Spreading stupid stuff on the Internet.

December 10th, 2016 by Peter Lowry

You have got to be kidding! Are there that many people who actually believe what they read on the Internet? As someone who was accessing databases on remote computers before the Internet became a reality, you learned to never accept any information without considering the source and why they posted the information. And if Donald Trump does not stop tweeting, someone should do him a favour and make the White House a ‘No Twit’ zone.

But what is really disturbing is that people are believing things like blogs. Blogs are not news. Blogs are, at best, opinions. The individuals who write in these personal spaces are sharing their opinion about their world. Whether our opinions are valid is for you to decide. There are no guarantees.

It is like in the early newspapers. In North America, many newspapers were created to support a political party or the objectives of a community of interest. Even today, we have large dailies with political opinions. We even have radio and television networks that do not keep their political bias out of their news articles and programming.

Even when a large and relatively respected news organization is behind an article on their web site, it does not mean that the writer is not letting personal bias paint the story.

There is also the reader’s bias. Years ago, an older gentleman was asking me about something he read in his daily newspaper. It only made sense when he produced the original item. It was discovered that he was reading the Letters-to-the-Editor, thinking they were news items.

But nobody wants to see an Internet that is rigidly controlled and edited. They might try to do that in some totalitarian regimes but our communities are far better off with a free and open Internet. We might need some parental controls on it but any limitations will be at the cost of our freedoms.

We are entitled to read the differing opinions and to make up our own minds as to what is of interest and what we believe. And just because some of us will not waste our time on Facebook or Twitter, it does not mean we do not understand the social media. What people need to do is always question the source of information. There are many sources that want to manipulate for their reasons—not ours.

-30-

Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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

The worst fears of Justin Trudeau.

December 9th, 2016 by Peter Lowry

It is hardly the spectre of Stephen Harper that keeps Prime Minister Justin Trudeau awake nights. It is the spectre of a democratic Liberal Party of Canada. It was something that was very real and credible to his father but for some reason haunts the son.

From day one of his winning the leadership of the party, Justin Trudeau has been trying to change the party. He started by breaking his word that he would not interfere with electoral districts selecting their Liberal candidates. He selected the candidates for a number of Toronto ridings and damn the consequences. Some of the choices were arbitrary and decidedly wrong. One of these was former police chief Bill Blair. The good news is that since being elected, Blair has disappeared into a cloud of marijuana smoke.

But since then, Trudeau has neutralized the Liberal Party. He emasculated it. He took away all rights and the ability to question his leadership. He took away membership in the party. He now defines who and what is a Liberal. The party lists are his Christmas card list. They are just his crowd funding.

And yet Justin Trudeau tries to play both sides of the street. He makes nice with the environmentalists while making deals with the tar sands exploiters. He picks and chooses the pipelines that might get some of Canada’s bitumen to the oceans—betraying promises to Canada’s first nations.

But, in the meantime, serious questions about Canada and its future get band-aids instead of repairs. His elitist solution to the Senate of Canada is a stop-gap at best. His senate appointments are a time bomb, ready to blow up at the first real controversy. And his elitist solution to Supreme Court appointments will not bring him any joy in the long term.

He tries to ignore the need to re-open the constitution despite that is where the majority of Canada’s problems are sitting. Just ask him about what to do about Canada’s constitution and he will run and hide under his bed. Instead he creates a farce of examining how Canada votes. He gives the job of democratic reform to a wet-behind-the-ears member of the cabinet and is surprised when she makes a mess of it.

It has been obvious since the overly long federal election of 2015 that the members of Justin Trudeau’s brain trust think too much like him. He desperately needs people with a knowledge of history and able to make clear plans for the future.

-30-

Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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

The grandstanding of Patrick Brown.

December 8th, 2016 by Peter Lowry

People who prefer to grandstand in politics can be a pain in the ass. There are times when a politician should to take a stand on an issue but that is when you can reason and suggest alternatives to help solve the problem. Our Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition in Ontario does not believe in such niceties. He just goes for the jugular.

