Archive for February, 2007

Blogging Tories Site of the Week

February 18th, 2007
Comments Off on Blogging Tories Site of the Week

An Ontario boy living and studying in Calgary, “where right is right and left is wrong.”


Saturday Fluffernutter

February 17th, 2007

As has been rumoured the past few weeks, The Police reunion has come to pass. The Blanc Reggatta-ists will hit the road May 28th in Vancouver, and hit Edmonton on June 2nd, Toronto on July 22nd and Montreal on the 25th, as well as the odd date south of the border.

Tickets range from $50 – $225, with part of the proceeds going to WaterAid. Which is nice, I want to see The Police, I have to support their favourite charity, because that great git, Sting, doesn’t have enough of his own money to donate.

The must see show of the summer is not The Police (did I mention July 22nd), not Van Halen, and not, sadly, Led Zeppelin re-united. The Toronto must see show of the summer is… Not the Messiah (He’s a Very Naughty Boy).

The new Monty Python musical, follow up to Spamalot, is an Oratorio based on the best movie ever made, Life of Brian. The show is “partly inspired by Handel’s Messiah”, and will be conducted by Pyhonite Eric Idle’s cousin, TSO director Peter Oundjian, “and performed with a narrator, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, guest soloists and choir.”

Pull out the Visa, honey. We’re going to the symphony!

The Led Zeppelin reunion rumour simply will not die, with Dave White at being the latest to step up. However U.K.’s Classic Rock Magazine puts the rumour definitively to rest. It does give good news to Zeppelin fans, reporting in its February issue that Page has been working on a solo album “on and off for the past couple of years” and it is “due for release sometime in 2007.” I was listening to Page’s previous solo album, Outrider, last night and it reminds me that Jimmy Page doesn’t produce bad material, although he sometimes collaborates with singers who aren’t in his league.

If your “Happy” in rehab, isn’t that a bad thing?

And Lindsay Lohan’s bestest pal has also been a rehab visitor this week. She checked in the Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Centre in Antiqua this week, but checked out a day later. It did her the world of good as she was spotted Friday at a tattoo parlour with a shaved head. Better yet, she went to a stylist who refused to shave the pop-tart. Spears then grabbed the clippers and started shaving it herself. And the tattoo?: “Tattoo artist Max Gott told the station Spears got a “dainty” new tattoo. “She got some cute little lips on her wrist — red lips, a little pink,” he said.”

The worst part of this story:

“Outside, police controlled a large crowd of onlookers and cleared the way for her to leave.”

That’s right. People, a large crowd even, took time out of their busy lives to watch. If we just stop watching, maybe she will to away. And if not, to some TV show for B listers where the rest of us can ignore her.

Francis Ford Coppola appears to be back. This years return to the big screen after a decade away, Youth Without Youth, will be followed up by a semi-autobiographical Tetro, a film about “rivalries born out of creative differences passed down through generations of an artistic Italian immigrant family not unlike Coppola’s.”

2007 could be a great movie year. Coppola’s above mentioned Youth Without Youth is “A pre-WWII drama where a life-changing incident turns a professor into a fugitive.” Meanwhile the Coen Brothers are in post-production for No Country For Old Men: “Violence and mayhem ensue after a hunter stumbles upon some dead bodies, a stash of heroin and more than $2 million in cash near the Rio Grande.”

Heather Mills, the one legged gold digger of Paul McCartney fame, is rumoured to be set to appear on TV’s Dance With The Stars. First, there was talk like a pirate day, now it’s dance like a pirate day.

Peg Leg Bates would be… um… proud?

Speaking of McCartney, apparently he is set to appear on American Idol as a guest judge. Because there is no stoop so low when a modern celebrity is trying to raise their profile? It raises an interesting question though. Could the multi-talented McCartney win American Idol, either today or in 1961? Could the Beatles have done so? Discuss.


