Friday, January 27, 2012

Arguing Against Lunacy Part II

My last blog post generated a fair amount of discussion--which is good.  It is good to explore alternate energy sources.  One day oil could run out or become too expensive and we will want an alternative.  As one friend suggested, only 100 years ago electricity wasn't a "right" it was a luxury.

Part of the discussion in the last post centered on a question of how I can claim to be anti-government involvement and yet not decry the tax breaks that oil companies are getting. Now, I have no knowledge of what "tax breaks" we're talking about...but, I'm not an expert. Maybe they are getting tax breaks...or maybe it's just a public perception because oil companies make billions of dollars and buy politicians...I don't know. All I know is that gas at the pump is taxed to the nth degree. I also know that when one province raises royalty rates, oil companies move provinces taking the high paying jobs with them.

Maybe there are "tax breaks" but I don't think that our government is throwing money at oil companies like some countries are doing for solar and wind. And, for that I am grateful and I don't apologize. Why? I read this article in the Toronto Sun yesterday. If there was any hope of alternative energy taking hold, I believed it was going to be found in Germany. Germany pledged to get rid of nuclear. They were investing billions in solar and wind and one article claimed that Germany was the hope of green energy. In fact, I remember hearing how our decision to not follow suit was going to leave us in the Dark Ages while the rest of the world moved to a new, improved economy.  

And yet, they're running away from solar and wind. Why? At this time solar and wind are too unreliable. It's one thing for a company to receive a break in taxes when we know the result is increased investment, increased employment, increased economic development, increased prosperity. It's quite another to spend  billions on unproven technologies that apparently have none of the aforementioned benefits. But, maybe that's the idea--spend all our money going green so that we have no money and are forced to live off the land...that would be green.

One day the Henry Ford of solar will emerge, on that day the public will flock to the newer and better technology. Or, perhaps as my one friend believes, the lights will go out in our generation and we should just get used to living without electricity. But, the government should NOT be throwing our hard-earned money at pie in the sky schemes that yield no benefit.

Oh, and if the Toronto Sun is too partisan here's some other articles speaking about the situation in Germany:

Reuters via Vancouver Sun

This post is now up for discussion.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Arguing Against Lunacy: A Rebuttal of a "Rebuttal"

Perhaps the fact that an anonymous blogger mentioned me in his blogpost today makes me famous, I don't know. But, what I do know is that the logical gymnastics required to follow his argument require that you be able to bend over backwards and....well, you get the point.

If you aren't following me on Twitter, you may have missed the "discussion" so let me fill you in on the highlights. I stumbled on a discussion about the merits of going green. One fellow Twitterer was being taken to task for his observation that in some cases it is not logistically possible to be as green as one would like. I made the observation that industries will become green when it becomes economically viable to do so.

I believe this. For example, the tarsands were not developed for decades because it cost more money to take the oil out of the sand that what you could sell it for. Currently, there is no viable cheap alternative to oil for many uses--plastic being the one I brought up in the discussion. Even in electric cars, there is a lot of, even the "green" cars are not really "green."

But, what the anonymous blogger came back to later is that electric cars should get billions of dollars in government handouts to make up for the trillions of dollars of handouts that the oil industry has received. When pressed on this point, the argument was that we built roads for gas-powered cars and that has given cars an unfair competitive advantage. Hold on I said, will not electric cars be using these same roads? Ah, yes, but how many recharging stations have you seen, was the rebuttal?

Okay, governments now own gas stations, I ask? At this point I'm left with, if you can't see how the government has given trillions of dollars to the oil industry, then I can't help you. What I translate that as is, "how dare you question me...I don't know what I'm talking about so I'll throw in an ad hominem attack to my straw man argument and call it a day. Thank you very much."

So, what of the trillions of dollars in hand-outs? I suspect "hand-out" is being translated as "tax break" or "reduced royalty" but since I've never received an answer I can't tell. Assuming, we're talking about reduced rates of taxation, can we please differentiate between tax breaks that oil companies may have received vs handouts that this particular blogger was advocating for because they are NOT the same thing.

