Saturday, July 04, 2009

Sarah Palin is back!

Sarah Palin became the most polarizing American politician in a generation within weeks of becoming John McCain's running mate 10 months ago. Some people thought she was a blithering idiot and others thought she was a virtuous, plain-speaking maverick. I think she is neither an idiot or virtuous. She is a ambitious, hypocritical politician who has become bored with politics in the outback and longs to return to the spotlight.

It's obvious from her resignation speech that Alaska is too small of a pond for Sarah Palin. No need for $100,000 clothes shopping sprees, no big fat fees for speaking in front of right wing disciples and no spot light. Just endless freedom of information requests and ethics challenges. Afterall, a maverick doesn't have to play by the rules or some cases the law.

Some believe she fade away as a presidential contender long before 2012 because of her limited political resume that will not become longer as a private citizen. Well another 16 months as governor of Alaska isn't going to make that much of a difference. She is more likely to fade away is she stays in Alaska. Running a state is too much of a distraction for this ambitious politician. She will have more time to challenge the likes of David Letterman. I hope she spends the time boning up on economic, domestic and international affairs, but I doubt it.

So run Sarah run! I always enjoy a political sideshow.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

DAY 1: Leafs got tougher, Canadiens got smaller

Wow, yesterday was no different than the past few July 1st with around $400 million spent. So much about concern that the salary cap falling next season. So far we can see that Brian Burke is living up to his promise to make the Leafs tougher. And he overspent for defensive defenseman Mike Komisarek at $4.5 million per season but there are no bargains in the free agent bin. Throw in Garnet Exelby along with Komisarek and Schenn and you have some big hitters on the blue line. However the defense right now is pretty crowded so there may be more trades coming. The fringe players Stralman and Frogren cannot be moved up and down between the Leafs and Marlies without exposing them on waivers. And let's not forget Burke expects the losers in the Bouwmeester hunt to coming asking about Kaberle.

Michael Komisarek
Tomas Kaberle
Ian White
Garnet Exelby
Luke Schenn
Jeff Finger
Mike Van Ryn
Jonas Frogren
Anton Stralman

However, with the addition of only fighter Colton Orr, Burke has so far failed to land any skill players that the Leafs dearly need up front. They are incredibly thin at centre after trading Moore and Antropov and have only soft and inexperienced players at this position. Their top centre is Grabovski but he is an unsigned restricted free agent. Then there is Stajan who rarely throws a check and Mitchell is best suited on the fourth line but saw first line duty at the end of the season. Here is the complete list of centres.

Mikhail Grabovski
Matt Stajan
Jiri Tlusty
John Mitchell
Tyler Bozak
Christian Hanson

The Leafs strongest position is left wing where they have several 20-goal scorers and the rest with the potential to score 20. Right wing is pretty pathetic which makes you think if some help isn't coming then some left wingers will play their off wing (Blake did last season) or some centres will shift to the right. Still Burke as money to spend and has indicated that he will spend to the cap every season.

Left Wing
Jason Blake
Niklas Hagman
Nikolai Kulemin
Alexi Ponikarovski

Right Wing
Lee Stempniak
Jamal Mayers
Colton Orr

Around the league Montreal has done a total makeover of their lineup. Last season their top line was Koivu, Kovalev and Tanguay. This season is appears to be Cammalleri, Gionta and Gomez. Who knows how well this combination will work out. They are all small and relied on other star players to improve their performance. But maybe this combination will work.

The Rangers did well by replacing Gomez with Higgins, McDonagh and Gaborik. They were 28th in the league in scoring this past season but the key for them is the health of Gaborik.

Elsewhere Minnesota replaced Gaborik with Havlat and Chicago replaced Havlat with Hossa. This looks like a saw off for these teams but Hossa may be the best of thses players so Chicago did well. Throw in the free agents Madden and Kopecky, both players from winning organizations (Devils and Wings) and the Hawks may be a strong condender next year if they have goaltending. Detroit was unable to hang onto all of their free agents but they have lots of both skill players and grinders in their system waiting to fill those spots.

The best signing so far was Mike Knuble to Washington. They still need to fill a centre spot with the defection of Federov to the KHL but Knuble is a big, tough player that can score. He will fit in well in Washington. He would fit in well on any team.

Tampa Bay signed Ohlund to a massive contract that will help the team on the blueline but what does it do for them financially? They cannot afford their current massive contracts and just added to them. Obviously the only reason Ohlund signed with this dysfunctional contract was the money.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Free Agency frenzy is about to begin

It was just a year ago that Mats Sundin was the hottest commodity on the free agent market and we know how that ended. What a difference one year can make. Sundin has yet to decide on his future and really no one actually cares.

The hot tickets belong to a pair of Swedes, the Sedin twins who have yet the sign with Vancouver as the clock is about to strike 12. Supposedly both Montreal and Toronto are hot after the pair although no one will confirm that. It would be tampering. But the boys want 12 years which is way too long for these two. The Leafs can afford to spend close to $5 million per season on 2 forwards but they also need to add some muscle up front (eg, Colton Orr on the Rangers) and a plugger (eg, Sami Paulsson).

