Quotulatiousness

June 22, 2017

The Netflix tax is dead (again) – “This thing was a turkey, and Trudeau was right to wring its neck.”

Filed under: Business, Cancon, Government, Media — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Chris Selley rejoices in the demise of the so-called “Netflix tax” proposal, but also pours scorn on yet another proposal to prop up Canadian print media organizations:

Justin Trudeau wasted little time last week rubbishing the Heritage Committee’s so-called “Netflix tax,” and no wonder. If you’re determined to raid people’s wallets to fund journalism they’d rather not pay for and Can-con programming they’d rather not watch, you’re far better off doing it shadily than with a shiny new tax on something people love. The sound bytes winging around in the idea’s favour were, in a word, pathetic: “it’s not a new tax, but an expanded levy!”; “we already tax cable, why not Internet?”; “we already subsidize magazines, why not newspapers?”

Good God, why any of it? This thing was a turkey, and Trudeau was right to wring its neck.

Newspaper publishers and union bosses remain undaunted in pursuit of unearned public funds, however. “Canada’s newspaper industry unites to advocate for Canadian Journalism Fund,” proclaimed a headline at News Media Canada, the publishers’ lobby group. They’re savvy enough to propose tying subsidies to employed journalists’ salaries — 35 per cent to a maximum of $30,000 per head — rather than just cutting cheques. That might fend off Executive Bonus Rage, but it won’t fend off sticker shock: the suggested eventual cost is a whopping $350 million a year.

As a taxpayer I would much rather subsidize Canada’s journalists than Canada’s legacy media companies — but I would sure as hell rather subsidize neither. The more beholden to government a country’s journalists, the less free its press. Magazine writers in this country know their publications get a top-up from Ottawa in the form of the Canadian Periodical Fund. That’s not ideal. But under News Media Canada’s proposal, we would know our jobs literally depended on government largesse. I’ll take a hard pass on that.

Publishers’ and union bosses’ claims of unanimous support notwithstanding, many unionized journalists, and many of your non-unionized friends here at the National Post, hate the idea. It risks narrowing Canada’s already remarkably narrow spectrum of acceptable ideas and arguments. It risks — no, guarantees — alienating the very consumers we need to attract. In the case of some legacy media outlets it would simply extend the runway for business models that everyone knows will never fly again. In any event, the sums being bandied about wouldn’t solve the crisis as a whole unless the solution was permanent and ever-greater government dependency. I’m amazed to see how many journalists, including some very nearly pensionable ones, support the idea.

June 21, 2017

QotD: Profit

Filed under: Business, Economics, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

While capitalism has a visible cost – profit – that does not exist under socialism, socialism has an invisible cost – inefficiency – that gets weeded out by losses and bankruptcy under capitalism. The fact that most goods are more widely affordable in a capitalist economy implies that profit is less costly than inefficiency. Put differently, profit is a price paid for efficiency.

Thomas Sowell, Basic Economics (fifth edition), 2015.

June 20, 2017

“Licensing … is now one of the biggest labor problems facing California”

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Business, Government, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

In the Orange County Register, Dick Carpenter outlines how many jobs in California are now closed off to anyone who doesn’t have a license:

Whether it’s brick-and-mortar restaurants fighting to outlaw food trucks, or taxicab associations suing Uber and Lyft, examples abound for this type of anticompetitive lobbying. One of the more blatant instances comes courtesy of the California Landscape Contractors Association. In 2014, the association supported a bill that made it even easier for regulators to crack down on contractors operating without a license. Their stated reasons were revealing: “Unlicensed persons unfairly compete,” because they can “significantly undercut licensed contractors when pricing projects to consumers.” The cost of compliance is quite substantial, as it “typically adds 15 to 20 percent to the cost,” the association estimated. Not only does licensure jack up consumer prices, it also keeps out aspiring entrepreneurs who ask for nothing more than the opportunity to work hard and prove themselves by the sweat of their brow.

Licensing goes well beyond contractors and is now one of the biggest labor problems facing California. In the 1950s, about 5 percent of Americans needed a government-issued license to work. Back then, government-mandated licensing was limited to a handful of trades, such as medicine and the law. But over the years, bottleneckers — often through self-serving professional associations — successfully persuaded governments to adopt new licenses that are difficult or practically impossible to obtain. This restricts opportunities for would-be entrepreneurs trying to break into the marketplace and provide new or better services.

