Friday 31 December 2010

2010 in review

A look at blog highlights from the past year.

In 2010 we discovered that there is indeed life in the local bloggosphere after Endless Spin and Waverly West. The scene continued to thrive, due in part to the addition of some new blogs. Some of the best new local blogs of 2010:

One Man Committee (a.k.a. Cancelbot, a.k.a. Walter Krawec). I have to admit that the pace he started posted at had me concerned that this might be one of those blogs that launches with a flurry and then fizzles out, but in fact he has kept it up for three months now. This, in addition to his day job, which I believe is posting comments on New Winnipeg.

Things That Need To Be Said (a.k.a. bgilchrist001, a.k.a. St Norberter, a.k.a. Brian Gilchrist) had some very good posts, including this one about the small business tax cut. Look for big things from Brian with the provincial election looming. No pressure though.

State of the City (Brian Kelcey) must have been the most successful new local blog, parlaying his web site into TV appearances and an actual money-making career. Imagine that.

A Day In The Hood probably deserves a mention as well, with its peak into life in the North End

DriveGoddess (a.k.a. MizPoint) is a well travelled blogger with interesting experiences to share. Read her blog action day post on water, as an example.


As for this blog: The start of the new year means it's time for my annual identity crisis, but more on that later. First, some highlights:

In 2010 I did my first interview, with candidate for council Livio Ciaralli. Transcribing the interview was a lot of work, but it was a fun thing to do and I received some positive feedback. I might consider doing a few more this year.

I had my angriest ever commenter:
i hope you burn in hell! ... WHO THE FUCK DO YOU THINK YOU ARE? i wish i knew what store you shopped at cuz i would make it my personal mission to make your life a living hell!
I had some brushes with small and large media this year. Nothing big, but I was contacted by the Uniter and CBC for different things, and linked-to by the Toronto Star web site for a post I did on the census. The Free Press continues to ignore me, but that's okay .. I would ignore me too if I were them. I know they're reading. (Hi guys!!) Actually .. I had a nice chat with Melissa Martin from the Freep one day. Kudos to her for taking the time to talk to me.

My top posts from 2010:

1. Cody Bousquet, Louis Riel, and more graffiti. -- A result of persistent Google hits about Cody, and especially Louis Riel. It is bizarre how many "Louis Riel" hits I get, given that I am miles back in the search results for that phrase. I don't understand.

2. Bucket full of something ... and it's not water -- Helped along by a Reddit referral, this had some good traffic (by this blog's standards). Maybe one of my better posts of the year, and I almost didn't do it.

3. My post from 2008 How to get to Vimy Ridge continues to draw traffic from people (duh) trying to find out how to get to the Vimy Ridge Memorial, and makes France the number 4 source of traffic to this site after Canada, the U.S. and the U.K.. This makes me happy -- that I might actually be helping people get to see this amazing site.

4. About roundabouts -- Posted during the Great Roundabout Controversy, and given a boost by TGCTS and a Policy Frog tweet.

5. Only a matter of time -- Yes, believe it or not, this two year old post about Leah Hextall continues to draw a steady stream of pervs looking for pornographic photos of the CTV cutie.

6. Who killed TGCTS -- a popular subject for other blogs as well, I understand.

7. Why pop music sucks -- This is a weird one. All I really did was repost a video that I found somewhere else, but "pop music sucks" is my number 1 Google hit.

honorable mention: Bipole Disorder: Billion dollar insurance policy was, I think, possibly my best post of the year. Most time consuming anyhow.

Top Google search terms (not including Cherenkov blog, Anybody want a peanut, etc..):
1. pop music sucks
2. louis riel
3. phil sheegl
4. manitoba "falcon cam"
5. how to get to vimy ridge - although there were about 100 other variations on this search as well.

