Dougie did it!

October 22nd, 2018 by Peter Lowry

There is an explanation for this. I have a younger brother whose name happens to be Douglas. When we were young, the standard answer to a bloody nose or a broken lamp was always “Dougie did it.” I can admit now that if the fresh blood was mine, I could easily blame him. Mother was very wary though of these claims when it looked like Dougie lost the fight.

But Dougie always was mother’s favourite. I felt hard done by when the fact was that my older sister and three older brothers could treat me as their Sherpa but I was not allowed to pick on Dougie. And he had the last laugh because he was the first in the family with a PhD.

The point of this is that I am not trying to belittle Ontario premier Douglas Ford by casually referring to him as Dougie. I am delighted today that I can say “Dougie did it” and mean it. It is certainly not my brother’s fault. He is now a retired academic living in Ohio where he lectured business students for many years.

One of the subjects I have discussed seriously with him over the years has been ethics in business and politics. When he was teaching in Ontario, I was welcome to go to Waterloo and lecture his business class.

I like to think I have contributed something to better ethics in business over the years but I tend to despair with politics. Frankly the leadership of the Ontario conservatives has been beyond redemption for the last several years.

While I believed that Patrick Brown might have just been diddling his expenses occasionally, there is really no excuse for someone such as Doug Ford. Doug Ford is a liar, a charlatan, an ignorant boor and a disgrace as premier of Ontario.

In his case, ‘Dougie’ is not an endearment.

Do you know that he promised observant Sikhs the other day that they can kill themselves on motorcycles.

I never knew a religion that wanted to fast-track the ‘Right to Die’ with anything other than KoolAid. Dougie actually told the Sikh community in the Brampton area that Sikh males could now use their turbans as helmets when they ride their motorcycles. That was not only flagrantly discriminatory and sexist but it was colossally stupid.

It was no wonder that he tried not to let non-Punjabi language media know about the plan. Ontario’s Dougie knows how to pander for votes!

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

A relentless push for change.

October 21st, 2018 by Peter Lowry

As best as I can follow the Google Analytics information about readership, there is a consistent and steady stream of world wide web users visiting the Democracy Papers. I wrote these papers in 2007 for the provincial referendum on voting in Ontario. It looks like more than 30,000 individual readers from around the world have accessed those papers in the years following. I think my words are ending up on political science tests around the world. Yet, they are not academic efforts. They are for anyone who is curious about voting systems.

In addition to those archived materials, I periodically comment in Babel-on-the-Bay on people’s strange ideas about voting systems. This seems to always provide me with fresh rants from people who dislike our first-past-the-post system of voting.

I quite understand the complaints. To paraphrase Winston Churchill as he once said about democracy. “It is not all that good a system; it is just better than the alternatives.”

But I will always defend the concept of having our local candidate who goes to the government for us. That is a key to our democracy and I will always defend it.

At the same time, I do understand the concerns of those who want change.

My only solution, for those who will take any improvement, is run-off elections. Many try to convince me of alternative voting as an inexpensive approach to this but it is really not the same. Alternative voting is where you can number your choices as 1, 2, 3, etc. and if you have ten candidates in your district, you can number all ten.

What bothers me the most about numbering the choices is that it is difficult for the voter to find out enough about some candidates to rank them. It has to be explained to voters that they only need to rank those candidates they would find acceptable.

And while there are those who think it is a bumper-sticker answer, alternative voting systems can make the losers the choosers. Run-off elections keep everyone in the same driver’s seat. It gives every voter the chance to make their choice anew. And in an era when we will all be switching to Internet voting, the costs of making up your mind again will be minimal. I expect it will be initially resisted by the politicians to the right of the political spectrum but they are natural pessimists and it might surprise them that this system can work for them too. It is better than the alternatives.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Voting for the future?

October 20th, 2018 by Peter Lowry

It has always been my observation that there are fewer ‘Come line’ bettors in municipal voting than ‘No line’ bettors. If you are not a craps player, I should explain that there are fewer civic voters voting positively for the future than there are people expressing themselves with a negative vote. (I should also mention that the ‘No’ side in craps gets slightly better odds.)

Despite this seeming negative advantage in craps, the casino still makes money on the game from what gamblers get hooked on, which are the propositions. These are all those funny markings in the middle of the craps layout that players throw chips at the stick-person to place for them.

But it has always been my observation that municipal politics is far more of a crap shoot than people realize. We elect people in municipal elections on far less information than a McDonalds’ would require from a teenager wanting an after-school job. We use rumour and name recognition to pay someone an outrageous sum and we cannot even fire them for four years.

I mention all this in response to the Toronto Star promoting the paper’s own version of confusion in how they promote candidates for office. I have noticed lately that columnists who might never have been to a city council meeting (or stayed very long) are now telling us how to vote for their candidate.

