Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

The late, unlamented Equifax.

Monday, September 18th, 2017

It is just one of the many problems faced by Canadians because of our outmoded constitution. Responsibility for credit reporting companies resides with the provincial governments. It enables the large federally incorporated American firms to just add Canadians to their portfolio almost as an afterthought. And when hackers have free access to Equifax data and download over 140 million records for their own use, there is little differentiation between the American and Canadian information that they download. They have use for both.

It reminds me of an experience I had a few years ago when I made my first and last purchase at a new Target store in Canada. Target in Canada fed its sales information south of the border and I soon found that someone was using ATMs in Pittsburgh to try to empty my bank account. My bank was kindly translating my money to American funds to save time for the criminal.

I should mention that the bank replaced the money. The bank considered the retail breach to be part of the cost of doing business.

But that is not the case with Equifax. While you might have signed away your rights to your own data the last time you opened a savings or checking account, applied for a credit card or a mortgage, you probably never did read all that fine print. Nor did you necessarily agree that Equifax could retain all the data on you forever in their, obviously insecure, databases.

Since class-action lawsuits have already been launched in the United States and in Canada, we can only hope that the lawyers involved understand computer database operations. They obviously already know that the company failed to install safeguard software in their system that would have blocked the point of access for the hackers.

Hackers are the guerilla force in the computer wars. It is a continuing battle to find and fix the weak points in systems the hackers are seeking to find.

As much as many people laugh at what hackers can find in their searches, they should be aware that it costs us all. When the banks get ripped off, who do you think pays for it: we the customers.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

In defence of Conrad Black?

Sunday, September 17th, 2017

Lord ‘Cross-the-Pond’ Black has never needed us to defend him. He is a man of immense ego living out his life in the last of his estates. His love of the written word could have been the cause for him to destroy a business empire—all for the sake of trying to save his failing newspapers. Given his setbacks in life, give him credit, he still writes with clarity in the beauty of the English language.

But who is this Toronto Star writer who complains so bitterly about Conrad writing in the National Post that racism is ‘practically dead in North America.’ Is he challenging her livelihood? Is she working under some editorial direction to unearth racism wherever she can find it?

Of course, Black’s perception of racism would be totally different from hers. He is a septuagenarian, born at different times and who has lived in an entirely different environment and enjoyed a different life style.  The point of his story appears to be decrying racism. What is her problem?

Does the Star writer expect all ‘white men’ to pack up and return to the Europe or wherever of our forefathers? That would certainly do a lot of good!

It is unlikely that there are many who could vouch for Conrad’s sincerity but he does decry the racism that he could have witnessed over the years. That seems to be the appropriate stance in this day. And what more can we really do? We know that bigotry goes with ignorance. In life, it is possible to feel both sides of discrimination and we know we like neither side.

But one should never make more of it than one ought. It seems that the more firmly we disavow the racism of the past, the more we are accused of ignoring the racism of the past. You simply cannot win this argument.

But to accuse all whites of being bigots is bigotry in itself.

And why can we not look on the good side of this? As a parent, I am as appalled at the concept of all black schools as I would be at the idea of all white schools. I am just as appalled by separating children by the religion of their parents. In Canada’s increasingly secular society, we should have no place for religious schools to indoctrinate children.

We need to reach a time when we do not pass the mistakes of the past to our children. These mistakes can take many forms.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

The Globe and Mail’s Ibbitson flunks math?

Saturday, September 9th, 2017

Reading a recent column by the Globe’s John Ibbitson, I was a little confused by his logic but I was even more concerned about his mathematics. He was forecasting a win by Quebec M.P. Guy Caron in the New Democratic Party leadership voting later this month. He very wisely gave all the credit for the logic attached to this to former NDP president Brian Topp. Maybe both gentlemen need to recheck their mathematics.

There is simply very little chance that Guy Caron will be anywhere but last on the first ballot. If there is a second ballot, we can only assume that it is Mr. Caron’s name that will be left off.

The facts are the party has announced more than 80,000 new memberships came in during the six months before the August cut-off for memberships. These memberships, we are told, came mainly from British Columbia and Ontario. And M.P.P. Jagmeet Singh’s campaign claims credit for 47,000 of those memberships. I think they are being modest.

This is the same situation as caused by Ontario Conservative leadership candidate Patrick Brown two years ago when he swamped the Tories’ provincial membership with temporary memberships, mainly from India.

