Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Bloomberg boo-boos big.

Tuesday, October 16th, 2018

How do you get to be the 11th richest man in the world and have employees who make ridiculous mistakes? I hate to embarrass a guy such as Michael Bloomberg but he put his name on Bloomberg News to try to give it some credibility. Of its current 20,000-plus employees, he needs to hire some knowledgeable editors to make sure the reporters get it right.

On October 12, I came across a business news article that was clearly credited to Bloomberg News. While the headline writer might have been local, it stated that Chinese companies were loading up on a Canadian bargain: Along with saving about US$ 50 a barrel, Asian refineries “want Western crude’s rich bitumen.” At first, I thought it was just a headline writer’s error.

But no, the story actually was written as to give the impression that bitumen came from Western Canada’s crude oil. Not only that but the writer suggested that bitumen was itself desirable as “a black residue used to build everything from roads, to runways and roofing.” That is correct in that those are traditional uses for bitumen. The writer could also have noted that the ancient Phoenicians also used bitumen to caulk the bottoms of their galleys that plied the Mediterranean.

But bitumen is also a source of synthetic crude oil. I sincerely doubt that anyone would ever want to figure out a method to add carbon molecules to crude oil to turn it into bitumen. As it is, refineries converting bitumen to synthetic crude oil end up with huge piles of what is known as bitumen slag that is almost pure carbon. It is one of the most polluting processes in the refining industry. It would certainly be a strange commodity to promote through one of Michael Bloomberg’s companies, when he has such an impressive reputation as an environmentalist.

One of the reasons for the renewed interest in Asia for Canadian bitumen is the current unrest in Venezuela. Venezuela has what many believe are much larger reserves of high-grade bitumen-like oil, that is often referred to as extra heavy oil. It is easier to refine and leaves less pollution in its path.

And if Bloomberg wants to write about the world oil industry, it should make sure its reporters know what they are talking about.

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Argumentum ad absurdum

Having written the foregoing about Bloomberg’s confusion about bitumen over the weekend, imagine my surprise Monday morning when David Olive of the Toronto Star used the same incorrect information. He could at least have credited the Bloomberg article as his source. The Toronto Star editors even used the same Canadian Press picture to illustrate Olive’s story.

I am not accusing David Olive of plagiarism here but he certainly needs to check his sources better. He should be well aware that Western Canada Select and Canadian Heavy Oil are just tar sands companies’ euphemisms for tar sands bitumen.

It is nice to know that David Olive is also bullish for bitumen—it goes so well with the Toronto Star’s hypocrisy about global warming.

Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Holding Honderich’s Hypocrisy.

Saturday, October 13th, 2018

It is this writer’s observation that John Honderich of the Toronto Star can be among the most puffed up of self-important Canadians. In an opinion piece on page two of his own publication the other day, Honderich bemoaned the lack of financial support for journalism by the federal government. He appears to resent that federal government advertising goes to the media that provides the lowest cost per thousand impressions.

What really galled in this self-serving whining was the list following the story of the 137 newspapers in Canada that have been closed over the past decade. It was interesting going through the list and marking the newspapers where Honderich and TorStar sent out the pink slips. Hypocrisy makes it hard to tell what Honderich is really complaining about!

There is no doubt that the world of journalism is continuing to change. We can be impressed with some of the digital conversions of great papers such as the New York Times and the Guardian in England but Canadian journals trying to convert to digital existence have not been particularly successful to-date. In fact, TorStar did a better job on its first digital iteration than it has done on the latest confusion.

But my problem is that the wife has taken to adding up what we are spending on news media. Reading the Toronto Star in print form over breakfast every day costs a heck of a lot more than I spend on this web site each year. Babel-on-the-Bay.com is a fun hobby. Reading the Toronto Star has always been a habit.

What worries me is that the Trudeau government and his cabinet ministers in training might start to throw money at traditional media. All they would accomplish would be to create more delays in bringing Canadian journalism into the 21st century. Newspapers, radio and television have to find their own path to the future.

We could get better results for Canadians though by putting the money into teaching our kids how to spell and use reasonably understandable grammar. No doubt language can change and improve over time. We should never have to grow old and have to listen to and read absolutely appalling English and French. Better language skills enable all of us to be more easily understood in an increasingly complex world.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

In praise of political palaver.

Monday, October 8th, 2018

Blessed with a large family and very interesting siblings and life experience, whenever we get together, we have never been reluctant to have lively discourse about religion or politics. The very range of political leanings in the family is in itself an important part of the dialogues. With many of us in Canada and a large coterie south in the States, there is much to consider. It has the political discussions at family gatherings drawing out the young and old alike.

