Archive for August, 2016

The GOP’s ‘Charge of the Light Brigade.’

Thursday, August 11th, 2016

One of our favourite bloggers is a gentleman trained as both journalist and lawyer who writes under the pseudonym ‘The Mound of Sound.’ While claiming to be a disaffected liberal, he writes from a progressive perspective. The only problem with his frequent and voluminous polemics is that they are sometimes heavy wading.

He recently wrote a piece of more than 2000 words on the members of the U.S. Republican Party who have an appetite for authoritarianism. While we would not use a word quite that long to explain things, we have to agree with the idea.

But if we have one small quibble with his thesis, it is that he used far too many political scientists as authorities to support it.

Frankly, we have always found that political scientists can be found to advance any theory you might wish for. Just try to read the doctoral theses of some of these people and you will soon see what we mean.

The experts our compatriot should have used to prove his thesis about GOP authoritarianism are Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung. Yes, the current political situation in the U.S. is in much greater need for psychotherapists than political scientists.

And we would have equated the current dilemma of the Republicans to a wonderful narrative poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson: The Charge of the Light Brigade. You can so easily imagine the Republican candidate leading that charge. Just think: Theirs not to make reply, Theirs not to reason why, Theirs but to do and die: Into the valley of Death Rode the six hundred.

Now honestly, who do you think could best understand that GOP leader?

A political scientist would question the size of that leader’s support. Freud would get right to the important question: the size of his penis?

You really have to face the facts. The Brit who ordered the charge of the Light Brigade had to be certifiable. Why are people making excuses for the American Republican candidate?

And the people who need this renewed authoritarianism in America are hardly safe from a critical review of their mental health. The candidate’s supporters are largely made up of middle-aged white men who obviously miss the succour of feeding from their mother’s teat. They appear to be afraid of blacks, Mexicans, Muslims and women who are smarter than them.

While we wish our fellow blogger well, he needs to be assured that life is not all that complex. The Republican Party in the United States has landed a Looney Tunes as presidential candidate. The party will eventually recover.


Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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Death wish of the Wynne Liberals.

Wednesday, August 10th, 2016

Some observers consider it just arrogance but the problems of Kathleen Wynne’s Ontario government could be based on a subconscious desire to end the sham. And they could end it if there was any plausible replacement government to them at hand.

But maybe that is why it comes across as arrogance. Take this new Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault. For all the political machinations and police investigations and other embarrassments over getting that guy elected, you would think he would have the decency to do a better job. He could also stop lying about having no control of the Ontario Energy Board. Just who the hell does he think we should blame for appointments to that board?

He thinks consumers have no right to complain when carbon taxes are added to consumers’ bills as a ‘delivery’ charge—and the gas user is supposed to pay the harmonized sales tax (HST) on top of the damn carbon tax.

Carbon taxes have nothing whatsoever to do with delivery of gas to the consumer. They have to do with the usage of the gas as a carbon tax is supposed to represent a penalty for the expelling of carbon into our fragile environment.

But from the beginning of all the silliness over carbon taxing, it has been nothing more than a cash grab by governments. If we are supposed to think carbon taxes are revenue neutral, just where the hell will we find our money?

The pitiful part of all this is the childish tantrums of Ontario’ useless opposition parties over the constant increases. They continue to wail crocodile tears on behalf of the poor consumer when they have no clue as to possible solutions. Those losers just want to get their grubby hands into the cookie jar without having any better ideas than the Wynne government.

It all comes down to the Minister of Energy getting his facts straight and representing the people of Ontario. Instead he seems to be working for the energy companies that sell energy at outrageous prices that are being inflated by added charges from a government obsessed with taxing itself out of debt and out of office.

And one other conclusion occurs to us in following these machinations. The Premier must hand out song sheets to each of her cabinet members every day. It is so the ministers and the premier can be in sync when questioned by the news media. At least she and Mr. Thibeault seem to use exactly the same words to respond to the same question. Maybe ministers are not allowed to think for themselves.


Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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Remembering Mel Hurtig.

