Wednesday, December 31, 2008


Be careful what you wish for...

Dare I wish for the intractable, hateful, murderous conflict between Israel and everybody else to end and find a peace for all?

I am a Jew living in Canada and I am daily made sick to the stomach of the continuing news of death and the relentless hatred towards Israel.

Will some small ray of light appear on that stage in 2009? We can dream...

I wish our Canadian soldiers back from Afghanistan.

I wish for a friendlier, more relaxed, more open Canadian citizen, one who can actually smile and say, "Good morning," as you pass each other in the street.

I wish for more insulation and double-glazed windows for my lovely, but terribly energy-inefficient house.

I wish for some political leadership somewhere in Canada at any level.

I wish everyone gets home safely tonight from the revels.

I wish I could get past the Miser Within that keeps me from taking advantage of the Boxing Week sales to buy that fancy new camera I really covet.

I wish you all a year of good health, some coins in your jeans, and the warmth and companionship of friends, families and lovers in whatever shapes, sizes and colours they may appear.

Come on, Dance, You Cheapskates

Ballet BC details its debts to local businesses

168 creditors owed nearly $400,000, court papers show

There are the headlines that explain the entire story.

This is lunch money for Gordon Campbell. And for Gregor Robertson.

What are they waiting for?

Be a man. Be a mensch.

Step up to the plate, boys.

Totally corrupt bankers and totally inept auto makers can be rescued in the Billions of dollars, but we can't throw a $400,000 bone to the hardest working artists on show business.

Have you ever tried to dance?

It's more gruelling and, occasionally, much prettier than NFL football.

This is a cruel joke.

Pay off these small debts and let these people do their work.

You politicians speak constantly about "community" and "pride" and the "best place," blah, blah, blah...

Get real and get reel...

Still Hunting J.D.

It's good to know the old verities persist.

Tomorrow, J.D. Salinger will turn 90.

And that means that magazine and newspaper editors around the world will still be sending out cub reporters to the village in New Hampshire where the author of "Catcher in the Rye" has been hiding for about five decades now.

Gee, never on Oprah or D. Letterman?

What's the matter with this guy?


I salute you, J.D.

How Do I get in the Bail Out Line?

Former Merrill Lynch Exec takes bailout money to buy palatial digs

This is the headline from Crooks & Liars by way of Video Cafe.

Watch the video and read the text and study the floor plans, all here.

After you finish throwing up, contemplate the beauty of these "save-the-nation" bailouts.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The NPA Dumped

Last night, the NPA tried to reorganize and salvage some sense of the ruling party they had been for many years here in Vancouver.

If the detestable behaviour of the small cabal of cronies who conspired to control who would and would not be elected to the new board is any indication of where this group is headed, hide the silverware, kids.

It used to be said of fights in academia that they were so bitter and mean-spirited precisely because the stakes were so low.

That old gag applies here.

Shame on those petty nitwits who seem to only gather pleasure in whispering behind the curtains.

Freddie Hubbard, R.I.P.

The Bright Lights are Always on High

DO you think perhaps the wrong people are being bailed out? Do you think?

In the midst of the multi-billion dollar taxpayer-funded rescue packages for Detroit, the Ford Motor company has unveiled its new "self-parking" car.

The CEO of Ford makes the personal admission that he found parallel parking the most stressful part of his driver's test.

The new technology will be available on some Lincoln's and new seven-passenger Lincoln MKT luxury crossover vehicle.

Is it called a crossover vehicle because it can cross over to the other side of town? Because it is trans(mission)-gendered? Or because it's really more a battleship or Panzer tank than car?

The Chronicles of Criminal Injustice - Basi/Virk

Nobody has followed the Basi-Virk affair over its past five years with greater diligence than local journalist, Bill Tieleman.

In yesterday's, Tieleman published a most comprehensive study of the as-yet-entirely-unresolved legislature scandal. The piece is called "Railgate, A to Z."

I urge you as an informed BC citizen to read it and save it for future reference. The trial is supposed to begin - finally - sometime in the spring - if we ever have a spring.

It is also highly likely that this mess possibly involving the highest reaches of local government may, in fact, never reach a court room.

It is particularly likely that it won't reach a courtroom before the May election.

Tieleman deserves our thanks, a fistful of journalism awards and some merit citation for citizenship.

More Snow Job Stories

In response to yesterday's post, "Can You Dig It?" a commentor filed a wonderful story of his own. Please read it. It's terrific.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Can You DIg It?

On Saturday afternoon, my willfulness and stubborness reached its choking point, and I decided that I would dig my car out of the snow.

It was parked about two blocks away from my house.

"Enoough," I grumbled in my best Type A voice, as I set out with two shovels and steely determination.


It only took half an hour and some nifty raised-on-the-prairies-nothing's-gonna-stop-me driving, but I did it.

Of course. Always knew I would, so there. Ha!

Swung onto the ruts of the street, promptly turned right up the next street so that I could then turn back down to the main road and go about my terribly important business. (I had to return three videos to a store many K. away.)

In less than a third of the way up the second street, I stalled and stuck.

My '93 Mazda, trusty as it is, has a low undercarriage and I was basically riding the snow tracks.

More shovelling, help from a stranger who lived on the street and half an hour later, nothing.


So I walked back towards my house, knowing that I had now effectively blocked a residential street entirely and that if I phoned BCAA and if I ever got through, the wait would be about five hours.


What do I find in the alleyway just a moment later?

But an entire family digging our their van.


So I'll help you dig if you'll help me push.

Done and done.

But just as we start to push my car back, another five or six people come along and join in the fun.

Missions accomplished.

After I returned the videos and got some groceries, I headed back to the hood.

My car is now parked on a busy thoroughfare. I am hoping that it isn't snowplowed in this morning.

It was lovely to see people helping each other in these maddening conditions.

A World Gone Mad

In Victoria, the geniuses who oversee drug addiction problems have struck real gold.

For absurdity and sickness, that is.