Strange Google search terms:
"seal heart eating bitch" - guess who?
alberta rig worker sexy dance
- I have no idea why my site came up with this search, honest.
colleen simard is an asshole - tell us how you really feel.
hey you, want a peanut? - why yes I do, thank you!
ipost my beaver - you what?
mrrrrrummm - not sure if he found what he was looking for. Or if he had a seizure.
sam owns an acre of land and the government dams the river and forms a lake behind the dam, covering sam's land. does the government owe sam anything? - I'm sorry I couldn't help you, after all the effort you put into typing that search.

Top referring sites:
endless spin
hacks and wonks
policy frog
winnipeg love hate
progressive winnipeg

My two top referrers are in suspended animation.

Anyhow, enough fun with Google Analytics ... Back to my identity crisis:

What kind of a blog am I? Is it time for me to finally grow up and become a respectable blog, or would that ruin the whole thing? I have always just posted whatever I wanted to post without much regard for what people thought. It's not that I don't care about you, my valued readers, it's just that I don't care about you. But maybe I should.

So.. what do you want to see from The Peanut? Do you want to see more policy posts? More cartoons/doodles? More photos? More interviews? More Leah Hextall? More profanity?

I won't guarantee that I'll follow your suggestions, but I do welcome your feedback. And as always, thank you for your visits and comments and links.

Happy New Year!

Thursday 23 December 2010

Le Réveillon, a Christmas tradition

One of my favourite memories from Christmases past is réveillon -- a French Christmas eve celebration that involves staying up late, eating and drinking -- all of the the key ingredients of a worthy tradition. The catch was that I had to endure midnight mass first, but since that was the only time I went to church all year, that was an acceptable sacrifice.

The payoff was a late night meal of tourtière, including a little glass of Baby Duck wine. As a kid, this was exciting because I never got to drink alcohol except at my grandpa's house where he would slip me a shot glass of Tia Maria every now and then. If I remember correctly, we also got to open a small present that night. It was like a mini late night Christmas with booze.

I highly recommend réveillon as a tradition. You may already have Christmas traditions, which is fine, but how do they stack up against réveillon? Maybe your current tradition is boring. Maybe your current tradition involves trying to read Polar Express to your over-sugared kids who can't stop screaming and fighting as your intoxicated spouse is farting on the couch and yelling at the TV screen because the Canadian Junior team missed a chance to go 12-up on Belarus. If so, then maybe it's time for a new tradition. Or simply add this one on top of the others. The choice is yours!


Q: But what if I'm not French Canadian? Can I still celebrate réveillon?
A: Yes! We're not Ukrainian, but that doesn't stop our family from having perogies and holubtsi at our get-togethers.

Q: Do I have to make my own tourtière?
A: No. You can buy them all over the place, especially in St.Boniface. The Dutch Meat Market on Marion is one such place.

Q: What is that funny little line over the "e" in réveillon?
A: That is an accent. Specifically, an accent aigu. It makes the "e" sound like an "a".

Q: If they wanted the "e" to sound like an "a", why didn't they just spell it using an "a"?
A: Oh for fuck sakes, why are you asking such stupid questions? Next...

Q: Can I give my kids grape juice instead of wine?
A: No. Don't be a pussy. Give them wine.

Q: If I give them wine, won't that stunt their growth and make them retarded?
A: You shouldn't use the word "retarded". I used the word "retarded" in a post once, and somebody commented and gave me shit for saying "retarded" and said that it was offensive to retards ... or something like that. The proper phrase is "cranially sub-optimal". And no ... one glass of wine will not hurt your kids. All it will do is get them accustomed to the taste of alcohol at a young age so that they start drinking earlier and become alcoholics who beat their wives and/or whore themselves out for tequila shooters. Haha. I'm kidding. They'll be fine. Give them the booze.

Q: I can't pronounce "réveillon" without a piece of spit jumping out of my mouth from the back of my throat. What do I do?
A: This is normal, but if you wish you can call it something else, like "late night Christmas eve dinner", or "Yay, time to drink wine!"

