Tuesday, January 29, 2008

State Of The Yawn-ion Address

Well, I was all set to do a post on the State of the Union address delivered by President Bush yesterday evening. I was going to play pseudo-journalist and give my insight on how the policy issues addressed in his speech would impact Canada. One problem, though--the speech was so damn boring I couldn't even follow it! I think President Bush mentioned Canada once in connection with some meeting he wants to have with Canada and Mexico or something. I dunno. I wasn't really paying attention.

One thing that I was looking forward to was seeing Barbara and Jenna, the First Twins. Here's how they looked last night, flanking their mom (I have no idea who the wrinkly little gnome on the far right is):

I've always been more of a fan of Barbara than Jenna. Last night, though, Barbara just didn't look that great. What's with the expression on her face? She has the same taut-lipped, tense expression that my thirteen-month old son gets just before he loads his diaper.

In any event, I apologize for dropping the ball on providing any useful commentary. I'll try harder next time.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Oath Of Allegiance

Well, yesterday was the big day--I was sworn in as a United States citizen. There were 106 of us at my ceremony, six other Canadians and 99 other people from all parts of the world.

The final step in becoming a citizen was swearing the Oath of Allegiance. All 106 of us stood up, raised our right hands and followed the lead of a Federal Court judge in reciting the Oath out loud in unison. It was all very moving. Here's the Oath and exactly what I was thinking as I recited it:

"I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and adjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen;"

OK, I guess that's it as far as any of that "loyalty to the Queen" crap is concerned. Can't say I'm going to miss any of that. Why Canadians still pledge fealty to some foreign monarch has never made any sense to me. It's not that I have anything against the Queen. She seems like a nice enough old lady. I think Prince William will make a fine King and I'm a huge fan of that Kate Middleton girl he's rolling around with--she's one delectable English muffin that I'd love to slather in clotted cream and jam before devouring. Mmmmm, mmm.

"that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic;"

Most definitely. I'm feeling especially feisty this morning. Bring on some foreign and domestic enemies and I'll kick their a**es!

"that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same;"

This is badly drafted. I'm fine with the concept but it could have been combined with the part we just said.

"that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by law;"

Are you kidding? Count me in! I once fired a military sub-machine gun at a test range and it was the coolest thing ever. If I have to bear arms, I hope I get a choice. I don't just want some standard issue M-16. Can I be in a tank? I'd love to fire one of those cannons. Or maybe I could be the bombardier on a bomber carrying one of those "bunker buster" missiles. How awesome would it be to fire one of those babies?

"that I will perform noncombatant service in the armed forces of the United States when required by law;"

Noncombatant service? Do I look like a girl?

"that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by law;"

What the hell is this? Didn't I just agree to bear arms? I'll do what I'm asked to do, but I'd rather shoot at stuff than shuffle paper.

"and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion;"

I'm good on all counts.

"so help me God."

God? How'd that reference sneak in here? What happened to the separation of Church and State? Is the ACLU aware of this? You know it'll just be a matter of time before somebody launches a challenge....

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Financial Market Jitters

I was going to write a post about something I call "The Tuque Test," but the free fall in the financial markets is proving to be too much of a distraction. This is how I feel right now:

I hope you all are holding up better. I try to remain calm at times like this, although it's tough. I bought voraciously during the 2001-2003 dip and was handsomely rewarded. I'm getting ready to do so again, although I'm going to wait a month or so to see how things shake out.

I have some advice for my Canadian friends: get ready to buy U.S. large cap equities. I'm pessimistic about the Canadian markets. The 2004-2007 M&A wave gutted corporate headquarters and the high loonie is having a deleterious affect on manufacturing activity in Central Canada. Canada is increasingly dependent upon its natural resources. That's great as long as prices for commodities are high. It's going to get ugly when commodities prices start to tank, something that we're already starting to see.

U.S. equity markets have lagged the rest of the world for the last four years, and large cap stocks have been especially sluggish. This stuff is all cyclical, though. When things start to turn positive again in six to nine months, watch for U.S. large cap equities to outperform.

And yes, I'll be putting my money where my mouth is!

Friday, January 18, 2008

I'm No Cheesehead!

Well, I'm posting in blue again. The New York Giants are going to need all of the luck that they can get if they're going to send Green Bay packing on Sunday. Let's Go Big Blue!!!!!!!!

