Archive for the ‘New’ Category

A note from a neighbour.

Sunday, March 24th, 2019

“The depths of winter are about over and it will soon be time for spring clean-up and to lean on our rakes as we catch up on the neighbourhood gossip. I see that there has been little progress on that southern wall you have been promising. You would not need the wall if your Uncle Donald would stop frightening the neighbourhood children. While you are at it, please get him to shut down the Air B&B he is running in your White House.

“Mind you, if this is going to be another summer of your Uncle Donald exposing himself in the Rose Garden, there will be trouble in Paradise. And that boy band with which he practices heavy metal music (steel and aluminum) is annoying and you better do something about it sooner than later. We have a new North American Free Trade Agreement to sign off and breeches in the agreement such as tariffs are a no-no.

“Sure, we can be sympathetic to the problems of looking after a septuagenarian such as Donald but he does Tweet some awful nonsense. Has this child-man ever had to deal with the truth? It seems to be something of a foreign language to him.

“Does your Uncle Donald think he is a fascist? The only people he seems to want to help are his rich friends and dictators. I hardly know what he would ever possibly say to a poor person.

“And, as much as I hate to tell you this. Your Uncle Donald is a bigot, and a braggart, and a bully. I do not think there was ever a more heart-wrenching exodus of people from troubled countries than we saw heading north last year for the promised land of America.

“But there was no promised land, because Donald Trump thinks he is the Pharaoh. The only way those people are ever going to make it to America is to hide their children in bushels of Mexican produce and the adults in the trunks of those expensive American automobiles that are made in Mexico.

“But your Canadian neighbours have their own problems. They have discovered that politicians lie. I bet you knew that already.

“We are already driving north from Florida after a winter of golf with your Uncle Donald. See you soon.”

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

Jason Kenney’s Quest.

Saturday, March 23rd, 2019

There is something about being the big dog in a small kennel. It brings the walls to you and it feels all warm and snuggly. It must be what Jason Kenney thought of when he saw that the years of posing as heir apparent to former prime minister Stephen Harper held hollow promise. Jason Kenny is a person of large ambition and his quest is not to be denied.

But what turns the crank for a pudgy, misogynistic bachelor politician? It’s the power trip. Since he fought against co-eds at his Catholic college in San Francisco being allowed access to birth control information, Kenney’s quest has been for power.

It was this quest that sent Kenney back home to Calgary after the conservatives lost to the Justin Trudeau liberals. He told his supporters he was there to unite the right-wing conservatives and Wildrose parties. And he did it with little concern for any Marquis of Queensbury rules.

Kenney is on the extreme right of the social conservative spectrum. His first hero was Stockwell Day of the Canadian Alliance. Yet he was politically astute enough to recognize that the conservatives were well behind the liberals who were already taking the support of Canada’s ethnic groups for granted. When Stephen Harper came out on top as leader of the combined Canadian conservatives, he saw the work Kenney was doing in the ethnic communities and bought into what he was doing. It was a winner.

This apparatchik choked the first time I saw one of Kenney’s carefully constructed ethnic walls of people behind candidate Stephen Harper. I called it pandering at the time, even if I had to admit that it worked. Harper’s conservatives did not always win majorities but they won three federal elections in a row.

But like anything that works in politics, it ends up being overdone. Even today, Kenney gives the small percentage of ethnic communities in Alberta a little extra attention. He knows that all votes matter.

But if I were a betting person, I would check out the odds being offered by the Alberta bookies and maybe risk a looney or two on Rachel Notley and her team.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

“Penny for the Guy, Gov?”

Friday, March 22nd, 2019

By this November five, Guy Fawkes Day, one really wonders at what the value of the Brit Pound might be on world markets? It used to be a Brit tradition and as much as the Brits love their traditions, a penny does not buy much fireworks any more.

With the outrageous incompetence of the ‘Mother of Parliaments’ to resolve the Brexit fiasco, the rest of the world is dumbfounded. With a ditz for a prime minister, dolts in the cabinet and dummies running the opposition, they might as well stop singing There will always be an England. The bookies are giving long odds on that.

