Archive for December, 2016

Happy New Year to Casino Rama.

Saturday, December 31st, 2016

Many of us have a local pub, restaurant or Legion hall where people know you and make you welcome. We feel that way about our local casino. We have gotten to know many of the staff over the years and they know and welcome us. And we do that knowing that we are going to lose money two out of three times we go there.

But before you think we are throwing money away, let us explain. Gambling is all about odds. Dice have six sides and a deck of playing cards consists of 52 cards divided into four suits of 13 cards each. No matter what the game, there are odds to consider. The simplest odds in the house are at the roulette table. Each number on the roulette layout is a 37 to 1 bet. Since the casino only pays 35 to 1, it makes money and stays in business. And our only advice to any gambler is that if you are not aware of the odds you should not make the bet. (Which is a good reason to never put money into a slot machine,)

The best odds in a casino are usually at the craps tables. Craps is the fastest and, to some, the most complex game. It is where the gambler can win or lose the most money in the shortest period of time. It is well worth learning to play craps but like any game in a casino, always start by managing your money and knowing when to quit.

And the time to quit is not when you run out of money. That is the rookie mistake. We have seen it in casinos from Las Vegas to Hamburg. It is embarrassing. And never play to get your money back. That is a fool’s errand.

If you like casinos and go every once in a while, you should write down what you won or lost each time. Add it up at the end of a year. You might need to read up on the games you like playing.

We added up our 2016 the other day and found we had been to Rama Casino more than 25 times. We also found that we won a bit more than we lost and that was good.

But that was not the real win. We saw some fairly good shows, courtesy of the casino. We had dinner at one of their seven restaurants most times and these are usually complimentary though, under Ontario law, you have to pay for the wine separately.

The reason we end up with a bit more money sometimes is that we manage our money. They will not let you touch the cards or bring your own dice but you can treat your money with some respect. If you do not manage it, nobody else will. The simple rule is that if you are losing, leave the table. And if you are winning, add a little of the win to your next bet. This is called parlaying and it is the only way to win. If you always make the same bet, you are just feeding the odds—that favour the casino.

You too can enjoy your local casino.

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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

A Second Front to help the B.C. pipeline fight.

Friday, December 30th, 2016

There are people in British Columbia ready and willing to go to jail in their fight against twining the Kinder Morgan pipeline to Burnaby, B.C. It is an abomination that must be stopped. In turning his back on the environmental concerns, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is guilty of hypocrisy. He has betrayed B.C., he has betrayed Canadians and Liberals.

Canada’s tar sands are a range of threats to the environment. As about 80 per cent of tar sands bitumen is deep below ground and the only way to bring it to the surface is to pump heated water down to the layers of bituminous tar, liquefying it and forcing it up relief pipes to the surface. The sand, sulphur, heavy metals and bitumen contaminated water is then separated and run into tailing ponds that can be lethal to the wildlife of the area. This is just environmental failure number one.

The next problem is that Albertans do not want to destroy their own environment by processing the bitumen into synthetic oil. Attempts at processing have resulted in both excessive pollution and in huge quantities of what is known as bitumen slag. This bitumen slag is carbon, light in weight and will blow away in a wind. You can burn it but it just throws more carbon into our atmosphere.

The easy solution is to dilute the bitumen with hydrocarbons, heat the mixture and force it through pipelines at high pressure. This is how Kinder Morgan hopes to move the bitumen to the ocean port at Burnaby. The question everyone can ask is not if the pipeline can rupture but when?

And cleaning up a diluted bitumen spill is an impossible task. Just ask people in Michigan who tried to save the marine life in the Kalamazoo River. Or ask the people in North Battleford and Prince Albert, Saskatchewan whose drinking water was cut off from the North Saskatchewan River and the farmers who could not let their cattle drink from the river.

But sending our Canadian bitumen to third world countries to be turned into synthetic oil is the greatest failure of all. For Justin Trudeau to posture for the Paris Conference on the Environment and then want to add to the destruction of our environment is hypocrisy.

But about that second front: Are you prepared to take the fight to Parliament Hill? We will need to coordinate with our friends in B.C. but when they block the pipeline in the Rockies, we need to symbolically block the Parliament grounds. Let’s get ready.

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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

Petticoats and pantsuits: The politics of gender.

Thursday, December 29th, 2016

There is a double standard in writing about the politics of gender. A man has to be oh-so careful not to offend while female writers can tramp so carelessly on men. And today, we are supposed to commiserate with the female politicos still drowning their sorrows in gin fizzes over Hillary Clinton’s loss.

Face facts folks; Clinton lost because her brain trust could never figure out how to respond to Trump. They were a great political team trying to figure out how to deal with a totally irresponsible and apolitical opponent. Trump could say anything he wanted and did not care. Clinton was restricted within the bonds of political hyperbole.

