Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Don’t bet on it!

Thursday, March 4th, 2021

In a world of stupid ideas, you are going to love this one. The investors who bought Torstar, publisher of the Toronto Star, want to expand their newspaper empire into on-line Internet betting. We knew these guys were not newspaper people. Nor are they computer experts. Nor do they seem to know much about casinos. It appears that they are saying they want something to print money for them so they can play at being newspaper people.

They have already assembled the team that will tell them how to get a license from the government to compete with the government’s own on-line casino as well the established off-shore casinos, advise them on the design of a computer casino and design a winning casino for them. Frankly, it sounds like this team only needs Torstar to fund their design work and give the casino some credibility, first with the government and second with the public.

What worries me is that an unsuccessful on-line casino might be a bad investment that could hurry the demise of Torstar. Even worse, think of a successful on-line casino that ends up calling the shots for the newspaper business. Bear in mind that in any multi-facetted enterprise, it is the profitable division that ends up calling the shots.

More out of curiosity, I would like to know how closely the newspaper end of the business is going to follow the sports betting end of the business. The ethics of that would worry me.

This reminds me of the hearings in 2007 about the Bell takeover of CTV. I was in the room for the Canadian Radio-Television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) presentation by the head honcho for the television network. Listening to that plea for completion of the deal, I got the impression that this guy knew something about the future that he had neglected to tell the hotshots from Bell Canada.

Well, Bell bought a pig in a poke, thinking there was a future in network television. Little did they know that the future was in streaming video over the Internet and the networks were all up ‘Schitt’s Creek’ along with the CBC.


Copyright 2021 © Peter Lowry

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Congrats to the Disaffected Lib. Mk. II.

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2021

As a fan of the Mound of Sound, who writes a progressive blog as the disaffected liberal, I have been slow in congratulating him on the excellent update of his blog. It is a delightfully clean, attractive and well-organized website. And, as usual, written in a knowledgeable, crisp and erudite manner.

Frankly, it embarrasses me. I have been thinking on and off of updating Babel after the adventures of more than ten years of its evolving nature. While I have had some time off lately to think about its future, there is something about its present formula that works.

I think what scares me is the time the Mound of Sound obviously spends discussing his postings with a collection of very knowledgeable commentators. I always have a problem determining what to do with comments that are longer than my original posting.

Over the years, I have knowingly cut down most of my daily (and only one per day) articles to between 300 and 400 words. I find that I get the most readers with the shorter versions. I seem to recall an apology some ancient writer made in a letter saying he did not have the time to make his letter shorter.

Another thing is that my readers seem to know what to expect from me. I try to stay within the political parameters of the subject. I have spent 60 years involved in politics and enjoyed it. My only excuse for writing as much about Trump over the past five years was the ease of showing how bad he was at the political scene. I was afraid he would leave incoming president Joe Biden with nothing but scorched earth.

This is a very disappointing time in Canadian politics. From what I read in progressive, there is not much positive to say about any political party. Our submissions are a collection of daily whines—many of them at the point where you know their attitude and are needless to read. One exception is our disaffected liberal, who brings clarity to complex matters. He writes good!


Copyright 2021 © Peter Lowry

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Lasting in lockdown.

Saturday, January 9th, 2021

Happy New Year to you! We spend Christmas and New Years hunkered around the television binge-watching The Crown on Netflix.  Nobody got our seasons greetings because just when I was about to send them, my computer died. Between Amazon, Best Buy and Costco, I found I could not buy a computer on-line because my e-mail was not working. Without being able to respond to e-mails, I could not prove who I was.

Luckily, I have a wonderful extended family spread over North America and my problems with computers became a cause celeb. It was like being on the receiving end of a ‘go-fund-me’ effort. Cheques have been arriving from the next generation to more than pay for the computer and software I am now using. I could not be more pleased. I feel they are now complicit in encouraging me to keep writing my scurrilous commentaries.

And speaking of that, please do not get the wrong idea because I have been watching Netflix’s opus about the British crown. I am still vehemently opposed to the idea of Canada having a sovereign.

While I must admit that Peter Morgan and the other writers did an excellent job of putting some intelligent words into the mouths of their callow characters, the royals still came across to me as vain, shallow, self-indulgent people. Let’s face it, there are those who already believed the Queen Mother was a lush, Margaret a slut, Phillip a philanderer, Charles a self-obsessed whiner, Anne a bitch, Andrew a pompous ass and Edward a poof. And they consider themselves our betters?

And if you think the Brit royals are a disappointment, you should meet some of their counterparts on the continent. You have to admit that Queen Victoria did nobody any favours repopulating the royal houses of Europe.

The only thing I think the writers got wrong was some of the details of the Falklands War. It was not exactly the ideal legacy for prime minister Margaret Thatcher. There were some very amusing aspects of that war, as well as the heartless and needless deaths, that the writers could have mentioned.