Seems they had to close down their site for free needle exchanges for heroin addicts.

So for some time now they've been operating a mobile service.

i.e., Don't worry, Doper. We bring the needles to you.

Small problem.

That leaves thousands of dirty needles unaccounted for.

Which means that the very people who are charged with helping the situation are, in fact, making it worse.

But consider this more fundamental issue.

A man or woman who sincerely believes in his or her own little utterly misguided heart that he/she is doing some good in the world spends his/her day dashing about the city streets on foot or on bicycle trying to find an addict to whom he/she can give a clean needle.

Imagine instead that this same poor fool was scooping addicts off the street to take them to a clean and sober rehab environment.

Oh, what ever is the matter with me?

I forgot.

We don't want to do that.

We want to help people stay stupid and hopeless.

We have a name for this that make it an honorable approach. Harm reduction.

How sick is the delusional person who has this "job?"

The Wise Investor

“Prognostications 2009"

For Immediate Release

Vancouver, BC (December 29, 2009):

It’s time to dust off the crystal ball prognostications for 2009. None are for sure, but here are a few to contemplate:
  • The global recession will continue in all corners of the world. Even China can slide into a rough patch. Commodity prices, like oil, will gravitate to lower lows. Hefty corporate losses will continue.
  • President elect, Barak Obama will inherit a mess. The expectations of him and his team are beyond reach. His approach will be different. Look for the “Obama bounce” in the markets. Reality will set in when investors realize he can only deliver partially.
  • Lower prices and interest rates won’t be sufficient temptation for cashless consumers to loosen their purse strings and incur more debt. Big ticket items, like autos, will struggle heavily. Keep a keen eye on the viability of commercial real estate.
  • Governments will spend more taxpayer money they don’t have on additional wasteful workouts, bailouts and other projects. Government deficits will balloon trying to shore up disappearing jobs.
  • Get used to shrunken automakers. Before they do, they will ask for more assistance. Nobody should be surprised that the loans they’re getting won’t come back to taxpayer coffers.
  • Corporate earnings will soften. The spectre of more layoffs, mortgage defaults, foreclosures and bankruptcies will fuel added turmoil. Weak US financials will continue on the ropes. Finding new capital to replenish their balance sheets will be job one.
  • Conventional wisdom has the second half of 2009 getting better, but it may take longer. While stocks seem like screaming buys, cheap doesn’t always equal value. Watch for market rallies that don’t stick. Not everything is a golden opportunity.
  • There is always an optimistic side to economics. For instance, housing affordability will continue to improve. At least, that will help first time buyers. Another is more responsible lending practises.
Bottom Line. The economic landscape will keep shrinking. Consumers will hang on to their wallets. Follow what’s best for the personal situation. Don’t jump willy nilly onto hot bandwagons du jour.

Stay simple. Cash will be king. Allocate it slowly and methodically within your well-designed game plan. Make decisions based on fact and reason. Never on emotion.

No investing strategy I know has you making all your moves in one year. So, keep your priorities straight. Remember that your investing is a marathon, not a sprint. Slow and steady gets you there.

Be on the lookout for market sentiment to change one day. I can’t tell when, but until then, tread carefully. Very carefully.

Your comments are welcome.

Adrian Mastracci
Portfolio Manager, R.F.P.

KCM Wealth Management Inc.
Fee-Only" Portfolio Managers & Financial Advisors
Suite 1500, Box 1078, 885 West Georgia Street
Vancouver, BC, Canada V6C 3E8
Tel: (604) 739-4500 Fax: (604) 739-0234
E-mail: Website:

Voices From the American Front Lines

Add Image

The following is taken from "Crooks & Liars," a website which I peruse every morning. The text itself originated on a blog...follow the trail here...

I do not live or work in the USA.

I have had a ringside seat to the economic downturn this year. It is not an abstraction to me. The folks at the bottom are always the first to feel the pinch, when it comes. Clients of the agency I work at come through our doors every day requesting assistance with basic necessities like food, clothing, shelter and medications. As the year has progressed and New York State has chosen to repeatedly victimize its most vulnerable citizens, it has become more difficult to help people meet these needs. I have visited food banks with empty shelves, been told clients were ineligible for help when I knew they were and had to challenge these decisions. I have sat with clients while their applications for public assistance were reviewed by fraud investigators at social services. Our local social services department actually hired fraud investigators at the same time that it was laying off child protective workers demonstrating conclusively where our values lie and how genuinely mean spirited we are as a people. At the federal level Social Security routinely denies people eligible for benefits in the hopes that they will not reapply. Many people who receive benefits must hire a lawyer before social security will concede that they are indeed eligible. As the resources have become more limited, the level of scrutiny and inhumanity has risen accordingly.

I have, of course read about the rising unemployment numbers and the ensuing uptick in applicants for public assistance and food stamps nationwide like everyone else. It seems the chickens of Bill Clinton's (Best moderate Republican president ever)welfare reform are finally coming home to roost. We always knew that the flaw of his plan was an economy without jobs and here we are. The reform has no provision for an unemployment rate like we are experiencing now. Once again, our policy in practice serves to punish most harshly children and the elderly. Perhaps, it is time to repeal the child labor laws and begin allowing them to work 12 hour days again.

For nearly 30 years we have done our best to dismantle the safety net for the poor and struggling among us. I keep praying that we have reached the end of this folly. At 42, these policies are what I have known my entire work life. I dream about social service programs and rules that would treat people like human beings, rather than as an undesirable applicant to be culled out. I want so badly for us as a nation to stop punishing people for being poor, or elderly or a child of poor people. This holiday season was hellish as I watched scores of our clients navigate the realities of a holiday with nothing but further grinding poverty. Some days I am just weary from the strain of witnessing the suffering that goes on around me. It takes a toll that is more than physical, it eats away at the soul to see people ask for so little and receive far less.