NCC takes on Kyoto

February 15th, 2007

I wasn’t the only guy in town yesterday to use the St. Valentines Day Massacre theme, as one of the top five political minds in Canada, Gerry Nicholls of the National Citizens Coalition used it to describe the Liberal’s Kyoto bill:

NCC Says Today’s Kyoto Vote Could be a Valentines Day Massacre for the Economy

(Toronto February 14)The National Citizens Coalition says the Liberal Party wants to immediately implement the Kyoto Accord even though such a move could trigger an economic recession in Canada.

“Today’s vote on Kyoto could go down in history as the St. Valentines Day Massacre for Canada’s economy,” says NCC vice president Gerry Nicholls.

Nicholls says implementing the Accord, which demands impossibly steep emission cuts, would clearly have a negative impact on the country and on the standard of living for all Canadians.

“The Liberals, along with the other Opposition parties, want to force the government to implement a treaty which they know full well would gut Canada’s economy,” says NCC vice president Gerry Nicholls. “Yet all the Opposition apparently cares about is scoring cheap political points.”

Nicholls says Liberal leader Stephane Dion’s only goal with this ploy is to embarrass the government.

“The vote this afternoon on Kyoto is not about protecting the environment, it’s just a cynical maneuver to help Dion paint himself as an environmentalist.”

Nicholls says if the Kyoto Accord is implemented it would undermine Canada’s energy sector as well as its manufacturing sector and mean higher taxes for all Canadians.

“Instead of pushing a flawed treaty, our politicians should seek ways to protect the environment without wrecking Canada’s economy”.

I must confess, I don’t know why Harper didn’t call the oppositions bluff and make it a confidence motion.


More Chrysler

February 15th, 2007
Comments Off on More Chrysler

Yesterday I argued that Chrysler’s problems, which resulted in an announced 13,000 lost jobs, are in this instance due to bad management and not their relationship with the CAW. Today, the Globe and Mail agrees:

“This could well be the last shot Detroit has, because it’s funding this restructuring by selling assets and borrowing against the remaining assets, and once that liquidity is used up. there will be no cushion left,” said veteran auto industry analyst John Casesa, managing partner of Casesa Shapiro in New York.

The third-largest Detroit-based company was a profit-spinning machine when it merged in 1998 with Daimler-Benz AG, but turned into a financial disaster in 2000 when its executives misread a slump in the market.

Remarkably, Chrysler executives made similar mistakes last year. They kept cranking out pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles that piled up on dealers’ lots as the price of gas soared in the U.S. market.

Note that they are a) borrowing to fund this reduction and b) have misread the market twice.

I remember in 2000 arguing with a manager that a slowdown was on, gas price uncertainty were causing consumers to put off buying decisions and why were we working Saturdays? I was told the present market slump was very minor, very temporary. By that January, DC was in crisis mode, and didn’t come out until the launch of the 300C and Magnum two years later.

Last spring it became apparent that DC had too much inventory in the field, yet they kept producing excess capacity. It took them 6 month to ID and start solving the problem. Even then, the reduction was half-assed at best, and my bet is the worst is still yet to come in terms of production slowdowns.

Finally, here’s what PETER M. DELORENZO has to say about yesterdays announcement (emphasis mine):

The fact that this company is still just now talking about common vehicle architectures at this point spells disaster for this latest turnaround plan – as in who has this kind of time in today’s auto market? As we said last week, we believe the Chrysler Group would be better off in other hands.

Forget about the hand-wringing and the speculation going on in the media about the state of Dieter Zetsche’s reputation as a super star auto executive, because we can tell you right now that Zetsche’s reputation is already the equivalent of burnt toast… This is the guy who will now have to face the fact that the management team he put into place prior to his departure for greener pastures has run the company right off of a cliff.

If we were the current upper echelon managers at the Chrysler Group, we would be planning our exits – graceful, or otherwise – right now. There’s no amount of sugar coating or dealer back-slapping that can mask the fact that your run in the business is over. You’ve left the company with too many of the wrong products, at the wrong time, and the kind of “instant” turnaround that the company is aching for isn’t even on the distant horizon.

It wasn’t too long ago that these (Jeep)guys were on top of the world with the Jeep brand; now they’re floundering around throwing anything and everything up against the wall to see what will stick, which means that they don’t have a clue.


