Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

The Tentacles of Torstar.

Saturday, January 12th, 2019

It is a small hope of mine that Babel-on-the-Bay has some of the same objectives as the Toronto Star. It becomes harder over the years as the Torstar management keep swallowing the smaller fish to keep their big fish afloat. They have done more to deprive Canada of good journalism in recent years than they have encouraged.

Since the Canada Competition Bureau is still reported to be casting a jaundiced eye on the most recent collusion between Torstar and PostMedia to end professional journalism in Canada, I will deal with other bad smells coming from Torstar headquarters at One Yonge Street in Toronto.

Frankly, I have been concerned about the lack of competence Torstar has shown in becoming functional in the electronic world of news reporting. I have been waiting, with increasing impatience, for the wife and I to be able to discuss the day’s news that we can each access at breakfast on our personal table-top tablets. Instead, each version of the Toronto Star electronic newspaper comes out worse and more difficult to navigate than the earlier version and with fewer features.

It is so confused that the other day I received an e-mail from the Star’s programming geniuses. It expressed regret that I had cancelled my subscription to the electronic version and the cancellation would take effect at the end of the month. My opening question to the first person I found in the right department was why would I cancel something that costs me nothing? As a home delivery customer, I have access to the electronic version at no additional charge.

My other recent experience where my curiosity was tweaked was in late December by a news source that I have not been using. It is iPolitics, the Ottawa based electronic news source, concentrating on politics in Canada. One of the iPolitics staff appeared on a Global News panel. She was presentable, spoke well but appeared to have no basis for the opinions she was expressing. It occurred to me that this publication needs some help.

At the time, I was reviewing my ten years of producing a daily posting for Babel-on-the-Bay. My choice is to cut costs somewhere or to find some revenue. Since iPolitics needs help, I sent the publication a quick e-mail politely suggesting we have a chat. I was puzzled when I did not receive any acknowledgement.

All became clear though when I dug deeper and found I had missed the announcement that Torstar had bought iPolitics.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

Saluting Salutin.

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2019

Maybe you have never wasted much time on reading Toronto Star writer Rick Salutin. I have never considered his opinions of importance or particularly well founded. I have had the impression, that the Star editors just keep him on standby to fill empty spaces in the next edition. His recent effort discussing the B.C. referendum on proportional voting is probably a good example.

Here is Salutin, a week after the results were announced, panning the referendum and claiming that B.C. voters rejected a more democratic voting option and stayed instead with what he refers to as the odious first-past-the-post. You have to admit, this guy knows where he stands.

In a country where even six-year olds are encouraged to send a letter to Santa Claus, Salutin thinks using the services of the post office are too much for our young voters. This is why he objects to the mail-in voting used for the referendum. He thinks it was mainly those risk-adverse seniors who turned thumbs down on change.

He uses the example of the Swiss, who hold more referenda than Canadians and use the mails as well. He notes that most Swiss referenda lose, though it is not clear what point he is making. When visiting Switzerland, I have found progressive to be a somewhat rare human condition.

I lost track of where Salutin was going when he started talking Chartism (a mid 19th century human rights movement) and he then got into railing against neoliberalism. He also seemed to be concerned that the referendum was brought on by the sense of entitlement among the Green and NDP parties to gain them a larger representation in a proportionate legislature.

But he does not seem to want them to have expanded representation because they are not left-wing enough for him. Too bad.

And then he goes on to discuss non-parties such as the Yellow Vests in France. I like to think of them as more like the Occupy Movement in North America—but with flame throwers.

Luckily, I read the entire piece by Salutin. He had thrown in an ‘OTOH’ that I did not understand and something similar. At the end, he had an “IMHO’ which I believe means ‘in my humble opinion.’ I can really appreciate that he is humble about it.

But it would help if the Toronto Star gave Mr. Salutin some copy editing assistance.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

Dictators Don’t Debate.

Sunday, December 30th, 2018

A mainstay of our parliamentary democracy in Canada is the tradition of question period. This is when the opposition parties have a chance to tackle the premier or prime minister and the cabinet to ask what is going on. Over the years we have seen premiers and prime ministers who enjoyed talking in this forum, some who hated it but only rarely one who did not show up.

It looks like Doug Ford does not like to debate. He seems to think he is above this approach to democracy. He just does not want to attend. We expect it is all because he does not want to be made to look stupid.

Many thought prime minister Stephen Harper had the best strategy on this because he often sent his parliamentary assistant to Question Period. There was one of these who would stand there and talk endlessly about something else but he had to be replaced when he went to jail for something else. There was another who broke down and cried and said he could not do it anymore. It’s a tough job.

But Dougie is different. He is more like the loquacious con man who is struck dumb when the judge gives him a chance to apologize for his misdeeds. His reasoning must be that if you do not know what to say, why say it?

I think what really annoys Dougie on this is that there would be no questioning of him about getting his friend Ron Taverner appointed head of the Ontario Provincial police, if he had not brought the legislature back into session to send the electrical generation people back to work. Maybe Dougie thinks he should be omnipotent.