Today, more than one-fifth of California’s workforce is licensed. When it comes to low- and middle-income occupations, which are often a gateway for upward mobility, California is the second-most extensively and onerously licensed state, according to a study by the Institute for Justice. In fact, there are so many licensing bottlenecks that when the bipartisan Little Hoover Commission began examining the issue, it reported that “No one could give the commission a list of all the licensed occupations in California.”

These restrictions are great for the bottleneckers, but they are bad for consumers. A report by the Brookings Institution summarized many of the academic findings on occupational licensing. Licensure can boost wages for licensed workers by as much as 15 percent, while increasing the cost for consumers by anywhere from four to 33 percent. As a result, one study even estimates that pervasive licensing leads to “up to 2.85 million fewer jobs nationwide, with an annual cost to consumers of $203 billion.”

Bottleneckers typically claim the costs of licensing are necessary to protect the public, but the reality is quite different. In California, barbers, cosmetologists, tree trimmers and many construction contractors all must complete far more training for their licenses than is required for emergency medical technicians — who hold people’s lives in their hands. Manicurists need 400 hours of coursework and training for their licenses, which can costs thousands of dollars; EMTs require less than half the amount of training at only a 160 hours.

The introduction of licensing to a previously unregulated field typically benefits the existing workers in that field and severely disadvantages anyone hoping to enter that field — existing workers and businesses restrict competition by keeping out new entrants, and create an artificial shortage which allows them to boost their prices. The consumer generally does not benefit in any measurable way from the introduction of licensing, and ends up paying more for the services offered.

June 18, 2017

Sabres and Smoke: The War of 1812

Filed under: Business, Cancon, Gaming — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Last month, Military History Now profiled a new game (and new Ontario-based game company): unusually for today, it’s not a computer game, but a board wargame:

MHN: Tell us about the game.

Sheppard: Sabres and Smoke: the War of 1812 is a two-player light strategy board game that allows players to relive 16 of the War of 1812’s most important battles. From Queenston Heights to Fort York, players command either the British or American armies in battles that shaped the future of North America.

MHN: Tell us about Hand 2 Hand Entertainment. Who are you guys? How did you get started?

Sheppard: We are based near Toronto, Canada and have been working on Sabres and Smoke: The War of 1812 since July of 2016. I founded Hand 2 Hand Entertainment in 2016, the summer after I finished Grade 12, because I although I was lucky enough to find a summer job, there were no hours available. So, I decided to spend my time combining two things that I really enjoy: history and board games. I started by visiting battle sites from the War of 1812 and doing extensive research to make my game historically accurate. From there I created the battle scenarios and the game rules. Hand 2 Hand Entertainment spent the fall and winter designing Sabres and Smoke: The War of 1812, and preparing to launch a Kickstarter campaign in the summer of 2017. This summer, I am running the company out of the Propel Summer Incubator (PSI) program with the Propel Centre for Entrepreneurship at the University of Western Ontario.

[…]

MHN: The computer wargaming market is enormously popular; what can tabletop games offer that computers can’t?

Sheppard: This is an interesting question. I think there is a certain satisfaction to physically moving units on a battlefield in board games like this. Although you can look at units and terrain from a commander’s perspective in video games, doing it on a board feels more real. Players can look at the board in the same way Generals would have looked at maps when commanding real battles throughout history. I think this is what makes light strategy board games special.

June 17, 2017

“Probably the best example of our carny-barker economy is Tesla”

Filed under: Business — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

The Z-Man on the post-modern business models used by Amazon, Facebook, and Tesla:

The key for Amazon making it all these years was to keep people focused on everything but their financials. This is not an exception. Faceberg will never have earnings to justify its share price. In fact, it will never have user rates to justify its ad revenue. It’s not unreasonable to think that everything about the business is fraudulent. That should trigger large scale audits and investigations into its business practices, but Facebook is on the side of angels in the cultural revolution, so its all good.

Probably the best example of our carny-barker economy is Tesla. To his credit, Musk has built a real factory that builds real cars. No one is going to say the Tesla is a work of art or even a practical car, but it is a car and the technology is impressive. The trouble is the company does not exist to make cars. It operates as a tax sink, where government subsidies flow into it and some portion of those subsidies turn into payments to the principles in the form of stock repurchases, debt service and compensation.

