Category Archives: media

Broken Window Fallacy: Alberta Flooding

Alberta has recently experienced massive flooding.  If you would like to donate $5 to the Red Cross’ efforts there you can text “ABHELP” to 4664.  It really is an easy way to help out your fellow Canadians in their time of need.

Alberta is one of Canada’s “have” provinces.  What that means, is that they (net) pay money to the federal government rather than receive payments. When the flooding started it was inevitable that people would start talking about how this was going to affect their economy. I thought this would be a good time to talk the Broken Window Fallacy. If you are looking for information on the “broken window syndrome” then you are in the wrong place and you should check out a criminology website instead.

The original idea goes something like this.  A window is broken in a shop and the shop owner needs to call a glazier to replace it. He is, of course, upset that he needs to replace this broken window.  To try and make the shop owner feel better someone points out that if windows were never broken then the glazier would never have any work to do; implying that it is a good thing that the window was broken because it helps money change hands. This ignores the fact that the money would have been better off used on something else rather than on replacing the window.

This is one of the issues with many methods of calculating GDP. If someone remodels their bathroom because they feel like it, then it adds to total GDP as they purchase supplies.  If they need to rebuild their bathroom because it was destroyed by a flood then they are also buying supplies and that too increases the GDP.   In the first case however, the house value is higher overall. Unfortunately, in most cases existing home sales are kept as a separate statistic and it is new home sales that push up GDP. So for this type of GDP calculation it makes no difference that the original bathroom was destroyed.  Flood repair fallacy would seem a more appropriate name in this case.

So the money spent on these repairs is money that would have been spent elsewhere.  That is one downside.  The other thing to keep in mind if you see anyone claiming this will actually boost the GDP of Alberta is that overland flood insurance does not exist in Canada as far as I am aware.  If your drains back up and your basement floods then maybe you would get an insurance payout but if the water comes in through a doorway or window then you will not be covered, this is overland flooding. What this means is that many of the repairs are going to be done with borrowed money.  The money borrowed today is obviously money that cannot be spent tomorrow. So if there is a bump in construction material sales during the rebuilding period you can assume that there will be a slump afterwards as the money that was used to repair everything is being paid back, with interest.

So over the next few weeks or even months keep these things in mind as people talk about the cost of repairs.  Finally, for the $5 donation you made after reading the first paragraph of this post you could also get 5 Wild Rose pink sprinkle doughnuts at Tim Horton’s, the proceeds of which are being donated to the flood recovery. It is unclear where charity doughnuts fall in GDP calculations.


Women, Good. Men, Bad. Read my Headline.

Credit Suisse (CS) just released a new study that digs up an issue that is always good for a headline.  The study is titled “Gender Diversity and Corporate Performance”.

Feel free to read it before reading this rest of this post.  You can also read about it on Forbes, Bloomberg, Globe and Mail and any number of other sites. I am not going to give you all the links because it is an easy Google search and you will likely find many more references. The stories all claim the same thing.  Having women on your board of directors is good for your stock price and company performance. The common problem with all of the articles and that is they rely on this CS report.

It begins with presentation of the data that it has collected in the years since 2005.  It shows us very nice graphs and return on investment charts and I am fine with all of that.  What I expected in the next sections was a clear statistical analysis of the data that used accepted tools to prove the claims that the rest of the paper is based on.  That is not included.  What we get instead is a set of correlations that are not quite backed up with any proper analysis.   I understand that this was a report released for the public but there was nothing stopping them from using the proper technical methods and then summarizing the findings for the report. Or they could even provide a website where you could see their more detailed results.  They did not do that.  They present their correlations and move on.  If you are not clear on correlation vs. causation please take 5 minutes now to look it up and I assure you the rest of this post will be more interesting.

The introduction holds references to a few studies that have been conducted on this topic and as they put it

“There is a significant body of literature on this issue; articles on the subject span several decades. Some suggest corporate performance benefits from greater gender diversity at board level, while others suggest not.”

