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

Monday, 29 November 2010

Wikileak: we're all going to die!

I question the public good that comes from revealing that a U.S. diplomat referred to Kim Jong-Il as a "flabby old chap". It could have been worse, mind you. Like maybe "crazy near-sighted dwarf" or something like that. I'm sure all diplomats do it, but mostly only the American ones (oh those rude Americans) are being exposed by Wikileaks , which is problematic for the U.S.

Nevertheless, there is some interesting stuff in there, like the fact that Israel is going to declare war against Iran in the next month. It's true! See:
Ehud Barak, Israel's defence minister, told American congressmen in June 2009 there was a window of "between six and 18 months from now in which stopping Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons might still be viable".
Let's see ... June 2009 plus 18 months is ... December 2010! Fasten your seat belts boys and girls, there's gonna be a big ol' dust-up in the middle east! Well, another big ol' dust-up.

Other cables indicated that Iran was getting missile parts from North Korea via China. Both former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and current SoS Hillary Clinton have repeatedly urged China to stop the shipments, and have done so with complete futility. This just impresses on the reader how powerless the U.S. has become in the world in some respects. The U.S. has absolutely no leverage with China.

When you put these and other cables together a picture develops of a complicated situation where China is helping to arm Iran, and the U.S. is helping to arm Israel, and the two are on a deadly collision course. And that's just the start of it. Dozens of other countries are involved in one way or another.

Maybe there is a noble purpose in releasing all of these documents, but I think most people would probably be better off living in blissful ignorance. From now on it's nothing but reality TV and YouTube for me. What channel is Jersey Shore on?

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Jon's great adventure

Jon Montgomery, Manitoba's own beer swilling Olympic gold medalist, had a good summer. He was flown all over the world by companies that wanted him to give a motivational talk to their employees, or cut a ribbon, or pose for a picture; and in the process he swam with great white sharks, golfed with Retief Goosen, travelled to Africa with Right To Play, and got engaged to his girlfriend Darla while vacationing on a tropical island.

He did more in one summer than I have in all of my summers combined. Somewhere in that whirlwind "off" season he cobbled together six days to film a television pilot for the Discovery Channel: Best. Trip. Ever. Here's a preview:

Go to the website to view bonus video and other features, but more importantly set your PVR to the Discovery Channel, Saturday at 6:00 pm ... because I know the kind of people who read this blog have way too much going on Saturday nights to watch TV.

(also on at 10:00 PM, according to the Discovery schedule.)

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Hugh McFadyen should sue Greg Selinger

Why not? I probably would if I were him.

I'm refering to the negative campaign ads that the NDP is airing on TV, and now appearing in your mailbox as well. Pretty soon there will be billboards too:

Negative ad campaigns are standard operating procedure in politics now, and to some degree people expect a level of exaggeration or half truths. That doesn't make it right, but that's the way it goes. That said, you have to draw a line somewhere unless you want to end up with swift-boat style ads dominating political campaigns.

The TV ads say "We know McFadyen would overturn water protection laws and allow e-coli and urine to pollute our rivers and lakes." Bruce Owen has already wrote about this in the Free Press:

For the record, all he’s said is that the province could save $350 million by backing off its plan to require the City of Winnipeg to remove nitrogen from its wastewater. Phosphorus should be removed, but removing nitrogen too would have a negligible effect, he says. A bunch of scientists say the same thing.
Not to mention that there is already e-coli and urine polluting our rivers and lakes.

To what degree can you bend the truth in a political ad? Does there have to be at least a half truth? A shred of truth? A nugget? A photon? In civil law, the standard would certainly be set above "photon".

The Criminal Code says that defamatory libel "is matter published, without lawful justification or excuse, that is likely to injure the reputation of any person by exposing him to hatred, contempt or ridicule, or that is designed to insult the person or concerning whom it is published." I would say that the NDP ad fits that description quite well.