Tuesday, August 9th, 2016

It might be the dog days of summer but we have some catching up to do. We were out of town recently and while you might think we write a new commentary every day for this web site, we sometimes have as much as a week ahead set to automatically roll out each day. Even if some people consider us writers to be narcissistic blow-hards, we believe that one succinct opinion a day is enough.

But you do miss breaking stories and the death of Mel Hurtig on August 3 was a major loss for our country.

It has always been our opinion that Mel Hurtig deserved better from Canadians. As a fellow member of the Liberal Party in the 1970s, we believed that he had a nascent political career in the offing. We were also very supportive of the Council of Canadians that he helped get off the ground.

But we spent the most time with him when trying to get the National Party into shape to fight an election. That was Mel’s last stand. We spent a lot of time talking to each other in washrooms. Mel had this thing about germs and when he had to shake hands with people, he spent an inordinate amount of time washing his. We wrote some of his best lines for him while sitting on an adjacent sink.

But as leader of a political party, Mel was something of a nightmare. Mind you he was less than pleased when some of us Toronto wise-asses referred to his new party as the National Socialist Party of Canada. There is a fond memory though of giving Mel a serious lecture on the sidewalk at St. Clair and Yonge Streets in Toronto. We had just left an important live interview at Radio Station CFRB and we told him that he had to give the same answer to the same question each time it was asked. He liked displaying his knowledge of facts and figures but he had a bad habit of shooting from the lip.

But we did not split with Mel’s new party until the first day of the 1993 campaign. Mel wanted this writer as a candidate (they were obviously desperate). He had a very weak ‘yes’ on that until Mel insulted the Toronto news media by showing up more than a half hour late for his opening news conference. Enough was enough and when telling our friend, the Conservative returning officer, that we were not running, she convinced us to come and work the election with her. (It helped her look more impartial in a hard-fought riding. And the alternative was to run the campaign for the Liberals in the only riding in Ontario they lost.)

Maybe it is best to remember Mel for his Canadian Encyclopedia. He used every trick in the publisher’s book of tricks to get those books published and he even came up with some new ones. The encyclopedia probably never made a nickel for him but it is unlikely he cared. Mel was a great Canadian.


Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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If it’s democracy, it must be a ghost.

Monday, August 8th, 2016

It always seems strange to hear people talking about our democracy in Canada. You get the impression that our democracy is some sort of spectre. We talk about it but nobody has ever really seen it.

And democracy is such a simple concept. It is based on recognizing the value of the human being. It reflects that human right to assembly, to participate in society, to vote, to protest, to petition and to live in that clean, healthy and caring society that we all seek to achieve.

But we fail to understand democracy if we think the majority rules. It is something of a convenience in making decisions but having one group in society making decisions for others imposes serious responsibilities on the group chosen to make the decisions.

The literal meaning of the roots of the word ‘democracy’ is that the people rule. Obviously we do not. We get around that by calling Canada a representative democracy. And that is an idea that slipped and fell on the ice a long time ago.

It is a worry though when we hear people talking about the extended honeymoon they are enjoying with the Trudeau Liberals in Ottawa. Whether it is their honeymoon or not, these well meaning people are just as capable of making mistakes as anyone else. Take that really stupid assisted suicide bill they passed. It was not only wishy-washy and inadequate but it missed the point entirely. It did not satisfy the needs of the people it was supposed to address. We can only hope the Supreme Court rejects it.

But mind you, our unimaginative Prime Minister has come up with another elitist solution to a problem he does not want. He appointed an elitist group to choose candidates for our elitist senate and now he has appointed an elitist group to pick elitist Supreme Court candidates. It is enough to make you wonder if he knows what democracy really means?

It is like his foolish promise to end first-past-the-post voting in Canada. Here he has people wasting this beautiful summer weather listening to a bunch of elitist political scientists, who have no understanding of the voters, telling us how to reform our voting.

The Minister of Democratic Institutions can come to the committee and smile and obfuscate all she likes. There is no hue and cry in the land for a change in how we vote. We have much more serious problems with our purported democracy than that.


Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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Are we the happiest taxpayers?

Sunday, August 7th, 2016

According to the Ontario government your choices of booze, beer and wine are now at your finger tips. “We deliver” we are told. It all seems to be designed to sell more booze in a faux atmosphere of responsibility and restriction. What is annoying though is that it is all designed to add to the government’s coffers and forget convenience for the consumer.

That is unless you want to pay Canada Post to deliver your booze. And all they want is a 24 per cent surcharge (plus 13 per cent tax) on a $50 order.

To add insult to injury in their booze machinations, the Wynne Liberals have brought in a heavy hitter in retailing to take over as chair of the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO). A lot of people will be timing former Hudson’s Bay Vice-Chair Bonnie Brooks in the job. She will soon find that what the LCBO needs is better merchandising, smarter pricing and recognition that the customers are not all wine aficionados or gourmet cooks.

But as much as she might like to get her teeth into the merchandising problems, she will find the chair’s role is political. Protecting her back is her only hope of survival.

She is joining a bureaucratic and calcified organization that has not had a good merchandising idea since 1967. It has been noted for telling wine producers to raise their prices. Its idea of a feature is a dollar off on a $20 bottle of swill. And the only reason that some people like the LCBO is because it is not as mind and taste-destroying as those disgusting beer stores.

The novel idea that beer and wine go with food has led to the Wynne government letting some 60 of the very large grocery stores, out of about 1400 in that category in the province, sell beer, wine and cider. It really does broaden the shopping experience in those few stores if you stumble across an end aisle display of a few brands of warm beer. Just do not expect a bartender or sommelier to appear. And in those stores, you really have to be sober to find that cache of booze. There will be limited brands of beer, some cider and some real wine might make an appearance this fall.

Brooks will not have to worry about the competition from Loblaws and the rest of the grocery stores.

What Brooks really needs to worry about is the political football that the LCBO has become. Convenience in beer sales can include convenience stores and there must be millions of Ontario consumers who would delight in the ability to walk to the corner store for a cold six-pack. That change would have less impact on the LCBO than privatization of liquor and wine sales. Bear in mind that the LCBO is already the largest single importer of wines in North America and if it was privatized and properly run, it could dominate wine sales throughout the Americas.


Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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Brokering Political Power.

Saturday, August 6th, 2016

During one of the presentations to the special parliamentary committee on vote reform, there was an interesting remark on brokering power under different forms of voting. The speaker, an academic from Queen’s University, explained that in our first-past-the-post governments, the power brokering is usually done before the election, and, in a proportionally elected—which usually produces minority governments—it is done after. It is not something that would be noted by the average citizen but many of them who watched some of the U.S. Democratic convention recently saw that advance brokering in action.

They saw the brokering when Hillary Clinton supporters had to acquiesce to the Bernie Sanders supporters to include more of his left-of-centre policies in the Democratic Party platform. The ideological split between Clinton’s old style Democrats and Sander’s more modern left wing was there for all to see and Clinton has to have all those Sanders supporters on side and working hard for her to be sure to defeat the Republican candidate.

Whether Clinton will have sufficient support in Congress to pass any of those left-wing policies is something we will have to wait to see.

What the special committee studying our electoral system has to realize is that changes in our electoral system can have very far reaching effects. It is why the Conservatives will want to fight a change to proportional representation. They have already shown their opposition.

And why not? The Conservative Party prides itself on being a ‘big tent’ party. That tent includes both social and monetary conservatism. Most people outside Alberta still fail to grasp the differences between the provincial Conservative and Wildrose parties but the two provincial groups come together under the federal Conservative big tent.

With proportional representation in Canada, the Conservative big tent would go up in flames as the extremists on the religious, land-owner and monetary rights start to beat their own drums leaving the once impenetrable Conservative Party of Canada in tatters.

But the Liberals and the New Democrats would have nothing to laugh at. Some from both parties would unite under a new social democratic banner while the die-hard socialists and right-wing Liberals wander off looking for better hunting grounds.