This only works if people think the venture will either one day turn a profit or the technology that it creates will result in something good down the road. To that end, Musk is regularly out doing his Lyle Lanley act, making all the beautiful people feel righteous by backing his ventures. He’s also telling Wall Street that he will soon be making and selling enough cars to turn a healthy profit, even without massive tax subsidies. The trouble is, that’s probably never happening, at least not with current management.

June 16, 2017

Canada’s oldest wind farm shutting down but “if there is an incentive, we’d jump all over that”

Filed under: Business, Cancon, Government — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

The owner of the oldest operating wind farm in Alberta is desperately hoping for a big government subsidy to replace the old wind turbines at their Cowley Ridge facility:

The oldest commercial wind power facility in Canada has been shut down and faces demolition after 23 years of transforming brisk southern Alberta breezes into electricity — and its owner says building a replacement depends on the next moves of the provincial NDP government.

TransAlta Corp. said Tuesday the blades on 57 turbines at its Cowley Ridge facility near Pincher Creek have already been halted and the towers are to be toppled and recycled for scrap metal this spring. The company inherited the now-obsolete facility, built between 1993 and 1994, as part of its $1.6-billion hostile takeover of Calgary-based Canadian Hydro Developers Inc. in 2009.

“TransAlta is very interested in repowering this site. Unfortunately, right now, it’s not economically feasible,” Wayne Oliver, operations supervisor for TransAlta’s wind operations in Pincher Creek and Fort Macleod, said in an interview.

“We’re anxiously waiting to see what incentives might come from our new government. . . . Alberta is an open market and the wholesale price when it’s windy is quite low, so there’s just not the return on investment in today’s situation. So, if there is an incentive, we’d jump all over that.”

In February, TransAlta president and chief executive Dawn Farrell said the company’s plans to invest in hydroelectric, wind, solar and natural gas cogeneration facilities in Alberta were on hold until the details of the province’s climate-change plans are known.

June 14, 2017

Canada’s Next Auxiliary Oiler Replenishment Ship – Episode 3

Filed under: Business, Cancon, Military, Technology — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 06:00

Published on Jun 9, 2017

The third episode in a series about the construction and operation of the Royal Canadian Navy’s next naval support ship.

June 8, 2017

Words & Numbers: Earning Profits is Your Social Responsibility

Filed under: Business, Economics, Government — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Published on 7 Jun 2017

“We tend to demonize people who make money – how dare they have more than us? But that negative reaction forgets the voluntary role we play in profit-making every day. This week in Words and Numbers, Antony Davies and James R. Harrigan discuss just how good it is to earn a profit, and the vital difference between that and forcing money from people.”

Shoes and changing tastes

Filed under: Business, USA — Tags: — Nicholas @ 03:00

Virginia Postrel says that the market for shoes is changing rapidly, and men are poised to take over as the largest sector of the American shoe-buying market:

The Sex and the City stereotype of the shoe enthusiast as a fashionista with a passion for high heels is seriously out of date. Today’s shoe collector is probably buying sneakers and is quite likely male. Shoes may have as much glamour as ever, but it’s not the kind Christian Louboutin would recognize.

If current trends continue, men’s U.S. shoe sales will soon surpass women’s. At $26.2 billion in 2016 versus $29.9 billion for women’s footwear, “men’s is closer in size to women’s than it’s ever been,” says Beth Goldstein, fashion footwear and accessories analyst at the NPD Group. Women’s sales are shrinking as men’s continue to rise, in both revenue and number of pairs sold.

Behind the sales figures is a cultural shift. As dress becomes more casual, habits are converging, with women buying more versatile styles while men expand their shoe collections.

Traditionally, men got more wear out of any given pair of shoes. “If you’re getting a pair of desert boots or brogues, you can wear those every day, all day, all year,” says Andrew Luecke, a New York-based menswear writer and co-author of the new book “Cool: Style, Sound, and Subversion.” “A pair of Louboutin stilettos? Not so wearable.”

That’s changing, however. Instead of picking up sandals in the spring and boots in the fall, women are buying shoes they can wear year-round, such as ankle boots and sneakers. Their purchase patterns now look more like men’s. That’s bad news for retailers who count on seasonal lines to drive purchases.

