Archive for July, 2016

There’s no business like no business.

Thursday, July 21st, 2016

Watching the events in Cleveland this week at the Republican National Convention you realize there are two stories unfolding. The first is in the convention hall itself where the strangest and most frightening political event of all is unravelling. While outside the convention, three trigger-happy armies parade and there is a danger of collision.

But for those who love politics, the scene inside the convention centre is more frightening. We expect at any time for the ghost of the late Ethel Merman to come to the podium and belt out her classic There’s No Business Like Show Business. It should be obvious to all that this is not your usual political convention. Only the pathetic balloons in the rafters of the hall carry any political history.

But why is Trump trying so hard to be something he is not? At this point he is proving that he is no impresario. His production is dragging. He has no stars. The audience is only responding to Trump—and not all in a positive way. He cannot even get actor-director Clint Eastwood to come back to talk to an empty chair as he did in the last gathering of the Grand Old Party. And Trump’s wife cannot even read a plagiarized speech.

The convention is designed to confirm and launch the party’s candidate into the race for the presidency. It is supposed to include party business, the basics of the party’s campaign platform, the socializing of delegates from all the states and territories. The convention is supposed to be vibrant, entertaining, well planned and smooth running.

And what is happening is enough to make you wonder how the hell this party ever produced any presidents?

Political events such as this convention are best built around a theme, an idea that you want every delegate to take back home to their state and build into a strong campaign for every level of the party.

The convention is supposed to be unifying. Instead we are getting a paranoid Trump against the whole damn world. There is a visceral hatred being promoted for Trump’s Democratic opponent. There could be more than 50 million television viewers watching Trump speak on Thursday night. Not all of those people will be cheering.

In our book My American Mother, there is a scene set at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in 1932 that explains how FDR’s acceptance speech was used to announce the New Deal and how that speech was likely to have been crafted by Roosevelt’s team.

Mr. Trump has no such team and no idea of what he needs to say.

It will be interesting.

-30-

Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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

The madness of modern media.

Wednesday, July 20th, 2016

Where do you get your real news? Canadians can still turn to the impoverished Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Canadian Press Services and its Broadcast News are sadly reduced versions of a trusted past. Television and radio are more and more faceless conglomerates while newspaper empires crumble. All news media are in a rear-guard action as the Internet encroaches on their audiences.

Good grief, you are not reading this blog for news are you? Sorry, all you get from blogs are opinions.

The blogger who posits his or her opinion as news is misleading you. It is like suggesting that Fox News in the United States is free of bias or that Calgary-based Shaw’s Global Television in Canada does not favour pipelines. And how do you like having Canada’s largest television network CTV under the control of Bell Canada?

It is when you consider the madness of Canada’s media situation that you begin to understand the slippery downhill slope that traditional media are on. Why are they letting the Internet take over? Has print media just become another version of a Pokémon Monster? Is print media going to move on mass to the Internet with the confused public?

Are we expecting people with their cellphone cameras to replace professional news coverage? Are pseudo media such Huffington Post taking over with what seems to be a mixed offering of social media blogs and news networks? Where is the line between fact and fiction? How can readers have any trust?

All we know is that daily papers are thinner and thinner as the advertising moves to buy the viewers of television and identified audiences on the social media of the Internet.

Meanwhile we are time-shifting the TV shows we might watch while using live broadcast for breaking news and our favourite sports? And only a spendthrift would waste the extra money on sports packages that you might or might not watch. You are better off watching those occasional interests at a sports bar.

We knew this was coming in 1976 when we saw the Hollywood movie Network and we agreed that we should all be mad as hell and not take it anymore. It showed us that television news was no longer news but repetitious clips of entertainment designed to promote the network’s commercial laden programs for the lowest common denominators of society.

And people wonder why someone such as that disgusting Donald Trump can develop a following. Do we have any media left that we can trust?

-30-

Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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

 

The Trudeau honeymoon carries on.