But we appreciate the gift of Netflix from a niece and her husband to help us get through the lockdown. It is a difficult time for everybody. Let’s get vaccinated against Covid-19 as soon as possible and get back to enjoying a full life in this wonderful country.


Copyright 2021 © Peter Lowry

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Help, I have been hacked.

Tuesday, December 15th, 2020

I am off the air. I have no Microsoft programs in my computer. No Outlook means no e-mails. No Word means no blog.

If the MPs in Ottawa can take a Christmas break, so can I. I will be back in the New Year.

It will be tough in the pandemic but there is light at the end of the tunnel. Be positive.

And make the best of it over the Holiday Season.



Stop your bitching, I’m back.

Monday, December 7th, 2020

I know, I promised you something scintillating about Trump yesterday. I lied. I just had more important things to do. I promised myself that I would start anew today, but this day started by pissing me off. My Toronto Star did it by informing me of the new prices for getting the Star delivered every day as well as full access to the electronic version.

I guess I have been waiting for it. You can hardly expect three guys named Rivett, Peterson and Bitove to fully understand the Atkinson Legacy that dates from the 1890s. Welcome to the working-man’s newspaper you schmucks.

They told us this morning that there was going to be a slight increase in the price of daily delivery. You know you are getting shafted when they refer to the new price of just being thirteen cents a day. I hardly needed pencil and paper to compute that one. That strikes me as about a 13 per cent increase.

If the Star had not been sneaking in an increase here and an increase there every once in a while, I would have some sympathy for the new owners. Instead, I would rather tell them to get stuffed.

And if I was only going to pay for just an electronic version, I would start with the Economist or the New York Times. I would have to fill in with some of the more reliable newsletters from Ottawa and the provincial capitals but I could survive without my 70 years or so of reading the Toronto Star. Even when I worked for the Globe and Mail and wrote for the long defunct Toronto Telegram, I also read the Star every day.

What I will miss is spilling my coffee on the more annoying of the Star columnists. I even found a guy down the hall who actually wants to read the sports pages and I was happy to let him have my sports section.

What those three amigos in the executive office have not figured out yet is that the Toronto Star is not a profit centre, it is a trust.


Note: This has been revised. Never do mental arithmetic when you are annoyed.

Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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Let’s hear it for Sobeys.

Saturday, December 5th, 2020

The other day we were whining about the rapidly rising prices at our grocery stores. We hear today that Sobeys and the rest of the Empire stores (including Safeway) are breaking with the solidarity of the Loblaw and Metro chains. They have restored their employee’s s bonus for working in lock-down areas because of the pandemic and have refused to go along with the industry-wide increase in display fees that they charge to their suppliers.

Much of the credit for this stance by the grocery chain is given to Empire CEO Michael Medline. He puts commitments to employees and the community ahead of profit and, oddly enough, the profit tends to look after itself.

Medline has also been credited with the rebuilding of the Safeway chain in western Canada after a rocky start after the takeover by Empire a few years ago. Food stores work on tight margins and my impression over the years is that happy employees are the key to a successful store.

And that is all I have for today. I think I will check out the fiasco in the White House for tomorrow—Mr. Trump is always guaranteed to be doing something wrong.


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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Pandemic Profiteers.

Saturday, November 21st, 2020

As a young man, I was trained by two different grocery chains in management of large grocery stores. Later in life, traveling around the world, I would often visit grocery stores, not to see what was different but to admire what was the same. From Hamburg to Kyoto, I could drink in the familiar odours, measure the familiar aisles and re-orient myself.

But today there is a difference in my home town grocery outlets. It is a sense of mounting annoyance. It is a less civil environment. It is the edginess of the staff. It is in the hurries of store management. It is the mounting prices for bread and bacon, milk, butter and potatoes.

The newspapers are finally catching the unrest and reporting on the unconscionable profits being harvested by the publicly reported grocery chains. Reporters are aghast at what they see as skyrocketing prices. Housewives on tight budgets wear worried frowns.

What is worse; nothing will be done about it. Our politicians have been enslaved to the food chain for many years. The conservatives live and die by the farmer voters. The liberals are caught up with the processors and middle marketers. And the NDP are supposed to be the last bastion for the urban consumer. Nobody rocks the boat.

But it is not like the integrated oil companies that merely ensure their profits with managed retail pricing of their goods. Purveying groceries is a much more complicated business. Food chains can stretch many thousands of miles as the seasons mitigate the supply. Processing is often concentrated in low-labour cost countries. A can of peas can have a low percentage mark-up because of its long shelf life, while a head of lettuce loses value daily. And meats make the profits for the chains.

But prices are gouging as each retail chain follows the other up the pricing for profit path. No chain backs down when it comes to dividends.

