The Bully Pulpit of the Paul’s.

July 24th, 2014 by Peter Lowry

This is not the Apostle Saint Paul under discussion here. Libertarian extremists Ron Paul and his son Randal Paul are something else. The senior Paul is still the cantankerous fanatic who took his pre-Tea Party Libertarian followers to seek the American Presidency in 1988 and tried in both 2008 and 2012 to win the Republican presidential nomination. While the older Paul is almost retired from politics at 78, his son “Rand” is readying for a presidential bid in 2016 from his Senate seat for the State of Kentucky. What is frightening about it is the highly sophisticated use of the Internet by the Paul’s. It is the real bully pulpit.

While in the usual sense, a bully pulpit is a position of power from which one can speak with authority, the Paul’s are actually using the Internet to create that authority. As their high-powered public relations people put it, the Paul’s are using the Internet to crowd source what they see as a digital bully pulpit. This is a giant step beyond being ‘liked’ on Facebook. The Paul Plan is to dominate.

Rather than call their supporters Libertarians, the Paul’s refer to their supporters as “liberty-minded” and obviously Republican. Their objective is to drive the political energy of the extreme right wing of American politics into feeding ideas, support, names of activists and local leadership from the grass roots to the Bully Pulpit that encompasses the Paul’s sites. It is a pyramid building exercise that could be the envy of Amway.

What the Paul’s are doing is creating conveyance. They see themselves as opening the flood gates for the real wishes of the American people. All that Randal Paul needs to do is offer leadership. He wants to be able to scratch today’s itch for millions of Americans. It is terribly simple and frightening as hell.

When you consider that almost half of the American population have no real love for their fellow man, Paul’s job is easy. Washington inside the Beltway is the enemy. Foreigners are to be distrusted and they are not even sure about Canadians. Business is good and welfare is bad. And no, young “Rand” is not named after former right-wing guru Ayn Rand but he might as well be.

The Paul’s Internet platform is based on Voices of Liberty, a supposedly ‘non-partisan’ site for exchange of right-wing theories, rants, ideas and arguments. And how do we know all about this? The public relations people for the Paul’s sent this blog a news release about it because we have readers in the United States of America.

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to peter@lowry.me

Political parties never die. They merge.

July 23rd, 2014 by Peter Lowry

Some of our kindly readers have send notes asking what happened to Babel-on-the-Bay’s forecast in May of the immanent demise of the Ontario New Democrats. Yes, there were some brazen forecasts of such departure and logically we could show you where we were right and where we might have been blind-sided.

But the truth of the matter is that the New Democrats in Ontario have nowhere to go. The provincial election tore the heart out of the NDP in Toronto. The Windsor area Liberals might have been more pissed than we realized but you can hardly run around the province taking peoples’ temperatures–especially in Windsor where they seem to prefer rectal thermometers.

But on balance, in the provincial election, the New Democrats went nowhere with a miserably low turnout at the polls. And it puts a question mark to the supposed ability of New Democrats to pull out their vote. Even in the recent federal by-election in Trinity Spadina, the NDP loser was a person reputed to be one of the top guns in the party in the ground game. That spells real trouble for New Democrat darling Olivia Chow’s chances in this fall’s mayoralty race.

But the person to keep an eye on in the next while is Ontario New Democrat Leader Andrea Horwath. She forced the party’s gamble in bringing about the provincial election. She ran the worst do-nothing campaign we have seen from the New Democrats. She ignored the panic of her party’s old guard. The campaign was Andrea’s to screw up and she sure did. Her head is on the block. She has time to decide to go with dignity and arrange for an orderly transition. She had better do it before the knives come out at the approaching convention.

But the guy looking at Ontario with pain on his face is federal New Democrat Leader Thomas Mulcair. He is the one with the most to lose. He knows he will gain nothing and can lose much in Quebec next year. He was counting on Ontario to give the federal party a new base. He knows now, it will not happen.