As I contemplate how to pry a few dollars from these systems designed to humiliate and degrade my clients, already struggling with being social outcasts, chronic illness, drug addiction and mental illness I sigh audibly. I read of billion dollar bailouts and disappearing pallettes of cash as I ponder how to help a family with $400.00 so they will not be homeless in three days. I am so very tired.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Prosecco Wars

I love prosecco. (Pro-say-co)

And that's saying a mouthful, because I am basically a non-drinker. Can't get through a glass of beer or wine. Never drink hard liquor.

But, ah, prosecco...

Prosecco is that sparkling champagne-like drink from Venice that begins almost every evening in Venice. It is inexpensive (Here in Vancouver, you might pay as much as $16 for a bottle.), doesn't leave you with a champagne headache and magically makes everything seem alright.

I know I sound like a true junkie. But understand that I may drink this elixir once every three months and I certainly don't drink enough to become even mildly intoxicated.

Now, prosecco is in an authenticity battle.

People all over the world are making variations of it and marketing it in the strangest ways.

Check out the NY Times story this morning, and then buy a bottle FROM VENICE ONLY and enjoy with friends and loved ones over dinner.


Saturday, December 27, 2008

Snowed In - Fed Up

Let's admit it.

The one good thing about this weather is the quiet.

Trudge through the sludge and snow to your nearest shopping district, as I have every day this week, and you hear........ well, almost nothing.

It's quite wonderful.

Very few cars or buses, just the usual crazy with no lights and a big American car with rear-wheel drive and summer tires. Don't you love it?

Everything else about this weather is tiresome and downright scary.

Will my pipes freeze? Will the roof or skylights collapse? Will I be killed or knocked out by falling snow, ice or tree limbs? Two very large branches of the pine tree in my front yard are already down.

Will the floods be inevitable?

Will the power be knocked out, thus making my home a dark icicle?

So far, so good.... so far...

As for the people who are rushing up to Grouse Mountain, well, I can't even get my car out from the snow-plowed little home its adopted two blocks away.

And the thousands stranded at Metrotown, who asked you to go shopping? Who asked you to leave home?

Yesterday, I saw two guts with shovels working diligently on clearing their car from its igloo and I thought, "Where are you going?"

Huddling, cuddling, cacooning...

Having said that, today, after a hearty breakfast, I will actually attempt to rescue my car and return the three movies I rented from the store that is about five kilometres from here.

As for the new Batman movie that I rented last night from the local video shop, I am returning it half watched. Puleeeze...Quel Dreque!

Boxing Day

By the way and apropos of absolutely nothing, I caught a few moments of the late night news on two local television channels.

Both carried stories about all the lovely people who lined up at midnight on a cold, snowy Christmas night and waited until the stores opened to buy handbags or whatever at Boxing Day sale prices.

Are there folks anywhere on earth dumber, more pitiable than these?

Outside of Fendi or D&G, do these sorry excuses have a life?

This is what universal education hath wrought?


Back to my tree.

Warm House, No Heating Bill!

Further to the post below on Walt Patterson's essay on "Managing Energy Wrong," read this exciting piece in today's NY Times about managing energy right!

How would you like - especially on a day like today - to live in a house with no heating system?

And stay warm and cozy!

When do we start building these here?

Managing Energy Wrong

My good friend of some 47 years now, Walt Patterson, is a renowned scientist, who writes and lectures world-wide on Energy and its managment.

I direct you to his website to learn a little more about him, but in particular to draw you to read his latest piece (among many, many books and countless articles and papers over the years), called, "Managing Energy Wrong."

In this essay, Walt has nailed perfectly, and in detail, the way governments and investors, looking always for the Big Solution, the Silver Bullet, create Top Down policies that don't work, when they should be looking to the field for Bottom Up answers that are more complex and that take more effort, but do work.

Read it and comment here please.

Victor on Eyeless in Gaza

You need spend only a few days almost anywhere in Europe to sense how deeply the media there have demonized Israel. Here is Victor's response to the latest hate literature that passes for journalism.

Victor is not a Jew.

The Israeli raids on Gaza top the newscasts. I have listened to two
reports this morning which inevitably add that some of the dead
"include children." Like we couldn't assume that.

In the last war with Hamas in Lebanon, Israel made a foolish mistake
and appears to have learned from it. The mistake was assuming that
careful, so-called surgical strikes would win media support on the
basis that civilian targets were sparred. Instead, Reuters performed
their time worn tactic of paying kids to pose as rock throwers and
then sent these cliched photos to a Pavlovian world media. Agence
France Presse photographed the same wailing Lebanese woman at three
separate sites. Hamas declared a pr victory. Enraptured Lebanese
awarded heroic Hamas with parliamentary seats.

This time, Israel has dumped the failed surgical strike strategy and
bombed Hamas mercilessly in their own back yard. It is doubtful that
Hamas rocketeers are looking heroic to citizens who have seen a living
hell brought to their neighbourhoods thanks to the the deadly games of
militants. Yes, the world community (read feckless Europeans) will
condemn Israel but they would have done the same thing had Israel
dropped food baskets and accidently killed a donkey.

I also think this is a message to Obama. People have assumed that
because he has hired a pro-Israeli psychopath, Rahm Emanuel, as his
Chief of Staff, that this signals a pro Israeli bias in Obama's
administration. That would require classic ignorance of the American
media (Israel' s arch enemy and Obama's fan club) not to mention the
deep anti-Jewish currents among segments of Obama's followers. ( Jesse
Jackson's son was Obama's co-campaign manager and as we all know,
Jesse is the black equivalent of Michael Richards when it comes to
anti-Jewish rants.)

None of which is to celebrate violence. Violence is a vile certainty
of the human condition. It is, I fear, a permanent reality in the
middle east. It will not disappear with lofty Presidential speeches,
UN calls for restraint or yet another photo op cease fire. It is an
endless blood war between two deeply disparate cultures.

Victor Godin

Friday, December 26, 2008

Global "Warming?"