Meanwhile, the rise of sneakers as all-occasion footwear is encouraging men to build their wardrobes while depressing women’s sales. “Men have the tendency to collect things,” observes Luecke. “Once it was baseball cards. Now it’s sneakers. If you’re collecting, you can’t have too many sneakers.” And if you’re not into sneakers, you can buy shoes to go with your favorite pastime — camping, fishing, rock climbing, snowshoeing, whatever. They aren’t frivolous fashion; they’re serious gear!

I don’t buy shoes too often … I think I bought a pair of leather shoes in 2015 and a pair of court shoes for badminton the year before that. I have no immediate plans to add to my collection, so I guess it’s up to all of you chaps to make up the difference.

June 3, 2017

The Government Hates Boobs

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Business, Government, Health, Humour — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 06:00

Published on 2 Jun 2017

From nipple censorship to breast milk regulation, the government is making it hard to have breasts. The FCC maintains oversight of how much and what kind of breasts can grace public airwaves. Its decisions have ripple effects, since cable broadcasters often voluntarily comply with FCC guidelines.

A more dire issue than strategic anatomical censorship is the issue of breast milk. Between one and five percent of American women aren’t able to produce breast milk, and some babies can’t drink formula. When the two overlap the demand for breast milk is life or death. But acquiring breast milk from donation-based milk banks can be difficult and prohibitively expensive. So some women buy their breast milk on an online “gray market” that stifles suppliers.

In this week’s Mostly Weekly Andrew Heaton explains why the government should get its hands off our boobs.

Performed by Andrew Heaton

Written by Sarah Rose Siskind with writing assistance from Andrew Heaton and David Fried.

Edited by Austin Bragg and Sarah Rose Siskind.

Produced by Meredith and Austin Bragg.

Secondary boycotting

Filed under: Business, Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Ace describes the way political groups can exercise economic pressure on third parties to influence or even to eliminate media voices with which they disagree:

The tactic being objected to — and I didn’t make this clear yesterday — is the tactic created by the left called a “secondary boycott.”

None of you can “boycott” Rachel Maddow — you’re already not watching her, and you enjoy not watching her, and you recommend not watching her to all of your friends.

Well, leftists realized that about Rush Limbaugh — you can’t boycott that which you already don’t use — and so invented the tactic of telling advertisers: Stop advertising on his show or we will boycott you.

That’s the “secondary” part of the boycott: You’re not boycotting the primary target. Which is obviously your right. You’re now conducting political campaigns against businesses to make them stop advertising, and get the show taken off the air entirely.

This is why Cars Dot Com and USAA boycotted Hannity — because the losers of this movement decided to start pressuring the advertisers to stop advertising there.

This is what I mean by “constant political campaigns being run against people not actually running for any office.” These are actual political campaign style efforts — with websites, donor buttons, etc. — being run not just during campaign season, and not just against an office-seeker, but 24 hours a day, seven days a week, fifty two weeks a year, against just about anybody.

Note that the fringe actors who do this shit do so to raise money. They’re fringe, and they’re not going to be hired by actual political campaigns, for the most part.

But they have to make money, don’t they?

So they just decided to invent their own political campaign which is not time-limited as ordinary campaigns are, and just buckrake endlessly to get this or that person silenced.

And they’ve had some success.

Even where they don’t succeed outright, they make themselves permanent residents of your mind: Because they’ve taught you to fear them.

This is what I’m objecting to — I understand that there will be politics in politics, but I don’t want fundraising political campaigns constantly running against anyone the left doesn’t like making all of lives, every single day, every single hour, part of and endless and ugly War of All Against All just so some energetic obsessives can make a dime and feel powerful.

June 1, 2017

Terence Corcoran – It was the fake Tories that did in Maxime Bernier

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Business, Cancon, Economics, Politics — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

In the Financial Post, Terence Corcoran blames the supply management fans and other anti-free market types for Maxime Bernier’s loss in the federal Conservative leadership race:

On Monday, during a noon-hour Ontario CBC Radio show, the host opined that Maxime Bernier lost the Conservative leadership because of his “wild ideas,” as if the libertarian politician from Quebec had been offering conservatives options too crazy to contemplate.

Wild ideas? In the recent history of Canadian politics, no politician has been more grounded or sane.

[…] if accounts from the frontline are accurate, Bernier would have won the leadership were it not for vote-rigging infiltrators from the farmers’ unions and associated backers of supply management.

