletons? The Canadiens are probably going nowhere so why not sacrifice a couple of years and let the kids gain experience?

-Baseball Players Should take up Shuffleboard - I was watching the Toronto Blue Jays and New York Yankees hammer each other the other night. It seems you can't throw at anybody anymore without the batter acting like a princess from some jungle tribe. Mind you, MLB has not helped matters with its zero-tolerance attitude regarding this. It harkens back to the instigator rule in hockey with the NHL.

Anyway, Alex Rodriguez may be a fearsome hitter but he ain't scaring people with those beautiful green eyes. He's better suited for a Chrystal Gale song than a diamond fight. Cheez, what would they do in the face of this Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher?

Alex (clawing in mid-air): "Hold me back, I swear I'll kill him!"
Jeter (rolls eyes and arms crossed): "Um, no one is holding you back, Alex. Go for it."

Take it in the chin and take your base, you weenies. Worse, half of these guys come up to the plate crowding it with cocky bats. Damn straight a buzz cut is in order to shave part of that smirk off. Pedro Martinez - all 65 pounds of him (40 of it his hair) - wasn't afraid to go up and in on the hitter. Good for him. Someone has to teach these boys that baseball is a man's game.


Book Review: The Ronald Reagan Diaries

Ever wonder about the private thoughts of a President? Enter The Reagan Diaries published by Harper Collins. Originally five volumes, the diaries were edited down by Douglas Brinkley to a more palpable 693 pages that take the reader through Reagan’s Presidency in the White House between 1981 and 1989.

The historical significance of the diaries will be immediately obvious to political scientists and historians alike, especially if we consider that only four Presidents (George Washington, John Quincy Adams, James K. Polk and Rutherford B. Hayes) kept a consistent diary.

Nonetheless, if you’re a political and history aficionado you don’t need to be a scholar to enjoy this book. Reading diary entries could seem heavy, but the book will leave readers feeling as though they were taken on a private political tour by a President.

Strikingly, the tone of the diaries is free of any pompous overtones and is consistently marked by Reagan’s thoughtful and principled ruminations. Reagan was succinct, confident, clear and consistent in his beliefs. This much can be discerned with his outright contempt for taxes, big government and communism, tempered with his love of Nancy Reagan, people with physical abilities and the spirit of America.

Personally, the Reagan years represented a time when I was becoming politically aware and historically inclined as a teenager. Among the many things that stuck with me, one in particular was how often the media negatively portrayed Reagan.

Reagan noticed it, too. His distrust of the media led him to comment on more than one occasion, as he did with CBS and the Washington Post when he said, “I think their bias towards the Dems. is showing.” In another entry he wrote, “I cannot conjure up 1 iota of respect for just about all of them.”

In international affairs, Reagan was a Cold War leader who honestly believed in the inherent goodness of America. His approach towards the Soviets was one of firm engagement while eschewing the temptation for hard-line posturing.

Mixed in with the Cold War was the Middle East. Though a staunch ally of Israel, the Reagan administration exerted pressure on Israel on numerous occasions when it came to its policies in the region.

An interesting observation readers may make is how often Reagan gave assurances to Israelis that the United States was not going to abandon them. "I assured him (Prime Minister Shamir) of our continued friendship…"

Over the course of the decade, Reagan nurtured close relationships with Turkey, Egypt and Jordan, while constantly worked with them regarding various issues in the region. As for Saudi Arabia and Syria, Reagan was not naïve. He writes, “…the Saudis and Syrians aren’t exactly friends.”

Reagan stood up for American interests without apologies and sometimes with dark humour. In one entry, while attempting to broker a peace settlement in Lebanon, he writes, “We want it to be a level-headed approach to peace to reassure the eggheads & our European friends I don’t plan to blow up the world.”

Domestically, we gain insights on various issues throughout the book. Morality in particular was not something Reagan (who thought the “Shroud of Turin” was proof of the bodily ascension) believed could be disassociated from politics. Indeed, this sort of writing and thinking would make most post-modern individuals cringe, but to Reagan it made perfect sense.

