Friday, June 20, 2008

Yo Quiero 50 Cent!

79 Cent? Hilarious. The other demands are kind of weird, but whatever. Apparently 50 Cent is going to take legal action; apparently he feels they make him seem like he's begging for money.

Fast Food Chain Issues 50 Cent A Charity Challenge

June 19th, 2008

Fast food chain Taco Bell has issued 50 Cent with a challenge, offering to donate $10,000 to the charity of the rapper’s choice if he changes his name for one day.

As part of the deal, 50 has to stop past the Taco Bell of his choosing and rap his order at the drive-thru window, however, he must use his newly adopted name, 79 Cent, 89 Cent or 99 Cent.

The chain has also said they will feed all of the guests in that particular restaurant for free, as well as making the donation.

A letter to the rapper from Taco Bell President and CEO Greg Creed, which was obtained by OK! magazine, says, “We know that you adopted the name 50 Cent years ago as a metaphor for change. We at Taco Bell are also huge advocates for change… We encourage you to ‘Think Outside the Bun’ and hope you accept our offer.”

At the time of writing, 50 Cent hadn’t responded to the offer.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Don't Tax Me, Bro!

I support a carbon tax in theory. I know, I have railed against taxes of all kinds in the past, but the fundamental idea of using taxing powers to change habits is something I support - best way to change people's behaviour. No one does something "because its the right thing to do."

I think putting a cost on pollution or even just carbon is not a bad thing in and of itself, just like charging people $5.00 per emergency visit isn't bad either. It will start to change how people use finite resources, in this case carbon-based fuels.


I do not support the Liberal Party's carbox tax measures for a number of reasons.

Firstly, and most basically, the charge itself is too high. Many experts say that the maximum rate to charge per tonne of carbon is $14.00. As leading envirnomental economistand author Bjorn Lomborg states in his book "Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist's Guide to Global Warming": "...the damage we will cause by putting out one more ton of CO2 is likely two dollars and very unlikely to be higher than fourteen dollars." This estimate is based on the best economic models available by international reserarch, which Lomborg cites in his book.

The Liberal Carbon Tax starts at $10 and goes to $40 over a longer period. So, already, we are being charged 5 times over the (supposed) damage we are causing to the environment by charging $10.00 per tonne rather than $2.00. Not a good start, but a typical reaction to a problem: overtax the unwashed masses to solve a problem we can't say for certain exists (not global warming per se, but if we can solve the problem and/or how).

But again, I don't think trying to force people to be smart about how they use energy is a bad thing.

My second problem is that if you want to change behaviour, you need to give people somewhere to go. As it stands now, there is no real alternative to what we're all doing now - especially when it comes to driving. I'll give you an example: let's say the Carbox Tax is $1,000/tonne - some number so high that make driving impossible. Then what do I do? Where I live, the public transit sucks. I'd have to get up at 4am to grab a bus to get into work on time (assuming I could pay the fare for the busses and trains which would be extremely expensive after the tax or the retrofit costs). So, now I'm working and commuting longer, which means less time with family and a continued cost for me.

Anyone who promotes a carbon tax needs to start creating the systems necessary for people t change their behavious with minimal disruption. In the case of the car, that means massive investments in transit infrastructure, R&D for new fuel technologies and the like. I don;t see the Liberals talking about doing that. Right now its "tax now, cry later."

And that's fine that the Carbon Tax is "revenue neutral" (which I don't believe, but lets assume that the numbers are correct), but how does that help move us forward? We get more money to spend on things that are now more expensive because of your policy actions? You want me to use the reduced taxes to pay for heating oil or gas in my car? How does that make any sense at all if the purpose is to change my behaviour?

You know what? I'd rather the $14 Billion (which ain't that much, folks) or whatever they say they are raising goes DIRECTLY to projects that will make my life easier: more rail lines, new subway lines, more efficient cars, cheaper wind and solar power, or whatever. To make these kinds of investments, you will need to pool the funds. Period.