Q: Can I go now?
A: Yes. Merry Christmas!

Tuesday 21 December 2010

Charge more: problem solved!

When it became known that the newest, revised, Blue Bomber stadium deal would plunge the Blue and Gold $85 million in debt, the obvious question was: how is a team that lost money four of the last five years* going to pay off $85 million??

The answer: playing well. Well, okay, that's just my solution. The official answer:
1. Facility fee of $6 a ticket.
2. Entertainment tax of 10 per cent on each ticket sold.
3. Increased ticket sales, corporate suites and parking revenue.
4. Naming rights.

Would I pay $6 more for a ticket? Ya, probably. Just having enough leg room is worth $6 to me. What's that? Oh right .. the entertainment tax ... Jeeze .. This is starting to feel like buying an airline ticket. Facility fee, entertainment tax, and whatever fees Ticketmaster screws you with when you buy through them. How much is a ticket? $40. Okay I'll take two. Kay, $120 please.

Alright: so new tax and new fee ..would I pay $10 more per ticket? Probably. I have good job and only go to a couple games a year anyhow. Would a single income family of 4 pay $10 more per ticket? That I can't answer. It might be a tough call.

I don't doubt that the first couple of years will see a boost in ticket sales, but after the novelty of the new stadium wears off the decision to buy tickets will once again come down to dollars and cents. The more dollars, the fewer tickets will be sold.

Which is why item #3: increased ticket sales, is a problem. You know how you increase ticket sales? Decrease the price. Selling more tickets while increasing the price is a dubious business plan. It might work out if this were a three year proposition, but this is a 44 year commitment here. There are going to be stretches in those 44 years when the Bombers fail to make the playoffs and struggle to get asses in the seats, and during those years the Bombers will get crushed under the weight of the $4.5 million annual mortgage payments. And what happens in that case? The province will have to bail them out. Or they go bankrupt, in which case the Bank of You and Me ends up holding the bag anyhow.

Not to mention that 44 years from now, if not earlier, this ball park won't be so "world class" anymore and will have increasing maintenance and repair costs. We may even be replacing this sucker before it's paid off.

So ultimately this isn't Bomber debt -- it's provincial debt. It is community debt. It is taxpayer debt. All of this stuff about paying off the stadium though increased revenues and TIFs and whatever is all just slight of hand. There is no private money going into this project because the powers that be committed to a specific partner with a specific project that turned out to be a dud, so however you slice it, this is a publicly-funded project.

And whatever .. so be it. I do think we need a new stadium: The seats in the current one make me feel like Andre the Giant, and investing more money into that dump would be a travesty. It's not unreasonable for a government to fund an entertainment facility like this every so often. (what is unreasonable is for a government to back a failing team to the tune of $200m over 6 years, but that's another story..) It would be nice if they were honest about it, though. (I know ... dreamland ... right ...)

Just out of curiosity ... point number 4: Naming rights. How is this new revenue? Is Canad Inns not paying for the naming rights to the current stadium? Or are they also selling naming rights for the goal posts, mascots and the touchdown canon? Oh look! Half Pints Buzz is driving the CentrePort airplane around the WRHA canon!

Anyhow... Go Bombers!

*For reference: Bomber revenues:
Bomber costs:

Canadian Weblog Awards: Love And Hate

Hi. How ya doin?


Hey, I just noticed that Winnipeg Love Hate is one of the five finalists for the 2010 CWAs, in the Art & Photography category. However, if you want to vote for him you're out of luck. The ultimate winner, to be announced Jan 1, will be determined by a jury rather than by votes. That might be a better way of doing it, in a way. I have seen some web log awards where the winner, as voted on multiple times by the winner's friends and family, is a pretty God-awful blog.

Anyhow, good luck to Bryan Scott.

(image used without permission)

Erica Glasier: Oversocialized! is another local blog on the short list .. this one for best new blog, and science/technology/internet blog. Good luck to Erica too!