I've never been to Green Bay. In fact, I've never been to Wisconsin. Strangely, though, when I first moved to New York, everybody thought that's where I was from. It was all due to my accent, of course. I took mild offense to all of this--I thought that I had a generic "North American newscaster" accent. Now, a decade later, I know exactly what manners of speech marked me as an obvious outsider. That's fodder for a series of posts after the Superbowl, though. I'm still a little puzzled as to why New Yorkers thought that I was from Wisconsin rather than some other state in the Midwest like Illinois or Indiana. In any event, it doesn't matter. The fact is, I'M NO CHEESEHEAD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Let's Go Giants!

Remember that, when the Giants were set to play the Cowboys, I confessed that I actually liked Terrell Owens and Tony Romo? Well, not any more! Did you see Terrell "tearing up" after the game? What a doily. Same thing for Tony Romo. Take your loss like a man, you chick. Here are a couple of photos that should live on in infamy:

I didn't add the captions--they came with the photos posted on the New York Giants' website. I can't imagine that Brett Favre will be such a cry baby, sissy-man if the Giants get a few breaks and take the Packers down.


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

"Cleavage" (No, not that kind....)

It looks like the race between Mitt Romney and John McCain in Michigan is going to be a lot tighter than was initially expected. Hailing from a very prominent Michigan family, Mitt Romney was supposed to be running away with this thing. What's going on here? Although all of the talk about Mitt Romney's "Mormonism" seems to have subsided somewhat lately, I wonder if the innuendo campaign hasn't already achieved it's goal. It's interesting to contrast the negative impact that religion has had on Mitt Romney's campaign with the essential role it's playing in Mike Huckabee's bid for the White House. Help you or hurt you, there's no denying that religion plays a critical role when the American people are choosing a president.

I took a few Political Science classes back at McGill. I found them to be a "fluffy," GPA-boosting counterweight to courses like the first-year Ph.D. Econometrics seminar that my Honours Economics adviser counseled me to take (I got a B+ in the seminar but my brain still hurts twenty years later). In any event, a Political Science professor would refer to religion as a "cleavage" in American politics--something that clearly delineates and divides people.

Having grown up in Canada, the influential role of religion in choosing American political leaders took some getting used to. For most of Canada's history, the leadership of the major federal political parties has alternated between Anglophones and Francophones. The fact that most of the Anglophones were Protestant and the Francophones Catholic didn't factor into the analysis. In Canada, the primary "cleavage" is language, not religion.

What's the point of all this? Well, a lot of my Canadian friends think it's weird that Americans place so much emphasis on a candidate's religion. It strikes me as odd as well, although no more strange than choosing a Prime Minister based on his or her native language. That's pretty weird too, if you ask me.

Friday, January 11, 2008

How 'Bout D'em Cowboys (And That Business Culture)

Remember how I promised that I would post in the color blue one time only? Well, I lied. Since posting in Giants-blue brought the New York Giants good luck last week, I've decided to do it again in advance of their game against the Dallas Cowboys this Sunday.

I should probably hate the Dallas Cowboys as much as I do the Giants' other rivals in the NFC East, the Philadelphia Eagles and the Washington Redskins. Except I don't. I really like Terrell Owens and Tony Romo. And, of course, I just adore Jessica Simpson, Tony Romo's girlfriend (her "I Think I'm In Love" video which you can check out at www.youtube.com/watch?v=YHMpaZ90ptQ&feature=related is a true classic).

I've only been to Dallas once. In July 2001, I was part of the team advising one of the world's largest integrated oil companies in connection with its friendly, $2.9 billion tender offer for another integrated oil company headquartered in Dallas. We flew from Teterboro, NJ to Dallas on board one of our client's Gulfstream IV corporate jets--a truly AWESOME experience in every respect. We were met on the tarmac by a fleet of three cars and three drivers, each driver wearing black pants, a short-sleeved white dress shirt, a skinny black tie and Blues Brothers-style sunglasses. I thought their dress shirts particularly odd. Short sleeves?

When we arrived at the offices of the lawyers for the target company, I was surprised to see that they were wearing suits with short-sleeved dress shirts as well. I quickly figured out that business people in Dallas dress a little differently in July than those of us from New York. I also noticed some non-sartorial distinctions as well. The lawyers from Dallas were tough but fair-minded. There was none of the shrill, whiner, weasel-outbursts done for dramatic effect that I often encountered in New York. Over the course of the next few days, I became really good friends with the Dallas lawyers. I got a particular kick out of the stuffed deer heads mounted on the walls of their offices--trophies from the hunting trips that they had been on. My Upper West Side living, espresso drinking, Hillary Clinton-voting friends back in New York would have died! I loved it.