And if people do not show for the annual gathering, they know they will be talked about. And we freely discuss the religions and politics of all. There are Catholics, Anglicans, Presbyterians, born-agains, agnostics and atheists with whom to argue. They include the left and right of politics and even some Trump supporters from the U.S. with all their religious hang-ups.

While the discussions are often enthusiastic, pro or con, there is never an attempt to convert anybody. What would be the point? Though we did see a lessening of enthusiasm for Donald Trump this year, it seemed that criticism of Ontario’s Doug Ford also drew some strained laughter.

What I particularly look for in these family discussions are any divides between the age groups. With more than an 80-year spread of the four generations at these events, it is important to understand the differing perspectives on life, love, morality and what they want for dinner. (I have trouble understanding vegans—which I think is a factor of age.)

There is a considerable depth of computer expertise present at these gatherings and I wish I could remember half the advice I get on how to fix my various computer problems.

While there are lots of opportunities for water sports on the lake, tennis, all-terrain-vehicle paths and rainy weather games indoors, what these gatherings spend most time on is just talking. There is an eagerness to share. There is open communication. We are all interested in the strengths and achievements of the younger generations. Seeming disorganization can produce a pot-luck feast for 40 to 50 people. They let us seniors be first to save us being trampled by those younger generations.

I am writing this on Canadian Thanksgiving. Our family get-together was over a month ago. Enjoy your family get-togethers now and on American Thanksgiving later. They are an important part of our connection with this world. And life is too short for anything but openness, kindness and love.

Happy Thanksgiving! Nothing shows thanks better than sharing.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Doctors are doubling down.

Monday, October 1st, 2018

A few weeks ago, we wrote about the troubles the medical specialists are causing for the Ontario Medical Association (OMA). To make matters worse, there is now a breakaway movement among the specialists. Nobody seems worried about our hard-working general practitioners (GPs). This is a fight between specialists. It seems the radiologists are pissed with the anesthesiologists.

This might seem like an arcane matter but I can assure you it is all about money. And greed. And entitlement. When people in my Ontario town have to wait for two years to get their cataracts looked after in a process taking just a few minutes, you know that something has gone wrong.

And the only people making money off the doctors are the lawyers.

You would think that many doctors would be happy now that their hero Doug Ford is in power and he will give them whatever they want. Fat chance!

Oh, to be living where we used to in Toronto where our neighbour across the street was one of the city’s top ophthalmologists. He used to laugh and say my family kept him in general practice. And the only time a lecture came with it was when I tried to show my son a trick on his skateboard and broke a bone in my foot.

But today, the radiologists are trying to organize other specialists to break away from the OMA and the weight of all the family doctors who are pulling down the pay scales for the specialists. As things stand, the OMA has been without a contract with the Ontario government for four years and nothing is moving forward with the new government. Meetings with the new premier and his key henchmen have been to no avail. The Ford government has other fish to fry.

You can expect premier Dougie to call for a basin of water so that he can wash his hands of the matter. By letting the question of doctors’ fees go to arbitration, the conservatives can blame the expenditure on the liberals and carry on with their supposed cost cutting.

In the meantime, it will be the same old, same old at the OMA, with the specialists fighting over the spoils. And the only thing that could be worse than today’s OMA is two OMAs.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

CAPP: Canadian Association for Petroleum Propaganda.

Monday, August 13th, 2018

Donald Trump could take lessons from the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP). These people have been feeding propaganda to Canadians for years. And they are getting better at their job. They work for the companies exploiting Canada’s tar sands.

It is rumoured that they get together for a prayer meeting every workday morning. Their favourite prayer is supposed to be something like, “Dear Lord please bring Alberta just one more oil boom. We promise not to piss the profits away this time, like we did with the other oil booms.”

But their problem is that this boom is in tar sands. It is not oil. As much as they always call it oil, it is a long way from becoming oil. This stuff should be left in the ground. It pollutes. Big time. Just getting the tarry stuff separated from the sand and stones takes a lot of hot water. They end up with settling ponds all over the Athabasca and Cold Lake tar sands area that are a constant hazard to wild life.

The problems do not end there. The CAPP people figured it out a long time ago that if they processed the tar sands stuff into synthetic crude oil in Alberta, the province would soon be uninhabitable. That would be a terrible thing to do to such a beautiful part of our country.

They found there were two basic problems. The first was that processing created more than three times the carbon pollution in the air than that of crude oil processing. It also left behind very large piles of bitumen slag—which is mostly carbon.

The solution was to find ways to get the tar sands gunk to ocean going tankers that could take it to third world countries that did not care about the pollution. At the end of the Energy East pipeline, for example, Irving Oil promised the pipeline people that they would build a shipping dock for them. Irving Oil does not want to pollute New Brunswick either. The pipeline to Kitimat in B.C. was rejected but there was still the old Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain line that could be twinned and transport almost four times the diluted tar sands gunk to Burrard Inlet in B.C.