Monday 20 December 2010

Drinking and driving and progressive penalties

A new bill was proposed on Dec 1 to make repeat sentences for DUI offences progressively harsher. Besides the parts about driving boats, planes and trains, the bill concerns those who are "mildly" impaired:

Currently, a 24-hour suspension is imposed for drivers caught with a blood-alcohol concentration of .05 per cent or higher. The new law when passed would bring in a 24-hour for a first offence, 15 days for a second violation, 30 days for a third and 60 days for a fourth and subsequent violation. -fp-
I am all for progressive penalties like this. I think we should do more of it. If you have been reading this blog for a while you may remember a post I did last year about logarithmic sentencing. The premise being that punishment will be most effective if it gets progressively harsher with each additional offence. Not marginally harsher. Dramatically harsher. Make people think really hard about re-committing an offence. "Nobody should ever be the fifth or sixth victim of a criminal."

So I think this proposal is a good idea in principle, however it sort of misses the mark. Why are we going through all this effort to target people who are only slightly impaired, when the biggest risk is from people who are truly impaired?

I did some internet searches for news stories of incidences where people have died because of drunk drivers. It is not comprehensive or scientific, but nor did I cherry pick stories. I simply started at the first story and went down the list, noting the descriptions of the drivers:


"more than double the legal limit" -source-

"high-speed car crash" "her blood-alcohol level ranged between .128 and .153" "the car was travelling at 148 km/h .. on a stretch of road with an 80 km/h speed limit" -source-

"speeding north" "ran a red light" "blood-alcohol content was at least .159" -source-

"clearly highly intoxicated" -source-

"had two and a half times the legal level of alcohol in his body" -source-

"possibly during a drag race" "more than twice the legal limit of .08" -source-

"blood alcohol level was .137, or almost twice the legal limit, when he ran a red light" -source-

"a blood alcohol level of 0.139 and was travelling at 130km/h in an 80km/h zone" -source-

".189 blood alcohol content" "allegedly tore through downtown" -source-

... and my favourite:

"suffers from nerve condition Carcot-Maire-Tooth disease - got behind the wheel of his motability car despite having earlier been denied more alcohol in a pub because he was too drunk. The drug addict, who was almost three times the drink drive limit, then sped out of Montrose" -source-


You may have noticed that none of them say "blood alcohol level of 0.05 and driving the speed limit." They all were either highly intoxicated, or speeding, or both.

Here's what I think we should do: 0.08 should be the limit for a criminal DUI offence as it is currently. However the punishment for the offence should be much greater if:
a) you are at twice the legal limit or more.
b) speeding while impaired, or
c) texting or talking on a cell phone while impaired.

... because it's those combinations of risk factors that is really the biggest risk. Maybe you've been drinking, but if you're driving below the speed limit and stopping at the red lights and obeying all of the rules of the road it is unlikely that you will get in an accident. It is when you're so impaired that you cannot do those things, or when you amplify your impairment with other risk factors, that you really become a menace.

Your average person who has had a couple of beers after the game is not a particularly serious threat if he's paying attention to what he's doing on the road. And after all, we as a society tolerate a certain level of impairment. We have to, otherwise almost nobody would be allowed to drive. People drive when they are tired or stressed, when they have noisy kids in the back seat, when they're drinking a venti steamer from Starbucks, when they're wearing Crocs -- all of it legal and all of it impairing your ability to drive. We even allow people to drive while talking on a hands-free cell phone, which, as I've pointed out before, is just as dangerous as criminal drinking and driving (0.08+) according to countless studies (and the Myth Busters).

On occasion, we even encourage people to drive with serious impairments. Who hasn't seen a story on TV about some poor sap who lost both his arms and the left half of his brain in a tragic cooking accident, but can still lead a "normal" life by driving around in a specially modified van. We're supposed to feel good about this. I don't know about you, but I would rather share the road with an able-bodied person who has a b.a.c. of 0.06, than a mentally handicapped person driving a van with his mouth.