Over the course of two Presidential terms, Reagan faced tragedies such as the space shuttle crash in 1986, the death of hundreds of Marines by terrorists in 1983 (the marine holocaust, as he called it) in Lebanon, Iran-Contra, Cuba and Fidel Castro, Libya’s Quadaffy, and of course the assassination attempt against him in 1981.

The book also provides plenty of intriguing quotes. For example, following a lunch he had with Jacques Cousteau he wrote, “….Cousteau who is a true ecologist who like me is disgusted with the eco. freaks.” Speaking of which, Reagan often mentions how proud he was of his administration’s environmental record.

For the paranormal enthusiasts among us, Reagan adds this comment, “I think the ghost of Abe Lincoln is stirring around upstairs where we live.” Note: The film Ghostbusters had been released two years earlier so he was perhaps still caught up in the whole 80s phantasmal craze.

Family matters, not surprisingly, were bound to leave their mark in the book. Reagan’s relationship with his children was often rocky but it does leave us with one of the more memorable quotes in the diary, “Insanity is hereditary – you catch it from your kids.”

Above all, it’s his undying love for Nancy Reagan that jumps through the pages, ready to hand the reader a red rose. The President simply could not stand being away from her. After waking up in the hospital following the assassination attempt on his life, we get a glimpse of how deep his love and respect were for her, “I opened my eyes once to find Nancy there. I pray I’ll never face a day when she isn’t there. Of all the ways God has blessed me, giving her to me is the greatest and beyond anything I can ever hope to deserve.”

Just in case you feel Reagan was incapable of idealism we’ll end with this final quote: “Why don’t we let the young people run the world – there wouldn’t be any war.”

We can never know for sure how a person whom we never met truly feels, but the book leaves you with a feeling of genuine authenticity. Indeed, it has the genuine rawness of a diary.

All in all, this was a fascinating read offering insight into the mind of an important American president.


And now for some good news from Iraq...

I know, for such a huge soccer fan I was slow on this one. Better late than never as someone once said.

Against all odds Kurds, Sunnis and Shias united to lead Iraq to victory at the Asian Cup. Not that they are new to creating upsets. Recall that they beat Portugal 4-2 at the Olympics in 2004.
Now to do something about that damn political problem.

USA Hockey 1980 meet Iraq 2007.


For Investors: No, you're not crazy. Your suspicions are fully warranted.


Canada is the most decentralized federal state in the world. It's also a country built on patronage and nepotism where an old boys network continues to run this loose collection of provinces. That it has no national standards in financial services should come as no surprise to anybody. The above link provides readers and investors alike with a website dedicated to exposing the scandals on the Canadian investment landscape often overlooked or ignored by the media.

Imagine if a scam like Enron happened here? Where to begin the process of to hold those responsible accountable? Who has the authority to deal with such an event? Indeed, the regulatory bodies in place lack any teeth - let alone the will - to take one of their own down. During my time as a broker many of my clients would comment about the alleged entrenched corruption in the United States. This sort of thinking always baffled me given that Canada is far from the virtuous haven we think it is. We have our share of structural and deliberate corruption.

Regardless, the odds are stacked against the small investor.

Canadians at large seem to be in the dark about the major shortcomings that mark this country. If we were to add them all up we'd find that things need to be improved - fast.

When will Canada grow up, mature and do what truly is best for its citizens? It's sheer madness to let the provinces regulate this without an overarching Federal body to step in and take charge in serious matters. Sure, the provinces will bitch and scream (it's what they do) but surely this would be in the best interest of all Canadians right? Right.

Don't bet on it.

Above cartoon from cartoonstock.com


History can never be an altered state

Sometimes you never know what you stumble upon. I was browsing around the Internet and came across the following link about the institution of American slavery.

Indeed, the author brings up (among others) a point often overlooked if not ignored. What about the African kings and nations who sold their own to the Europeans? Our automatic assumption, as whites, is to point the finger directly upon one side. Slavery was once upon a time an accepted part of American southern society. It was as much a cultural institution as it was an economic one. But that was then; this is now. Let it rest in the highways of history. Resurrections of the past should be reserved for Jesus Christ on Easter.

While it is difficult for us to judge or feel what is inside the black American experience, according to many a modest mind, it may be time for Americans to move forward on this issue.