Mind you, there are not too many Ontario voters eager to let Dougie have any more power. There is no telling how long that list is that he consults to see how much trouble he should cause each day. He is certainly not finished getting even with his old enemies at Toronto City Hall and cutting them down to size. And he is nowhere close to letting his builder friends pave over the Toronto Greenbelt. Dougie is a man with a plan.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

All we got from Trudeau was a Ho-Ho-Ho.

Friday, December 21st, 2018

How do you like that bunch of ingrates in Alberta? Prime minister Trudeau comes up with a $1.6 billion Christmas present for them and all they do is complain.

Bet you just love the mental picture of premier Rachel Notley sitting on Justin Trudeau’s lap last time she was in Ottawa. She says she was only telling him what she wanted for Christmas.

But now she tells us that Trudeau is deaf and only offered the tar sands exploiters more opportunities to go into debt. He is not getting that girl onto a bicycle built for two. She knows what she wants and if she cannot have her pipeline over the Rockies, she wants more tanker cars to get that damn bitumen to markets that do not care about all the pollution.

There is a lot of speculation that premier Rachel will need a new job next year. It seems obvious now that she will never make it as a lap dancer. Nor will Trudeau make it as a department store Santa.

Maybe we should teach our eastern premiers to whine and carry-on like they do from Alberta. Could you just see Messrs. Ford and Legault carrying on about giving their free enterprise environment destroyers the store? It is bad enough that Dougie wants to sue Justin over some possible carbon tax. It is even worse that our genius premier in Ontario wants to pave over the aquifer that provides drinking water for about five million people in and around the City of Toronto.

What puzzles most easterners is that there are less than five million Albertans. They do not want to pay provincial taxes. They are horrified at the thought of paying more federal taxes. And these are the same people that scream and yell that the rest of Canada has to pay for their damn polluting pipeline. And if they cannot have that pony, they want millions of dollars worth of rail tanker cars.

What puzzles most Canadians is why these huge successful companies who are exploiting the tar sands do not plan ahead? If you are going to have a million barrels of diluted bitumen to export each month, would it not be best to plan ahead and make sure you can deliver it to your customer?

Well, surprise, surprise, reindeer cannot fly either.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Toronto’s Tacky-Town Casino.

Wednesday, December 19th, 2018

Had a weekend of fun with friends in Toronto last weekend. The entertainment was varied, the food ranged from perfectly grilled steaks to the excellent buffet at Woodbine’s Favourites dining room to pizza and beer and just talking. The entertainment ranged from the circus atmosphere of Circ du Soleil to Woodbine’s last thoroughbred racing card of the year to a look at Woodbine’s new casino.

The Woodbine casino was a shock. The operator, Great Canadian Gaming Corporation (GCGC), based in Burnaby, B.C., does not know Toronto and will long regret this cheap, insulting and foolhardy attempt at satisfying Toronto gamblers.

The one thing that occurred to me when Toronto Council went along with the Woodbine location was that it was the late Ken Thompson’s family that controlled Woodbine Entertainment and I hoped some of the class that man showed in life would pass on to his heirs. It did not.

This casino would be an embarrassment in the worst part of Las Vegas. Admittedly, these are temporary quarters under the old grandstand. They are building the new casino as fast as they can.

I hate multi-storied casinos. Like those in Atlantic City and Montreal, they seem tacky from day one. This temporary one is on three floors. In the basement, there are lots and lots of slots—frankly, a good place for them. Those gross table game machines that replace dealers are very much in evidence on floor two. The live table games—blackjack and all the variables were crowded and showed desperation. It was a mixed crowd ethnically but few looked like they could afford to play at a $25 table. They reminded me of the day-trippers who came to Las Vegas from Los Angeles by bus without hotel reservations.

The equipment on the gaming floor was cheap and the dealers looked exhausted but the surprise was to come. I recognized a floor supervisor formerly at Rama Casino and asked about the high rollers space. It turned out to be the third floor. The sign at the door said ‘No Admittance’ but we just said ‘hello’ to the guy at the door and marched in with the supervisor.

Have you ever seen silent discrimination? If there are a dozen or so tables for games preferred by ethnic Chinese and three for $100 blackjack, who do you think the room is for? And there were no craps tables anywhere. We were told that the operator did not like craps. It seems that craps is considered an American—and mainly black—game. If the wife ever meets the GCGC executive who holds those views she might kick him where it really hurts.

By the way, we only saw five players in the third-floor sanctum. One playing blackjack—badly—and the rest playing dollar slots.

Maybe this new Woodbine Casino only wants bad players who do not understand odds.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Bitumen’s Bedfellows.

Friday, December 7th, 2018

Global News and CBC News are both hung up on supporting the politicians and tar sands exploiters who lie to them about tar sands bitumen. The province of Alberta is even running ads on these networks that refer to bitumen as oil. They make false statements about what is being shipped out of the country at discounted prices.