I started writing this almost three weeks ago and filed it away for a while, but finally decided to finish it off even though it will probably mean that I will never get friended by MADD on Facebook. I'm just trying to make the world a better place. Is that so wrong?

Tuesday 14 December 2010

St. Joseph wind farm

In case you weren't aware, a new wind farm is springing out of the frozen tundra south of Winnipeg. It is just west of Hwy 75 near the town of St. Joseph, and it is about 35% larger than the St. Leon wind farm and will be the largest wind farm built in Canada this year, according to Manitoba Hydro.

They are going hard, working on that thing. I counted at least five cranes raising 5 different turbines, a few dozen already built and many more in various stages of completion. They really are quite a marvelous thing up close. The blades are over 50 yards from tip to hub, gracefully curving and reshaping the entire length. The total span of the blades would be about the same as a football field. It's hard to imagine these monsters being turned by nothing more than air.

Some pics:

I see they chose the Siemens X5600 flux capacitor. Good choice...

Ow ow ow my head is stuck. O0oo nice bearings!

This whole wind farm almost didn't happen. The original partners, Babcock & Brown of Australia, went bankrupt. The liquidated North American assets of B&B ended up in a firm called Pattern Energy, the current partner. This deal with Pattern only happened because Hydro threw them a $260 million line of credit.

It is hard to evaluate this deal because it is not straight forward, and as usual we don't have all of the information. I tried to make sense of it back in March. I am not going to redo all of those calculations, but knowing now that the going rate for hydro exports is somewhere around $0.03 / kwh, the break-even $0.08 / kwh I came up with back then doesn't look so spectacular. I don't doubt that there are errors in my assumptions or calculations as I was likely drunk when I wrote that. If anybody out there has better info please let me know.

There are benefits too: in the jobs created and money spent locally, and in having a more diversified energy grid.

Sunday 12 December 2010

Five Star Regulation

This blog's hit count has been creeping up over the past couple of months. I have been informed by the Provincial Web Log Regulatory Agency that I have exceeded the number of hits that I am allowed, given current internet traffic demand conditions in Manitoba. Therefore, I am required to drive away readers by writing an excruciatingly boring post about something buried deep in the business section of the Winnipeg Free Press.

I chose City bus charter's plan to expand hits red light as my victim. On page B6
of the Saturday Free Press, we read about how our benevolent civil service is protecting us from competition and economic growth:
A little-known provincial regulator is putting the brakes on Winston Gordon's efforts to grow his bus charter business. Gordon's 10-year-old Winnipeg business, Five Star Bus Lines, operates five charter buses and has applied for seven more licences. ... "I know there is demand," Gordon said. "People are calling me all the time and they say they can't find any buses."
That's what he thinks. The provincial regulator knows better:
Iris Murrell, secretary of the Motor Transport Board, said the board has not issued any new licences or alterations of licences for at least a year. That's because it's the Motor Transport Board's understanding that, in fact, the marketplace has not grown and the larger industry dynamics probably back that up.
Despite the fact some may believe there is more business out there, the MTB's intelligence is to the contrary, she said.
No indication is given of who supplies their "intelligence", but we do get an indication of the level of their intelligence:
"We are here to maintain service to the general public," Murrell said. "If something is being proposed that will have a detrimental effect on that, it will not likely get a favourable consideration from the board. In the past year or so, a few existing carriers have applied to this board to add existing vehicles or expand their restricted boundaries and they have all been refused."
They are maintaining service to the public by preventing any improvement in service to the public. That sort of logic can only be fully understood by driving a railroad spike through your brain. It seems the mandate of this office is not to ensure that a minimum level of service is maintained, but to ensure that a maximum level is maintained by preventing any sort of investment that might possibly give consumers a higher quality product.