Women seem to think that they should come on stronger than a man to win. They really do not have to do that. It only shows insecurity. Any individual, man or woman, has to play in their own playpen. You have to deal with the familiar and be yourself. One of the reasons that Clinton’s polls were up was that she had the experience to win the televised debates. It brought up her confidence and she thought she just had to stay strong through to November.

Her obvious problem down to the wire was that she let Trump continue to disrespect her. She seemed to think of her pantsuits as her armour. They did not protect her. Trump’s streams of lies about her stuck to her while a woman in more feminine attire would have had more protection. It would have allowed her to be more combative and to put the beast in his place.

Clinton made much of the so-called glass ceiling in her speeches. The reality in North American politics is that there is no ceiling, glass or otherwise.

Having worked with many politicians—male and female—over the years, you realize there is little difference to the voters.

The reality in 2016 in the United States was that Bernie Sanders would have defeated Donald Trump, given the chance. It was a year for radicalism, it was a year of tumult. There was an anger that needed to be addressed and the need for change was felt if not understood.

Hillary Clinton was caught in the maw of the machine. She had worked for her opening since the early 1990s. It never was the year of any ceiling being fractured. It was a year for the system to fail.

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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

Are they making America great again?

Wednesday, December 28th, 2016

As much as there is an ongoing hullaballoo about President Elect Donald Trump as America runs up to his inauguration, we should never forget the people who elected him. It is quite likely that not even half these people can explain the process of the Electoral College but they are proud of their accomplishment. Their vote was a vote of protest. It was an admonition to their own politicians. It was pay-back time. It was doing the Lord’s work—in a strange way.

In 2016, a bilious billionaire became the instrument of those who see the American dream as a failure. And there appear to be more of those people than you might have thought. The reach of their anger covers the landscape of America. They are the coal miners of Appalachia, idled by the environmentalists concerned for global warming. They are the rust belt remnants who failed to adapt to new technologies, new economies and the exigencies of world trade. They are the downtrodden of state right-to-work laws who found sustenance only in being born again.

And can you believe that in 2016, Holy Rollers found their faith restored by an atheistic apparition with orange hair? He made a mockery of the god-fearing as they flocked to his banner. They bowed down to a misogynistic boor as he told them he was their new savior. He laughed at them. He used them.

Trump ridiculed the Republican Party and Republicans flocked to his banner. The politicians had been promising Nirvana and the reality was a dust bowl. Washington was enriching the richest and impoverishing the hoi polio. Congress acted as capricious children squabbling over the spoils of the war against the taxpayers.

And they accepted a liar as their candidate. He never told them how he would make America great again. Trump was that middle finger that they flipped to their politicians and yet they had no other choice to vent their anger on Congress. They still voted Republican.

And there is now a fifth rider joining the four horsemen of the apocalypse. Trump has been preparing his cabinet and warring with the outgoing administration. It will be a cabinet foreign to Republican lawmakers and there is little excuse for its inept choices. These generals and millionaires are ready to take the helm of the ship of state. They have no knowledge of Trump’s supporters nor do they care.

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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

Queen advises: “Take a deep breath.”

Tuesday, December 27th, 2016

We can all buy into that advice. It was directed mainly to Great Britain in Queen Elizabeth’s Christmas message to the Commonwealth. It was obviously related to the surprise Brexit vote by Britain earlier in 2016. It is also excellent advice for the rest of the world judging by the recent antics of the American President Elect.

And please bear in mind that this writer is no monarchist. We consider the fact of Canada having a monarch to be archaic, outmoded, restraining and sending a wrong message about Canada to the rest of the world. And that is just part of the problem. While the Queen is a nice lady and takes her job seriously is no reason for Canadians to continue to go along with such an anachronistic and foolish fable.

And for Justin Trudeau to continue the fiction is an insult to Canadians that goes back to the speeches of Sir Wilfrid Laurier in support of the monarchy.

We can no longer band-aid the problems we have with a Senate that does not work for us. We have to have bipartisan appointments to the Supreme Court, not elitist appointments. Some people want to change how we vote but before that happens, we need to decide what positions we are voting for and how the government needs to be structured in the 21st Century. We do not live in the past and we do not need a system of government that was a best guess of the British Parliament at how we should run our country 150 years ago.

Canada needs to take action to create a democratically elected constitutional assembly that can study these questions with open minds and then come back to the people with a plan to bring our country into the present. And the people can then have their say.

Canada is our country. We build it bigger, stronger and more into the kind of country we want it to be every day with our labor, our intellect, our needs and our wishes. We should always remember that our representatives in Ottawa report to us. We elect them and we can elect those to replace them. Never underestimate the power of the people. And if that thought should amuse you, you should pay closer attention to what happened in Great Britain and the U.S.A. in the past year.