One source says that as many as 3,000 points went to Scheer, mostly in Quebec and Ontario, as a result of an organized campaign in which farmers temporarily joined the Conservative party and then cast votes against Bernier.

Bernier didn’t lose the leadership vote; it was stolen from him by a concerted campaign organized by members of Union des producteurs agricoles (UPA) and farmers in Ontario. Via Facebook, Quebec farmers and others were urged to join the Conservative party and vote for Andrew Scheer.

Three Quebec ridings tell the story. One is Beauce, Bernier’s home riding. Right off the bat, in the opening round of the ranked ballot, Scheer collected 46.63 per cent of the points against 47.5 per cent for Bernier. By the end of the final round, Scheer was at 51 per cent versus 48 for Bernier — in a riding where Bernier is a local hero among Conservatives and hardly anyone would even know Scheer’s name.

May 31, 2017

Stormtrooper gear

Filed under: Business, Media — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 04:00

In The Register, Gavin Clarke talks about “inexpensive” replicas of the original Star Wars stormtrooper helmets and other gear:

Original Stormtrooper Hero Helmet from Shepperton Design Studios + originalstormtrooper.com

Two years ago, the helmet of an Empire Strikes Back stormtrooper fetched $120,000 (£92,736) at US auction.

An Imperial TIE fighter pilot’s helmet, said to be one of just 12 made for A New Hope, went the following year for £180,000 ($233,244) – something the BBC’s Antiques Roadshow presenter Fiona Bruce dismissed as a “piece of plastic”.

Big money indeed, but the record to date for stormtroopers, the most widely recognised symbol of the Empire, is held by A New Hope sandtrooper helmet, named the Stop That Ship Helmet for the scene it briefly appeared in – the Millennium Falcon blasting out of Mos Eisley under fire. That helmet sold at auction in April for $190,000 (£145,675) in the US.

Yes, four decades after A New Hope debuted in the US – 25 May, 1977 – props built for just £20 a pop are fetching the price of a three-bed semi in the West Midlands.

What’s helping drive up the price is scarcity: just 50 stormtrooper uniforms were made for A New Hope. Those that survived the shoot now reside in private collections.

[…]

So, where does a 30-something who wants a piece of the legend go? Not the mass market of sub-£1,000 suits that targets the fancy dresser.

No, they tap a cottage industry of British specialists – Ainsworth’s Shepperton Design Studios, Edwards’ CfO, and RS Prop Masters in the UK.

This trio is busy vacuum forming sheets of white ABS plastic using curved moulds to a 1.5mm thickness, cutting out and assembling around 30 pieces per suit, making straps, body suits, eyepieces, mics, boots and blasters. Prices run from £1,200 – around $1,550.

And in case you were wondering, there are few concessions on size or girth. The original stormtrooper was 5ft 10in and 110lbs. He remains so. The most you can expect is a little extra plastic around the overlapping at the edges if you’re a little large for a stormtrooper.

May 30, 2017

The Disgusting Contents of Worcestershire Sauce (and Why It s Called That)

Filed under: Britain, Business, History, India — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 27 Mar 2017

In this video:

Worcestershire sauce, sometimes known as “Worcester sauce” is a savoury sauce that is often added to meat and fish dishes or, if you like your alcoholic beverages, the Bloody Mary cocktail. It may (or may not depending on how much you research your sauce choices) surprise you to learn that it’s literally made from fermented fish and spices.

Want the text version?: http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2013/10/worcestershire-sauce-called/

May 25, 2017

Words & Numbers: Government Can’t Stop Creative Destruction

Filed under: Business, Economics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Published on 24 May 2017

Technology doesn’t just change things, it utterly destroys things. And that’s just fine. It happens so often that people barely even notice when it does. Think about all the new services that have come to market just over the past few years: Uber, Airbnb, Redbox … the list goes on and on.

But that’s only half the story. In turn, the list of services replaced by these new ones is similarly long: taxis, hotels, Blockbuster, etc. And workers in these industries often lose their jobs in the line of creative destruction. We generally accept this as the price of innovation, but many people try to use the government to stop this by blocking the new services.

Today we’re seeing this with more politically well-connected industries like taxis and hotels. Pressure is put on Uber and Airbnb, respectively, to “protect” the established industries they are upending.

This week, Ant and James talk about why this is always a mistake.

Learn More:
https://fee.org/articles/government-cant-stop-creative-destruction/

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