Government bureaucrats artificially capping supply not only results in poor service, but also in high prices. This is literally first year economics:
It's not just buses. The same can be said for the Taxicab Board, who's actions have not only resulted in poor service from a restricted supply of cabs supplied by an industry duopoly, but in a ridiculous market for licenses that can cost drivers upwards of $400,000 for something that ought to cost no more than a couple of hundred bucks in admin fees.

Allowing businesses to invest and expand and compete is what drives our economy. Governments should try to facilitate that, not prevent it. Many of these of regulatory boards in Manitoba far exceed their useful purpose, and should either be cut back, amalgamated, or eliminated entirely. The only reason for regulating an industry like bus charters or taxicabs is to ensure that minimum safety standards are met (though in the case of the Taxicab Board they can't even do that properly.) Somebody with some brains on Broadway should fire Murrell, gut the MTB and the Taxicab Board, and combine them into a single Transportation Safety Board with a limited and specific mandate that does not prevent entrepreneurs from investing in capital, hiring workers, and providing a better service to the public.

I told you it was a boring post. No pictures even. (Oh, I guess I do have a graph. I hope the PWLRA doesn't make me take it down!)

Thursday 9 December 2010

New Hugh McFadyen ads

A super quick post (because I have spent far too much time on the computer already today) about Hugh McFadyen's new ads:

I am sure several people were wondering about how Hugh would combat the negative campaign of the NDP. As an opposition party it might be a little bit harder to steer away from negative campainging because you don't have a record of your own to run on, so you have to combat the other guy's record. Still, I think these first two ads are pretty good in that regard:

I like the line in the first one: "what do you know about Hugh McFadyen? I'll put a stop to wasteful spending..." borrowing the line from the NDP ad.

The second addresses the negative NDP ads head on. This one may backfire on him because of the line "There is nothing to celebrate." I can see the NDP jumping all over that: Hugh doesn't support the Human Rights Museum, Hugh doesn't like Folklorama, Hugh doesn't like it when babies are born, etc ... It's potentially dangerous for the PCs.

Overall, much better than the ads from the last election. No cheesy actors or gimmicks.


Wednesday 8 December 2010

Who killed TGCTS?

I thought it might be Colonel Mustard in the library with the candlestick, or maybe Rosanne Wowchuck driving her car while talking on a cell phone, but I was wrong on both counts. I went to the Save the Marty Fundraiser last night, where Marty Gold laid it all out with a seemingly endless string of emails in a powerpoint presentation.

Marty is a systematic guy. Obviously very passionate about what he does, but also very deliberate and organized. He might make a good Process Architect, if he's looking for a career change. I am not going to go into any detail because my memory isn't that good -- probably as a result of not eating fish as a kid as documented in my last post. If you want more details go to Graham's blog. Here is my point form summary:

  • Free Press reporter Melissa Martin covered a mayoral debate for Mynarski Ward, wherein the eventual winner, Ross Eadie, declared that he was receiving support from the provincial NDP. Melissa neglected to mention this tid bit in her report.
  • Marty Gold took her and the paper to task for not picking up on this statement, which if true would violate our civic election laws.
  • Melissa got very upset by the criticism and complained to Free Press editor Margo Goodhand
  • Margo called new RRC chief Stephanie Forsyth explaining that one of her reporters had been personally attacked and defamed.
  • Stephanie, apparently without doing any research into the validity of these claims, "suggested" to certain execs at RRC that Marty's show be terminated.
  • Marty's show was terminated
You might wonder: did Ross Eadie really say that he was receiving support from the NDP? Well, that's what some people heard, and there are complaints to that effect currently sitting with the city elections official. There were also a couple of witnesses from the New Winnipeg forum, at least one of whom I have met personally so I know they are a real person.