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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

Can O’Leary cow Canadian conservatism?

Monday, December 26th, 2016

This is pathetic. This guy Kevin O’Leary thinks he is the Canadian hope for conservatism. Waving a kitchen scraper, he is asking people to endorse him as Canada’s answer to Donald Trump. Frankly the best instrument for the job to be done in Ottawa is still a pitchfork.

You would think that O’Leary at 62 would already know what he wants to be when he grows up. His biography is particularly amusing when you find that most of what he learned about investing, he learned from his mother. The Ivey Business School at the University of Western Ontario does not seem to get any credit. In his books on investing, the credit could be shared. Never having appreciated his television persona, his books have little appeal for us.

And MP Kellie Leitch has already co-opted much of the Trump-style vote. Her thinly cloaked appeal to the bigots among us has struck a chord. Maybe we are hearing from more of her followers than we would wish for but they are a particularly vocal brand of malcontents. They even have some right-wing Liberals asking us to slow down on immigration. It makes you wonder if they think you only have a right to be Canadian if your ancestors have been here for more than 20 generations?

O’Leary will have his hardest time with opponents such as Michael Chong and Maxime Bernier. Both MPs know the party, speak its languages, know what is going on in Ottawa and have at least a reasonable base of support. You hardly expect O’Leary to jump into the fray and start slamming the motley crew of contenders.

Mind you, it is the very nature of the current lot of contenders that is attracting O’Leary and his backers. So far nobody is excited. Maybe it is just the nature of conservatives that they can all be boring.

The exception seems to be Chris Alexander. The very fact that he is a former MP is a hurdle that is tough to overcome. He seems to have one strong political faculty—he can lie with a straight face. Did you seem him directing that mob in Edmonton shouting to lock up Premier Notley and as soon as he realized it looked bad, he said he was trying to think of a way to stop them. He might have tried harder.

When starting this commentary, we were trying to think of a way to segue to Mrs. O’Leary’s cow who did everyone a favour and burned down Chicago back in its early days. It is the reason Chicago is such an attractive, bustling and well planned city today. Regrettably, we see no such future for Ottawa with Mrs. O’Leary’s kid at the helm of the Conservative Party of Canada.

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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

Reprising a year of bad bets.

Sunday, December 25th, 2016

The regrets of a political junky can be many. After years of easy political prognostications, to be a failure and ground under the heel of a person such as Donald Trump is ignominy. The guy did not even appear on our political radar until March. And we foolishly picked him as an obvious loser.

But we must have known something when we touted him as a four-to-one bet against Clinton’s two-to-one on our morning line.  We did not think his chances were as good but we allowed that he was in the running. We have made money at the track over the years on four-to-one horses. Our political instincts were in conflict with our handicapping.

Mind you our betting was also in conflict with our sense of decency. We really do not like Mr. Trump. This person is an affront to what we know about business, politics, world affairs and human-to-human civility.

Politics has always had a sad attraction for developers. They consider politicians to be usable and disposable. They wine them and dine them and buy them and then cast them aside. There are good developers and there are rich developers. Like in the movie industry, every project stands alone financially. Some projects are blockbusters and some are dogs. And the dogs get dog kennels. We have never seen a Trump project we would care to enter.

But the one thing we can assure you is that Donald Trump is no politician. He does not like them. They do not trust him. He fought with the Republican Party all the way to the Republican Convention in the midst of the Cleveland summer. He took over the convention and flipped the party establishment the bird! It was a time for the Trump Family Players.

But pundits were now wanting to believe that Hillary Clinton was ahead in the polls.   Trump is so apolitical that he thought he was going to lose. He was truculent and self-absorbed. Even he failed to see the size of his vote and how it was distributed. It was not just the hot heads and holy rollers, it was the quiet of American Gothic. And it was the rust belt against Silicon Valley. The shock of November 8 sent a chill around the world.

But there is more to come. In the run-up to his inauguration, Donald Trump is showing his complete lack of understanding of policies and world affairs. He does not understand the difference between giving his opponents the finger and panicking the world over nuclear proliferation. Maybe, in all of this, his supporters will come to understand that he does not give a damn about them either.

Maybe, to borrow a line from Tiny Tim, we should just say “God bless us everyone.” We are going to need it!

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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

Ottawa’s Ghost of Christmas Future.

Saturday, December 24th, 2016

When Marley’s Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come came to see Canada’s Prime Minister, the ghost looked a lot like American President Elect Donald Trump. Justin Trudeau had many questions for him but the ghost never spoke a word. He just kept on twitting.

The ghost took the Prime Minister to breakfast with the Calgary Board of Trade. The members welcomed the PM and listened to him while he spoke of his efforts on their behalf. They applauded the expansion of the Kinder Morgan pipeline to Burnaby, B.C. and he assured them that not all B.C. residents would resist. He bragged of the planned expansion of Line 3 that would take diluted bitumen to the American pipeline networks.