A valid defense against a charge of defamatory libel is truth. If what you're saying is true then you're off the hook. What the NDP ads say certainly is not. Not by any standard that would be recognized by the courts. I just don't see how McFadyen would lose if he chose to sue Selinger and the NDP for libel. That is, unless he had the misfortune of running into an NDP-friendly judge. Then it could back-fire on him in a big way.

That's risk no. 1. Risk no. 2 is that the public will view him as a pansy-ass whiner who can't take the heat of politics. Thus if he were to sue the NDP, he should do it on the down-low. Don't say anything about it publicly. Somebody will notice (probably a blogger with too much time on their hands) and it will come out with a splash. When asked about it, Hugh can play it cool and simply comment that there was no truth to the "fact" portrayed in the ads. That way he gets to confront the ads in a manner that is not forced or desperate.

The upside is huge. (Or "Hughe" in this case. Ha! See what I did there? With the "h"? You know, cause McFadyen's name is "Hugh, and um ... ya anyhow ...) Right, upside no. 1: the big kerfuffle about the untruthiness of the NDP ad will put a spotlight on the integrity of the NDP and call into question the factualness of everything else they have said.

Upside no. 2: it will bring the issue of the Water Protection Act into the front pages. The newspapers will be forced to explain what exactly Hugh called for in his press release, which will provide another opportunity to expose the collosal waste of money of removing nitrogen from the water.

Upside no. 3: should Hugh win, it could be for a substantial amount of money which could really hurt the bank balance of the NDP. The NDP could even be bankrupted if the stars aligned properly for the PCs. More than likely it would be settled out of court for some mutually agreed sum, but whatever that sum it still amounts to the NDP fundraising for the PC party.

Upside no. 4: ads are bound to be more truthful in the future.

techincal note: I don't know if a defamatory TV ad would consitute libel or slander. Libel is written, slander is spoken. TV ads are spoken, but they are read off a script, thus I am assuming libel would be the charge.

Monday, 22 November 2010

For sale: svchost.exe virus. Excellent condition!

Blogging is a little bit like working out. It's hard to get to the gym, but after a couple of workouts you can feel it in your muscles and it makes you want to go back and work out some more. With blogging, you get the feedback from the hits and the comments and so on, and it makes you want to post more. But when you fall out of it, you kinda lose that motivation a little bit. Or at least I do. Maybe it's a post-civic election slump. Post electoral depression. It's been a week since I've posted .. which isn't much .. but I've already lost that blogging mojo.

Work got in the way last week, as well as viruses. Computer viruses. Nasty ones. Ones that my virus program can't clean and that keep coming back like that damned cat.

They're sneaky little devils. They take on the same names as legitimate windows executables: svchost.exe, shell.exe, dwm.exe, etc.. except they locate themselves in the application data of your windows profile, and other places they're not supposed to be. You can delete them, but then seconds later they're back. My Trend Micro would usually block them, but that meant a warning box was popping up literally every 3 or 4 seconds saying that something was blocked, and then another window would pop up saying svchost.exe failed to initialize.

That's annoying.

I would run my virus scan, and it did catch and quarantine a few of them, but not all. And it can't clean the quarantined files either. I tired manually deleting the bad files from safe mode, but that works for all of 18 nanoseconds. I tried running Spybot Serach & Destroy, but it mostly finds bad cookies and that sort of thing. It might have helped a little. Then I ran the CCleaner registry cleaner in the hope of cleaning whatever registry entries were causing these stupid little things to keep coming back. Then I tried Combofix. Then I tried running Trend Micro from safe mode.

Then I rebooted and I still had the Goddamned viruses.

Then I turned to the internet. Not very helpful. A bunch of sites try to get you to buy their phony product with phony reviews ("I downloaded it and now everything is perfect!") when the program you're downloading is probably loaded with more viruses than a refugee ship from Burma. There are also some sites that tell you to clean them manually by deleting autorun.ini and other files from your System32 directory, and then going into Regedit and deleting a bunch of lines in there.