For our first source we turn to Catalyst.

“Catalyst Inc (2007) showed that Fortune 500 companies with more women on their boards were found to outperform their rivals with return on sales 4 percentage points higher…”

Here is the referenced research. A one page infographic. Not a problem, an infographic can carry lots of information!  For instance, on this infographic we have the sentence “Financial measures excel where women serve” right at the top in big letters.  There is also a small footnote (number 2) on that sentence.  “Correlation does not prove or imply causation.” Okay.  We are still looking for studies that provide more concrete results.

So we take another reference right from the CS report. They mention two quantitative studies that use the data to perform regressions (statistical tools).

“Other studies, such as those conducted by Adams and Ferreira or Farrell and Hersch, have shown that there is no causation between greater gender diversity and improved profitability and stock price performance.”

So when the numbers were analyzed properly we were not able to find a relation.  It turns out that Adams and Ferreira actually concluded that

“…the average effect of gender diversity on firm performance is negative.”  And I got that from their abstract so it was not exactly buried deep in the paper somewhere.

This issue has been presented a number of times and a very influential paper that disputes the claim that more women on a board leads to better corporate performance is  “Corporate Board Diversity and Stock Performance” by Frank Dobbin and Jiwook Jung. This, again, is a quantitative paper that can find no causation.  Strangely, this paper appears in the references section of the CS report but is not cited directly.  I would assume it is included because the conclusion Dobbin and Jung draw is that successful companies might tend to appoint women instead of the effect moving in the other direction.

This type of research is important and I fully encourage it to continue. However, the research needs to proceed in the proper order. The main issue with the CS report is that they have a large body of work that is devoted to explaining the reasons why women are better for corporate performance without actually showing conclusive evidence that they are.


Added note:  For a good quantitative paper that supports the idea that women on a board improve performance using Spanish data see “Female Board Appointments and Firm Valuation: Short and Long-term Effects” by Kevin Campbell and Antonio Minguez Vera.


Wi-Fi Shutdown – Electromagnetic Hypersentitivity in Ontario Schools

Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity (EHS) is known by various names but I will use EHS. I first heard about this a long time ago as I was working as tech support for a large computer manufacturer.  The customer had made his way through the first few levels of support when he finally reached me.  He calmly explained that no one had been able to help him to this point.  His issue was that he needed to know the frequency of the electromagnetic radiation that was being emitted from our monitor.  I asked him why he wanted to know this information and he calmly and very matter-of-factly explained that he had a condition called electromagnetic hyper sensitivity. I had never heard of this so I asked him to describe it to me.  He said that when he sits in front of one of our monitors and turns it on that it feels like his skin is burning.  I did not believe him at all so I asked a few follow up questions.  It seemed that it was not just our monitor, but all electronics, that gave him this reaction.  He said that if he walked into a Future Shop that it would cause a burning sensation all over his body.  He then began to explain to me the various ways he went about avoiding this problem, including special headphones he would wear.  Yes headphones.  It became clear that the customer had other issues that did not involve electromagnetic radiation. Since that time the references to this phenomenon have exploded on the internet and around the world.

Why am I writing about this?  Back in 2010 I posted this. It was about a school banning wireless internet.  And now we have this.  The Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association(OECTA) is recommending all schools disable their Wi-Fi networks. This is a position paper released by the OECTA. In it, they recommend school turn off wireless networks and use traditional wired networks instead. It is only 8 pages long, including appendix, so feel free to read it. At this point in writing this post I was just going to mention how ridiculous this all was but instead I decided dig a bit deeper because this is getting out of hand.

There are a number of very broad claims made by the paper and each seems to be well cited. If you want to read up to page 5 you will see this:

“Approximately 3 percent of the population (over 1 million Canadians) has been diagnosed with environmental sensitivities (ES) which include multiple chemical sensitivities (MCS) and electromagnetic sensitivity.”

