Archive for September, 2014

Looking for war in all the wrong places.

Tuesday, September 30th, 2014

In Orwell’s novel 1984, Big Brother’s regime uses never ending far away wars to control the population. He makes war a critical component in sustaining the totalitarian regime. War is to blame for the regime’s economic failures, the shortages, and the beggaring of the proletariat. Big Brother has victories. The people suffer the losses.

But there is a caution that needs be noted for those seeking to create their ideal totalitarian regime in Canada. The one component that Orwell added to the mix in his mythical Oceania was total control of communications. This is where Mr. Harper and his lackeys in the Prime Minister’s Office have failed so miserably. Their nemesis the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation still runs exposés on their chicanery. And, for that matter, Mr. Harper can never really trust his friends at CTV, Shaw or TVA.

Canada is in an awkward position in going to war. It might have been alright with Canada’s Muslim community to go after a particularly despicable dictator such as Muammar Gaddafi in Libya and to try to police the poppy growers in Afghanistan but boots on the ground elsewhere in the Middle East can only assure Canadians of a large number of casualties and growing dissent at home.

And as much as the Tories might reap votes from the Ukrainian Diaspora, nobody in Canada wants to go to war with Russia over who owns the Eurasian Steppe—or the North Pole for that matter.

Harper needs to face the fact that while Canada has always done its job at war, it is hardly a sabre-rattling nation. We are multicultural, tolerant and peaceful. We prefer to be peacekeepers and referees. The Americans are the gunslingers. They have their National Rifle Association that thinks the only way to keep the peace is carry a bigger gun. They seem to relish the role of being the world’s policemen—until they realize what it costs.

Nobody in the Middle East has paid much attention to Harper or Baird sabre-rattling on behalf of Israel. They know they are only playing to the Jewish vote back home. Most Canadians are only embarrassed by Baird.

If we had never seen the downfall of the World Trade Towers to al-Qaeda, it would be hard to believe all the spin-offs from those terrorist roots. We keep hearing of new jihadists who seek to wreck havoc on the fat capitalists of North America. Maybe we have earned these new bogeymen but we cannot cower in our fortress in fear of them.

The people being overrun by brigands such as ISIS need humanitarian aid from countries such as Canada. It really is up to the Arab countries to put a stop to these international brigands who are taking advantage of the civil wars and disruption in the Middle East—it only encourages more totalitarian regimes.


Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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Barrie’s Brown hedges his bets.

Monday, September 29th, 2014

While we have been known to refer to Barrie MP Patrick Brown as ‘that nebbish,’ his latest political ploy is the height of hypocrisy. He has good reason to worry about being elected in his new federal riding next year so he can at least get some publicity by going for the Ontario Conservative leadership. By not resigning his seat in the House of Commons, he is showing a lack of confidence and contempt for the voters and his job.

If any Ontario Progressive Conservative Party member asks, all we can say with certainty is that he has no single attribute they might be looking for in a provincial party leader.

This is a person who has been in parliament for the past eight years and has done absolutely nothing to distinguish himself in that period except set a new record for needless and inane communications expenditures. He likes being known as a ‘retail politician.’ That is a politician who concentrates all his efforts and expenses on his riding. He seems to devote his attention entirely on his constituency and only shows up in Ottawa to vote as instructed. He will ask easy questions in the House if they are written in advance by a minister’s staff.

Brown should be pitied rather than elected to anything. He has no discernible political philosophy and a serious lack of personality. Women have been known to be interested in him for as much as ten minutes until they find he has nothing to talk about. He reached his academic zenith when he finally got through Bar Admission in Ontario.

But he has nothing to offer the Ontario Conservatives who still like to call themselves Progressive. He is actually dumber than Tiny Tim Hudak, the former leader. He was with Hudak during the last Ontario election when the then Ontario PC Leader announced that he was going to fire 100,000 Ontario civil servants. We know that Brown would never have suggested that—or anything else.

And besides, Brown has little hope of defeating sitting MPPs for the leadership such as Christine Elliot from Oshawa or Vic Fideli from North Bay. So what is he running for?