Gutter Play

If you thought Prime Minister Stephen Harper's attempt to remove government financing for political parties was ugly and entirely partisan, then what do you make of Premier Gordon Campbell's new law restricting political advertising?

This is transparently aimed at unions, who actually have war chests available and at the ready for the May 12th election.

The problem is that TV campaigns have to be planned months in advance and nobody knows this better than Campbell.

I am no fan of the BCTF, but I must give them full credit for challenging this law in court and for getting to the press to keep this issue before the public.

The BC Supreme Court is taking its royal time on this attempt by the unions to have the law declared unconstitutional and its very delay aids and abets what should be seen as a Campbell law bordering itself on criminality.

The law is an offense to common sense and democratic process.

I don't care how many photo ops the premier takes of himself hugging bantam hockey players, he's a thug.

Wrong Question

A man dressed as Santa Claus knocks on the door of a house in Covina, California on Christmas Eve. When a young girl answers the door, the man shoots her in the face. He walks into a large family gathering and begins shooting indiscriminately. He then sets fire to the house and leaves.

By the time he is finished, he has killed eight people.

Finally, he drives to another location and kills himself.


The young CNN reporter, putting on as grave a mask as he can muster, desperately trying to hide his overwhelming excitement that he is at last on network television and that it took nine deaths to get him there, intones deeply, "But the real question, Robin, is 'Why?'"

No it isn't.

Why is that the real question?

Let's suppose we learn the why? What will we know? What can we do about it?

The man lost his job. He had a sore tummy. His girl friend wouldn't fellate him. Wal-Mart wouldn't cash his pay check.

We could do something about this?

Psychiatrists would help him in weekly anger management courses?

The Why is completely irrelevant and serves only to help the writers for the back story they will need when they make the soon-to-be-released TV Mini-Drama, "Santa Rampage."


There is only one useful question here and it is the one that will not be addressed.

Why is it so easy for Americans to buy guns?

Go Explain

NASHVILLE — Although the number of uninsured and the cost of coverage have ballooned under his watch, President Bush leaves office with a health care legacy in bricks and mortar: he has doubled federal financing for community health centers, enabling the creation or expansion of 1,297 clinics in medically underserved areas.

That's the first paragraph from a NY Times story this morning.

Now, read the rest to see the challenges facing the Obama watch and millions of Americans.

Then, get down in the snow and thank the Great Flake for our flawed but wonderful health care program here in Canerda.

Eartha Kitt - R.I.P.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Slick... and Obscene

There are several conceits at the center of Mike Nichol’s movie, “Charlie Wilson’s War,” that border on the obscene.

The first is that one America man sees human suffering and thus infuses the hardships of others with meaning. Without his personal “moment,” the cruelties of the world are mute and moot.

Specifically, Texas Congressman Charlie Wilson (Tom Hanks) visits Afghanistan, which is being pummeled by Soviet airships. Then he visits the refugee camps, talks to the limbless children and witnesses first hand the horrors of real life away from the flesh pits of Washington and Houston.

But it is not the wounded and impoverished Afghanis for whom we are asked to shed a tear.

Here is the first conceit. It is the now ennobled Yankee we are encouraged to champion. We can tell that this is our mission because the orchestra swells in rising crescendos of hope and glory, and the congressman covers his eyes in empathetic pain. This is an obscenity.

The second is that music score.

The next time the trumpets blare and the holy choirs rise on high, honorable Afghani peasants, armed now with covertly supplied Israeli anti-helicopter and anti-tank weapons, slaughter Soviet soldiers with the same relentless efficiency that the Soviets had previously mowed down the women and children of Afghanistan. Were we supposed to cheer?

The last time the music score offends is in the crowning moments of the film, when the good Congressman is being given a medal. His co-plotters, a wealthy Texas woman (Julia Roberts) and a CIA/FBI operative (Phillip Seymour Hoffman), look on in teary co-conspirator admiration.

The music here and the moment are pure “Mr. Holland’s Opus.” I fully expected Hanks to melt into Richard Dreyfus, much like John Travolta and Nicholas Cage kept doing in “Face Off,” until you couldn’t tell – or care – who was blowing up whom.

And care is important here.

In spite of terrific work from three terrific actors and Hollywood mega-stars, and direction from the legendary Nichols (“The Graduate,” “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolff?” and “Catch-22”), there is nothing one can possibly care about in this flick.

The script and dialogue (Aaron Sorkin) is very fast and clever and witty and fast and clever and witty.

It goes by faster than your first sex experience and with almost as much resonance.

Now, if you want an experience even more execrable than watching the movie, try sitting through the "special features" on the DVD and listening to the actors discussing how great they all are and how important this trifle really is meant to be.

Harold Pinter

Harold Pinter, the great British playwright, actor, screen writer and director has died. He was 78, and a Nobel prize winner.

The rich and extensive NY Times bio can be read here.

I've owned a Vinyl LP of this Tchaikovsky Concerto since I was about 21. The great David Oistrakh plays

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

I'm addicted to my post....

uh... I mean my blog.

I know I said I was going to take a break for a few days, but...

Look, you know where I can find a meeting of B.A. (Bloggers Anonymous) tonight?

"Hi, my name's David, and I...."

The Clarity of Campbell's Priorities

She has now been described as " one of the nicest persons I’ve met.”

She has also been suspected of being drunk while driving her Ford Escape too fast and dangerously near Nanaimo on Monday, resulting in the deaths of two of her boys.

The police would like to look at the blood sample the hospital now has.

This is to say that what follows does not let this individual off the hook. Speeding and trying to pass in these nightmare snow-out conditions is simply crazy.


The particular stretch of highway where this tragedy unfolded - Cassidy, near Nanaimo, has had 50 collisions since 2003. One man who works at the Cassidy Inn pub says he terrified every night when he leaves the parking lot. In spite of calls from local residents to add some safety measures, like cement median dividers and traffic lights, the Highways Ministry and has not responded and ICBC - home of the Hushed UP Chop Scandal -has not yet flagged this a as "high crash area."