A tax break is given to many industries in recognition of A) the money that they spend (in this case) on research (determining that there is oil) B) money they spend in building the infrastructure required to extract the oil--refineries, pipelines, drills etc. C) the number of jobs they are going to create and D) the fact that the government doesn't care where the revenue comes from as long as they get it, so they just tax the consumer directly. And, the income the government receives via taxes on gasoline is HUGE. It makes sense for them to give a tax break early on so they can tax the heck out of not just the gas but the income of every worker working in the oil industry. And they don't work for peanuts. So, that's a LOT of tax revenue. This is highly different than a handout whereby the government would take taxes from me and give it to some company in hopes that they'll use it wisely. That's not even revenue neutral. A hand-out is revenue negative.

I think most folks can understand the difference. I was dumbfounded that this particular blogger couldn't tell the maybe it's more complex than I'm making it out to be...I don't think so, but hey, maybe.

So, to be clear, I am not anti-green. I am anti government involvement in industry. I think we already have too much meddling. I am absolutely against the government spending trillions on electric cars. When electric cars become affordable, consumers will buy them. I'll buy one.

We have laws against pollution, corruption etc. We can debate where those standards need to be, but currently they are where--I would argue--most people believe they should be. So, it is up to the government to enforce the already existing laws and make new ones where needed. It is not up to the government to decide which industries are going to succeed or fail. Governments generally suck at business.

As an aside, in 2008 I bought a new car. I looked at hybrids.  The sticker price was out of my price range and the savings that I would receive on gas would not offset the higher price with the amount of driving I do. In fact, except for professional drivers, most drivers don't realize a cost benefit from pure gas vs hybrid vehicles. One day that will change. And, on that day, the number of battery re-charging stations will outnumber gas stations. Why? Because businesses have a vested interest in ensuring that when you buy a vehicle it is as easy to maintain that vehicle as possible.

Oh, if there have been trillions of dollars of government handouts to the oil industry, I'd welcome that information...and, if you're counting highways, hold your breath on that one...because well, maybe that's another blogpost.

This post is now up for discussion.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Saskatoon Soccer Sensational Story

-40 weather didn't stop 15 of FC Alliance's finest from coming out to do battle with perennial challengers Galacticos.  Galacticos were sporting their yellow home jersey's rather than their preferred black this night.  The jersey advantage played huge dividends for FC Alliance early on.

With Brkic, on loan from Saskatoon Celtic in the lineup for the first time, the team was upbeat coming off the heels of a victory against top-ranked Fleisch Wolfe.  Not even the news that Ostapovitch would have to miss another game could dull the spirits as Fuller donned the keeper jersey.

The first half, like the entire game, was an evenly-matched battle of two similarly skilled teams.  FC Alliance opened the scoring early on with a nice bit of passing between strikers Woods and Wellman with Wellman kicking a precision shot past their keeper. 1-0 in favour of the good guys.

Towards the end of the 1st half, FC Alliance on another rush down the side, Wellman again with the ball placed a beautiful cross into the box to Mensch who demonstrated that not only are his hands valuable when he plays net, but he's got a golden head (albeit berift of hair) as he headed it passed the outstretched hands of the keeper for his 1st goal of the season and a 2-0 lead for FC Alliance heading into the break.

The 2nd half opened with a tactical change for Galacticos who pushed an extra player forward.  The change reaped immediate dividends for them as they drove down the side, passed into the middle and the open player made an easy shot into a mostly open net as Fuller had no chance.

Galacticos then proceeded to score two more unanswered goals from broken plays.  One an own goal and another, after a spectacular save by Fuller, the desperation clearance went directly to an Alliance player who shall not be named; unfortunately the ball got away from his otherwise sure feet and a Galacticos player was there, on top of the 18 yard box, and Fuller, with no time to reposition after his Spidey-like saves, had no chance to stop the drive.