It sounds like Brown has hired a speech writer. Where the money is coming from though remains something of a mystery. The best advice we can give his opponents in the Ontario race is to get him off his script. They will quickly see that he has nothing to offer.


Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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Why Babel-on-the-Bay is cutting off the Greens.

Sunday, September 28th, 2014

It is supposed to be flattering that Babel-on-the-Bay receives so many news releases from so many sources every day. Some of them are interesting, a few are funny, some are useful, and most get a quick check and delete. It is with deep regret though that we have had to bar the Green Party of Canada for spamming us. The Green Party overdoes it.

The Green Party communications person must be a machine. It sits there in the Green Party office in downtown Ottawa and churns out unnecessary news releases indiscriminately and much too frequently. We now know where the local Greenie gets all his stuff that he grinds out on a regular basis.

What we did not expect was to be wished Happy New Year the other day on the occasion of Rosh Hashanah. While we might on occasion smile and wish a Jewish friend (yes, we have friends) Happy New Year before the Hebrew High Holidays, It does not seem appropriate for Elizabeth May (an Anglican) to wish us (an agnostic) greetings for Rosh Hashanah. That is spreading the media net a bit too far.

And it is not that we do not admire Green Leader Elizabeth May. She is a very smart and capable person. It is a delight to have her in parliament where she can do her own assessment of the hell this country is headed for in a leaky bucket. To be honest with you, we think she could do a better job for Canada as a member of the Liberal Party.

As a Liberal Party of Canada member, it would be a pleasure to help her put the party leaders’ feet to the fire and roast them regularly for not protecting our environment. As a Liberal, she could help us rail against Justin Trudeau’s weaselling on tar sands exploitation. He needs to be educated on the subject and then held to what he promises. We simply cannot allow the continued massive carbon output of extracting and refining bitumen from the tar sands.

And we should also note that Elizabeth May could contribute to almost any portfolio in a Liberal Cabinet. We will never forget her outstanding contribution in the televised Leaders’ Debate in the 2008 federal election. She was the only party leader present who understood and was willing to say how serious the world financial system situation had become. Mr. Harper had another agenda and he was not about to reveal it to Canadians.

And please be advised Ms. May, we will welcome your more thoughtful releases any time if you will just dial down that e-mail production machine in the office.


Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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But the Hair only came for dinner.

Saturday, September 27th, 2014

The last thing the Hair needed this week was another state dinner. The guy is going to finish up his imperial prime ministership next year weighing close to 300 pounds (136 kilograms). People are beginning to notice the way he is packing it on around the middle. And it has been a telling week. He passed up addressing the nations gathered in New York to do something about global warming but then showed up for dinner.

And was the speech in New York by Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq supposed to be some sort of a joke? Here she was telling the gathered nations that Canada was doing something about greenhouse gasses in the transportation and electricity sectors, never mentioning Canada’s huge and highly polluting oil and gas sectors. This is an international blackeye to Canada and what we stand for. If anyone important had bothered to stay for her speech, they would have booed.

Canada’s standing with the United Nations was further emphasized when the Hair came later in the week to address the General Assembly. The hall was virtually deserted. Lame duck President or not, Barak Obama was there at the United Nations. He stood up for the environment. He got a great reception. The Hair does not give a damn about the environment. He got the reception he deserved.

And you would have thought that the Hair would have done better during Question Period in the House of Commons last Tuesday instead of having his foolish Parliamentary Secretary Paul Calandra (Oak Ridges-Markham) make an ass of himself again. It reached the point that Leader of the Opposition Thomas Mulcair had to appeal to the Speaker to ask Calandra to put some relevance to his answers. The Conservative Speaker denied Mulcair the right to ask further questions that day.

It took an entire day for Speaker Andrew Scheer to think about the problem. He delayed Question Period on Wednesday to lecture the House on the lack of substance in the answers to questions. He also lectured the Leader of the Opposition for the effrontery of questioning his neutrality. It was regrettable that the Hair was not there to hear what the Speaker had to say on substance.