I think this is another GST - its a permanent tax that will give the government more money to waste on projects they think are important: human rights commissions, injection sites and more aid for other countries. Or like gas taxes, where we cringe while we pump, but we still fill up.

Unless this new revenue goes DIRECTLY to the kinds of projects I mentioned, we will be paying more and getting a lot less.

Having Dion's Cake and Eating it Too

If the purpose of a tax is to be a disincentive to certain types of behaviour, why would it be "revenue neutral".

Essentially Dion has said we (liberals)want to encourage income, investments, innovation but discourage carbon use.

But on the other hand he says, don't worry though, our encouragement and our discouragement will be equal. What you pay for in new carbon taxes, you will save in income.

Now some may say, well if you use less carbon, you will get to save more of your income. But carbon use is integral to every part of our economy (hence the Tories "tax on everything" tag). We cannot get product to market without using carbon. We cannot get to most markets without using carbon.

Revnue neutral it may be (17 Billion in, 11 Billion out - not sure how that is neutral) but a revenue neutral tax will never alter behaviour.


Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Burger King's Interesting Marketing Campaign

What is targeted marketing? As a retailer, what is fair game when you're going after a particular segment of society? It is cool to talk to one demographic one way and another others a different way? What if those messages are divided amongst race? Interesting questions that have popped up after thumbing through my lastest edition of rap magazine XXL.

In the July 2008 issue, I came across this add for Burger King, which I reproduced here:

Now, you don't need to be a hip-hop head to realize that the term "boss" in this case does not refer to the head of a corporation. In rap terms, this is what a "boss" is (you can turn the sound off, but its the images that are important):

I'll even throw you the pertinant lyrics from the above song:

Who gives a f**k what a hater gotta say?
I made a couple million dollars
last year dealin weight
(ed: weight = cocaine)
Still in da streets strapped with them thangs (ed: strapped = armed with guns)
She in love with a
G so she tatted my name
I'm the biggest boss that ya seen thus

Ten black maybacks back to back in a lane
I'm a make it
rain then I'm a make it back
You are just a lame lil homie that's a fact
Workin with the police actin like ya know me
Fresh outta jail already in
ya hoe's sheets

In the 1990's, it was fashionable in rap to adopt the "mafioso" lifestyle and culture, with their crew being more like the hood version of la costra nostra. Artists started using the terms "Don", "Capo" and, of course "boss." In rap, to be a "boss" means that you were very successful in making money and acquiring power through your activities in the streets.

Now, as you all know, I'm a rap fan, so I'm not particularly fussed by the term. But I'm also not a international fast food chain. And I find it a little odd (although unsurprising) that Burger King would choose to market their food by essentially glamourizing the criminal lifestyle: "Grab a Whopper (TM) and eat like the head of an organized crime family!"

If you want to say that, great - its your ad dollars. But again, is it cool to talk one way to a certain demographic and a different way to some others? You would never see this kind of an ad in People magazine or on TV. Is that right? Or is it just smart targeting? Should Burger King be on the hook for promoting this kind of positive light on criminality?

I understand the folks at BK are only trying to "speak the language" as it were, and "boss" could also mean "someone who runs things", as definted here. But shouldn't they have a much greater understanding and ultimate responsibility for the language and terminology they use?

Are you offended by this kind of an ad and its particular choice of language?

Give me a sign, oh CH readers!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Don't just cut...simplify

This past weekend I attended the Annual General Meeting of a local PC Party of Ontario riding association.

The guest speaker was not your normal AGM or fundraiser speaker. It was Dr. Henry Jacek, who is a political science professor at McMaster University and current head of the Internship program at the Ontario Legislature.

Dr. Jacek offered a variety of opinions and comments which resonated with the local crowd, but one thing he said which caught my attention was something along the lines that "the public is not interested in tax cuts anymore.".

Now while this would be easily dismissed coming from the typical left-wing, "we need your money more than you do" crowd, from Dr. Jacek it had some authority.