And what greater profits will they reap as the pandemic denies us the ability to fight back as recalcitrant politicians are baffled by the coronavirus?


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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The perils of pandemics.

Sunday, November 15th, 2020

Pandemics kill. Pandemics are economic disasters. Pandemics can be the great equalizer. Pandemics can be a bonanza for the unscrupulous. Pandemics can trap the unwary. Pandemics can destroy plans in process. Pandemics can offer opportunity.

But in opportunity comes failure. The failure of Donald Trump in the United States will go down in history. He put his political future on the line while seeking a second term. He failed his country. He failed in his quest. His blunder cost hundreds of thousands of American lives.

Pandemic: 1. Donald Trump: 0.

Alberta premier Jason Kenney also failed to see the dangers in not recognizing the possibilities of the pandemic. He needed the health professionals as allies. He needed them on side. He fought with them instead of making them his frontline in the battle against the pandemic.

Pandemic: 1. Jason Kenney: 0.

Even those who see the opportunity can stumble. They become overconfident. Take premier Doug Ford in Ontario. He had the formula working for him. He had the health professionals on side. Until one day, he cut them out of his planning. It was his urge to colour-code. He coded himself out of cooperation with the professionals.

Pandemic: 1. Doug Ford: 0.

There are even those who think they can do better than the politicians. Take the fat cats at Loblaw, for example. They saw opportunity in the pandemic. They were going to profit from the pandemic. They were going to convince the public they were the good guys. They stayed open in adversity. They bribed their employees to defy the pandemic with a pay raise. When they felt their point was made, they canceled the pay raise and started raising prices. They launched an industry move to capitalize on the pandemic.

Pandemic: 1. Loblaw 0.


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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A Capital Idea.

Saturday, November 14th, 2020

It is fun to remember that, as a youngster, I was looking forward to a career as a writer. Writing an unedited blog can have serious consequences for those hopes. Nothing cuts deeper than the e-mails I get from readers about an occasional grammatical or spelling error. I even had a blistering comeuppance from a reader the other day on my errant ways of using capitalization.

In defence (or defense) let me remind you that there is no authority on the English language in Canada. No doubt William Shakespeare received harangues on his sonnets in his time. What might be an errant use of the language today might be common usage tomorrow. English is a living language, subject to constant change, new words and evolutionary pressures.

Have you noticed, for example, in the Toronto Star, certain writers are allowed to capitalize the skin colour black with a capital ‘B.’ Aboriginal friends, whom I have asked, really do not give a damn if indigenous is spelled with or without a capital ”I.”

I, for one, have been trying to join the trend to fewer capital letters. There is still a need for capitals when you mention the White House in Washington as opposed to a white house. Though the current resident president in that white house is hardly deserving of capitalization.

I find that capitalization in headlines is a matter of choice. The use of all caps is still a form of shouting—quite unnecessary. Recently I have been experimenting with lower case for political parties. People seem only to use capitals to differentiate between a person who might be liberal and the Liberal Party—and that should be obvious by context. I must admit that I could be causing confusion between the colour ‘green’ and the ‘green’ party. I might also be abusing some rules in French grammar if I write about a Quebec block party instead of the Bloc Québécois.

It comes down to a very simple rule. You can use capitals where and when you want but their purpose is to avoid ambiguity for the reader.


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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In the silence of Ottawa.

Saturday, November 7th, 2020

Our not too silent members of parliament have hardly been ignoring what has been going on south of the border. They are as enthralled as the rest of us with the ups and downs of the political drama unfolding. They have reason to be concerned about the impact of trends in the U.S. on Canadian voters.

The intensity of the polarization of voters in the U.S. has probably caused Canadian politicians the most concern. The question is will Canadian voters polarize in the same way? I doubt it. There are always some Canadians who follow the American trends but there continue to be differences.

The first difference is in immigration. Canada continues to increase its immigration. While there are always those who foolishly resent these new Canadians, the truth is that immigrants contribute to our economic growth. And the current plan is to increase immigration to 400,000 per year for the next three years. These numbers will help accelerate our economic recovery from the pandemic.

The second difference is in religion. That might be questionable to some people but the trends in the U.S. and Canada diverge on religion. The first factor is in Quebec. The trend away from the Catholic faith has now covered a large share of the Quebec population. Attitudes on abortion and same-sex marriage have moved the province into being a secular society more so than the western provinces. The most populous province, Ontario is close behind Quebec in becoming more secular.

While there is a great deal of hypocrisy about religion in the United States, there is no denying the influence religion has on the political divide in the country. There is also a greater sense of hopelessness among some of the demographics in the U.S. than there are in Canada.

We always had this feeling when visiting our American friends that the national moto there should be changed from “In God We Trust” to “It ain’t my responsibility.”


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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