There is a certain justice to the Bank of England being run at this time by a Canadian. If he has been smart, he has been selling short the pound. When you think of all the wars between England and the continent over so many centuries, you would think they would be tired of all the wrangling.

The last (and hopefully final) deal offed by the Europeans was quite decent of them. I suppose everybody needs to have a special charity case to look after and I guess the Brits will be Europe’s.

The great gaping hole in the tariff wall is that open border in Ireland and it is what makes a farce of everything those foolish Brexit supporters wanted to do. It seems that the Europeans have a better appreciation of what that open border means to the Emerald Isle than the Brit parliament.

We get the feeling that the United Kingdom is going to get less united by all this foolishness. This ‘damn the torpedoes’ nonsense of the Brexit supporters is not going to get much sympathy from the more practical Scots and Northern Ireland will have to choose between their loyalty to the Crown and their preference for eating regularly.

It might be just another ho-hum Brexit day for the Brit parliament, but the rest of the world is tiring of it. For all the propriety airs, the Brits take of us colonists, I hardly think they are going to get any lend-lease support for this mess they have gotten themselves into.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

Ford Forestalls Hillier’s Hussars.

Thursday, March 21st, 2019

It might not be up to the standards of Alfred Lord Tennyson’s Charge of the Light Brigade but somebody should have warned Ontario premier Doug Ford before he got into a squabble with the caucus bad boy of the Ontario Tories. Oh well, Ford is due for a drubbing anyway.

Ford and his lackies have no idea of what kind of a fight they are in for when they get Randy Hellier pissed. Randy is to the extreme of the right wing of the Tory caucus at Queen’s Park. Hell, this is the guy who launched the Ontario Landowners. And any MPP from Queen’s Park who does not know the Landowners, had better not turn their back when those people start tearing down Ontario’s wind turbines. And they think Randy is irrational?

Ford’s problem with Hillier is that most of the people who know them both are betting on Randy. Compared to Ford, the Eastern Ontario MPP from Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston is a staunch conservative. The premier is just a conservative when it benefits him. He is a populist who colours way outside the party line.

And Randy does not like it that he and the rest of the back-bench sheep are supposed to stand and applaud every time Ford or one of his cabinet ministers makes a statement in the House. Why would you applaud someone who just proved they can read simple and probably less than truthful words?

Ford is also furious with Randy for telling people that his friends and advisers are lobbying illegally. This has caused the hopeless NDP caucus to ask for the Ontario Provincial Police to investigate.

It is also likely, but unproven, that Hillier was turfed from caucus for not showing the right attitude in caucus meetings. It seems that the time-honoured tradition of MPPs telling their leader what constituents’ really think of the government’s efforts is not welcomed by Mr. Ford.

But for all of Randy’s failings, nobody should have accused him of saying ‘Yada, yada, yada,’ to parents of Autistic children. He is something of a trouble maker but he is not unfeeling. With the way the NDP do go on about their concerns, he would be much more likely to say it to their members.

I always liked Pierre Trudeau’s solution to some of the trouble makers in caucus. He would put them in cabinet.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

Something for everyone; Nothing for all.

Wednesday, March 20th, 2019

There is supposed to be a little something for everybody and it turns out there is nothing overly impressive for anybody. It is a strange feeling going over this federal budget. Nothing is particularly surprising. Nothing impresses.

What is with these Liberals? They are a big tent of neoliberals, right-wing liberals, condescending liberals, lying liberals and honest liberals, do-gooders and progressives. I am a liberal and they make me want to have another shower. It makes me wonder what, if anything, these cynical people believe in?

Where are the big ideas? Pharmacare is coming, or is it on hold? At least adding that key step to Medicare would have been something to hold on to. I have always believed that if you were going into debt for something, make sure it is worthwhile.

This is a country that was created on a ribbon of steel for trains that ran from coast to coast. Was John A. Macdonald the last visionary? Where are the high-speed electric trains that this country needs today?

Sure, our cities need infrastructure help. That might sound like a lot of money to help the cities but we know they need far more. It is like the nickel-diming of skills training. Cheapskates!

