Archive for August, 2011

The difference between need and greed

Thursday, August 25th, 2011

The Harvest Sun Music Fest was a great opportunity to kick back and relax. The organizers and entertainers did all the work and we, the audience, could sit in the shade and just listen. Among the groups that caused me to contemplate life as we know it was the Dust Poets. The poets are lead by Murray Evans of Onanole, of Poor Michael’s Bookshop fame. Evans’ group was especially appreciated as not only is their music very good, a person can discern nearly every word that they sing. Not being able to discern the lyrics in a piece of music, say on the dance floor, is maybe okay. But if the purpose of folk music is to send a message, then it’s important to hear the message. Many groups on the weekend buried their lyrics in overpowering music and sometimes it was made worse by sloppy enunciation,
However, Dust Poets sent a message with every song. One song, Walk Away, from the CD Lovesick Town, is a bit of a heads up about urban life. One line comments on the difference between need and greed saying, “Three car garage with a house attached” and quickly follows with an obvious truth,
There’s so much less to this
han meets the eye
here’s so much bliss to miss
ut we’ll get by, If we walk away, walk away, walk away.”
The “three car garage with a house attached” line really grabbed me in the light of all the housing difficulties that southern Manitoba is facing. We actually don’t have a housing shortage, we have a shortage of available housing. Most people are way over housed as the song line suggests.
In Neepawa, there has been some controversy about smaller houses on smaller lots. In earlier times, as evidenced by some remaining very small houses, building small houses on small lots was the norm. In Neepawa, as in most small towns, and definitely in the cities, it was not uncommon to have 20 foot wide houses. Look around and there’s still some left and some of them are only 30 feet or less in depth. That’s 600 square feet or less. That’s smaller than the “three car garage” attached to the house.
We have to face reality and figure out how to build smaller homes at a profit for the builders and get people the housing they really need. Yes, I said that word “profit” and it has to be there or the money and labour will simply flow somewhere else, perhaps not even into housing. If there’s no return on investment, there won’t be any more investment.
Today, large houses are being built that actually house only two to four people. In the old days, a small house might have ma and pa and a whole pack of kids and maybe grandma too. We have expanded our vision of what a house must be and we have done so at our peril. Let’s face it, housing and today’s housing designs have gone far beyond need and well into greed. So much so that, at some point, nearly everyone with a huge house says, “What do I really need this for?”
Everyone is responsible for our problem. Government has made taxes too numerous, so have municipalities. Governments have set renovation and building codes too high. Zoning has become a nightmare. There are so many hoops to jump through that nobody in their right mind would invest in housing.
In addition, those brave enough to invest have been publicly criticized. You hear statements like, “Well they certainly got rich didn’t they?” The fact is “they” likely didn’t get rich. And who should object if they did? Contractors, realtors and investors invest time, money and risk into projects; they should get a return on their investment.
I say damn the naysayers. I’m sick of people being accused of making a buck when in fact they likel
y didn’t and if they did, they deserved to do so.
At any rate we don’t need more “three car garages with a house attached”. We need nice, well built smaller homes and we need lots of them. May God bless (and yes, enrich) those with the wisdom and courage to deliver on that need.


Thursday, August 18th, 2011

The Winnipeg Free Press recently quoted Winnipeg Firefighters Union president, Alex Forrest who said, “2011 in Winnipeg has been the summer from Hell.” Perhaps that’s because, for decades, we have had government policies from Hell. We are merely reaping what we have sown. We have sown disorder and anarchy and now we are reaping it.
Crime goes unpunished and often even unreported.
People requiring restraint and treatment go without either restraint or treatment.
It’s no wonder Winnipeg has had the “summer from Hell”.
The  liberalized way of doing things is a total failure. It doesn’t matter which party is in power in which province, when the “hug a thug” method is used, we reap the whirlwind of chaos.
A person who is unable to control their pyromania, drugs or theft urges, for whatever reason, is not going to reform themselves without restraint and treatment.
It’s good to hear Alex Forrest say what he did. Maybe in the upcoming Manitoba election, he and his firefighters union members can be out campaigning for a political party that stands for law and order instead of what they did in 2007. In that provincial election the firefighters union campaigned openly and actively for the NDP. Perhaps the firefighters will be looking to reallocate their support.
As Winnipeg burns this summer, as Vancouver burned last spring, as Toronto burned last year and as London burned last week, we see the results of decades of embracing lawlessness, thug hugging and a soft-headed approach to crime.
In Canada and England, burning buildings and cars, throwing rocks through windows, looting stores and defying policemen has nothing to do with protest, democracy or political action. It’s about willful destruction, theft and lawlessness. In countries with repressive dictatorial regimes it’s another story. In those cases, it’s often the government playing the thug role. In Canada and England, it’s about anarchy and the wilingness of a small group of thuggish people to reap the benefits.
So what are the benefits?
Some people get an obvious thrill out of burning stuff. Some, as the case may be in the 2011 Fort Rouge fires, may be mentally unstable pyromaniacs. For some there’s a thrill in watching or participating in a riot. For some it’s payback time when they can get stuff by grabbing it out of broken stores. It’s called looting and it goes against the most basic of property rights.
The root causes are numerous. It’s the trend to have little or no respect for the rule of law. It’s the trend towards entitlement, the “I deserve this or that” lattitude, whether in fact a person has earned any of it or not. One of the worst statements we have come to adopt in our society is, “I don’t have to take this sh-t.” It covers every level of discontent from a kid having to do their homework to being chewed out by a boss to having to obey traffic laws. While there are legitimate things we need to avoid and even object to, the level of tolerance in our society for the slightest inconvenience has become epidemic. Whoever heard of road rage 30 years ago. Now it’s common, promoted and apparently acceptable.
Alex Forrest is correct. It’s been the “summer from Hell.” The solution is to stopping following hellish principles. Rather we should follow this advice, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well,” (NIV Bible) The “these things” refers to food, clothing and all other blessings. You will note that the Christian song says, “Praise God from whom all blessings flow.” It doesn’t say “praise Hell from whom all blessings flow.”
As individuals and as nations, we have choices. We can choose God, life and blessings or we can
choose Hell, death and curses. As it has been said many times, the choice is ours.