And to make matters worse, his latest attack is more of an attack on a former leader of his own party than an attack on the Liberal’s Premier Wynne. John Tory who is now a very popular Mayor of Toronto was Conservative leader in Ontario from 2004 until 2009. It is the mayor’s proposal to charge tolls on the Don Valley Parkway and the Gardiner Expressway that Brown is dissing. Brown is asking the Premier not to agree with Tory’s proposal.

It is examples such as this that Ontario voters should pay attention to before telling pollsters that they would choose Brown over Wynne in the election less than two years from now.

What people have to realize is that for the mayor’s proposal to work, people need alternatives to those city expressways. As it is you might as well refer to those city-owned highways as stall-ways. They are grossly overcrowded from very early in the morning to late at night.

But what alternatives are people proposing to help alleviate the problems? The province and the federal government have been doing their part to offer infrastructure funds to build light rail or subways as well as fund improved transit connections for commuters. It is the constant confusion as to the city’s  direction that has put Toronto so far behind in meeting infrastructure needs.

And now we have Patrick Brown MPP, a small-town boy from Barrie who is sticking his oar into Toronto’s all too muddied waters. He might have stolen the leadership of his political party last year but he failed to buy any more brains or knowledge to go with the job.

Brown’s predecessor Michael Harris might have thought he was fixing things back in the 1990s when he amalgamated the City of Toronto with its burgeoning suburbs but he failed to give the city, now more than four times the size, effective governance. It seems that no Ontario government wants to have a strong and capable government in Toronto.

But if we had Patrick Brown running the province, we would all be in trouble.

-30-

Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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

In defence of Internet voting.

December 7th, 2016 by Peter Lowry

After more than five decades of working with computers, you would think the writer would know a bit about computers. The truth is that we have never programmed a line of code. Our expertise was always in being able to listen to experts and then interpret what they said for the public. Yet we have been surprised at what the experts have been saying about Internet voting.

If you distribute the voting records for more than 25 million Canadian voters at random across several thousand servers, there is no point for anyone to attempt to hack them. Hacking one record at a time would be pointless. And when you leave a machine address code behind, you might soon be arrested for what is called personation. And if anyone finds they have already been recorded as having voted, it is easy to negate the old vote and let the legal voter make the decision.

Where previously systems have been at risk is when the votes are added and transferred to a central computer. Again, the random nature of the voting records make it virtually impossible to add or subtract votes from anywhere else as the votes are counted by random computers.

This is not to say that hacking is impossible. It is just not worthwhile. It is sort of like the banking records that allow depositors to move money between accounts and to pay bills. Why would anyone want to hack into those records? And it becomes even more foolish if you can be sent to prison for doing it.

The reason for the growing interest in Internet voting is that it can solve many problems for the voter. The voter will have little excuse for not voting as you can vote from anywhere. If you do not have a computer or smart phone, you can go to any library or other electoral district computer and cast you vote. If you are out of the country, you can vote from any computer or go to a Canadian embassy or consulate. With a widely-distributed system, there is little danger of voters jamming the hubs on the Internet because of concentrating on one set of computers. Voting can be allowed for multiple days or just one. And polls can close at the same time across the country. It will take longer to verify the results than to count them.

We did the survey for Democratic Institutions Minister Maryam Monsef at MyDemocracy.ca the other day. We found out that they think our views align with Guardians. Of what possible use that will be to solve the problems with Prime Minister Trudeau’s promise to change how we vote is beyond us.

-30-

Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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

In the steps of the Hair or of Trump?

December 6th, 2016 by Peter Lowry

There could be as many as 14 contenders for the upcoming Conservative leadership contest on-stage in Moncton tonight. Which candidates will take their cue from the Hair (Stephen Harper) and who will want to try the President-Elect Donald Trump style is the question?