The best example recently was an op-ed piece by the Toronto Star’s Heather Mallick promoting Jennifer Keesmaat for mayor. Frankly, Keesmaat might not be the super solution that Mallick suggests. She would hardly be the first civic employee who thought she could do a better job than that bunch of elected screw-ups. I would like to know what she could not do as an employee that she could now do in the mayor’s chair?

The reason I say this is because Mallick is impressed with Keesmaat’ s level of planning in her plans for transit. Suggesting that Keesmaat must be better because she has made ten promises in regard to transit and John Tory has only four. Maybe Mallick should realize that Tory has a far better chance to achieve what he promises. Keesmaat has a lot to learn.

And if she had a way to get the downtown relief line for the Toronto subway system built three years sooner, she should have pushed for it back when she worked for the city.

Toronto is a rapidly growing city that needs a better form of governance. We need people who understand the problems and can help. Toronto news media need to fight for better governance—not encourage dilettante reporters to pitch their unqualified favourites.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Cost of challenging climate change.

October 19th, 2018 by Peter Lowry

The bills keep rolling in. Dougie and the Deplorables should take their show on tour and give things a rest at Queen’s Park. This provincial government, that ran on promises of saving us taxpayers money, ran up bills over the summer that make the previous liberal regime look like pikers.

And to make matters worse, this new conservative government spent most of the money on cancelling the efforts of the previous liberals. You would at least hope that the liberals did something right?

But Dougie had a very expensive summer. He has added billions to the provincial budget. He could have to tax us another 20 billion or so, just to balance the books. It was as though he was searching for opportunities to add on debt and blame it on those spendthrift liberals. The immediate bill for cancelling the Ontario cap and trade carbon controlling deal with California and Quebec is over three billion.

What Dougie is going to cost us in law suits and failed opportunities in tax revenues keeps mounting. He no sooner launches his own supreme court challenge to the federal government’s suggested carbon tax but he heads out west and offers to also spend money on the climate change primates in their Alberta and Saskatchewan’s court challenges.

Hell, we do not even know what a lot of pending law suits against the new Ontario government are going to cost us. They range from the strange firing-cum-retirement of the guy running Hydro One to the parents tired of being ‘coitused’ around by Dougie over sex education for their children. Everybody seems to want to have a piece of Dougie’s ass.

And I certainly would not recommend to him that he stick his big nose into things at Toronto city hall very soon. Those people are ‘mad as hell, and not going to take it any more.’ Since the premier seems to have a legal right to ‘coitus’ around with the number of councillors on city councils in Ontario, I am not sure it is law suits that he need worry about.

I am not at all sure that the premier is anywhere near done ‘coitusing’ us.

His promise to save us a bit on gasoline prices disappeared into the pockets of the oil companies. Similar to his foolish ‘buck-a-beer’ promise, it was a waste of time and something he could do little to control.

No doubt Dougie has lots of little surprises for us over the next four years. I just hope we can afford them.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Thumper: 1932 to 2018

October 18th, 2018 by Peter Lowry

The Hon. Donald S. Macdonald has died. We were never friends. He might have served in Pierre Trudeau’s cabinet and we were both Torontonians but we never exchanged much more than the odd slight. I found him very elitist, right-wing and the kind of Rosedale warrior that was a pain in the ass. To be fair, he mainly ignored me.

But, he is dead and I should think of something nice to say about him. The good news is I do not intend to go to his funeral.

Surprisingly I got my early push in politics from Rosedale residents who were close to Don. My late friend Joe Potts and I managed to get ourselves into and out of trouble until Joe got his appointment to the bench and he was no longer allowed to play with political riff-raff.

But this story is about Thumper. And, by the way, I called him “Thumper” after that rabbit in the story of Disney’s Bambi. I never looked at his feet. Thumper was always raising alarms.

The final straw was Don’s acceptance in 1982 of the the chair of the Royal Commission on the Economic Union and Development Prospects for Canada. He had quit politics four years earlier to return to law but accepted Pierre Trudeau’s appointment for a reputed $800 per day.

I hope he was docked for the $800 on the day I was making my presentation to the commission. No reason was given, he never showed up. With a pitch entitled ‘Towards A New Capitalism’ I should not have expected any special treatment.

I hardly think it was just my lack of enthusiasm for free trade with the U.S.A. that led Don to suggest that “leap of faith” in free trade in his report. I saw it as a give-away to a country that did not even believe in fair trade. I felt we were setting ourselves up to be bullied.

I thought Don was pleased that he did not have to hand his report to the much smarter Pierre Trudeau. Instead, Brian Mulroney, the patsy PM for the Americans, was the ideal recipient of his inelegant tome.

But I still need something positive. I was going to mention the bow ties but the first time I saw Don in a bow tie was after the 1962 election when he was first elected. It was at a function for prime minister Lester Pearson. I though Don was kissing up to the boss and his traditional bow tie.