Tuesday, July 19th, 2016

It has been noted—with some surprise by certain observers—that the honeymoon with Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government continues. Why would anyone expect it to have ended? The major opposition parties are leaderless. There is no real competition on the horizon. And Justin is skating along very nicely, thank you.

Our Prime Minister must have been watching his predecessor Stephen Harper very closely as the former Prime Minister and his hairdresser took more and more road trips throughout his tenure. Trudeau was barely sworn in with his cabinet and the travels began. A guy famous for his selfies was out there doing selfies with the rich and famous around the world.

And almost everywhere Trudeau goes, he gets a rock star reception. Other world leaders find him eager to participate and affable. They are happy to share photo-ops with him. And he brings an attractive wife to the formal events of state.

At home, he treats the provincial leaders with respect and they know better than to try to get in a fight with him. When he needs a lift, he can meet with Liberals—they adore him. It is still all sunny days for sunny ways.

This is not to say that there are not a few missteps and less than ideal choices but you have to admit that he is batting at a pretty high average. No doubt he is keeping a file on who does their job best in cabinet and there are a few who are not holding up their end of things.

It is a good thing that he has been fronting most meetings for foreign affairs minister Stèphane Dion. While Dion likely gives good advice on the portfolio, he lacks the energy and charisma that Trudeau gives it. More and more we are seeing Toronto MP Chrystia Freeland being pushed to the forefront in her role as minister of international trade.

Trudeau would certainly like to take back the mess his government made of the assisted-dying file. He would dearly like to take a Mulligan on that one but the public seems to have given him a conditional pass. He can fix it when the Supreme Court sends it back to parliament.

He is going to have to watch as the parliamentary committee makes hash of his foolish promise to change how Canada votes. The more serious faux pas is the changes he made in the Liberal Party. He obviously got some very bad advice on party needs and we will just have to watch and see how it plays out.

-30-

Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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

The lost art of politics.

Monday, July 18th, 2016

The other day, the question came up: What is wrong with politics? You have to figure there are several good books in that question so you are hardly going to answer it in a 400-word blog. If you boil it all down to basics, you have to say that people no longer want to compromise. And compromise is the essential art of politics.

In politics you have to do what you can today while saving the impossible for tomorrow.

But you cannot put off the impossible forever. In a world of diametrically opposed positions, the compromise is becoming harder to find. We have seen many examples of this in the stand-off positions taken by the politicos in the American Congress. The Democrats and Republican politicians practice brinkmanship while the country is in dire straits. They are intransigent to appease their disparate publics. The tri-partite strength of the American Dream is often shattered when the President, the politicians and the judges of the Supreme Court are at loggerheads. There are many frustrations and proposed fixes and little action.

Canadian politics are no better. At least Canadians can blame Queen Victoria and quisling politicians for the current state of their almost unrepairable constitution. Canadians use generational change as an excuse to throw out each previous generation of failed politicos. The new breed quickly tosses the worst of their predecessors’ failed laws.

The Canadian Dream is something we recreate as the need arises. We think that compromise is something we do with our farm-team provincial politicos. Our approach to compromise is to water our wine—to appease the lowest common denominator.

Canadians are high on clean air, sparkling waters and virgin forests until we need to despoil them to tear away the minerals and hydrocarbons. Making money comes first.

Compromise in Canada is what we do with our business benefactors. Just tell us when you are through raping and pillaging the environment so that we can pass a law against it.

Canada is run for the One Per Cent. They prefer to buy their positions of trust, their appointments, their honours, their recognition and/or their obscurity. They are the proud patrons of our politicians.

The public has its day when periodically, the politicos turn their attention to the desire to get re-elected. Sometimes they do that too late.

-30-

Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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

 

It’s time for the Trumpet and his Strumpet.

Sunday, July 17th, 2016

Donald Trump continues to amaze Americans and the rest of the world. Yes, the Americans have failed to keep the Trump jokes to themselves. The entire world is watching. Particularly Canadians. Lots of them not only understand the strange American dialect but they share the same time zones.