Despite the problems Brown might have created for himself in winning any trust from long-time Ontario Conservatives, Jagmeet Singh has even more difficulties winning over long-time NDPers. With the joint federal provincial memberships in the party and the voting rights of labour, he cannot hope for a truly loyal party at his back across the country.

But the Sikh communities across Canada are very proud of Jagmeet Singh. My childhood in Toronto was something of an advanced course in studying ethnic characteristics among newcomers to Canada. And if there is one thing I learned about Sikhs, it is that their word is something you are inclined to trust. They are consistent and they are determined. If the Singh campaign says that their sign-ups are 47,000, I expect that more than 40,000 votes will be cast for Jagmeet Singh for NDP leader later this month. If his three competitors combined, get as many votes, this long-time political observer will be a bit surprised.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Onward religious warriors.

Sunday, September 3rd, 2017

A picture said it all. It was of a Buddhist monk, in saffron robes, with his begging bowl, sitting between the cement walls of modern expressway ramps. It makes the point of the problems of the Church of Rome mentioned in yesterday’s commentary. It occurred to me that all religions are facing the same problems. Religion is failing all of us. The religious draw their scripts from previous centuries. And as they continue to resist secularism, they fail their adherents. They waste too much of their strength fighting for the status quo and are blind to the need to build bridges to the future.

Has the oligarchical Church of Rome become a blunt instrument of conservatism in a progressive world? Is Islam facing increasing pressure by trying to maintain its authority against the growing awareness of the pleasures of a secular world? Do Holly Rollers simply try to shout down the pressures of licentious living while the Hassidim just turn a blind eye?

Canadians have a more secular society than the Americans and being a “nation under God” lays an increasingly severe strain on American politics. The current American President is racist and Islamophobic, and he is sending Americans to the Middle East to ‘sow the dragon’s teeth’ for perpetual war.

The world’s largest religion is still Christianity with as many 2.5 billion on the rolls. The difference for the world’s just under two billion Muslims is that Islam demands a way of life that goes beyond the daily prayers. The peer pressure of the Islamic community creates barriers that prevent assimilation in the American style and can even stress the relaxed multiculturalism of Canadian society. There seems to be no simple formula to an environment where Christian and Islamist communities can easily co-exist.

And there are hardly any answers in the growing rejection of religion and religious symbols in an increasingly secular society. There is no benefit to the rejection. We can hardly deny the Sikh, the Hassidic, the Mennonite, the crosses of the Eastern Right or the Roman church, or the coverings of Islamic modesty or their use as a fashion statement by others.

We note that the successful congregations today are the evangelicals that build a feel-good fellowship in their community. The Hell and Damnation that they preach is just colourful background to their cheerful self-approval.

But that Buddhist monk sitting between the two expressway lanes will starve to death as civilization passes him by.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

They are rewriting history, again.

Saturday, August 26th, 2017

Now the revisionists are going after Sir John A. Macdonald, Canada’s first prime minister. And what is their problem? They think Sir John was racist and disrespected Canada’s aboriginals. You might also believe he was a drunk and a scoundrel and if you lived in those times, you probably would have been the same. And if people would stop trying to rewrite history, they might learn something from it.

What we are seeing in Canada in this regard is a reflection of what is being argued in the southern United States today. Confederate General Robert E. Lee is recognized as one of the great military strategists of his time. He was asked to take a Union command before Virginia voted to join the Confederacy. He was no secessionist but he was loyal to his state. That is something those tearing down his statues need to remember.

The betrayal of North America’s aboriginals has been going on since Europeans first set foot on these shores. It gives us lots of people we can dishonour—if we want to lay blame. It just makes more sense to admit the errors of the past and to correct them as we can.

There is a specious argument being waged about a monument to Canadians who fought in the American Civil War. The fact that 40,000 Canadians enlisted in that war needs to be recognized. The fact that one in ten of them fought for the South is not the point. We are not re-arguing the war.

Will we, a hundred years from now, dishonour the accomplishments of today’s industry leaders who saw themselves as being in the forefront because of their innovation and foresight? Will we simply revile them as being part of the oppressive one per cent? Will we tear down the walls of their gated communities and open their mansions to the homeless?