The Moncton event is our first chance to hear from some of these contenders. They have been coming (and one going) for a while and nobody has paid much attention. If you had to pick one to emulate the Harper approach, it is likely to be Maxime Bernier. The MP for Beauce, Quebec takes you straight down the Conservative line with the exception of advocating legalized marijuana. Other than that, he is just as boring as most of the other candidates.

The candidates who might steal the show could be either Kellie Leitch, MP for Simcoe-Grey or Chris Alexander, the former MP and former ambassador to Afghanistan. Leitch tells us that her hero is Donald Trump and she is the one who thinks immigrants to this country should be tested for their knowledge of Canadian values. (Whatever they are?)

It was Alexander and Leitch who introduced the Tory tip-line for ‘barbaric cultural practices’ in the last federal election. Leitch’s latest talking point has been for getting rid of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

But Alexander did her one better in Edmonton the other day. He was talking to a fair-sized crowd of Conservative supporters. They were outdoors and there to object to carbon taxes and he got them chanting “Lock her up” to keep warm. This chant was in reference to Alberta Premier Rachel Notley. It was not only a disgustingly ignorant chant but did not reflect any Canadian value that we can think of.

But it is the very fact of having up to 14 nonentities willing to put down a $100,000 deposit and provide 300 signatures from Conservative party members in 10 electoral districts that has us wondering. You would think that alone would keep the numbers down. These wannabes’ do not even seem daunted by the spending limit on their campaigns of $5 million each.

And even one or two more are expected to jump in. We have still not heard a firm ‘no’ from Boy Wonder Kevin O’Leary. He might be studying Donald Trump’s style before making his announcement.

In any event, Babel-on-the-Bay will not be announcing its Morning Line on the Conservative leadership until mid March. And please remember a morning line is just a handicapper’s aid in assessing the possibilities in a race. You only need a few visits to race tracks to know how often the morning line can be wrong.

-30-

Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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

The slippery slide to sophistry.

December 5th, 2016 by Peter Lowry

Not all communications from readers are complimentary. There was a reader the other day who accused us of the dastardly use of comma splices. It was only by Googling ‘comma splice’ that we found out the nature of the problem. It seems we were being pilloried for using commas where you really need a colon or semi-colon.

The specific complaint was about our comments on a television interview with Conrad Black. As you might know, Lord ‘Cross-the-Pond’ has a penchant for ‘veddy-veddy’ correct grammar. He acts like he was the guy who taught the late Henry Fowler ‘Modern English Usage.’

But what the former newspaper publisher does not understand is that there is no standard for English in Canada. And there is ample evidence of the disarray this has caused. It used to be that Canadian Press would try to help news editors but fewer newspapers subscribe to Canadian Press services today. Periodically University English Departments try to do something but nobody appears very interested.

And from once being the bulwark of English language pronunciation in Canada, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation seems to have surrendered to Americanized mumbling. (We actually woke up the wife the other evening by shouting: “Did you hear what Peter Mansbridge just said?

“So, what,” she mumbled and went back to sleep. It was some minor mispronunciation that you might have expected from an American announcer but never from the CBC’s lead guy.)

But who cares. The only reason you want to have a standard is so that people can understand each other. Americans figured that out years ago and decided they did not want to be understood. Never, ever try to get into an argument with an Alabaman and a Bostonian at the same time. It will drive you nuts!

Even the English stopped talking the same language many years ago; after giving the world a common language for science and international air travel. English was the ideal alternative to Esperanto.

Anyone who relies just on their computer’s spell check operation is very foolish. And, by the way, anyone who chooses to capriciously argue the case is guilty of sophistry.

But we responded to our critic with an appropriate ‘mia culpa.’ We told him that we really do try to edit our work, though not always successfully. We had looked at the original copy of the Conrad Black piece and felt embarrassed by the colons and semi-colons that were used. It was as though Conrad had written it himself. So, we followed normal newspaper practice today and changed them all to commas.

-30-

Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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

A trumpeted win for Trump in Indiana?

