They can help you write right.

January 8th, 2020 by Peter Lowry

You cannot be sure here, just who is the problem? It is all about a program called My Analytics from Microsoft and another program called Grammarly. Both programs are intrusive and trying to sell us something. They both present themselves as though they have groups of monkeys in lab coats ready to analyse us and our writing.

The first problem is that I do not like Microsoft. If I can avoid it at all, I do not do business with Microsoft. I consider the company to be intrusive, incompetent and inhuman. Its only advantage is that it is often half the price of Apple. It just never stops trying to get more money from us.

And it is an appalling thought to have Microsoft routinely analyzing my work habits, my washroom breaks, my cooperation with others and how I behave on play dates.

And add to that, this company out of San Francisco, that thinks it can make your American English more perfect. Perfect American English is an oxymoron. The Grammarly program says my productivity has been nil for the past week but my mastery of the language must be perfect because they can find no errors.

That is certainly the way I like it. Yet, I doubt that I have cracked open the second edition of Fowler’s Modern English Usage on my bookshelf once in the past 30 years. I learned, a long time ago, that effective communications are not always rule-based.

As an editor, I learned that all that need to be corrected are errors that get in the way of effective communications. Errors that facilitate understanding are welcome. Though, I do think it helps to know the rules before you discard them.

No doubt, I make enough errors in these commentaries to keep the monkeys at Microsoft and Grammarly busy. But, sorry folks, no sale.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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Ontario offers the bland and the pit bull.

January 7th, 2020 by Peter Lowry

We are still a while from knowing the slate of candidates for the federal conservative party leadership, but there are two Ontario MPs lining up their teams. They are Erin O’Toole from Durham and Pierre Poilievre from Carleton. I think of them as the bland and the pit bull.

Erin O’Toole is so bland that he came third behind Andrew Scheer and Maxime Bernier in the last conservative leadership race. As the party is going to repeat the foolishness of a preferential ballot, he has to figure that he has a good shot at the leadership this time. You do that in preferential voting by being the second, third or fourth choice of most of the voters.

He is obviously good at mathematics and that must have been why the Canadian air force trained him as a navigator. As a lawyer, he seems to have had little interest in pleading cases and most of his time as a lawyer was spent advising corporate clients.

Between O’Toole and Poilievre, it will be the Ottawa-area based Poilievre who will get most of the media attention. I am hardly the first person to equate him to a pit bull but I feel that comparing him to a pit bull is giving pit bulls a bum rap.

When Ontario tried to ban pit bulls in 2005 (the law is still on the books), it found that pit bulls are not just a single breed. When you have a bad-tempered dog, the first thing you should do is check the owner. Ask whether the dog has been trained, at all? Is it used to being around young people? Should it be muzzled when out in public?

Poilievre was former PM Stephen Harper’s pit bull. He was as nasty as his master. He often seemed to have neither respect for the truth nor any respect for parliament. I think the conservatives would be better off if the party kept him muzzled when out in public.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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The terrors of Trump’s testosterone.

January 6th, 2020 by Peter Lowry

You never know what you will read in the Economist. Just the other day I was reading about the lower levels of testosterone in modern American males. Despite the changes in diet and the higher levels of male obesity, this is probably good news for the Me-too movement. Let’s face it: Modern men are wusses.

Except Donald Trump. The president is old school. He used to brag about grabbing what he wanted, whenever he wanted some. It sounded more like locker-room talk than civilized discourse between gentlemen. The difference was that he paid for his wants and ladies who did not like his advances or tired of them, seemed to have the opportunity to leave a bit richer. As some ladies have been heard to note: He might be a pig but he can be a generous pig.

Like it or lump it, this pig is more equal than other pigs (according to George Orwell and some republican senators).

But as men age, their testosterone levels tend to lower. Donald Trump is a septuagenarian. He might not be up to the game quite the way he used to be. And that can make some older men cranky. In fact, Mr. Trump might be the crankiest American president in U.S. history.