Hope, change and facts

Thursday, August 11th, 2011

There’s an interesting series of comments about U.S. President Barack Obama in the media. Columnist Ezra Levant says, “But there’s a bit of a difference between knowing how to read a teleprompter and knowing how to run a country.” Sun columnist Peter Worthington concurs, noting that “the teleprompter speeches are wearing thin”. I have said for months now that without his teleprompter, President Obama is a babbling idiot. The man appears to have no clue about how to run a country. That’s because he was  elected on a “hope and change” campaign theme. You have to have more than hope to go with the change. You have to have some facts. No matter how much the liberals of the world would like to usher in a utopia where the government provides everything for everybody, it just isn’t possible or wise.
The basic problem that the U.S. has is common to many countries, many states and provinces (including Manitoba) and many individuals. Not only do they have high debt, they have a negative net income
The Winnipeg Sun notes that U.S. radio host Dave Ramsey says, “If the U.S. government were a family they would be making $58,000 a year and spending $75,000, on top of having $327,000 in credit card debt. They are currently proposing ‘big’ spending cuts to reduce their spending to $72,000,” he said, using the actual proportions of the federal budget and debt to reduce it to a level we can understand.
We are going to need politicians with a very real level of courage who will tell us like it is and not how they think we want to hear it. The U.S., Canada, many other countries, and even good old Manitoba and our towns, have to stop spending beyond their means. Nobody can, on an ongoing basis, spend more money than they take in.
Even foreign aid is coming under severe criticism. The U.S spends billions on foreign aid and what has it gotten them. Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, Pakistan and Palestine are hardly good examples of a successful foreign aid policy. A half century ago U.S foreign aid worked and the results are still being harvested in Japan and Korea but in the intervening 50 years there’s not much to crow about. The contrast between Korea and Iraq is mind boggling.
Closer to home, the financial scene is just a miniature of the U.S situation. Manitoba spends way more than we take in. Manitoba’s debt goes up every second of every day. The solution is easy actually. It would have been easier if the Manitoba government had not committed to the Human Rights Museum and  a new football stadium but at least a lesson should be learned from those mistakes. It’s called cut expenses, stop borrowing and make some changes in how we run government.
What to do?
Examine closely the findings of the Public Utilities Board, which says it may not be wise to build the last dam in the Hydro system and we may not even need BiPole III, regardless of which side of the province its built on.
Freeze hiring of Manitoba civil servants.
Seek private P3(public-private partnership) capital for all capital projects including provincial and municipal. The only role of the province or the municipality should be regulatory. Private industry should put up the money with a return on investment tightly tied to performance over a 30-40 year period.
A local case in point should be the upgrade to Hwy. #16 through the Town of Neepawa. The province (and the trucking industry) want certain lane widths and traffic flow standards. The Town of Neepawa needs a new water and sewer line. The Town of Neepawa wants safety for all and to retain, maintain and replace its famous trees. Put all those and other deemed necessary items in a package and receive proposals for the whole deal to be designed, built and operated for 40 years. It’s almost guaranteed that a private company could and would do it better and cheaper over the span of the contract than the town and the province could ever do it.
Insanity is described as doing the same things in the same way and expecting different results. Our town, or province, our country and indeed the United States have to change the way they do things. If not, we will be experiencing this same insanity 10 years from now. Or maybe not, maybe our towns, our province, our country and the U.S. will look like Detroit. Burnt out, abandoned, destroyed. We still have a choice and we had better be taking that choice. Only difference, our change has to be based on more than hope. Some facts would be helpful. This is a Sunrize Group internet solution (204)226-2247