December 4th, 2016 by Peter Lowry

You have never heard so much BS from so many supposedly knowledgeable writers. Why would anyone think that Donald Trump’s grandstanding in the Indianapolis Carrier plant was a win? It was a farce that cannot survive an Indiana winter.

For President-Elect Donald Trump to show up at that plant with his Vice-President Elect in tow was nothing but hokum. He is reported to have threatened the management of the plant if the production there is moved to Mexico. He is reported to have told them that he would impose exorbitant tariffs on their products coming back to the U.S. if the plant is moved. That would be a serious breach of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

You would think that VP-Elect Mike Pence would know that. You would also want to believe that somebody told Mr. Trump that. A smart lawyer could probably convince a judge that the plant management thought the President-Elect was kidding. No harm, no foul.

But Trump cannot keep doing that. He would be interfering with the free trade agreement as well as making an ass of himself. And he is hardly going to keep threatening big business. Business people know that they just might be the only possible beneficiaries of the Trump Presidency. We know he is no fan of people. He uses women and fires men. A shrink might question whether he even likes himself. We know he has one hell of an ego but he has to look in the mirror as well.

The more serious challenge at this time is that big business supports free trade. Free trade contributes growth and profits and will continue to be an anchor of business support for the politicians. Business expects that Trump will come to them for advice and they will now be hoping he comes earlier than later.

What we writers will have to do is set up a tally board to record President Trump’s goofs. They will need to be graded in some fashion as not all goofs are the same. We could measure them, for example, on a scale of one to ten. That way a small goof based on his vanity that did not much harm to the economy would be a two or three. A cataclysmic boo-boo that cost thousands of jobs for Americans would rate an eight or nine. Going to war, as did George W. Bush, would earn a ten. We could get the same people as keep track of the Doomsday Clock to keep track of Mr. Trump’s boo-boos. There are going to be a lot of them.

We should all hope there are no number tens!

-30-

Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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

“Well here’s another nice mess, Ollie!”

December 3rd, 2016 by Peter Lowry

Democratic Institutions Minister Maryam Monsef and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau are probably too young to remember the 1920s to 1950s Hollywood comedy team of Laurel and Hardy but they seem to have a comparable act. It was Monsef’s turn on Thursday to dismiss the work of her own committee on electoral reform. She had given the committee an impossible task to complete in an impossible time frame and then took the committee to task for not working hard enough.

Playing the Stan Laurel role in the duo, Justin Trudeau got the shtick rolling during the 2015 election by foolishly promising that 2015 would be the last time Canadians would use first-past-the-post voting. From when he first said that many people knew he was headed for trouble. Choosing the inexperienced Monsef as the cabinet member to implement the change was likely his second biggest mistake on the file.

For Monsef to insult the committee, on the record, in the House of Commons was a mistake that cannot be expunged. The Minister obviously spent some time in the parliamentary woodshed for her mistake.  Those Members of Parliament not only deserved the multiple apologies the next day but they deserved some real contrition from the Minister after their hard work over the summer.

And they did a good job within the time limits and the parameters that had been set. What nobody noticed is that some of the by-the-ways of the committee’s mandate were a more difficult task than the original task. Internet voting itself needed more than a summer with all the misconceptions people have on the subject.

It was the Liberals on the committee that acted the most responsibly in the final report. The Conservative, NDP, Green and Bloc majority on the committee recommended that the government proceed with a proportional system of voting after a referendum on the subject. They knew it was a specious argument. They knew that there would be lots of time to argue about any proportional system the Liberals might design.

But that is what the Liberals on the committee actually suggested. They very honestly considered the next election in 2019 would be far too soon to consider using a different electoral system. They want Canadians to be far more engaged in the subject of electoral reform before anything is proposed.

But ‘democracy be damned’ as far as ‘Oliver Hardy’ Monsef is concerned. The ball has been played to ‘Stan Laurel’ Trudeau’s side of the net and he has to decide if he should save his Minister of Democratic Institutions. Or not.

-30-

Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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

Brassard’s charges without answers.