It is time for Mulcair to sit down with Justin Trudeau. It is the ordained time for change. It is time for realizations. Mulcair and his party can fade into the woodwork of Parliament next year or they can buy into a brighter, progressive future. What they need to point out to Liberal Leader Trudeau is that in sharing the social democrat patina in Canadian politics benefits both parties. We need one strong social democrat party in Canada and we can achieve that in a merging of the Liberal Party and the New Democrats.

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to peter@lowry.me

Yes, charities can harangue governments.

July 22nd, 2014 by Peter Lowry

There is nothing new about charity chill. No party in power wants to be harangued about what they are doing wrong. Mind you the Conservative government has definitely gone overboard in forcing Canada Revenue Agency to conduct expensive audits of charitable organizations that annoy the government.

Over thirty years ago, the Liberal government of the time was also threatening charities. As the then head of a major health agency, some of our board of directors were quite concerned that we might be going too far in defying government edicts about lobbying. This presented a problem when Finance Minister Marc Lalonde cut basic research funding in Canada in a government-wide cost-cutting effort.

A very determined new group called Canadians for Health Research headed by Pat Guyda in Montreal took point in the offensive. The group recognized that they needed some experienced help. They came to this writer and said, will you talk to the Commons Finance Committee for us? Our objectives were the same so why not?

The speech was presented in the Railway Committee Room in the Centre Block of the House of Commons. It was carefully crafted and more of a sermon than a political speech. The lesson for the effort was the late Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’ book On Death and Dying. It needed about 20 minutes. Invited to address the committee from beside the chair, the MP leaned over and said, “Peter, can you keep this to five minutes, we need to break for lunch.”

When the speech was finished, 20 minutes later, there was hardly a dry eye in the room. We were not aware of at the time that a senior New Democrat MP took a copy of the speech intended for the news media to the Commons that day and read it into proceedings in Hansard.

The upshot of the matter was that we were all pleasantly surprised when Marc Lalonde’s department suddenly found some extra money to restore the funding for basic health research that year. Mind you we have to continue our vigilance and Canadians for Health Research needs our continued assistance to focus attention on basic health research needs in Canada.

While slightly side-tracked here, we would use a different approach in the case of the current government going after environmental charities. While deeply concerned about our environment and future health of Canadians, we do not see environmental groups as charities. These groups need more freedom. It is our country’s future we are dealing with and we all have to buy in. When collecting money for environmental causes, we are selling shares in our country and our children’s future. This is not charity, this is a duty.

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to peter@lowry.me

Are bloggers lower than politicians?

July 21st, 2014 by Peter Lowry

There is an interesting facial reaction when you tell people you write a blog. Maybe the thing around the eyes is pity, at first. They then ask what you blog about. When you say politics, the nose definitely tilts up a bit and the forehead crinkles into a frown. They remain polite but quickly lose interest.

In reading Alison Loat’s compilation of the Samara Institute’s interviews with former politicians in the book Tragedy in the Commons, she notes that bloggers have been classed as something lower than politicians. It seems to be a casual observation. This blogger is still determining if it is worthwhile reviewing the book’s self-indulgent comments by ex-politicians on their years in Canada’s parliament.

One observation that she makes is a particularly congratulatory few paragraphs on MP Jim Peterson’s chairing of the finance committee that fronted for Finance Minister Paul Martin in the draconian financial decisions made by the Chrétien government in 1995. It was one of the most disheartening events to watch after more than 30 years of involvement in Canadian politics.

It seemed that everyone was using others as beards in a string of manipulative moves at the time and the people being bamboozled were the Canadian taxpayers. Jean Chrétien had already gone back on too many of his promises and used Paul Martin as his beard. Paul, in turn, used Jim Peterson and his committee to try to prove that massive cutbacks in government spending were necessary.

Jim Peterson’s parliamentary committee traveled across Canada listening only to the bankers, financiers and elites who wanted lower taxes and less government expenditure. The 99 per cent were ignored. Even Bob Rae in Ontario bought in on the fiction and created the Rae Days that ended the New Democrats brief reign in that province.