And this is the article by Park and Knudsen they cite for it. We run into a problem here because the quoted text does not appear in that article. Go ahead and check that if you like. On top of that the article is titled “Medically unexplained physical symptoms.” That really should give some indication how compelling an argument can be made by citing it. Directly after that they have:

“Some studies show that adults who are electrically sensitive react to this frequency (2.4 GHz) at levels 0.3 percent of SC6 Guidelines.”

The study they cited can be found here on page 273. This is the main argument behind the article and when searching for this article I noticed that every website that cited it appeared to be dedicated to letting everyone know how horrible 2.4 gigahertz radiation is  (That is the frequency that Wi-FI and many cordless phones work on). Written by Madga Havas, PhD from the University of Trent and published in the European Journal of Oncology it appears to offer evidence of EHS.  Unfortunately there exists a very compelling rebuttal which you can read here.  In short, it mentions that the European Journal of Oncology may not be the most reputable journal around and that the methods used in the study were imperfect and likely lead to a false conclusion. That one you should read because it does a really good job of picking apart the original study.

The OECTA does actually forget to mention one of the most popular articles on this topic.

This is a meta analysis of all studies about EHS.  A meta analysis looks at all studies on a topic to see if any conclusions can be drawn from them.  Using 31 studies they conclude that the effect has never been proven to exist.

If there are health issues that arise from extended Wi-Fi exposure then I am all for shutting it down until we come up with an alternative. I live in a appartment where at any point I can see 15-20 wireless networks.  If there were any credible evidence to support the claim I would not have a basis for this post and would likely be guranteed to get whatever Wi-Fi is supposed to cause.  At this point turning off the networks is silly and there is no reason to do so. With the publication of this paper I suspect we will start to see more schools turning off their networks and that is sad.  This is a teachers association – you know, the people that teach the children – and they could not take the 10 minutes required to verify their information before they posted this embarrassing position paper. I really question how well these same people can set educational standards.


SOPA – PIPA – Blackout Wednesday.

Please be aware that today is a day of protest against the proposed SOPA/PIPA laws in the US.  I will not take my site down for this but I will give you this link to get all the information that you need.  The EFF also has a series of articles that clearly outline all the terrible things included in these bills.  Read one here.

Now you might be thinking that this is an American problem but the same entities that are pushing for those laws are also at work in Canada.  Bill C-11 is the proposed new copyright bill here in Canada.  You can view it here.  The MAJOR problem with this bill is that it says that Canadians can no longer copy any content if there is need to circumvent a “digital lock”.  It does not elaborate on the definition of that digital lock so it could be anything. If you own a DVD from a different region and play it in Canada, that could be illegal. Recording a show on your PVR? Could be illegal. Transferring a song from one device to another?  Could be illegal.  The reason I use could in all of these cases is because no one knows.  A digital lock could be anything.  There any many other problems with this bill but this seems to be the most popular one to complain about.  It should make you very worried.  This bill existed in the past as bill C-32.  When the government was trying to pass c-32 I filled out a form letter in protest and sent it in I got no response at all. Here was the form letter I sent.  I believe I got it at

May 15 2010

The Honourable Tony Clement
Minister Of Industry, Science & Technology
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A6

The Honourable James Moore
Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A6

The Right Honourable Stephen Harper
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A6

Dear Ministers,

In the summer of 2009 the Government of Canada held public consultations on copyright and Canadians engaged in those consultations at unprecedented levels. Unfortunately, it now appears that the Government may be poised to ignore the vast majority of Canadian consultation submissions and proceed with anti-consumer copyright reform legislation. Legislation that would employ strong protection for digital locks, a rejection of flexible fair dealing and support for specific technologies and business models. Legislation that may indeed be more stifling than the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) which, over the course of the last decade, has proven to be a backwards, ill-conceived approach to copyright.

