Friday, June 29, 2007

Closing the Productivity Gap

"[Roger] Martin is advocating that Canada completely restructure how it learns, works, taxes, spends and invests, in order to create a far more productive and technologically-advanced economy. His objective is to catch up to the standards of productivity and wealth set by the United States."
- Maclean’s - March 19, 2007

As chairman of something called the Institute for Competitiveness & Prosperity, Roger Martin spends his days thinking about how we, as Canadians, can become more productive and overtake our American cousins in the great capitalist sweepstakes. Chief among his solutions are that we should learn to work harder, take shorter vacations and invest more in new technology.

But even Mr. Martin, who doubles as the dean of the Rotman School of Management, recognizes that Canadians are reluctant to take his advice. For some reason, we seem to like our longer vacations and we’re none too eager to start working harder.

Given those societal restraints, perhaps it’s time for Mr. Martin and his ilk to start thinking outside the prosperity and productivity box. If they did, they might come up with some fairly innovative solutions.

First off, has Mr. Martin given any thought to one of our greatest untapped resources: infants and toddlers? Billions of dollars are spent on Canadian babies with virtually no expectation of any return apart from the odd drool and a smile.

Perhaps it’s time we started asking a little more from our pint-sized citizens. After all, babies are nothing more than tiny persons. And we don’t expect persons, whatever their size, to get a free ride in this country.

At daycare centers from coast to coast, there is a huge untapped energy resource that we have inexplicably allowed to go to waste. Hundreds of thousands of crawling infants can produce untold kilowatts of energy in the form of static electricity. Once Canadian scientists come up with a way to collect that huge electrical supply, we can power entire towns and cities on baby static alone.

And what about children in daycares over the age of two? These are individuals who have developed rudimentary motor skills suitable for all kinds of routine workplace tasks. Given the government subsidization of many daycares, it is not unreasonable to expect these tiny tots to be at least somewhat productive during normal working hours.

Being a modern progressive society, we would not, of course, expect our small children to engage in strenuous labor or to work in unsafe conditions. But there is no reason whatsoever why these mini-workers could not participate in small assembly lines or to assist, for example, in the separation and sorting of recyclables.

Looking beyond daycares to our public school system, there is a readily available labor pool of millions of chidren just waiting to be tapped. Upwards of two hours of the typical schoolkid’s day is idly spent on such pursuits as recess, gym, lunch hour and study break. Why not make use of the abundance of energy possessed by these children and employ them part-time in school-based call centres?

Such a plan would, of course, avoid the worst excesses of child labor experienced in third world countries. Our schoolkids would only work during designated non-classroom break periods and there would be a daily limit of two hours of work with a prorated weekly maximum of ten hours (not counting possible overtime and weekend shifts).

And why stop with our children? There are millions of pets in Canadian households who spend most of their waking hours sleeping and/or licking themselves.

Why not put that incredible potential pet power to work for all Canadians? Dogs, cats and even hamsters could be harnessed to treadmills or wheels in order to generate electrical power for household use.

Roger Martin is right as far as he goes. But just as he criticizes his fellow Canadians for their lack of ingenuity and motivation, Mr. Martin suffers from the same failing.

We’re sitting on huge untapped reserves of energy. And all it takes is a little imagination to turn that energy into wealth for all Canadians.

We can all have even more of the good life if we only exploit the resources that are right in front of our noses. Dare to dream, Mr. Martin; dare to dream.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Conrad's Convictions

Conrad Black awaits the jury’s verdict in his criminal trial in Chicago. Chances are that he won’t be found guilty on the charges related to the non-compete clauses he and his partners profited from. But some of the following less publicized charges may yet result in a conviction:

chronic pretentiousness
In a state known for its down-to-earth, straight-shooting residents, it’s not surprising that Lord Black has been charged with this offense. Under Section 6.66 of the Illinois Criminal Code, a person may be charged with repeated and willful pretentiousness. Black’s British title together with his predilection for polysyllabic rambling makes a conviction likely.

spousal association
A little known Illinois provision allows a man to be indicted if his spouse is an offensive, publicity-seeking harridan. Although the jury is still out on Barbara Amiel, it seems likely that they won’t take long to convict Mr. Black on this charge. His only hope is that he can sway some of the jurors to cast a sympathy vote.

just because
This seldom-used charge is a variation of the tort-related doctrine "res ipsa loquitur" or, in other words, "the thing speaks for itself." When a jury senses that a wealthy person ought to be found guilty, this provision allows them to do so. Derived from the common law offense of "being rich", "just because" requires proof of an added degree of arrogance which trial observers indicate should not be an impediment in this case.

pompous pontification
Just as Al Capone was eventually convicted on the secondary charge of income tax evasion, Lord Black may avoid a finding of guilty for his alleged corporate crimes but end up doing time for an unrelated innocuous charge. Illinois criminal law makes it an indictable offense to lord one’s status and vocabulary over others. Given Black’s obvious contempt for just about everyone and his penchant for turning out dull, thousand-page biographies, he may be facing the maximum sentence on this particular count.

being Black
Many African-Americans are familiar with the offense of DWB or "driving while black." This is a very specific white variation on that charge. Simply being Conrad Black begs for a conviction for something and, failing all other options, this provision allows for that possibility.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The 2005 Atlantic Accord

Recent conversation overheard at a local Ottawa used car lot:

STEPHEN: Hello, gentlemen. What can I do for you?