December 2nd, 2016 by Peter Lowry

It is interesting reading knee-jerk conservatism these days. The local Sun Media newspaper here in Barrie gets a glance when an occasional free copy comes our way. We particularly like checking on the editorial page where you can read Libertarian, Green or Conservative political views but apparently never Liberal. Last week it was the turn of local Conservative MP John Brassard. His attempt deserves some comment.

John is a fireman by trade and looks good in a suit and tie. Watching him on city council prior to him moving to Ottawa was an exercise in boredom—other than when he could talk about fire department business. Now that he has staff and writing assistance, he can start to broaden his perspective.

He starts out with the statement on the environment that we all have to do something about greenhouse gases as long as it does not cost us money, or jobs. He is especially opposed to carbon taxes. He figures that with the reality of the American election we will have to have less regulation, slash business taxes and cancel all commitments to protecting the environment. This guy is a regular boy scout!

In an electoral district full of commuters and farmers, he rails against taxes on fuels. He notes that Canada only contributes 1.5 per cent of our planet’s greenhouse gas emissions. He considers a carbon tax to be misguided and thinks there should be a better way. He does not tell us what it is.

Not satisfied with dissing the federal Liberals, John takes a few swipes at the Ontario bunch who make fun of his pal Patrick Brown, the Ontario Conservative leader. He thinks that the Wynne government is driving good manufacturing jobs out of Ontario. This is surprising when you consider the number of companies that fled during the nine years of Conservative government in Ottawa. Brassard refers to Ontario as a ‘have not’ province and might not be aware that Ontario has actually been showing some recovery in the past year.

He concluded his diatribe by asking if the reader has confidence in Kathleen Wynne and Justin Trudeau dealing with Donald Trump to look after the needs of their families. It seems he does not. That will make it interesting when we get to see who’s button he is wearing at next May’s federal Conservative leadership convention.

-30-

Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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

The bias of Toronto Star’s Paul Wells.

December 1st, 2016 by Peter Lowry

What is a writer such as Paul Wells doing at the Toronto Star? Does he provide insight you wonder? Is his writing progressive? Does he know the Ottawa scene as he tries to explain it? We have given him more than enough time to get comfortable. He has been found wanting.

The final straw was the column last week under the title Rising nationalism a test for Liberals. We did our best to understand his argument and after a third reading we were still puzzled. He starts out by saying that the Trudeau government is a government in crisis. He goes on to say that the electoral upsets in other countries such as the U.S. and Great Britain are caused by middle class dissatisfaction with the rising numbers of trade deals. He complains that Justin Trudeau is too busy wooing billionaire elites to notice.

It is not that we disagree with the problems inherent in most of these free trade deals. They tend to be too secretive in the negotiations, too complex, too long and, when published, too deep for the average person to read or understand. It makes these deals too easy a target for demagogues and other political opportunists.

And it has become obvious to Canadians that the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) needs serious review. The example of the ongoing soft-wood lumber disputes demonstrates a major problem. If President-elect Donald Trump really thinks he can negotiate a better deal for the Americans, he is in for a surprise. Free trade has to start with fair trade. He might be foolish enough to keep on abusing his Mexican neighbours but his citizens will not understand abuse of their Canadian neighbours.

It is probably just as well that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal will die as Trump moves into the White House

But how Wells annoyed this writer was in his mindless acceptance of Conservative criticisms of Justin Trudeau. When the Conservative’s temporary leader Rona Ambrose says that Trudeau “likes hanging out with billionaires,” it must be because that is where the money is. When Wells repeats it in the largest circulation newspaper in Canada, it is playing to a number of prejudices.

Finally, we need to understand that the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) might not be so comprehensive after the United Kingdom voted on exiting the European Union recently. There is much still to understand about this agreement and no sector of society should be taken for granted. Canada already has minimal tariffs with EU countries and there needs to be some better explanation for Canadians as to whether this agreement is worth the bother.

And Paul Wells needs to do better research on the subjects he is covering.

-30-

Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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