I can apologize now because I found out later that Don really liked bow ties. I hope he is wearing one for the funeral.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

This honour might not be justified.

October 17th, 2018 by Peter Lowry

There was an e-mail the other day informing me that Babel-on-the-Bay is being honoured for its support of U.S. Supreme Court Judge Brett Kavanaugh. Good God! Did I? When? Why? And why do I not remember committing such a heinous crime?

The e-mail is detailed and serious. It is from some right-wing crazies, based in Washington, D.C., called Judicial Watch. All I know about them is they spend an inordinate amount of time and money trying to get Hillary Clinton locked up.

To tell the truth, I do not recall writing anything about the U.S. judge. He is just another example of a highly politicized judicial system that is going downhill fast. I was appalled at his undisciplined display of anger in his appearance before the U.S. Senate committee. I knew nothing else about him and I had nothing insightful to say about him.

But here is Judicial Watch congratulating me on “the role you have played in getting out the truth.” I wish.

They claim “The leftwing (sic) members of the Senate violated every rule of proper procedures and basic decency…” I guess those senators will be next after they lock up Hillary Clinton.

It seems these Judicial Watch people have been putting together an obviously extensive list of blogs that they think will be a force for conservatism and Donald Trump. And this is “right when America needs us most!”

But here I am being feted by these people for “the role you have played in getting out the truth… And changing the course of history.”

Judicial Watch is going to expand its Blog Watch website to accommodate every blog I and my fellow conservative(?) bloggers do on any issue involving government corruption, election integrity, illegal immigration and terrorism. They promise to put them front and centre on their website. They will even e-mail the blogs to their entire list of some 40,000 names on their press(?) list. They want to share my commentaries with their 5 million Facebook followers, one million Twitter followers and 60,000 Instagram followers.

I know this will come as no surprise to regular readers of Babel-on-the-Bay, but the question is: should I tell these brain-dead, right-wing dingbats that I am a Canadian? And, to make it worse, I really am a left-wing liberal?

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Bloomberg boo-boos big.

October 16th, 2018 by Peter Lowry

How do you get to be the 11th richest man in the world and have employees who make ridiculous mistakes? I hate to embarrass a guy such as Michael Bloomberg but he put his name on Bloomberg News to try to give it some credibility. Of its current 20,000-plus employees, he needs to hire some knowledgeable editors to make sure the reporters get it right.

On October 12, I came across a business news article that was clearly credited to Bloomberg News. While the headline writer might have been local, it stated that Chinese companies were loading up on a Canadian bargain: Along with saving about US$ 50 a barrel, Asian refineries “want Western crude’s rich bitumen.” At first, I thought it was just a headline writer’s error.

But no, the story actually was written as to give the impression that bitumen came from Western Canada’s crude oil. Not only that but the writer suggested that bitumen was itself desirable as “a black residue used to build everything from roads, to runways and roofing.” That is correct in that those are traditional uses for bitumen. The writer could also have noted that the ancient Phoenicians also used bitumen to caulk the bottoms of their galleys that plied the Mediterranean.

But bitumen is also a source of synthetic crude oil. I sincerely doubt that anyone would ever want to figure out a method to add carbon molecules to crude oil to turn it into bitumen. As it is, refineries converting bitumen to synthetic crude oil end up with huge piles of what is known as bitumen slag that is almost pure carbon. It is one of the most polluting processes in the refining industry. It would certainly be a strange commodity to promote through one of Michael Bloomberg’s companies, when he has such an impressive reputation as an environmentalist.

One of the reasons for the renewed interest in Asia for Canadian bitumen is the current unrest in Venezuela. Venezuela has what many believe are much larger reserves of high-grade bitumen-like oil, that is often referred to as extra heavy oil. It is easier to refine and leaves less pollution in its path.

And if Bloomberg wants to write about the world oil industry, it should make sure its reporters know what they are talking about.

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Argumentum ad absurdum

Having written the foregoing about Bloomberg’s confusion about bitumen over the weekend, imagine my surprise Monday morning when David Olive of the Toronto Star used the same incorrect information. He could at least have credited the Bloomberg article as his source. The Toronto Star editors even used the same Canadian Press picture to illustrate Olive’s story.

I am not accusing David Olive of plagiarism here but he certainly needs to check his sources better. He should be well aware that Western Canada Select and Canadian Heavy Oil are just tar sands companies’ euphemisms for tar sands bitumen.

It is nice to know that David Olive is also bullish for bitumen—it goes so well with the Toronto Star’s hypocrisy about global warming.

Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

A federal green machine?

October 15th, 2018 by Peter Lowry

We got a push from the left of the political spectrum the other day for a proposal unveiled in 2016 to transform and green Canada’s dying postal service. It was new to me and I like it. For too long, we have been watching the post office clutch at straws to stay viable in an electronic world. This plan involves some serious thinking. It came from the postal unions and a leading thinker from the new democratic party. It needs to be given strong consideration.