DANNY: It’s this secondhand 2005 Atlantic Accord that you sold me. It’s not performing as promised at all.

RODNEY: Mine, too.

STEPHEN: Look fellows, someone sold you both a perfectly good used car. And as far as I know, you both got a great deal at the time.

DANNY: Well, yeah, it seemed like a good deal but now it’s looking more and more like I got screwed like that hydroelectric sale we made to Quebec.

RODNEY: I’m not happy either. You said we’d get to keep the same monthly payments and not have to pay extra for gas and oil.

STEPHEN: Just a minute fellows. I wasn’t even running this lot back in 2005. As I recall, it was a guy named Paul.

DANNY: That’s right but Paul said he’d stand behind this Accord and he gave us an eight-year warranty.

RODNEY: Me, too.

STEPHEN: OK, OK. I run an honest business here and whatever contract you signed with Paul, I’ll stand behind it 100%.

DANNY: But I heard you’re now offering way better deals.

RODNEY: Yeah, I heard you’re giving some folks way nicer payment plans.

STEPHEN: That’s right, guys. In fact, I can make you the same offer today. The only change is that you’d have to pay for your own gas and oil.

DANNY: That’s not fair. Paul said we’d get great monthly payments and not have to pay for gas and oil for eight years.

STEPHEN: Sorry guys. That was Paul’s promise. I’m glad to stand behind your original contracts but if you want the new deal, you’ll have to trade in your Accord for another vehicle.

DANNY: That’s ridiculous. You want me to trade in the Accord for some little Echo or Refocus?

RODNEY: Forget it. If I can’t have my Accord and the new monthly payments, I’m walking. And I’ll be telling all my friends to vote with their feet, too.

STEPHEN: Suit yourself, boys, but you won’t find a better deal anywhere else. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a meeting with some guy from Saskatchewan named Lorne about the Accord he never got.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Boomers Never Die

With the leading members of their generation already in their early sixties, baby boomers are doing what they’ve always done: they’re revolting and this time it’s against getting old.

With 65 just around the corner, aging baby boomers are taking no chances on letting age catch up with them. They’re taking action now.

Grassroots movements in every state except Florida and Arizona have mobilized those born between 1946 and 1964 to stand up for their God-given right to stay young forever. Petitions are already circulating to demand legislators roll back the years. If planned legislation passes, residents in most states will be allowed to start counting their age backwards once they reach 65.

"I feel young, I look young and I damn well have the right to be young," said AARP spokesperson Lance de León. "And that means the right to adopt my psychological age rather than some outmoded, outdated chronological marker."

And apparently that goes for the word "retirement", too. Many boomers are insisting on new post-employment terminology such as "sabbatical", "career shift" and "life stage transition."

"That’s right," said Mr. de León. "We won’t hang ‘em up at 65 like the so-called Greatest Generation. We’ve got too much to do. After all, we’re the Greatest Generation Ever."

Plans are already in the works to mobilize boomers from coast to coast to participate in one of their famous Marches on Washington®. Except it won’t be for civil rights or women’s liberation or to end some East Asian war. Instead, this time it’s all about the boomers themselves and their tenacious desire to say no to death.

Local demonstrations have recently occurred in and around certain pre-retirement communities. Some older boomers have taken to the streets protesting the aging process and carrying signs that say "Hell, why? We won’t die." and "Make pharmaceuticals, not war."

Boomer leaders like former President Bill Clinton have already signed on with the nascent movement. And as more and more of their contemporaries reach their sixties, it’s expected that the numbers will swell, just like they did in public schools across the land fifty years ago.

"I, for one, am going to fight for this just cause," said Mr. Clinton. "Not so much for me but more for my children and my children’s children so that no one will have to face the trauma of turning 65 ever again."

It’s still in the early stages, but there are plans afoot to celebrate the 42nd anniversary of Woodstock with a giant indoor concert in a well-ventilated, climate-controlled venue in an as yet undetermined hypoallergenic, non-smoking, pet-friendly location.

"It will be very symbolic," said Mr. de León. "The 42nd anniversary of Woodstock happens in 2011 which would have been the year the first boomers turn 65. But instead we’re going to use this opportunity to start turning the clock backward. Forever young, man."

Tickets for the event will soon be available but only for those who have the American Express card. Ironically, there reportedly will be a 15% seniors’ discount for those over 55.