You might also wonder: why would Captain Stephanie so willingly comply with the complaint by the Free Press? The answer to that depends on how well you can read between the lines, how good your imagination is, and/or how tightly your tinfoil hat is screwed on. Potential answers include:
1. Steph is a media whore and did it as a quid pro quo for getting her picture in the paper three times the following week.
2. Steph is lazy and decided that cancelling the show at the threat of a lawsuit was easier than investigating if there was any merit to the complaint.
3. Given that Freep co-owner Bob Silver is closely tied to the governing NDP party, whom Marty has beat up on his show, and that RRC is partly funded by the gov't, there may have been veiled threats made about reductions to funding for RRC if they did not comply.
4. Stephanie and Margo are secret lesbian lovers, and are planning to adopt orphans from Botswana, leave their current partners, and start a new family on Cape Breton Island after Margo arranges a departure from the Freep with a generous severance package, which would be put at jeopardy if she could not contain the damage to the paper's reputation that was being done by Marty Gold.

Of those, I think the last one is obviously the most plausible, but to shield myself from lawsuits I want to make it clear that I have no evidence about any of those.

Coucillor Harvey Smith (a.k.a Father Time) was there, and promised to look into the Ross Eadie issue by following up with the elections dude, although if he remembers to put on his pants every day I think that's all we can reasonably expect at this point.

As an aside, those of us who attended got free copies of Retropeg, a coffee table book with old B&W photos of Winnipeg. Harvey, who was sitting directly behind me, made a comment as we were leaving about how nice the book was, and I came this close to asking him if there were any pictures of him in there. Although I later realized that the pictures were all from the 70s when Harvey was already getting up there in years, so perhaps it wouldn't have been as funny as I imagined it would be.

I guess if there is one message that I would like to pass along to the Free Press, it is this: it is not too late to cover the Ross Eadie thing, even if it turns out to be a non-thing. The original article that covered that debate was very brief and touched on a lot of things so perhaps you can be excused for not getting into the details. However, a sitting councillor being investigated for potential election finance violations, or the failure of the elections official to conduct the investigation, is a fairly significant story. Especially if it implicates the provincial governing party. Better to get on top of it now, even if it turns out to be that he simply mispoke and everything is cool, because if it eventually does come out that he was breaking the rules then it could be embarassing for the Free Press that they knew about it all along and failed to report on it.

Sunday 5 December 2010

I can't find my crocodile!

There is this new thing on Facebook where you are supposed to replace your profile picture, which might look like this:

with a picture of your favorite cartoon character from when you were a kid, which might look something like this:

The point is to show support for violence against children. Or to not show support for violence against children. Or something having to do with beating up kids. I don't know ... I'm sure it's a good cause.

As I was looking for a picture of my favorite character, I was beginning to think that he never existed. That I may in fact be a wee bit senile. It's my fault for not eating fish when I was a kid ... I know that now. I didn't realize that Omega 3 fatty acids were so important that I wouldn't be able to remember cartoon characters properly when I was older if I failed to eat my fish sticks. Now I have to come to terms with the devastating consequences of my mal-nutrition.

Here's how I remembered him: He was an alligator or a crocodile that had a strong resemblance to Alfred Hitchcock. His chest was sort of puffed out, and he took a deep breath before he began speaking. I believe he wore a tie. He was not the main character in the cartoon, but more like a recurring guest star.

Does that sound familiar? No? Ya, I thought not. I did Google image searches on "Alligator Cartoon", "Loony Tunes Crocodile", "Crocodile Alfred Hitchcock", etc .. and I had no luck whatsoever. I found Wally Gator, but that's not the guy.

On my Google Image journey I found endless amounts of other stuff, like this:
and this:

and this:

and even this:

But no Alfred Hitchcock Crocodile. I almost gave up when I realized that I had not done a search on "Alfred Hitchcock alligator". HA! There he is! Alfy Gator! I'm not insane!