Let's see...50 crashes since '03 and ICBC can't designate this a "high crash area?"

Of course they can't.

Because that would mean money and action on the part of the provincial government.

And for any of you who have ever driven anywhere near Nanaimo or have a Google map handy, you will note that this particular neck of the woods ISN'T PART OF THE SEA-TO-SKY OLYMPIC SPEED ROUTE.

Now, this is exactly an example of the editorial I posted on Saturday, "The Role of Government in Our Lives."

Mr. Campbell will spend millions upon millions for that famous road to Whistler Village, but God forbid he should spend a few thousand on fixing a dangerous stretch of highway less than two hours dangerous drive from the legislature.

Political realities are clear and they are not attractive.

Social Studies, Eleven

Pope Benedict in his end-of-the-year speech at the Vatican on Monday, said that homosexuality is as much a threat to the human race as climate change.


Ignorance on Holy High.

Let's leave aside why the Pontiff would bother to speak so negatively about anything in an annual Christmas message.

Has some one not informed the dear man that men and women shtup?

Biology or God's Great Plan - take your pick - dictate that men and women are going to couple at fairly regular intervals and - miracle of miracles - nine months later .... WALDO!

The inevitable fact that some men will play with some men and some women will play with some women will never alter the statistically overwhelming assurance that the human race will continue to procreate.

No matter what your opinion or my opinion on the rights or wrongs of these realities, shtupping will continue apace.

May His Holiness find rest in these troubled times.

Robert Playing in the Snow, Part II - Christmas

Sensational Annie Lennox at AMA Nov. '08

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


Let's take a break.

Let's face it. We're snowed it. It's Christmas. Life, as we generally know it, has slipped and slid to a genial halt.

So will we.

Have a great Holiday!

See you in a few days.


Millenium Development Corp., the company in charge of the famous Olympic Village project, is now on very thin ice in it's current Nanaimo hotel venture.

Nanaimo City Council has issued a 30-day default notice on a 170-room hotel that Vancouver-based Millennium Development Corp. was supposed to build as part of the recently opened Port of Nanaimo Centre conference facilities.

Read the Globe & Mail piece and hold onto your 2010 toques.


If you want a small revelation on how fortunate we are here in Canada to have our health care system, read this article in this morning's NY Times.

President-elect Obama has asked thousand of Americans to get together and talk about their health care and insurance experiences.

The early reports are bracing.

True Confessions

O.K. I just have to say this.

You know that James Stewart movie that everyone loves, that is played every year at this time, that is considered a "classic?" The movie is called "It's a Wonderful Life."

Can't watch it.

Hate it.

Saccharine slop. Worst thing Jimmy Stewart ever did.

Am I alone on this?

And while I'm at it.

You know that book and movie considered "An American Classic?" the one that's taught to 11 year-olds continent-wide like it's the Old and New Testaments combined? I speak of "To Kill a Mockingbird."

Can't watch it.

Love Gregory Peck. Love so many of his movies.

This one? Boooooring...

And finally, John Wayne. The Duke.

Good-bye. Later. Don't buy it.

I've waited a lot of years to say these things.



Yesterday I was in a medical examination room.

As I was getting dressed, I noticed something really frightening.

There was a box of disposable latex gloves. You know, the kind used for probing and prodding and poking in all those unholy places.

The brand bame of this product? I kid you not.



Monday, December 22, 2008


Remember "Triple E?"

No, not the hamburger sauce.

The Alberta push to reform the Canadian Senate.

What was it now? Elected, equal and...equine?

Now that he is Prime Minister, Stephen Harper has forgotten all that campaign nonsense stuff.

And speaking of Christmas stuffing that is exactly what he has done with the Red Chamber.

18 new breast-feeders appointed, the only real surprise being that somehow John Reynolds missed the cut.

Now, I knew that senators - and that includes Larry Campbell - get $130,000 a year. What I didn't know until this morning is that they also get $90,000 in travel and what with copying machines and faxes and secretaries and whatnot, the total cost for each of these layabouts is in fact $860,215 per an...uh, annum.

The photo, by the way, is of Mike Duffy, a broadcaster.

Times must be tough.

Victor in the 'Hood

I got the following from a friend. What a wonderful world we live in. Of course, let's by all means find free shelter, clean drug needles, counsellors and a stuffed Christmas stocking for these two charmers. Also, if they happen to be sitting, drug-addled in front of your favourite store, be sure to make a generous cash donation. After all, as we are being told hourly by the media, Christmas is really about being kind to unfortunates like this.

We had a couple of kids with snow shovels casing our house-and that of our neighbours-today. We caught them peering into the windows and rattling the door etc.

They rang our bell, but when they heard our dog bark they beetled off to our neighbour's house.

By the time I got my boots on they were at my neighbours house, rattling the door and looking into the windows. I confronted them, and they were clearly high as kites, claiming they just wanted to shovel some steps so they could "buy their parents a Christmas gift". Their snow shovels had never been used, and still had the store stickers and price tags on them.

I told them we had a very active Block Watch group, that I found their story unbelievable, and if I saw them in the neighbourhood again I would call 911. At that point they told me to "F" off and ran off down the street.

I then got into my car and followed them. They made their way straight to Broadway and got on bus heading east.

Both were about 20. One very fair with short blond hair and the other darker with dread-locks. Both were wearing hoodies with parkas on top. Both also wore back packs. Their shovels had never been used.

This just a heads-up.

Do-Wop for a Snowy Monday Morning

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Sunday, Sweet Sunday

The snow.

End of story.

Today, I am hoping that, amidst the wrapping of prezzies and watching the NFL and cooking and stocking up with more firewood and apple sauce, some of you might take digits to computers and give me your thoughts about yesterdays post, "The Role of Government in Our Lives."

Have a restful and warm Sunday.

If you have a toboggan, all the better....whheeeeeeee........

Saturday, December 20, 2008


I believe that this editorial tackles a central issue of our day. Please read it and then share your thoughts.

