Archive for June, 2019

Playtime with Donald Trump.

Sunday, June 30th, 2019

It seems reasonable, with all his other problems, that young Donald Trump’s parents had to pay other children to play with him. And to this day, he still seems unable to deal with more than one playmate at a time. The problem is evident in the revolving door at the White House as he tires of the same familiar faces. It makes it difficult to understand where he is at with other world leaders.

This week he has been at the G-20 meeting in Japan and had a full dance card. He headed straight for Xi Jinping, president of China, to assert that they are the top dogs at this meeting of the powerful. Canada’s prime minister had already built on this thinking by asking Trump to intercede with Jinping in regards to the Canadian hostages being held by the Chinese in retaliation for the arresting of the Huawei executive in Vancouver for extradition to the United States.

The only problem with his promise to Mr. Trudeau was the famous Donald Trump attention span: it is very limited. Did he or did he not remember? Was he be reminded by one of his aides? This is a life or death matter and it is hanging by a thread. Canada’s prime minister entrusted this message to someone with the attention span of a gerbil.

Or were the U.S. aides more aware of their president’s need for allies for a possible war with the Iranians? If he does talk someone into a new Crusade, will he stick to it for long? What is his attention span when it comes to war?

Frankly, Canada would have been better off cutting an off-line deal with the Chinese. Since Canada was sitting side by side with the Chinese at the general sessions, there were some opportunities for a quiet chat with Xi Jinping. A little quiet horse trading at this meeting would not be all that unusual.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

The airplane that fell to earth.

Saturday, June 29th, 2019

The original Boeing 737 narrow-bodied airliner was introduced in 1968 and was a short to medium range two-engine jet aircraft favoured by regional airlines. More than 10,000 737s were built by Boeing over the years as the company took it through various upgrades, including the 737 Classic, the 737 Next Generation and finally the 737 Max that could hop oceans and continents. In its final versions, it was a US$100 million plus aircraft.

By early 2019 almost 400 of the 737 Max aircraft had been delivered by Boeing and today, they are all grounded. They might never fly again.

Experienced commercial pilots are often delighted to express an opinion about the air worthiness of the aircraft. It has been test flown by experts without a problem. There are those who think it should be put back in service and there are also those who think it should be sent to the scrap heap. The arguments continue.

The facts are that there are basic design flaws that were accentuated over the years by the conflicting desires to improve the aerodynamics and reduce fuel consumption while adding distance and space for more revenue-paying passengers.

What is even more serious is the fact that many of the numerous computerized systems on the aircraft are using forty to fifty-year old software programs. Why update something that works, is the usual rationale. There are always new software modules to write with every version and ‘fix’ of an aircraft.

But there has been little changed in how we design and write software after all these years. Strangely enough there has been little concern for the advancement of software design. Other than questions being asked periodically during Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) meetings and discussions, and left unanswered. Software seems to be the forgotten science.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

The Star soldiers on with Regg Cohn.

Friday, June 28th, 2019

The Toronto Star must have made its provincial affairs writer Martin Regg Cohn point man for the newspaper’s war against demon rum. Ontario used to have the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union to fight the good fight but the WCTU of today lacks the funds and caring. And, frankly, the Star might have taken its current position because Ontario premier Doug Ford is on the other side.

There seems to be a consensus today that premier Ford is the guy to boo. Regg Cohn must have searched long and hard to find the purported Ford Nation supporter, he told us about the other day. This guy, who thinks Doug’s late crack-cocaine smoking brother Rob was “Friggin’ great,” is supposedly from Barrie. His ride is supposed to be a Yamaha motor bike. This guy, who sounds as though he could not count to a dozen with his shoes on, says he sent an e-mail to Doug Ford asking him not to spend money on breaking a contract with the big Ontario brewers.

Regg Cohn seems to think this guy is so dumb, he would worry about the Ontario government having to pay money to foreign-owned brewers to let convenience stores sell beer. It makes you wonder who is the dumber? Does nobody understand what the three large brewers would be risking in suing the Ontario government? This is about a four billion-dollar beer market and I have no idea what the recycling nets the Beer Store but that might not be peanuts either.