To ignore the input of thousands of Canadian consumers and creators when modernizing Canada’s copyright regime would be irresponsible. Alternatively, I urge this Government to heed what Canadians have told them and only proceed with legislation to reform copyright that is technologically neutral by not integrating protection for specific technologies or business models (e.g. all-encompassing prohibition of circumvention devices and technologies). Legislation that expands and protects fair dealing to ensure Canada has the legal framework to adapt to future business models and new forms of creativity we have yet to discover.

Fortunately, there remains time and opportunity for this Government to reassess its approach on copyright reform and ensure that the input provided by Canadians via public consultations process is taken into full consideration.


(removed all my address info here)
CC: The Honourable Michael Ignatieff
CC: Marc Garneau – Official Opposition Critic For Industry, Science & Technology
CC: Pablo Rodriguez – Official Critic For Canadian Heritage and Official Languages
CC: Charlie Angus – NDP Digital Affairs Critic
CC: My member of Parliament.

Since I got no response at all I then decided to send this email.

Jun 29 2010

The Honourable Tony Clement
Minister Of Industry, Science & Technology
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A6

The Honourable James Moore
Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A6

The Right Honourable Stephen Harper
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A6

Dear Ministers,

I have previously sent in a form letter that I am sure you have recieved thousands of. I thought maybe a more personal letter would show that I am willing to put a little more effort into expressing my concerns.

The version of the copyright bill as proposed is entirely too broad. Many new DRM technologies are actually disruptive to the normal use of products that people own.

Take for example music CDs that install DRM technology on systems using an autorun function. If I decided to prevent that autorun from occurring by something as simple as holding the shift button while inserting the disk, under bill C-32, this would be illegal. This is just one simple example of how this law makes common usage of media illegal.

Please reconsider.


(address info removed here)

CC: The Honourable Michael Ignatieff
CC: Marc Garneau – Official Opposition Critic For Industry, Science & Technology
CC: Pablo Rodriguez – Official Critic For Canadian Heritage and Official Languages
CC: Charlie Angus – NDP Digital Affairs Critic
CC: member of parliament

This time at least I got a reply.

From: <>
Subject: RE: My Concerns With Bill C-32 And Copyright Reform
To: phil
Date: Tuesday, June 29, 2010, 4:00 PM

Dear Phil,

Thanks for contacting me regarding the proposed legislation which aims to modernize the Copyright Act, in efforts to bring it up-to-date with the advances of the digital age.

This legislation will bring Canada in line with international standards and promote home-grown innovation and creativity. It is trying to strike a balanced and common-sense approach, respecting both the rights of creators and the interests of consumers in a modern marketplace. The Government of Canada is working to secure Canada’s place in the digital economy and to promote a more prosperous and competitive Canada.

The popularity of Web 2.0, social media, and new technologies such as the MP3 player and digital books have changed the way Canadians create and make use of copyrighted material. This bill recognizes the many new ways in which teachers, students, artists, software companies, consumers, families, copyright owners and many others use technology. It gives creators and copyright owners the tools to protect their work and grow their business models. It provides clearer rules that will enable all Canadians to fully participate in the digital economy, now and into the future.

For more information, I would encourage you to visit

Thank you once again for bringing this to my attention.

Kind regards,

Ed Holder
Member of Parliament

Since this kind of felt like an automated response I decided to reply.


I realize now that I should have changed the subject line of my email as I am sure I triggered an auto response email. I would just like to stress that it seems like the people trying to push through this law are not actually aware of what the consequences will be. The fact that you have to call it “balanced” when you refer to it is a pretty clear indication that it is anything but.


At this point I got no further response and from that day on I was automatically subscribed to a weekly newsletter about my member of parliament(super awesome).

The last line of my email really does express how I feel.  If something is balanced you don’t need to say it is balanced, it just is.



Keystone XL. Ottawa Protest. What are the Facts?

I apologize for taking so long to update. I am now in a new city (Ottawa) so there was lots of confusion and delays in getting back up and running. Posts should be coming more regularly once again.