Uhm. No. You first.

I finally got rid of them (I think ... mostly ...) using an internet scanner from Trend Micro called Housecall. Seemed to work well. Which makes me wonder why the Trend Micro program on my computer that I pay for can't do the same thing.

So that was my weekend. Thanks for humouring me, as I attempt to get back into the blogging groove by sharing my problems with the world.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Free: F35 stealth fighters

alternate title: Foreign Policy: It's not really his thing

I had a "holy shit" moment reading The Economist on-line today during my coffee break. The story was one that initially appeared to be a good news story about Israel re-freezing development in the West Bank.
“I think it is promising,” Mr Obama told reporters aboard Air Force One. “I commend Prime Minister Netanyahu for taking, I think, a very constructive step. It’s not easy for him to do, but I think it’s a signal that he is serious.”
This is indeed very promising ... and surprising coming from Netanyahu. I wonder what motivated him to do this? Maybe he was visited by a ghost in his dreams that showed him the toll that unending conflict with the Palestinians would have on the Israeli people. Or maybe it was something else:
Under this new deal, Israel will agree to a 90-day re-freeze in return for a generous package of military and diplomatic goodies from America. These include an additional 20 F-35 stealth fighters, worth $3 billion, to be added at America's expense to the original 20 ordered by Israel.
(emphasis added by me, to indicate when the "holy shit" moment occurred.)

And here in Canada we have to pay for our F35s. With money. Hey ... if we build a settlement on Hans Island, do you suppose ....

3 billion dollars of jet fighters to freeze development for 90 days -- less than three months. Jet fighters.

The Economist says that it would be hard for Netanyahu "to backslide now that the president had publicly announced the accord." Uh. I guess not. Why would he want to? He's getting a fleet of brand new stealth fighters and a bunch of other stuff for free, and all he has to do is give the construction workers an extra long Hanukkah break. It's not the President's influence that is responsible for the freeze, but the billions of dollars in bribes.

American diplomats say "they hope that by then the two parties will have agreed on the borders of the future Palestinian state, so that further argument over the settlements will be unnecessary." I think Obama and his advisors have gone mad. The likelihood of that magically happening over the next three months after decades of failed attempts, is about the same as the chances of Hugo Chavez privatizing Venezuela postal delivery.

Obama, by gambling billions of dollars on this unlikely scenario (in spite of the massive fiscal deficit he faces at home) appears extremely desperate to live up to the quasi-success that some of his predecessors had in middle-east peace broking. If not that, then the desperation comes from trying to earn ex post facto the Nobel Peace Prize that he was awarded last year ... and he's trying to do it by giving away jet fighters.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Alternative Media: sign in the little box

The alternative media is under attack. First Marginalized Action Dinosaur was threatened with a lawsuit and shut down by his ISP, then Waverley West and Beyond abruptly vanished after writing about apparent conflicts of interest, and finally the irreverent Marty Gold and his Great Canadian Talk Show were kneecapped by CreComm Radio Inc. Who got to you CreComm? WHO GOT TO YOU???

But Anybody Want A Peanut? will not be intimidated. We will not back down, damn the consequences. We will continue to expose the injustice and corruption in the world; and explore the issues that the MSM will not. Issues like: why are the signature strips on credit cards so small?

I mean, seriously. I get this new credit card in the mail the other day, and the first thing you're supposed to do is sign it, but all they give you is this tiny little box that's less than half an inch tall.

Who has a signature like that? I certainly don't. I'm not going to show you my signature, but it's about the same size and shape as this:
which does not fit well in the box:

In order to get it to fit, I have to carefully micro-size it so much that doesn't even look like my signature anymore. To make matters worse, the hard little strip almost repels the ink from my ball-point pen so all I end up with is a tiny thin faded little scribble that doesn't resemble at all the bold and assertive scribble that is my real signature. And that's on day 1. By day 300 I have already had to re-sign my credit card so many times that all you can see is a smeared multi-colour strip of abstract line art.

