Monday 31 August 2009

The obligatory Goodbye Doer post

I am a blogger (among many other things) and I live in Manitoba, therefore I am required by blogging convention to do a post about Doer's resignation, whether you want to read it or not.

A few months back I wrote about Doer potentially resigning. I did not predict it one way or the other, but what I said was:

Will his remarkable timing continue? Much depends on what happens federally. If the Conservatives stay in power as the economy recovers, or if the Liberals manage to get a majority, you can bet that they will again be looking for ways to chop spending and get the federal budget back on track, right about the time of our next Provincial election. This would put Doer in the same shoes as his predecessor, faced with declining revenues and tough decisions to make, should he get re-elected. You can bet that Doer will keep a watchful eye on that possibility, and quit while he's ahead if that's where things are heading. Whatever happens, you can bet he'll retire from politics smelling like a rose.
Indeed he is, although the timing of his resignation appears to be more of a happy coincidence than the cause. His successor, and I will not speculate on who that may be, will not have as easy a go of it for two reasons: the first is referred to in the quote above, and the second is that they will not have Doer's smiley charm that allowed him to slither away from scandals and failures.

Ok then .. what grade should we give him? What will his legacy be? For sure, he will go in the books as a successful Premier. He presided over a prosperous era, recorded a series of balanced budgets (sort of), and ran a boring show in a profession where "exciting" usually corresponds with "controversial" and "short lived". He made a series of modest tax cuts and kept most voters happy. One might look at this record and give him a B or B+. Nothing astounding for sure, but steady.

In my mind, however, Doer's term in office represents a wasted opportunity. It corresponded with one of the most prosperous eras in this country's history. Instead of taking this opportunity to reduce our provincial debt, he increased it. Instead of reducing our dependency on equalization payments, he increased it dramatically. Instead of reducing corporate taxes to draw private investment, he decreased small business taxes which will have a very marginal return in terms of job growth. Instead of keeping our personal income taxes in line with our neighbouring provinces, he kept tax brackets frozen and opted for small decreases, making us less competitive.

In short, he didn't take the opportunity to use the economic boom, which is now over, to position ourselves for the future. Our province's economy, including our valuable hydro resource, is burdened by debt and overly dependent on government jobs and government spending. This isn't as much of a problem now as it will a few years down the road. It's Doer's successors who will really feel the pain of his economic mis-management, and will be forced to transfer that pain to the people.

Further, his administration has been plagued with scandals, and he has failed miserably in the environment department (although he has a green image because most of our power comes from Hydro electricity) as well as in health care. He never did keep his initial promise to end "hallway medicine". Curtis Brown says that he is sure Doer has repeatedly regretted making those promises. To the contrary, I am sure he does not. Those promises got him elected. He knew it wasn't doable without massive reforms to the health care system and/or massive tax hikes, but he didn't care because it got his ass into the Premier's chair.

Gary Doer is not a man of bold action. He is more of a "don't rock the boat" sort of guy." He is not a leader, but a caretaker. I challenge any of you to point out a difficult decision that he made during his tenure in office. A truly difficult decision ... the kind of unpopular choice that a real leader would make for the betterment of the province. They are few and far between, if they exist at all.

Doer may make an excellent ambassador to the US. His charisma and rolodex (do they still make those?) will serve him well, and I suspect that he can be quite compelling in closed door discussions. As a Premier, however, he didn't have the fortitude to do what was right. C-

Wednesday 26 August 2009

Sen. Ted Kennedy

The Peanut says good bye to Senator Ted Kennedy today.

Kennedy was a vocal supporter of health care reform. In fact, an exclusive source has told Anybody Want A Peanut? that Kennedy intentionally died in order to help boost Obama's lagging health care reform campaign.

I may need to vet my sources a little better.

Not your typical stuffed suit or partisan hack, Mr. Kennedy was good for American politics and Washington won't be the same without him.

Friday 21 August 2009

Roundabout Part II

The roundabout is open! I went through it today and it worked flawlessly. It wasn't rush hour, but there was pretty steady traffic going north and south, and a couple cars coming from the sides, but no problemo ... I got through the intersection quickly and efficiently, without stopping and without breaking the law! Was that so hard?

No. No it wasn't. People say "oh, stupid Winnipeg drivers will never figure out how to use it." Bullshit, says I. When you think about it, using a four way stop requires a lot more discipline, observation and patience than using a roundabout does. These are precious qualities that local drivers have in very short supply. They are rationed like energy wafers in an epic trek across Antarctica. If a Winnipeg driver -- especially one driving a Pontiac -- uses a little bit of brain power to observe what's around them and adjust their actions accordingly and within the law, then that's one little bit of brain power that can never be used again. Therefore it is only used sparingly.

Fortunately, roundabouts require much less observation and patience. It matters not who arrives at the intersection first. All that matters is what the cars approaching from the left are doing. No car? Go on ahead. Don't even bother stopping. I know how you hate stopping. Sure, there will be the odd paranoid driver that will panic and stop when there is no need to, but there's not much you can do about that, other than honk at them or shoot them in the head. (For the record, I don't advocate the later. It's just a hypothetical option.)