Free markets vs. socialism.

These are the old and useless ideas that still dominate too many in a world that is much too complex to survive such simplicities.

The unfettered free market and communism are both abominations.

Certainly there must be some creative fertile middle ground that, piece by piece, better serves us all.

A number of stories in today's news, each compelling enough in itself, bring us back to the same basic and difficult question; What is the role of government in a democratic society?

It is easy enough to say, "Pave the roads, send the fire trucks, flush the sewage and pay the police; otherwise leave us alone." For the Henry David Thoreau in all of us that's a pleasant fantasy based on a long-gone rural, small town ideal. And, as one of today's stories reveal, accomplishing even these simple tasks is more complicated than it may first appear.

It is equally facile to declare, "We are our brother's keeper and we must as a government cover everybody for all possible eventualities - life and death insurance, complete and total medical and health coverage for every imaginable ailment or disease, day-care for the young and the elderly, homes for the indigent, and a Game Boy under every Christmas tree."

Life and government are, of course, more nuanced than either of these didactic world views will permit.


The cover story in today's ROB in the Globe is a must read. It is titled "How it All Began," and it is a thorough examination and tracing of how home ownership in the United States went in a few decades from the universal dream to a screaming nightmare.

Well into the article - the first of a two-parter, by the way - comes this key moment:

"For instance, why were investment banks allowed to borrow massive amounts of money to make risky bets? How could a shadow banking system, one ten times bigger than the Canadian economy, be allowed to flourish so quickly without any oversight from government regulators? Why were credit rating agencies stamping dubious products with their approval? And how could homeowners with poor credit histories or zero documentation, let alone jobs, qualify for mortgages?

In its haste to hand Americans a villain, Washington had failed to look to itself."

Reagan and Carter, two very different presidents with two very different agendas and legacies, both enabled the current debacle with de-regulation in the financial and banking sectors.

This not to blame either. Rather, it is to ask what role does a government in a modern democracy have in controlling risks and protecting its citizens?

The old saw that the market will take care of itself is lying broken and crushed world-wide today. Don't we as a body politic have some duty to say what we will and will not allow business to do, to at least define some outer limits? We do this with citizens. Why not with corporations and companies, with entire industries?

Of course, massive conglomerates have been split by government decree, lending limits have been set from time to time. But it must now be clear that simply allowing men in suits to do what they want when they want to whomever they want can only have the most disastrous results.

As an investment counsellor friend said to me the other day, "The market is driven by only two things. Always has been and always will. Greed and Fear."


Canada's emergency 911 telephone system doesn't work.

See the front page story in today's Globe, "Canada's 911 Emergency." Here's the subtitle:

A dispute over who should pay to fix outdated emergency dispatch systems is delaying a solution for slow response times — and costing lives.

The current system doesn't work well enough, often enough because most Canadians have cell phones and the cell phone companies are not yet adequately equipped to respond to phones that wander about, or Internet based phones that don't have a home address.

They could be so equipped, but the CRTC gave Internet and cell companies lesser 911 requirements than traditional phone companies.


Why not be a real government and demand high standards of citizen protection from all providers?

Cell phones and cell phone shops and kiosks are ubiquitous. You can't escape them. The companies are making a lot of money.

Don't we have the right as a body politic to demand that they provide basic emergency service?


In spite of the all the good intentions of various civic leaders who cannot wait for a foto op to show us their beating hearts of concern, a homeless woman died last night on our city streets. She burned to death by lighting a single candle to try to keep warm in this most bitter of remembered winter cold spells.

For me, the key moment in the tale of this tragedy was this:

"Police had visited the woman, known on the street as Tracey, three times to offer her shelter. Each time she refused."

Now this very same issue arose in the most recent reports over the past few days about trying to help the homeless. I say issue even though no one discusses what I think is an issue. The police and others who are trying to help routinely report that they ask the homeless person if he or she would like to come to a shelter for the night.

Why do we ask?

Because of the Charter?

Because we firmly believe that it is an individual's right or entitlement to freeze to death or burn to death or starve to death on our public streets?

Is it not conceivable that some people cannot judge at some moments in their lives what is the best course of action and that we as a government occasionally intervene?

Oh, yes, I know this is a gigantic theoretical slippery slope. Soon, the police will be scooping Jews and Blacks and Gays and Commies and the left-handed off the streets because the current administration wants it so. Right.

Give your head a shake.

Even in the toughest of Hebrew Talmudic laws it is permitted to break any number of rules and covenants to save a life.

Because saving a life comes first.

So, you are freezing and starving on the street and you have a dog or a strong will for independence. If it's a lovely starry summer night, no harm, no foul. But if it is -15 and now your life is in imminent danger, I would rather pinch your so-called civic liberties to save your soul just this night.

Many years ago, local police could pick up a 13-year old and ask what he or she was going at Drake and Granville at 2 am. That cop might even drive the kid home. Imagine. How quaint.

Then, social agencies decided that those kids could only be there because the parents were abusive monsters. And they began giving those kids $400 to get a hotel room and some food.

You think the enormous rise in kids on the street happened by accident? It happened largely by changing social norms and changing social policy.

What about mandatory treatment for drug addicts?

It works as often as freely chosen treatment. It has for many many years all over the world.

But as a body politic we have a mental set that prizes Charter rights above life. We must never interfere with a fool's right and entitlement to destroy himself and our community at the same time. That wouldn't be nice.

Last night, if we had a different set of priorities, the police could have taken Tracey, willing or otherwise, to a warm and safe shelter. Who knows, she might even have grudgingly liked it. At least, she'd be alive to get herself a Legal Aid lawyer to sue the cops for assault.

There is no easy or simple answer to the depth and width that we will allow and invite governments into our lives.

But government has a role. Just as we must decide each day the degree to which we will get our shoes dirty stepping into the gutter of modern life, we must decide on a regular basis how, as a community, we balance the freedoms of the marketplace and individual's rights with the sometimes conflicting and larger good of the community as a whole.