I like the idea because it addresses more than one problem. It provides cooperative solutions. And I like it because it must have come forward without need for political trappings. It has meat. It fills serious needs and it can have a solid impact on our country’s future.

It has taken the demise of local newspapers to see the current rebirth of direct mail advertising and parcel deliver for Internet purchases to keep the post office in business. Neither of those business opportunities can be the core that will give the postal service a future.

This plan, sponsored by the national president of the postal workers, the national president of the post masters and their assistants, and Stephen Lewis’ son Avi, is multi-facetted. It encompasses a new national banking system based on Canada Post. It envisages fleets of electric-powered postal vehicles. It talks of the potential for the postal service to be more pro-active in serving the public.

There is no question but in Canada that the chartered banks have become caught up in their corporate roles as they see themselves as the body servants of the business world. Nobody is looking after the poor, the shut-in, or persons working multiple part-time jobs to look after their families. The postal service can bring community banking to them.

There is a huge market out there of Canadians without smart phones, without Internet, who need the postal service to deliver something more than advertising and bills. And we can help keep the environment clean for our grandchildren while we are at it.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Jean Chrétien tells it like it is.

October 14th, 2018 by Peter Lowry

One of the advantages of being a former prime minister, Jean Chrétien can now tell people how he sees things. Or, in the case of former prime minister Stephen Harper, he can tell it as he would like to see it. Both former prime ministers have new books out to entertain their respective supporters.

There are probably more laughs per chapter in the Chrétien book. It depends on who did the ghosting. Any book by Harper called Right Here, Right Now has to be much more authoritarian than one by Jean Chrétien. The liberal PM’s book is more anecdotal and titled My Stories, My Times.

You can count on the former liberal prime minister to have a few choice words for the current American president. They include terms such as “Fanatical” and “Unspeakable.”

But even more interesting, Chrétien sees the current president as bringing on the “end of the American Empire.” In his travels, Chrétien has been seeing the growing disbelief and disgust with the current American regime that panders to dictators, makes a mockery of democracy and drowns America’s moral leadership in bigotry. Of course, it should be remembered that Chrétien is friends with Bill and Hillary Clinton and would hardly approve of the man who beat Hillary for the presidency with lies and false accusations.

Not surprisingly, Stephen Harper also seems to be concerned about Trump and obviously thinks that the American president might be misunderstood. He does not think the populist supporters who elected Trump should be referred to as ‘deplorables.’ Harper seems to understand the grievances of the right wing in America—and even some of the left wing—that enabled Trump to win the presidency. And he does not think the pressures of today’s world are going to allow those grievances to be ameliorated. Harper’s advice is more like “get used to it.”

While there is lots of self-congratulatory B.S. in the Harper book, it might need to be read by some of the Pollyanna liberals. There is no question but many of them need a wake-up call.

All I can say about the Chrétien book is that it might bring a smile. Essentially, it is designed to look good on your coffee table—if you still believe in doing that.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Holding Honderich’s Hypocrisy.

October 13th, 2018 by Peter Lowry

It is this writer’s observation that John Honderich of the Toronto Star can be among the most puffed up of self-important Canadians. In an opinion piece on page two of his own publication the other day, Honderich bemoaned the lack of financial support for journalism by the federal government. He appears to resent that federal government advertising goes to the media that provides the lowest cost per thousand impressions.

What really galled in this self-serving whining was the list following the story of the 137 newspapers in Canada that have been closed over the past decade. It was interesting going through the list and marking the newspapers where Honderich and TorStar sent out the pink slips. Hypocrisy makes it hard to tell what Honderich is really complaining about!

There is no doubt that the world of journalism is continuing to change. We can be impressed with some of the digital conversions of great papers such as the New York Times and the Guardian in England but Canadian journals trying to convert to digital existence have not been particularly successful to-date. In fact, TorStar did a better job on its first digital iteration than it has done on the latest confusion.

But my problem is that the wife has taken to adding up what we are spending on news media. Reading the Toronto Star in print form over breakfast every day costs a heck of a lot more than I spend on this web site each year. Babel-on-the-Bay.com is a fun hobby. Reading the Toronto Star has always been a habit.

What worries me is that the Trudeau government and his cabinet ministers in training might start to throw money at traditional media. All they would accomplish would be to create more delays in bringing Canadian journalism into the 21st century. Newspapers, radio and television have to find their own path to the future.

We could get better results for Canadians though by putting the money into teaching our kids how to spell and use reasonably understandable grammar. No doubt language can change and improve over time. We should never have to grow old and have to listen to and read absolutely appalling English and French. Better language skills enable all of us to be more easily understood in an increasingly complex world.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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