When informed that the boomers plan to live forever, Generation X spokesperson Natalie Ennui indicated her contemporaries have decided to protest by ending it all in a massive group suicide. However, the event, tentatively called Lemming Day, has reportedly already been cancelled due to lack of interest.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Government Senior Management Aptitude Exam

It seems the Bush Administration has an ongoing problem regarding the folks it places in various senior positions. As a 25-year veteran of the Canadian federal bureaucracy, maybe I can help.

Just about anyone can work for the government. But only a special few are suited for senior management positions in the civil service. To ensure the best candidates, Administration officials may want to consider using this short "Government Senior Management Aptitude Exam" to better assess future candidates:

* You discover that your boss has been charging his home renovations to a government account. You should.....
a) Blow the whistle on him and report this to the police.
b) Alert his boss by memo that you are aware of the violation.
c) Ask your boss for a contractor recommendation.
d) Do nothing and forget that you ever heard anything about it.

* One of your employees has been coming in late, leaving early and abusing his sick leave credits. You should.....
a) Immediately take disciplinary action.
b) Issue a warning.
c) Document the individual’s violations.
d) Do nothing since he will eventually leave or retire.

* A subordinate tells you that a co-worker has spent $500,000 on a budgeted but unnecessary item. You should.....
a) Immediately cancel the transaction and call for an investigation.
b) Ask the subordinate for an explanation.
c) Request an opinion from legal services.
d) Do nothing, especially if it’s year end and you’re not yet over budget.

* Your superior has sent you a memo asking for your immediate assessment of a 300-page policy report. You should.....
a) Work around the clock to provide her with the assessment.
b) Cancel all your meetings in case you need to work overtime on this project.
c) Delegate as much as you can to others.
d) Do nothing and see first if there’s ever a followup request.

* A subordinate has filed a grievance to have his position reclassified in view of added duties. You should.....
a) Do whatever you can to support your employee’s case.
b) Check to see if others in similar positions in the organization have been reclassified.
c) Warn the employee that this action will hurt his career prospects.
d) Do nothing unless the employee is eventually successful and your superior orders you to act and there has not been a subsequent reorganization.

SCORING: Give yourself one point for every "a" answer, two points for every "b", three for every "c" answer and four points for every "d". Tally your point total.

5-8 POINTS: Clearly not government senior management material. You are too quick to do what you consider to be the "right" thing. Not a "big picture" type of person.

9-12 POINTS: Still not suitable for government management positions even at junior levels. Although you exhibit a tendency towards caution, you still seem to be governed by some outside notion of "ethics" or "morality."

13-16 POINTS: Definitely suitable for middle management but not yet ready for the big time. Guided by caution but still stuck in "action-based" modes of thinking.

MORE THAN 16: Congratulations! You definitely have what it takes to be a senior government manager. You demonstrate a maturity and "inaction-based" non-decision making mindset that makes you a perfect fit for government’s top positions.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

A Really New Green Plan

The Canadian government has rolled out its new green plan for the environment but already the critics are saying it’s not enough. Everyone from Al Gore to David Suzuki has chastised Canada’s Environment Minister John Baird for avoiding the tough choices.

However, if the Canadian government started thinking outside the box, there’s a solution that can help solve not only our environmental dilemma but also society’s other major problem namely, what to do about our growing population of seniors.

The simple solution is staring us right in the face. All we have to do is eliminate entitlement programs and public healthcare for those over 65.

Those who can afford to retire and cover their own medical expenses would, of course, still be free to do so. Everyone else would still have a choice: keep on working or "go green" one last time.

This is a win-win-win situation. There’ll be lots more money to fight global warming. The government won’t have to fund all those wasteful entitlement programs. And finally, those seniors who decide to "go green" will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

After all, one of the major sources of CO2 is us. Every day each of us exhales significant amounts of carbon dioxide. So with millions of seniors voluntarily (or involuntarily) opting out, our total annual CO2 emissions will be reduced by millions of tons.

And departing seniors can also help the environment in other ways. Instead of taking up valuable land in traditional cemeteries, they can choose to assist in municipal composting programs perhaps through an additional bi-weekly curbside pickup.

Or for those who prefer cremation, participation in their local waste incineration program can make a big difference in efficient energy use. It is estimated that a fully-funded seniors’ incineration program could generate enough electricity to light the homes of 300,000 residents.

"Going green" for seniors can be their way of giving back to the planet. Given their environmentally wasteful lifestyles over the last 65 or more years, it only seems right that they make the ultimate sacrifice to allow their children to continue living and consuming to excess.

We’re all worried about the health of our planet but not all of us can afford to do something about it now. If seniors were to not just reduce their carbon footprints but eliminate them entirely, the rest of us could continue living the comfortable life we have come to expect as our birthright. But we can’t delay any longer in implementing such a plan. Time is of the essence. In fact, if we start right now, I’m guessing by the time I reach 65, it won’t even be necessary any more.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Hollywood Rules

Famed TV actor Fred Thompson is reportedly on the verge of declaring his candidacy for President. The ‘Law and Order’ star who plays district attorney Arthur Branch is hoping to follow in the footsteps of that other Hollywood actor turned politician - Ronald Reagan.