Jean Chrétien is now retired and so is Jim Peterson. The voters looked after retiring Paul Martin when his ego sent him after the job of prime minister—the job that his father always wanted.

We well understand the suspicions people have of political blogs. You sometimes think that if these bloggers could just set aside their egos while writing, some might have something to say. You hope that in the very least, they care.

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to peter@lowry.me

And you think this is voter apathy?

July 20th, 2014 by Peter Lowry

There has been a flurry of concern lately about what people see as voter apathy. And when voter turnout in federal and provincial elections heads toward the 50 per cent levels, we should be worried. What is wrong is not that the first-past-the-post voting is wrong or that attack advertising is turning people off. What is wrong is the political parties are letting us down. They are not doing their job.

The other day in a discussion with a local riding president, the question was asked of him what was needed in his newly formed riding. His answer was that he needed party executive members from one of the new areas. His existing executive does not have the get up and go to get out there and meet and interest people in the new area in the challenge and fun of participating in politics. The source of the apathy is right there on his riding executive.

Sure there are lots of external factors, pressures and misdirection but there is no excuse for a riding executive to allow gaping holes in their balanced representation of the riding.

We used to have choices when electing people to our riding executives. Today, it seems you have to use a press gang approach to find the people. They seem to enjoy the opportunity to sit and pontificate about their political opinions but when it comes to hard work, they get scarce.

A big part of the problem is the inexcusable top-down structure of our politics today. Party leaders are petty tyrants with the power to not only set policy and platforms but to appoint the party’s candidates and hire and fire throughout the party. The Conservatives and New Democrats have people detailed to police the riding association and approve their candidate choices (appointed by the party leader). The Liberals are just as disorganized as ever and have an inexperienced leader who interferes in riding decisions when he feels like it. (If he had not promised he would not do that, we would be more forgiving.)

But what the party leaders have done is create a swath of do-nothing riding associations across the country who are used to doing nothing. And they are good at it. Mind you, the Liberals and New Democrats are gradually realizing that the Conservatives are in full swing organizing their candidates for the coming federal election. Has the Conservative leader told them something that he has not told the rest of us? Do we really know when the next federal election will be called?

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to peter@lowry.me

Finding the facts on prostitution.

July 19th, 2014 by Peter Lowry

Taking a poll on prostitution is probably the least helpful exercise by the government in assisting themselves and others to understand the issues. Top of mind response to polls can trivialize the topic. And that is what you get to telephone surveys. It is also why you get very different answers to the same questions in research focus groups.

In a group setting, skilled researchers can break down barriers to discussing the issues and then you can start getting thoughtful answers from people. Nobody in research work pretends that focus groups are representative of the total population. It just enables the researchers to be sure the respondents understand the questions.

That thoughtfulness can help avoid embarrassment such as the seeming ignorance of our Minister of Justice who said his new prostitution law is going to put an end to prostitution. It was a top of mind answer that he had to later recant.

Prostitution is known as the oldest profession because the sexual urge in humans is always with us. Let us hope that collectively we should never lose it. And what occurs between consenting adults in private is nobodies business but theirs. If favours or cash are exchanged, it is nobodies business but theirs. The state has no need to interfere in a free society.

And that is what the Conservative government does not seem to understand. The Supreme Court proved that they understood it when they ruled that the state was putting prostitutes in harms way with our foolish prostitution laws.

What can never be strong enough are the penalties for people who exploit the sexual services of others for profit. To sell the services of others for sexual purposes is reprehensible. There is no place for non-participants in the transaction.

It is because sexual transactions should be private. They are as private between a husband and wife as they are between two mutually attracted strangers in a pick-up bar. They can be a man and a woman, two women or two men or some combination of three or four or more. Do we have some need to condemn others for what we might not understand?

Canadians want and deserve a free society. We have a long way to go to really achieve that objective. Losing the stigma of legal censorship of our morals and sexual needs can be a good start.

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to peter@lowry.me

There are liars and damn liars.