The Big Three and the Impact of Unions

February 14th, 2007

Some days a guy can’t enjoy a coffee around here. I no sooner posted Dr. Z. and the St. Vaentines Day Massacre than Ron added:

Let’s not forget about Buzz Lightyear. After all, I should think he had a hand in the makeup of those numbers.

Actually Ron, sorry. Last time, it was Buzz, this time I stand by “extreme mis-management”. However, Buzz has often in the past complained that Canada was losing good auto industry jobs. What he never mentions is, while the unionized automotive sector is getting killed, the non-unionized has constantly been expanding.

Today is not the first time in recent years that we have woken up to duel headlines, plant closings for the big 3, new plants for the off shores:

About 13,000 Chrysler workers, including 2,000 in Canada, will lose their jobs under a plan designed to cut the struggling automaker’s costs and return it to profitability by next year.

The plan was announced Wednesday morning, hours after Chrysler’s parent, DaimlerChrysler AG, said it was considering “far-reaching strategic options with partners” and that “no option is being excluded.” The plan, announced Wednesday, also calls for closing the company’s Newark, Del., assembly plant, and reducing shifts at plants in Warren, Mich., and St. Louis. A parts distribution centre near Cleveland also will be closed.


Toyota Motor Corp. will boost its substantial presence in North America by building two more assembly plants in the next few years, in addition to one already under construction in Woodstock, Ont., says Jeff Schuster, executive director of global forecasting for auto consulting firm J.D. Power and Associates.

An announcement about one of those new plants is imminent, while the other one could come a year or so later, Mr. Schuster told a conference put on yesterday by J.D. Power and Standard & Poor’s Corp.

And there are probably more to come before 2012

By the way, there was some good news for Canadian operations (Brampton specifically) in the Chrysler re-structure:

DaimlerChrysler announced today that the all-new 2008 Dodge Challenger will be built at its Brampton Assembly Plant near Toronto.

And here it is. Maybe they’ll make this one in a standard, and stop excluding us manual guys from their cool cars.


Dr. Z. and the St. Vaentines Day Massacre

February 14th, 2007

What do these two men have in common?:

Both Al Capone and Dieter ‘Dr. ‘ Zetsche both have participated in a St. Valentines Day Massacre. Capone’s was a killing of seven members of Bugs Moran’s rival criminal organization 78 years ago, in 1929. Capones men arrived in a police car, three of them dressed as Chicago police, lined the seven men inside a Clark St. Warehouse, and machine gunned them. It was the begging of the end for Capone, as the public and authorities had grown tired of his murdering ways, and the Valentines Day Massacre crossed the line that the public could not accept.

Dr. Z’s massacre happens sometime today, as 10,000 unionized workers and another 1-2,000 white collar guys will lose their jobs today – 2,000+ of those jobs in Canada. The problems at Chrysler have virtually nothing to do with the work force (conflict of interest admission: I work for Chrysler, but will not lose my job). They have over-built their product to the point of having a glut of unsalable product.

The Brampton plant has experienced 5 weeks of lay-off in the past 4 months, and worked 9 production Saturdays in that time period (including the upcoming one). To cite an example, we were off Jan 15 – Feb 4, returning to work Feb 5th. We worked Saturday Feb 10th, and are working this Saturday the 17th. That costs a fortune. When on lay-off, they top up our unemplyment to 85% of our wage, about 35-40% of what they normally pay us. Then, EI has a 15% pay back, because we make too much through the year, the company pays that to us too. So they pay about 50% of our wages to keep us at home. Then we work Saturdays, at time and a half, to build cars we didn’t make that week. That’s paying double per car.

Why do they do this. Because some guy has some number on a spread sheet. If we fall below that number in our weekly build, we work Saturday, even if they have too many cars built. Even if we were laid off for “inventory adjustment” the week before.

Today Dr. Z will announce they need to save $1,000 car, that they have too much inventory, that 10,000 people who showed up every day and did what they were told, should make alternate plans. What he won’t tell you is they should do so because of extreme mis-management.