All that needs to happen is for someone (hopefully not the premier) to sit down with the beer barons and have a pleasant chat about what is needed to add convenience stores to their distribution system. This is a business proposition. Brewers’ Warehousing is going to need some new facilities and more trucks and drivers. There is no need for price fixing nor a lot of needless regulations. Beer is a commodity as are the potato chips those convenience stores sell. In fact, when selling beer, they will probably sell more potato chips.

The point is that no jobs are in jeopardy. The big breweries and the craft beer people are all going to make a little more money. Convenience stores will be a little more respectable. Everybody will be happy—well, maybe not the Toronto Star!

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

‘Chuckles’ challenges consensus.

Thursday, June 27th, 2019

There will be no apology for calling federal conservative leader Andrew Scheer, Chuckles. He practically giggled his way through a ten-minute on-air version of an interview with Mercedes Stephenson on Global’s West Block last Sunday. Mercedes might not have the gravitas of a Tom Clark or a Vassy Kapelos, but he could have answered some of her questions. For Chuckles to blame the model, on which his environmental plan is based, on the parliamentary budget officer was not only silly but irrelevant.

In the same sense, Chuckles and his crew must have been smoking something soothing when they came up with the plan to have industry dream up the environmentally friendly ways of cutting greenhouse gas. Without suggesting costs or the benefits to industry, or who would provide the funding and who would oversee the program, it seemed to be a half-baked idea—whose time has not come.

After his interview we were still left assuming that he will be keeping his commitment to ending the carbon tax for premiers Ford and Kenney. Since the liberal’s carbon tax is basically a revenue neutral plan, it is only being discontinued by the conservatives because it is annoying for those premiers who do not seem to have any plan for the environment of their own.

Where Chuckles really gets himself tied in knots is the conservative proposition that major polluters will pay if they do not cut emissions. Now that promise might sound much like a carbon tax to you and I, but Chuckles said it was not.

But for all of this supposedly tough talk about the environment, Chuckles also wants to assure Canadians that he is really a moderate guy. He figures it worked (for a while) for Stephen Harper, so he should try to sail the same ship.

But he has also learned from watching his friend Doug Ford trying to do everything in the first year. Chuckles will try to take longer before annoying the voters.  We hear that he is even going to take a few years before balancing the budget. Chuckles might as well chuckle. Nobody wants to see him cry.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

No facts please, a Toronto Star editorial.

Wednesday, June 26th, 2019

It is always assumed that editorials in newspapers are more about opinions than facts. And that makes the Toronto Star just as biased as the National Post. The other day the Star’s editorial was a full-bore, full column support for our prime minister’s pipeline. Like the PM, it was small on facts but big on hyperbole.

It promised you that it would take the average reader six minutes to read the editorial. It would take a generation to forgive. Mind you, like a stopped clock, the editorial was occasionally right. Yes, the original pipeline is more than 60 years old. Yet, they are going to heat the contents of the line, increase the pressure and add a second pipe along side the first, to effectively triple the throughput.

And then they start to lie to the reader. They say “Sending the oil through a pipeline, rather than by more dangerous rail, to Vancouver won’t increase the province’s carbon footprint.”

Other than implying that railways are an unsafe way to transport goods, this is a doubly ridiculous statement. The pipeline is not just being twinned. It is being repurposed to carry diluted bitumen from the Alberta tar sands. That is not ‘oil.’

Converting bitumen to ersatz crude oil is the most polluting process carried out by refineries. The refining process for bitumen creates tonnes of carbon slag. And if your refinery is in Alberta or is one of the ‘tea cup’ refineries in Northern China, you are still producing this carbon to pollute our earth. We only have one earth at present and we need to think of that occasionally.

If the editorial writer assumes that the excessive pollution of Canadian bitumen does not weigh on Canadians and come back to us, the writer has no understanding of the earth’s atmosphere.

But the writer tells us: This is the opinion of the Star’s editorial board. Do not bother us with facts.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

The Summer doldrums start early.