Later in a question and answer session with the business people, Trudeau assured them of his support for the Keystone XL pipeline and that the new American President would approve. All he wanted in return for all this bounty was for the reluctant Albertans to pay their carbon taxes.

Maybe the Albertans knew more about tar sands exploitation than the Prime Minister. They must know that they could never pay enough in carbon taxes to offset the melting of the polar ice caps.

The ghost showed Justin the end result of a greying and dying world. The internment camps for pipeline protestors high in the B.C. Rockies, away from the encroaching Pacific Ocean, tell their story of resistance.

He showed the PM the results he can expect of a government that promises Sunny Days and delivers pipelines. He showed how neoliberalism is but a shadow of extreme conservatism—and Harper-lite has returned to Ottawa.

He also showed the PM, the results of his revisions in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). He had renegotiated and because he likes Canada he is willing to transfer the Mexican Maquiladora free trade zones to Sothern Ontario. Of course, Ontario will have to reduce its minimum wage to C$3.00 per hour.

And before he disappeared driving the last Canada-built GM truck, the ghost called out “Merry Christmas to all, and to all the best of luck.”

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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

 

Ottawa’s Ghosts of Christmas Past.

Friday, December 23rd, 2016

When Canada’s parliament shuts down for Christmas, the old grey halls along Ottawa’s Wellington Street welcome the respite. They have seen much since their construction for the Parliament of Upper Canada in the mid 19th Century. And they have been under constant repair since.

But it is the ghosts who wander those halls that own it on long winter nights.    There is Sir John A. Macdonald vainly in search of a proper drink and Sir Wilfrid Laurier wondering where the crowds await his next speech. It is Mike Pearson, arm in arm with John George Diefenbaker, telling each other outrageous tales. William Lyon MacKenzie King searches in vain for an Irish Terrier who answers to Pat. He wants to tell his dog of the news from mother in his shaving mug that morning.

Oh, the stories these ghosts can tell. And it is not just the ghosts of Prime Ministers past but the ghosts of aides and secretaries, Ministers and MPs, cleaning staff and protective services, Senators and executive assistants, and the scribes of the National Press Gallery. There are many thousands of stories to be told that unfolded in these darkened halls. There have been liaisons for profit and liaisons for pleasure—in the ways of men and women across the years.

The untold stories of those who knew and loved these dank tombs of acts and rulings, speeches and words spoken only for Hansard. They know the ropes and pedals to pontification as the carrilloner knows his keys to ring the bells of the Peace Tower.

It will only be on New Years Eve that the residents of old Bytown will gather with the ghosts of Parliament Hill to sing our song: Oh Canada. We will light the night sky with fire works and good cheer.

And the Ghosts of Christmas Past will eagerly await the gathering of parliamentarians in the New Year,

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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

 

Ontario: The little engine that could in 2017.

Thursday, December 22nd, 2016

There are many versions of “The Little Engine That Could.” There are also various claimed origins of the inspirational children’s story from as far as more than a century past. There are also many adult versions of the theme by many writers, prominent among them (and the most prolific) was the mid to late 20th Century works of American Minister Norman Vincent Peale. They all stress that a positive attitude that looks on the bright side of things can help in producing positive results. And why not?

It is our sincere wish that all Ontario citizens take that kind of positive attitude to their province in 2017. That is because Ontario can and should be that kind of economic engine for all of us. We just need to believe in it.

Leaving aside the desperate dearth of determined leadership of any of the political parties, Ontario is succeeding more despite Queen’s Park than because of it. Unemployment is not as bad as it was. The economy seems to be making a comeback. Who would believe that all the forecasts of doom and gloom were wrong?

It seems to us that the politicians should get rid of all those bankers who have been giving them bad advice. Who has ever heard of a banker who understood people or politics? Have you ever met a banker who understood positive communications? Bankers have three speeds: caution, slow and stop.

This province has opportunities to get into the fast lane and there appears to be nobody at Queen’s Park who understands that. For example, why are we doing drip torture with beer and wine at the grocery stores? It is time to stop being half pregnant. Open the doors to all grocery stores to sell beer and wine. Stop the silly procrastination.

And it seems to us that the Ottawa Liberals have a good idea to open the doors to international money markets to buy into Canadian infrastructure. We could have Ontario’s rail commuter lines electrified and speeded up far faster with the impetus of private investment in these future and growing money earners. And what about the high-speed rail corridor from Windsor to Quebec City? That is an investment that most international investors can understand. It is also very good for the environment.

Those are obvious and many more of us have strong ideas. We should be positive, believe in them and grow them. Because we can!

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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