July 18th, 2014 by Peter Lowry

The Woodrow Wilson Institute based at the Smithsonian in Washington is an honoured institution recognizing the only American President to have earned a PhD. It seems a shame that its name is being besmirched by the cant of the tar sands exploiters and the sham of Prime Minister Harper’s energy policy. This commentary is instigated by a Toronto Star opinion piece on July 17 saying Canada must diversify its energy pitch to the U.S. It is by Andrew Finn program associate at the Canada Institute of the Woodrow Wilson Institute.

The first (complex) sentence of the article is all you need to read to question the writer’s veracity. He refers to the United States decision to “deny Gulf Coast refineries the heavy crude they so desperately need.” This is not only a flat out lie but it uses the wrong words to describe the Canadian goods planned to be shipped through the Keystone XL pipeline.

The facts are that the Texas Gulf Coast refineries have no need for the Canadian bitumen from the Athabasca tar sands. Utah has lots of tar sands type bitumen it can ship south. The refineries around the Texas Gulf oil ports have little interest in bitumen because of the additional and highly polluting processing required. They certainly do not need it.

And Canadian bitumen is not by any stretch of the imagination “heavy crude oil.” Bitumen is one of the oldest materials used by man. It provided the waterproofing pitch for the boats that plied the Mediterranean before the pyramids were built. It supplied the mortar for the bricks of Babylon. Bitumen might be available in the largest quantity in Alberta but it is found around the world.

But if you wash out the sands and add polymers to the mix, bitumen can be heated and pushed at high pressure through a pipeline. It is the most efficient way to move the stuff. And if you are ecologically minded, you leave the stuff where it lies. It can be refined into synthetic crude oil at great expense to the environment when our dying planet is desperate for oil resources.

But this does not justify the confused and inaccurate story from Mr. Finn and the Canada Institute. He uses Canada’s hydro power electrical generation as a counterpoint to the bitumen. He says the United States should buy more electrical power from Canada’s renewable resources while agreeing to move our bitumen to the oil ports for export.

Frankly nothing much is achieved by propaganda such as this. It makes life even more complex when you cannot trust the Smithsonian or the Woodrow Wilson International Institute. And worse, why is the Toronto Star running such garbage?

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to peter@lowry.me

Bells toll for the Common Sense Revolution.

July 17th, 2014 by Peter Lowry

One of the most frightening think pieces during the recent provincial election was the piece by Bob Hepburn of the Toronto Star entitled Last gasp for Harris-era dream platform? It ran on the day when voters were going to the polls on June 12. It was a fitting time for it. It explained why Conservative Timmy Hudak’s days at the helm of his party were already numbered.

The article was ostensibly about the team preparing the way for a Tim Hudak-run Conservative government for Ontario. The team was chaired by Tom Long, the boy wonder of Canadian Conservatism in the Harris era. His team included Leslie Noble and Paul Rhodes who were back for another go at the hard right Hudak version of the Common Sense Revolution. Hudak’s wife Bev Hutton, also a retread from the Harris government of 1995 through to 2003, was at least an honourary part of the team.

The team was paid by the Ontario PC Party to plan the transition from a Liberal government to the hoped for Conservative government that the Conservatives anticipated. We should all be thankful that it never happened. After the Conservatives tried to spin that Hudak was the winner of the televised debate, many Conservatives were convinced that they were winning.

Hepburn told readers that the team had not been involved in Hudak’s embarrassing loss in 2011. Hudak was expected to win that election and the loss to the McGuinty Liberals was humiliating. Yet it was only McGuinty who realized that there was no next time for him and he set the wheels in motion for the tightly controlled convention that chose Kathleen Wynne as the new leader.

Hepburn also tells us that it was Long and his team who convinced Hudak to focus on the million jobs plan in the 2014 election campaign. They are also purported to be the geniuses who led Hudak to also promise to rid the government of a hundred thousand civil service jobs. It was that straw that broke the camel’s back. It caused a shift of about four per cent of the popular vote away from the Conservatives and a humiliating loss for Tim Hudak, Tom Long, Paul Rhodes and Leslie Noble. It might be a long wait for those four horsemen to be invited to their next Ontario Conservative Party meeting.

