Thursday, June 26, 2008

Where Does All the Oil Money Go?

Foremost, it goes to investors, in the form of stock price increases. People such as George Bush, and many of his friends who funded his election campaign are big oil investors.
Some of it goes to investors like me, who battle between their conscience and the ever increasing stock values of oil companies.
It goes to the people who pay for election campaigns in the United States.
It goes to rich kings and princes in Middle Eastern countries so they can build more palaces and ski hills in the desert.
It goes to Nigerian politicians who promise to improve the economy, but end up tucking most of it away in Swiss bank accounts.
It goes to keep Hugo Chavez in power so he can further entrench himself in South America while insulting the USA.
It goes to the Sudanese government. They in turn use it to stay in power by violently suppressing opposition. And when the opposition don't get the point, it's used to ethnically cleanse them.
It goes to the owners and investors of big energy companies like Shell and Exxon-Mobil, who promise to invest in alternative energies, but aren't really serious because who would want to stop such a profitable racket.
It goes to Iranian leadership so they can build up military might and use it to destabilize the entire Middle East, which drives oil prices up further, which makes them even richer, so they can destabilize the Middle East even more, so oil prices can rise further...

It goes to the people of Dubai because their princes are generous and all Dubai people, thanks to the gift of sitting atop of riches, can be multi-millionaires.
But in Russia, it goes to the select few billionaires who were lucky enough to be in the grabbing position after communism collapsed.
It goes to suppress and destroy new energy efficient technologies so that the demand for oil continues to rise.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Tax and Subsidy Solution to the Global Oil Crisis.

Negative factors of oil price rises.

• Increased production costs for goods and...
• Increased transportation costs for goods, resulting in...
• Across the board inflation.
• Decrease in travel expenditures followed by airline bankruptcies.
• Automobile industry struggles, particularly SUV’s and mid size cars.
• Huge cash inflows to unstable, unfriendly regimes.
• Worsening trade deficit for USA.
• Global economic recession fears.

Positive factors of oil price rises.

• Increased attraction in renewable energy investment.
• Increased sales of fuel efficient cars.

Solution – A global tax and subsidy program, particularly involving North America and Asia. (Europe already has high taxes on oil).
In this program, taxes would increase by 15% per month for a year. The tax revenues in turn would help subsidize programs that lower oil consumption.

Right now, governments, particularly in China, India, and the US, are under pressure to do the exact opposite, decrease taxes, and even go so far as to subsidize fuel. This in turn increases demand, inflating prices further.

If these governments got together and made a concerted effort to artificially increase the actual price of oil through taxes, what we’d see is a decrease in demand, followed by a decrease in price.

Therefore, a worldwide 15% increase in taxes would see a decrease in demand, followed by a decrease in actual price per barrel of 5-10%.

The consumer would end up paying only a little more for fuel than before, not the full 15%.

The Results.

• Increased tax revenues for governments
• Decreased oil revenues for unstable governments
• A slight increase in fuel prices for the consumer

Now, why stop at 15% taxation. Why not increase that to 30%, then 45%, and all the way to 200%.

At 200%, the price of oil could drop to $50-80 per barrel. So with 200% taxes, the consumer is paying $150-240 per barrel, which is only slightly more than the $140 (and rising) that we pay currently.

The medium and long term difference would be that the revenues go to government, not to ridiculously rich countries.

With the big taxes, major oil consuming governments would be flush with cash. Billions and billions that they didn’t have before. This, in turn, can be invested in fuel efficiency by doing the following...

• Subsidize hybrid and electric vehicles.
• Offer tax incentives to car companies to manufacture locally.
• Subsidize and invest in alternative transportation (trains, planes, boats).
• Invest in carbon capture programs.

The above result in.

• Jobs are created.
• Economy booms.
• Exports increase.
• Fuel efficient push decrease oil demand.
• Oil prices decrease further.
• Cleaner environment.

The people who have the power to change things are our governments. In the short term, the consumer is stung, but in the long term we benefit greatly from competent taxation and energy management by our governments.

Challenges to overcome for this model to work.

• International governmental cooperation and coordination.
• US oil lobby interference.
• OPEC screwing with global supply to keep prices high.
• Election promises of low gas taxes or subsidies in return for votes.
• Frustration with short term gas hikes.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Labatts Stupid Facebook Promotion - Support Our Troops.

This was the most recent advertisement I saw on my facebook profile page. "Join the Labatts Blue support our troops group."

It made me angry. How is buying a particular brand of beer in any way supposed to support Canadian troops?

Does Labatts send our troops free beer?

If they do, is that a good thing?

Perhaps it should read, "Get em loaded! Support the Taliban by impairing our troops judgment!"

I'm not saying the troops shouldn't unwind and have a few beers. Just don't advertise the fact.


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Canadian Morocco visa update

My wife recently received an email from the Canadian Embassy immigration officials asking for more information. The majority of what they asked for was information I felt we had already provided, or they were asking about her details since we submitted the application over six months ago.

One new thing they wanted was Siham's birth certificate. She provided pretty much every other piece of ID. She didn't provide the birth certificate because, as far as I know, most Moroccans don't have one. Their names are written in a family registry and later added to their family book provided by the government. They are given identity cards and kept on file, but that's about it.