Apparently Thompson is not the only thespian looking to take up residence in The White House. Rumor has it that the following stars are also considering a 2008 run:

Martin Sheen
The noted left-wing star is seriously considering entering the race. When asked to comment on his lack of experience, Sheen conceded that Thompson was a two-term senator from Tennessee but noted that his record outshone most. "I served in Vietnam or at least the Hollywood version as shown in ‘Apocalypse Now’," said the noted actor. "And I believe that I have more on-screen presidential experience than any other actor today including Harrison Ford and Michael Douglas." As the self-proclaimed "best President America never had", the former star of ‘The West Wing’ hopes to repeat the surprise New Hampshire primary victory of his counterpart Jeb Bartlett.

Warren Beatty
Long mentioned as a possible presidential candidate, Warren Beatty’s name is again surfacing as a potential Democratic nominee. "My video experience is more broad ranging than any other candidate, Hollywood-based or otherwise," said the aging heartthrob. "Not only have I played a U. S. senator in ‘Bulworth’, I also gained valuable criminal experience in ‘Bugsy’ and ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ and useful insights into communist governance in ‘Reds.’ When asked to handicap his chances for the 2008 race, Beatty quipped: "I can guarantee you that they’re better than ‘Ishtar’."

Clint Eastwood
Politics is nothing new for Clint Eastwood. The famed Hollywood actor and director previously served as the mayor of Carmel, California. "If you can handle the politics of wealthy, small town California," said the iconic star. "The White House should be a breeze." The longtime Republican says that he’d like to bring a more libertarian approach to Hollywood. When asked how he’d handle his eventual Democratic opponent, Eastwood simply said: "Make my day."

Arnold Schwarzenegger
Hollywood megastar Arnold Schwarzenegger has long been touted as a presidential candidate. The star of such action-adventure movies as ‘The Terminator’, ‘Predator’ and ‘Conan the Barbarian’ has already made his mark as Governor of California. "I can’t deny that I want that job," said Schwarzenegger. "I believe I have the strength and acting ability to carry it off." Unfortunately, the former body builder is not qualified due to his Austrian birth. But if the Constitution can be amended to allow foreign born Americans to run in future races, Schwarzenegger says: "I’ll be back."

Donald Trump
Never one to shy away from the limelight, Donald Trump is rumored to be looking for one more property acquisition: The White House. "Let’s face it," said the star of ‘The Intern’. "As President, I’d be huge." Asked to comment on his lack of political experience, the real estate mogul dismissed the criticism by saying: "Look, if I can take on a giant loser like Rosie O’Donnell, those clowns in Congress would be a piece of cake."

Homer Simpson
Longtime animated star Homer Simpson reportedly has his eye on the Republican nomination. Assuming he can get out of his current series contract, the eponymous star of ‘The Simpsons’ wants to throw his metaphorical hat into the presidential ring. "Just look at my record," said Simpson. "I’ve been and done just about everything." Asked if his penchant for screw-ups and mistakes would hamper his candidacy, the aging cartoon star replied: "I don’t see why since that didn’t stop the current guy from serving two terms."

Friday, June 15, 2007

One Note Rudy

As the heroic former mayor of New York City, presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani is being accused of relying too much on his 9/11 reputation and being a political one-note samba. To counteract that perception, his advisers have reportedly drafted the following campaign position paper:

The Democrats
You know and I know that if the Democrats win the next election, the terrorists will have won. I didn’t rescue America from 9/11 only to have it fall into the hands of these week-kneed, pusillanimous al-Qaeda lovers.

Osama bin Laden
So long as this evil mastermind draws a breath, I will do all in my power to hunt him down. But I can’t avenge our honor for his attacks on 9/11 unless you give me the powers of the presidency to go after him..

The Housing Market
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from bravely standing atop the smoking pile of 9/11 rubble, new construction requires generous refinancing. Just as we were able to find the funds to rebuild on the World Trade Center site, as President, I will do what is necessary to track down the affordable mortgages Americans need to keep their homes safe from terrorism.

I am a strong believer in the institution of marriage and I have no use for those people who criticize me for being thrice married. As we all know, after 9/11, everything changed. A traumatic event like 9/11 simply underscores the importance of finding your true soul mate even if that means admitting and divorcing past mistakes. Subject to another major terrorist attack, I believe I’ve found mine.

The way to fight crime is the way I did when I was the mayor of New York City. Take care of the small offenses and thereby avoid having to call 911. That’s how you fight terrorism, too.

In general, as a former District Attorney, I’m against gambling since it tends to encourage organized crime. However, I am willing to make limited exceptions for legalized gambling to generate public revenue, particularly any games of dice, roulette and baccarat where 9 or 11 is the winning number.