But this past week of hot summer days got to us. Did we really hear an on-again, off-again, on-again choice of Indiana’s Governor Mike Pence as running mate for Donald Trump? This is the guy who made Indiana the laughing stock among the blue-stocking crowd. He is the guy that signed into law Indiana’s bigotry law letting business discriminate. (It was law until some large businesses threatened to leave the state.)

It used to be that the vice presidential choice was supposed to add some balance to the ticket. Mike Pence just took the Republican ticket off the deep end. Pence is no peace offering to the middle ground.

The only way Pence is different from Trump is that he goes to church. Other than that he is a lackey for the billionaire Koch brothers and might improve Trump’s fund-raising. What he does not bring to the ticket is balance. His political career is a litany of anti-labour, anti-renewable energy, anti-gay legislation. The only issue he disagrees with Trump on is trade deals such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership and North American Free Trade.

Since Vice Presidents are required to be seen but not heard, Pence could be the perfect running mate. Trump will be quite capable of sticking his feet in both their mouths. And frankly, Pence adds nothing to the ticket nor is he likely to have any influence on the campaign. You might not be all that impressed with Trump’s brains but he at least has more going for him than his running mate.

We were hoping that Trump would choose former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. Imagine the jokes on that relationship? Mind you we have to admit that Huffington Post beat us to the headline reading: Mike Pence: Sarah Palin without the charisma.

But the fun really starts in the coming week. The Cleveland site for the Republican National Convention is already set up as an armed camp. With people allowed to go armed in public in Ohio, police dressed as storm troopers, truck bomb traps surrounding the convention site and the National Guard on standby, what could go wrong?

-30-

Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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

 

A Canadian contingent for Trump.

Saturday, July 16th, 2016

Canadians need their own wall. It would hardly be fair for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump to have a wall on the south without equal opportunity for the north. This conclusion seems to be necessary as you meet Canadians who think Trump is cool. Hard to believe, but true.

Talking to one lady recently, it was obvious that she sincerely admired Mr. Trump and she was looking forward to him being U.S. President. What made her attitude doubly concerning was that she is a born-again something, home schools her children to keep them from impure thoughts and knows for sure that the rest of us are destined for the fires of hell.

She does not care that Trump has a reputation of being something of a libertine, a scoundrel, a nasty business person and knows nothing about politics. Nor is she concerned about his erratic behaviour, his obvious bigotry and misogyny and disrespect for women. She does not even care that Mr. Trump is not regular in his church attendance. You would wish that this woman would be so forgiving of the rest of us sinners.

“Tell me,” she said, leaning forward and putting her hand on our arm, “Why do you not think Donald Trump will be the next President?”

There was no way we could tell her that it is just Donald Trump’s ego that is running for President of the United States and he was definitely not equipped with the political smarts needed to serve in that capacity. We needed a simpler reason. And that led to the following answer:

“As you have probably noted there is a sizeable number of angry Americans who are supporting Mr. Trump and believe that he will get even for them. They want to get even with the very rich without recognizing that Mr. Trump is very rich. They want to get even with people who send jobs off-shore without recognizing that Mr. Trump is one of those people who has been sending jobs off-shore. They want to get even with business people who offer them a less than living wage without recognizing that Mr. Trump hires people at less than a living wage.

“Regrettably there is no reason to expect that these people will see the light any time soon. They want Trump.

“But the good news is that Mr. Trump has no organization that can make sure that people go to the polls to vote for him. He is too cheap to pay for that. He thinks the Republican Party will do it for him. Which is not too likely. Sure they will have people out getting Republicans to the polls because they want as many of their politicians as possible to survive despite Trump. They will just not place any emphasis on voting for Mr. Trump.