I can't be the only one. I know that Michelle Wie's autograph is similar in shape to mine, but what about back in the days when people used to write their entire names in their signatures. They must have had a hard time dealing with these shallow boxes too. But where can I find some old signatures ... Hmmm... How about the Declaration of Independence? What if the Founding Fathers had credit cards?

Well, for starters, John Hancock's signature was almost 5 inches long, so even if the entire back of the card was a signature strip he would have been screwed. But let's suppose he shrank it down to 50% it's original size ...

Still doesn't fit. Ben Franklin's signature didn't fit either. Evidently there was no time in history when people had signatures that fit on the signature strip of a credit card. So why so small? Who is responsible for this?

You would think something that affects so many people would get some attention from the media professionals, but I guess they're too busy covering the "stories of the day" like murders and elections. There is obviously some kind of cartel that is controlling the signature strip industry, but who is it, and what is their evil goal?

It is appalling the lack of attention that this travesty has garnered by the so-called journalists in the media. I guess they're too "important" (or too lazy) to get to the bottom of this, so once again it's up to the alternative media to figure it out. If I end up disappearing overnight, you'll know what happened. taking on the issues that the Mainstream Media fears to touch.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Bipole Disorder: The open house

Just a quickie post ... I heard from Adrienne Pan that there were some fireworks at the open house for the contentious Bipole III transmission line, so I sent a correspondent down to have a look. It could be interesting to see a bunch of angry farmers, preferably with pitchforks, confronting Hydro managers.

I was disappointed to find out that everybody was quite civil. There were people who were unhappy, but no pitchforks and no yelling. However there was a sign that it might come down to violence if/when they start to build the thing:

The open house was to discuss the proposed west-side route only, not why it's going down the west side of the province. That didn't stop some people from asking though. Repeatedly. The poor hydro guy ... all he could do was shrug his shoulders and explain "It was a political decision. The east side was not an option."

It is clear that a pile of time, money and effort is being put into this project including 3D modeling of the whole route, fly-over style, using Google Earth Pro. Almost seems a shame to waste all of that effort by changing to the East route, as the PCs are planning to do if they get elected. Almost but not really. It is clear that the Hydro employees are trying to do the best they can with the parameters that they were given. I have no beef with them. Its the man at the top that I have a problem with.

Whelp ... that's about all I have to say 'bout that. Let's turn on the tube and see what Adrienne Pan has to say.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Let's call the whole thing off

This is worrisome:

The cost of building Manitoba Hydro's new transmission line from the north could escalate from an estimated $2.247 billion to almost double that amount, Hydro CEO Bob Brennan said Friday. - fp-
Double? Wow. The stadium cost overruns don't look so bad. How could this happen? Well, according to Brennan, it has nothing to do with the route itself, but solely due to the converters:
But when you get into specialized conversion equipment, that is a limited number of people globally. That one, we just don't have the same sort of confidence in.
So to recap: the cost of the Bipole III line is almost doubling from $2.2 bil to, say $4.3 bil, and the increase is entirely due to the converters, and the converters only made up $1.1 bil of the original estimate. That means that the cost of the converters is almost triple what they estimated. Like, holy smokes dude. That's bad. Hydro is in the electricity business, and the best they can do in pricing out AC/DC converters is plus or minus 200%? Hey, what's that noise? Oh look, it's my bullshit-o-meter:

You know what I think? I don't think it's the converters at all. I think Hydro found out that none of the farmers want to sell their land for a Hydro right of way, and that it's going to cost a hell of a lot more to buy them out than they originally figured. The cost of the route must be going up somehow.