As humans, we need heroes. We need them to lead and for us to emulate, to honour and to respect. And yet we seem to be on a downhill slope these days as we recognize more of the anti-heroes. They elected Donald Trump in the United States “To Make America Great Again” and yet there was no question that he was the anti-hero.

Hollywood actors and television personalities have been allowed to replace home-town heroes. Sports stars have become the comic book heroes of an afternoon’s game. Win or lose, did you enjoy the game?

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Diminishing Democracy.

Wednesday, August 9th, 2017

Around the world, from Venezuela to Poland, from Turkey to America, we are watching the destruction of democracy. Those who believe in democracy are routinely arrested, beaten, detained or killed on the streets of once-safe cities. It is a challenge everywhere. There is no safe haven.

And Canada is no bastion of democracy. Former Prime Minister Harper routinely showed us his distain for parliament and democratic principles. Prime Minister Trudeau is no saviour of democracy either as he disrespects and destroys the Liberal Party. Like Harper before him, Trudeau uses his party as a political ATM. He only comes calling for funds.

The political corruption and destruction of democracy has moved fast and furious in the United States where Donald Trump measures his supporters in their gullibility. He calls them together regularly to rally and reassure him of their fealty. They feed his narcissism and eat up his lies.

The political parties of the United Stares of America are on the downside of favour with the people. The two main parties are hopelessly committed to their monied masters. They replace concern for the people with ideology and argue that everything that goes wrong is the ‘other guys’ fault. And only the very rich in America have influence. They are the ones who collect politicians like they used to collect stuffed trophies of the hunt.

And nobody cares. Their attention is to their royalty; their entertainers. The youth would rather devote themselves to social media on the ever more intrusive Internet—allowing Big Brother to catalogue their lives in the electronic prisons of the uninformed.

And what happened to the friendly police who used to help the elderly across the street? The politicians arm the police like storm troopers to protect us from what?

And not even the tyrant sleeps soundly. Political and corporate oligarchies are unstable at best as they keep to ideologies of the past. Even the oligarchs of Russia reap early harvests as they show lack of faith in the coming dawn. Will there be democracy tomorrow?

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

It takes four to replace Mansbridge?

Sunday, August 6th, 2017

The other day, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation announced that it will take four people to replace long-time news anchor Peter Mansbridge. The question is whether the four are equal to the task?

The reality today is that the CBC is doing a far better job with its news website than anyone else and that is an edge that it should build on. In a world that is heading towards smart TVs and interactive all-day news delivery, the Corp is head and heals ahead of its commercial competition.

Bell Canada’s CTV Network might have the largest audiences today for its late-night news but anchor Lisa LaFlamme is stuck in the past style of news presentation. And while Dawna Friesen with Global might have an audience slightly ahead of the CBC, she has little room to show her strengths.

The best part of the Mansbridge shows were the panels that became staples late at night. You had to be wide awake for the At Issue panel with people such as Chantal Hébert and Andrew Coyne over the past 16 years. They are articulate, knowledgeable and well informed.

Rosemary Barton is probably the weak link in the four-part scheme but you need someone who at least knows her way around the parliament buildings to cover the Ottawa angles.

Ian Hanomansing is the smoothest-talking of the four and sharing the Toronto anchor desk with someone with the reporting experience of Adrienne Arsenault could be a good mix. Andrew Chang from Vancouver is a relatively new face to eastern viewers but we have liked what we have seen so far. Linking the country in that manner will be hard to balance but it could be the strength of the show to come.

But now that the CBC has announced its plans, you would have expected the new show to be up and running in September. No, they are waiting for November. That will give CTV two months to try to lock in its audience for its new five to seven pm local-plus-national format.

The problem with the new CTV two-hour early evening approach is that it will probably be worse than Global’s hour-and-a-half format. Both networks brazenly promote their own non-news shows as news and use repetition on news items and call it depth.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Playing the racism card.

Thursday, July 27th, 2017

According to the Black Experiences Project, the Greater Toronto Area is rife with racism. And it all seems targeted at blacks. If you read writers such as Desmond Cole, Royson James, Shree Paradkar or follow the gyrations of Black Lives Matter (BLM), you will be told that all the white people out there are co-conspirators in this action.

But, pardon me if I do not understand. Nobody is denying that there are racists in our society. We are hardly encouraging them. The recent outrage over the settlement with Omar Khadr brought a lot of them out of the woodwork. It gives you an idea of the size of the potential problem.