Child Welfare
I think if kids are watching 9 to 11 hours of TV a day, that’s way too much. In order to be healthy enough to fight terrorism, I strongly recommend that children go to bed at 9, definitely no later than 11. Anyway, definitely somewhere between 9 and 11.

My position has been consistently clear. Up to about 9 or 11 weeks gestation, I support a woman’s right to choose. After that, I am adamantly opposed to abortion. Otherwise, the terrorists have won.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Conrad's Punishment

The trial of Conrad Black is scheduled to wrap up soon. So there’s not a whole lot of time left to consider punishment options for Mr. Black if he should be found guilty.

I stress the word “if”, not so much because the Anglo-American tradition of jurisprudence insists that an accused is innocent until proven guilty but more because I know Lord Black’s predilection for launching libel suits at the drop of a hat.

But let’s just say that the Baron of Crossharbour is found guilty. What then?

The former press baron is reportedly facing a jail sentence of over one hundred years which, even given Mr. Black’s notable perseverance, means he would likely die in prison. That seems overly harsh for an alleged crime involving mere millions of dollars.

I suggest that the presiding judge and the prosecution team do some outside-the-box thinking and come up with a few options for sentencing if (and I cannot stress too much the contingent nature of this speculation) he should be found guilty. Options such as:

Option 1
Just because Conrad Black is allegedly a sanctimonious, pontificating windbag (not my opinion, of course) is no reason to unduly punish him with a life sentence. Lots of not so nice folks get to do community service instead.

Perhaps Mr. Black could be required to work in the newsroom of one of the many papers he financially exploited before selling them off for huge profits. Like Ebeneezer Scrooge, he would be given a chance to see how his former minions live and to change his exploitive ways.

Better yet, why not have Lord Black do daily duty at a soup kitchen or a homeless shelter? For a man who allegedly loves to dine on haute cuisine at company expense, it will be punishment enough if he is forced to sup with the peasantry. It may even inspire a touch of humility in the allegedly overbearing baron.

Option 2
On one view of the criminal justice system, punishment is retribution and should make the offender suffer. Sure, 20 or 30 years in prison would not be pleasant for Mr. Black but it wouldn’t be that bad. After all, he could spend lots of time researching and writing those allegedly godawful historical tomes that he so loves.

To ensure Conrad suffers (if, in fact, he is guilty), I suggest he serve a much shorter sentence, 45 days say, but that he do his time with Paris Hilton. Six-and-a-half weeks with Ms. Hilton’s scintillating intellect should have the baron begging for mercy.

Option 3
For the author of such soporific doorstops as “Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Champion of Freedom” and “The Invincible Quest: The Life of Richard Milhous Nixon”, a fitting sentence might be to force Mr. Black to repeatedly read his own works out loud.

Option 4
An effective punishment often involves taking away a prized possession from the alleged offender. In Conrad Black’s case, that would be his peerage. With the cooperation of Queen Elizabeth II, Mr. Black could be stripped of his titles and left to live the rest of his life as a mere commoner.

Option 5
The best solution is often the simplest. Why waste taxpayers’ money on incarcerating Lord Black? If he’s found guilty, simply let him go home and live out his remaining days with his wife, Barbara Amiel. Surely that is punishment enough for any man.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Goodbye White House

Conversation overheard recently in an oval-shaped office in a large, white house somewhere in Washington, D. C.:

"Mr. President, we need your signature on this latest veto."

"I’m so sick of all this governing stuff and, by the way Dick, you can stop calling me Mr. President. I’m not so sure I even want the job anymore."

"What are you talking about, sir?"

"Karl, just call me George will ya? I’ve had it with all this ‘Mr. President, this’ and ‘Mr. President, that’. I just wanna go back to the ranch."

"Now calm down, George. We’ve been through this before. You’re just a little anxious, that’s all."

"A little anxious? A little anxious? You think so? I’m what you might call a lot anxious, Dick. I wanna get the hell out of here."

"OK. OK. We’ve got a plan, George. We were really hoping you could hold on for the next year and a half. But if you can’t, you can’t."

"So what’s the plan, Dick?"

"Well, I think it’s going to be a mass exodus. Right, Karl?"

"That’s right. It looks like folks are going to be leaving soon in droves. So we figure you just sneak out at the same time and maybe no one will even notice."

"What’re you talking about?"

"Well, it’s like this. A lot of our folks have already left. And more are ready to jump."

"Like who?"

"You’re kidding, right? Paul just left and Alberto is as good as gone."

"So what are you saying?"

"We’re saying, George, that the easiest way out of this fiasco is for everyone to leave at the same time. Pick a date and let’s cut and run."

"But I said we wouldn’t cut and run."

"No, you said the United States wouldn’t cut and run. You never said you wouldn’t cut and run."

"Oh? OK. So what’s the plan?"