On Monday I attended a protest on Parliament Hill here in Ottawa. I was not there to support the cause, only to see the scope and passion of the concerns. The main focus of the protest was opposition to the oil sands in Alberta, referred to as the tar sands by those that oppose their development.  We will discuss the issues involved first and then I will comment on the protest itself.

There are two main issues that seem to be getting mixed together in the media and during much of the discussion.  Issue one, should we build the Keystone XL pipeline? This is a pipeline that will go from Alberta down to Texas, about 2700 kms.  It would carry about 500,000 barrels a day to refineries in the U.S.  The second issue is the oil sands
themselves.  Should we be developing them with cleaner technology, or at all?

First issue I believe is easier to address and so we will cover it first.  The pipeline should be
built. The U.S. is already our largest customer, basically our only customer, for energy exports. If this pipeline is not built then we will need to find other ways to get the product where it needs to go. A pipeline is the safest way to do that.  The bitumen from the oil
sands requires a special refining process which needs to take place in the U.S. currently. In order to get the capacity required for the estimated growth of the oil sands projects, Canada would need to build at least two refineries at a cost of about 8 billion dollars each.
The pipeline will cost $7 billion. Since this is a project that is funded entirely by the private sector, refineries are simply not going to be built here.

There have been protests in the U.S. as well but since the environmental impact reports have not yet shown any large environmental hazards to the pipeline being built, I doubt there is any chance that either Obama or Clinton will stop this project.  The project needs
both of their approval because the pipeline crosses a national border. I know that those in opposition to the oil sands hate the expression “ethical oil” and I understand that it is a PR term cooked up by the petroleum industry to counter all the bad press but there are some valid arguments behind it.  The U.S. is not going to cut its oil addiction overnight.  It will continue to use massive amounts of oil for the next 10 years at least.  It needs to get that oil somewhere and their friendly neighbour to the north is a much better place to get it than most other choices.  They already buy the largest share of their imported oil from Canada so it is not a big stretch to think that they will maintain a consistent policy.

Increasing offshore drilling is another option but the development timeline for
that type thing and the capacity it would add does not solve the issue. You can also see the whole process that has taken place to approve the pipeline, it began in began in 2008.
I see very little chance of the pipeline being stopped on the U.S. side.

Second issue is much more difficult to tackle.  The information available on the overall environmental impact of the oil sands development itself at the moment is widespread and
contradictory.  It is easy to look at the tailing ponds and be shocked.  They look terrible; it is easy to search for pictures of them. There are a number of reports of health problems in communities surrounding the extraction areas. These include polluted ground water, elevated cancer rates and contaminated local agricultural products and game traditionally hunted by the indigenous populations. I was not able to get much information at the protest itself except from boilerplate handouts.  The standard cry was to stop the tar sands altogether. The organizers of the protest Ottawa Action posted this list on their site entitled Some Ways the Government Could Act. There are some good ideas in there. I think it is important that we monitor the pollution levels in that area and make sure that the oil sands are being developed responsibly.

Some of their concerns have already been echoed in a report entitled Environmental
and Health Impacts of Canada’s Oil Sands Industry
 which was released this year by the Royal Society of Canada, The Academies of the Arts, Humanities and Sciences of Canada. This is not a source that can as easily be dismissed as an industry sponsored think tank by
any means.  I will admit that I did not read the entire 438 pages but there is a brief available at the beginning of the document and there is also a 23 page executive summary. There is some very good information in here about the findings of environmental studies as well as the current level of government monitoring for the oil sands operation.
This type of reports is exactly what can keep the project from spiraling out of control.  There are some conclusions drawn but the report also outlines the need for better data
collection methods and an increase in monitoring across the industry.

I would like to see more public exposure of this study and some form of
commitment from the governments to seriously address the concerns outlined in
it.  The report states that land reclamation appears to be possible but that the results from efforts so far are not conclusive as the first “fully reclaimed” pond was only completed in 2010. If the speed of development is going to increase in the near future then technology that is used for land reclamation will apparently need to be substantially increased. This post is getting long so I will not go over all the findings of the report; I strongly suggest you read the executive summary.