The future is clearer for Jay Bouwmeester who just hours ago signed for the next 5 years with Calgary. He will be making the same money has the Flames stud defenseman Dion Phaneuf, $6.5 million. If you compare this to the Brian Campbell signing last year, Bouwmeester is 5 years younger, more talented and will cost $600,000 less per season. Great deal for the Flames.

Glen Sather has indicated that Nik Antropov was asking for at least $5 million per year so he has bid Nik farewell. Russian agent Mark Gandler certainly knows how to over price his clients. So that second round pick is looking much better already.

Sports Illustrated called the Scott Gomez contract the worst signing in recent memory so kudos to Glen Sather for making any kind of deal to move Gomez. I can't believe that Gainey gave up Ryan McDonagh, a first draft pick, on what should have been a salary dump. Maybe Gainey would be interested in Jason Blake too?

There were rumours that Dany Heatley was heading to San Jose where he could have joined the Sharks' existing under performers, Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton. Now it appears the Oilers will have to honour.

Don't be surprised if the Leafs are quiet on free agent front. Burke will not likely overpay for free agents (eg, Jeff Finger) unless it is someone he dearly wants. The Leafs also have most of their roster already signed but if Kaberle and/or Kubina are traded then things can change. Can't wait to see what happens at noon today.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Why I haven't bought a hybrid car

I've always been known for buying fuel efficient cars - both for economic and environmental reasons. When I needed more carrying space I went with a Toyota Matrix rather than get into a SUV-class vehicle. I rent on the few occasions I need something even larger though my Matrix holds a lot of stuff.

Many people have asked why I don't buy a Prius or similar style hybrid. Well I'm just not impressed by the technology. They are vehicles that mostly run on gas and occasionally run on electricity. The gas mileage is only slightly better than the vehicles I drive. I estimated that when gas prices were at their peak, the payback period for the additional costs of a hybrid was 8 to 10 years. I want a hybrid that mostly runs on electricity but that vehicle doesn't exist.

The Prius is now 9 years old and that technology is dated. The next generation of hybrids is what I'm waiting for. These cars will have both a plug-in electric motor and a gas motor. But the gas motor doesn't drive the car at all. It only recharges the car's battery. If your trip is less that 80 km or 50 miles then the gas motor doesn't come on at all. Think about how many trips in a year are longer than that. Not that many. You will be able to get 100 miles to the gallon or better if your daily commute is short.

One of the problems is that battery technology has to further evolve. Today's hybrids have nickel-cadmium batteries which is why the cares are outdated. The next generation will have lithium-ion batteries which can store more energy. How long do we have to wait? The Volt is coming out in 2011 and Toyota is likely to jump out first next year with their plug-in hybrid Prius (below).

Monday, June 29, 2009

The Iranian Theocracy is doomed

It's difficult to watch the Iranian police and security personnel attacks crowds of civilians in Tehran. The state will likely win this current struggle but the theocracy that rules Iran cannot survive. It is has lost the support of the people and endures through intimidation.

It wasn't like this 30 years ago under the regime's founder Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini who was able to convince Iranians that the country should be run by divine authority through the Supreme Leader. That has been lost under is successor Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Early in the regime the notion of secret ballots was acceptable to the mullahs since they controlled who could run in elections. Only candidates that would uphold the virtues of the regime were acceptable. This seemed to have worked for a while. But even within the controlled system, reform candidates got through and won. The turning point was the election of Mohammad Khatami as president by a landslide. He began some reforms that were rejected by the mullahs on the Guardian Council that had had the authority to accept or reject laws passed by the Iranian Parliament.

Meanwhile the Iranian populations has become considerably younger since the revolution in 1979. The median age of Iranians is only 26 and many Iranians are eligible to vote for the first time. As well most Iranians were born after the revolution. Their faith in divine authority is not as strong but they seem to have s strong desire for democratic processes. The mullahs took no chances in the 2004 election and banned a large number of candidates who they felt were no longer acceptable. Many politicians in Iran are clerics but for some reason they determined that the current president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was acceptable even though he was neither a cleric or very well educated and have continued to stick with him. So the regime took no chances and following the most recent elections declared him the winner by a lanslide. Who would question a victory but such a large margin? However, there has been enough evidence to suggest that the votes were not even counted.

Now it is possible that Ahmadinejad would have won the election anyway. We will never know. But the election removed what is left of any legitimacy that the regime had in the eyes of the public. The state will be able to suppress the protesters because they are unarmed. But history suggests that totalitarian states eventually crumble and fall and this one will as well. It's only a matter of time.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Elvis and Michael Jackson had many similarities

Elvis Presley was known as the "King of Rock and Roll" and Michael Jackson was known as the "King of Pop". The fact that the two "Kings" met similar ends is quite eerie. Elvis died at the age of 42 due to cardiac arrest related to his heavy drug use. Michael's death was also the result of cardia arrest and indications are that drugs may have contributed to his death. Both men were clearly avant garde recording artists that crossed colour barriers with their appeal. There were likely no two bigger American recording artists. But the pressure that came with fame lead both men to their drug use.

Ironically their incredible wealth allowed them to build an mansion (Graceland and Neverland) but their fame made them prisoners in their opulant homes. The most eerie part is that Michael was married for a time to Elvis' daughter Lisa Marie. So when will the "Michael isn't really dead" rumours begin?