So for the people losing their job today, a little gift:


Picture of the Day – Happy Valentines Day

February 14th, 2007
Comments Off on Picture of the Day – Happy Valentines Day

Raising Un-Healthy Kids.

February 13th, 2007
Comments Off on Raising Un-Healthy Kids.

Yesterday I talked about the need to get our kids active, and not in the Silken Laumann, lets get our government to do it way. There’s a reason why the government shouldn’t do it, and it’s because they don’t get these things right – ever! Case in point:

Teachers who refuse to let children take risks are undermining the economy, a former director general of the Confederation of British Industry says today.

In a savage attack on the health and safety culture in schools, Sir Digby Jones says that a generation of “cotton wool kids” are applying for jobs without any leadership or entrepreneurial skills.

He blames a raft of politically-correct policies imposed by head teachers, including sports days which have been banned to stop children being stigmatised as “losers” if they come last.

Our kids, thanks to us, our schools and insurance companies, are not taking managed risks, never mind unmanaged ones. As a result, they are unable to cope in the greater world when they find themselves in it.

As parents it is part of the job to teach kids to be responsible and independent. Now, on top of the negative health effects of the lifestyle we have them living, kids are not growing to their full potential, in any meaningful way.

Yesterday I heard on a talk radio station the same topic I hear once a week, why won’t kids leave home? Why are thirty year olds happy to stay home and live with mom and dad? The same old arguments get trotted out, they have it too good, your cooking with cheese, it’s not stigmatizing like it used to be. Nobody wants to talk about our kids inability to live independent of us. They are not leaving home because they have no clue what to do once they are gone, and no clue how to go about figuring it out for themselves.

Finally, someone is saying it. Someone with a voice like the Confederation of British Industry:

According to Sir Digby, the prevailing culture of risk aversion “is potentially fatal to our economics and social wellbeing”.

CBI research revealed a third of employers had to train 16-year-olds up to an acceptable standard of literacy and numeracy in their first year of employment. Two thirds said the teenagers lacked self-management skills and three quarters said they did not have a basic understanding of business and finance.

Last week, a report by the Association of Graduate Recruiters said that many vacancies were being left unfilled because even academically bright students did not have the necessary “soft skills”, such as communication and leadership…

He adds that by attempting to remove risk, “all adults are colluding in a shameful deceit; not only are we regulating the lifeblood of enterprise out of people, we are also teaching the next generation of wealth creators that risk, failure and competition do not exist.”

Of course, the solution:

In response to the report, Heads, Teachers and Industry was today launching a new campaign – Go4it. Under the scheme schools will be rewarded for creating initiatives that “free” their pupils, through competitions and activity days.

A F*&$ing program! Isn’t the problem in the first place was all the F*&$ing programs? How about, get out of their way, let them play, let them sort it out for themselves. Want to do something for them? Give them a ball – they know what to do with it.

Last word goes to Anne Evans, the HTI chief executive:

But this issue is not just about business. This is really about our children’s education for life. Failure and competition are a healthy and necessary part of growing up and certainly something school leavers will face as adults in many different contexts.”

h/t SDA


The Police in Toronto July 22nd.

February 12th, 2007

The Toronto Sun today reports that The Police are doing a reunion tour, and will hit Toronto July 22nd. Other Canadian dates are Edmonton on June 2 and Montreal on July 25. As well the tour will kick off in Vancouver on May 28.

Tickets for the Toronto Air Canada Centre show are reported to be $225, $90 and $50, and will go on sale this Saturday (Feb 17).

From Singles Scene.


Crowing About My Old School

February 12th, 2007
Comments Off on Crowing About My Old School

Going back to today’s kids theme, I enjoyed todays feature story in the Toronto Sun on Thorncliffe Park Public School:

Thorncliffe Park Public School is the largest elementary school in North America with a huge immigrant population that manages to seamlessly integrate new students who don’t speak English into the system.