He went on to say that successive tax cuts and reductions at both the provincial and federal levels made people generally feel that they weren't to bad off anymore.

He also said that while people accepted the tax cuts, they didn't give the party too much credit for them.

He didn't say, but I feel it is valid, that the left has succeeded in convincing everyone that tax cuts equals service cuts and closed hospitals, closed schools and poor roads and poisoned water.

While I am a big tax cut guy (I am selfish that way) and strongly support the family income idea that B-Double mentioned earlier, I think tax cuts need to be rethought by our party.

I think a solution might lie in "simplification" rather than cutting of taxes.

Rather than change all the tax brackets and index this or deduct that, we should move to the elimination of the system of deductions and credits that requires hours upon hours of work to complete.


PS I hope everyone had a very, happy father's day.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Old Canada vs New Canada

Another great column from Peggy Noonan. I just love her writing, not to mention her worldview.

In particular, I really like her take on the struggle in the next election between "Old America" and "New America." Much of what she talks about is absolutely relevant to Canada, or at least I think it is. In fact, if you replace "America" with "Canada" and change the necessary political figures (i.e. Bill Clinton = Jean Chretien), its a pretty good snapshot of where we are in the country.

In fact, there are some real parallels between the Presidental contest and our expected election. That's not to say I see Dion as anything close in ability to Barack Obama (except maybe in some of his policy solutions), but they do have that same background - elite education, take a "cerebral/measured" approach to issues, are more the "sensitive, thinking" types.

Versus Harper, who spent years in the system, working towards his goal, often at odds with his own Party and who is a bit of a brawler. Someone who knows what Tim Hortons coffee tastes like and is comfortable at the hockey game with a Labatt Blue and his son.

On to the brilliance of Ms. Noonan:

2008 will also prove in part to be a decisive political contest between the Old America and the New America. Between the thing we were, and the thing we have been becoming for 40 years or so. (I'm not referring here to age. Some young Americans have Old America heads and souls; some old people are all for the New.)

Mr. McCain is the Old America, of course; Mr. Obama the New.

Roughly, broadly:

In the Old America, love of country was natural. You breathed it in. You either loved it or knew you should.

In the New America, love of country is a decision. It's one you make after weighing the pros and cons. What you breathe in is skepticism and a heightened appreciation of the global view.

Old America: Tradition is a guide in human affairs. New America: Tradition is a challenge, a barrier, or a lovely antique.

The Old America had big families. You married and had children. Life happened to you. You didn't decide, it decided. Now it's all on you. Old America, when life didn't work out: "Luck of the draw!" New America when life doesn't work: "I made bad choices!" Old America: "I had faith, and trust." New America: "You had limited autonomy!"

Old America: "We've been here three generations." New America: "You're still here?"

Old America: We have to have a government, but that doesn't mean I have to love it. New America: We have to have a government and I am desperate to love it. Old America: Politics is a duty. New America: Politics is life.

The Old America: Religion is good. The New America: Religion is problematic. The Old: Smoke 'em if you got 'em. The New: I'll sue.

Mr. McCain is the old world of concepts like "personal honor," of a manliness that was a style of being, of an attachment to the fact of higher principles.
Mr. Obama is the new world, which is marked in part by doubt as to the excellence of the old. It prizes ambivalence as proof of thoughtfulness, as evidence of a textured seriousness.

Both Old and New America honor sacrifice, but in the Old America it was more essential, more needed for survival both personally (don't buy today, save for tomorrow) and in larger ways.

The Old and New define sacrifice differently. An Old America opinion: Abjuring a life as a corporate lawyer and choosing instead community organizing, a job that does not pay you in money but will, if you have political ambitions, provide a base and help you win office, is not precisely a sacrifice. Political office will pay you in power and fame, which will be followed in time by money (see Clinton, Bill). This has more to do with timing than sacrifice. In fact, it's less a sacrifice than a strategy.

A New America answer: He didn't become a rich lawyer like everyone else—and that was a sacrifice! Old America: Five years in a cage—that's a sacrifice!
In the Old America, high value was put on education, but character trumped it. That's how Lincoln got elected: Honest Abe had no formal schooling.