And as things stand today, the CAPP propagandists are still praying and working their trade. The pipelines are being readied. And don’t you just love their cute television commercials that promote something like “help make Alberta rich again by spending $11 billion to $12 billion of Canadian taxpayers’ money on the Trans Mountain pipeline.”

And we are the suckers who were supposed to freeze in the dark?

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

The vengeance of the vegans.

Friday, August 10th, 2018

The Toronto subway system is a special place to me. It was many years ago that my first job in advertising was selling advertising space in the subway. I loved it. It was not that I was a great salesperson but I was creative. I would dream up ads for likely sponsors and take it to the prospect, telling them how many thousand people per day would see this ad. It worked and I soon had the entire system of the time sold out.

But what I was not allowed to sell was to religious or political organizations. And to that I would have included the foolishness of Veganism. I have a few nieces who tell me they are vegan but all I have noted is that the dear girls look emaciated. I worry about them.

Not that I would say anything negative to them about this vegan business. They also know their favourite uncle takes his role at the head of the food chain seriously and they respect my decision. They know they will have to pry that last hamburger from my cold, dead hands.

That is not a scream of pain when you drop that lobster into a pot of boiling water. It is a shout of joy that the lobster can now be served with drawn butter to honour the succulent nature of the crustacean.

Since pigs really do not fly, they can come on my plate as tender ribs or roasts, chops or sausages. While some people think of the Black Angus steer as magnificent beast, I see him as steaks primed for the barbecue, roasts for the oven and hamburgers for the grill. And it is the grocers’ dairy counters that host the proteins of life.

But if I have one serious question about this vegan business, I would like to know why these people are pushing their peculiar fetish on others. What is their objective? Why are they trying to spread the pain?

Some people think their ads are silly but cute. I do not even think they are cute. When humans emerged from the vagueness of eons of history, it was their ability to put those animals to use, adding to the strength of the humans that created civilization. We have come a long way because of that relationship.

There is no need to be silly about it.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Death of the News.

Monday, July 23rd, 2018

Pundits and political scientists will measure the time-of-death and arguments will flare up occasionally but the agreement is that news, as we knew it, is dead. We can celebrate its life but the reality of the death is still there. It is circling the drain of civilization.

We live in a world trying to deal with a vast array of truths. They are only what people believe but who has the right to deny the truths of others? Look at the multiplicity of religions. Are they all to be denied? Are you foolish enough to demand proof of their God? Can you deny what they proselytize?

And what of these old grey guardians of the sanctity of news gathering such as The New York Times, The Guardian and Le Monde? Are there those who consider their opinions infallible? And why is it that ‘what bleeds, leads’ on the six-o’clock television news?

How trustworthy is news radio that tries so hard to fill a 24-hour vacuum?

But with the Internet today, you can have your own news. You can read it as news if you wish but this commentary is only an opinion. And opinions have become, maybe, too much a part of news.

At the same time, print media are struggling with developing Internet formulae. There are more failures than successes. Pity that the makers of computer tablets cannot duplicate the feel of newsprint.

But we should also pity those so shallow as to turn to Twitter for news. There are many arrogant provocateurs ready to turn these fledglings to their own biases. Facebook wants to be a window on your soul, and consumer habits. Linkedin has a job for you, maybe. All you have to do is expose your inner thoughts and hopes.

It seems odd that those who create the most in false news, are the ones who warn you to ignore false news. And what is false news but another take on the news? It can even flip-flop as what was sure news yesterday is declared false news today as the pressure mounts for some better truth.

Will you measure the news by its ‘Likes’ and ‘Dislikes’ to determine its legitimacy? Will we measure the news as to its acceptance?

Will those news junkies among us weigh the news we see, hear and read and swing the pendulum of truth? It comes down to ‘Whom do you trust?’

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Are some more indigenous than others?

Friday, June 1st, 2018

Either we are all ‘from here’ or none of us are. If academics and government can refer to our first nations as indigenous then they must have changed the meaning of the word. Does the Oxford dictionary get a vote in this? The word experts still think the word ‘indigenous’ means ‘from here.’ And why are all these supposedly learned and authoritative people using the word ‘indigenous’ improperly? Canada’s first nations peoples are not indigenous.

And why are we choosing to stigmatize Canadians who also happen to have ancestors from among our first nations? Their ancestors came by land bridge or by sea many thousands of years ago. In Ontario, the aboriginal peoples tended to be nomadic. They lived off the land, picking seasonal fruits, trapping animals and birds and fishing the fresh waters. There were few, if any, ancestral lands but the ones we knew could be honoured.