Tuesday, June 25th, 2019

It is a fixture of fixed elections. It is not the beating of the war drums in the distant jungle but the sudden silence that creeps across the land. It sends a chill down the spine. It is a time of introspection.

And there is much to think about. There is no spot on the ballots to mark: None of the above. We have to compromise. We have to weigh the dangers, the possibilities, the opportunities. Whom do you trust? Whom do you distrust?

Yet it is discouraging for the writer to see the usual drop off of regular readership at this time of year. Readership is your challenge, your raison d’etre. You are not doing this for the bucks! This is just during the time in North America when good weather, road trips and holidays interfere with keeping tabs on politics.

But we know, come September, that readership will again trend upwards, with spikes of hundreds of readers. I am reminded of the old Starch studies of newspaper and magazine readership. ‘Read most’ was the goal of most writers and I like to think I stay in that race by keeping the daily commentaries within 400 words. Keep them short, breezy and provide a few thoughts worth considering.

Not that this writer is a slave to his computer. The wife and I will be travelling about over the summer. We have places to go, people to visit, events to attend. I always have some back-up commentaries to let run while away.

Wherever we travel, we will be questioning, postulating, listening and noting. Many of the people we will be seeing will be regular readers and they hardly hold back on their opinions and objections. They love to note contradictions from one commentary to the next. They make it known when bored with a particular subject.

But consider the writer. And how many times can you write a commentary about writing commentaries? Not too often, I would expect you to say.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

It’s going to be a smack-down election.

Monday, June 24th, 2019

The anticipated federal election in October looks like one that nobody can win. All the political parties are going into the election with heavy baggage.  Nobody has the confidence of the nation. It could be the most bitter, hardest fought election in Canada’s history. There is too much at stake for voters to not vote. There is too much to lose in voting for any one party. We need to vote for candidates who will work to reform their political parties.

We cannot have political parties tearing apart our nation.

There was a rare Canadian phenomenon recently, as we saw millions in Toronto come out to celebrate. They clogged the parade route in boisterous cheering. City hall and area were hopelessly crowded, beyond any imagined capacity—a sea of happy celebrants. They gave rapturous cheers for the players and coaches and their mayor. They gave proper applause for the participation of the prime minister. They gave raspberries and one-finger salutes to their premier. That told us more than any opinion poll.

The conservative party in Canada has lost all credibility as it denies the dangers of the detritus cast aside so casually in a scarred and warming world. The liberals lost their credibility the other day when they said they would complete the twinning of the Trans Mountain pipeline. They want countries that do not care about pollution and global warming to process the horrific output of Canada’s tar sands.

At the same time, the new democrats are offering everything if Canadians will give them a chance to govern. And the Green party brings its one-note band to the event.

The facts are that not one of these parties is fit to govern. Each is found wanting. The conservatives are ideologues, they want small government, tax cuts for the rich and privileged and they paint impossible scenarios of curing climate concerns. At the same time, Canada’s liberal prime minister tells us Canada is a country of law but tries to impose political solutions when our largest engineering firm breaks the law. His cabinet brags of their concern for the environment while approving a pipeline of pollution across British Columbia.

And there are our also-ran parties. They want to save our environment but who would run our country?

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

Keep your enemies close.

Sunday, June 23rd, 2019

Ontario premier Doug Ford has found out that shuffling cabinet members is more difficult than the original creation of the cabinet. He not only has to deal with broken promises and damaged egos but he has to evaluate the anger generated by demotion and the ability of those wounded to get even. It is even more of a problem when the major change really needs to be made at the head of the cabinet table.

This is a game that the Fordster cannot win. For every problem solved, two or three are created. Dumping North Bay’s Vic Fedelli as minister of finance was something akin to pissing off a python. The best-dressed guy in Northern Ontario might have a vicious streak. (Just ask former conservative leader Patrick Brown.)

It is really a question as to who makes the first move to get even. One of the two Lisa’s might be the more dangerous. Lisa MacLeod could be angry as Ford punted her from social services to tourism and sport.

But then, Lisa Thompson was all set to go to war with the teachers’ unions when she was yanked from education and dumped into government and consumer services. It is likely it will take her a while to understand the differences between the two ministries.