The oil sands should continue but there definitely needs to be an increase in the government oversight. If they believe the risks are increasing too quickly they will need to start imposing significant fines.  By that I mean, fines enough to repair any long term damage. The continuous monitoring of this industry should be implemented right away and the costs for this oversight should be covered by funds provided by the private sector.

The protest itself was a bit odd. I understand that the protestors did not want to get into a confrontation with the police but the whole thing was so… robotic. It was strange. I will paraphrase here. When the first group of protestors came to the fence they stood at the fence and said something to the effect of “I intend to cross the barrier”. Then the police
officer would say “Well then you are violating the law and you will be arrested” and then the protestor would reply “I understand that.” The protestor would then slowly climb the barrier where they would sit down and be arrested.  I do not see the point of getting yourself arrested in that way. The claim is that they are tired of the government inaction and want to show their outrage. I am not endorsing violent action in any way shape or form but the entire process was so sterile and without much passion.  I do think it is important that people go out to rallies to try and make their voices heard but I am not sure that getting arrested was the solution.

It certainly did not add any intensity when the police simply let the protestors they had arrested in the first wave go with a small fine and a ban from parliament hill for a year.  This was announced to the crowd by the protest organizers and I am certain this gave more people the will to cross over.  I do not know what happened to the subsequent waves of people but the first wave was released and then stood at the gates of parliament for their media interviews.  There were no claims of police brutality and the arrest figures were up around 200 so I guess everyone looked good in the headlines.


 <edit Sept 30 for typos and a few grammar mistakes>

CBC Vote Compass and Election Predictions

I’ll come back to the gold standard when I have the time, it ended up being a rather big topic.  I didn’t want March to roll by without a post so instead let us talk about the Canadian Election.

First, here is something you may not have heard of before.  It is something from basic game theory called Hotelling’s Law.  I will not be discussing the validity of the term “law” in this post. I will however give a brief overview of this law when applied to political parties.  In the original game there are two political parties. A and B. We depict the political spectrum as a line that goes from left wing to right wing, pretty standard stuff. In this game voters are evenly distributed across the spectrum and they vote for the party who’s platform is closest to them on the political spectrum.  I will give three examples to clarify.

You be learnin game theory

Ignoring my terrible paint image accuracy we see in the first game that both candidates position themselves exactly in the middle of the spectrum and each player gets 50% of the vote.  This is actually the final equilibrium point and I likely should have drawn it last but I didn’t.  The second game is where each party positions themselves at the extremes of the spectrum.  In this case. both parties still get 50% of the vote but it is NOT in an equilibrium state.  You see, either party can move one step towards the other player and instantly capture more than 50% of the vote and win.  In the third game I don’t know the exact payoff but each player gets all of the votes on the outside of their position and split the votes in between their two positions evenly. For the same reason as game two this is not an equilibrium,  So the point of this is to see that with two parties the only smart move is to move as close to the centre as possible.

Now I understand that there are some major flaws in this idea, mostly to do with the even distribution of voters on a political spectrum and that voters will always vote for the party that is closest to them but it still interesting to work through.

Now lets see how we can use this little bit of game theory and apply it to the current political situation in Canada.  We are in an election and to help everyone make the decision of who they should vote for the CBC has come up with… THE VOTE COMPASS.  It’s so easy!  You answer a few questions and the website tells you which party you are going to vote for.  Just like that, no need to waste your time keeping up to speed on current events.  Here is an example of a vote compass result.