Just look at Trump the other day when he, in a fit of pique, so gleefully sanctioned an Iranian general. The Donald was so happy, he was embarrassing the boys and girls at the Pentagon and enraging the professionals at Foggy Bottom (U.S. foreign affairs headquarters). Wouldn’t you rather he just took a Viagra?

There is no way of telling where Trump’s next excursion into foreign affairs might lead him. He just sent thousands more troops to the Middle East. Their only problem is that their leaders have absolutely no idea just who they are there to fight.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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Defeating democracy, drilling down to dismal.

January 5th, 2020 by Peter Lowry

Are Canada’s conservatives making the same mistakes in their June, 2020 leadership contest as gave them Andrew Scheer last time? Some people never seem to learn. We are hearing that they are trying to defeat democracy again.

In what should be a one-member-one-vote contest, we understand that they have declared all electoral districts to be equal. It means that, as in the last contest, each riding is allotted the same weight. It means that a city riding with over a thousand members has the same weight as a rural riding with fewer than a hundred members.

Add to this imbalance a preferential ballot and you have doubled down on what caused the problems in choosing ‘Chuckles’ Scheer. A preferential ballot is a poor substitute for sequential balloting. You are asking people to number all the candidates. If there are ten candidates, you have to number them one to ten. Your last three or four choices might be based on very shallow opinions.

And, don’t forget, in the last contest there were 13 candidates and the voting went down to the 13th ballot. Andrew Scheer won by being the 13th choice of some of the voters. How is that for a consolation prize?

But please do not consider preferential voting as democratic. It is the lazy thinkers’ solution. You would be amazed how simple and secure it could be to have national voting over the Internet. You can vote over a smart phone or at a school or library.

And you will never beat the one-person-one-vote approach. It is definitely democratic. The voting results are easy to count and easy to verify. If you believe in democracy, you will demand it.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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All federal parties need new leaders.

January 4th, 2020 by Peter Lowry

Canadians are going to be seeing a number of national political party leadership contests in the coming year. The conservatives are blowing smoke and fire as they warm up to their winner-takes-all contest in June. The greens are having another cup of green tea and considering who might replace the wonderful Elizabeth May. Jagmeet Singh is foolishly waiting for the 2020 meeting of the NDP that will fire him. Meanwhile the federal liberals are drinking Mr. Trudeau’s Kool-Ade while he tells them how great it is going to be.

I was laughing at an editorial cartoon in the Toronto Star the other day that suggested that the conservatives were debating whether to go with a social conservative or a progressive conservative leader. Our Canadian conservatives obviously consider progressives passé. They are looking for a populist like Doug Ford but with the management style of Stephen Harper.

I think the greens have the toughest problem in they might have to clone Elizabeth May.

The new democrats have an entirely different problem in that their form of socialism really is dead. All they are sure of is that Jagmeet Singh is not going to lead them anywhere. The NDP have to make the move to be seen as social democrats and that could be awkward with so many liberals already occupying that ground.

Mind you, I would never include Justin Trudeau among the social democrats. He is an elitist and is barely a liberal. He lied to liberals when he ran for the leadership saying that he was going to restore the party’s roll in policy and candidate choice. Instead, he has interfered in riding’s candidate choices and ignores policy input.

Trudeau has treated the lists of party faithful as a piggy bank that he inundates with e-mails asking for money. He has no understanding of the role of the party between elections and ignores the need for party development in the electoral districts. He fails to understand that you govern from Ottawa; you win elections in the ridings.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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The road downhill for Ontario casinos.

January 3rd, 2020 by Peter Lowry

Being a kid when Bugsy Siegel and organized crime put Las Vegas on the world map, I have always been cautious of people who offer the opportunity to risk your gambling money. I always assume that they are not doing it to be benevolent. You have to be careful of your money. As much as I like to gamble, I am always wary.