But Cole, James, Paradkar and the agitators of BLM, are sure not helping. They seem to want to divide people instead of bringing them together. In many ways, black can be beautiful but not when those people are feeding on the ugliness.

They are playing the wrong card in the game of life.

What is wrong is the bitterness they are building on. One of the most inclusive efforts in this city has been our Gay Pride week along with the parades. To interfere and bring the BLM agenda to the Gay Pride Parade was an insult to the city and an embarrassment to the black community. You will note that they are hardly likely to try that against part of their own community during the Caribana celebrations.

The diversity of the people of the GTA is in so many ways its strength. Maybe that statement rings false to you but I have watched this city grow and change since the end of the Second World War. I believe that most new arrivals since then have contributed to the richness that makes the city and the surrounding area so successful.

Toronto had its roots in Muddy York. The only people they looked down on originally were the impoverished Irish, escaping famines on their beautiful isle. Before WWII, we had some serious anti-Semitism with which to contend. There were so many parts of the world coming after that, we just adopted a welcoming mode.

We have created a city, and a province, and a country rich in the cultures and foods and the languages of the world. The secret to being accepted by this polyglot is to make yourself useful. If you want to stand apart and complain instead of helping, be it on your own head.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Gambling with losers.

Friday, July 21st, 2017

You find by being observant that the people in a hurry to get to the cashier at a casino are usually the ones wanting to get more money to gamble. Why a casino would extend credit to people is a question that is hard to answer.

The question was partly answered recently when it was noted in a newspaper article that Ontario casinos had recently written off $10 million in bad debts. That is a very small percentage of their more than a billion in revenues each year but a surprisingly high percentage of the money advanced to gamblers. If you were in a large cash business such as a casino, you would question hard the wisdom of advancing money to people who would default on that much money.

The rationale we are offered is that the casino does not want their whales to be bringing suitcases full of money to the casino. They do not want to encourage criminals to try to harpoon their high-rollers before the casino gets a chance at the money.

The argument seems to be a bit silly when you consider that people who can support a habit such as high-stakes gambling can also draw money directly from automated teller machines on the floor of the casino. Yes, the fees are high on those machines but it costs the casinos less than writing off millions.

Our experience in casinos over the years is that there is very little difference between gambling at low or high stakes tables, penny slots or $100 slots. There seems to be no change in the law of averages. And nobody ever wins because they need to win.

You should look on gambling as fun. You are in for a lot of pain if you gamble with more than you can afford to lose. Always look around that casino and understand that it is the gamblers who pay to keep the lights on, pay the salaries and keep the facilities looking attractive.

The smart gambler: knows the odds and knows when to quit, increases their bet when winning and keeps to a minimum when losing and never tries to guess the number on the next roll of the dice.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

 

Expo 67: A sharp turn for Canada.

Sunday, July 2nd, 2017

It was 50 years ago that the wife and I went to Montreal and camped for a week at my brother’s house while we spent our days at Expo 67. It was in glorious summer weather and we had a wonderful time in line at exhibits with people from all over the world. We met fascinating people. We laughed with them. We joked with them. We learned from them.

This was the real experience of Expo 67. We learned from others’ view of the event. It heightened perceptions and the enjoyment. It was in itself a conversation with our world.

It was also in many ways an intensification of the experience at that time of Toronto. In the years since the hiatus of the Second World War, Toronto had grown. It was not just our fathers and older siblings who came home but the rapidly growing streams of people from the rest of the world choosing Canada. So many of them came to Toronto. They were builders and entrepreneurs, artists and entertainers, engineers and accountants. They came to grow with us.

It was fascinating seeing how quickly Toronto lost its reputation as a city of churches and bigotry. We watched the new business leaders challenge the enclaves of the rich along the ridges of the valleys cutting the city. And we saw urbanization triumph over the farms of the Golden Horseshoe.

But it all seemed to spin from the vortex of Expo 67. It was a platform launch for both Pierre Trudeau and the Quebec liberation movement. It intensified and changed Canada and we had to deal with different kinds of nationalism. We certainly became more aware of our responsibilities to our aboriginal people. We learned but we also stumbled. Platitudes do not suffice.

From the black and white beginnings of television to the intense color of today’s screens, it has helped us to grow and learn together as a nation. It made the Internet familiar as social media grew to encompass the millions.

Canada has grown since the happening of Expo 67. We bear witness.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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