“And it would be a waste of time anyway. Only about 50 per cent of eligible American voters are likely to bother to vote for the presidency. Mr. Trump’s angry supporters are not among the voting frequent flyers.”

-30-

Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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

Conservative contest continues contrarily.

Friday, July 15th, 2016

It was another step backward towards the abyss. Ontario’s Tony Clement must have found a hat somewhere to throw into the ring of the Conservative leadership contest. It was a pathetic pronouncement by a pathetic politico.

It was no surprise. Tony has been on the list of likely losers in the Conservative contest for some time. He is another 100 to 1 long shot. Maybe if we have a list of just losers, one of them has to prove us wrong.

And we have no intention of risking our reputation for accurate forecasting by making any prognostications at this time. We will tell you who is going to win sometime next February. That is when in Canada; Hell freezes over, the Toronto Maple Leafs look like winners and nobody answers the telephone for the pollsters.

Tony is joining losers such as Maxime Bernier from Quebec and fellow Ontario MPs Michael Chong and Kellie Leach. Everyone expects Peter McKay to finally and reluctantly enter the Conservative race but the truth is that he will be as much inspiration as a bowl of oatmeal.

As for Tony, he would have had a better chance of success if he had joined Jason Kenney and headed west with him to fight the fight for the heart and soul of Alberta.

Tony has gone a long way to convince Canadians that he is not very bright. His wonderful washrooms for his electoral district that he built for the G-8 summit will live on much longer than his political career. His killing of the long-form census gave hope to stupid politicians everywhere. His artful control of federal spending in the dying days of the Harper Regime actually got RCM Police officers killed because they did not have the carbines and training that the government had so publicly voted for them.

As a promising product of the Michael Harris government in Ontario, Tony Clement has always put party before people and doctrine before doing. He brings nothing to politics but his ego. He was an eager henchman and lackey for Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

When Tony’s offer to lead his federal party is rejected, we will expect him to return to Ontario provincial politics in support of his friend Patrick Brown. He will have a triumphal return to provincial turf to run in the 2018 Ontario election. He will be expecting Patrick to make him Finance Minister. If anything could guarantee the return of Kathleen Wynne’s impoverished Liberal government, that should be it.

-30-

Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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

In the rush to reform.

Thursday, July 14th, 2016

It was amusing reading the editorial in the Toronto Star the other day that urged the Liberal government to “Go slow on election reform.” The ghost of Torstar founder Joseph Atkinson must have done another ceremonial spin in his grave. It sounds like a last gasp from an overly opinionated crowd down at One Yonge Street. The summer doldrums have combined with cost cutting and they have run out of all ideas and guts.

If the Toronto Star whiz kids have not already figured it out, the Trudeau government has had the ship’s enunciator on ‘Dead Slow’ on the electoral reform file since Day One of the regime.

Take the cabinet member given the file, for goodness sake. Has this wet-behind-the-ears debutante shown any progress? Do you think she knows what this is all about? Does anyone care? Just try to help her and see how far you get?

Fellow cabinet minister Dominic LeBlanc has been her designated mentor on this file and he appears with her but can hardly stay long enough to hear what she says before going off to do something important.

She set up a committee along the lines that she was told and finally told the Opposition what was going on. What did the Opposition do? They got into a snit about it. They said the question was too important to have a Liberal-dominated committee. She must have taken her time getting back to Dominic LeBlanc on that but he must have told her: “So what if they want more Opposition grunts on the committee? We’re still the government and they can’t pass anything we don’t like. Give ‘em what they want.”

That is why we now have a committee with more opposition members than Liberals. Nobody cares.

And the Conservatives on the committee are demanding a referendum. They have no idea what the committee will decide but they want a referendum anyway. They can shout all they like. Nobody cares.

The chair of the committee has a reputation as a bit of a maverick. Nobody cares.

The chief electoral officer was the first witness for the committee. He warned them that there is not really enough time for them to consult with Canadians and for his office to do its work on a changed system. And nobody really cares.