In proportional representation, every half-baked protest group hopes to be just the right partner in coalition to get their own ideology on the table. The most interesting example of this is the proportionally chosen Israeli Knesset where extremist religious parties sell their support to the larger parties by promising to maintain the repressive Sabbath laws of the country.


Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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A ‘better way’ than what?

Friday, August 5th, 2016

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is changing how we select candidates for Canada’s supreme court. The Toronto Star gave the official announcement sufficient column space to explain the idea and then devoted much more space on the editorial page to extolling what might be the virtues of this ‘Better Way.” Frankly, the editorial would have been better if it was suggesting motorists make more use of the Toronto Transit Commission.

Only the Toronto Star would compliment a cop-out. And that is what it is. Once again, Trudeau is opting for an elitist solution to an undemocratic anachronism. It is just one more example of the appointment powers of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) that he wants to look like he is sharing.

And maybe former Prime Minister Kim Campbell from Vancouver needed a job. She gets to chair a committee of legal experts and elites who will consider applications from Canadians for appointment to the supreme court.

Though it is hard to imagine the indignity involved in a top legal mind in one of our superior courts sitting down and writing an application and attaching his or her curriculum vitae for the first time in maybe 20 years. That will take some serious encouragement from colleagues and friends.

At least someone has listened to Canadians’ complaints about our antiquated appointment system and it is planned that we will have members of the committee with a clear understanding of the job. This will include four people representing respectively Canada’s law societies, judges, barristers and senior law-school academics. That might help.

Of the three remaining members of this elite group, two are specified as not being lawyers. We wonder if their role is to vet the hygiene and political acceptability of the applicants?

But it is all supposed to let the Prime Minister off the hook for the choice. This is despite the Prime Minister still making the ultimate appointment.

What we do agree with in this silly, convoluted proposal is that members of parliament will be able to “directly engage with the nominee.” There will be some concern that we are becoming too American by allowing some minor level of ‘Advise and Consent’ but at least our elected people will have a chance to have at the nominees. Frankly, the tougher the grilling, the better.


Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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Jason Kenney’s double duty summer.

Thursday, August 4th, 2016

Do super heroes ever rest? Not super heroes such as Calgary’s Honourable Jason Kenney MP. He is doing double duty this summer with the challenges to save Ottawa for democracy and to save Alberta for right-wing politicos.

The work of a super hero is obviously never done. In Ottawa this summer the fat and 48-year old Conservative is representing his Calgary constituents as a member of the House of Commons Special Committee on Vote Reform. At the same time, he has launched a truck trip to visit every provincial electoral district in Alberta. He is intent on winning the right—not only the leadership of the Alberta Conservatives but he also wants to unite the right and save Alberta from the perdition of Alberta socialism.

Meanwhile back in Ottawa, the superhero is trying to find a telephone booth where he can switch into his super hero costume. He is sitting as a member of the Conservative team on the special vote reform committee to be sure that any and all reforms are subjected to a referendum. Obviously he has been using his special vision into the future to show him that anything new found by the committee will need a referendum. That will surprise others who believe this committee will have fun but will get nowhere.

But what is a super hero also doing trucking around Alberta on a predictably lost cause? The Wildrose Party in Alberta has already told him to take a hike. They do not want any truck nor trade with patsy provincial Conservatives.

And what is a super hero doing in a truck anyway? Is it not enough that he is willing to take off his tie when campaigning around rural Conservatives? He certainly does not want to show off his broad behind in a pair of Levies.

In any event this observer of things Albertan thinks our super hero has the entire scenario backwards. Sure, the provincial Conservatives need to hold a leadership convention and that needs to be soon. The important challenge is the position of Wildrose leader Brian Jean. While it might be bad timing due to the MLA having his hands full this year looking after his electoral district of Fort McMurray-Conklin. Since the Wildrose leader is also a native of Fort McMurray and lives there with his family, it is not as though a super hero from Ottawa can just brush him aside.