My experience in Dallas was a good reminder of how vast the United States really is, not just in terms of geography, but also in terms of business culture. I've worked with people from all over the United States and, in future posts, I plan to explore the regional business culture distinctions that I've encountered.

Getting back to the game on Sunday, I hope that the Cowboys totally implode. I won't feel too bad for Tony Romo, though--maybe he'll get some extra consolation lovin' from Jessica Simpson!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

John McCain's Canadian Connection

In light of John McCain's victory yesterday in New Hampshire, I decided to visit his campaign website and glean what I could about his views on Canada. To my surprise, I discovered that Sidney McCain, Senator McCain's eldest daughter, lives in Toronto!

According to the profile (which can be found at www.johnmccain.com//About/McCainChildren.htm), Sidney is in the music business and recently served as the General Manager of V2 Records, Canada. Apparently, she loves baseball and makes an annual trip south to the training camps of the New York Yankees and the Toronto Blue Jays.

Out of curiosity, I plugged Sidney McCain's name into my favorite search engine. I found a very interesting article about her in the February 2006 issue of Toronto Life recounting her search for a place to live with her boyfriend (check it out at www.torontolife.com/features/the-new-starter-home/?pageno=4). I found the article interesting on a couple of counts. First, there's no mention of Sidney's famous father. Second, a picture of Sidney is included. Here it is:

Wow, Sidney totally looks like her dad! And, wow, her boyfriend totally looks like a dough-boy loser! Can you picture THAT guy at official dinners at the White House? Disturbing.

Monday, January 7, 2008

College Football? Canada Sacked For A Major Loss!

Tonight, the Ohio State Buckeyes face the LSU Tigers in the BCS National Championship Game to determine U.S. college football supremacy.

Until I moved to the United States, I really didn't appreciate how big college football actually is down here. I mean I knew it was big, I just didn't realize it was THIS BIG! My wife went to the University of Notre Dame and is absolutely rabid about her Fighting Irish. She's taken me to two games at Notre Dame (one of which was the 2005 game against USC featuring the famous last minute heroics of Matt Leinert and Reggie Bush) and both times I've been astounded by how totally into it everyone is. Virtually the entire study body shows up and sits together with the remaining 80,000 seats filled by alumni who will scratch, kick, punch and bite to get tickets.

This is in complete and utter contradistinction to my experiences at both the University of Toronto and McGill University. I walked by Varsity Stadium every day to and from law school but never made it to a single Varsity Blues game. I went to a grand total of one game at McGill. And then I went only to placate the button cute, strawberry-blonde freshman from New Brunswick that I was dating. My girlfriend and I were part of a crowd of two hundred or so fellow McGill students. I think the opposing team was the Queen's Golden Gaels although I could be wrong about that. My girlfriend got cold and we left at half time.

I'll leave it to somebody with a Ph.D. in Psychology, Sociology, Anthropology or one of those other "ology" type disciplines to explain why U.S. college football is hot and Canadian university football is not. My own personal theory is that it might have something to do with the cheerleaders. Here's a photo of a recent USC cheerleading squad:

Wow! Aren't these girls something special? Now let's just compare the hotties from USC with a recent cheerleading team from the University of Toronto:

It's hard to make anybody out because the photo is so bad. I think there might be a cute girl or two off to the right. Unfortunately, the view of the girls is obstructed by ALL OF THE DUDES! What in God's name is going on here? Call me old school, but real men have no place on a cheerleading squad. Hot female cheerleaders will draw hoards of guys who will, in turn, attract women looking to meet or hang out with said guys. Next thing you know, your stadium is packed and your football team is relevant!

Just an observation from the Star-Spangled Canuck.

Friday, January 4, 2008

"The President of Canada"

I was going to refrain from talking about the U.S. presidential race until after the primaries in New Hampshire. However, the magnitude of Barack Obama's victory in Iowa has prompted me to consider the topic a bit earlier.

A lot of my Canadian friends were outraged when, in a debate last August, Senator Obama said that, if elected President, he would call, "The President of Canada" to discuss NAFTA (if you haven't already seen it, check it out here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZjU2CBEIfh4&feature=related). Should Canadians be worried that a front-runner for President of the United States doesn't know that Canada has a prime minister and not a president? I don't think so.