"We set a date, a timetable, if you will. Make it a Friday - say June 29th - and we all just pack up and leave."

"We can do that?"

"Sure. Nothing says we can’t."

"But who’ll take over, Dick?"

"Who cares? So long as we don’t have to clean up the mess. Right, Karl?"

"You got it, Dick. If you leave, too, then I think that makes Nancy Pelosi the President. Serves her right for giving us a hard time."

"This is sounding better and better, boys. I can’t wait to get outta here. Any chance we can move the date up even closer?"

"I don’t see why not. In fact, I think the American people might even appreciate that."

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Chaos Theory

Some say I’m crazy. Some say I’m in denial. But like thousands of others, I’m just an Ottawa Senators fan who doesn’t want to see the story end. So join me for a brief look at what might have, could have and perhaps should have been. Just beware of unintended consequences.

June 6
Spurred by the potential embarrassment of losing to a team called the Ducks, the Senators rebound from a 2-1 deficit to win the fifth game 3-2 on a shorthanded goal by Daniel Alfreddson and a penalty shot by Antoine Vermette.

June 9
Back at home and cheered on by a raucous Scotiabank Place crowd, Ottawa plays their best game of the series and trounces Anaheim 6-0 to knot the series at three games apiece.

June 11
Even without the home advantage, the Senators hang tough against the Ducks and fight back three times from a one-goal deficit to send the game into overtime. Ottawa caps a glorious comeback with a Cup-winning goal by Alfreddson late in the second overtime period.

June 14
Fans line Elgin and Wellington Streets ten deep to watch the victory parade for the Senators. The players eventually make their way to Parliament Hill where a noisy crowd of 250,000 celebrates the Stanley Cup win. Caught up in the excitement of the moment, Prime Minister Harper addresses the crowd and announces that he is calling an election for August.

June 15
Embittered by the loss of the Nordiques and Montreal’s repeated failure to make the playoffs, the Parti Quebecois and the ADQ say that Quebeckers cannot take the humiliation of Ottawa winning the Stanley Cup. They blame the win on the federalists, agree to join forces to bring down Jean Charest’s Liberals and then jointly announce a fall referendum on separation.

June 16
Saddened by Edmonton’s failure to make the playoffs and Calgary’s early departure and angered by Alberta’s lack of representation on the Senators, Premier Ed Stelmach calls his own separation referendum.

June 18
Despite Prime Minister Harper’s request for an election, Governor General Michaelle Jean, a lifelong Habs fan, refuses to drop the writ sending the country into turmoil.

June 20
After two days of widespread traffic violations and nasty opinion pieces by Rex Murphy, George W. Bush declares a state of emergency and sends in American troops.

June 22
Fearing rampant incivility, rudeness and downright impoliteness, President Bush declares Canada an American protectorate. As a first measure to restore peace, he suspends the Senators, declares the June 11th victory a nullity and awards the Cup to Anaheim.

July 1
At the direction of President Bush and Gary Bettman, Eugene Melnyk moves the Senators to Houston. With the removal of this major irritant, independent rule is returned to Canada and many more years of non-Canadian Stanley Cup winners are assured.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Bringing Home the Cup

At a hastily called press conference yesterday afternoon, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced the repatriation of the Stanley Cup. Given the recent victory by the Anaheim Ducks, the now fifteen-year hiatus had become a national emergency and something had to be done.

"During the early hours of this morning I invoked the Emergencies Act," said Mr. Harper. "Members of Joint Task Force Three, our newest crack commando unit, broke into the Honda Center in Anaheim and liberated the Stanley Cup."

"It is now on its way back to Canada by bus or possibly UPS," said the Prime Minister. "And it should be arriving sometime later tomorrow."

Apparently the long history of American-based teams winning the ultimate hockey trophy became too much for the government. In recent years, it was hoped that such Canadian teams as Calgary, Edmonton and Ottawa could bring the Cup home but each attempt ended in failure.

"We had great hopes for the Senators this year," said the PM. "But, let’s face it, they’re not the Leafs and they just couldn’t get the job done."

What rankled most was that the last three Cup victories went to southern U. S. cities where the championship was barely noticed. Between Tampa Bay, Raleigh and Anaheim, it’s difficult to find any sustained interest in hockey beyond a few thousand faithful fans in each town.

"We are bringing the Stanley Cup back to its rightful home," said Prime Minister Harper. "After all, Lord Stanley wanted his trophy to go to the champion team of Canada, not some southern backwater in the U. S."

If history is any indication, it seems likely that the Anaheim Ducks will do what the Anaheim Angels did after their 2002 World Series championship - i.e. - hold their victory parade in Disneyland.

"I could not stand by and do nothing," said Harper. "CSIS agents reported that there was a distinct possibility that the Ducks would be marching through the Magic Kingdom and that Mickey Mouse himself might even be carrying the Cup. I think all Canadians would agree that such a provocative act would be an abomination and totally unacceptable."