3-2 Final Score.

Summary: it was an evenly played match throughout.  FC Alliance will have to find ways to continue to create chances throughout the game.  Eliminate a couple of mistakes and the score is entirely different. Kudos must go to Galacticos defense (traditionally their strong suit) for stifling the play of Woods, Harris, Wellman, Dumont and Gaddess.

Fuller is quickly becoming a fan-favourite in net and at the after-match pint session it was agreed that MoM (Man of Match) award goes to the keeper.

The best "what if moment" was Snowsell--with the ball hearing and seeing Schroeder making a run up the middle--passing the ball directly to feet and Schroeder almost being able to finish.  Old guy to Old guy D to D...what a glorious almost...

There had been discussion about the timing of FC Alliance's next game.  NOTE next game is THURSDAY, January 26 at 10:15PM. We then play again on Sunday and the following Wednesday...

Good game lads.  See you next Thursday!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

If Provoked We Will Strike

It's probably not a good idea for me to log into Twitter prior to having had my daily fix cup of coffee. One of the first items I saw this morning (pre-coffee) was the news that the NHLPA quashed the realignment proposal that was recently agreed on by the league. Getting all the owners together to agree on re-alignment was, in itself, no small feat. So, to hear that the union is against the move is surprising to say the least...well, maybe it isn't.

What was the rationale to the union kaiboshing the agreement? They thought it might be bad for the players. How might it be bad? Well, the NHL hadn't proved that the playoff format might not be better travel-wise.  Huh?

Apparently the union thinks that the owners did this without any thought to the players well-being. Yup, no owner in the league really wants to win the Stanley Cup. In fact, every owner is just waiting for a chance to stick it to the players...good thing they have the NHLPA looking out for them.

You know, there was a time when the above statement might have rung true. Ballard didn't care about the Leafs, Wirtz Sr. was a cheapskate. Sabres owners were notoriously cheap. Pocklington sold Gretzky. But, I challenge anyone to honestly state that that is the case now. With the salary cap, all the owners know they have a realistic chance of winning the Cup. So, why would they knowingly realign in a manner that would negatively impact their teams chances of competing?

One thing is certain: by keeping the existing status quo there are five teams that will be hugely impacted by extensive travel: Winnipeg, Washington, Tampa Bay, Florida and Carolina.

I don't buy the argument that the NHLPA is looking out for the millionaires well-being.

I have a T-shirt that I got from my shop-steward mother-in-law as a birthday gift one year. It has a picture of a coiled cobra with the words, "If Provoked We Will Strike" and then the union letters...this is an emblem used by any number of unions. They give them out to their memberships to remind their people that they have power.

This is all about power. It has nothing to do with common sense. It has nothing to do with protecting player rights. It has everything to do with power. Unions don't give something up unless they get something. Even if that something (realignment) is good for their membership. The union knows there is a bargaining chip. So, they're holding out for more.

Realignment will happen. But, the union will look to get a couple more golden eggs out first. Cobra vs. Goose. Cobra wins. However, if Goose dies, we all lose.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

2012 Introspective Retrospective

I'm not a music guru like some. I can't name you the title, artist, year or studio. But certain music just moves me. My musical tastes have changed over the years. I don't listen to music on the radio too much anymore, but there are times that music "gets" me. 

Tonight was one of those nights. It started with my daughter dancing, but somehow U2 made it onto my wife's iPod and "It's a Beautiful Day" was playing.

Within seconds, I'm tearing up. It reminds me of simpler times. But it reminds me that TODAY is a beautiful day. I have two beautiful children. I have a beautiful wife (inside and out). I think somehow this song connects with  me on a spiritual level too. In spite of all I have done in my life, my God loves me. He deals with me in grace...but, "With or Without You" is now playing and I am again transported back in time...

...what music inhabits that place for you?