Back in 1968-69, when I was a young immigrant newly arrived in Canada (we arrived in the summer of 1966, just in time for the Leafs to win a Stanley Cup) I attended kindergarten at Thorncliffe Park Public School. Everybody spoke English of course, and I don’t recall if my Irish accent caused my teachers any problems, but not much sounds like it has changed at Thorncliffe Park.

Then, we lived in a 6 story apartment across the road from the school, we shopped at Thorncliffe Park Mall, which I take from the story is now called the East York Town Centre. Like the families in the story, we moved out one year after attending TPPS. How little some things have changed; the immigrants are from different countries, but they are settling the same areas, attending the same schools. We moved from Thorncliffe to Bramalea, another place presently popular with new Canadians.

On a side note, we lived a few miles from another young boy, Stephen Harper, who attended neighbouring Northlea Public School.


Silken Laumann’s Child’s Play

February 12th, 2007

I finally got around to reading Child’s Play, Olympic rower Silken Laumann’s book on the need to get our children moving.

While I agree with the sentiment in the book, there’s a problem. The main thesis is that children need, and are not getting, enough unstructured play time. I couldn’t agree more, and the first fifty pages of this book are dedicated to this theme. The next two hundred pages, however, are dedicated to ways we can structure more play into our child’s lives. The solution never seems to be let the kids out, send them to the back yard, and stop nagging them. The solution is, more PE time in schools, governments must do more, organize a Play in the Park program in your local playground. All fine ideas, by the way, but all structured.

A year or more ago I read Richard Louv’s Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder. In it, Louv speaks about children’s need for creative play by themselves. How their minds and bodies develop by exploring their environment and figuring it out for themselves. How kids, in doing what we used to consider natural kid things, going off to the woods by themselves or building a fort develop and learn about the world around them. Now, of course, we stop them from doing so. Now, of course, there’s a childhood obesity epidemic.

This was the same premise that Laumann’s book was built on, but Laumann comes up short of advocating giving your kids some freedom letting them play by themselves for themselves. It’s too bad, because I suspect she could have made the case for it.

One large area of the book was Laumann’s insistence our kids need more gym time. The academics are fine, but what about their bodies? Problem is, she never gets around to what should be dropped from the curriculum. I know of many in the music community, for example, who are also agitating for more time in schools. They are armed with studies that a music education improves brain functioning, spatial reasoning &tc. They too have a good argument. But Laumann is also in favour of less homework. However, if you drop academic time out of the classroom, won’t the kids have more homework? Won’t they have less independent play time? And that ultimately, is the problem with this book. It’s full of good ideas, but ignores the real roadblocks to implementation. It advocates for less structure, and asks that the governments provide it.

All that stated, this book is still a worthwhile read. If you have children, do yourself a favour and rent it from your library, even better, buy it. There are important points in here, and it will get you thinking about what you can do better for your children. It will, I repeat, get you thinking. What more praise can you place on a book?

I have long quoted a Silken Laumann quote (paraphrase actually) on this blog. Here’s the actual paragraph and a bit (note: emphasis is Laumann’s):

We go through extraordinary effort and worry to keep our children safe.

But somehow, we are not keeping our children safe. They are dying of heart disease and diabetes; they are being prescribed anti-depressants far more often than they were ten years ago. Their little bodies are not accruing healthy bone to the levels that will make them strong adults. We must see that this is a crisis for our children, that this is about so much more than a few kids who need to lose weight. This crisis is about a generation of children who will not experience their potential, physically, mentally and spiritually…

Visit Silken Laumann’s Active Kids, the companion website to the book.


Picture of the Day – ‘Fraidy Cat

February 11th, 2007

Blogging Tories Site of the Week

February 11th, 2007
Comments Off on Blogging Tories Site of the Week
Clear Conservative Thought

Former Albertan hoping to get back home but killing some time in the Nation’s Capital.
Fiscally – Conservative. Socially – neutral. Religiously – agnostic.

And pretty darn good, he forgot to mention pretty darn good.