The United States has been treading water for years now. According to a number of recent polls, a vast majority of Americans think that the country is "on the wrong path." I'm with those folks. The economy just doesn't seem right (I'm sure that the U.S. is in a recession now and predict that it will last through Q3 of 2008), the stock markets have underperformed those of other countries for several years running and the nation re-building exercise in Iraq and the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan are taking longer than anyone reasonably expected. Things just seem out of sorts.

I know that a lot of Canadians look upon the current situation in the U.S. with smug derision and a healthy dose of schadenfreude. My advice? Knock it off. I've heard the argument that the Canadian economy has "de-coupled" from the U.S. economy. For reasons that I can get into later, I'm not buying any of it. If the U.S. economy crashes and burns, Canada's economy is going down with it. Canadians should be rooting for the presidential candidate most likely to reinvigorate the U.S. and lead it out of its current funk. Even if that candidate needs a lesson in Canadian civics.

(p.s. In the interests of full disclosure, I should mention that I like Barack Obama. A lot. I'm also a big supporter of Mitt Romney. Clearly the two best candidates in my view.)

Thursday, January 3, 2008

NFL vs. CFL? No Need To Choose.

I'm a huge fan of the New York Giants and am counting down the seconds until their first round playoff game against Tampa Bay on Sunday. In honor of the Giants, this one time only, I'm writing in blue. The colors of this post should now match the red, gray and blue of the Giants' uniforms. Go Giants!

All the hoopla surrounding the first round of the NFL playoffs has got me thinking about the whole NFL vs. CFL debate. It seems to me that it's becoming increasingly fashionable for Canadians (especially Central Canadians, especially Torontonians--you know who you are) to dump all over the CFL. Knock it off! The CFL and the Grey Cup are longstanding Canadian institutions that should be embraced. Sometimes I think Americans look more favorably on the CFL than Canadians do. Even the most casual NFL fan down here knows that guys like Joe Theisman, Warren Moon and Doug Flutie got their big breaks in the CFL.

Actually, there's one more name that can be added to the list: Jeff Garcia, the quarterback slated to start for Tampa Bay on Sunday! As someone who thinks that the CFL deserves a lot more respect, I hope Jeff Garcia has a great game on Sunday. That having been said, I hope his teammates all have the worst game of their lives and get trounced, thrashed and totally owned by the Giants!

Let's go Giants!!!!!! All the way, baby!!!!!!

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Toupee Or Not Toupee? That Is The Question.

One common beef I hear from Canadians is, "Americans are totally ignorant about our country. We're their biggest trading partner and they don't know anything about us. Blah, blah, blah, whine, whine, whine, boo, hoo, hoo."

Well, my northern-dwelling friends, the truth is it's darned tough to stay apprised of the goings on in Canada when you don't live there. When I moved to New York in December 1997, I wanted to subscribe to The Globe & Mail. To my great surprise, The Globe & Mail wasn't home-delivered in New York and, in fact, was available only at a very limited number of newsstands on a one-day delay basis. To my great annoyance, the papers sold out very quickly. I soon gave up trying to keep abreast of Canadian affairs.

Of course, the Internet soon came to my rescue. I now check the on-line version of The Globe & Mail every day. It's a less than perfect way to stay informed, though. I find the coverage sort of "hit-or-miss" and while I have a pretty good grasp on what's going on from 30,000 feet (that's 10,936 meters for you "metric only" types), I'm at a complete loss when it comes to more piffling things like trying to name any premier of any Maritime province. Detailed questions like that just beat the hell out of me.

If you think I'm kidding, go to the on-line version of The Globe & Mail yourself, pretend you're not from Canada and see how hard it is to figure out exactly who, where and what is going on. It doesn't help that some of the good stuff has an electronic padlock next to it. I'm thinking of Jeffrey Simpson's column in particular. On the topic of Jeffrey Simpson, what in God's name is going on there? He looks terrible! Here's his photo from the on-line version of The Globe & Mail:

Is that a toupee or should Jeffrey no longer be on speaking terms with his barber, stylist or whoever else it was that inflicted that nasty looking 'do on him?

In any event, the point I'm trying to make is that you all shouldn't be so tough on Americans for not knowing what's going on in Canada. It's tough, even for people like me who care about what's happening.