In any event, this raises all kinds of questions. Like: how certain are we about the cost of the new power dams that will be generating the volts that will be traveling through these lines? The estimated cost of the Wuskwatim generating station has gone up to $1.6 billion ... but it's almost completed. The real question marks are about Keeyask and Conawapa -- the dams we'll need if we're going to fulfill our contracts to Wisconsin and Minnesota Power. Estimated cost of Conawapa is $5 bil. Hydro isn't publishing a cost estimate for Keeyask, but figure something around $2.6 bil based on its size relative to the others. Now: factor in the "specialized equipment, limited suppliers, and we don't know what the fuck we're doing" adjustment and it could be anything.

So the real question is: are we going to make any money off all of this? Or are we just exporting electricity for the sake of appearing green? When I did my sanity check a couple months ago, the numbers did not look great, but that was when I thought that bipole was going to cost only $2.2 bil and Wuskwatim only $1.3 bil. Now suddenly we have another $2.5 bil or so of cost to make up for by selling electricity to the U.S. at something like 3 cents per kWh.

Manitoba Hydro is a crown corporation, which means that we all have a stake in it. With all of this uncertainty, Hydro and the MB gov't are ploughing ahead with this development like it's no big deal. Before we sign and seal either of the new export contracts, we need more clarity. A lot more clarity. We could very well end up billions of dollars in the hole as a result of this development, but Brennan has his marching orders from the government and he'll never admit that there's any risk of that happening.

Firing the board of a crown corporation is a bit of an odd election promise, but that might be the best thing McFadyen and the Tories could do. That probably means that Brennan's days are numbered as well. We can only hope.

(I had a little blog posting spasm there ... I appreciate comments C & R, but I had to deleted it.)

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Train videos

Found on YouTube ... If you like trains and old stuff, this is for you: smokeywoodstover posted this old1946 footage of a train ride from Winnipeg to Calgary

If that's a little too old-timey for you, then how about this ... The Crystal Method's Comin' Back, off the Vegas album. Vegas, by the way, is a must-have album, even if this isn't really your type of music.

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Bucket full of something ... and it's not water.

Saturday's Free Press included another one of their impressive multi-page exposés. This one was about the appalling conditions in the Island Lake First Nations communities, centering around a lack of clean water. It contained compelling stories about hardship, and heart-breaking pictures of children living in squalid conditions -- all the sorts of things that the obscure journalism organizations look for when they give out awards. However it also contained a bunch of exaggerations and misleading information.

I wasn't planning on writing about this at all, but by chance I happened to meet up with an acquaintance this weekend who works up at Island Lake. It was this acquaintance who told me that the story was exaggerated. For example, we read about these families who have no choice but to haul water by hand in "a used oil or chemical bucket." Not likely, says my acquaintance. Nobody hauls water by hand, they haul it with their Ford F150s. You don't have to take my friend's word for it though. 40 seconds into the video on the Free Press website two ladies put on a show for the camera by hauling water up the hill with their Chevy Silverado in the background:

I don't want to minimize the importance of clean water, but the continual references to third world refugee camps are unreasonable. They refer to the "dirty lake water" as though it were a muddy slough in the savanna. Remember, this is the same land that is so "pristine" that the government is spending over $1 billion to route Bipole III around it. So pure and untouched is this land that it demands the protection of UNESCO heritage status.* A family in Buduburam Africa would kill for this kind of access to water.

I also don't deny that there are serious health issues at Island Lake and Red Sucker Lake. We have seen the reports of TB and H1N1 outbreaks, and the rampant diabetes. But is this really all just an inevitable result of not having running water? People have lived for centuries without running water, and it wasn't that long ago that it was common to have large families crammed into a small house here in the prairies, but yet somehow the floors got swept and hands got washed.