If you are still stuck in the useless time warp cycle of pitting open markets against some bogeyman called socialism, you are not even in the discussion.

Market and rights of privacy live next door to my brother's keeper. We must figure out how to get along.

Flying Low

Our friend John Beatty has alerted us to a modern Canadian classic.

Weather, as you know, is playing havoc with travel conditions of every kind, in particular air travel.

Air Canada has two "travel advisories" out today, both of which are special alerts for those who may be planning to fly in or out of "Vanvouver."

One typo we can understand, but two?

Stay home, wear long johns, do crosswords...

Why pack luggage that will end up going round and round on a carousel in Bolivia?

Friday, December 19, 2008

Rewarding Blind Failure

In the light of the plans of the governments governments of two major countries to sepnd billions of dollars to rescue auto makers, it is instructive to study the full page ads GM has been running in papers the last few days.

I was standing in a downtown office yesterday morning engaged in a conversation with three other people.

We were all looking at this ad, which shows and extols the virtues of various GM products.

One of the four of us actually drives a Cadillac.

But aside from him, none us even know anyone who owns a GM product. Haven't for 20 or 30 years.

One of us asked if we've ever rented a GM product.

Yes, we all agreed, we're often given GM products when we rent.

Yes, we all agreed, theses vehicles are uncofortable as hell and almost undriveable. Handles fall off. You need two keys - one for the doors and ignition and one for the trunk.

Apparently, there has never in recent years been a CEO at GM who could hollar down the line,


Maybe this bail out program should be called "Saving the Stupid," or "Incompetents, Dont Fear; Help is Near."

The Rights of Drunk Drivers

The province has decided to do one small good thing.

We are going to get tougher with drunk drivers.

Various offences will now result in your having a pricey ignition control installed in your car. The thing just won't start until you pass a breath test.

So far so good.

Cut down the carnage, right?


Not so fast says the BC Civil Liberties Association.

You might have these restrictions placed on you without ever having appeared in court.


So all problems have to be solved in court?

Rob Holmes is the BC Civil Liberties president.

Here's his solution, and he emphasizes that it is simple:

"Let's hope nobody gets drunk and gets behind the wheel."

In case you thought you misread that, let's say it again.

Here is the simple solution to the problem according to the president of the BC Civil Liberties Association.

"Let's hope nobody gets drunk and gets behind the wheel."


When people get these kinds of jobs - presidents of significant agencies in the community - do they have to pass any test to see if they are in touch with reality or suffering from some dissociative mental state?

Maybe this would be a plan.

Death by Decree

She managed to kill only three people and injure only 14 others.

Her reward?

A $2,000 fine and one year driving suspension.

That is the lady who drove the grossly and criminally (or maybe not) overloaded van filled with farm workers sitting on boxes and without seat belts that crashed in March 2007.

A day or two later, Jim Sinclair, President of the BC Federation of Labour, watched the same criminally irresponsible (or maybe not) employers yelling at more workers to get into yet another ill-equipped van at six in the morning.

To date, there has been no investigation of these criminal (or not) practices that only kill people.

This happened and continues to happen why?

Because in its dedication to saving taxpayers' money, the provincial government has cut down on inspectors who might check on these hideous violations that only kill people.


But the Monumental Premier has lots and lots of money for the Sea-to-Sky Highway, the Games, the Convention Centre and, of course, more SNC-Lavelin Bombardier gifts known as SkyTrain.

Of course, sometimes they kill people too, but 14 people in a van you could do something about if you wanted to pay inspectors to do their civic duty.

Discovery Update from Susan

Here we are - nearly four years after hearing the shocking news that the
RAV/Canada Line transit project to be built down Cambie Street would in
fact, NOT be a bored tunnel, and would be constructed by ripping open Cambie
from 62nd Ave. to False Creek in a 50 foot deep canyon for years.

How did this happen? Who authorized it?

We intend to find out when we ask Jane Bird, the CEO of RAVCo/Canada Line,
in her Examination for Discovery tomorrow - friday Dec 19.

Nothing about the process involved in bringing this project forward has been
open or transparent. Or democratic. There was no meaningful consultation on
the ACTUAL project that was rubber stamped to proceed.
The full Contract and Concession Agreement have been withheld.
The project is a Billion dollars over the projected budget.
Hundreds of small businesses have been treated with contempt, and many have
needlessly lost their life's work. Our whole city has endured three years of
traffic gridlock.

Those of us who have somehow survived this expropriation of our livelihoods,
are doing so with absolutely no financial help from all the government and
corporate partners who are profiting from this development deal - even
though the mantra from the project was that they would "mitigate the
impacts", and that the construction disruption would be " 2-3 months in
front of any given business". In fact it has been 2-3 YEARS of steady loss.

Compensation is factored into every project of this kind, even in the third
world - but not this one. It is outrageous, negligent and shameful.

This devastation had an Olympic schedule to meet, regardless of the
Welcome to Vancouver, 2010 Media.
Come and see how a wealthy democracy treats their citizens who provide
billions in tax revenue - the independant small business.
The picture the foreign press gets will depend on our government's next
Do we proceed with this David and Goliath battle in court next March?
Or will our government do the right thing, and provide the immediate
financial relief that we deserve?

We seek - justice - fairness - and full compensation for this obvious and
unprecedented wrong.


Robert Playing in the Snow


Shlomo, Rudolph's first cousin his mother's side.

Wonderful Song Sung Around the World

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Iceman Cometh

The snow will not melt. The Bank of Canada has taken to lecturing the big five banks to stop freezing their lendings and gondolas are falling from the sky like gas prices at the pump.

How do you like it so far?

This may be one of the most challenging periods many of us have faced in our lifetimes.

Bundle up, don't be shy about wearing long johns, spend where you can and do whatever it takes to continue enjoying what bounties we can.