But speaking of being sidelined, what do you think of what Doug did to Brian Mulroney’s kid? He took an axe to her dreams of fame and fortune in Canadian politics, in daddy’s footsteps. Mind you, Ford replaced her with a ward healer from Orillia who had been airlifted into Barrie-Springwater-Oro-Medonte by the Ford brain-trust in the election last year. Neither of those failures to launch is ready for the heavy duty of being chief law officer for the Ontario government. Now who is going to keep our Dougie out of the courts of justice?

With seven new faces in the cabinet, Mr. Ford hardly wanted any of the ministers he dumped, turned loose to do him harm. It is getting a bit crowded around the cabinet table.

And we should mention Rod Phillips, Ontario’s new finance minister. Maybe minister Phillips will bring some of his magic from when he was head of Ontario Lottery and Gaming to the job. I have always thought of him as Paul Godfrey’s errand boy. My, they grow up so fast!

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

Now pinch hitting for Canada: Donald Trump.

Saturday, June 22nd, 2019

We really need that. Can you think of anyone less able to speak for Canada to the Chinese? Donald Trump was grandstanding with Canada’s prime minister in the Oval Office in Washington the other day. The media had been allowed in for some quick questions and to get their pictures and quotes. Trump told the media that he would be going to bat with China on behalf of the Canadians.

Mr. Trump was telling the media that he was meeting with Chinese president Xi Jinping at the G20 Summit in Osaka, Japan next week. He said he would take the opportunity to ask for the release of the two Canadians who are being held hostage by the Chinese in retaliation for Canada’s detaining of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou for possible deportation to the face the courts in the United States.

What is surprising about this is that Canada is also a member of the G20. Obviously, Mr. Trudeau could meet with Xi Jinping and ask for himself. It is hard to believe that the Chinese president would listen to Donald Trump before he would listen to Justin Trudeau. It is hardly likely that Donald Trump would make a more cogent argument for the release of the Canadians.

And if there was any horse trading involved, the Huawei executive is presently vacationing in her luxurious Vancouver mansion awaiting an extradition hearing. We have something China wants. China has something we want. Is that not the essence of a horse trade?

And Justin Trudeau should stop giving us all the lip service about Canada being a country of laws. He has recently proved that is all B.S. Especially when you consider his actions with Jodi Wilson-Raybould, who was a fair to middling justice minister for Canada, until the prime minister wanted to play patty-cake with SNC-Lavalin, to save them the embarrassment of being found guilty of bribery.

It would certainly be appreciated by Canadians if Justin Trudeau would have his own discussion with the Chinese.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

Toronto knows how to party.

Friday, June 21st, 2019

Hey, knock off the complaints about the party in Toronto for the Raptors team last Monday. With three days notice, the decision was to parade the team from the Exhibition grounds to city hall. The effort involved thousands of city employees and police. And it was a rain or shine event, with no idea at all of the people that would come.

It was a beautiful June day and a couple million showed up for what will remain, for a long time, a unique event in Canadian history.

From the first minute, we saw the aerial shots from helicopters over the exhibition grounds, we knew that all time estimates were wrong. Barricades were a temporary hinderance for crowds of happy people intent on seeing their heroes. The organizers were soon dealing with chaos. It was a credit to their communications systems that they were able to cope.

It has been some time now since I have been involved in the planning and running of large indoor and outdoor events. They were exciting times. They involved long pages of checklists that you would pore over time and time again as your plans had to change. You always hoped that whatever happened looked like it was supposed to happen. And there were the times the worst things happened and suddenly all the people responsible were somewhere else.

But the other day, help was there. The police were doing their jobs. The emergency services people were on the ball. A crowd almost the size of the city’s population had to bring support systems with them. They strained the transportation systems and they tied the downtown traffic in knots. Who knows where they could have put more Johnnies but they would have provided good height to climb on to see the scene.

It was regrettable that some of the city’s gang members forgot this was a celebration and they brought their guns with them. The police were on the job. It was not a really good day for all politicians but a great day for Toronto.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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