I will repeat my earlier statement that every four way stop in the city, where possible, should be replaced with roundabouts when the time comes to do road repairs. Some controlled intersections as well. However, I was looking at photos of Portage and Main and I fear that there may not be enough room there for a roundabout because of the placement of the buildings. Maybe if they just bump it to the east a little ... A guy can dream...

previously: Roundabout Part I

Blog note: The blogger that first noticed that the city was building this round-about, Average City, has disappeared from the world wide web. AC did some good digging on city stuff -- developments and contracts and such. I don't know what kind of traffic he got, but I thought he filled a niche in our little blog community.

Saturday 15 August 2009

A message to my American friends

Health care reform is one of those topics -- like global warming -- where rational debate is as common as a Panamanian golden frog. Any discussion almost invariably degenerates into ideology-driven exaggeration and fear mongering. I have seen the absurdity of the Canadian debate, and I think I can help add some perspective for my American friends.

To some in Canada, health care is a sacred enterprise that must not be tampered with. Any mention of reform immediately sends the left-wingers into a tizzy. They wave their arms and yammer on about the evils of the U.S. system and how only rich people will be able to get x-rays while the rest of us will have to sit at home dying of easily preventable maladies.

I see the same thing happening in the U.S. right now in response to Obama's health care reform plan. Republicans are comparing it to the Canadian system, and going on about how over-paid bureaucrats will decide if you're worthy of being treated. Sarah Palin, God bless her screwed up little soul, took the hyperbole to a whole new level with her talk of "death panels". ... I don't even think North Korea's health care system has death panels.

Now, I don't know the details of the Obama proposal, but I do know this: you in the U.S. do not want the Canadian system (trust me), but you will never get the Canadian system so there is no need to be afraid of it. Just like how we in Canada will never have to worry about living with the evil U.S. system, and thus have no reason to be afraid of it, or even talk about it. The U.S. and Canadian systems are at opposite ends of the spectrum. Any comparison between the two is pointless. Let me illustrate:

What you have to realize is that there is a whole world of options between the two. Private delivery of health care and universal health care are not mutually exclusive. Private insurance can exist in a publicly administered system. There are all kinds of possibilities.

Australia, for example, has universal health care and private insurance. Health care is provided by government institutions and private companies. You could go all over the world and find many other variations, many (perhaps most) of which include some form of universal health care.

Both the U.S. and Canadian systems, while completely different, are deeply flawed. They are also among the most expensive in the world. (One report that I read claimed that they are in fact the two costliest health care systems -- U.S. first, Canada second.) Thus both systems are in desperate need of change. You should not let opponents of change paralyze discussion of reform with their ideological hyperventilating. Open your minds and engage in an informed debate.

And as a person who is generally conservative, I don't mind telling you that universal health care is a good thing. Just don't do it like we do it.

Wednesday 12 August 2009

*UPDATED* Olympic Golf in 2016?

We'll find out tomorrow if they make the cut:

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) will announce a shortlist of two sports on Thursday and in two months’ time a final vote will decide whether they will be part of the Games programme.

Squash, rugby, softball, baseball, karate, rollersports and golf are bidding to make that shortlist which will be announced during the IOC executive board meeting in Berlin.
My vote is for golf, and here's why:
  • It is a truely international sport. The top 20 men in the world golf rankings represent 10 different countries and 6 continents. The women's game is also very diverse, with the best player hailing from Mexico, and various Asian and European countries being well represented on the LPGA money list.
  • It is a well established sport. It has been played competitively and remained popular for generations.
  • Both men and women compete at a high level and attract viewers.
  • New facilities do not need to be built. Any country that's properous enough to bid for an Olympics game will have a number of championship golf courses available. Aside from facilities for spectators and media, there would be no additional infrastructure cost.
  • It is spectator-friendly
  • It is an individual sport and thus will add fewer competitors to the games than a team sport would, reducing cost and strain on Olympic facilities.
  • It is the only one in the list that I'm any good at, and therefore is the best reflection of true skill, talent and good looks.
If that's not enough to convince you, here are some of the knocks against the other sports:
  • Team sports like rugby, softball and baseball are cumbersome, because a lengthy tournament schedule needs to be set, and a larger number of atheletes need to be accomodated. Team sports are also not consistent with the original Olympic ideal of individual achievement.
  • Rugby and baseball are played primarily by men. As much as I may enjoy a good game of bikini football, I have a hard time seeing women's contact sports being played at a competitive level.
  • Squash is played by accountants, and its not spectator-friendly.
  • Karate is not needed because there are already enough marshal arts represented. Marshal arts do not attract much of an audience, and judging is sometimes subjective. If you are going to add one, you should get rid of another, like Judo.
  • Rollersports? Are you kidding? What, like roller derby, or roller hockey, or X-Treme roller cross? Leave that shit for MTV.
In my humble opinion, the Olympics need to get back to basics, hacking off "sports" where judging is purely subjective, and fringe sports that nobody cares about. (You already know one of the sports that I think should get chopped.) Get the cost down so that hosting the stupid event doesn't bankrupt a country. At the very least, they should implement a one-in-one-out policy where new sports displace old sports, so the total package doesn't grow.