At one point as the author, Helen Fallding, was interviewing a resident, a very young child showed up drinking a can of Dr. Pepper. Helen, applying no critical thinking whatsoever, paints this and the diabetes that is sure to follow as an inevitable result of not having running water. Now I'm not a botanist, but I am pretty sure that the toddler didn't pick this can of pop off a tree in the back yard. That pop was purchased at a store. The same store that sells bottled water, juice, and any number of other beverages. Red Sucker Lake, Wasagamack, St.Theresa Point and Garden Hill all have Northern Stores. Northern Stores, in case you have never been in one, have a grocery section not unlike a Food Fare. Perhaps not as well stocked in these cases, but you can be damn sure that they sell bottled water. If your toddler is drinking Dr. Pepper, is it because of parental neglect, not necessity.

You can't help but wonder what else is due to neglect. One has to tread carefully when talking about these sorts of things, but it is hard to avoid the subject when you hear the same things from almost everybody who spends time on a northern reserve.

Another picture in the paper showed a guy, Gordie Rae, carrying water up his driveway with a presumably broken late 90s Dodge Stratus parked on one side and a late 90s Dodge Caravan or Plymouth Voyager on the other, the later with a missing wheel. What the hell happened? My car is late 90s and I'm planning on driving it for another 10 years. (It's not a Dodge, mind you).

Yet another picture shows Soloman McPherson dumping sewage in a sprawling garbage pile next to his house, with a circa 2004 Chevy Tracker in the background. Would it be possible, maybe, to use that vehicle to take your garbage to the dump? Garden Hill does have one. They all do. St. Theresa Point not only has a land fill, but a full time garbage truck that services all residences. Third world indeed.

Now suppose somebody doesn't have a vehicle to haul water -- which is unusual according to my friend -- but suppose. What about the neighbours? I attended a United Way event recently where the speaker was a very well spoken lady of aboriginal descent. She talked about how sharing everything you had was part of their culture, and about how it was necessary to survive in the past. Whatever happened to that? "Oh your Dodge broke down? Tough shit buddy." Is that the attitude now? When did selfishness become part of the culture? Perhaps around the same time that the chief and council started making six figure salaries? I don't know if that's the case, or if the author is only implying that it's everyman for himself. I don't know what to believe in this story.

What about the location of the houses? I have always wondered about that. The story points out that "No running water means that homes are built without bathtubs." In other words, homes are being not being built where the water is, but off in the bushes somewhere. Sometimes kilometers away. After the home is built they expect the government to pay tens of thousands of dollars to pipe water through the granite outcroppings and forest to these far flung residences. Who decides where these houses go? My understanding, and correct me if I'm wrong, is that the individuals do not own any land. It is all reserve land, and is controlled by the band council. I'm making an assumption here, but could they perhaps do a better job of planning their community in such a way that access to water would be maximized?

If the names of these reserves sound familiar, it might be because of an event last year during the H1N1 outbreak when the government sent dozens of body bags to the Island Lakes First Nations. The chiefs were outraged. So much so that one of them flew himself and a small entourage down to Winnipeg to express their outrage in front of the TV cameras. (You may also remember would-be mayor Judy Wasylycia-Leis getting on board calling it "the ultimate expression of incompetence.") Of course as it turned out the reserves' own health care workers ordered the body bags, and in fact they were sent fewer than they asked for. Yet the cost of that one trip alone could have bought everybody in the community a clean pail to haul their water in ... assuming it were needed. But these are the kind of grandstanding buffoons that we're dealing with here. Judy was right about incompetence, but she was talking about the wrong people.

So here we are: people surrounded by pristine ... oh sorry: "dirty" for the purposes of article ... freshwater lakes, with grocery stores stocked with various beverages including water, yet nobody can wash their hands or clean their floors, and kids have to drink pop. That's how it is, apparently. Helen and her crew sought out the most appalling houses and woeful people of the 10 thousand or so that live in the four communities, exaggerated their hardships, and portrayed this as the victimization of a hard working people by a negligent government. I have no doubt that they will win awards for outstanding journalism for this masterpiece, but perhaps the Giller Prize would be more appropriate.

*These communities are not actually in the proposed UNESCO zone. They are to the north-east of it.

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