He couldn't have been too popular. Even a Google image search of "Alfy Gator" only turns up about a dozen images of him, along with hundreds of unrelated pictures including (unsurprisingly) cheerleaders. He does not even have a Wikipedia page. The Yakky Doodle Wiki page refers to him as a "secondary villain". A YouTube search turns up nothing.

I am sure I could look up Hanna Barbera cartoons on YouTube and find videos with Alfy in them, but I'm not sure I want to. I remember seeing part of The Dark Crystal again as an adult and thinking This is crap! Why on Earth was I so infactuated with this movie as a kid? I would hate to have the same experience with Alfy. I think instead I may just leave my fond but fractured memories alone. Although I can't remember the names of the people that I had dinner with last night at the Christmas party, at least I know that I'm not making up memories of cartoon characters in my brain.

Thursday 2 December 2010

Economics: it's all about optics -- 2 part special !

part 1
Well this is just shocking: Survey suggests Economic Action Plan didn't create many jobs

The Conservatives have long boasted that the Economic Action Plan helped save hundreds of thousands of jobs during the recession. But the parliamentary budget officer has found that the recipients of the money don't see it that way.
See, the Conservatives big problem here was pretending that the Action Plan was actually going to work. If they were smart, they would have instead said "look, we don't want to do this because everyone knows that Keyensian economics is a steaming pile of crap, but the Liberals, NDP and Bloc forced us to."

In case you don't remember, their economic update almost exactly two years ago contained no fiscal stimulus. They were going to let monetary policy do it's thing, and try to limit budget deficits. But, the opposition parties had a conniption and banded together threatening to bring down the house and form government. So here we are, billions more in debt with apparently few jobs to show for it.

So like I said, the Conservatives might have been better off implementing it in a more begrudging way. However, that would have been bad for us because, as the AWAP Economic Policy Division theorized last year, if -- if -- stimulus works at all, it works by creating more optimism: people see money being spent and they get encouraged that the economy is being kick-started and they spend their own money. That would all be undermined if the government admitted that it's policy was going to fail.

Bottom line: This stimulus package was never implemented to create jobs. It was implemented so that people could see the government implementing something.

Manitoba scrapped it's small business tax today. Back when they put this in the budget I questioned the benefit of doing it. I mean .. 1% .. is that really too onerous?

The old argument goes that we should help small business because they employ the most workers (besides the government, I guess), but could that be because we punish larger businesses for hiring workers with our regressive payroll tax? I encourage you to read Brian Gilchrist's new blog post that demonstrates this (and points out a blatant error with the CTV story). Small business may be the engine of our economy in Manitoba, but if I were a province I would rather be crusing around in a V12 Jaguar than putting around in a 2CV.

Besides, just how much does this really help a small business? How many jobs are going to be created by saving a business somewhere up to $4,000? I suppose if a small company was hemming and hawing over whether to hire another part time employee, this may tip them over the edge, but not all small businesses are cupcake bakeries. Many are individual consultants, accountants, etc. that set up as corporations for tax and liability purposes. They are unlikey to hire any new employees.

Also consider that all small business owners need to get paid themselves, and when they do get paid they get heavily taxed.

click to enlarge:

The government can pretend that they are friendly to small business owners, but that's really a bit of a myth.

The government can also pretend that they're interested in job growth, but that's also a myth. Our provincial neighbours have small business tax rates in the 2.5-2.4% range. Small businesses are not going to go flocking to other provinces if we tax them at 1 or 2%. If the government were concerned about jobs and economic growth they would instead focus on chipping away at the payroll tax. But reducing a payroll tax for big companies that earn more that $1.5m in income does not have the same panache as eliminating the small business tax for a bakery that makes soft moist oh-so-tasty cupcakes with colourful icing, and those little spinkly things on top. Mmmmmm.

How can anybody possibly disagree with reducing taxes on a cupcake bakery? It's impossible! ....Unless you're a twisted cupcake bakery hater.

Like I said, it's all about optics.

related: Dobbin

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