The real danger in all of this is that when the committee does ask the public their opinion, they will find nobody cares.

-30-

Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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

When Referenda are Right.

Wednesday, July 13th, 2016

It has to be more than 25 years since we last chatted with one of our favourite Conservatives. His name is Patrick Boyer and he is a gentleman of the old school. You rarely meet a Tory today with his charm and intelligence. A writer, a former MP and a scholar trained in international law, Pat has written books on referenda. We can only hope that he is asked to explain referenda to the parliamentary committee on voting reform. He is one of Canada’s few experts on the subject.

The simple explanation of a plebiscite or a referendum can be that it is a reference by the rulers to the public for guidance in a decision. Whether or not the rulers are committed to the decision is something to be made clear in the authorizing of the vote. No doubt Pat could add considerable sub-text to that simplistic explanation.

But in a recent interview with the Toronto Star, Pat is quoted as saying that the United Kingdom has to be satisfied with its recent vote on leaving the European Union. In effect, Pat said that you cannot take it all back and say something like “Let’s go for the best two out of three.”

In a representative democracy, the attitude is usually that the politicians are elected to make the decisions. That is not the case though in questions dealing with how people will govern themselves and will choose their representatives. These questions place the representatives in a conflict of interest and they have no alternative but to request a reference to the voters. Questions such as Quebec independence and the Charlottetown Accord are clearly questions that could not be entertained otherwise. And questions related to fixing the out-dated Senate of Canada have the added impediment of being tied up in the constitution.

While the Trudeau government seems to be resisting the possibility of a referendum on voting reform, it does seem foolish for the opposition Conservatives to be insisting on a referendum on the subject before we know what change might be proposed. Canada hardly needs a referendum, for example, to move to Internet voting. Internet voting would enable low-cost run-off voting—which would solve the major complaint people have with our First-Past-the-Post (FPTP) system.

If Pat Boyer is to appear before the special parliamentary committee on voting reform, we will want advance notice so that we can be sure to watch it on Canada’s parliamentary cable channel (CPAC).

-30-

Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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

Sending cannon fodder to Latvia.

Tuesday, July 12th, 2016

In 1941 Canada came to the aid of the British Empire and sent troops to Hong Kong. The Royal Rifles of Canada and the Winnipeg Grenadiers were supposed to be a deterrent to war. Of the 1975 Canadians who tried to help defend Hong Kong, quite a few less came home after War II from the Japanese prisoner of war camps.

Our government has learned little from history as it prepares to send 450 troops to Latvia to discourage Russian aggression towards its neighbours. Along with North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies, we will form a division to face off against thousands of Russian tanks. This is supposed to be an open-ended posting for Canadian troops. There will be similar NATO forces based in Lithuania, Estonia and Poland.

It is not clear what these forces will be expected to do if Russian troops decide to annex any of these countries. Since the Canadian troops will be provided with transport vehicles, it is assumed that they will have an option to jump into the vehicles and get out of Dodge.

That was not the case with the troops trying to stop the Japanese at Hong Kong. They had nowhere to go and they lasted less than two weeks under attack by four times the number of a battle-hardened enemy. They were surrendered by the civilian governor of Hong Kong who likely had no idea how the Japanese despised and treated soldiers who surrendered to them.

But those who ignore history are bound to repeat it. NATO has drawn a line in the sand using live troops from the organization’s member countries. They are defying an egotist such as Russia’s Vladimir Putin with this living line.

This is not a deterrent. It has all the character and assuredness of thumbing your nose. A deterrent is submarines armed with nuclear missiles in the North Atlantic. All Mr. Putin needs to know is where the line is and be assured of what will happen if he crosses it.

The Russian leader has already annexed Crimea and created chaos in Eastern Ukraine with a supposed Ukrainian militia who all speak Russian. He needs to be dealt with firmly but with respect. It means we have to listen to his concerns and he has to listen to ours. Diplomacy requires it.

-30-

Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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