And to add insult to injury, the Hair was at the same time telling a meeting of mainly Canadian business people in New York that President Obama had asked him to do more in Iraq. Was he lying to these people about what his Parliamentary Secretary was stonewalling the opposition on back home in Ottawa? It is something to cry about.


Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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Who is this Sun Media boor Levant?

Friday, September 26th, 2014

We hardly live a totally sheltered life here in Babel. Sun Media owns the only daily newspaper and the odd free copy takes about three minutes to thumb through and discard. We are supposed to get Sun News on our Bell Fibe television service. We have never bothered to find it. And knowing the Péladeau’s, père et fils, we would probably not be interested anyway. The combination of those sleazy tabloids that the senior Péladeau created in Quebec with the witless Toronto Sun holds no level of interest.

But, at the same time, Justin Trudeau is getting bad advice from his media advisors. He should take a page from his father’s book and simply give this guy Levant the finger.

What was explained to Justin’s father more than a few times was that ignorant people are entitled to their opinion. There is a readily available supply of media people prepared to pander to that ignorance. We just did not have today’s Sun Media back then that is such a good example of the problem.

The people who read or watch or believe what they see or read in Sun Media might not be the brightest bulbs on the tree of life in this country. The truth is these sad Sun Media people are preaching to the choir. They are simply telling ignorant people what they want to hear or painstakingly read. Some people get off on things rude and obscene. You can think of someone like Levant as though he is the CBC’s Rex Murphy after a lobotomy.

But if nobody talks to Levant, his sponsors might eventually get the message that he is ineffective. It could be wrong to assume that everyone from Sun Media is just as obnoxious. It could also be a mistake to bar the door against all Sun Media reporters. Even ignorant readers and viewers deserve to hear the truth.

And besides, any sensible person seeing that picture of the bridal group on a sailing ship with Justin Trudeau kissing the bride’s cheek would be absolutely charmed by the picture. The respect and appreciation Justin shows for the bride is obvious. You can be sure the bride will treasure that record from her wedding day for the rest of her life.

For this ass Levant to belittle the event is rude. And to use it as a reason to attack Justin Trudeau’s parents shows bad judgement and despicable manners. While Pierre Trudeau did not always suffer fools graciously, he was a gentleman. Trudeau’s son Justin has always shown himself to be very much a gentleman. Mr. Levant of Sun Media quite obviously is not a gentleman. We can ignore him.


Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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All you need is $1000 and Liberal Green Light.

Thursday, September 25th, 2014

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau is telling us that the party now has open nominations. You really hate to be a killjoy but the party still has a long way to go to have truly open nominations. The process is about as open as a bank vault at midnight. Becoming a federal Liberal Party candidate today can only be described as expensive, intrusive, demanding, demeaning, and by no stretch of the imagination is it democratic.

And the fact that the Conservative Party is just as undemocratic does not excuse it.

The New Democratic Party would laugh at the Conservative and Liberal methods of choosing candidates but that party has its own problems finding candidates for all 338 electoral districts next year.

But the truth is folks, the current Green Light approval process to become a Liberal Party candidate is not just bad, it is vile. It is a poke in the eye to our democracy. It is a start on a downhill slide to totalitarianism. It is hard to believe there are any political science academics in this country that are not aghast at where this degree of control by the major political parties is leading us?

Liberal hopefuls start with the outrage of paying their party $1000 to consider their possible candidacy for a party nomination. This is not a repayable bond. The party keeps the money whether you win the candidate spot or not. A hundred or so dollars earnest money is one thing; a $1000 from your pocket that you need to spend on communications in a contest to become the riding candidate is simply not justified.

And we hear from potential candidates that the entire Liberal Green Light process is currently taking as much as two and three months. If Stephen Harper dropped the writ tomorrow there would be a lot of Liberal candidates caught with their skivvies around their ankles waiting for the Liberal Party proctologists to check out their bona fides.

And this is not even discussing the forms you have to fill out, the information you have to supply, the questions that you are asked, the promises you are expected to give and the overall insult to your intelligence that is involved.