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to peter@lowry.me

The best attack is self inflicted.

July 16th, 2014 by Peter Lowry

The Conservatives have been wasting a great deal of money on their attack advertising against the Liberal’s Justin Trudeau. What is missing in their strategy is that kernel of truth that is needed to make the attacks plausible. Being young is hardly a negative. Nor is brashness a bad trait. The Conservatives have had to wait until Justin Trudeau supplies that kernel.

The most recent example of  a kernel such as this was supplied by Ontario Tory Leader Tim Hudak in the recent provincial election. He was doing fine with his extreme right-wing agenda going into the campaign. It was all built on a very ambitious million-jobs plan. He slipped when he added that he would do away with 100,000 civil servant jobs. The stretch for a million jobs was too much when you start with a negative 100,000 jobs.

Even a more centrist Conservative such as John Tory when he headed the Conservatives in the 2007 provincial election produced such a kernel. John’s was the offer to fully fund all religious schools. The facts are that Ontario voters dislike having to support two separate school systems and are not about to support more. And John failed to realize that his own most likely supporters were the least likely to support religious schools. It cost him and his party the election.

And this is the danger that Justin Trudeau faces. It is not the foolish stuff, his opponents have used to date but the injuries he does to himself.

A good example is the growing rift in the Liberal Party over his minions and Trudeau himself interfering in riding nominations. The infighting in the party over this issue has been costing the party for the past 25 years. The rule that the party leader has to authorize every candidate was a change made by the parliamentary wing of the Liberal Party. Many experienced liberals consider the measure to be arbitrary, destructive and illiberal.

In running for the leadership of the party, Justin Trudeau promised to keep his hands off riding decisions. He seemed to understand that grassroots development of party policy and the freedom to choose their candidates was core to rebuilding a strong Liberal Party across Canada.

He blew that idea. In the heart of Liberal Canada, Trudeau blocked a riding candidate and chose his candidate in the Trinity-Spadina by-election. Without an apology to the party and some contriteness, Trudeau has supplied the Conservatives with the kernel: he does not keep his word.

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to peter@lowry.me

Reprising Sousa’s budget triumph.

July 15th, 2014 by Peter Lowry

Hey it won an election for the Liberals did it not? It shows how rarely we hear a good budget read in this country. It also shows how ignorant those people are who go on and on about the deficit. Finance Minister Charles Sousa’s Ontario budget of May 1 and again of July 14 is a winner. He needs to remember that.

Being a banker by trade Sousa does worry about balancing the books. What he needs to understand is that it is not the average citizen who got us into the current financial doldrums. It was bankers. Sure, they were American bankers that started the entire mess but they were still bankers. If it had not been for our Canadian bankers’ innate sense of caution and conservatism we would have been right into sub-prime mortgages like the American banks.

But here we are more than five years after the American financial bubble burst still struggling to move the economy forward and to create more worthwhile jobs for people in Ontario. While it was the tried and true infrastructure investment that carried us this far, we need better thinking for the future.

Charles has got to think outside the banker’s box. He has to realize that Ontario does not have to compete with other states, provinces, countries to be the cheapest. All we have to do is continue to be the best—the best educated work force, the best environment, with the best medical care and the best policed and peaceful communities and the best place for work, recreation and to raise a family. We have got a lot going for us in Ontario and Charles has to realize that people are more than willing to pay their share in maintaining it.

And he should not forget there are financial opportunities for the taking. Just because Toronto Council is dysfunctional is no excuse for Toronto not to have the casinos it needs to offer a complete range of attractions for tourists. Charles needs to remember that gambling is legal in Ontario—when it is run by the province—and there is no excuse for some places to not have the full range of services.

Charles also needs to understand simple opportunities such as selling beer in convenience stores. Who gives a damn what the blue stocking crowd think? There is far more tax revenue for the province from convenience stores than from those smelly beer stores.

There is a world of opportunities for the province to balance the books. It will happen if we just grow up and take the opportunities available to us.

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to peter@lowry.me