Bloging Tories Site of the Week for 2007

February 11th, 2007
Comments Off on Bloging Tories Site of the Week for 2007

Saturday FlufferNutter

February 10th, 2007
Comments Off on Saturday FlufferNutter

All the Fluff about those Hollywood Nuts:

Yoko Ono has a new CD out. Yes, I’m a Witch is a CD, released Tuesday, finds Mrs. Lennon being joined by a bunch of young bands, such as Shitake Monkey, The Apples In Stereo, Polyphonic Spree and The Flaming Lips. The title track is actually not bad, a good rocker that reminds me of something off of Marianne Faithful’s Broken English album. Sadly, the other three tracks I heard sounded like Ms. Ono was being backed up by her usual Scottish band, Tuneless McScreetchy.

Teri Hatcher has not had realignment surgery! The Desperate Housewife told British magazine Glamour this week, “I don’t use Botox or Restylane and I’ve never had any surgery, no matter what you read. That’s the one downside of fame – on any day you can find loads of hideously mean things said about you on-line. It hurts, you know?” Here’s the thing Teri, it’s not mean. They are saying you look great, or if you prefer, “if they’re real, they’re fabulous.”

It’s celebrities and the law week at the FlufferNutter. First up is Ryan O’Neal, who was charged this past weekend with shooting at his son Griffin. Since Saturday, it’s turned uglier, with more claims of wrong doing flying since the last Lindsey Lohan movie shoot.

Next up is Daniel Baldwin, one of the many Baldwin brothers I’ve never actually heard of, who failed to appear in court this week on charges he “illegally took another persons car.” For his trouble, or lack of taking any, a bench warrant has been issued for his arrest.

Finally we have child molester Gary Glitter. Gary is in jail in Vietnam. Of all the experiences I don’t want to have, a Vietnam jail is well up the list. Glitters three year sentence for molesting two young girls has been reduced by three months:

“Every year at major national holidays, the Vietnamese president grants amnesties or reductions of sentences for prisoners. In 10 days’ time, Vietnam will ring in the Lunar New Year, or Tet, the Southeast Asian country’s most important celebration.”

While you might think Glitter would be somewhat happy for any reprieve, the “vile beast” has been put on suicide watch:

SICK pop pervert Gary Glitter was on suicide watch in a Vietnamese hell-hole jail last night.

The vile beast was sure his three-year sentence would be slashed by half and he would be back on the streets by May.

But the shamed star was left in despair after it was cut by just three months, leaving the monster locked up until August 2008.

Glitter, 62, took the news so badly, he was placed on immediate suicide watch at the notorious Thu Duc detention centre.

An insider said: “He was sure he would be out in months and made plans for his release.

I have no time for child molesters, but a Vietnamese prison can’t be a fun place.

Jessica Simpson is complaining that she was stung when ex-husband Nick Lachey began dating so soon after she dumped him: “Oh it hurt me. Two or three weeks later? Yeah, I’d say it kind of hurt me.” Sorry Jessica, when you do the dumping your not allowed to complain that he hurt you by jumping back into the dating pool: you threw him in the water, don’t bitch when he swims. On the other hand, if Daisy Duke dumped you, don’t you think you would pine for a few months or years? Isn’t that just good form?

Harrison Ford has finally signed on to do a fourth Indiana Jones movie. The movie, as yet untitled, begins shooting in June and is set for release on May 22, 2008. It will have been 19 years (almost exactly) since the May 1989 release of the last Indiana Jones movie “The Last Crusade.” Finally a movie that the family will all want to see, although maybe not at the same time.

The Police have a press conference scheduled for Monday, after the Grammy’s on Sunday night. As it is the 30 year anniversary from the Police’s first sniff of success, speculation is running wild that they are set to announce that Sting is a pretentious twat.

Anna Nicole Smith is exhibit A in my future lectures to my daughter about the value of working hard and being independent. Everything that’s wrong with the concept of the gold-digger emerged in Smith’s life. The truth is, she never seemed to get the hang of life, and as a result her life became half farce-half tragedy. This pattern continued in death, with Smith dying the Marilyn Monroe death in a Hollywood hotel room. Hollywood Florida.