What is more worrying than the people who struggle through the process out of their sense of duty and desire to make a contribution are the people who look at it all and say: “Screw it!” We must be losing many interesting candidates. Some might have mattered.


Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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And liberal thinkers need not apply?

Wednesday, September 24th, 2014

This needs to be clarified. Nobody owns your body but you. A true liberal recognizes the right of men and women everywhere to the freedom of control of their bodies. It is why a liberal sees abortion, prostitution and euthanasia as moral issues but not legal issues. A liberal decries the efforts of narrow minded people to try to use the state to resolve issues of conscience and personal choice.

But at the same time, nobody has the right to tell you how to think. We all have the right to our own set of principles. At the same time as we stand firmly for the rights of the others, we cannot deny ourselves our own feelings and our own choice on the issues.

And that means Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau is wrong. You cannot tell people how to think. You cannot tell a potential Liberal Party candidate, for example, that they cannot be a devout Catholic. That does not mean they can use parliament or party platforms to proselytize for the Roman Church. The church might be an anachronism but it has also done much good in helping people and raising standards of decency around the world.

Nor is the attitude of many of the more rigid churches, synagogues, temples and mosques about same-sex marriage a deterrent to their members participating in liberal dialogue, membership and candidacy. We cannot be guilty of some form of reverse discrimination because of what liberals might wish to believe in for themselves.

As liberals, we will have a major problem with the Conservatives’ ignorant and ill-considered answer to the Supreme Court on prostitution. Sometime in the first four years of the new Liberal government, the Supreme Court will be throwing the Conservative solution back at parliament for repair. It is a non-answer. If anything, the Conservative law makes matters worse. It drives prostitution into the back alleys and into the hands of less savoury elements in our society. Nobody believes that prostitutes are criminals. Nor are their customers criminals. As liberals, we have a responsibility to keep these people out of the hands of criminals.

As for Justin Trudeau, he needs to use his very good brain before he opens his handsome mouth. Leadership is very much a team effort. It helps to think of others before saying what you think.


Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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Good writing, bad math in the Star.

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014

The Toronto Star editors certainly enjoy stirring the pot. They are always in the market for 800 words of controversy to support differing opinions on current subjects. This is why it has always been easy to sell them op-eds (these are guest-written think pieces usually located on the page opposite the editorial page). Take the latest one that tries to use mathematics to explain why Doug Ford could win the Toronto mayoralty. They must have chortled over the reaction they will get to that one.

It will certainly generate a spate of letters-to-the-editor. Many of them will be about the bad mathematics used to make the case for the elder Ford brother.

And to describe the older Ford brother as the one without a crack pipe is titillating but terribly misleading. Sharing the last name does not mean he shares Rob Ford’s political acumen or work ethic.

First and foremost, nobody voted for Rob Ford four years ago because he smoked crack cocaine, had a potty mouth and would seriously embarrass Torontonians. They voted him into office because he wanted to stir the pot and end the dominance of downtown councillors who think bicycles are the answer to traffic congestion. At least that was the perception in the suburbs.

Rob Ford won and definitely stirred the pot. His older brother seemed to think supporting Rob in that effort was to make more enemies for both of them.

The 2014 municipal election in Toronto is hardly a rerun of the 2010 election. The players have changed. Olivia Chow is there representing the downtown left-wing councillors who have not changed much in the past four years. She is only now trying to get her flagging campaign off the ground.

John Tory entered the race representing the moderate middle ground. He has built a solid coalition that brings considerable strength from the suburbs and is he is respected as a thinker, leader, conciliator and doer. By combining the less extreme conservatives and broad liberal support across the city, he is now the leading contender for mayor.

To suggest that Olivia Chow has any votes to grow is to call on some yet unknown political magic. The numbers just do not add up. Doug Ford has entered the race at the top of a slide to oblivion. There is nowhere else for him to go but down.


Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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Harper’s CRTC dog won’t hunt.