True Words

Pasquale Cusano, the owner of Montecristo Jewelers and the publisher of NUVO magazine, has a new mag out. It's called Montecristo, and it arrived in my Globe and Mail this morning.

Like NUVO, the new mag is big and colorful and beautifully presented.

I'm just not sure what this item is supposed to be about.

The inaugural issue features stories on what I guess are supposed to be much admired local heroes.

One such is Wally Oppal.

Here is the closing on that piece written by the editor, Jim Tobler:

"He takes the issues of community safety, multicultural awareness and justice very seriously. He is doing his part to make it work for everyone."

With this kind of in-depth analysis and accurate reflections of the world in which we live, the new magazine clearly has a great place in our hearts and minds.

Gavin Loves Trevor...sort of...

What is with the papers? Trevor Linden. 16 pages in The Province and 32 in The Sun. He's a nice guy, an average hockey player, an inspiration in the dressing room, a team player and also did some good things for social agencies and did some volunteer work...........ok. Did he ever even come close to Richard or Beliveau or even Howe or Gretsky (neither of whom I could ever warm to despite their talents)...obviously not. But he's being treated as if he is some kind of combination of Gandhi, Churchill, Lincoln, Einstein, Dr. King, Mandela and Lord God Jehovah....yikes! Even Britney and Madonna don't get this........what's hap'nin' man? Holy smoke a-doodle!

LEADERS - Thanks to Gavin

Remember Lee Iacocca, the man who rescued Chrysler Corporation from its death throes? He's now 82 years old and has a new book, 'Where Have All The Leaders Gone?'.

Lee Iacocca Says:

'Am I the only guy in this country who's fed up with what's happening? Where the hell is our outrage? We should be screaming bloody murder! We've got a gang of clueless bozos steering our ship of state right over a cliff, we've got corporate gangsters stealing us blind, and we can't even clean up after a hurricane much less build a hybrid car. But instead of getting mad, everyone sits around and nods their heads when the politicians say, 'Stay the course.'

Stay the course? You've got to be kidding. This is America, not the damned, 'Titanic'. I'll give you a sound bite: 'Throw all the bums out!'

You might think I'm getting senile, that I've gone off my rocker, and maybe I have. But someone has to speak up. I hardly recognize this country anymore.

The most famous business leaders are not the innovators but the guys in handcuffs. While we're fiddling in Iraq , the Middle East is burning and nobody seems to know what to do. And the press is waving 'pom-poms' instead of asking hard questions. That's not the promise of the 'America' my parents and yours traveled across the ocean for. I've had enough. How about you?

I'll go a step further. You can't call yourself a patriot if you're not outraged. This is a fight I'm ready and willing to have. The Biggest 'C' is Crisis! (Iacocca elaborates on nine C's of leadership, with crisis being the first.)

Leaders are made, not born. Leadership is forged in times of crisis. It's easy to sit there with your feet up on the desk and talk theory. Or send someone else's kids off to war when you've never seen a battlefield yourself. It's another thing to lead when your world comes tumbling down.

On September 11, 2001, we needed a strong leader more than any other time in our history. We needed a steady hand to guide us out of the ashes. A hell of a mess, so here's where we stand.

We're immersed in a bloody war with no plan for winning and no plan for leaving.

We're running the biggest deficit in the history of the country.

We're losing the manufacturing edge to Asia, while our once-great companies are getting slaughtered by health care costs.

Gas prices are skyrocketing, and nobody in power has a coherent energy policy. Our schools are in trouble.

Our borders are like sieves.

The middle class is being squeezed every which way.

These are times that cry out for leadership.

But when you look around, you've got to ask: 'Where have all the leaders gone?' Where are the curious, creative communicators? Where are the people of character, courage, conviction, omnipotence, and common sense? I may be a sucker for alliteration, but I think you get the point.

Name me a leader who has a better idea for homeland security than making us take off our shoes in airports and throw away our shampoo?

We've spent billions of dollars building a huge new bureaucracy, and all we know how to do is react to things that have already happened.

Name me one leader who emerged from the crisis of Hurricane Katrina. Congress has yet to spend a single day evaluating the response to the hurricane or demanding accountability for the decisions that were made in the crucial hours after the storm.

Everyone's hunkering down, fingers crossed, hoping it doesn't happen again. Now, that's just crazy. Storms happen. Deal with it. Make a plan. Figure out what you're going to do the next time.

Name me an industry leader who is thinking creatively about how we can restore our competitive edge in manufacturing. Who would have believed that there could ever be a time when 'The Big Three' referred to Japanese car companies? How did this happen, and more important, what are we going to do about it?

Name me a government leader who can articulate a plan for paying down the debit, or solving the energy crisis, or managing the health care problem. The silence is deafening. But these are the crises that are eating away at our country and milking the middle class dry.

I have news for the gang in Congress. We didn't elect you to sit on your asses and do nothing and remain silent while our democracy is being hijacked and our greatness is being replaced with mediocrity. What is everybody so afraid of? That some bonehead on Fox News will call them a name? Give me a break. Why don't you guys show some spine for a change?

Had Enough? Hey, I'm not trying to be the voice of gloom and doom here. I'm trying to light a fire. I'm speaking out because I have hope - I believe in America. In my lifetime, I've had the privilege of living through some of America 's greatest moments. I've also experienced some of our worst crises: The 'Great Depression,' 'World War II,' the 'Korean War,' the 'Kennedy Assassination,' the 'Vietnam War,' the 1970's oil crisis, and the struggles of recent years culminating with 9/11.

If I've learned one thing, it's this: 'You don't get anywhere by standing on the sidelines waiting for somebody else to take action. Whether it's building a better car or building a better future for our children, we all have a role to play. That's the challenge I'm raising in this book. It's a "Call to Action" for people who, like me, believe in America'. It's not too late, but it's getting pretty close. So let's shake off the crap and go to work. Let's tell 'em all we've had 'enough.'

Make your own contribution by sending this to everyone you know and care about. It's our country, folks, and it's our future. Our future is at stake!!