Whether when flying Air Canada or taking just one giant leap going back to Ottawa, our super hero needs to rethink his strategy. Sure out-going federal leader Stephen Harper might endorse him to lead Alberta back in the path of the righteous but what has Harper got to lose?


Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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You are just encouraging ‘What’s his name?’

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2016

Psychiatrists tell us that one of the motivations for jihadists is the notoriety. They seem to consider the death and destruction as a measure of their success.  Maybe that is why the Republican candidate for the American presidency is feasting on his own controversy and building his campaign on outrageous lies.

Every time he is caught in another silly lie, his stock goes up with his biker friends. There is nothing that the brutal and ignorant like more than someone stupider than them who is doing what they want. It makes them feel good about themselves.

But when you think about it, maybe it is part of his strategy. Americans are fed up with the constant controversy in Washington. They have come to hate the stonewalling obfuscation in Congress and the stand-offs with the Administration. It has been blamed on both political parties and many of the hoi polloi just want to get even.

And nothing would better help them get even than to put an impulsive, know-nothing braggart in the White House. They do not care about his lack of knowledge of foreign affairs. They share his lack of knowledge and feelings on the subject. You cannot tell them they will also suffer from the consequences. With their limited language skills, a pyrrhic victory is still a victory.

But you should not assume that all who want to vote for this billionaire blowhard are mentally incapacitated. Getting even can cut across a lot of demographics. The Americans have swarms of born-again crazies who want to bring the wrath of Jehovah down on those they consider liberal pederasts inside the Washington Beltway. They are not the same Christians who will offer you the other cheek.

Americans have to realize that they are in serious trouble. The possibilities of this coming election are ricocheting around the world and bringing all relationships with America into question. Mr. Putin of Russia might be puzzled but he is probably having a damn good laugh over some aspects. If NATO is destroyed, Russia will have a free hand in re-establishing the old Soviet Union to its previous positions of power.

And Canada particularly has to be concerned. As much as Canada would like to renegotiate some aspects of the North American Free Trade Agreement, our interests are not what the Republican candidate has in mind. We need to have a survival plan in place for at least the next four years.

But so should the Americans. If they keep building up the bastard with free publicity in the news and social media, they will also need a survival plan.


Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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Gratuitous advice on snapshots in time.

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2016

You know that you get what you pay for but this advice is free anyway. You should try not to get your knickers in a knot every time a poll is announced that says the Republican candidate might win the presidency in the U.S. As horrifying as the thought might be Canadians are resilient and we can handle it.

And remember that polls are just another opinion. They are based on limited information, suppositions about voting intentions and some braggadocio. The only poll that will count is the one taking place on election day. Even if things go south then, you can always take solace on election night in the belief that the voters usually get what they deserve. Not that we should be over confident. Canada would not come off unscathed by a Republican win either.

But we can always come back to the morning line. While Babel-on-the-Bay has redefined its morning line on the Republican candidate to a 4 to 1 bet, we are holding firm on Hillary Clinton at 2 to 1. Despite the ups and downs of the pollsters, the two candidates can change positions every few days without upsetting the end result.

The immutable facts of the election are that some Republican voters will refuse to vote for their party’s candidate. Some will stay home. Some will not vote for the Electoral College that chooses the President.

And the sad news for the Republicans is that many of those angry, ignorant, irrational white men who say they are going vote for the Republican candidate are going to forget to go to the polls on election day. Going to vote is just not one of the important things on their agenda. And the Republican Party has better things to do than help turn out the vote for a candidate who might only embarrass them.

Conversely, many Democratic voters will declare a holiday on November 8, 2016 and will vote as early and as often as they can. There will be a preponderance of women voters. They will not all be fond of Mrs. Clinton but they sure as hell do not want the alternative. They will be joined by many Latino voters. They have a special incentive to vote. They know that walls do not make a friendly border. And every Muslim who has a vote will want to exercise it as a protest against bigotry. Other people who have known or witnessed bigotry and racial strife in the United States of America might want to join them.

But it is always that element of the unknown that makes for a horse race. We are always best to prepare for the worst and to hope for the best. God help us.


Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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