You can get a birth certificate. It's basically just a piece of paper with a stamp on it issued by local officials. It's pretty much a meaningless piece of paper a person would only get if they were asked for it by some foreign embassy.

I don't get this whole birth certificate thing.

Is it to make sure they were actually born?

Are there unborn people trying to sneak into Canada?

If you want to make sure someone was born and didn't come into this world by some unnatural method, all you have to do is ask to see their belly button.

In Morocco's case, just send someone to check the registry. Dozens of applicants can be done at the same time and it's probably a lot more foolproof than asking applicants to obtain their birth certificates. In our case, it would save us about two thousand dollars because Siham has to return to Morocco simply to obtain that document.

Furthermore, I'm sure there are a number of corrupt people who could get you a falsified birth certificate. Not that falsifying one would be particularly difficult. It's not like counterfeiting currency. It's a simple standard handwritten form, and the stamp could be copied on with a good scanner.

It's a pointless piece of identification to request.

The hope is, Siham gives them the info they requested and is approved that same day, or shortly after. Then we will be done this entire hellish process...

Until three years down the road when she applies for citizenship.

Job posting email.

Sometimes, this is how I feel after spending hours preparing a job application. It's the feeling I get just after sending it. And again, weeks later when I come across the files I prepared for the job. Some jobs I'm not quite qualified for, but for others I feel I'm very qualified. For the vast majority, I never even hear back from them.

Dear candidate

Thank you for your recent application with us. We realise it takes hours to complete all of the demanding requirements which our job posting requested.

Unfortunately, we tailored the job posting to an already preselected relative of a current employee. We actually only posted the job to provide the illusion of fair hiring practices. So, no matter how qualified or overqualified you are, this default email will be the end of our communication with you.

We understand that hundreds of applicants spent several hours finishing the in depth questions and responses. Nobody even read the majority of these applications because we knew who we'd hire well before the posting went up.

You should be thanking us for not wasting more of your time. Some applicants made it to the interview stage and drove hundreds of miles to take an interview for a job they never had a chance of getting.

We wish you the best of luck with your future endeavors. Most companies say we'll keep your resume on file for future reference, however we have already thrown it in the garbage.


John Doe, Human Resource Manager

Monday, June 02, 2008

The Canadian Public Service Job Search

The Canadian government boasts fair hiring practices. But something that always irks me is how they ask 'for statistical purposes' about being a minority or having any disabilities. That doesn't sound fair to me.

In France, they give preference to French people, which is wrong. I firmly believe that the best candidate should be hired, no matter what nationality. In France, it's so bad that foreigners often change their names to sound French.

In Canada, one might consider doing the opposite. The government even runs ads promoting skilled immigrants. What about ads promoting skilled Canadians?

If the government is underrepresented for Native Canadians, change your name to Kicking Post.
If there is a new hiring initiative to increase the representation of Pakistanis, can I register my new name as Ahmed Khan.

Most people who I know in government positions had a way in. They had someone in a hiring position, or in a position of importance to help get their resume in the right hands with a strong recommendation.

Someone I talked to the other day, working at Statscan, didn't have an in, but made a follow up call to inquire about his application. He'd heard interviews were being conducted.

"You must not be qualified, let me pull your file," the recruiter told him.

After a moment, the recruiter said, "You are very qualified, I don't know why you didn't get a call."

Only with the follow up did he get hired. Had he not followed up, they would have lost a qualified candidate.

Like him, I'm the white Canadian who knows nobody. I'm caught between a rock of nepotism and a hard place of affirmative action.

I've written around half a dozen government tests, yet for some reason I find my score is always a little bit lower than I expected. Meaning, I expect to get in the nineties, yet end up with around 80%.

On the multiple choice tests, I sometimes check the wrong box accidentally and erase and correct the mistake.
They say to erase completely, yet if I've filled it in too dark, it always leaves a little shading. I wonder if that gets marked wrong sometimes on the computers they pass them through.

I expect to get in the nineties for two reasons. One, that's what I generally score in the practice tests. Two, I have a feeling, upon finishing the tests, that I got nearly all the questions right, and am able to count the few which I struggled on. Human error, misreading, etc, might bring me down a couple marks, but going from 96/100 to 81/100 feels wrong.
If anything, I hope it's the other way around, and that I got lucky on one or more of the questions that stumped me.

I've realized, with a child and a wife, that a writing career will take a backseat to any other decent paying career. At home, I just can't get much of anything done with a boy who needs constant attention and a wife who has a knack of needing my help every time I get started on editing.

I will continue to plot books, and fish around for an agent for my current work, as well as writing articles and contest pieces.

As for my last application/test. The Statscan hiring initiative was posted for one day on the government website. 4000 people applied for an unknown number of positions. Maybe ten, maybe fifty, maybe one hundred?

At the Statscan test, 95% of people were still writing at the end. I finished and had a minute or two to spare.

It was basically an English test, designed to push people to finish on time. The questions were worded so that someone might have to read them two or three times to take in all of details and information.

I got 49/50 on the practice test, which you can do here.

If you do write it, be careful to time yourself for 85 minutes, because the majority of people don't finish on time.

I'm hoping for perfect, and am waiting for the result. Unlike my typical screw ups, I made zero accidental checking errors that needed to be erased, so it will be interesting to see if I get the near perfect marks I felt I scored.