** I have added a poll to the sidebar to see what you think. Which of the 7 sports do you think should be added?

The vote came in and golf made the first cut, (along with rugby). Final selection will be in October.

If golf is in, you will see 60 competitors for each gender. The top 16 in the world rankings get in automatically, plus up to two more per county based on their ranking. Given current rankings Canada would have two men in there (Weir and Ames). No sure about women. Probably none. The PGA spokesdude expects that about 30 countries will be represented for both men and women.

EDIT: it is possible that Ames may choose to play for Trinidad and Tobago. I hope not, but he might. Wouldn't surprise me.

Monday 10 August 2009

Blogging in the summer

I have noticed that many blogs have slowed to a crawl or stopped entirely for the summer. I had no intention of slacking off over the summer, but with only two posts in the past three weeks, and 50% of those being about dead pop stars, I admit that I have not been doing my share to put the newspapers out of business.

This serves to illustrate just how silly discussions are about how blogs are a threat to mainstream media. There are some local bloggers who are going strong, but except for an elite few bloggers who earn a living off their web site, none of us get paid diddly for what we do, and hence there are no deadlines and no requirement to punch out quality pieces on a regular basis.

That is why I am posting this boring crap that you're reading right now. It's not because nothing is happening, and there is nothing to comment on. It's just that I don't feel like covering it at the moment. I started typing up a post on the traffic ticket quotas last week, when a little voice in my brain said "fuck it" (forgive my brain for its language) and I shut it down. It doesn't help that with the golf and the camping and the baseball and the beer drinking that I usually don't even sit down at the computer until 11:30 PM or later. So sue me. If this summer were actually HOT like summer is supposed to be, I probably wouldn't even boot up at all.

But we'll see ... I have a few ideas bouncing around in my noggin for blog posts that will blow your mind (or at least mildly entertain you), and maybe something else will come up that will capture my imagination. I also may post more cartoons or doodles like this this or this.

'till next time ....

Monday 3 August 2009

Michael Jackson lived too long

The world needed another blog post about Michael Jackson. A Google Blog search turned up only 37,223,127 hits. We need one more to hit an even 37,223,128; so I will provide it:

Many blog posts about Jackson since his recent death will recall his enormous impact on the music industry and popular culture, and lament the gong-show that his life later became. Few will go so far as to suggest that he lived too long. Fewer still will take the extra step of suggesting when he actually should have died. Since we at the Peanut are not bound by good taste, we will endeavor to fill that gaping void in the bloggosphere ...

So... where do we start? Let's start with the albums:

Obviously, the peak of Jackson's career was Thriller, released in 1982 when Jackson was 24. As you all know, Thriller was by far the best selling album of all time, racking up sales in the neighbourhood of 110 million units. The next two albums -- Bad and Dangerous, released when Jackson was 29 and 33 respectively -- sold around 30 million units. Still very good, but a big let down by Thriller standards. His last two albums sold 20 million and 10 million respectively.

Clearly Jackson's post-Thriller success was riding the wake created by his landmark album. I mean, let's face it: Jackson could have released a blank disc as a follow-up to Thriller and it would have sold millions. Not that there was no redeeming value in those albums ... I kind of liked "Dirty Diana" ... but the music quality and uniqueness decreased. basically, Bad and Dangerous were sort of take-it-or-leave-it type albums. The next two were definitely leave-it.

Looking at the music, the sweet spot seems to be somewhere in the 24-33 range. I'm going to cut to the chase and throw out an age: 27

27 is a proven age for music icons to die at. Jim Morrison died as a 27 year old, as did Kurt Cobain. Ditto Jimi Hendrix and Janice Joplin. Could all of them be wrong? There must be something to it.

As a 27 year old, Jackson was at his musical peak, as we have seen. He was riding the high of Thriller, but had not yet disappointed people with his later albums. He did "Say Say Say" with Paul McCartney in 1983, which was a fun song, and he co-wrote "We Are The World" in 1985 when he was 26. He could do no wrong, and for the most part, the weird stuff had not yet began.

Jackson turned 27 in August of 1985. In 1986, he started to hit the tabloids like only Wacko Jacko could: he bought Bubbles the chimp, he was rumoured to have bought the elephant man's bones, and he ramped up the surgical assault on his facial features to a whole new level. 1986 saw the debut of his cleft chin, among other "enhancements". ... And it all went down hill from there, with allegations of pedophilia, fake marriages, child endangerment, money troubles; and the continued physical transformation into an androgynous salamander-like alien being.

Jackson in 1985:

Jackson in 2003:

His first 27 years weren't all peaches and cream -- it included the infamous Pepsi hair spray debacle for instance -- but it generally includes most of the good stuff and excludes the vast majority of the weirdness. If Jackson had passed away as a young 27 year-old, he would have been remembered by all as an icon, and not a freak show.

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