In Mr. McCain's world, a Harvard Ph.D. is a very good thing, but it won't help you endure five years in Vietnam. It may be a comfort or an inspiration, but it won't see you through. Only character, and faith, can do that. And they are very Old America.

Old America: candidates for office wear ties. New America: Not if they're women. Old America: There's a place for formality, even the Beatles wore jackets!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Radical Muslims Are Figuring Out Al-Qaeda is Bad - Why Can't Liberals?

I read a fascinating piece in the National Post which was a reprint of an article in the New Republic. As someone who admittedly has no understanding of the Middle East and the geopolitical landscape of the various Arabic/Muslim states, I'm always interested in reading dispatches from those who are witnessing what is taking place in and around Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan firsthand.

I am heartened to learn that many religious figures of varying degree of radicalism are turning on Al-Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden in impressive numbers. In fact, some clerics who can largely lay claim to being the inspiration for Bin Laden and his followers to wage war on the US are now calling them "immoral."

Why? There are many reasons, but according to this piece, it is largely because Al-Qaeda is indiscriminately targeting innocent Muslims and Westerners in their terror campaigns.

I have always wondered why the thousands (or tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands, depending on who is counting) of Iraqis and other civilians who have died since the start of the Iraq war have been laid at the feet of President Bush and the United States.

Here's is a comment I saw on a posting about President Bush's trip to Europe:

" this is a total disgrace.after causing the death of 4000+ americans,100+ brits and more than 400000 unaccounted poor iraqis civilians ,you recognise after all that you are human. sorry but it's not good enough.why do i have to face death penalty by stealing an 'egg' and you getting away with murder.."

This is a sentiment held by many opponents of the Iraq conflict. But if jihadists and other (formerly or otherwise) radical Muslims can recognize that its Al-Qaeda that is doing most of the killing, why can't liberals?

These clerics and other figures - who have at one time or another endorsed the idea of jihad, some supporting attacking American troops - are now saying that Bin Laden, Al-Qaeda and its allies have blood on their hands. They are saying it is THEY who are to blame for innocents dying in Iraq and elsewhere. This excerpt sums it up nicely:

"Around the sixth anniversary of September 11, Salman Al Oudah, a Saudi religious scholar and one of Bin laden's heroes, addressed al-Qaeda's leader on MBC, a widely watched Middle East TV network: "My brother Osama, how much blood has been spilt? How many innocent people, children, elderly and women have been killed the name of al-Qaeda? Will you be happy to meet God Almighty carrying the burden of these hundreds of thousands or millions [of victims] on your back?"

Quite a condemnation. Now if we could only get the left in North America to view these terrorists in the same light.

Monday, June 09, 2008

My Vote Is Counting On You, Prime Minister

I am a dyed-in-the-wool Conservative.

But I say now, on this hydro-gulping hot-as-hades day here in Ontario that if a political party wants my vote, here is the sentence their leader needs to utter:

"If elected/re-elected, our Party will immediately allow income splitting for Canadian households for the 2008 tax year and every year hence."

They don't have to use "hence", but you get the picture.

Why? Ask Jack Mintz.

My wife is a stay-at-home mom - one of the most important jobs in existence.

And I am sick and tired of being penalized for it. It sucks to pay $4,000 or so more per year because we made sacrifices to be a one income family.

What if the Libs, the Greens and the CPC all offer income splitting? First, I will be extremely pleased, as income splitting will become an inevitability, rather than a choice. But I will then look at the platform which best suits my views and values.

So, I'll cut to the chase and say I'll be voting Conservative.

However, and I kid you not Mr. Prime Minister, if the Libs offer income splitting and there is no alternative plan being offered by the CPC to reduce the real tax burden for one income families - I will vote Liberal.

For the first time in my life.

(Although I did vote NDP when I lived in a downtown Toronto riding to try and block the Liberals from winning).

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