Don’t get too excited, that is not my result, it is just the first hit on Google image search when I searched vote compass.  The positioning of the parties on this grid was determined by “a team of Canadian political scientists, including an advisory panel comprised of the country’s most prominent scholars in the study of electoral politics”(from the FAQ). So you know it is accurate.  I thought to myself I wonder what Hotelling (from 1929) could tell us about this grid. The most obvious answer when you look at the party distribution is that the left is a fragmented mess that shares votes and has no real hope of beating the right unless they ditch some of the parties BUT that would be too trivial an observation for this site and its readers, wouldn’t it?  Instead I will try something totally, legitimately, 100% scientifically proven, really valid.

Yes that is right. I drew a line from one corner of the grid to the other. I then placed a marker on the line in the location for each of the parties. You can see the extreme accuracy of my lines in the picture.  The length of the line is 567 pixels in total and from now on all lengths are in pixels.  The distance between the Conservatives and the far right is 85. The distance between the Conservatives and the Liberals is 259. The distance between the Liberals and the Bloc Quebecois is 94. Everything to the left of the Bloc is 134.  I will get into that area in a bit.

I’ll spare you the math here. Remember that two parties split the distance between them 50/50.  Here are the total number of pixels “voting” for each party.
Conservative: 214 or 37.74%
Liberals: 172 or 29.86%
Bloc, NPD, Green: 181  or 31.92%

Totalling 99.52% which means my crappy MS Paint skills are not 100% accurate surprisingly.  So the issue here is that the Bloc does not run candidates in all the provinces so the uniformity of the voters should go right out the window. Strange thing is that the Bloc is 17 pixels away from the NDP which gives them a total of around 55 total pixels or 9% of the vote.  This leaves 23% for the NDP and Green to fight over.

So there you have it, based on the compass provided by all the latest experts and a very loose interpretation of Hotelling’s Law you have the official prediction for the election outcome.

This is where it gets a little surprising.  Take a look at these polls.

In case the results change and lose the surprise factor of my outcome, here is a small screenshot.

Some of you might say that I rigged the image or something but to be honest, that would take so much more effort that just doing these calculations.

So it appears the only way the Liberals are going to win this election is to move more to the right.  Or of course form some sort of coalit…  nah that is another post entirely.

Hope you enjoyed this one, I did.

Buy My Stuff… for the children.

Wow, it has been a while. I apologize to both of my readers, the Bing and the Google crawlers.

We have just passed through the holiday season where charities are everywhere.  We see them on the street corners and in the stores asking for money, food , toys etc. These are not the charities we will be discussing today. Instead let us focus on something that at first might seem like a nice thing but in the end it is just another advertisement.  I will not use a specific company here so let’s use a fictional one called Him Torton’s Widget Store. Everyone loves a good widget example.

What you will see or hear is an advertisement stating that Him Torton’s is going to donate 1 dollar for every widget sold in the month of December to Oliver’s Orphanage. At first glance this is great! The orphanage can use all the money it can get.  The issue is the next line in the ad, up to a maximum of $300,000. For every widget you buy they will give the charity a dollar, up to $300,000. Seems pretty clear cut. So the company has set aside that money to give to the charity IF people happen to buy enough widgets.  To me this is the ultimate marketing ploy. Whoever originally thought these things up must have gotten a huge promotion.  From the ad it appears the company is giving the charity $300,000 but if the participation is not high enough, the company gets to save a little money. Most people will not look into the amount that was actually donated.  Of course if at the end the target has not been hit then you can then declare that even though the proper number of widgets sold was not met, you will donate the total $300,000 anyway. So in the end you are actually getting MORE credit if you don’t hit your target.  It is money you had already set aside to donate and now you look twice as charitable because even though all the uncaring people in the world refused to buy enough widgets, your company is still willing to spend the money. Hooray for Him Torton’s!

 I am sure any money that is donated helps the charities tremendously but if you are willing to give a certain amount, just give it.

This just in…kids don’t like school.