And yet Canadians have vague knowledge of those early citizens of the land. Theirs was an oral history, passed down through generations. Little is preserved of the past.

Does being connected to Canada’s distant past bring shame? Is there some special honour imparted to those whose ancestors came 200 or 300 years ago?

What is going on? Are we honouring ignorance?

And we should stop mindlessly vilifying those who tried to help our aboriginals by showing them the path of the ‘white man.’ The residential schools were crude, terrorizing and unforgiving but what else would you expect of the times? How were people living in our cities back then?

The truth is today that there is no possibility to maintain a sustainable lifestyle for a hunter-gatherer culture in North America. We need to respect and honour the past and the customs we share. Reality is that our climate is changing and if it was thousands of years ago, we human types would finally uproot and move with it.

And what are we doing in those remote communities where only government handouts can sustain life? Why should we condemn people to live in such desolation and distress?

Humans have to continue to evolve. Change is the constant. We leave the past behind. We leave the old and embrace the new. We learn. The evidence of change might be generational but it does happen.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

 

In defence of local media.

Friday, May 18th, 2018

It came as a surprise the other evening to learn that for the past two years, NDP activist Gerry Caplan has also been a resident of Barrie, Ontario. He had been invited to participate on a panel of mourners for the late, and frankly unlamented, Barrie Examiner newspaper. By the time Torstar wrote fini on the Examiner saga, it had been through more hands than a Dunlop Street hooker on a busy night.

I congratulated Dr. Caplan later for bringing a bit of humour to the discussion. I was less than pleased with the performance of the moderator Robyn Doolittle, a working journalist from the Toronto Globe and Mail. She offered clear evidence that she had no idea of what a community might be or how you hold it together.

The other two panelists were walking wounded from the demise of the late community newspapers in Barrie and Orillia. One was the former editor from the venerable Orillia Packet and Times and is obviously struggling with his new career as a reporter for an Internet-only newspaper.

As a one-time managing editor, I could have easily told them the realities of Torstar killing the Examiner and keeping its weekly grocery flyer wrap called the Barrie Advance. The editorial content of the Advance is only there as a form of bilge balancing but it is the only print media in a city of over 140,000.

Regrettably Barrie is not a community in itself. As a Barrie matron explained to us when we came here, you have to have three generations in a local cemetery before you can say you are from Barrie. It is a city of 30,000 with 110,000 interlopers who just live here. It is the fastest growing city in Canada. City council tries to please the 30,000 real Barriites and ignores the rest of us.

I tend to look at Barrie as a challenge in communication. As a former political activist, I look at the problem of reaching people in two electoral districts that split the city in half and add rigidly conservative rural areas to each half. The federal conservatives gerrymandered it that way to keep the area voting conservative. The local liberals had no clue they were being shafted.

While I found the panel discussion interesting, the lack of understanding of how to pull the community together was the panel’s problem. Nothing accomplished; we went home.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

The price of success for Netflix.

Saturday, April 21st, 2018

As Netflix keeps adding to millions of subscribers, so do the costs to customers. There is no free lunch and what started as the poor man’s alternative to network programming has become a ravenous giant in the network TV class.

And giants are noticed. How long will it be before the taxman comes calling? Netflix has had a free ride in Canada for far too long. We all share the wealth in this country.

But there never was that much of a saving with Netflix anyway. How much is that box that makes Netflix work? Alternatively, you might want to spend thousands on a smart TV. Mind you, you should never buy a toy smarter than yourself. You end up with the neighbour’s 12-year old showing you how to make the thing work.

And the monthly expense for Netflix includes your Internet connection.

In Canada, with our cabal-controlled Internet pricing, you might be looking at more than $60 per month to have sufficient bandwidth for decent streaming video. And they will charge you more if you are binge-watching.

And just watch as this upstart Netflix takes on the TV networks with original programming. How did you like the Netflix effort with the series Crown? Oh, not a royalist are you? Our French speaking friends gave very short comment on the Marseilles miniseries. Maybe it will do better dubbed in English?

Netflix needs to face the facts that the TV networks have had far more years of making programming mistakes. And where is Netflix going to get some sports? Pre-recorded Tiddley-Winks tournaments, simply will not cut it.

From the Olympics down to neighbourhood street hockey, Canadians love their sports. It is the sponsors and the advertisers who bring us into the world of professional hockey, golf, baseball, football and Netflix has yet to compete in that area.

And what about news? Your television is irreplaceably a source of news that allows you to quickly check the different network treatments of the news and to verify its authenticity. The day is long gone that the family could gather around the radio to learn of important events.

The stock experts have been raving lately about how Netflix is growing. They should always remember how it is easy to blow up a balloon and how fast it can deflate.

And, it is much easier to live without Netflix than to live without live television network news.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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