What is ridiculous about the confusion this causes is ‘Chuckles’ Scheer, the conservative leader telling the House of Commons and Canadians that prime minister Justin Trudeau is ‘directly’ responsible for the “cratering” of the price of Western Canadian Select, which is still just bitumen any way you say it. Mr. Scheer blames Mr. Trudeau’s energy policies for the entire mess.

What might be puzzling Canadians amid all this false news and hyperbole is that Mr. Trudeau does not seem to know if he is for the environment or against it? Why, for example, would he buy a pipeline that is about to be expanded to carry bitumen to Burnaby, BC? Why does he not let all those free-enterprise supporters in Alberta solve their own problem.

Did you know, for example, that there is a growing movement in Alberta to process all that bitumen in the province. Nobody would object half as much if all that the pipelines carried was ersatz crude oil.

The only problem with this great idea is that after a few years of all that heavily polluting refining, the environment in Alberta would unlikely be able to support human life.

Despite the polls, that somebody paid for, that say Canadians do not care about the environment, many do.

I know this writer does. Many years ago, when stationed at the air base at Cold Lake in northern Alberta, some of us would go out and rent riding horses from local farmers enabling us to enjoy the beauty of the countryside. It seems very foolish to wantonly destroy that beauty because of greed.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Economists vs Environmentalists.

Tuesday, November 13th, 2018

Welcome to ringside folks. Tonight’s card is a new version of Albert Einstein’s E=MC². Tonight’s main bout is between Canada’s federal liberal economists and its liberal environmentalists.

The prize is prime minister Justin Trudeau’s pipeline. Justin paid $7 billion of our money for that pipeline over the Rockies and for another $6 to $7 billion, he can twin the pipeline, add high pressure pumps and heaters to heat the diluted bitumen to (hopefully) get twice as much of the highly polluting stuff to the ocean-going tankers playing Battleship in Burrard Inlet.

But tonight, Justin Trudeau’s cabinet champions are up against Canada’s leading liberal environmentalists. The first challenge is by a phalanx of cabinet colleagues spreading the word that bitumen is good. They tell us that Canada’s economy can only be sustained and kept growing by making Alberta rich again. They want the wonders of bitumen shipped to the third world where nobody gives a damn about pollution and our endangered planet. “Global warming is a myth you know,” they tell us.

“Not so,” scream the embattled environmentalists concerned that bitumen exploitation is destroying the beauty of Alberta with ugly settling ponds while third-world refining the bitumen is spewing three times the deadly carbon into our ominously darkening skies.

“But we must compete with the Arabs,” the economists claim. “Our petro-dollars must stay at home.”

“And bitumen must stay in the ground,” the environmentalists retort.

And so, the battle rages. It has become an ongoing argument of excesses and deceit. It is a cacophony of greed versus science. It is fortune versus fortitude. It is caution versus calumny. It is province versus province. It is father versus son, mother versus daughter, and also liberal versus liberal.

Do you know why we call MP Andrew Scheer, leader of Canada’s federal conservative party, “Chuckles”? Because he is watching Justin Trudeau tear up his free pass into next year’s election.

Chuckles might be on the same side of the bitumen question as Trudeau, but he knows when to shut up.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

The poisonous potential of populism.

Tuesday, November 6th, 2018

There is little new about populism in North America. Whether on the left, right or centre of the political spectrum is not the concern but whether society can constrain it is the critical question.

Canada only came into its own after the Second World War and the first major populists from that point were prime minister John G, Diefenbaker and new democratic party leader Tommy Douglas. Both came out of Saskatchewan and both were benign. Douglas, the socialist premier and Diefenbaker, the conservative firebrand from Prince Albert.

Despite their intense rhetoric, both stuck to the truth as they saw it. Both served the people. Neither needed the hyperbole of obvious lies to make their point.

Fast forward to 2015 and another populist caught North America off guard. Donald Trump confounded the pundits and the politicos. This was the television-trained pitchman, a bigot, a bully, a liar and a misogynist who revelled in the reaction to his claims of President Obama not being born in America. He reached his notoriety high by default, becoming the Republican candidate for president. He shared his surprise when the failures of the American Electoral College system won him the presidency. He was leader of a badly divided nation. He had only his rhetoric to blame.

Ill-advised, ill-equipped and confused, Donald Trump was sworn in as President of the United States of America.

Canadians looked south of the border and said “Only in America.” They should have looked around.

Canadians had their local populist politicians in the Trump mould. None as dangerous as Ontario’s Doug Ford Junior. Doug Ford saw the soft underbelly of conservative politics in his father—in the Ontario legislature. He saw the impacts of the bombast of his younger brother—the crack smoking mayor of Toronto. He saw the strength of the bumper sticker slogans of Donald Trump in Washington.

It was this mix that he took into the sudden opportunity to tackle the leadership of Ontario’s conservatives. It has been a roller-coaster ride since then as Dougie confused his enemies—as he has no friends. His strengths are in the users who profit from chaos. His future is tenuous.

Like Trump, Dougie yearns for the world stage. He enviously eyes the trappings of a prime minister in Ottawa. He has more wells to poison.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

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