That was why when I started going to Las Vegas as a young man, I also started reading books on gambling. I learned that there was much more to it than just keeping an eye on the dealer. When I realized that I was going to lose more often than win, I looked for strategies to minimize losses and improve winnings. The wife and I have our rules when gambling and we stick to them.

For the past 25 years, we have been welcomed at Casino Rama near Orillia. We know the dealers, craps crews, supervisors and staff that used to make it such a friendly and fun place. We would often go for dinner and a show, compliments of the casino. That was until Gateway Casinos and Entertainment took over the management of the largest casino in the province. And to add insult to injury, they also took over the nearby Innisfil Slots operations, as it expanded to add table games.

That was also when Woodbine Entertainment put in its temporary casino at the racetrack. The three casinos have gone downhill together. Woodbine hardly cares. Its temporary casino is ugly, unfriendly, cold and uninterested in its customers. In the largest market in Canada, it can always get more. It doesn’t even think it needs to go the expense of offering proper craps tables—and that shows how little these companies know about casinos. It is the craps tables that are the heart of a casino. They are an important draw. The casinos I have known that excluded craps tables did so for racist reasons.

But what is the main draw at any major casino in Las Vegas and around the world is good food. Woodbine is lucky, it has had good food for many years.

But I would advise people going to Rama or Innisfil casinos these days that they eat first. When the Innisfil Casino offers you a free lunch, that is frankly what I think it is worth. Rama’s popular Cedar restaurant has been turned into a low-class hamburger joint with high prices. Better you get something tasty from Tim Horton’s.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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Liberals are not dead in Ontario.

January 2nd, 2020 by Peter Lowry

It seems we do have a contest for the leadership of the Ontario liberals. While overshadowed by the Trudeau party in Ottawa, this Ontario group is starting to come together. They do not seem to know much about making good videos but I sat through a streaming video of the candidate’s presentations to learn more about some of them.

I might have recently mentioned that I wanted to hear what motivates Kate Graham, a political science teacher at the University of Western Ontario. She seems very smart but she needs a political speech writer. And after hearing her speak, I am still not sure why she is buying her way into this race.

In comparison, Michael Coteau MPP is aggressively going down the road talking the talk. I like his approach and I have followed his campaign closely. Some smart ass at party headquarters must have moved my name and e-mail address to Don Valley East riding that Michael represents in the legislature. As I am a former candidate from that area, he must wonder that we have never met.

They must have released the party lists to all the candidates now and Steven Del Duca was the next to send me his solicitation for support. Steven is an old-style liberal and, despite his losing his riding in the 2018 election, he reeks of back room support and confidence. The assumption is that he has the contest in the bag but we can always root for the good guys.

Mitzie Hunter MPP also spoke. She said nothing new.

But I really enjoyed hearing from Alvin Tedjo. He was obviously new to politics. He did not know that it is not liberal policy to do away with religious schools–as much as the public would support such a move. Dumping the costs of supporting separate school boards is just not on the liberal agenda, yet.

Maybe the sixth candidate for leader needs another look. All I can say about Brenda Hollingsworth at this stage is that if I ever have to appear in court in Ottawa, I would want this lady working for me. Queen’s Park just might have enough lawyers.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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Only the brave make predictions.

January 1st, 2020 by Peter Lowry

People love to make predictions as we start a new year. I was laughing at a particularly amusing one the other day by a Toronto Star writer, Tony Burman. He was predicting that Donald Trump would resign from the presidency and get a pardon from incoming president Mike Pence. All that prediction proved was that Mr. Burman does not understand Mr. Trump.

Not that many of us do understand Donald Trump. He is not exactly rational in his behaviour. In fact, he is the most irrational of all the American presidents. He always reminds me of the Forrest Gump philosophy about life being like a box of chocolates. You never know when you are going to get one that is nuts.