Look, I am glad that we have pulled more than a quarter million children out of child poverty. Do we now have to drive a million seniors into poverty to pay for it?

I am not saying that this is a Morneau budget. That finance minister is a neoliberal and this is what he thought people wanted. If I had been in the House for the reading, I would have helped the opposition shout him down.

It reminds me of the last will and testament from the Ontario finance minister last year before the Wynne government fell to the Huns.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

Nothing New about a Stalking Horse.

Tuesday, March 19th, 2019

Oh, to be in Alberta when the politicos are running! Have you heard the latest about that sleaze Jason Kenney of the united conservatives? With premier Rachel Notley about to pull the plug on the provincial election, UCP leader Kenney has got his jeans in a twist. It seems people can actually document how he made sure of beating Brian Jean for the provincial party leadership.

Not, I hasten point out, that there is anything illegal about using a stalking horse campaign. It is just desperation in a tough fight.

But if another candidate pays for the stalking horse campaign, in whole or in part, there is reason to look at the financing to determine if there was a fraud perpetrated. Mind you, I also think it is a fraud to have one politico pay off another with a plum cabinet position.

A good example of that was the sleazy way former premier Kathleen Wynne won the Ontario liberal leadership in January 2013. By quitting the race to support Wynne, two weeks before the convention, stalking horse, Glen Murray, blocked a realignment of liberals being elected delegates. By forcing his supporters into the independent category, Murray blocked many of the truly independent liberals from getting elected. That sewed it up for Wynne.

A stalking horse can be a very effective strategy in campaigns but the more people who know about it, the less chance it has of working. No doubt Jason Kenney forgot that part when he used the tactic against former Wildrose leader Brian Jean. Kenny’s problem seems to have been that he had too many balls in the air at a time. His misogynistic attitude with women was causing him constant trouble throughout his leadership effort and made it difficult to control some of his supporters who were just following his lead.

The 2019 provincial election in Alberta is not necessarily a foregone conclusion. Premier Rachel Notley is not the same person as won Alberta against a split conservative vote in 2015.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

Peaking early; Peaking late, in politics.

Monday, March 18th, 2019

It is something like a fertility cycle. If you are too early or too late, that little sperm has lost an opportunity. It is like that time in a political campaign when unfertilized minds can be receptive to a particular message. It is only the entire costly campaign that is at risk.

It has always seemed to me that there is a point in campaigns when there is a peak of receptivity. It is that point when a maximum number of the uncommitted voters minds close around a particular political failure or inspiration. (Though inspirations are rare.)

Sorting out the last federal election, I think the receptors shut down prematurely. Canadians were tired of the arrogance of Stephen Harper’s conservatives and the last half of that tedious campaign became just so much blather.

And what us politicos need to always keep in mind is that, non-political people have little tolerance for discussing politics at most times. To actually catch them at the right moment is rare.

It is probably the reason some historical figure came up with that silly warning to never discuss politics or religion with strangers. Mind you, I love encouraging strangers to talk politics. If the person does not know you, nor think you can do anything for them, you can get an honest opinion. Honesty is a rare and precious commodity in politics.

Though what you usually find out from strangers are rather superficial views of political events and trends. It most often reflects the recent items heard or seen on You Tube or Facebook as well as the evening news. It might not always pay for you to argue with a person’s opinion but it can become part of your memory bank on the subject. The strongest arguments that voters get to help convince them are the ones that trigger their own experience and knowledge.

Reading a review of a book by a political scientist the other day, he makes the astute observation that if we want to make better political decisions, we first have to want to. Since the solution would involve going beyond their comfort zone for many people, he is not optimistic.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

Can bad software crash a 737 Max?

Sunday, March 17th, 2019

In a career of explaining computers to people, I always deferred to my brothers as to what it was all about. I had four brothers who, each in his own field, was an expert. My oldest brother is the systems guy, the next brother (now deceased) developed innovative computer equipment for film and television, the next developed operating systems and languages and the youngest is an expert in computer encryption. That left me the job of explaining all these developments to the world.

And I have not done a good job. Nobody is really interested when you tell them the last real improvements in computer software happened about 45 years ago. Now, there is a headline for you. Who cares?