It is not known what plans the Canadian government has for the Cup. But some inside sources have suggested that Harper may agree to return it to the NHL on condition that they revive franchises in Winnipeg and Québec City and allow new owner Jim Balsillie to move the Nashville Predators to Hamilton.

"An NHL team in Nashville," Harper exclaimed. "How ridiculous. What’s next? A team in Columbus or Las Vegas?"

NHL head Gary Bettman is reportedly outraged at the actions of the Canadian government.
"What right does Canada have to take the Stanley Cup," asked the diminutive league commissioner. "If they keep pulling stunts like this, how the hell are we ever going to get a U. S. TV network contract?"

Despite the outrage from the league, it appears that the Prime Minister is in a position of strength, not so much because of Canada’s questionable military power but more due to widespread American apathy.

When asked to comment on Stephen Harper’s unilateral and undoubtedly illegal move, President George W. Bush uncharacteristically asked for calm and announced: "I don’t see a major problem here, Steve. I think if you asked most Americans if you could have the Stanley Cup back they’d say ‘What’s the Stanley Cup?’ So help yourself. No hard feelings. Just don’t try to grab the Super Bowl. Then, of course, we’d have to invade."

Friday, June 08, 2007

Dear Shelagh

Dear Shelagh:

I just heard about your wonderful contest called "The Seven Wonders of Canada." Is it too late to enter? I hope not because I’ve got some surefire entries that I just know you’re going to love:

The Senate
This has got to be one of the most amazing political wonders not just in Canada but in the entire world. It’s a big red chamber filled with unelected senators who draw big salaries and expense allowances until they’re 75 despite doing very little. And then they get a pension! Shelagh, it’s truly amazing.

The Notwithstanding Clause
Santa, subordinate, main. All great clauses to be sure. But the greatest one of all is our very own notwithstanding clause. What other country boldly proclaims a list of rights and freedoms and then allows legislatures to opt out? Only we have the courage to define contingent and temporary rights. It makes you proud to be a Canadian.

Don Cherry
Wasn’t he voted one of the top ten of your "Greatest Canadians" a few years ago? Well, rightly so. Don Cherry is a national treasure, a true institution or at least a candidate for one. The true wonder is that he gets paid with taxpayer dollars to tell us how stupid we are. And isn’t that what Canada is all about, Shelagh?

The Bloc Québécois
Speaking of things Canadian , the Bloc Québécois is perhaps the most amazing Canadian wonder of all. What other country would fully fund and recognize a political party whose sole aim is to break up the country? Shelagh, I couldn’t be more proud.

P. E. I.
The Americans take pride in their recognition of such minor states as Delaware, Rhode Island and the Dakotas. But they’ve got nothing on us. We give full provincial status to a little island that otherwise would barely qualify as a municipality. Where else could an entire economy survive on only potatoes and Anne of Green Gables? Only in Canada, eh Shelagh?

What would Canada be without the Mounties? Other countries have a national police force. We, on the other hand, have an amazing organization that, like Canada itself, is a mishmash of responsibilities and jurisdictions. And given its predilection for screw-ups and scandals, Shelagh, it’s truly a wonder that it still exists.

And finally, Shelagh, CBC-TV itself has to qualify as one of Canada’s seven wonders. It’s a TV network both in French and English that’s publicly funded but hardly anyone watches. Except for hockey and American-made shows. Shelagh, it’s a video wonder that’s authentically Canadian.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Senators In Seven

Can you believe it? The Senators were down three games to one and came back to win the Stanley Cup. At least that’s the way I saw it.

Some of you seem to think they lost game five in Anaheim. You thought you saw Chris Phillips slide the puck off Ray Emery’s skate into his own net for a 3-1 Ducks’ lead.

From my perspective, it never happened. Phillips safely carried the puck out and near the end of the period Alfreddson tied the game on a beautiful shorthanded shot over Giguerre’s shoulder.

You remember that one, right? And that’s how the second period ended, with a 2-2 tie. You may think you recall a period-ending power play goal by Anaheim but I assure you that you’re mistaken.

And who can forget that exciting third period with all that end to end action? And to have Alfreddson score his third goal of the night with only thirty seconds left to win the game 3-2. How sweet was that?

Saturday’s game back home was almost as exciting. Down by one in the third, Fisher breaks in on Giguerre and puts it through the five hole to tie the game in the last minute. And Jason Spezza finally breaks out of his slump and pots the winner in the third overtime period.

I didn’t know what to expect in Monday’s game seven in Anaheim. I was starting to have my doubts but I should have known that the Senators would pull through.

How many of you thought they’d do it in such style? Three goals in each of the three periods for a 9-0 shutout. What a finish to a great season.

Now the Cup is finally back in Canada where it belongs. I don’t know about you but I plan on being downtown tomorrow for the victory parade. Even if I have to celebrate alone. Because that’s the way I saw it.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Hockey Is Canadian, Eh?