Monday, September 22nd, 2014

It was like old times at the Canadian Radio-Television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) hearing last Friday. You could see the anger rising in the commission chairman’s face. The only problem was that it was not the previous chairman Konrad von Finckenstein who had led the commission into the digital age of communications. It was Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s choice of chair, civil servant Jean-Pierre Blais. Where von Finckenstein would have blown a gasket, Blais called a washroom break.

The witness Chairman Blais left at the microphone was American lawyer Corie Wright global public policy director for Netflix. The streaming video company is believed to have over two million Canadian customers and the regulating commission wanted lists and revenue figures. Until now the company has been operating under an exemption from having to supply competitive information on its Internet-based service.

What needs to be understood about this incident is that it was the Harper government that wanted Netflix exempted under an open Internet policy. At the same time the CRTC is charged with regulating the telecommunications and broadcast industries in Canada and Netflix has been operating at a considerable advantage over its Canadian competitors.

It is simple enough to understand. Bell Canada, for example, has a vast network today of fibre optics that enables it to supply high bandwidth service called ‘Fibe’ to customers for their telephone, television and Internet services. One of the services Bell supplies its television customers is a somewhat limited pay-per-view service. And say what you like about Bell, it does pay taxes and other charges to government to pay its way.

Netflix is an American  streaming video service that uses the broadband Internet service you are already buying as its carrier. Netflix bills you for access to the extensive Netflix portfolio.

The only problem is that as competition for Netflix grows and more bandwidth of the telephone and cable companies gets eaten up by video streaming, somebody is going to have to pay for the additional capacity required. And if money is to change hands, the government wants a share and the CRTC wants to get its fingers into the regulatory pie.

The good news for that lady from Netflix is that if she cooperates a bit with the chairman of the CRTC, she will find he is not that disagreeable. In fact, he is actually a bit toothless. He works for a Conservative ideologue and is not about to upset any commercial enterprises. And a little cooperation here with the Prime Minister’s friends at Bell, Rogers, Shaw, Telus, etc. will keep everything running smoothly.


Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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Babel-on-the-Bay’s best bets.

Sunday, September 21st, 2014

Babel-on-the-Bay continues to have an almost perfect record when it comes to forecasting elections. People who used to make foolish bets with us either hold us to being within a few percentage points or have given up and save their money and pride. The latest win was our forecast for the ‘No’ side in Scotland’s referendum.

Only last week we were discussing the Scottish question with our barber. She was clipping away at our hair while explaining in her lovely Scots brogue why the ‘Yes’ side should win. Rather than lose an ear to an errant pair of scissors, we opted not to argue the case for the ‘No’ side.

There were more than a few who told us we were crazy earlier this year when we forecast the majority win for the Wynne government in Ontario. One of the Sun Media writers blithely stated that anyone who said they had forecast a Liberal majority was a bloody liar. We did not waste the time to threaten him with a slander suit.

It was a very different situation when Babel-on-the-Bay published the Morning Line for the Liberal Leadership with Sandra Pupatello of Windsor in the lead early in 2013. That was a delegated convention and the dynamics changed abruptly when Toronto MPP Glen Murray most improperly dumped his delegates into the undecided pool but then took his support to Wynne just before the delegate selection voting. While Pupatello would have won in an open convention, the corrupted contest in the old Maple Leaf Gardens gave the crown to Wynne.

The outcome of the election in Quebec was much easier to forecast. While Pierre-Karl Péladeau won Saint-Jerome riding, he lost the election for the PQ. It was easy to see why the Liberals would win that electoral contest.

Probably the most difficult elections to call are those in your local community. You get too many false readings unless you are actively involved in the campaign. Four years ago, we helped get a new mayor elected in Babel. That was hardly difficult to call. Running the ground campaign for him made it easy to see how the campaign was unfolding. Actually the operation was guilty of overkill. The campaign spent far more than necessary to win.

We are not involved this time around. Babel’s mayor will win re-election in any event. A local radio personality made the point on air the other morning. She said the mayor is boring. What he really is can best be described as a waste of talent. He is just a small town mayor, marking time. That is sad.


Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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