Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

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

 

Premier Wynne’s nemesis.

Saturday, April 7th, 2018

If Premier Wynne really wants to keep her job in Ontario, I would suggest that she should make amends by first firing Ed Clark as chair of the Liquor Control Board and of the Ontario Cannabis stores. Even at the price of one dollar per year, he is not worth it. She has given a guy with absolutely no political smarts the ammunition to destroy her.

This is not a question of loyalty. Bad advice and bad advice followed are the problems. Ed Clark has absolutely no political smarts and would ask his doctor if there is a pill for it, if he did. Ed Clark is a banker. Bankers are the people who want you to borrow money, when you do not need it, and demand you pay it back when you lack the funds. They give you a nice shiny new credit card but cluck their tongue when you over use it, in their estimation.

Bankers are never your friend. To suggest that Clark’s experience running TD Bank was a consumer success is to suggest that he failed as a banker. If bankers were honest with you, they would admit that they do not like dealing with the hoi polio. Consumers with their grubby little deposits are not the stuff of bankers’ dreams.

You need to remember that the one blunder that really caused Premier Wynne to fall off her high horse was following Ed Clark’s advice to sell off Hydro One. That was the turning point. Against all political instincts, she started to sell Hydro One without realizing that the voters did not even know what she was attempting to sell. Given the history of Ontario Hydro, it goes down in political history books as a really dumb move.

Somebody should have told Wynne that Hydro One—the transmission network—was hived off from Ontario Hydro 15 years earlier by the Harris government with the intent to sell it. Everybody thought Kathleen Wynne was smarter than Mike Harris. Even he was convinced not to do it.

The other suggestion that Ed Clark made to the Wynne government was that they start selling beer and wine through the grocery stores. That is probably the worst implementation of a government program we have ever seen. The grocery stores do not make money on it. The rules are inconsiderate of the grocers. And they want the same guy to sell marijuana in Ontario?

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

A different kind of baseball.

Friday, April 6th, 2018

It was as much as a surprise to me at the time as it was to those who know me. I fell in love with the Toronto Blue Jays. From opening day of the new SkyDome in Toronto in 1989, they were my Blue Jays. I think I have seen games from all five levels of the stadium, the restaurant and from different boxes and bars. I was there for both back-to-back World Series wins in the 90s. I am Canadian and hockey still gets me going, but to me, baseball is the beautiful game.

But I have never been back since the Rogers people took over the team and so crudely renamed that unique stadium. I even refuse to pay the price for the specialty channels on my Bell Canada-supplied television service to watch the Blue Jays in action.

Did you hear lately that those leeches at Rogers are getting the Blue Jays to take a kickback from the ticket scalpers. That is a new low even for Rogers.

When I moved six years ago, I checked ahead at the new building and found that Rogers had a lock on the cable services. When I asked the Rogers’ call centre for a quote on home telephone, Internet and television service, I was quoted a price of just under $200 a month before taxes. When I asked why the price was so high, the call centre guy said it was because Rogers believed there was no alternative. What they did not know was that Bell was to announce Fibe service in the area the following week. While Bell Fibe has interesting weaknesses, it is still cheaper than the same service from Rogers.

The last time I appeared before the Canadian Radio-Television Telecommunications Commission, it was to oppose the acquisition of CTV Television and its subsidiaries by Bell Canada. The intercession was futile but the objections I gave the commission have come true. The sorry state of CTV today is because Bell has no idea how to run an operation that relies on the goodwill of its viewers. In its 135-plus years, Bell never has never learned to respect its customers or its employees.

Like the evil brother, Rogers tries to outdo Bell. It has locked-in both baseball and hockey in Canada and as the CBC’ contracts expire, we will see the squeeze play on hockey. Sports bars with their multiple screens will replace the home viewing of the popular sports as fewer and fewer of us will be able to afford the Rogers surcharges.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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