But we must acknowledge that Mr. Trump is not going to sit still for a process that forces him to resign and be beholden to that guy Pence for saving him from persecution. In fact, the very idea of Mike Pence following him as president would curl the Donald’s hair.

Trump would be fully prepared to fight any legal attacks after he leaves the presidency down to his last billion dollars. His only problem would be his family trying to have him declared incompetent before he wastes all of their inheritance. Be warned, anyone who wants to take on Trump before the courts needs to have billions to waste on lawyers and ten years to spare. And do you really think the American supreme court is made up of those democratically inclined?

I agree that Dick Nixon had no alternative but to get a pardon before leaving the White House. People really were out to get him. Tricky Dick was caught bare handed and bare faced. He belonged in jail more than any of his party plumbers. The difference between Nixon and Trump is that Nixon knew his limits. Trump thinks he is omnipotent.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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Trudeau hears from Harder.

December 31st, 2019 by Peter Lowry

Former government leader of the senate, Peter Harder had some advice for Justin Trudeau as he retired from the senate. He expressed the hope that the prime minister might consider more people with political experience be appointed to the senate. That is the point I have been making for the past five years.

But I would hardly have included someone such as Frances Lankin from Ontario, who was in the cabinet of NDP premier Bob Rae in the 1990s. In my experience, she ran the most politicized and worst ministries in the Rae government. Her presence in Canada’s senate might not be a plus.

And for an elitist such as Justin Trudeau, her appointment might not be the smartest thing he has ever done.

What Harder was complaining about in his farewell to the senate was that there were already too many senators with their own agendas. He thinks the PM should consider adding more people with some political experience. The former senator thinks they would better understand just why the senate exists and what they are expected to do there.

Of course, there are millions of Canadians who also wonder why the senate exists and why we should be wasting tax money on it. After all, why did we elect all those people to the house of commons if an elitist senate is going to pass judgement on what they do?

Even if Justin Trudeau might agree with that, he has absolutely no intention of opening up the Canadian constitution to make any changes. He is hardly his father’s son. He has neither the wisdom nor the intestinal fortitude to tackle the task of updating our constitution.

The younger Trudeau has seemed to be more of a political dilettante and an elitist. His elitist committee that chooses people from which Trudeau can choose independent senators probably does not know of any particularly deserving politicians.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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Unity in the eye of the beholder.

December 30th, 2019 by Peter Lowry

It was June 17, 2019 and I rarely watch any television during the day but curiosity had me turn it on—and the wife and I were caught up in the most amazing event. Born in Toronto, we have always considered it to be our city. On this day we shared that ownership with several million other Torontonians—and many more millions of Canadians.

At the time I turned it on, the parade organizers were trying to figure out how to get the old double-decker buses safely through the thousands of people around the Princes’ Gate of the Canadian National Exhibition grounds—where the parade was supposed to have already passed through.

But this was a day of celebration and the basketball players on top of those buses were already partying. This was great fun. And where did all these people come from? Well, they had not seen anything yet.

Okay, we all know Toronto traffic is getting worse every day. Those buses took four hours to get to Toronto city hall. People were crowding into Nathan Phillips Square before the buses were out of the Ex. It got me worried as to whether the city had arranged for enough portable toilets. And how could the hot dog vendors arrange for more supplies?

We listened to hoop star Kawhi Leonard. We were awed by the uncountable crowds. We were proud. We were all basketball fans that day.

The funny thing is, my wife was the one who encouraged me to turn on the last couple games in the NBA championship series. I never was a basketball fan. I was always a bit chunky as a kid and I was built better for baseball and football. And we had only been to one Raptor game in downtown Toronto. Who can afford pro-sports tickets?

But I saw Canadian unity that day in June. We were all Raptor fans. We were all happy to boo premier Ford and cheer Toronto’s mayor and Canada’s prime minister. We could all agree as Canadians that having our basketball players beat all the American teams was great. Stick that in your hairdo Donald Trump!

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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