The point is that the computer industry and everyone else is starting to reap the rewards of ignoring software development. When the Lion Air crash last October killed 189, the most likely answer was: software.

What we have today is a hodgepodge of programs written over the years and rarely, if ever, updated. And the worst aspect of this is the lazy programmer who copies a line of code that might or might not have extra notations in it to do something that nobody cares what.

I remember one time returning from Vancouver to Toronto on a new, at that time, Boeing 767. The chief pilot invited me to the cockpit and he was showing me all the bells and whistles on the large cathode ray tube displays that had replaced banks of switches. We even had some macabre fun putting in impossible destinations for the plane and seeing where it would tell us we would crash for lack of enough fuel.

But the point the pilot was really making was that this was the first aircraft that he had flown with software that was able to take off, fly the plane and land at any suitable airport without a human hand on the controls. I remember looking at him at the time and saying, “Thank you, but please save that demonstration for some other time.”

We have to remember that as we computerize more and more of the systems around us, we are putting lives at risk with every careless bit of software programming. As we listen to and read the comments of aviation experts about the 737 Max 8 crashes, it is becoming more and more obvious that the software involved needs to be just as up-to-date and fine tuned as the equipment it controls.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

Did they forget to tell Jagmeet?

Saturday, March 16th, 2019

It seems strange that the NDP apparatchiks around their leader Jagmeet Singh have forgotten to tell him something important. He certainly has enough French to understand that Québec Solidaire is a separatist party based in Quebec. It might share the orange party color and the left of centre politics of the NDP but from that point they go their separate ways.

The confusion with this started when newly elected MP and party leader Jagmeet Singh announced that Alexandre Boulerice would be the party’s deputy leader for Quebec. Boulerice is the MP for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie and was first elected in the Orange Wave of 2011.

Boulerice followed up on Wednesday by announcing that Nima Machouf will be the NDP standard bearer in the riding of Laurier—Saint-Marie in October. The riding is currently represented by NDP MP Hélène Lavadière, who is stepping down after holding the riding since 2011.

The only problem with this is that Nima Machouf is also a member of Québec Solidaire. She is not only a member but her husband, Amir Kadir, was a member of the National Assembly for Québec Solidaire from 2008 to 2018.

My guess is that the rest of Canada would be caught off guard if it had to deal with a group as left of centre politically as Québec Solidaire—if they were ever in a position to call the shots in Quebec. As unlikely as it might be that they might win, I see an appeal to their proposal of calling for a constitutional assembly to plan the future of the province. I believe they would have to agree if the rest of the country asked to join with them in planning an improved country—conditional on a national referendum afterward to approve of the proposed plan.

Just think of what could be done!

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

Fighting the Beer Store fight.

Friday, March 15th, 2019

Have you seen the opinion pieces running in what is left of Ontario’s small-town papers? These are warnings forecasting higher prices for beer if we change the way it is sold? This is old-fashioned protectionism for the beer store’s unionized employees. Frankly, with some grocery stores already offering beer, that horse has left the stable.

What this public relations effort is telling us is that the beer workers union is assuming the recent on-line survey by the government is telling them to go ahead with a broader array of sales outlets for beer. As a populist premier, Doug Ford would be inclined to support sales through convenience stores.

What should accompany this decision is a better direction for the present beer stores. There is a strong movement to separate the recycling efforts of the beer store from case sales. It would serve the public better if the Beer Store management decided what business it is going to emphasize. By a better divide between the two businesses, the merchandising and sales of beer could be greatly improved.

Ontario beer drinkers are frankly tired of the poor merchandising and bad smells of recycling depots doing a part-time job of selling beer. It would hardly surprise me if many of the 447 stores in Ontario need to be condemned as unsanitary.

Is it just part of their bad service that they challenged 3.7 million customers last year? If the company’s employees can only guess that somebody is underage or drunk once in every 34 tries, they should get out of the age and sobriety guessing business. It would certainly improve their service for the other customers.

And while we should never constrain the choices people can make as to their favourite suds, most customers come to the store to get a specific brand in a specific quantity. There are lots of ways to improve the service for them.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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