So this story on CBC today discusses a group of about a dozen parents in Barrie that want Wi-Fi turned off in their children’s schools.  They claim that the Wi-Fi is making their kids sick. You can read the article for the symptoms they are claiming only occur at school and then go away at night and on the weekends. I am pretty sure most people reading the story probably thought the same thing.  Kids that feel drowsy and sick at school then totally fine on the weekends?  Strange!  It must be the Wi-fi.  Now, I will agree that there is very litte evidence for or against the argument that Wi-fi causes sickness in kids. The problem of course is that Wi-fi is everywhere you go now. It will be in your house from your neighbour’s router, it is in malls, libraries, everywhere!  Oh don’t forget that the cordless phone in your home runs at 2.4 Ghz which is the same as many Wi-Fi routers.  Until I see more evidence I call BS.  Also, I believe I can spot the twelve kids least likely to grow up learning about technology at home.

On a side note I think that should have to show a change log on their stories.  They post at story in the morning and then edit it throughout the day. Sometimes they end up taking out quotations or changing the information contained in the article. I noticed changes to this story from the time I read it this morning and when I read it again this evening.  Then I noticed it had been edited at 6:12pm.  Not sure I like that.  They should maybe get the story straight first and then post it.  It might be hard to post a whole new story each time they acquire new information but they should still post a list of changes/edits.

Ontario Online Casinos – Place your bets!

The government of Ontario has announced that they plan to have an online gambling site up and running by early 2012. Atlantic Canada is thinking the same way and BC recently launched its own online gambling site called It seems like something that we should talk about.

Is a government run online gambling site a good thing? We will try to address both sides of the answer.


There are a number of studies that suggest that a large part (70-90%) of gambling revenues from casinos and lotteries come from just 10% of the people that play.  This of course means that the entire system is setup to take money from the small percentage of people that are likely addicted to some form of gambling. The government is knowingly taking money from the citizens that it should be helping.

People use their money to gamble in the hopes that they will somehow strike it rich without having to work hard for it. They forget that the best way to be better off is to save, get a good education and work hard. The pipe dream of hitting it big becomes their main focus. This kind of falls in line with the encouraging addiction idea but I thought I would include it.

If we encourage people to gamble, gambling addiction will become a larger problem and we will end up paying more to solve the gambling related problems. More theft, addiction counseling, etc.


The government runs lotteries, which are gambling. Slot machines, horse racing, bingo, all gambling. Online casinos are just another form of gambling. It is not a new thing for governments to make a profit from this vice. The only reason they have not done it up to this point is because the government moves slowly and online gambling is a relatively new phenomenon. People are going to gamble online regardless of whether the site is hosted in Belize, England or Canada. The government might as well get its cut of the market.  Having the government run the system also allows regulation and it reduces the likelihood that people get ripped off by shady foreign sites. People are doing it anyway so why not regulate and tax it.  

The rest:

The BC site was the first one in North America to legally offer online gambling. Everything before that was illegal or hosted in other countries.  I don’t think it is any coincidence that it launched soon after the American government passed a bill that would allow online casinos to open in that country. Remember when we opened the casino in Windsor and then they opened a casino in Detroit soon after?

 A poll on the CBC website is currently showing as 21% for and 79% against the idea of government run casinos in Ontario. It does remind the reader that it is not a scientific poll.  With those kind of numbers I can’t imagine there will be much demand for the site. It will likely close down soon after it opens due to lack of interest.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention, don’t try going to that site in BC because it crashed soon after launch due to the servers being overwhelmed by the traffic.  They are in the process of upgrading it so that it doesn’t crash right away when they re-launch it.

Ontario residents currently spend about $400 million each year on online gambling.(I saw this number on a number of news sites but couldn’t find a single outlet that cited the source. Go journalism) I am all for our government taking part of that untapped revenue stream and using it for government programs.  People are addicted to cigarettes but the government sells them and taxes them.  Alcoholics exist, but the government sells booze and taxes it. I don’t see this as being any different. I don’t do any online gambling currently but I will login to this site when it for a bit when it launches just to show my support and maybe play a few games. You know, make some money. See I have this system…

Edit: typos