My Ottawa Senators have finally made it to the Stanley Cup finals for the first time in their modern-day history. I should be thrilled but I’m not. Instead I’m fuming about the indignities visited on us by the NHL and their incessant attempts to appeal to a largely disinterested American audience.

First of all, look who we’re up against in the final series. I was hoping that the Detroit Red Wings would win the Western Conference finals and we could play a team with a long, proud hockey history. A team that is so close to the Canadian border that many of us claim it as one of our own.

But no; we have to play the Anaheim Ducks. Even if Ottawa should win the Stanley Cup, how can we be taken seriously if we do it by defeating a team once called the Mighty Ducks? A team originally named after a Disney movie. A team that plays in a town where the only outdoor ice seen in wintertime are the cubes in the highballs served by the pool.

We Canadians live and breathe hockey. We love it. But the National Hockey League knows that and takes us for granted. Instead the league and its Commissioner, Gary Bettman, will do anything to make inroads in American markets.

For years the NHL. has bent over backwards to get network TV coverage of its product in the U. S., all to no avail. While Canadian television networks pay millions for rights to broadcast games, the NHL can barely give those rights away to American networks. In fact, they were so desperate this year that they handed playoff games to NBC for free.

Why the NHL bothered is beyond me since it was clear that NBC was barely interested. And why should they be when the ratings for televised hockey can’t even compete with poker or bowling? The importance of hockey to an American audience was underscored when Ottawa’s final game against Buffalo went into overtime and NBC switched to pre-race coverage of the Preakness.

By the way, that final game was on a Saturday afternoon. Not a Saturday night which is Canada’s traditional hockey night. And why? Because NBC insisted on it. The same NBC that paid nothing for the broadcast rights and yet couldn’t be bothered to televise an extra ten minutes of overtime play.

Even the upcoming Anaheim series highlights the second class nature of hockey in the American sports market. The Ottawa Senators have had to wait nine days since winning the Eastern Conference finals before playing their next game. All because Anaheim’s Honda Center has a figure skating show booked and it takes priority.

Don’t get me wrong. If there’s a market for hockey, I’m all too happy to share our Canadian game with anyone who loves it. That includes hockey towns like Boston, Buffalo and Detroit where the fans regularly sell out the local arena.

But Gary Bettman and his shameless hucksters insist on pushing hockey into towns where folks would rather watch professional paint drying contests. Check out the average attendance figures for NHL hockey in cities like Phoenix, Miami and Nashville. Chances are if you can’t skate on your local pond in the winter, you won’t be that interested in paying big bucks to watch grown men play hockey.

The NHL’s obsession with establishing an American fan base has accomplished little except to harm the Canadian market. Because the league will do anything to get a U. S. TV contract, it has made it difficult for smaller Canadian cities to acquire or maintain a franchise.

In the past, both Winnipeg and Quebec City had successful NHL teams. But they couldn’t compete financially and both franchises ended up following the money south to Phoenix and Denver. Given half a chance, those two cities could support an NHL team again, as could several other Canadian towns.

But as long as the NHL takes Canadian fans for granted and carries on like a Don Quixote on skates in its hopeless quest to convert American sports fans, those of us in the Great White North will continue to not only get the short end of the hockey stick but also the shaft.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Creative Campaign Financing

A previous Honorable Mention winner on the site:

How often have you said to yourself: "Boy, I’d sure love to run for President but I’m worried that I can’t afford it."

Well, worry no more. With a copy of "The White House Can Be Yours With No Money Down", you can’t afford not to run for President!

Here are just a few of the tricks the real pros use to get the political real estate they desire:

* Are you married? If so, then your spouse can be an instant source of millions of dollars. Just announce a drug or alcohol dependency, an adultery or a terminal illness and watch the donations roll in.

* Don’t be afraid to flip. If you’ve milked a particular position for as much as you can, flip it. Once you’ve done a quick 180, you’ll find that there’s a whole new demographic just waiting to reward you.

* Look for bargains at foreclosures and estate sales. Remember, there are lots of other folks running for President and not all of them can succeed. When another candidate drops out or dies, you can pick up their war chest for pennies on the dollar.

* In this business, name recognition is everything. So if you were unlucky enough to be born with a little known name, change it to something more recognizable like Lincoln or Kennedy. Better yet, adopt a composite name like Barack Clinton-Edwards or Rudy McCain-Romney. You’ll be surprised how much you can make without even trying.

* Don’t be afraid to lie. Sure, it sounds wrong. But all the top candidates do it and it works wonders for them. And while you’re at it, promise everybody everything. It doesn’t cost you a cent and it may just be the edge you need to get that Pennsylvania Avenue property you’ve had your eye on.

* One word: Swift Boat. Actually, that’s two words but we think you get the idea. Have friends or family badmouth the other candidates to decrease their value. But make sure you stay above the fray. So long as you’re not saying it, no accusation is too outrageous or too profitable.